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COVID-19: All the latest LIVE worldwide updates - today's updates are also on our Portal page, here)

Coronavirus - 19th March 2021


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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 12:06

Summary for Friday, 19th March

  • Several European countries are resuming use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after EU regulators give the go-ahead
  • Germany, France, Italy and Spain are among the countries restarting their rollout of the jab
  • There isn’t enough vaccine supply in Europe at the moment to stop a third wave of Covid-19, the German health minister has warned
  • The UK saw 7% more deaths than normally expected during 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to receive his first dose of the vaccine later
  • He is urging people to get inoculated after reassuring the public the AstraZeneca jab is "safe"
  • UK government borrowing hits the highest February level on record
  • Paris is set to go into a month-long Covid lockdown as the country fears a third wave
  • France has recorded more than 35,000 new infections within the past 24 hours

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll be bringing you updates throughout the day from the UK and around the world. Here are the main headlines this morning:

  • The EU's leading states are to restart their roll-out of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after Europe's medicines regulator concluded it was "safe and effective"
  • Paris is set to go into a month-long lockdown as the country fears a third wave. France has recorded more than 35,000 new infections within the past 24 hours
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to receive his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine later, as he urges the public to do the same
  • The UK government borrowed £19.1bn last month, the highest figure for February since records began in 1993, reflecting the cost of pandemic support measures
  • And nominees for this year's Oscars have been told that appearing by Zoom will not be an option. The show's producers say they have gone to "great lengths to provide a safe and enjoyable evening for all of you in person".
  • French PM announced limited Covid lockdown for Paris and other regions. French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced a limited month-long lockdown for Paris and several other regions to combat surging Covid-19 cases, AFP reports, while insisting the measures would be less strict than in the past.
  • India reported its highest infections since November. India reported 39,726 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its highest since 28 November, when more than 41,000 cases where confirmed. The worst-hit states, such as western industrialised Maharashtra, adopted fresh curbs to restrain the spread of the disease.
  • Tanzania to swear in first woman president after death of John Magufuli. Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan was due to be sworn in as president on Friday, a government official said, a historic move that is set to make her the East African country’s first female head of state. Hassan’s ascension to the presidency comes after the death of President John Magufuli, 61, whose death due to heart disease was announced on Wednesday, more than two weeks after he was last seen in public.
  • Biden said US to hit 100m vaccination goal on Friday. With the US closing in on President Joe Biden’s goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus vaccinations weeks ahead of his target date, the White House announced Thursday the nation is now in position to help supply neighbours Canada and Mexico with millions of lifesaving shots.
  • Cuba approves second homegrown vaccine. Cuba’s drug regulatory authority on Thursday approved a second Covid vaccine candidate for late-stage clinical trials as the country races to secure a homegrown shot to quell its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic and sell abroad.
  • European countries to resume AstraZeneca jabs after ‘safe’ verdict. Leading EU countries said Thursday they would resume AstraZeneca vaccinations after the European medical regulator said the jab is “safe and effective” and not associated with a higher blood clot risk after days of commotion around the shot.
  • Norway, Sweden to wait before using AstraZeneca vaccine again, even though it has been declared safe by Europe’s medical regulator. The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) said that after an investigation the AstraZeneca vaccine was “safe and effective” and not linked to an increased risk of blood clots. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said it “took note” of the EMA’s finding, but deemed it “premature” at this point to come to a final conclusion.The NIPH said it would issue its own guidance at the end of next week.
  • Brazil’s Bolsonaro says health minister swap takes effect on Friday. Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that the replacement of his health minister will take effect on Friday with publication in the official gazette, as the country had its second-worst day of deaths caused by Covid.
  • Brazil suffered second-highest daily Covid death toll. Brazil registered its second deadliest day in its Covid pandemic, with 2,724 deaths, according to the Health Ministry on Thursday. The country had 86,982 new cases. The country is facing a dangerous new shortage of staff in intensive care unit.
  • China confirmed first local case since 14 February. China reported 11 new Covid cases on 18 March, up from six cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Monday. The National Health Commission, in a statement, said one of the cases was a locally transmitted infection in Shaanxi province, marking China’s first local Covid case since 14 February Reuters reports. The other 10 cases were infection that originated from overseas.
  • Philippines approved emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine. The Philippines has approved Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine for emergency use, the country’s Food and Drug Administration said on Friday.

