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Coronavirus - 22nd March 2021


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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 09:55

Summary for Monday, 22nd March

  • Boris Johnson prepares to speak to European leaders to try to resolve a row over vaccine exports
  • The long-awaited US trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab confirms the shot is both safe and highly effective
  • Supermarkets can sell non-essential items and garden centres can open in Wales
  • Primary school pupils and those in years 12 to 14 return to school in Northern Ireland
  • Brazil's president rails against state governors and mayors who have imposed lockdowns
  • State of emergency in Miami Beach over concerns crowds gathering for spring break pose a Covid risk
  • The number of daily vaccine doses administered in the UK has hit a record high for a third consecutive day

Good morning and welcome

Hello and thanks for joining our live coverage of coronavirus pandemic developments today. We'll keep you updated with the main stories of the day.

Latest headlines

Here are the latest headlines from the UK and around the world.

  • Boris Johnson is expected to speak to his EU counterparts this week as a row over Covid vaccine supplies continues
  • Results from the US trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine confirm that the vaccine is both safe and highly effective
  • Supermarkets can sell non-essential items and garden centres can open in Wales in a further slight easing of lockdown rules
  • Seven year groups of school children in Northern Ireland return to classes
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rails against state governors and mayors who have imposed lockdowns
  • A state of emergency and curfew was declared in Miami Beach after large crowds gathered for spring break
  • Europe can achieve herd immunity by July: EU commissioner. Europe could have herd immunity against Covid-19 by July, a European Union commissioner has said. The note of optimism comes even as several European countries have started reimposing restrictions as they contend with surging coronavirus infections, and after mixed messaging on the safety of a key jab.
  • Germany is considering extending restrictions into April, with a memo suggested it should be lengthened because of rising infection rates driven by virus variants.
  • Chile reported its highest daily count of new coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic despite widespread restrictions and widely praised progress on vaccinations.
  • South Africa has sold 1m AstraZeneca vaccine doses to the African Union, the health ministry announced on Sunday in a statement reported by AFP, after it suspended its rollout of the jab.
  • The EU rebuffed UK calls to ship AstraZeneca vaccines from Europe. The European Union is rebuffing British government calls to ship AstraZeneca Covid vaccines produced in a factory in the Netherlands, an EU official said on Sunday. Former EU member Britain has so far administered many more vaccines than EU countries in proportion to the population.
  • Covid cases in Papua New Guinea have tripled in a month as doctors warn of ‘danger days’ ahead. Papua New Guinea has reported a record number of Covid-19 cases over the weekend as doctors warn that the hospital system is in the brink of being overwhelmed and more people could die outside emergency rooms.
  • New Zealand to announce start date for quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia on 6 April. The New Zealand government has held off on announcing a start date for quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern says the government intends to announce a start date on 6 April.
  • Taiwan began the rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines. Taiwan began administering the AstraZeneca vaccine today after it received nearly 120,000 does doses earlier this month through the World Health Organisation’s Covax problem.
  • India reported its highest daily Covid death toll since early January. India reported 212 new Covid deaths on Monday, the most since early January, while infections jumped by 46,951, the highest since early November. Total deaths have now swelled to 159,967 and infections to 11.65 million, the highest in the world after the United States and Brazil.
  • Wales to lift ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items. The ban on supermarkets in Wales selling non-essential items is being lifted from Monday as the country slowly moves out of lockdown. All non-essential retail was ordered to close on Christmas Eve last year as Wales entered alert level 4, but shops selling essential items such as food could remain open.

Vaccine tussle dominates newspaper headlines

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  • The row between the UK and EU over exports of Covid vaccines is the main focus for many of Monday's papers.
  • The Sun says any ban would be just "another pathetic attempt" to demonise Britain and distract attention away from the EU's calamitous vaccination rollout.
  • And the Daily Express urges the bloc to stop playing politics over the jab - insisting countries should work together to defeat Covid-19.
  • For the Guardian a two-month delay to the vaccination scheme caused by the potential export ban would derail plans to reopen the economy this summer and likely force an extension of lockdown restrictions.

Read more in our review of the papers.

US trial confirms AstraZeneca jab safety

The news broke about an hour ago that AstraZeneca has released the result of trials in the US of its Covid vaccine.
They showed that it was 79% effective against stopping symptomatic Covid disease and 100% effective at preventing people from falling seriously ill.
More than 32,000 volunteers took part in the trials, mostly in the US, but also Chile and Peru.
Dozens of countries have already approved the jab developed with Oxford University and tens of millions of doses have been given.
But the US had always said it would wait for results from trials held there before deciding whether to use the vaccine.
You can read more about the trial here .

