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Covid-19 Live: UK marks lockdown anniversary as fine for travelling abroad revealed

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Since March 23 2020, the UK’s official Covid-19 death toll has risen to 126,172 and a series of sombre ceremonies will take place across the UK to mark this “national day of remembrance”.

Live updates

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No changes on timings for international travel, says Hancock

There have been no changes to UK’s timings for resuming international travel said Matt Hancock on Tuesday, after new legislation was brought in that technically extends the ban on holidays until the end of June.

“The earliest date by which we will allow for international travel…is the 17th May. That has not changed,” he told Sky News.

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Number of UK workers on payrolls increased by 68,000 last month – but has fallen by 693,000 since Feb 2020

The number of UK workers on payrolls increased by 68,000 last month but has fallen by 693,000 since February 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Sam Beckett, ONS head of economic statistics, said: “After yet another monthly increase, there were almost 200,000 more employees on payroll in February than three months earlier, although that is still nearly 700,000 down from the start of the pandemic.

“Of the decrease since then, almost two-thirds has been among the under-25s, over half has been in hospitality and almost a third has been in London.”

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Growing global vaccine gap is ‘grotesque’, says WHO director general

The World Health Organization (WHO) has blasted the growing gap between the number of coronavirus vaccines administered in rich and poor countries, calling the inequity a global “moral outrage”, AFP reports.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was “shocking” how little had been done to avoid an entirely predictable “catastrophic moral failure” to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide.

The gap was “growing every single day, and becoming more grotesque every day,” he told a press conference.

“Countries that are now vaccinating younger, healthy people at low risk of disease are doing so at the cost of the lives of health workers, older people and other at-risk groups in other countries,” Tedros said.

“The inequitable distribution of vaccines is not just a moral outrage. It’s also economically and epidemiologically self-defeating.

“Some countries are racing to vaccinate their entire populations – while other countries have nothing.”

Mr Tedros said rich countries were giving themselves a false sense of security.

The UN health agency chief said the more transmission of the virus, the more variants are likely to emerge – and the more of those that spring up, the more likely they are to evade vaccines.

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AstraZeneca may have provided incomplete efficacy data from latest Covid-19 trial, says NIAID

AstraZeneca may have provided an incomplete view of efficacy data on its Covid-19 vaccine from a large scale US trial, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said on Tuesday.

AstraZeneca said a day earlier that its Covid-19 vaccine developed with Oxford University was 79 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic illness in a large trial in Chile, Peru and the United States.

“The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” the US agency said, referring to the independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB).

“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible.”

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Inflammatory bowel disease drug ‘linked to reduced Covid-19 antibody response’

A commonly prescribed inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) drug may be linked to reduced coronavirus antibody response, research suggests.

According to a new study, infliximab blunts the immune system to Covid-19 infection, potentially increasing the risk of reinfection.

The findings arose from the Clarity study, which recruited 6,935 patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis from 92 UK hospitals between September and December 2020.

It found that fewer than half of people with IBD who were treated with the drug had detectable antibodies after SARS-CoV-2 infection, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

The authors say an impaired immune response may boost susceptibility to recurrent Covid-19 and help drive the evolution of new variants.

However, they are encouraging people to continue to take their medication as overall Covid-19 risk remains very low.

The researchers say careful monitoring of patients with IBD treated with infliximab, who have been vaccinated against the virus, will be needed to ensure they mount a strong enough antibody response to ward off the infection.

Clarity study lead Professor Tariq Ahmad, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “The poor antibody responses observed in patients treated with infliximab raise the possibility that some patients may not develop protective immunity after Covid-19 infection, and might be at increased risk of reinfection.

“What we don’t yet know is how use of anti-TNF drugs will impact antibody responses to vaccination.”

Around two million people worldwide are prescribed anti-tumour necrosis factor (anti-TNF) drugs, which include infliximab.

Anti-TNF drugs are effective treatments for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, but by suppressing the immune system, they can reduce vaccine effectiveness and increase risk of serious infection.

Around 500,000 people across the UK live with IBD, of which ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two main forms.

Symptoms include urgent and frequent bloody diarrhoea, weight loss, pain, and extreme fatigue.

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Boris Johnson says Covid restrictions easing ‘once and for all’ a year on from first lockdown

Boris Johnson has said coronavirus restrictions are being eased “once and for all” as the UK marks the anniversary of the first national lockdown.

The Prime Minister offered his “sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones” and praised the “great spirit” displayed ahead of the nation pausing in remembrance on Tuesday.

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Welcome to our Coronavirus Live Blog on Tuesday 23 March 2020

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