Coronavirus live news: WHO team visits Wuhan lab; Covid antibodies protect survivors for six months

By Caroline Davies (now) and Helen Sullivan (earlier)

05:39

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has been accused of downplaying what is being referred to as Germany and the EU’s vaccine debacle, resulting in too few vaccine stocks and slow inoculation procedures across the bloc.

In an interview on state broadcaster ARD she spent 15 minutes last night insisting that Germany was not in as bad a place as many were insisting.

“All in all I don’t think anything has gone wrong,” she said, even though, she admitted, it “rankled” (using the German verb ‘wurmen’ or literally to ‘worm’) that other countries such as Israel, the US and Britain were so far ahead in vaccinating their populations. “Even Serbia is”, as the moderator also pointed out.

By yesterday, Germany had officially vaccinated 2.586 million people, as the UK is on track to reach the 10 million mark today.

But in the interview Merkel urged Germans to “hold out a bit longer”. She defended the EU’s all for one and one for all approach to procurement, as well as its decision to take longer to approve the vaccines rather than going for Britain’s shorter emergency approval approach, out of the need, she said, to retain people’s trust.

Her goal, she said, was for Germany to have vaccinated its 10 million most vulnerable citizens in the first quarter, and she repeated her expectation that all Germans will have been offered a jab by 21 September, as long as obstacles - such as mutations or vaccine supply problems - did not jeopardise that.

The tabloid, Bild, laid into her this morning, comparing the vaccine drama to a “criminal thriller” in which various people, including European Commission president and Merkel ally Ursula von der Leyen, were “trying to cover up their tracks”. In a damning appraisal of her virus management, it insists it was Merkel who pushed for the EU to take over responsibility for ordering vaccines, questions why she never pushed for it to order more, and puts the large number of deaths in care homes down to Merkel’s decision not to lock away the elderly.

The left-wing TAZ this morning also pushes Merkel to take the blame, pointing out that she was after all at the helm when Germany held the presidency of the EU in the summer when crucial vaccine decisions were being made.

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Covid-19 has reversed progress made in levels of activity among disabled people, according to a report, amid concerns the gains may not be recovered because of the effects of the pandemic.

The observations come in the second Annual Disability and Activity Survey, which measures participation and attitudes towards physical activity among disabled people. Conducted by the UK disability charity Activity Alliance, it is seen as a companion to Sport England’s Active Lives study.

The survey found that before the onset of Covid the number of disabled people who said they were physically inactive had fallen to 34%, down from 41% the year before. This corresponded with an 18% rise (from 40% to 58%) in the share of those who said they had “the opportunity to be as physically active as they want to be”.

Following Covid, however, that number has fallen back to 39%, with the need to self-isolate the most common reason given, alongside a fear of contracting the virus.

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