The countries that nailed it, and what we can learn from them

Covid-19 has shaken the world, with more than 2.5 million deaths and 115 million cases confirmed.
BBC Panorama's Jane Corbin has scoured the globe to find the best examples of strategies for combating the virus.
What emerged strongly are four key areas which have been most effective in containing the spread of the virus and preventing deaths:

  • Early and effective action to control borders and monitoring of arrivals
  • Testing, tracking and tracing everyone suspected of being infected
  • Welfare support for those in quarantine to contain the virus
  • Effective leadership and consistent and timely public messaging

Read more here

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 10:09

Chile reports record daily cases

The Guardian
Chile has reported its highest daily count of new coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic despite widespread restrictions and widely praised progress on vaccinations, AP reports.
The government on Saturday reported 7.084 new cases in the South American nation of some 18 million people, topping a previous record in June. It said Covid has become the country’s leading cause of mortality, causing 26% of deaths so far this year.
Chile so far has given at least one vaccine shot to more than 29% of the population and both doses to 15% — far more than in other nations in the region. But Health Minister Enrique Paris said people should remain cautious since population-level immunity isn’t likely until about 80% are vaccinated, probably by about the end of June.
Officials said hospital bed usage has reached 94%, with rising numbers among those 60 and below as older Chileans have been inoculated. The medical association said the system has been strained by depression or exhaustion affecting as many as 30% of medical personnel.
The government has imposed supposedly tight restrictions on three-quarters of the country’s municipalities and said Saturday it is tightening limits on people entering from abroad, especially from Brazil.

Germany considering lockdown extension

Germany is set to extend a lockdown to contain the Covid pandemic into its fifth month, according to a draft proposal, after infection rates exceeded the level at which authorities say hospitals will be overstretched, Reuters reports.
The recommendation is contained in a draft, seen by Reuters, prepared by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office ahead of Monday’s videoconference of regional and national leaders to decide on the next round of measures to deal with the pandemic.
At their last meeting early this month, the leaders agreed a cautious opening, overriding the objections of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said more infectious variants had made the pandemic hard to control.
The Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases said the number of cases per 100,000 population over a week stood at 103.9 on Sunday, above the 100 threshold at which intensive care units will start running out of capacity.
The draft says lockdown should continue until April 18 and that an “emergency brake” agreed at the last meeting will be applied to halt any further cautious opening measures in areas that exceed 100 per 100,000.
An earlier proposal, circulated by the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s coalition, that all returning travellers would face quarantine, even if they had not been in a coronavirus risk zone, was in brackets in the latest draft, meaning it is still under discussion.
The proposal also mentioned possible evening curfews for areas with high case numbers, though a precise curfew time was not mentioned.
The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 13,733 to 2,659,516, the Robert Koch Institute said on Sunday, and the reported death toll has risen by 99 to 74,664.
The latest draft would also tighten obligations on companies: those who were unable to offer their employees the option of working from home would have to provide them with one COVID-19 test each week, or two if sufficient supplies were available.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 10:15

Rwanda confirms UK and South Africa Covid variants

Samba Cyuzuzo - BBC Great Lakes
Rwanda has confirmed the presence of new variants of Covid-19 virus first identified in the UK and South Africa.
Health Minister Daniel Ngamije told the state broadcaster that 10 cases of the South African variant and two of the UK variant were identified last week.
The variants were found in 400 samples "that they were able to sequence between October 2020 and February 2021", the minister said.
Ngamije said the variants were identified among travellers who arrived at the country's Kigali International Airport. They were put in isolation until they tested negative.
In January, the UK added Rwanda to its travel ban list due to concerns over the South African variant.
Meanwhile, 97% of the more than 340,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines that Rwanda received through the Covax vaccine-sharing programme have been administered, the minister said.
Rwanda has reported nearly 21,000 cases of coronavirus and 290 deaths.

Guernsey leaves second lockdown

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Guernsey has removed the majority of its Covid-19 restrictions, following its second lockdown.
The island's first coronavirus lockdown lasted for 88 days between 24 March and 20 June 2020, with the second lockdown beginning on on 23 January and lasting 57 days.
Businesses in Guernsey and Herm can return to normal, with no social distancing or mask requirements.
However, all arrivals into the bailiwick are still required to self-isolate for at least two weeks.
During the pandemic, the islands have seen a total of 821 known cases and 14 Covid-related deaths.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 10:30

Miami Beach spring break chaos: more than 1,000 arrests as Covid curfew extended

Associated Press in Miami
In case you missed this earlier: Miami Beach officials voted on Sunday to extend an 8pm curfew and emergency powers for up to three weeks to help control unruly and mostly maskless crowds that have converged on the party destination during spring break.
Thousands of people have packed the city’s Art Deco Cultural District causing bedlam and lawlessness in recent days when university students typically celebrate spring break, leading some businesses to close voluntarily out of concern for public safety.
Mayor Dan Gelber told an emergency meeting of the city commission that all manner of out-of-town and out-of-state visitors, not just college students, were filling the streets since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on 26 February called the state an “oasis of freedom” from coronavirus restrictions
Read more here .

