Boris Johnson: EU expected to honour vaccine exports to UK
The Health Secretary was yesterday assured by pharmaceutical chiefs that a Brussels demand for firms to ask permission before moving vaccines out of the bloc will not hit UK supplies. But he took a swipe at the European Union for indulging in “protectionism”. He said: “We oppose protectionism in all its forms and I think protectionism is unfortunate, especially so in the midst of a pandemic, when we are working so closely together with countries around the world.”
He was backed by Boris Johnson, who last night warned the EU not to impose restrictions.
Mr Johnson said at a Downing Street news conference: “I don’t want to see restrictions on the supply of vaccines or their ingredients.”
The Prime Minister insisted all countries should work together as “the virus knows no borders”.
EU chiefs are furious that millions of Britons have been vaccinated while many European countries are struggling to roll out their own programmes.
Brussels diplomatic sources have even claimed that jabs meant for the EU have gone to the UK instead.
Restrictions from the EU could be applied to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which is made in Belgium.
The Prime Minister insisted all countries should work together as the ‘virus knows no borders’
Brussels has accused AstraZeneca, who, with Oxford University, developed the other main vaccine used in the UK, of failing to deliver promised supplies in Europe.
Critics of Brussels have blamed EU bureaucracy for the delays.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen yesterday announced a “vaccine export transparency mechanism” to regulate exports out of the bloc.
During an online event organised by a foreign policy think tank yesterday, Mr Hancock pledged to cooperate with Brussels.
He said: “I am sure that we can work with the EU to ensure that whilst transparency is welcome, there are no blockers put in place. Having spoken to the chief executives both of Pfizer and AstraZeneca, I am confident the supply of vaccine into the UK won’t be disrupted.
“But I would urge all international partners in fact to be collaborative and work closely together.”
The Health Secretary took a swipe at the EU for indulging in protectionism
The PM’s official spokesman said: “AstraZeneca are committed to delivering two million doses a week to the UK and we are not expecting any changes to that.”
Referring to the Pfizer vaccine, the spokesman added: “Supplies will be lower this month and next as it upgrades its factory, but it will then increase production in March. Projection of volumes of delivery remain the same for that period.”
But Ms von der Leyen yesterday warned that Brussels “means business” in addressing the row.
She insisted pharmaceutical firms should supply the bloc in return for millions of euros invested “to help develop the world’s first Covid-19 vaccines”.
The EC president said: “And now companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations.
“This is why we will set up a vaccine export mechanism.
Ursula von der Leyen announced a ‘vaccine transparency mechanism’ to regulate exports out of the EU
“Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good but it also means business.” German health minister Jens Spahn said Brussels should only allow firms to export their Covid jabs outside of the EU after securing a permit.
He said: “It makes sense that we have an export restriction.
“That means that vaccines that leave the EU need a permit so that we can first of all know what is being manufactured in Europe, what is leaving Europe, where it is leaving Europe for and whether it is then also a fair distribution.”
Crisis talks between the commission and AstraZeneca ended in “dissatisfaction” after the firm said it would slash the number of vaccines sent to EU capitals.
It emerged that Eurocrats used the showdown to plead with the makers of the Oxford jab to redirect shipments destined for Britain to member states.
But Brussels health commissioner Stella Kyriakides conceded that the firm had offered a “lack of clarity and insufficient explanations” on how to increase its supply to the Continent.
Diplomatic sources claimed Brussels officials are suspicious that AstraZeneca shipped doses to Britain earmarked for EU states.
Eurocrats want makers of the Oxford jab to redirect shipments destined for Britain to EU states
The insider said: “There are people in Brussels who think that vaccines supposed to build up the EU vaccine stock and to be delivered to the EU after market authorisation have actually ended up in Britain.”
The row prompted a commission spokesman to admit officials are “worried” by the slow rollout of Covid jabs across the bloc.
Ms von der Leyen’s chief spokesman denied that the EU was guilty of “vaccine nationalism”, insisting Brussels is playing a key role in supplying lower-income states.
The aide said: “We see doses are being delivered elsewhere and we know we’ve signed an agreement with AstraZeneca in August, that member states placed their orders around October and we’re now at the end of January and therefore we believe the doses should basically be available to be delivered.”
The EU’s drugs watchdog is set to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine by Friday – a month after it was authorised by the UK.
Robert Peston: “AZ reached a preliminary agreement with Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy, a group known as the Inclusive Vaccine Alliance, based on the agreement with the UK.
“The announcement was 13 June. BUT the EU insisted that the Inclusive Vaccine Alliance could not formalise the deal.
“What is frustrating for AZ is that the extra talks with the European Commission led to no material changes to the contract, but wasted time on making arrangements to make the vaccine with partner sites.”
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot hit back at the EU over claims the company is failing to deliver promised supplies in Europe. He said the bloc’s supply is behind the UK’s because it signed the contract so much later.
Mr Soriot added: “I can only tell you the facts and the facts are that we basically signed an agreement with the UK three months before we did it with Europe.”
Yesterday’s UK vaccine figures showed of the 7.3million jabs given so far, 6.8million are first doses –
an increase of 279,757 on the previous day.
Some 472,446 were second doses, a rise of 1,968 on figures released the
The seven-day rolling average of first doses given in the UK is now 369,536.
Based on the latest figures, an average of 407,334 first doses would be needed each day in order to meet the Government’s target of 15 million by February 15.
Meanwhile, German MEP Gunnar Beck said Britain’s successful vaccine scheme was a “nightmare” for Europe’s bosses.
