A car stolen from a vaccination site in Florida had vials of the coronavirus shot inside, prompting a nationwide alert in search of the vehicle. Police in Plant City, Florida, said the suspect drove off in the 2018 Hyundai Accent on Wednesday.

Northern Ireland will give students a one-off cash payment of £500 in compensation for the disruption they have suffered during the pandemic, as coronavirus restrictions force most universities in the UK to continue running classes remotely.

New, more infectious Covid-19 variants — including those first identified in the UK and South Africa — have risen to 14 per cent of infections in France from 3.3 per cent on January 8, French prime minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday.

Pakistani cleric Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, who serves as an adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan, has taken the unusual step of issuing a fatwa, or religious decree, urging Pakistanis to ignore calls to refuse Covid-19 jabs. “I just want people to know there is nothing wrong with taking coronavirus vaccines,” he said.

Ralph Lauren reported a bigger-than-expected sales drop as the US retailer was hit by coronavirus-driven restrictions in Europe and Japan. Fiscal third-quarter revenues fell 18 per cent from a year ago to $1.43bn, just shy of Wall Street expectations for $1.46bn, according to a Refinitiv survey.

New US jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since November. First-time applications for unemployment benefits totalled a seasonally adjusted 779,000 last week, the Department of Labor said on Thursday, compared with economists’ forecast for 830,000.

Tapestry, the luxury conglomerate behind Coach and Kate Spade, has eked out an increase in quarterly profits thanks to limited discounts and strong demand for high-end handbags online and from China. The New York-based group generated net income of $311m in the three months to December 26, a year-on-year increase of 4 per cent.

Quest Diagnostics, the largest laboratory company in the US, plans to return more money to shareholders after reporting record profits thanks to surging demand for Covid-19 test processing. The New Jersey-based company raised its quarterly dividend 10.7 per cent and increased its share buyback authorisation by $1bn after higher demand for virus tests pushed up its fourth-quarter sales 56 per cent to $3bn.

The Bank of England announced on Thursday that it would put active preparations in place so that it could set negative interest rates within six months, but stressed that this was not a signal that its Monetary Policy Committee thought such a move was necessary.

Clorox raised its full-year profit and sales guidance as demand for its bleach and disinfectant wipes remained buoyant amid a pandemic-induced cleaning boom. The US company’s net sales rose 27 per cent to $1.87bn year on year in the three months to the end of December, its fiscal second quarter.

Anxiety levels in the UK population hit a record high during the first national lockdown last year, official figures showed on Thursday. Overall wellbeing fell sharply and, while it improved later in the summer as social activities resumed, even then it remained well below pre-pandemic levels on all measures.

UK consumer spending remained depressed as lockdown measures dragged on in January. Spending on credit and debit cards in the week to January 28 was 32 per cent below its average level last February, and had risen only slightly since the start of England’s third lockdown, according to Bank of England figures.