"Unacceptable" breach of Covid-19 rules in Marseille, France

More than 6,000 mostly unmasked people took part in an illegal street party in the southern French city of Marseille at the weekend, leading to condemnation of an “unaccceptable” breach of Covid-19 rules.
AFP reports:
The carnival-type gathering in the port city drew mostly young people, many of whom expressed frustration at restrictions on gatherings and the closure of bars and nightclubs during the pandemic.
Marseille was not among the 16 different regions which entered a fresh lockdown on Saturday, with its current caseload lower than national hotspots such as nearby city Nice along the Mediterranean coast or the capital region.
“It’s completely unacceptable at a time when all of us are making efforts, are adapting and organising ourselves to respect the different rules in order to fight against the pandemic,” interior ministry spokeswoman Camille Chaize told Franceinfo radio on Monday.
Nine people had been arrested and dozens had been fined, she said.
The mayor of Marseille Benoit Payan said he was “outraged” by the event, adding on Twitter: “Nothing justifies that we undermine our collective efforts to keep the virus at bay.”
The French government introduced a limited lockdown on Saturday for around a third of the population, with all non-essential shops shut and travel banned in these zones, but schools are open and people are allowed to leave their homes at will
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Thousand of people enjoy an improvised and unauthorised carnival on Canebiere Street, in Marseille, southern France, on 21 March, 2021. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

Philippines reports record rise in infections

The Philippines reported 8,019 fresh infections on Monday, the highest single-day rise in cases.
The country logged 7,757 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the third consecutive day new cases breached 7,000 and just a slight drop from the record-high tally posted a day before, CNN Philippines reported.
In a bulletin, the health ministry said on Monday total confirmed cases had reached 671,792, while deaths increased by four to 12,972.

Russia reports 9,284 new covid infections

Russia on Monday reported 9,284 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 1,586 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,466,153.
The country also reported another 361 deaths, raising the official toll to 95,391.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 10:38

Irish Post

Ireland records highest number of daily Covid-19 cases in three weeks with two more deaths confirmed

The number of daily Covid-19 cases in Ireland has hit its highest total in three weeks. 
According to the latest government figures 769 new infections were detected in the past 24 hours while a further two deaths, both of which occurred this month, has also been confirmed. 
Of those cases, 381 have been attributed to men while 378 are women with 75% of cases occurring in individuals under the age of 45. 
The median age for new cases meanwhile stands at 32.  
Dublin recorded the highest number of new cases with 284, ahead of Donegal (67), Offaly (47), Meath (45) and Kildare (44). The remaining 282 cases were reported across 20 other counties. 
At present there are 360 patients with Covid-19 in hospital in Ireland. Of that number, 82 are currently being treated in ICU. 
This total of 360 is an increase of 32 on the figures published a day earlier.  
Over the past 24 hours, there have been a further 19 hospitalisations. 
Ireland's 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population now stands at 155.3. 
The rate has been at 150 per 100,000 for roughly a week. 
To date, there have been 4,587 Covid-19 related deaths and 230,599 cases in Ireland since the pandemic began a year ago.

'Conscientious objector' Irish GP suspended by Medical Council for refusing to vaccinate patients

An Irish GP who describes himself as a 'conscientious objector' has been suspended from his post for continued refusal to vaccinate patients against Covid-19.
Last month, we reported on Kildare GP Dr Gerard Waters of the Whitehorn Clinic in Celbridge, who faced backlash after admitting he would not be vaccinating his patients and also does not refer anyone for Covid-19 tests even if they are exhibiting symptoms.
Speaking on RTÉ's Liveline in February, Dr Waters said he was a 'conscientious objector' and said he disagreed with how quickly the vaccines had been developed and how it had been handled by authorities.
He went on to say that he would have no issue if his patients went on to receive the vaccine from somewhere else, but he would not put anything in his patient's arms that he would not put in his own.
Now Dr Waters has been suspended by the Medical Council after they made an application to the High Court under the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, The Irish Times  reports.
A spokesperson for the Medical Council told the outlet that the council has written to a number of GPs across Ireland reminding them of their 'ethical duty' to patients with regards to the Coronavirus pandemic, and "a number of matters [are] being investigated by the council".
Any doctor found to be spreading misinformation or not following guidelines relating to the pandemic or vaccines will be dealt with by the Council, which takes these matters extremely seriously, the spokesperson added.
Following Dr Water's admission on Liveline last month, CEO of the HSE Paul Reid said he was "quite shocked" that a GP had vocally refused to administer vaccines, and confirmed that the health service would make "alternative arrangements" for patients of any other 'conscientious objectors'.

Irish priest fined €500 for saying Mass with parishioners present says he will continue to 'exercise my constitutional right'

