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Coronavirus - 5th April 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 11:41

Summary for Monday, 5th April

  • Everyone in England is to be given access to two rapid coronavirus tests a week from Friday
  • Boris Johnson is due to chair a meeting of the cabinet later to sign off the next stage of lockdown easing in England
  • Later, the PM will hold a briefing, where he is expected to confirm countries will be graded under a traffic light system when international leisure travel resumes
  • Hairdressers, homeware shops and garden centres are reopening in Scotland as Covid restrictions on the economy have eased
  • India has recorded its highest number yet of coronavirus infections in a single day, with 103,558 confirmed cases
  • Portugal is entering its second phase of rolling back restrictions, with museums, cafe terraces and some schools reopening
  • Rollout of a new school curriculum in Wales must be delayed so teachers can focus on helping pupils in the wake of the pandemic, a union says


Hello and welcome to our live coronavirus coverage for Monday 5 April. We’ll bring you all the latest updates as they happen throughout the day.

The latest from Europe

After a weekend which saw many in Europe celebrate Easter under some form of restrictions, here are today's top coronavirus headlines:

  • In Germany, there are concerns over increasing infections, as the number of patients in intensive care reached its highest level since the beginning of February. Around a half of the 4,000 people in intensive care are being ventilated, according to figures released on Sunday
  • Separately, the German government has added the Netherlands to a list of high-risk countries due to its rising number of cases. The new rules - which already apply to the Czech Republic, France and Poland - mean that travellers arriving in Germany from Tuesday will have to show a negative test and observe 10 days of quarantine
  • Portugal, meanwhile, has further relaxed its lockdown rules, but the government has extended restrictions on travel to neighbouring Spain
  • France began its third national lockdown over the weekend, with all schools and non-essential shops closed for four weeks, and a curfew in place from 19:00 to 06:00

Find out how coronavirus peaks affected Easter in eastern and central Europe here

Our top story today

Everyone in England will be able to get regular rapid Covid tests from the end of this week.
From Friday, lateral flow tests - which are carried out at home and provide results in under 30 minutes - are being made available twice a week.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it would help squash any outbreaks as lockdown eases.
But critics of the programme say it risks becoming a "scandalous" waste of money.
Read more here .

Free rapid tests will be used by workers

Health Minister for England Edward Argar has been telling BBC Breakfast who he expects will use the new free rapid Covid tests in England.
“I suspect - in the first instance - a lot of them will be used by people who are starting to go back into their workplaces again as the economy starts opening again,” he said.
Argar said the tests will be available from Friday and that the use of the tests in secondary schools has proved the government can meet demand.
Asked about the cost of the testing programme, Argar said there is a budget of £37bn for the entire NHS Test and Trace project over a two-year period.

Scotland’s hairdressers reopen

People in Scotland will be able to visit hairdressers and garden centres again from today - as covid restrictions are relaxed. Non-essential click-and-collect services are also allowed to resume.
Other businesses reopening include key cutting, mobility equipment, baby equipment and electrical repairs.
It is the latest lockdown measure to be relaxed after the Scottish government lifted its stay-at-home order on Friday.
Read more here .

UK cabinet prepares to meet

Cabinet ministers will meet later this morning to discuss the next step of England’s lockdown easing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to brief ministers on the latest data as he prepares to set out new details for how foreign travel may be able to resume this year.
We’re expecting to hear from Johnson at a Downing Street news conference at some point later today.
He is expected to confirm countries will be graded under a traffic light system when international leisure travel resumes.
We’ll bring you further details on this as we get them.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 11:50

Social-distancing rules and face masks will continue - Argar

People will continue to follow the rules around social-distancing and wearing face coverings even after free rapid Covid tests are rolled out across England, Edward Argar says.
The health minister told BBC Breakfast he expects the public to follow regulations in workplaces and public spaces even if they test negative for the virus.
“I have great confidence in my fellow citizens to continue doing the right thing until it’s safe to start easing those other restrictions,” he said.
Argar said people who test positive through the rapid flow tests would still need to isolate for 10 days - even if a subsequent, and more accurate, PCR test was negative.

Tui chief: Traffic lights for foreign travel will be ‘clear’

The boss of holiday giant Tui has welcomed the introduction of a "traffic light" system for foreign travel.
Speaking ahead of an announcement by the prime minister, Andrew Flintham told BBC Breakfast: "We are all trying to reopen the UK, the economy, and travel is an intrinsic part of that.
"So we are looking for some really clear guidelines so we welcome the traffic light system. We think it will give us some clear rules to work with and also it will make it obvious what data is driving what decisions."
Mr Flintham said the company was gearing up to restart and added: "All our teams are getting ready for restart, we believe and we hope the 17th [of May] will be possible.
"We think with the amazing vaccine programme and the greater provision of testing, we think we should be able to get going."
He said he was positive about destinations including Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Spain and the Caribbean.
In Greece, the dominant hospitality industry is waiting for tourists to return .

