WHO Covid-19 origin report rules Wuhan lab leak ‘unlikely’
A highly-anticipated World Health Organization (WHO) report into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic has concluded that a leak from a laboratory is “extremely unlikely”.
The virus was most likely to have spread from bats via an “intermediate animal host” to humans, prior to an “explosive outbreak” in Wuhan in December 2019, the report said.
WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “The team also visited several laboratories in Wuhan and considered the possibility that the virus entered the human population as a result of a laboratory incident.
“However, I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”
German hospitals suspend Astrazeneca vaccine for women under-55
Several major hospitals in Germany have suspended the use of the Astrazeneca vaccine for women under the age of 55 over fears it may increase the risk of blood clots.
The vaccine currently has official approval to be administered to all adults in Germany, following a week-long suspension earlier this month while the European Medicine Agency (EMA) investigated reports of blood clots.
However, several of the country’s most famous hospitals have parted with official policy, including Cologne University Hospital and Berlin’s Charite teaching hospital, where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was treated following his poisoning with Novichok.
Local media including Focus Online and Augsburger Allgemeine also reported that the country is set to revise its recommendation for the Astrazeneca vaccine to say that it should only be used in people over the age of 60.
Half of England has antibodies
More than half of people in England are estimated to have Covid antibodies either from past infection or vaccination, according to the latest official figures.
The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest infection survey found that 54.7 per cent of England’s population were thought to have some level of immunity against coronavirus in the week ending 14 March.
It marks a dramatic increase from the last ONS survey in the week to 3 March, which estimated that one in three people across the country had Covid antibodies.
Separate figures released this morning by the ONS showed that weekly deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales have fallen to the lowest level seen since October.
World leaders to create pandemic preparedness treaty
Boris Johnson this morning joined a list of more than 20 world leaders calling for a new global treaty to ensure countries are prepared for future pandemics.
The Prime Minister added his name to a joint statement from global leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel warning that the coronavirus crisis has posed the biggest challenge since World War Two.
Writing in the Telegraph and international publications such as France’s Le Monde, they added that another pandemic or health crisis is a matter of “not if, but when”, noting that the pandemic had been “a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe”.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Spain’s Pedro Sanchez and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands were among leaders calling for an end to vaccine nationalism amid supply shortages around the EU.
However, European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen was notably absent from the list of signatories, amid concerns that the EU leader is poised to impose export bans on vaccines to the UK.