An Irish priest who has been fined €500 for repeatedly saying mass in a church with people present says he will not stop exercising his 'constitutional right'.
Cavan priest Father PJ Hughes was issued a fixed penalty notice of €500 by Gardaí after he continued to say in-person mass in his parish of Mullahoran despite Level 5 restrictions demanding all church services must be moved online, with exceptions for funerals and weddings and for private prayer.
Fr Hughes wrote in the Mullahoran & Loughduff Parish newsletter this week stating that he had been "reported again" and had been issued a fine by Gardaí, but said he would continue to say mass as people are committing "a grave mistake" by following government rules on not attending church.
Writing ahead of the Holy Week marking the end of Lent and the beginning of Easter, Fr Hughes wrote that it is "hard to believe that for a second year people cannot come to take part in the ceremonies of Holy Week".
He condemned the fact that mass had been banned and the church designated a 'hot spot' for catching the virus "despite the size of the church and the holy place that it is".
"The majority of people are healthy and able to go shopping, bring their children to school and may are working in enclosed environments", he continued, stating that if people are able to do these things they should also be allowed to attend mass.
"We are committing a grave mistake by rejecting our Lord and God Jesus Christ by staying away because government officials say we must.
"I do not accept and will not accept this demand by people who do not realize the wrong they are doing."
Fr Hughes went on to say it was his and others "constitutional right" to protest and "practice or faith and assemble to pray together".
He urged those who were afraid of the virus to stay at home i f they wish, but "I will exercise my constitutional right" despite going against the wishes of the Bishop and despite being reported by people to the police.
He added, "We can't just reject Jesus in the Holy Eucharist."
Fr Hughes has received messages of support from those in his parish, with some calling for other members of the clergy to stand up and do the same.
The government are currently in talks about the potential easing of some restrictions from 5 April, however the number of daily confirmed cases, static for over a week around the 500 mark, are now on the rise again.
Yesterday evening, a further 769 new cases of the virus were identified in Ireland-- the highest figure since 26 February.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 11:57

Latest on pandemic in Europe

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An impromptu carnival in Marseille defied Covid rules

  • Germany is poised to tighten Covid restrictions again, at Berlin talks which Germans had been hoping would ease them. The impact of the third wave varies regionally, but nationally the infection rate has risen above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants. More than 3,000 Covid patients are in intensive care - similar to the peak last year. So the federal government plans to extend restrictions to 18 April. Many schools reopened in late February, but they may have to shut again
  • Fine weather brought some crowds on to the streets again in France, despite new lockdown rules in and around Paris, and much of the north and south. In Marseille, about 6,500 people held an unauthorised carnival on Sunday - an improvised protest against Covid restrictions. The young crowd ignored social distancing and mask-wearing rules
  • Amid much frustration at the slow pace of vaccinations in the EU, a new opinion poll suggests widespread distrust of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. In France more than 60% of respondents in a YouGov survey considered the vaccine unsafe, as did more than half of those questioned in Germany. But in the UK most considered it safe. The EU’s medicines regulator insists the vaccine is safe, and most EU countries are using it. The poll surveyed 8,805 people from 12 to 18 March
  • In Poland Covid cases have risen 27% compared with a week ago, and most are attributed to the highly contagious British variant. A partial three-week lockdown has been imposed, keeping schools, shops, restaurants and many other facilities closed.

Presidential candidate dies with Covid on polling day

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The leading opposition presidential candidate in Congo-Brazzaville has died after becoming seriously ill with Covid-19.
Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas died in a medical plane as he was being evacuated to France, his campaign director said. His death came hours after polls closed.
Earlier, the 61-year-old had appeared in a video shared on social media, where he removed his oxygen mask and told his supporters that he was "fighting death".
He urged them to vote in Sunday's poll.
The electoral law doesn't annul the election if one of the candidates dies.
Kolelas, who had diabetes, was one of six candidates running against President Sassou Nguesso, 77, who has been in power since 1979, except for a five-year period after losing elections in 1992.
Congo-Brazzaville has officially recorded more than 9,000 cases of Covid and 130 deaths.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 12:02

Starmer: EU vaccine contracts should be honoured

The row between the UK and EU over Covid vaccine supplies needs to be resolved as quickly as possible, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says.
He tells LBC Radio the EU is not "helping itself" by threatening to ban the export of vaccines, and urges the bloc against "going down this route".
He also says the UK government is right to say existing contracts for vaccines should be met.
"We don’t want any shortage in vaccines to interrupt the rollout in this country and where contracts have been signed they need to be honoured," he says.
Starmer says the row is a "reminder that we're not going to be through this until we see the whole world vaccinated".

Analysis: Will EU leaders up the ante in vaccine row?

Adam Fleming - Chief political correspondent
UK ministers say that countries should work together for the benefit of everyone.
Is that a hint that Boris Johnson will try to defuse this EU vaccine row by proposing joint working between the UK and the EU to boost vaccine production on the continent?
The UK already has a team of engineers at a plant in the Netherlands.
That might not be enough to satisfy the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who clearly wants to see doses being sent to Europe from AstraZeneca facilities in the UK.
But it's not up to her - it's up to EU leaders to decide at their virtual summit on Thursday.
If they decide to up the ante then the UK will have to choose whether to maintain its diplomatic silence or to retaliate.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 12:06

Chalk crosses to remember Czech victims of Covid

Rob Cameron - BBC Prague Correspondent
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In Prague, more than 22,000 crosses have been chalked on the cobblestones of Old Town Square, to remember the Czech victims of the first 12 months of the Covid pandemic.
They were put there by an organisation called A Million Moments for Democracy, which organised mass protests against Prime Minister Andrej Babis in 2019.
"If we had had a capable government led by those who listened to real experts in dealing with the crisis and implemented effective measures rather than caring about its profits, media image and consolidation of power, the losses would not have reached such enormous proportions," said Benjamin Roll, chairman of the organisation.
The official death toll is 24,810 according to the Czech health ministry.

