Coronavirus live news: WHO 'to scrap' interim Wuhan report; UK investigating new variant

WHO reportedly to scrap findings amid calls for fresh inquiry; 16 cases of new UK variant identified; Japan to extend Tokyo state of emergency

White House defends Biden’s ‘Neanderthal thinking’ comment on ending mask mandatesAbout 40% of over-80s in England broke Covid rules after jabItaly blocks export of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses to AustraliaGerman authorities say over-65s should get AstraZeneca jabSee all our coronavirus coverage

8.54am GMT

People with asthma who are eligible for a coronavirus vaccine are being refused it by some GPs against government guidance, the BBC reports:

An NHS England letter sent to GPs in mid-February says people who have “ever had an emergency asthma admission” to hospital fall into priority group six, which is currently being vaccinated.

But some patients are being told a hospital admission within the past 12 months is required.

8.48am GMT

The main UK story from overnight this morning is that Cyprus will allow British tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 into the country without restrictions from 1 May.

Visitors would need to be inoculated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the second dose of a vaccine should be administered at the latest seven days before travel. Authorities would still reserve the right to carry out random tests on arrivals.

Related: Cyprus will allow vaccinated British tourists from 1 May

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Guardian March 5, 2021, 9:54 am
China unveils Hong Kong electoral changes as Beijing tightens grip

Only ‘patriots’ will be allowed to stand for election and democratic representation will be reduced under plans laid out in Beijing

China’s top lawmaking body has unveiled plans to ensure only “patriots” can govern Hong Kong as Beijing tightens its grip on the city with electoral changes including a vetting process for all parliamentary candidates.

In an annual “work report” delivered to Beijing’s most important political meeting on Friday, Premier Li Keqiang also swore to “resolutely guard against and deter” interference by external forces, amid growing international alarm at Beijing’s attacks on pro-democracy voices.

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Guardian March 5, 2021, 6:28 am
Biden says U.S. won't lift sanctions until Iran halts uranium enrichment

In his first network news interview since the inauguration, President Biden discusses relations with Iran and China with "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell.

CBS March 5, 2021, 5:22 am
Open: This is "Face the Nation," February 7

Today on "Face the Nation," it's Super Bowl Sunday — we'll look at the efforts to keep it from becoming super spreader Sunday. Plus, we'll have more of CBS News' exclusive interview with President Biden

CBS March 5, 2021, 5:21 am
Papua New Guinea hospitals run out of funding as Covid cases surge

Services are being forced to close because of lack of money and staff as coronavirus threatens to take hold

Read all our coronavirus coverage

Papua New Guinea is battling to control a surge in coronavirus cases across the archipelago, just as hospitals are shutting their doors because they have run out of money.

The country’s crowded capital, Port Moresby, is the epicentre of the latest outbreak.

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Guardian March 5, 2021, 4:26 am
Got Questions About Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 Vaccine? We Have Answers

The third COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use in the U.S. requires one shot instead of two, and works a slightly different way from the others. Here's what we know about its safety and effectiveness.

NPR March 5, 2021, 3:47 am
Fact check: Image of Jill Biden handing out food to asylum-seekers in 2019 is missing context

Viral posts suggesting that first lady Jill Biden handed out food and gifts to asylum-seekers in Mexico use images from a December 2019 trip.
     

USAtoday March 5, 2021, 2:22 am
Brexit: EU to launch legal proceedings against UK 'very soon'

Threat of action follows UK moves to unilaterally delay implementation of part of deal relating to Northern Ireland

Brussels has warned it will launch legal action “very soon” following a move by the UK to unilaterally delay implementation of part of the Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland.

The European commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, said the announcement by the government on Wednesday had come as a “very negative surprise”.

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Guardian March 5, 2021, 1:33 am
Trump Appointee At VOA Parent Paid Law Firm Millions To Investigate His Own Staff

Trump appointee Michael Pack hoped to fire top executives who challenged him at the U.S. Agency for Global Media. When he couldn't, Pack paid a high-profile law firm millions to investigate them.

