The Oxford vaccine was less effective against the South Africa strain in phase I and II trials – EPA

AstraZeneca says its vaccine developed with the University of Oxford appeared to offer only limited protection against mild disease caused by the variant of Covid-19 first discovered in South Africa, based on early data from a trial.

The study from South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University analysed the E484K mutation in some 2,000 people, most of whom were young and healthy.

The team found that the vaccine had reduced efficacy against the South African variant, according to a Financial Times report.

Among coronavirus variants currently most concerning for scientists and public health experts are the Kent, South African and Brazilian variants, which appear to spread more swiftly than others.

But the British pharma company said early data from the study, due to be published on Monday, has shown the jab can protect against severe disease caused by the mutation.

Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading Covid-19 vaccine research at Imperial College London, also urged caution.

“I think everybody should remember that having a vaccine is going to prevent you ending up in hospital with these current strains,” he told the BBC.

It comes after research released on Friday indicated that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is effective at fighting the new UK coronavirus variant.

Follow the latest updates below.

09:13 AMPrioritise poorer areas for vaccine rollout, says Andy Burnham

Poorer areas of the UK, where life expectancy is lower, should be prioritised for vaccine rollout, according to the Greater Manchester Mayor.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Andy Burnham said that vaccine allocation nationwide “has got to be a judgment based on health”.

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“What I’m saying is that the life expectancy rate varies very widely across the UK – there are places where it is 10 years behind the areas where it is highest, so basically what that means is that, in those areas, people who are in their 60s have the same level of health as people in their 70s in other areas,” the Labour politician said.

“It also is the case that those same areas where life expectancy is lowest tend to be the places where more people are out at work in those key professions, working in essential retail and supermarkets or driving buses or driving taxis, so clearly they are at greater risk.

“I’m not saying diverge completely from the phased (approach) set out by ages put forward by the JCVI, but what I am saying is put greater supplies of the vaccine into those areas where life expectancy is lowest and allow greater flexibility for people to be called earlier.”

09:08 AMImperial vaccine expert urges caution over Oxford variant study

Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading Covid-19 vaccine research at Imperial College London, urged caution after it was suggested the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offers limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s a very small study with just over 2,000 people and it’s not published so we can only judge it from the press release and press coverage. But it is concerning to some extent that we’re seeing that it’s not effective against mild or moderate disease.”

Prof Shattock said the study participants had a mean age of around 31 and it is not yet clear whether they had both doses.

He continued: “Oxford, as well as other groups, are already working on vaccines against these variants… we will need to keep updating the vaccines to keep ahead of the virus.”

Prof Shattock later added: “I think everybody should remember that having a vaccine is going to prevent you ending up in hospital with these current strains.

“We also need to be cautious about still, even though you will get some protection from a single dose, behaving as if you don’t, in order to maximise your chances of getting total protection when you get that second dose and minimise the chances of being able to transmit it on if you get one of these variant strains.”

09:06 AMUK should divert doses once most vulnerable are protected, says WHO envoy

The UK should share vaccine supplies with the rest of the world once the top priority groups have been protected, Dr David Nabarro has told Sky.

“It’s really a question of what makes sense economically, what makes sense for society and how we want to be remembered in 10 or 20 years time.

“Do we want to be remembered as those who had the cash could afford to vaccinate their entire population – and countries that didn’t have the cash had to cope with an increasing, possibly quite dramatically increasing, death toll among their health workers? I don’t think so.”

Related: Diverting some of Britain’s vaccines to the global rollout is a scientific, economic and moral imperative, says Jeremy Farrar

“In the end, we are human.”
WHO Special Envoy on Covid-19 @davidnabarro says the UK should give vaccines to other countries when those most at risk and the over-50s are vaccinated – “it’s a question of how we want to be remembered”#Ridge

— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) February 7, 2021

08:57 AMIsrael eases restrictions after six week lockdown

Israel has started to ease restrictions nearly six weeks after entering its third nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Some businesses began reopening on Sunday and people are now allowed to move more than a kilometer (half a mile) from their homes. But schools remain closed and international flights are severely restricted.

Israel instituted its third national lockdown in late December as new infections spiralled out of control. Israel has recorded over 686,000 cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic last year and 5,074 deaths, according to Health Ministry figures.

At the same time, the country has launched a major vaccination campaign. More than 3.4 million Israelis have received the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and at least 2 million have received a second dose.

Related: The ‘magic’ has started: early data shows Israel’s vaccination campaign is working

08:48 AMWHO envoy ‘hopeful’ leaders will support more equitable global vaccine rollout

David Nabarro, a World Health Organization special envoy on Covid-19, has told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he’s “really hopeful” that world leaders will recognise that huge disparities in vaccination rates across the world is “not really the way forward”.

“The world should be accessing these vaccines in an equal way because right now health care workers everywhere are at risk, older people are also at risk,” Dr Nabarro said. “And the only way to deal with a global pandemic is to get fair shares across the world now.”

He added that there is an economic, moral and scientific case for all countries to support equitable distribution of live saving jabs.

