Covid-19: UK and EU work to resolve vaccine row and India finds 'double mutant' variant

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Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Wednesday evening. We'll have another update for you tomorrow morning.

1. UK and EU working to create 'win-win' situation amid vaccine row

The UK and EU have said they are working together to create a "win-win" situation and supply vaccines to all citizens, amid the row over the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. The European Commission has proposed tougher controls on Covid vaccine exports after it accused AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish firm, of failing to honour its contract to supply EU countries. The plans don't amount to a ban - but they could inflame tensions with the UK. But late in the day, the UK and EU released a joint statement saying that co-operation was important and they are working on specific steps to expand vaccine supply. Meanwhile, the number of infections is rising in many European countries and lockdowns are being extended. At the same time, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel called off a strict five-day lockdown over Easter, saying it would be a "mistake".

2. 'Double mutant' Covid variant found in India

A new "double mutant" variant has been detected from samples in India. Officials are checking if the variant - where two mutations come together in the same virus - could be more infectious, or less affected by vaccines. India reported 47,262 cases and 275 deaths on Wednesday - the sharpest daily rise this year.

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Why do new variants of Covid-19 keep appearing? BBC's health reporter Laura Foster explains

3. Grieving MP asks PM for public inquiry

A bereaved Labour MP has urged the prime minister to commit now to a full public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic, saying people "want and deserve to understand what happened". Manchester Gorton's Afzal Khan said his own family had lost "an entire generation" to the virus and he could not hold his mother's hand while she was dying. Boris Johnson said he was "committed" to an inquiry when it would not be an "irresponsible diversion" in dealing with the crisis.

Media caption,

Afzal Khan MP: "I could not hold my mum's hand as she lay dying"

4. John Lewis announces eight store closures

John Lewis has said it will not reopen eight stores once lockdown eases, putting 1,465 jobs at risk. The retail giant, which has previously reported a hefty annual loss, said the shops were were "financially challenged prior to the pandemic". The closures include four "At Home" shops in Ashford and Tunbridge Wells in Kent, in Basingstoke, Hampshire, and in Chester.

Image source, Getty Images

5. Citigroup launches Zoom-free Fridays

Does Zoom fatigue feel familiar? US investment bank Citigroup has urged its staff to limit video calls on "Zoom-free Fridays" in an effort to promote a better work-life balance. Chief executive Jane Fraser said it was clear changes needed to be made in response to feedback from staff. "The blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our wellbeing," she said.

Image source, Getty Images

And don't forget...

Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page. We've been looking at cases of Covid-related fraud and cyber-crime recorded by the UK's police forces during the pandemic.

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