Traffic light system could enable overseas travel, adviser says

A traffic light system could enable overseas travel, a government scientific adviser says.
Prof Andrew Hayward from University College London, a member of Nervtag (the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group), says this system could see places such as South Africa and South America marked as red.
It comes after another government adviser, Dr Mike Tildesley, said last weekend that holidays abroad this summer would be "extremely unlikely".
Prof Hayward told Radio 4's Today programme: "I suspect what we may end up with is some sort of traffic light system with some countries that are no-go areas, for example likely to be South Africa and South America; other areas where there will be more severe restrictions, there will be some combination of vaccine certificates, testing and maybe quarantine, and maybe there will be some low-risk countries that you can go [to]."
Under the current road map for easing restrictions, the earliest date people in England could go on holiday abroad would be 17 May.
A government taskforce is considering how international travel could work and is due to report to the prime minister on 12 April.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: "We know that universal, restriction-free travel is unlikely from 17 May but under a tiered system, based on risk, international travel can meaningfully restart and build up, with minimal restrictions in time."

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 12:12

EU official: AstraZeneca behind on deliveries to us

Nick Beake - Brussels Corrspondent
The European Commission says it expects AstraZeneca to fulfil its contractual obligations, amid claims vaccine material made in a factory in the Netherlands destined for the UK could be blocked.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said “all options” are available if the EU is not getting its fair share of vaccines.
It’s understood AstraZeneca has not yet formally applied for permission to send any shipment imminently from the Halix plant in Leiden.
A commission official said: “You have a UK production line which is producing exclusively for the UK, and AstraZeneca is significantly behind its deliveries to the EU and therefore it’s normal that we expect the plants based in the EU to be delivering to the EU customers."
EU sources insist the aim of any tougher restrictive measures would not be about blocking materials going to the UK, but helping to ensure AstraZeneca fulfils its obligations.
Covid infection rates in Europe are rising, but there are millions of AstraZeneca vaccines sitting unused. Polling suggests there is increasing scepticism in some of the largest EU countries about the British-Swedish company’s product.

Parliament to join silence on lockdown anniversary

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A minute's silence will be held in the Houses of Parliament at midday on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the first coronavirus lockdown.
The event, being led by the speakers of the House of Commons and House of Lords, is part of a national day of reflection organised by charity Marie Curie.
Lords Speaker Lord Fowler said the public has made enormous sacrifices and Parliament would be joining the whole country in remembering those who have died and those who are bereaved.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: "None of us has escaped the ordeal of Covid-19...
"It is right that we take a moment to reflect on what we as a nation have been through; that we pay tribute to the many lives lost and the families that mourn them, and we say a big thank you to our NHS staff who have worked so tirelessly on the front line caring for people in need."

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 12:35

What's been happening today?

It's been a busy start to the week, with the latest about supplies of the coronavirus vaccine leading the headlines. Here's a recap:

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 17:10

UK deaths recorded today are lowest since September

Today's total of 17 further UK deaths recorded, of people who'd tested positive within the previous 28 days of a positive Covid test, is the lowest since 28 September.
On that day - which was also a Monday, when we know there tend to be lower figures because of a lag in weekend reporting - there were 13 deaths.
Over the weekend just gone, there were 96 deaths recorded on Saturday and 33 on Sunday. The overall trend for deaths is a decline in daily numbers.

Johnson: Third wave likely to hit UK

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A third wave of Covid in Europe is likely to "wash up" on UK shores, the prime minister has warned.
Speaking during a visit in Lancashire, Boris Johnson says Britons should be "under no illusions that previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, I'm afraid it washes up on our shores as well and I expect we will feel those effects in due course."
He adds: "That's why we're getting on with our vaccination programme as fast as we can."
The prime minister also confirmed he has been talking to European leaders and was reassured they do not want to see blockades of vaccines.
The vaccine programmes are international projects which require "international cooperation", he says.
Read more here

Europe third wave will wash up on our shores, says PM

We now have video for you of the PM speaking in Lancashire about how a third wave in Europe will affect the UK:


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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 17:14

Sharp rise in India cases 'alarming'

India recorded 260,000 fresh coronavirus cases last week - one of the worst weekly increases since the pandemic began early last year.
The western state of Maharashtra accounts for nearly 70% of the national caseload.
Experts say that poor adherence to safety protocols is driving the surge. Some say new variants could also be a reason, but it is not established yet.
India has so far recorded more than 11 million cases and 160,000 deaths.
It has seen a sharp uptick in cases in recent weeks with several other states - Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh - also seeing a rise in cases.
Prominent critical care expert Dr A Fathahudeen believes people "equated the arrival of the vaccine with normal times".
"The situation is far from normal, in fact it's alarming at the moment," he says.
Read more here.

