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Online communities sharing harmful anti-vaccine content have grown significantly during the pandemic, according to new BBC Monitoring research on seven countries across Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe.
Facebook accounts promoting false information about vaccines saw a boost in followers in Brazil, Mexico, India, Ukraine, France, Tanzania and Kenya over the past year.
Vaccine misinformation in these countries appears to mainly spread in groups where a range of topics such as health, religion, politics and conspiracy theories are discussed.
In Brazil, Mexico, Tanzania and Kenya some religious pages promoted misleading claims and conspiracy theories about vaccines to their large online audiences.
In India we found anti-vaccine content was largely driven by individuals promoting traditional medicine.
Our research also showed a political and nationalistic dimension to online debates about vaccination in some countries, which often featured criticism of and misleading claims about foreign vaccines.
The findings were released on the final day of the BBC’s Trust in News conference, at which technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones questioned social media companies about what they have done to tackle disinformation on their platforms.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has plunged
headlong into an issue that’s proving controversial within his own party.
Speaking to a group of senior MPs earlier this afternoon, Mr Johnson suggested that, as restrictions
ease, people may have to provide proof of vaccination to visit a pub.
This, he suggested, would be up to
The prime minister said the
“basic concept of a vaccine certification should not be totally alien to
But the use of vaccine passports, or
certificates, domestically has previously been denounced as “divisive” – by none other than Mr Johnson’s own
At the same meeting, in answer to another question, Mr Johnson declared that
care home companies would be acting ‘responsibly’ if they required all staff
to be vaccinated.
‘”It doesn’t seem to me to be
irresponsible at all – far from it, it’s highly responsible – for care
home companies to think about requiring vaccinations,” he said, speaking to the Liaisons Committee.
There is an ongoing debate inside government over whether to make Covid vaccinations compulsory for social
care workers, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock setting out some of the benefits of this approach,
But Unison, which represents staff, opposes mandatory vaccination.
Now the prime minister seems to be floating a slightly different solution – by placing responsibility on employers to require that their staff be vaccinated.
This will seen by some as
compulsion by the back door – or what critics have called “jabs for jobs”.
India has placed a temporary hold on all exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, foreign ministry sources have told the BBC.
They said rising cases meant domestic demand was expected to pick up in the coming weeks, and so the doses were needed for India’s own rollout.
The move – described as a “temporary squeeze” by officials – is expected to affect supplies until the end of April.
Some 190 countries under the Covax scheme are likely to be affected.
India’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India (SII), has delayed shipments of the AstraZeneca jab to several countries in recent days, including the UK and Brazil.
India has exported more than 60 million vaccine doses to 76 countries so far, with the majority of these being the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
The decision comes as India faces a surge in coronavirus cases. On Wednesday it recorded its sharpest daily rise this year, with more than 47,000 new cases and 275 deaths.
There has been no official comment from the government or the Serum Institute on the decision.
Earlier, we heard from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson who was asked about whether Covid vaccination certificates or passports could be used to help British society open up.
Asked whether they could be used by pubs to allow people in, Mr Johnson said “that’s the kind of thing that may be up to individual publicans”.
But the idea has been met with some criticism.
Mr Johnson’s fellow Conservative MP Steve Baker – a member of the lockdown-sceptic Coronavirus Research Group – has warned that the prime minister “began to tread a dangerous path when he opened the door to domestic Covid certificates” today.
“First they said we’ll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub.
“Whether the state legislates for it, recommends it or simply allows it the result will be the same: a two-tier Britain that prevents pregnant women from taking part in society, given that the government is telling them not to take the vaccine, or one where we turn back the clock and tolerate businesses turning away customers from communities which have shown an unfortunate hesitancy to take up the offer of a vaccine.
“We must not fall into this ghastly trap.”
Two separate studies have found that women under the age of 50 had worse long-term outcomes after being in hospital with Covid-19.
Research led by Glasgow University followed 327 adults from around the UK who were admitted to hospital between 5 February and 5 October last year.
Participants were followed for between three and 11 months.
It found that women under 50 had higher odds of worse outcomes when compared with men and older participants – and this was even if the woman had no previous health problems, the study found.
They were five times less likely to report feeling fully recovered three months or more after the onset of their infection, twice as likely to report worse fatigue and seven times more likely to be more breathless.
We’ve got more on the findings here.
