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Portrait of the week: Vaccine battles, illegal haircuts and Biden’s chat with Boris

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Supplies of the Pfizer vaccine (made in Belgium) were feared to be at risk from a declaration by the European Union health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, that EU companies would have to ‘provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries’. This came after AstraZeneca was said to be able to deliver by the end of March only 31 million of 80 million doses ordered by the EU. The company, with a factory in England, had undertaken to deliver two million doses a week to the UK. Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for vaccination, said that supplies were ‘tight’ but the mid-February target of 15 million vaccinations would be met. ‘We need to work together rather than use policies of vaccine nationalism,’ he said. By Sunday 24 January, 6.3 million first-dose vaccinations had been given, and 470,000 second doses. Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, warned that scientists did ‘not yet know the impact of the vaccine on transmission’. The British Medical Association, the doctors’ union, criticised the government for delaying second doses from three weeks after the first dose to 12 weeks. A barber was hired illegally to cut the hair of 31 policemen at Bethnal Green station.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said there was evidence that Britain’s new variant of coronavirus was 30 per cent more deadly than the old. Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said: ‘With the original variant, if you took a group of 1,000 infected men in their sixties, roughly ten would die. But with the new variant, roughly 13 or 14 of that group might be expected to die.’ Dozens of cases of a South African variant were found. Many travellers to England would in future have to quarantine in hotels.

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