Coronavirus latest: Fire at plant of world’s biggest vaccine producer claims 5 lives

One year to the day since the first diagnosed case of coronavirus in the US, Joe Biden has taken office in the middle of a pandemic that has claimed the lives of about 400,000 Americans. His inauguration speech reflected on a “deadly virus” that had also cost millions of jobs and closed businesses and called for a unified response to address what he said “may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus”.

Boris Johnson on Wednesday declared Britain was ready to quickly deploy tweaked vaccines to combat new variants of coronavirus, as the number of daily Covid-19 deaths in the UK hit a record of 1,820. The prime minister said he was concerned about the risk posed by dangerous variants of the virus as he justified new border restrictions.

British care home providers said on Wednesday they were confident they would avoid a repeat of the crisis last year when almost 30,000 residents died, as data showed infections and deaths in the sector were rising to levels not seen since May. Deaths in care homes for the elderly accounted for around half of all Covid-19 related deaths in the UK between March and September.

Boris Johnson is set for a “battle royal” with Conservative MPs over his expected cautious approach to easing England’s lockdown after the 15m people considered most vulnerable to coronavirus have been vaccinated.

Saga, the travel group targeting the over-50s, has become the first holiday business to insist that all of its customers must be vaccinated against coronavirus before they embark on its cruises. Saga said it had told holidaymakers they must be fully inoculated at least 14 days before travelling and take a pre-departure Covid-19 test.

A decision by Pfizer and BioNTech to reduce the number of vaccine vials they send to European countries has forced health officials to slow vaccination plans, with at least one EU member state threatening legal action. The move by the manufacturers followed a ruling this month from the European Medicines Agency that six doses can be extracted from each BioNTech/Pfizer vial rather than five, after health professionals found there was often extra vaccine left over.

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