Vaccinations resume and Paris lockdown: Latest across Europe

  • Several EU countries will start using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine again today after the EU medicines agency said it was “safe and effective”. France, Germany, Italy, mainland Portugal, Lithuania and Latvia are among the countries resuming today.
  • French PM Jean Castex will get the jab today. In Germany, national and state leaders will hold a vaccine summit with the aim of getting family doctors involved in the national vaccine campaign from next month.
  • The Netherlands will resume next week – it says 110,000 jabs have been missed because of the one-week break. Spain will start jabs again next Wednesday and Denmark will decide today. Sweden is holding off for the moment so it can analyse data with its experts. Non-EU Norway is also waiting.
  • Twenty-one million people in 16 areas of France will go under a limited four-week lockdown from late tonight, to fight off a “third wave” of infection. Greater Paris is affected along with the Hauts-de-France regions in the north-east, part of Normandy and the south-east. Non-essential shops will shut, but schools and hairdressers will stay open and outdoor exercise will be allowed within 10km (6.2 miles) of your home.
  • Criminal offences fell 11.3% in Austria last year, down to 433,811, the lowest number for years because of the pandemic. But cybercrime soared by 26% and Interior Minister Karl Nehammer summed it up by saying “crime has changed”.

'Really important' to keep South Africa variant out of UK

The rising infection levels in countries such as France are “mostly being driven” by the UK variant that originated in Kent, according to a scientist advising the UK government.
Prof Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist and member of the government’s SPI-M modelling group, tells Radio 4’s Today programme that of “more concern for the UK” is some countries including France are seeing the South Africa variant in a significant number - 5 to 10% - of their cases.
He says that is the variant “we really do want to keep out of the UK” because of its possible resistance to vaccines.
The longer the UK can keep it out – or at least at low levels – “the more time we have to vaccinate the whole adult population and to update vaccines to be able to cope with that variant”, he adds.
He says there is a lot of essential business travel between the UK and France but the risk could be reduced by introducing measures such as testing people coming into the country.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 12:36

Poland heads for lockdown with cases up 38% in a week

Adam Easton - Warsaw Correspondent

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Poland’s third coronavirus wave continues to gain momentum with 25,998 new cases on Friday, a 38% rise from the number reported one week ago.
There were 419 virus-related deaths, the health ministry said, up 19% from a week earlier.
Health ministry officials attribute the spike in infections to the UK variant, which accounts for 54% of all new cases.
The number of people in hospital rose 18% compared with a week ago, and the number of people on ventilators rose by 13%. There are more patients on ventilators now than at any time since the start of the pandemic.
A partial national lockdown will be introduced from Saturday, closing shopping centres, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities until 9 April. Primary school years 1-3 will return to online learning.
Nationwide, schools have been mostly closed for the best part of a year, apart from for the youngest pupils, and restaurants, bars and cafes are offering take away service only. Face masks must be worn in public spaces.

Vaccine passports 'being considered' for sporting events

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Wembley is scheduled to stage the Euro 2020 final on 11 July

The government is considering using so-called vaccine passports as way to enable large numbers of fans to attend sporting events this summer.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said his department was "linking in" to a government review into Covid certification and "may pilot those for some events".
He added: "It's a potential way of mitigating the risks around getting large numbers of fans back into stadiums."
Amid hopes the postponed Euro 2020 semi-finals and final could be hosted at Wembley in July, Dowden said the government was conducting a "range of pilots as to how we do that safely" which included the FA Cup final at Wembley stadium on 15 May.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 12:39

Prison outbreaks thought to skew stats

Coronavirus outbreaks in prisons across England are believed to lie behind several regions' spikes in infection rates, causing "a degree of alarm" according to health officials.
This is despite cases nationally reaching their lowest point since September 2020.
BBC analysis of neighbourhood-level data found five of the places to have recorded the highest infection rates in the country recently all contained prisons.
An outbreak at HMP Sudbury in early March caused cases in the Derbyshire Dales to nearly treble , pushing the area to record the highest infection rate in the country for several days.
Similarly, a surge in cases across half of the 12 male wings of HMP Peterborough in late February happened while the area's rate reached the second highest in the country .
In a snapshot taken for the week to 9 March, the five areas with the highest infection rates in England had included seven prisons, of which at least five reported outbreaks in the past few weeks.