Related: Lib Dems urge UK to share vaccines with poorer countries ‘in parallel’ with domestic roll out

08:37 AMFirst jabs arrive in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has received 500,000 doses of the AztraZeneca vaccine from India, the first to arrive in the country, which is still waiting for emergency approval from the World Health Organisation before it can use them.

Ghulam Dastagir Nazari, head of the immunisation program at the health ministry said the doses would be stored in Kabul until the emergency authorisation was received, which it hoped would happen in a week.

The vaccines were produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is producing the AstraZenecca/Oxford University vaccine for mid- and low-income countries.

Health workers, security force members, teachers and government employees would receive the vaccine first, he said.

Nazari said China also planned to send 200,000 doses of the vaccine, while Afghanistan expects to receive enough vaccine through Covax to cover 20 per cent of the country’s 38 million population.

Related: Global vaccine scheme unveils country-by-country plans to distribute 330m jabs by July

07:25 AMNHS accused of using Armed Forces in publicity stunt

Half of the military personnel ready to roll out vaccines have not been deployed, The Telegraph can reveal, as the NHS has been accused of using the Armed Forces in a “publicity stunt”.

Despite the appointment of 101 Logistic Brigade in the Government’s vaccine rollout, senior Tory MPs questioned why Brigadier Phil Prosser, the unit’s commander, has only appeared alongside Boris Johnson at one coronavirus press conference since being tasked with progressing the rollout last month.

Read the full story here.

05:08 AMChinese whistleblower doctor remembered

The message was tucked into a bouquet of chrysanthemums left by a mourner at the back of Wuhan Central Hospital to honour a Chinese whistleblower doctor who died from coronavirus one year ago today.

It was simply the number of a Bible verse, Matthew 5:10, which says: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

A card with a portrait of Dr Li Wenliang at a hospital in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province – Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Dr Li Wenliang died from the virus first detected in Wuhan. A small stream of people marked the anniversary with visits to the hospital, some leaving flowers.

The 34-year-old ophthalmologist was one of eight whistleblowers who local authorities punished early on for “spreading rumours” about a SARS-like virus in a social media group. His situation, eventually made public in media reports, made him a potent symbol for the perils of going against official messaging in China.

The Chinese public embraced Dr Li, whose presence online painted a picture of an ordinary person. His wife was pregnant and he was soon to be a father. He sent the “rumour” because he wanted to warn others.

The public also watched as he fell ill with the disease he was warning them about, eventually worsened, and died.

Wuhan one year on: The city that appears safe from Covid – but at what cost?

04:08 AMPlayers ready for first Grand Slam after quarantine drama

Australia reported no new local coronavirus cases for a third day on Sunday, as tennis players geared up for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne tomorrow.

The Australian Open will have a reduced attendance of 30,000 fans a day – about 50pc lower than usual because of Covid protocols.

Those public health protocols, which have been credited with making Australia one of the most successful nations in battling the virus, forced players into a two-week hotel quarantine after landing in Melbourne in January.

More than 500 staff and players tested negative on Friday in re-testing required after a worker at their quarantine hotel caught the virus.

Follow the latest Australian Open news here.

03:54 AMTennis champ questions LTA’s Covid protocolsAndy Murray – REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Former world number one Andy Murray has raised doubts about the Lawn Tennis Association’s health protocols at its high-performance training facility after he tested positive for Covid-19 and had to miss the Australian Open.

The three-time Grand Slam winner was forced to pull out of the first major of 2021 in Melbourne after he was unable to find what he called a “workable quarantine” following a positive test on January 14.

“I stuck to all of the protocols. I couldn’t pick it up anywhere else because I hadn’t left my house or National Tennis Centre for 10 weeks, and then there were some positive cases there,” the 33-year-old said.

READ MORE: Andy Murray ‘p—– off’ at LTA over slip in bio-secure standards he claims left him with Covid-19

03:48 AMExclusive: Teachers jumping queue for vaccines

Teachers have been accused of jumping the queue for vaccines after a city council invited every school to put forward staff to receive the jab, a Telegraph investigation has found.

The Government has set a target for the first four priority groups, including everyone over the age of 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable, to be vaccinated by the middle of February.

Former education minister Tim Loughton said anyone not providing “intimate care” for “clinically vulnerable” children was jumping the queue.

Read the full story here.

03:45 AMHotel quarantine regime needs a ‘sunset clause’

Hotel quarantine needs a “sunset clause” otherwise foreign travel could be destroyed for years, hotels and MPs have warned the Government.

They want ministers to spell out a clear exit strategy for the quarantine which will see an estimated 1,425 passengers a day from 33 “red list” countries required to self-isolate in Government-approved hotels at their own expense for 10 days from February 15.

They fear the regime will decimate travel if it continues through the summer by deterring Britons from going abroad for fear their destination could be added to the “red list” of nations with new Covid variants, forcing them into quarantine hotels on their return.

Read the full story here.

03:43 AMToday’s top stories

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