We’ve found out some more about how the NHS coped during the second wave of the pandemic – and in particular, how intensive care units fared.
Two patients were moved to a hospital 300 miles away because of an intensive care bed shortage – and an unprecedented 2,300 intensive care patients were moved between UK hospitals.
The data covers the period from September 2020 to March 2021.
Front-line doctors, speaking for the first time, say these transfers were the only way to care for patients.
And NHS England said the health service had responded well under intense pressure.
Read the full story here.
The UK and EU have said they are working on creating a “win-win” situation and to expand vaccine supply for all citizens, as the row involving demand for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab continues.
The UK government and European Commission have just released a joint statement.
“We are all facing the same pandemic and
the third wave makes co-operation between the EU and UK even more important,” it reads.
“We have been discussing what more we can
do to ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on
“Given our interdependencies, we are
working on specific steps we can take – in the short-, medium – and long term –
to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens.
“In the end, openness and global
co-operation of all countries will be key to finally overcome this pandemic and
ensure better preparation for meeting future challenges.
“We will continue our discussions.”
Earlier the government published its daily coronavirus figures, showing another 5,605 cases had been confirmed and a further 98 people had died with the virus.
This continues the trend of a falling number of deaths, although the decline in cases has slowed.
Meanwhile, the vaccine rollout continues. As our graphs show, more than 31 million jabs have now been administered of which more than 28 million are people’s first doses.
The Vatican’s income has plummeted during the pandemic as museums and other attractions such as St Peter’s Basilica have been forced to close. It’s now expecting a deficit of €50m (£43m) this year.
Pope Francis has now ordered pay cuts for cardinals and other clerics starting from next month.
Cardinals are believed to receive up to €5,000 (£4,300) a month and often live in subsidised accommodation – but will now have their pay reduced by 10%.
Priests and other clerics will see their salaries cut by between 3% and 8% and planned salary increases will be suspended until March 2023.
The pope, who is the head of the Catholic Church, has previously said he does not want to fire people in difficult economic times.
Read the full story here.
As we’ve been reporting, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been facing questions from MPs this afternoon about a whole range of issues – including about the government’s handling of the pandemic.
He is up in front of the liaison committee, which is made up of all the MPs who lead the different parliamentary committees, and which gets to grill the PM a few times each year.
Conservative MP William Wragg asks what Johnson’s thoughts are on vaccine certificates, for example proof of a vaccine that could allow someone to do certain things. Could they be used for ordinary people to be allowed into pub, for example?
The prime minister says “that’s the kind of thing that may be up to individual publicans”.
You can read more about vaccine passports here. A government review, which is being led by Michael Gove, is due to consider whether a vaccine passport could be also be used to allow visitors entry to venues such as bars, theatres or sports stadiums.
Today’s daily coronavirus figures have been published by the government.
They show another 5,605 cases have been recorded, and a further 98 people have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.
Meanwhile the latest vaccination figures show that more than 28.6 million people have now had their first dose, after another 325,650 first doses given yesterday.
Copyright: Getty Images
Fellow Conservative William Wragg – who chairs the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee – has asked the PM about the possibility of international travel this summer.
The PM says the government will get the findings of its global travel taskforce on 5 April and thereafter he will “be setting out what may be possible from 17 May”.
But he warns “things are looking difficult on the continent and we will have to look at the situation as it develops”.
He agrees there is a wide spectrum of scientific opinion on the matter, but assures his colleague advisors advise but ministers will decide.
The Labour chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Yvette Cooper, has asked Boris Johnson why France has not been put on the UK’s red list, given the rise in cases and new variants.
The prime minister explains that putting a country on the “red list” has consequences for the supply of medicines and foods to the UK – a nod to the huge haulage industry that sees goods crossing the channel – but the PM concedes “we will have to look at tougher measures” if the circumstances change.
Cooper says 20,000 people are coming to the UK from France every week and two-thirds of arrivals are exempt from restrictions – she wants to know why hauliers are not being tested in the UK.
Johnson says the numbers have “massively diminished” in recent months – but says he will “look at the situation in the Channel” and “can’t rule out further measures” on people arriving from France.
Why is the PM not taking action now, asks Cooper?
Johnson says there is “a balance to be struck” given the “very serious disruption” that would occur to cross-channel trade.