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Breaking News 

UK Covid figures: 17 further deaths recorded

The latest UK government coronavirus figures are out.
They show there have been a further 17 deaths in the UK, of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 within the previous 28 days.
And there have been 5,342 new cases recorded.
If we look at the figures of a week ago, there were 5,089 new cases and 64 deaths within 28 days of a positive test last Monday.
The figures also show there have now been 27,997,976 first vaccination doses. Of those, 2,281,384 people have also received a second dose.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 17:27

What are the key points from Wales?

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Earlier we heard from Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething, who covered a few things in his briefing, including:

  • The NHS in Wales is going to get a £100m fund to help it and the care service in Wales recover from the pandemic. The money is accompanied by a recovery plan, which includes proposals for more virtual appointments for outpatients and making Long Covid one of the four priorities for primary care
  • More than 540,000 people are on NHS waiting lists in Wales, Mr Gething said - and demand for primary care mental health services could rise by up to 40%
  • It's important to "be honest" with the public that some restrictions are likely to be in place at points throughout the year, Mr Gething said. He says no experts and scientific advisers "are saying that you can have zero restrictions and zero harm from Covid at a certain point in the rest of this year"
  • And on holidays, Mr Gething said he would be "very surprised if I were taking a foreign holiday over the summer". We have to think about what's happening elsewhere not just in the UK, he said
  • He said he hoped that hospitality and tourism businesses across Wales will have a good year but "we may still need to have some closing down of our social circles compared to what we might have done a couple of summers ago".

There's more here.

Hundreds break lockdown for Slough car cruise

Hundreds of people have attended a "reckless" car cruise amid Covid-19 restrictions, police have said.
Thames Valley Police received reports from Slough on Saturday night of a convoy of vehicles that had travelled to the town from outside the area.
Video of the unauthorised event was posted on social media.
The force, which carried out high-visibility patrols and used a drone to gather intelligence before people dispersed, said in a statement: "This behaviour puts not only the public at risk from erratic, reckless and dangerous driving but we are currently still in a global pandemic fighting coronavirus and (it) increases the risk of transmission of the virus and could risk others' lives."

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 17:37

EasyJet boss: Vaccine certificates will be 'part of the mix'

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren has been giving some reaction to the current increase of cases in Europe.
In comments reported by Reuters news agency, he said he "never thought this would be a straight line" to recovery.
Despite this, he believes there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that in terms of the return of air travel, "the underlying demand is there".
Lundgren said he believes vaccine certificates will be "part of the mix" for trips abroad and that there will have to be a risk-based system in place in Europe to help relax current travel restrictions.

Taiwan begins vaccination drive

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
Taiwan has begun its vaccination drive with the AstraZeneca vaccine on Monday.
The first person to receive the vaccine was the island’s premier, Su Tseng-chang, who told media that “he felt no pain or discomfort and he hoped the public would follow his lead and get vaccinated”.
Medical staff and non-medical personnel at hospitals and quarantine centres are the first priority groups eligible for vaccination from Monday , and some 60,000 people have registered so far.
Taiwan has received 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but has signed contracts to buy 10 million more, five million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 4.76 million doses of unspecified vaccines via the Covax program. It has a population of around 23.5 million.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the island’s leader Carrie Lam became the first person to receive her second dose of the Sinovac vaccine on Monday.
She was the first to be vaccinated when Hong Kong began its vaccination drive on 22 February.
Approximately 350,000 people have been vaccinated in Hong Kong so far and the vaccines currently available in the city are the Sinovac and BioNTech vaccines.
Some 7.5 million people live in Hong Kong.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 17:43

Analysis: Why has Boris Johnson warned of third wave from Europe?

Iain Watson - Political correspondent
The prospect of a third coronavirus wave won’t engulf anyone with joy.
So why did Boris Johnson highlight this danger today ?
Privately and publicly, ministers are making it clear that they don’t want to delay the dates in England’s roadmap out of lockdown.
There will be a vote in Parliament on coronavirus restrictions later this week.
So by stressing the risk that the virus still poses, the PM may be hoping to convince restless backbenchers that he can’t go any quicker.
He may also be trying to persuade vaccinated people with itchy feet that booking spring or summer holidays would still be premature.
He is preparing us too for the strong possibility that cases could rise in the coming weeks - not just because of any cases that may sneak in from the EU, but because rules here are being slowly relaxed.
But by stressing the shared threat from the coronavirus - i.e. the sooner the EU population is vaccinated, the less chance of importing a third wave - his comments could be also be clearing the way for more UK/EU vaccine co-operation, and the dousing down of an inflammatory row with Brussels.

Russia's EpiVacCorona vaccine 'effective against variants'

Russian scientists who have developed the country's second vaccine against Covid-19, EpiVacCorona, say the shot is effective against variants of the coronavirus, Reuters news agency reports.
Russia began mass trials of EpiVacCorona in November last year.
Three domestically developed Covid-19 vaccines are currently registered in Russia: Sputnik V , EpiVacCorona and CoviVac.
Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will get the jab himself on Tuesday.
Asked which vaccine Putin would receive, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state news agency RIA Novosti: "One of our three. All are good and reliable."

