The human challenge trial,  which will help with vaccine and treatment development, will see up to 90 adult volunteers paid around £4,000 to be infected with Covid. It will involve some 17 days of quarantine and follow-ups over 12 months.

Live updates

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Central European leaders push for faster vaccine rollout

Central European leaders pushed Wednesday for faster deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines from every reliable manufacturer to speed up inoculations which they said is the way to conquer the pandemic and jump-start Europe’s economic recovery. The leaders of Hungary, Slovakia and Poland said they support purchasing vaccines from manufacturers regardless of “geopolitics” provided they are safe and effective. Hungary is the European Union’s first and so far only member state to administer Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine without waiting for approval from the European Medicines Agency. “There is no Eastern or Western vaccine, there is only a good or a bad vaccine,” Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban told a news conference in Krakow, Poland. “It is not good to be too political about the health security of the people.” The Hungarian leader said procuring safe and effective vaccines quickly is now more important than their cost. Slovakia’s Prime Minister Igor Matowic and Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland backed Orban. The EU has not been receiving the full scheduled amounts of some 2 billion vaccine doses it has signed agreements for with Western drug makers.

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Care home provider considers whether staff who refuse vaccine can continue in roles

One of the UK’s largest care home providers has said it is considering whether staff who have refused a vaccine for non-medical reasons can continue in roles where they are in contact with residents.

Barchester Healthcare, which runs more than 200 care homes, said it is considering an option where staff make themselves “unavailable for work” in resident/patient-facing roles “by reason of their own decision” on not getting vaccinated.

The group had previously announced that it would not hire new staff if they had not had the vaccine for non-medical reasons, citing the vulnerability of its residents and patients.

The Government has encouraged everyone who is called on to get the vaccine but said it is not mandatory.

Barchester said the recent option has been communicated to staff and no decision has been made.

A spokesman said: “Our long-term ambition is that all patient and resident-facing staff will have the Covid-19 vaccine in order to protect both themselves and the vulnerable residents and patients in our care, and we have very recently communicated to our teams that one option under consideration is that staff who refuse the vaccine on non-medical grounds will, by reason of their own decision, make themselves unavailable for work.

“This is part of an ongoing dialogue we are having, we are constantly reviewing this as more information is available, and are very aware of concerns around possible discrimination which is in no way our intention.

“We are doing everything possible to ensure fairness whilst also delivering on our duty to protect our residents, patients and staff.”

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Spake to enforce compulsory quarantine for travellers from South Africa and Brazil

Spain will make travellers from South Africa and Brazil go into quarantine for at least seven days following their arrival, Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Wednesday, part of efforts to quell more-transmissible variants of the coronavirus.

Those travellers will have to stay at home and not receive visitors for 10 days upon arrival – unless they test negative during their quarantine, Darias specified, in which case they would regain mobility after seven days.

“It is an absolutely necessary and urgent measure to avoid the propagation of those variants in our country,” Darias said, as she called on regions not to relax measures. “We need to learn from what happened in previous waves … because once the numbers go up it’s very hard to bring them down again.”

After a post-Christmas surge in which daily infections exceeded 40,000, Spain’s third wave is receding, with the two-week incidence falling to 350 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday from 900 at the end of January.

The infection tally rose by 10,829 to 3.1 million on Wednesday, while the death toll increased by 337 to 66,316.

In the next phase of its national inoculation plan, Spain will administer AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to people aged 45 to 55, the Health Ministry said.

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Duchess of Cornwall ‘leapt for joy’ when after receiving Covid vaccine

The Duchess of Cornwall said she “leapt for joy” when receiving her Covid-19 jab and told hospital patients waiting for the vaccine that “it doesn’t hurt”.

Camilla joined her husband the Prince of Wales on a visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on Wednesday to learn about coronavirus vaccine trials.

The royal couple met clinical trial volunteers, as well as healthcare staff receiving their inoculations, in their first joint official public event for two months.

Clarence House confirmed last week that Charles, 72, and Camilla, 73, have had their first Covid-19 vaccinations, with the pair offering reassurance to patients during their hospital tour.

They met 50-year-old Nicki Cadwallader, who was receiving a jab as part of a trial for cancer patients.

Charles told her: “Don’t worry, it doesn’t take too long.”

“It’s a good thing. It doesn’t hurt,” Camilla added.

“I was waiting for it to be done and they said ‘it has been done’. It was painless. It was brilliant.

“It’s very good when it’s over as you feel more secure. Panic over.”

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In case you missed it earlier

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57 more deaths in Ireland

An additional 57 deaths with Covid-19 have been notified to health authorities in Ireland.

The median age of those who died was 82 and the age range was 52-99, NPHET said.

As of midnight on Tuesday, the health system has been notified of 650 more confirmed cases.

Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer, said: “Although we have made great progress, the situation remains precarious.

“Almost 90% of cases in Ireland are the B117 (UK) variant. The increased transmissibility of this variant is apparent in the current profile of the disease in households, with one in three household contacts of a confirmed case testing positive for Covid-19.

“This underlines the need for people to exercise caution in households and other settings. In particular, people should isolate immediately on experiencing any symptoms and contact their GP.”

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Danish supermarket pledges to support smaller retailers

Danish supermarket cooperative Kvickly has pledged to set aside some of its extra proceeds made while smaller retailers were shut down by coronavirus restrictions and use it for marketing to help them reopen successfully.

Supermarkets, but not smaller retailers, in the Nordic country have been allowed to stay open during a lockdown introduced in December to curb the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain.

Kvickly said it would donate its proceeds from sales of non-food items to shuttered shops for use in marketing campaigns as they reopen for business. That would amount to at least 7-10 million Danish crowns ($1.14-$1.63 million) – but more if the current coronavirus lockdown is extended beyond March 1.

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EU hails Moderna vaccine deal

European governments and EU leaders are scrambling to speed up vaccine efforts amid signs that more infectious coronavirus variants are spreading unchecked across the continent.

The European Union announced on Wednesday that it had agreed to buy a further 300 million doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine and was injecting almost a quarter-of-a-billion euro into efforts to combat virus variants.

The news came only hours after Pfizer and BioNTech said they had signed a deal to deliver an additional 200 million vaccine doses to the bloc.

The EU Commission said its second contract with Moderna provided for an additional purchase of 150 million doses in 2021 and an option to purchase 150 million more doses in 2022.

“With a portfolio of up to 2.6 billion doses, we will be able to provide vaccines not just to our citizens, but to our neighbours and partners as well,” EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said.

Ms Von der Leyen and her team have come under intense criticism for their handling of the EU’s vaccine procurement process.

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French head to beaches in lieu of slopes

With ski lifts closed because of Covid-19 restrictions, Parisians have flocked to the French Atlantic coast where sunny weather and a spike in visitor numbers have given beaches an air of summer.

At upmarket La Baule, a five-hour drive west of Paris, hotels and holiday homes saw a flood of last-minute bookings as Parisians left the capital at the start of a two-week school holiday that is normally the height of the skiing season.

“We will go to the mountains later, when we can ski again, but it is so much better here than in Paris. My husband is tele-working from here, with an ocean view,” said Clemence Martin, a school teacher whose in-laws own a house in La Baule.

La Baule, whose winter-time population of about 17,000 swells more than tenfold to 180,000 in summer, saw hotel occupancy rates rise over February last year, its mayor Franck Louvrier said.

“Normally, we are not the number one destination for French people in February, but this year people have traded their ski suits for anoraks,” Louvrier said.

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