Live Updates

The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Jessie Yeung and Brett McKeehan, CNN

Updated 0306 GMT (1106 HKT) March 6, 2021
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7:56 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

EU says message to vaccine makers is clear after Italy controversy

From CNN’s James Frater in London

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer is pictured during a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, in March 2020.
European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer is pictured during a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, in March 2020. Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The European Commission says the message to vaccine makers is very clear and is calling on them to do their utmost to comply with the contracts they’ve signed with the bloc, its chief spokesperson said Friday.

Eric Mamer, the trade bloc's chief spokesperson, addressed the decision taken by Italy to block the export of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia in a media briefing.

“The message is very clearly ... that we expect companies with which the European Union has signed advanced purchasing agreements, to do their utmost to comply with the contracts with the delivery contracts that they have with the with the Member States,” Mamer said.

The fact is that the European Union is a major exporter of vaccine doses," he added.

“We have always said, that we were actually in intense discussions with the company in order to ensure the respect of the schedule of deliveries because EMA has authorised this vaccine, and we are urging member states to use it.”

The spokesperson went on to say it is not the EU’s place to tell the company where the doses must go to, adding that they remain in the possession of AstraZeneca.

“We do not take a decision that says those 250,000 doses must go to X or Y, that's not our business,” he said. 

“Our business is to say, a decision has been taken by the Italian authorities that we have supported on exports, because the assessment is that progress needs to be made on the delivery to EU countries, and this is basically the conversation that we will continue to have with the company.”

7:34 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

EU and Australia discuss vaccine exports after Italy blocks 250,000 dose order

From CNN’s James Frater in London

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis speaks during a news conference in Brussels, on March 4.
European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis speaks during a news conference in Brussels, on March 4. Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

The European Commission’s Executive Vice President (EVP) for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, has told his Australian counterpart that AstraZeneca’s “systematic under-delivery” on its contracts with the EU was behind the decision by Italian and European officials to block exports of the vaccine to Australia.

Dombrovskis' spokesperson Miriam Garcia Ferrer said that he had spoken to Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan by video call Friday morning..

Garcia Ferrer said the call was planned before Italy invoked European Union powers to block AstraZeneca from exporting 250,000 doses to Australia on Thursday.

She said that the call was not "specific" to the controversy but that the officials "did discuss the export authorization mechanisms."

"The EVP explained the functioning of the system, as well as the systematic under-delivery by AstraZeneca on its EU contract and that the Commission with the member states are working to address this issue," the spokesperson added.

“He also reassured [Tehan] that for those companies that are honouring their contract arrangement with the EU there is no issue with the export authorisations including with Australia."

"We'd always anticipated that these sorts of problems could arise," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press briefing Friday.
"And that's why we've done a number of things, the most significant of which is to ensure that we have our own domestically produced vaccine."
6:41 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

UK govt under fire for "pitiful" 1% pay rise for health care workers

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

Britain's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, attends a news conference with signage displaying the government slogan, "Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives," at 10 Downing Street in London, on January 5.
Britain's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, attends a news conference with signage displaying the government slogan, "Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives," at 10 Downing Street in London, on January 5. Hannah McKay/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The UK government has come under fire what critics are calling a "pitiful" 1% pay rise for workers of its National Health Service (NHS). 

NHS workers have been repeatedly lauded by UK politicians for their work during the pandemic.

The government slogan in the first phase of the pandemic in 2020 read: "Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives."

The pay rise, which was offered by the UK Department of Health and Social Care to the NHS Pay Review Body on Thursday, has draw criticism from various bodies.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Chief Executive Donna Kinnair branded it “pitiful and bitterly disappointing.”
The RCN said the rise “would amount to only an extra £3.50 ($4.85) per week take-home pay for an experienced nurse.”
The statement adds: “Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.”
The RCN have called for a rise of 12.5% instead.

Criticism also came in fast from the UK opposition leader Keir Starmer who called the raise “insulting” and said it was “not good enough just to clap them,” referring to the weekly ritual during the UK's first lockdown in which members of the public applauded health care staff for their work.

“The Prime Minister tries to take credit for the vaccine rollout whilst cutting the pay of those that are actually delivering it,” Starmer told BBC News in an interview on Friday.

“They've been keeping our country going throughout this pandemic and he's absolutely wrong to freeze their pay at this time.”

7:09 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Cyprus will allow vaccinated British tourists to enter the country without restrictions from May

From CNN’s Chris Liakos in Paris

Tourists are seen on Mackenzie Beach in Larnaca, Cyprus, in August 2020.
Tourists are seen on Mackenzie Beach in Larnaca, Cyprus, in August 2020. Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Cyprus plans to allow vaccinated British tourists to holiday in the country without restrictions from May 1. The move is an effort to boost tourism during this year’s summer season. Britain is the country’s largest tourism market. 

“We have informed the British government that as of May 1 we will facilitate the arrival of British citizens who have been vaccinated with EMA-approved vaccines, so that they can arrive to Cyprus without having to provide a negative Covid-19 test or having to quarantine,” Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios said Thursday, according to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), which cited the Tourism Ministry.

Perdios said the country would open to British citizens who received the second dose of the vaccine at least seven days before travelling.

He added that Cyprus reserves the right to conduct random checks at airports, including checks on vaccinated people. Health protocols, such as the use of a mask and the social distancing, must also be observed. 

The minister also made clear that travel from the UK is subject to the British government's travel instructions.

“We believe it is another step in the right direction, in order to create the necessary stability and a sense of security for travellers to start planning their vacation next summer. It is another step, which essentially gives the green light that Cyprus will be ready to welcome them in the summer,” he said.