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However, it is possible additional cases from outside prisons may be adding to the rate for these areas.
The Ministry of Justice has said there is no evidence to suggest prison outbreaks have affected transmission in the wider community.
Read full story.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 12:47

Headlines so far today

As we head towards lunchtime here in the UK, here's a round-up of the day's main coronavirus headlines:

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 15:57

UK coronavirus levels falling - ONS survey

The latest figures from the ONS infection survey suggest that infections have "continued to decrease" across England and Wales, "levelled off" in Northern Ireland and increased in Scotland in the week to 13 March 2021.
Estimates from the ONS survey suggest that about 192,300 people in the UK would test positive for coronavirus.
That is 0.3% of the population or one in 335 people, down from one in 280 last week.
The ONS says the falls in England are driven by drops in the West Midlands, East of England, the South West and London.
The rest of England has seen little change in infection rates and there are hints of an increase in the East Midlands.

Scotland to restart hospital visits next month

Hospital visiting in Scotland will restart from 26 April, the Scottish health secretary says.
Depending on the continued suppression of the virus, one visitor will be allowed per patient, Jeane Freeman told the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh.
She says: "April 26 will not be a return to normal visiting, but it is I think an important step towards normality and will, I hope, be welcomed by health staff, by patients and by their loved ones."
More funding will also be made available for digital visitation, Freeman says but she did not confirm how much money this would equate to.

Delay to vaccine shipment slowing Welsh vaccine rollout - Drakeford

First Minister Mark Drakeford has praised Wales' vaccine rollout, but says a delay in a shipment of doses from India will have an effect.
"Over the last few days, we've been vaccinating more than 1% of the population every day," Drakeford tells a coronavirus briefing in Cardiff.
"This is testament to the hard work of hundreds of people across Wales working in more than 600 vaccination centres.
"But we could do even more if we had more vaccine.
"Unfortunately, there has been a delay in the supply of vaccines - a four-week hold-up in a shipment of vaccines to the UK from India."
Yesterday, Drakeford reassured those people who had already booked a vaccination that their appointment would go ahead.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 16:00

Scotland Covid hospital to shut without treating a single virus patient

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Scotland's Louisa Jordan hospital is to shut by the end of March without having to treat a single coronavirus patient, the Scottish health secretary says.
The temporary facility in Glasgow was set up to support Scotland's response to the pandemic in April 2020 and has since carried out 32,000 healthcare appointments and vaccinated more than 170,000 people, Jeane Freeman told a coronavirus briefing.
It will now close on 31 March with the mass vaccination centre relocating to the SSE Hydro.
After its move, the centre will continue to run daily clinics with the ability to administer a minimum of 4,000 vaccinations each day, with capacity to scale up to 10,000.
Prof Jason Leitch, Scotland's national clinical director, says it was "absolutely the right thing to do" to have the NHS Louisa Jordan as a contingency plan.

Some areas in Wales 'reluctant to engage with contact tracers'

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford says rises in Covid cases on Anglesey and in Merthyr Tydfil are being closely monitored with concerns about “an apparent reluctance” of some people to engage with contact tracing teams.
Drakeford says the overall public health situation in Wales remains stable at around 44 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 3.9%.
But he adds: “We are closely monitoring the situation in Anglesey and Merthyr Tydfil where clusters of cases, linked to household and social mixing, have driven up the rates.
“We are particularly concerned about an apparent reluctance in some places, to engage with contact tracing teams.
“That contact is vital. It means we can identify the source of infection and how far it has spread.”

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 16:03

Travel corridors linked to higher rates of Covid spread, study shows

Allowing quarantine-free travel to Greece last summer may have had a significant contribution to the spread of coronavirus, according to a Public Health England study.
Travel corridors, which exempted people from needing to self-isolate when returning, were linked to higher rates of onward transition of imported cases, the researchers said.
They argued the genomics study demonstrates the effectiveness of travel restrictions in reducing the spread of Covid-19, with restrictions linked to a 40% lower rate of contacts.
Travel from the European countries accounted for 86% of imported cases between May and September, according to the study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed.
Greece, which had quarantine-less travel for the entire period, was "the source of greatest imported" Covid-19 cases, accounting for 21% of travel-linked cases, or 882 infections in the study of 4,207 cases.
A Department for Transport spokesman says: "As this report rightly points out, travel restrictions imposed by government were effective in reducing the transmission of imported cases of Covid-19.
"Guided by the latest scientific data, the government acted rapidly to remove travel corridors with Greece and Spain, and we continue to have robust measures in place to protect the country against imported cases of the virus."