NPR March 5, 2021, 1:12 am
Psaki: Biden's 'Neanderthal' comment was a 'reflection of his frustration'

Psaki defended President Joe Biden's comments comparing some Republican governors' decision to lift mask mandates to "Neanderthal thinking," calling it a "reflection of his frustration" about Americans refusing to follow public health guidance.
     

USAtoday March 5, 2021, 12:45 am
White House defends Biden’s ‘Neanderthal thinking’ comment on ending mask mandates

Texas governor Greg Abbott, who lifted face covering requirement, said it was ‘not the type of word a president should be using’

The White House has defended Joe Biden’s criticism of the Republican governors of Texas and Mississippi, after the president called their decisions to end mask mandates “Neanderthal thinking”.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, emphasized that the president was comparing the governors’ actions to “the behavior of a Neanderthal, just to be very clear, the behavior”. She also said Biden’s comments were “a reflection of his frustration” about Americans not following public health guidance to limit their risk of contracting coronavirus.

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Guardian March 4, 2021, 10:58 pm
Frozen fund for Jeffrey Epstein victims needs $50M sale of sex criminal's NY mansion to go through, lawyer says

A fund for victims of the late Jeffrey Epstein, a former friend of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, has been frozen because of liquidity problems with his estate.

CNBC March 4, 2021, 10:06 pm
Looking for COVID vaccine info, appointments in different languages? These online tools can help

USA TODAY has rounded up a list of online tools related to the COVID-19 vaccination process in Spanish and other languages.     

USAtoday March 4, 2021, 8:28 pm
Trump's Deal To End War In Afghanistan Leaves Biden With 'A Terrible Situation'

The Trump White House agreed to a May 1 troop withdrawal. New Yorker writer Dexter Filkins says Biden must now decide whether to honor a deal that included the Taliban but not the Afghan government.

NPR March 4, 2021, 7:37 pm
Texas Gov. Abbott blames Covid spread on immigrants, criticizes Biden's 'Neanderthal' comment

Abbott's comments come after his widely criticized decision Tuesday to rescind most of the state's Covid-19 restrictions, including a statewide mask mandate.

CNBC March 4, 2021, 5:42 pm
Rishi Sunak has turned into a social media star, but who is he trying to influence? | Marie Le Conte

His latest slick self-promotional video shows a politician trying just a little too hard to show his best side

“I’m sure this budget will look better on Instagram,” said Keir Starmer in the Commons on Wednesday. “In fact, this week’s PR video cost the taxpayer so much, I was half expecting to see a line in the OBR forecast for it.”

Related: Budget 2021 live: Sunak holds briefing after flagging tax rises to pay for Covid recovery

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Guardian March 4, 2021, 4:12 pm
Fight to vote: This is how Georgia Republicans are attacking democracy

After record turnout in the 2020 election, the state legislature is considering sweeping voting restrictions

Happy Thursday,

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Guardian March 4, 2021, 4:00 pm
When Justice Stephen Breyer rules (on retirement), the White House might know first

A Democratic president has not filled a Supreme Court vacancy in more than a decade, so liberals are anticipating the possible retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, who has served for a quarter century and understands the advantage of the new Democratic-led Senate.

CNN March 4, 2021, 1:01 pm
How Covid derailed the great hope of the Dutch far right | Joost de Vries

In 2019 Thierry Baudet looked like a plausible contender for power. Now, as the Netherlands heads for the polls, he’s reduced to mimicking Trump

On 20 March 2019, Thierry Baudet provided Dutch television viewers with two surprises. The first was news of his landslide victory in that day’s senate elections. Baudet’s far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD) was a newcomer in parliament, holding just two seats out of 150 in the lower house. But that day, from scratch, Forum gained 12 of the senate’s 75 seats, putting it on a par with the governing liberal party (the VVD) led by prime minister Mark Rutte.