He said: “The [bloc’s] slow, dysfunctional approach has been a huge failure for the commission.
“It’s a nightmare for the EU that Brexit Britain’s vaccine scheme is working better than the EU’s.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi revealed his uncle died of the virus
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi fought back tears as he revealed his uncle had died of the virus.
The politician told how his family was devastated, saying: “It is painful and it is closer to home than you think.”
The virus has now claimed 104,000 lives in Britain but Mr Zahawi, 53, said ramping up jabs offered a way out.
He said: “I lost my uncle last week to Covid.
“It is grim and horrible but our way out of this is the vaccination programme.
“It makes me angry but it makes me determined to vaccinate the most vulnerable people in our country.
MEP Gunnar Beck said Britain’s successful vaccine scheme was a ‘nightmare’ for Europe’s bosses
“Protect them as quickly as possible and then protect the whole nation.
“That is our way out of this, that is ultimately what we will do and I promise you, I will make sure that happens.”
On ITV’s Good Morning Britain Mr Zahawi said his uncle was entitled to the jab but caught Covid before he could receive it.
He said: “You have to wait 21 days until someone recovers before you can vaccinate them and he didn’t make it.”
Sarah Scobie, Nuffield Trust deputy director of research, said passing 100,000 deaths was a tragic milestone.
She added: “This harrowing figure does not take into account excess deaths indirectly associated with the virus.”
Mr Zahawi was born in Baghdad to Kurdish parents in 1967 and fled Saddam Hussein’s regime aged nine.
He grew up in Sussex and was educated in London.
Mr Johnson has said he is “deeply sorry for every life lost” after the UK’s Covid death toll passed 100,000.
On another dark day in the pandemic, the Prime Minister yesterday offered his condolences to “everyone who has lost a loved one” and admitted it was “hard to compute the sorrow.”
He vowed that the country will “come together” to remember the huge loss in a “moment of commemoration” once the pandemic has finally passed.
“The best and most important thing we can all do to honour the memory of those who have died is to work together with ever greater resolve to defeat this disease,” he added.
Data yesterday confirmed a further 1,631 UK fatalities from Covid-19 taking the total to 100,162.
But in a glimmer of hope, official figures also showed the number of new cases reported yesterday fell to 20,089, the lowest total since mid December.
The PM said he is ‘deeply sorry for every life lost’
Mr Johnson said he took “full responsibility” for the death toll during a solemn news conference at Downing Street last night.
The Prime Minister said: “I’m deeply sorry for every life lost. What I can say is that the Government will continue to do everything we can to minimise life lost as we go forward.”
He added: “On this day, I should just really repeat that I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost and, of course, as Prime Minister, I take full responsibility for everything that the Government has done.
“What I can tell you is that we truly did everything that we could, and continue to do everything that we can, to minimise loss of life and to minimise suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage and a very, very difficult crisis for our country, and we will continue to do that.”
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty described yesterday as a “sad day” and warned: “Unfortunately we’re going to see quite a lot more deaths over the next few weeks before the effects of the vaccines begin to be felt.”
Prof Whitty added that the number of people testing positive for coronavirus was “still at a very high number, but it has been coming down”.
He said: “I think we need to be careful we do not relax too early.”
Announcing the sad milestone, the Prime Minister said: “I am sorry to have to tell you that today the number of deaths recorded from Covid in the UK has surpassed 100,000, and it is hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic – the years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended and, for so many relatives, the missed chance even to say goodbye.
“I offer my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one: fathers and mothers; brothers and sisters; sons and daughters and the many grandparents who have been taken.
“And, to all those who grieve, we make this pledge: that when we have come through this crisis, we will come together as a nation to remember everyone we lost, and to honour the selfless heroism of all those on the front line who gave their lives to save others.”
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty described yesterday a ‘sad day’
A Downing Street source said a number of options for commemorating the losses in the pandemic had been discussed by ministers but no decision was likely until after the pandemic is over.
At the news conference, the Prime Minister said the country would remember the “courage” of NHS staff, shop workers, transport staff, pharmacists, teachers, police, armed forces emergency services and others “who kept our country going during our biggest crisis since the Second World War.”
He said: “We will commemorate the small acts of kindness, the spirit of volunteering and the daily sacrifice of millions who placed their lives on hold time and again as we fought each new wave of the virus, buying time for our brilliant scientists to come to our aid.”
The commemoration would also “celebrate the genius and perseverance” of the scientists who discovered the vaccines and the “immense national effort” to roll out the jabs.
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, pointed out that Sunday marked a year since the first two patients with coronavirus were treated in hospital in Newcastle.
He said: “It’s a year in which over a quarter of a million severely ill coronavirus patients have been looked after in hospital.
Simon Stevens pointed out that Sunday marked a year since the first two Covid patients were treated
Sir Simon said: “This is not a year that anybody is going to want to remember nor is it a year that across the health service any of us will ever forget.”
In a statement last night, Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said: “This is a sobering moment in the pandemic, these are not just numbers. Each death is a person who was someone’s family member and friend.
“This virus has sadly taken millions of lives across the world, but we have learnt a lot about this coronavirus over the past year.
“The best way to slow the spread is to follow the rules and right now that means staying at home.
“We should all be encouraged that hundreds of thousands of people are receiving a vaccine every day.
“However, there is still a way to go and these people might still be able to pass the virus on to others.
“That is why it is essential for all of us to work together by staying at home.
“This sacrifice will help slow the spread, protect the NHS and save lives.”