Don't gather to watch Wales' Six Nations game, rugby fans told

First Minister Mark Drakeford is urging Welsh rugby fans to stick to the Covid rules and not gather when Wales play France in their final Six Nations game tomorrow evening.
“If you’re watching Wales this weekend, please watch with members of your household only,” he says.
“Surely the last thing we want is to mark a potential Grand Slam weekend with the legacy of a surge in Covid cases.”

UK's R number remains below one

The UK's latest R number - which represents the average number of people each person goes on to infect - is estimated to be between 0.6 and 0.9, according to government figures.
This suggests the coronavirus outbreak is continuing to shrink - although it has increased slightly from last week when it stood at 0.6 to 0.8.
When the figure is above one, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but when it is below one, it means the epidemic is shrinking.
An R number between 0.6 and 0.9 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between six and nine other people.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 16:07

Analysis: Parisians prepare for lighter lockdown

Hugh Schofield - BBC News, Paris

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France's SNCF train company reported a surge in bookings ahead of the new lockdown

There is a weary resignation about Paris, as people prepare for another four weeks of tedium.
Yes, we know this third lockdown won't be quite as bad as the second - which was itself a lighter version of the first. But still.
Another month of bits of paper for the police; another month of having to justify a trip to the supermarket; another month without meaningful social contact. It's enough to drive you to distraction.
Except it hasn't. In general, most Parisians simply knuckle under. Those who can are leaving by train or car, but because schools are staying open, most families will stick it out in the city.
Everyone's made the calculation. The long Easter weekend in two weeks is a bust. But the Paris school holidays start on 17 April - exactly when the lockdown is supposed to end.
That's the light that will keep people going. Spring break.

'Germany is facing a massive third Covid-19 wave'

Germany is facing a "massive" third wave of Covid-19 infections, according to Prof Tobias Kurth, an epidemiologist at Berlin university hospital Charite-Universitatsmedizin.
He tells BBC World News measures were relaxed too early before the vaccination programme had time to take effect.
There has been an "exponential" rise in cases over recent days, Prof Kurth says.
"It's expected to continue to rise so unfortunately we are facing a third wave which will be quite massive," he says.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 16:11

A third of UK adults will continue to avoid crowds after Covid - ONS

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More than a third of adults will continue to avoid crowded places once the Covid-19 pandemic is over, new Office for National Statistics (ONS) data suggests.
Of more than 4,500 adults surveyed across the UK this month, some 38% told the ONS they were more likely to avoid crowds in the future than they were before the pandemic began.
Three in 10 people (33%) said they would continue to shop online more frequently for non-grocery items.
A further 23% said they were more likely to avoid public transport, and almost three in 10 working adults (29%) said they would continue to do their jobs from home more often.

Breaking News 

UK reports a further 101 Covid deaths

The UK has reported a further 101 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, down from 175 this time last week.
That takes the total UK deaths by this measure to 126,026.
A further 4,802 cases have also been recorded in the UK, down from 6,609 a week ago.
There have now been 4,285,684 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Old Firm match to go ahead after call-off warning

Sunday's Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers will go ahead despite concerns over crowds gathering, the government has confirmed.
The Old Firm derby between the two Glasgow teams was at risk after Rangers fans breached the coronavirus lockdown to celebrate their team's title win earlier this month.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the scenes as "disgraceful" and police said there had been a "lack of support" from the club.
Rangers and Celtic have since repeatedly urged their supporters to stay away from Sunday's game.
Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf says the decision to allow the game to go ahead follows "extensive engagement" with the clubs, the league, Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council.
Police Scotland is warning officers will make arrests if there are any mass gatherings after the match, which is due to kick off at midday.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 20:04

Bus drivers 'three times more likely to die' than other workers

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London bus drivers died with Covid-19 at almost three times the national average for other occupations, a new study has found.
At least 51 drivers in the capital have died since the pandemic began after catching coronavirus, according to Transport for London.
The University College London (UCL) study reaffirmed findings that an earlier lockdown would have saved lives.
UCL was asked by TfL to investigate the high death rate of London bus workers.
The study focused on the first wave of the outbreak, between March and May 2020, when 29 drivers died after catching Covid.
You can read the full story here.