Greece’s Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said last week that Greece is in “advanced discussions” with Britain over an agreement that would allow vaccinated travellers to travel between the two countries without needing to be tested.

#Vaccines

This post has been updated to correct the spelling of the Greek tourism minister's name.

6:11 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Welsh ghost hunters fined for breaking lockdown rules

From CNN's Zamira Rahim and Kara Fox

Halloween is long gone but in Wales, police officers stumbled across a group of ghost hunters on an overnight excursion on Friday.

Officers from South Wales Police stopped a car in the seaside village of Mumbles in the early hours of Friday morning.

The force said there were four people in the car who "had come to ghost hunt and view castles."

The group were fined and their car seized as the driver lacked insurance and a full driving license.

"Long walk home!" South Wales Police wrote.

Wales has been under a national lockdown since December 2020. The rules require people to stay home and not travel without a reasonable excuse.

6:29 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Moldova becomes the first European country to receive Covid-19 vaccines under COVAX scheme

From Duarte Mendonça in Lisbon

Moldova has become the first European country to receive coronavirus vaccines from the global COVAX scheme, the country's President Maia Sandu tweeted on Friday. 

“The first 14,400 doses arrived last night,” Sandu wrote. “Thankful to Germany and other European Union nations, the United States, UK, Canada, EU Commission, Japan and others for solidarity, and to WHO and UNICEF.” 

COVAX is an entity run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The coalition is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations. Its mission is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can't compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies.

Moldova has reported a total of 191,197 Covid-19 cases and 4,049 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

6:08 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Danish health authority approves AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s

From CNN’s James Frater in London

A medical worker prepares a syringe with the AstraZeneca vaccine at a vaccine center in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 11.
A medical worker prepares a syringe with the AstraZeneca vaccine at a vaccine center in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 11. Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

Denmark's National Board of Health has updated its guidance and now recommends the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in all adults over the age of 18, including those above 65.

The board had previously advised against administering the vaccine to the elderly, due to a “limited base of data in the approval studies in persons over 65 years of age,” the health authority said in a statement.

The Danish authority cited a large-scale study of vaccines in Scotland as a factor in its decision to revise its advice. 

The EAVE II project, carried out by researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Aberdeen, Glasgow and St Andrew’s and Public Health Scotland (PHS), analyzed a dataset covering almost the entire Scottish population of 5.4 million.

Preliminary data from the study suggests that rollout of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer shots was linked to reduced risk of hospitalization in Scotland.

“The results from Scotland are gratifying. They show a large decrease in the risk of requiring hospital with Covid-19, also among the elderly,” said Bolette Søborg, the head of contingency and infectious diseases at the Denmark's health board.

This decision by Denmark follows similar moves in other European countries such as Belgium, Sweden and Germany in changing their advice of administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to the elderly.

5:23 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Germany sees rise of Covid-19 mutations, as UK strain detected in 40% of new infections

From CNN”s Nadine Schmidt and Claudia Otto

Lothar Wieler, President of Germany's Robert Koch Institute, speaks to the media on March 5, in Berlin.
Lothar Wieler, President of Germany's Robert Koch Institute, speaks to the media on March 5, in Berlin. Andreas Gora/ Pool/Getty Images

Germany is currently experiencing “a rise of worrying coronavirus mutations,” Dr Lothar Wieler, the head of the country's public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said in a press conference on Friday.

Wieler said B.1.17, the variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, has been detected in 40% of new infections in Germany.

The variant represented just 6% of new cases in Germany four weeks ago but could soon become the dominant strain in the country, according to Wieler.

“It is foreseeable that B.1.17 will soon be the predominant variant in Germany and then it will be even more difficult to keep the virus in check because B.1.17 is more contagious and even more dangerous in all age groups,” he said.

Wieler also warned that Germany is "still seeing too many deaths” and that the country’s virus incidence rate is rising again.  

Germany reported 10,580 new coronavirus infections on Friday, RKI data showed, an increase of 583 cases compared to the same day the previous week. In total, 2,482,552 have contracted Covid-19 since the pandemic started. 

The country also reported 394 deaths in the past 24 hours, a decrease of 130 compared to the previous Friday.

A total of 71,504 people have died with Covid-19 in Germany.

6:29 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

France could follow Italy and block vaccine shipments, health minister says

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer in Paris

French Health Minister Olivier Veran speaks during a press conference on the French government's current strategy for the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, on March 4, in Paris.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran speaks during a press conference on the French government's current strategy for the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, on March 4, in Paris. Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

France said Friday it may follow Italy in blocking Covid-19 vaccine shipments after Rome invoked European Union (EU) powers to block the export of 250,000 Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Australia.

"Of course, I understand what Italy did," Véran said during an interview with CNN affiliate BFM on Friday. "We could do the same thing."

A spokesperson for Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told CNN that Italy and the European Commission had agreed on the action. This is the first time that such EU measures have been used for vaccines.

"We are closely discussing with Italians, as well as with all our European partners to have a European approach on the issue." Véran said.
"Since the first day, France has believed in a shared European approach," he added.

In late January, a public and acrimonious fight erupted between the EU and AstraZeneca over vaccine delays, after the company advised the bloc that it would deliver tens of millions fewer doses than agreed by the end of March.

The European Commission later adopted new measures giving member states the power to restrict the export of vaccines outside the bloc, in certain situations.

Italy has justified invoking the powers by citing AstraZeneca's delays in supplying its vaccine to Italy and the EU, and noting that Australia is not considered a "vulnerable" nation to Covid-19 by the EU.

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