Coronavirus live news: WHO ‘to scrap’ interim Wuhan report; women’s rights ‘rolled back’ by pandemic, says EU

Australia has asked the EU to review Italy’s decision to block the export of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to its shores, as the French government said it too could impose bans in the future, Daniel Boffey, the Guardian’s Brussels bureau chief reports:

Here is a Guardian opinion piece by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization:

Swiss church bells rang out at noon on Friday and people observed a minute of silence to mark a year since the country’s first Covid death, Reuters reports.

President Guy Parmelin announced the measure last Sunday, urging citizens to honour the more than 9,300 people who have died from the disease in Switzerland.

At the Notre-Dame cathedral in Lausanne, a French-language Swiss city, watchman Renato Hausler rang the 16th-century ‘La Clemence’ bell.

In April, Hausler told Reuters he had resumed the practice of climbing the 153 stone steps to its tower to ring the bell at night in order to stir residents’ solidarity and courage.

Here is some more on Japan’s decision to extended a state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures (see earlier post for details):

Governor Yuriko Koike told a video conference of governors of the affected area that the extension was essential.

She said:

Nigeria, Kenya (see earlier post) and Rwanda have begun Covid immunisation programmes under the Covax vaccine-sharing scheme, becoming the latest African countries to do so.

Health workers will be among the early beneficiaries of the AstraZeneca vaccination in all three, the BBC reports.

Hi everyone, this is Yohannes Lowe. I’ll be running the blog now. Please feel free to get in touch on Twitter if you have any story tips.

San Diego zoo has vaccinated nine great apes for coronavirus after an outbreak earlier this year. The great apes exhibited symptoms including runny noses, coughing and lethargy.

Four orangutans and five bonobos received Covid-19 vaccine injections in January and February. Three more bonobos and a gorilla were also expected to receive the experimental vaccine, which was developed by Zoetis, a firm that produces medicine for animals.

Eight western lowland gorillas at the zoo’s safari park contracted the virus in January, probably from a zookeeper, even though employees wear masks at all times around the gorillas.

And with that monkey business, I leave you in the hands of my colleague Yohannes Lowe.

Cambodian citizens face up to 20 years in jail for flouting coronavirus rules after the country’s parliament passed a strict Covid-19 prevention bill that has attracted the ire of human rights groups.

The law specifies a prison term of three years for breaking quarantine orders and up to 20 years in jail for any organised group intentionally spreading the virus.

Health minister Mam Bunheng called it “a strong legal base for the government … to protect lives and public health” after the bill won unanimous support in the legislature.

But US NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the law could be used to suppress dissent in a country that has seen successive crackdowns on opposition voices under Premier Hun Sen.

The law will “further erode the rights of activists and dissidents”, HRW’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said in a statement, calling on the Cambodian government to scrap the bill.

Kenya has begun vaccinating high-priority healthcare workers against coronavirus, according to AFP.

Director general of the health ministry, Patrick Amoth, was the first to receive the jab, after the drugs arrived in the country on Wednesday. “I feel great that I have taken the Covid vaccine and I urge other health workers not to fear. The vaccine is safe,” he said.

Intensive care staff and final-year medical students working in hospitals will follow.

Kenya has recorded 107,000 cases and 1,870 deaths from coronavirus.

Women in European Union countries have been “disproportionately affected” by the coronavirus pandemic because they make up the vast majority of workers in health and other frontline jobs, according to the EU’s annual report on gender equality.

The pandemic has also brought a rise in domestic violence against women, the EU’s annual report on gender equality said. Moreover, women have since had more difficulties finding new jobs.

The report said:

The Philippines has recorded 52 more cases of a highly contagious coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa, the health ministry said on Friday.

Reuters reports:

Hello to those just joining me here on the global coronavirus live blog.

Here are some of the main stories we’ve seen so far:

Clea Skopeliti’s UK Covid live blog is now up and running. You can follow that here:

Paris will not be put under weekend lockdowns, the French prime minister, Jean Castex, announced at his weekly Covid-19 round-up on Thursday evening, reports the Guardian’s Paris correspondent, Kim Willsher.

The news came as a relief to Parisians, who feared they were heading for yet another restriction after the city and surrounding areas became one of more than 20 French departments on high alert following a rise in coronavirus contaminations and deaths. City mayor Anne Hidalgo had vigorously argued against a weekend lockdown, saying it was “inhumane” not to allow residents, many of them living in small flats, to spend time outside.

Nice, in the south of France, and Dunkirk, in the north, remain under weekend lockdown, which has been extended to the department around the Channel port.

The whole of France remains under a daily 6pm to 6am curfew.

Castex also announced a speeding up of France’s much-criticised vaccine rollout with pharmacies being allowed to vaccinate from 15 March. Vaccines will even be administered at weekends, he said, in the hope of getting 30 million French people inoculated by the summer.

However, there is concern that only 40% of France’s health workers have been vaccinated, despite having been eligible for the jab for weeks. French media reported that president Emmanuel Macron had suggested it be made obligatory for health workers, but Castex and the French health minister, Olivier Véran, stopped short of this and urged those in the health sector to get vaccinated to protect “themselves, their families and the people they care for”.

Castex warned another lockdown was “not inevitable” but also not ruled out if the situation worsens.

During a council of ministers meeting on Thursday – the equivalent to a Cabinet meeting in the UK – Macron was reported to have had a dig at the sluggish pace of vaccinations in France that has seen millions of doses still unused, telling ministers: “You’re great, but as long as there are vaccines sitting in fridges, I’m not locking people down again.”

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

The Royal College of GPs say they look at various factors including age and ethnicity, as well as some degree of clinical judgement.