Blind woman forces government action in shielding case

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A blind woman who was sent a shielding letter she could not read has won "promising" commitments from the government after a legal challenge.
Sarah Leadbetter, from Narborough in Leicestershire, is classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
However, government correspondence advising her to shield was not sent in a format she could access - which she argued was discrimination.
The government has agreed to review its communication with disabled people.
Leadbetter, 45, who is registered blind, says she is "very proud" of the results of her legal challenge.
You can read the full story here.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 20:13

No relaxing of rules in Switzerland for at least four weeks

Imogen Foulkes - BBC News, Geneva
The Swiss government says there will be no relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions for at least another four weeks.
There had been tentative plans to allow bars and restaurants to open their outdoor terraces next week, and to allow small cultural events - but today the government has said the situation remains too risky.
Cases have been rising again over the past two weeks, and at least 80% of all new cases are the more infectious B117 (UK) variant.
The government says the limit on private gatherings will be raised from five to 10, but is warning families to follow strict distancing and hygiene rules, and to enjoy Easter outside if possible.
It also advises people to take advantage of the new mass testing system, which is free to all, before meeting friends and relatives.
The government believes the criteria for relaxation of restrictions must include not just falling cases, hospitalisations, and R value, but that all risk groups are vaccinated.
Switzerland has so far vaccinated about 12% of its population of 8.6 million.

Sister raises younger siblings alone after mum's Covid death

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Chelsea Leigh Richardson said her mum Sarah was her rock

For Chelsea Leigh Richardson and her four siblings, life has changed beyond belief since their mum Sarah died with Covid in October, aged 42.
"Mum was our everything, then all of a sudden she was gone," she says.
Faced with the loss of their only parent, the 21-year-old went from big sister to the sole carer of her younger brothers and sisters - Kala-Jai, 19, Jayden, 17, Preston-James, 14, and seven-year-old Bobbee-Mae -overnight.
Chelsea was determined the five of them would not be split up, so she became the glue to hold them together.
She says: "I pulled my big girl knickers up and said to myself: 'Come on Chels, you can do this. Be brave.'"
You can read Chelsea's story here.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 20:17

Woman made redundant three times lands job after radio show

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A woman made redundant three times during the pandemic has found her "dream role" after calling into a BBC radio phone-in.
Annabelle Smith, 29, lost her job as a marketing manager in March, a property company role in May and finally as an assistant gym manager in December.
After taking part in a careers discussion on BBC Radio 5 Live, she was offered a job by one of the panellists, Catherine Shuttleworth, who runs marketing agency Get Savvy, based in Leeds.
Shuttleworth says she was impressed with Smith's "energy and tenacity" on the radio.
After an interview and formal job offer, Smith has started her "dream role" at the agency.
"It was surreal," she says. "Neither of us knew we were going to be on the show. It was almost fate."

Why are some towns struggling to shake off Covid?

For weeks now, Covid-19 infection rates have been falling across the UK.
But there are some towns that have bucked the trend, with infections remaining stubbornly high.
This is particularly true of towns where the local economy relies on manufacturing, construction or food processing jobs - the kind of work that simply can't be done from home.
BBC health correspondent Dominic Hughes has taken a closer look at the situation in some of those towns.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 19 2021, 20:20

What's happening in the UK and beyond?

We're about to bring our coronavirus updates to a close for the day. Before we go, here's a look at what's been going on in the UK and around the world:

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had his first Covid vaccination - the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab. He says he "literally did not feel a thing" and urged others to get their jabs too
  • Coronavirus cases are rising exponentially in Germany , officials warn, as continental Europe braces for a third wave of infections
  • The UK's latest R number - which represents the average number people each infected person passes the virus on to - is between 0.6 and 0.9 . Last week the figure was estimated at between 0.6 and 0.8.
  • The UK death rate during the second wave of the pandemic was not the worst in Europe - but it remained one of the 10 worst-affected countries. The nation's excess mortality rates were overtaken by Poland, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, according to the ONS
  • The Queen and Duchess of Cornwall have thanked volunteers for supporting people during the pandemic, saying they have been a "great help"
  • And DJ Jo Whiley says she "couldn't be happier" that her sister, who has a learning disability and diabetes, is due to have her first Covid-19 vaccination this weekend

Goodbye for now

That's all from the team so goodbye for now.
Updates were written by Hamish Mackay, James Clarke, Jennifer Meierhans, Katie Wright and Sarah Collerton.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 15:05