The second surprise was Baudet’s victory speech. “The owl of Athena spreads her wings as evening falls,” he started, and across the country, jaws dropped and drinks were spilled. The Netherlands is not a country noted for oratory. Our politicians would rather downplay their intellectual prowess than borrow from Greek mythology.

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Guardian March 4, 2021, 11:00 am
Can Niger continue to beat the odds with its democratic progress?

Analysis: The world’s poorest country has successfully organised a smooth transition of power. Could other Sahel countries follow?

Niger, the world’s poorest country, has peacefully and successfully organised its first democratic transition of power since regaining its independence in 1960 – a milestone that should have been splashed across the front page of every newspaper.

This underreported counter-trend in a continent that has a host of rich and rabidly authoritarian rulers – and during a global crisis that UN chief António Guterres said had brought about a “pandemic of human rights abuses” – is a historic democratic moment in Niger.

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Guardian March 4, 2021, 8:30 am
A national system to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines has largely failed as states rely on their own systems

Operation Warp Speed tried to help states set priorities for COVID-19 vaccine distribution with Tiberius. Few states use it as designed.
     

USAtoday March 4, 2021, 2:35 am
Analysis: What's behind Texas governor's 'Neanderthal thinking'?

"Neanderthal thinking" was President Joe Biden's unusually direct description of the decision by governors in Texas and Mississippi to prematurely end mask restrictions.

CNN March 4, 2021, 2:01 am
A new education secretary has been sworn in. What are the next steps for reopening schools?

The Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona as education secretary on Monday, jump-starting the Biden administration's long journey toward reopening schools across the country.

CNN March 3, 2021, 8:04 pm
After Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' adaptation, what other lyrics could encourage Covid vaccination?

We would like to hear your song lyric adaptations on why people should be vaccinated

Country music star Dolly Parton has sung an adapted version of Jolene while she received her Covid vaccination in Nashville, Tennessee.

To the tune of Jolene, she sang: “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate. Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, because once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late.”

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Guardian March 3, 2021, 1:04 pm
How elimination versus suppression became Covid's cold war | Laura Spinney

Getting rid of the virus completely now seems an impossible project. But there are powerful arguments in its favour

Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverage

A year ago, when the World Health Organization published a report showing that China had shut down a highly contagious virus in a city of 11 million people, epidemiologist Michael Baker assumed that the international body would advise the rest of the world to follow China’s example. When to his amazement it didn’t, he decided that New Zealand (population 5 million) should go its own way, and started lobbying the government to pursue an elimination strategy.

He found some unexpected allies in New Zealand’s billionaires who, hearing what he was proposing, got on the phone to cabinet ministers too. On 23 March, New Zealand shut down and seven weeks later, its citizens emerged into a virus-free country. Baker, who estimates that the move saved about 8,000 lives, later asked the billionaires why they backed him: “They said, ‘We didn’t get filthy rich by not being good at assessing and managing risk.’ They were in it for the long haul.”

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Guardian March 3, 2021, 12:00 pm
What's in a vaccine and what does it do to your body?

There are all sorts of different vaccines but many of them share specific types of ingredients. Josh Toussaint-Strauss talks to Prof Adam Finn to find out what is in most conventional vaccines, as well as what's going on in our bodies when we take them – and why the Covid jabs work differently

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Guardian March 3, 2021, 10:44 am
Sarkozy's conviction shows, at last, French presidents may no longer be above the law | Philippe Marlière

The corruption verdict reflects growing exasperation at heads of state’s aloofness and lack of accountability

On Monday, a criminal court in Paris handed down its verdict in Nicolas Sarkozy’s corruption trial. The former French president was sentenced to three years in jail – two of them suspended – for bribery and influence-peddling.

This is a legal landmark for the French judicial system for two main reasons. First, no former president had been sentenced to an actual prison sentence since France’s collaborationist leader Marshal Pétain in 1945. (This said, Sarkozy’s one-year jail sentence will probably not be spent behind bars, but under house arrest with an electronic tag). The former president Jacques Chirac received a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for embezzling public funds when he was Paris mayor.

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Guardian March 2, 2021, 6:25 pm