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 17:49

Parents warned over teen gatherings in Hampshire

Parents have been warned they could face fines after police had to deal with large groups of youths breaching lockdown restrictions.
One teenager was arrested and another was fined after police encountered a "rude and aggressive" group of 30 people in Gosport on Saturday night.
Officers also reported groups were "clearly breaching" Covid-19 rules in Havant.
Hampshire Constabulary has urged parents of teenagers to "pay attention to where they are".
The force also said it dispersed "multiple groups" of young people in Havant and Emsworth, who were drinking, having barbecues and starting large fires.
"The country is still in lockdown and while restrictions are lifting, we are not fully there yet, therefore parents could be liable for a fixed penalty notice if their child is found continuously breaching the Covid rules," Hampshire Constabulary said.

PM to face Tory MPs ahead of roadmap vote

Boris Johnson is to defend the government's approach for easing lockdown measures in England when he addresses Tory MPs on the backbench 1922 Committee tomorrow.
A Commons vote will take place on Thursday on a six-month renewal of emergency powers in the Coronavirus Act.
The plan is for some restrictions to remain in place in England until at least 21 June.
But a group of backbencher MPs has been saying the success of the vaccination programme means that extension is not needed.
The prime minister's press secretary Allegra Stratton says Johnson "is using every opportunity... to make the case" for his plan.
She says Johnson believed it was "a cautious but - if we do it right - irreversible road map".
Read more about the plans to ease the lockdown here.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 17:53

Germany plans tighter rules to tackle new surge

Germany is expected to tighten Covid restrictions as a result of talks being chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel, which would backtrack on a recent easing.
She is discussing the crisis with the leaders of Germany's 16 states.
Under a draft government plan, the current partial lockdown would be extended to 18 April. The level of restrictions varies regionally.
Nationally, the infection rate has risen above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Germany now has tighter border checks.
"Unfortunately, we are going to have to use these emergency brakes," Chancellor Merkel warned.
The measures are likely to include shutting many schools, which had only reopened in late February.
Read more here.

Health minister says 'all European countries could end up on red list'

Health Minister Lord Bethell has said it’s possible the UK might have to put all its European neighbours on the government's "red list" of travel ban countries .
Those are the nations from which entry to the UK is banned. It forms part of travel regulations aimed at stopping Covid variants entering the country.
Lord Bethell told the House of Lords this was due to some people "rejecting" the chance to have a coronavirus vaccination.
He said: “We are watching with enormous sadness the sight of our European neighbours rejecting the vaccine policy.
"They are not embracing the opportunity that a vaccine provides for driving down infection rates… I don’t know how that will play out and it’s certainly above my pay grade to speculate, but we are all aware that the possibility lies that will have to red list all of our European neighbours - but that would be done with huge regret.”

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 17:59

Four weeks in jail for man who broke quarantine to top up phone

A man who visited a shop to top up the credit on his mobile phone has been jailed for breaking the Isle of Man's coronavirus laws.
Christopher Christian, 45, admitted going to a Co-op store in Douglas on Wednesday when he should have been in quarantine.
Under current Manx laws, travellers returning to the Isle of Man are required to self-isolate for up to 21 days.
On Saturday, Christian was jailed for four weeks.
His defence advocate said he lived a "somewhat nomadic lifestyle" and had believed he was allowed to leave his home to buy food as long as he was wearing a mask.
Read the full story here.

'This doesn't add up': Inside the UK, EU and AstraZeneca row

Katya Adler - Europe Editor
"This is not about EU v UK. This is a problem with AstraZeneca," claimed an EU diplomat this morning.
He and I were discussing the latest thorny chapter in EU efforts to secure the Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs written into the bloc's contract with the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company.
The debate is now focused on a production plant in the Netherlands, manufacturing AstraZeneca vaccines.
But the already-existing cross-Channel strains surrounding the vaccine are infamous by now.
The EU insists AstraZeneca made different and contradictory promises to Brussels and to the UK in their respective contracts, signed last year.
They say the EU-AstraZeneca contract promised:

  • to ensure vaccine deliveries to the EU using production facilities in both the EU and UK
  • an assurance from AstraZeneca that it had no other contracts which could get in the way of it fulfilling its commitments to the EU

"Yet at the same time, AstraZeneca appears to have promised the UK priority for the first X million doses - using production facilities in the EU, as well as the UK. This doesn't add up. Though this isn't the UK's fault," concluded the first EU diplomat I spoke to this morning.
AstraZeneca denies that it is failing to honour its contract with the EU. It says the contract commits the company to making the "best reasonable efforts" - which, it says, it is doing, faced with production challenges.
Read the full piece from Katya.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 19:40

Elderly man in Sweden was 'left to die'

BBC Panorama - Investigative TV show
The son of an elderly man in Sweden has told BBC Panorama his father "was left to die" after he tested positive for Covid-19 in a care home last April.
Thomas Andersson was shocked to find out that his father, Jan, 81, was not receiving medical treatment, but given end-of-life care instead.
After Thomas alerted local press, Jan was put on a drip and is now alive and well.
In December 2020, a Swedish commission report concluded Sweden’s pandemic strategy had failed to protect the elderly.