“We will take action if necessary to protect public health” he adds and “we may have to do it “very soon”.
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Labour MP Meg Hillier asks Boris Johnson what his biggest regret is over the past year.
The prime minister prevaricates, saying he “wouldn’t want to make a mistake about my biggest mistake and single out the wrong one” but commits once again to “a proper inquiry in due course”.
Hillier homes in on the Test and Trace programme and asks the prime minister if he is “content” with having committed £37bn to it.
Johnson says Test and Trace has been “an extraordinary achievement”, adding 80% of the money goes on labs and testing, which is “desperately needed”. It has given us “the tools to fight” the virus, he states.
He says the data derived from the Test and Trace programme, in terms of new variants and where they have been arisen, has allowed the government to study “what is happening with the pandemic in a very granular way”. He insists it has been of “crucial importance”.
Copyright: House of Commons
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is appearing before a special House of Commons committee made up of senior politicians who have been grilling him on a range of issues.
Asked about the potential threat of the European Union restricting Covid vaccine exports, he said the co-operation the UK has with the EU is “very important” and he doesn’t believe blockades “are sensible”.
Long-term damage done by blockades can be “very considerable”, he told the chairman of the Health Committee Conservative Jeremy Hunt.
Anyone considering a blockade may want to think about how companies would view a country where such things are imposed, he warns.
Hunt asks if nothing will be “taken off the table” to make sure the UK gets vaccines.
Johnson says “we will do everything that is necessary” to make sure that people get their vaccines.
Copyright: Getty Images
Would you like a Covid test with your chips?
Some US residents can now get one alongside a meal after food ordering service DoorDash announced they’ll deliver at-home tests to cities across the country.
Two types of tests will be available – a nasal swab or a saliva sample – the company said. Both can yield results within 24 to 48 hours.
It is the first such scheme to be launched by a delivery service.
“Amidst the pandemic, one of our priorities has been to make health and wellness essentials more accessible for customers, and we will continue to expand our offerings in the healthcare space,” a spokesperson for DoorDash said.
The prices and availability of testing kits in the US vary, though the ones offered by DoorDash range in price from $109 (£79) to $119 (£87) and may require a video call with medical personnel during the test.
Here’s the full story.
Copyright: Dave Kneale
A council worker who was stranded in Cyprus for 14 weeks because of a Covid-19 lockdown had his pay cut “unlawfully”, a tribunal has found.
Road worker William Pye left the Isle of Man in March 2020 but was unable to return until 1 July.
The tribunal found Douglas Borough Council’s decision to recoup £100 a week from his salary was “taken without any proper investigation”.
The council, contacted by the BBC for a response, must repay him about £5,200.
The tribunal said Pye had suffered “hardship” as a result of the council’s actions.
Pye, who is in his 60s and has worked for the authority for 36 years, made several attempts to leave Cyprus but could not do so after his flights were cancelled, the court heard. The full story is here.
More than half of adults in Scotland will have received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine by the end of the day, Nicola Sturgeon says.
The First Minister has also confirmed the Scottish Government is on course to have offered a first dose to all adults by the end of July, supplies permitting.
All of the priority groups, as outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, will be covered by mid-April, she says.
Sturgeon told MSPs: “We are on track by the end of the day to have given a first dose to more than half of the adult population which is a very significant milestone.”
The First Minister says “virtually all” those people aged 65 and over in Scotland have now received their first vaccine dose.
She says: “It means, as we take part in this final session of First Minister’s Questions of this parliamentary term, a return to greater normality for the country is now much more in sight.”
BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
India’s capital, Delhi, will begin randomised Covid tests at airports, bus stops and train stations in the midst of what some experts say is a second wave.
Mumbai, a financial hub and virus hotspot, ordered mandatory testing in busy areas earlier this week.
We reported earlier that one case of a new “double mutant” variant of coronavirus had been found in the country, along with the strains first discovered in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
Coronavirus cases have surged in recent weeks – on Wednesday, India reported more than 47,000 new cases and 275 deaths, it’s highest this year.
It has reported more than 11.7 million cases and 160,000 deaths so far
India’s caseload dropped significantly at the start of this year – it reported under 10,000 new infections on some days. And this coincided with the launch of the country’s vaccine drive, the largest in the world.
But March saw a sharp uptick, with more than 40,000 new infections reported daily since Sunday.
Here’s more on that story.
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