The woman who could start the next vaccine war


The EU has doubled down on its threat to block 19 million COVID vaccine doses to Britain as the continent's jab war boils over.

European Commissioner for financial services Mairead McGuinness has vowed that "everything is on the table" after the bloc threatened to block exports to the UK.

She said EU leaders will hold crunch talks this week after Ursula von der Leyen threatened to join Germany and France in the blockade, reports The Sun.

The EU's shambolic jab rollout, combined with a sharp rise in infections, has seen large swathes of the continent plunged back into lockdown in the past week.

And the bloc has blamed its vaccine program's problems on AstraZeneca not producing enough of the jabs.



When asked if the EU will "seriously" block AstraZeneca's supplies from reaching Britain, she told the BBC's Andrew Marr show: "Leaders will meet this week and make an assessment about the current situation and perhaps make decisions."

She added: "As Ursula von der Leyen said, everything is on table but there is no decisions.

"We've put everything on the table, we've been open and transparent, and we invite others to do the same."



It comes after the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to team up with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel to withhold doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Britain.

Britain on Sunday (local time) warned the EU over its threat to halt exports of AstraZeneca's vaccines, in a row that has heightened post-Brexit tensions between London and Brussels.


"If contracts get broken, and undertakings, that is a very damaging thing to happen for a trading block that prides itself on the rule of law," British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News.

Anglo-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca has delivered only 30 per cent of the 90 million doses it promised the EU for the first quarter, infuriating European leaders and complicating the continent's already struggling rollout.

Brussels has accused London of operating its own de facto export ban to achieve its vaccine success, a claim furiously denied by the British government.




Meanwhile, Europe grappled with resurgent coronavirus infections on Sunday (local time), prompting Germany to consider extending restrictions into April despite street protests and EU leaders to abandon plans to attend a summit on the pandemic.

Thousands of protesters angry at COVID-19 restrictions rallied in cities across Europe over the weekend, even as several nations reimposed partial lockdowns to fight new surges in infections.

A memo from several of Germany's regions, said Mrs Merkel wanted to extend the country's partial lockdown into April because of rising infection rates driven by COVID variants.

Travel needs to be cut to a minimum, with quarantines and negative tests required for those re-entering Germany, the memo warned.



The prospect of further curbs will infuriate the thousands of protesters who marched against existing restrictions in the Germany city of Kassel on Saturday.

Police there used water cannon, batons and pepper spray to disperse the crowds, which they estimated to number up to 20,000.

The march was organised by activists from both the far-left and the far-right, as well as peddlers of baseless conspiracy theories about the pandemic and vaccines.

Protesters also marched in Amsterdam, Vienna, the Bulgarian capital Sofia, and Switzerland over the weekend.




Thousands also protested the coronavirus restrictions in London on Saturday, many of them carrying signs promoting coronavirus conspiracy theories.

Hundreds of maskless demonstrators marched through the city to rally against coronavirus rules, hours after British police urged people not to join.

The Sun reports that crowds of people held placards and chanted as they stormed the streets, with one banner reading "stop destroying our kids' lives".

Another woman held a sign which said: "Yes sex is great, but have you ever been f***ed by the Government?"


British police were out in force, with officers on standby to deal with the disorder.

The demonstration marked the one-year anniversary of the UK's first COVID-19 lockdown, with Britons told to stay at home for the first time on March 23, 2020.

The UK is easing itself out of the third shutdown, with measures next set to relax from March 29.

The coronavirus, which has killed more than 2.7 million people, has been spreading faster recently, with new infections up globally by 14 per cent in the last week.

In Europe, residents in Poland, parts of France, and Ukraine's capital Kiev were the latest to face fresh curbs from Saturday.

But restrictions were also returning in parts of Asia.

Churches in the Philippines' capital Manila will be closed, eating inside restaurants banned and leisure travel outside the city curbed under new rules unveiled Sunday as infection figures climb.



And in northern India, the government warned that a huge Hindu religious gathering could turn into a superspreader event, calling for increased testing.

The annual Kumbh Mela festival has already been shortened from three months to 30 days, but is still causing headaches to authorities.

Large crowds of pilgrims - mostly maskless - have flocked to the festival, with more than three million pilgrims taking part one day earlier this month.






US authorities, meanwhile, have imposed a state of emergency and a curfew in Miami Beach, Florida, to deal with uncontrollable crowds partying during spring break.

With approximately 13 per cent of US residents vaccinated, many seemed convinced against all the evidence that the pandemic is now under control in the world's worst-hit nation.

"Just go get your vaccine y'all so that you could come out here and have a good time like us because we vaccinated, baby," Jalen Rob, a student from Texas, told reporters.

But top US health expert Dr Anthony Fauci stressed that people still needed to remain cautious - or there may be more spikes in infections.

"Vaccines are coming on really well," he said in an interview with US TV.

"If we can just hang on a bit longer, the more people get vaccinated, the less likelihood that there is going to be a surge."

Hopes of ending the pandemic have been boosted with rollouts starting in some poorer parts of the world as well, including the Palestinian Territories, which was due to start giving out shots on Sunday (local time).




It comes as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said, just two days after he received his first vaccination against the disease.

The 68-year-old cricket legend received a shot of the Chinese-produced Sinopharm vaccine on Thursday, as the country battles a third wave of the virus.

"At this point, the prime minister's office can only confirm that the honourable prime minister has tested positive for COVID-19 and has self-isolated," his office said.

Mr Khan was suffering from a mild cough and a mild fever, his spokesman Shahbaz Gill later added, saying the positive test was performed on Saturday.

His aides were quick to put distance between the diagnosis and his first jab of the two-dose vaccine.

"Please do not link it to the corona vaccine. Immunity develops a few weeks after the vaccine is given. Make sure to vaccinate your elders and loved ones. Be careful," Mr Gill added.

Mr Khan was probably infected before he got the vaccine shot, during a series of public engagements this week, information minister Shibli Faraz told the Geo News television channel.

Earlier, the leader's adviser on health Faisal Sultan said the increase in positive virus cases over the past few days was "alarming".

He said there was a "quite visible" burden on the healthcare system, particularly in the country's most populous province of Punjab.

Case numbers began to rise again in recent weeks, soon after the UK variant was first reported in Karachi in late December.

More than 620,000 cases and nearly 13,800 deaths have been reported since the pandemic reached the country, but limited testing suggests true figures are probably much higher.

Beijing has donated one million vaccine doses to Pakistan, which the country of more than 220 million has begun administering to health workers and people over 65.

Soon after the pandemic started, Mr Khan told the nation in an address not to panic, saying "97 per cent of patients fully recover", but he chided citizens just months later, warning: "People are not taking it seriously."





Originally published as The woman who could start the next vaccine war

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