'It's striking PM chose to acknowledge potential impact of Europe wave'

Chris Mason - Political Correspondent
Two things matter right now: the international pathways essential to the production of vaccines, and the international pathways that allow waves of the virus to spread.
Many of our neighbours are confronted by a political and epidemiological double whammy: a failure to vaccinate at anywhere near the rate the UK has, and another wave of infections, prompting a tightening of restrictions.
The lesson of this pandemic so far has been what happens nearby can happen here, and quickly - a prospect the prime minister appears alive to.
Earlier Boris Johnson said: "On the continent right now you can see sadly there is a third wave under way and people in this country should be under no illusions... that previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends it washes up on our shores as well and I expect we will feel those effects in due course. That’s why we were are getting on with our vaccination programme as fast as we can.“
With more than half of adults in the UK having received a jab, the consequences of another wave are not likely to be what they could have been - but it's striking the prime minister chose to publicly acknowledge there will be an impact here.
The health minister Lord Bethell went further - saying it was a "possibility" "all of our European neighbours" could be put on the "red (travel) list", meaning mandatory quarantine in a hotel for all UK residents arriving.
Meanwhile, the PM is speaking to fellow European leaders about vaccine production and distribution. He spoke to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, the french president, yesterday. Mr Johnson said he was "reassured" the EU didn't want to see what he called "blockades".

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 19:44

'Ghost cruise ships could be used as pop-up hotels'

Coronavirus - 22nd March 2021 E8ac9910

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, ships that usually spend the summer cruising the Mediterranean and Caribbean islands have instead found themselves anchored off the south coast of England.
Now, the leader of one council in Devon has suggested the near-empty liners would provide perfect holiday hotels for tourists to the area.
Torbay Council leader Steve Darling said it was "becoming fairly obvious that the chances of people going abroad on holiday are vanishing".
"Torbay is due to be packed with visitors, and we have potentially got 'pop-up' accommodation with good quality hotels off our coastline," he said.
He has asked officials to approach the ships' operators about the idea.
We've got more on this story here - and to read more about the ships, and how some became a holiday attraction, that's here.

Boro stadium becomes vaccination hub

Former Middlesbrough footballers were among those who lined up for Covid jabs as the club's stadium opened as a vaccination centre.
The Riverside has the capacity to treat up to 1,000 people a day.
The stadium was chosen for its location and transport links.
It joins four other mass vaccination hubs in the North East - in Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland and Darlington.
Ex Boro defender Gary Pallister was among those to get his jab and said it was "terrific" to see the club playing its part in the community.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 22 2021, 19:48

What happened in the UK today?

It's been another busy start to the week. Here's a recap:

  • Several countries in Europe are bringing in fresh lockdown measures after a recent rise in cases - and now Boris Johnson has warned of the potential impact on the UK. He said the effects of a third wave of coronavirus will "wash up on our shores" from Europe - and the UK should be "under no illusion" we will "feel effects" of growing cases on the continent. Meanwhile a UK health minister suggested European countries could be added to the UK's red list, where arrivals are either banned or must stay in quarantine hotels
  • The row between the EU, UK and AstraZeneca over vaccine supplies is also continuing . Officials confirmed that Mr Johnson has spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday about the issue. Our explanation of the row is here
  • The UK has recorded its lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths since September.
  • Latest government figures show 17 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test. There often tend to be lower figures on Monday because of a lag in weekend reporting
  • People in Wales are able to do a few more things from today as lockdown was eased slightly. Shops like supermarkets that have already been open, but had non-essential aisles cordoned off, can now sell anything, and garden centres can reopen. Meanwhile, separately the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford described Mr Johnson's timetable for easing England's lockdown as "at the very optimistic end of the spectrum"
  • And it was back to school for many pupils in Northern Ireland, as the next batch of children were allowed to return to the classroom. Now all primary school children are back and some secondary pupils.

World updates

And here's what's happened around the world:

  • Germany is expected to tighten Covid restrictions as the result of talks being chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel, which would backtrack on a recent easing
  • In the row pitting the EU against drug firm AstraZeneca , European Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer earlier said Brussels was not set on "banning vaccine exports", but wanted pharmaceutical firms to meet their contractual obligations to the bloc
  • One of Russia's vaccines against Covid-19, EpiVacCorona, is said to be effective against variants of the coronavirus
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to get a jab himself on Tuesday
  • Taiwan began its vaccination drive on Monday, using the AstraZeneca vaccine
  • India recorded 260,000 fresh coronavirus cases last week - one of the worst weekly increases since the pandemic began early last year

That's it from us

Thanks for following our live coverage today. We'll be back tomorrow to bring you more coronavirus updates from the UK and around the world.

Today's live page was brought to you by: Sarah Collerton, Alexandra Fouché, Francesca Gillett, Claire Heald, Alex Kleiderman and Lauren Turner.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 14:02