Holiday test rules to be set out by PM later - Argar

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to out more details about testing requirements when he speaks later about new rules for foreign travel, Health Minister for England Edward Argar says.
Argar told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that any changes to rules in England will be made in the context of the risk posed by new variants of the virus.
"I don't want to preempt what the prime minister will say later on this, save to say that the testing regime and how that works will be a key part of the clarity I suspect he will want to be giving both to the industry but also to people... who want to go on holiday," he said.
Asked about the high cost of a "gold-standard" PCR test for travel, Argar says that, currently, these are paid for by the traveller "and that model is likely to continue".
And when asked about a report in the Times newspaper which said around 40% of those arriving into the UK each day at present are tourists, Argar said "that isn't a figure that I recognise or have seen".
The report said Border Force staff observed one tourist from Peru whose tourist visa was approved after saying they wanted to "visit Big Ben".
The UK nations have strict rules on when people can go abroad - with holidays not considered essential travel.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 11:58

Ferguson: Test everyone from Europe to curb variants

Scientific adviser Prof Neil Ferguson says everyone coming from Europe to the UK should be tested for coronavirus to keep variants of concern under control.
Asked about the risks with opening up to international travel, Ferguson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think the key thing is the risk of importing variants which might undermine our vaccination programme and the one we're particularly concerned about at the moment is the South African variant called B.1.351.
"The concern here... is the proportion of cases reported in a number of European countries which are this variant is now up to anywhere from 4-5% in France and up to 17%, nearly 20% up in Luxembourg.
"So rather than some of the 'red list' countries which are far away, I think where the real policy challenge lies in terms of mitigating risk is around what to do about travel to Europe and back.
"I think that [testing everyone from European countries] would be sensible and reconsidering the exemptions in place at the moment.
"At the moment, there is a very long list of exemptions for jobs and professions - if you're a truck driver or travelling on government business, then you don't have to quarantine and you don't have to even test.
"I think it would be sensible for at least everyone to be tested when they are coming in."

Labour has 'many reservations' over vaccine passports

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves says Labour has "many reservations" about the use of vaccine passports in the UK.
She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have an amazing take-up of the vaccine, it is being rolled out incredibly successfully by the NHS - it is not totally clear to me that we need a sledgehammer to crack a nut here.
"The big priority has got to be ensuring that everybody is vaccinated so we can get back as quickly as possible to the things we love doing, whether that is going to the pub, the restaurant, the football match or the concert.
"The priority should be ensuring that the vaccine is rolled out, that we have a test-and-trace [system] that works properly but the government does not have a great track record in introducing new IT systems and what we don't want to see is more taxpayers' money wasted, more bureaucracy and red tape for businesses who have already gone through an incredibly tough year.
"So we will see what the government bring forward and their rationale for it - we'll keep an open mind but at the moment we have many reservations around what the government looks like it might be suggesting."
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 12:16

India's daily virus cases breach 100,000 in 24 hours

The Guardian
India recorded 103,558 new Covid cases on Monday, its biggest one-day figure, data from the health ministry showed – taking the national total to 12.59 million cases.
The country added 478 new deaths, raising the toll to 165,101. India has the world’s third-highest number of cases after the US, with 30 million, and Brazil, with just under 13 million.
Single-day infections have been rising since early February when they fell to below 9,000 after peaking at almost 100,000 in September.
India’s wealthiest state, Maharashtra, home to the financial capital, Mumbai, will impose a weekend lockdown and night curfew on its 110 million people in response to the rise in cases, authorities announced on Sunday.
From Monday night until the end of April a night curfew will be imposed, gatherings of more than four people banned, and private offices, restaurants, cinemas, swimming pools, bars, places of worship and public places such as beaches shut.
On weekends only essential services will be allowed to operate.
Read more here .

Thai tourist island of Phuket gets Covid jabs first in race to offer quarantine-free holidays

The Guardian
In Thailand , it’s the all-important tourism sector that has jumped to the head of the Covid-19 vaccination line, with the country’s most popular resort island embarking on a mass inoculation programme two months ahead of the rest of Thailand.
The island of Phuket aims to deliver shots to at least 460,000 people – the majority of its population – as it gears up for 1 July, when vaccinated overseas visitors will no longer be required to quarantine.
Phuket also has its own international airport, which means tourists should be able to visit the island without posing any coronavirus risk to the rest of Thailand’s population.
“If we can build immunity for 70-80% of the population on the island, we can receive foreign tourists who have been vaccinated without the need for quarantine,” Phuket’s Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong told Reuters.
Read the full story here .
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 12:37

Labour says reports of up to 8,000 tourists arriving a day are 'staggering'

Aubrey Allegretti - The Guardian
Labour has said it is “completely outrageous” that up to 8,000 tourists may be arriving in Britain every day and demanded the government tighten up its hotel quarantine system to avoid new coronavirus variants being brought into the country.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, said ministers were not doing enough to secure the borders after the Times reported the statistic, as well as other figures including that as many as 90% of arrivals at Gatwick airport are tourists.
Read more here .

PM to hold Downing Street briefing at 17:00 BST

We can now report that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street news conference at 17:00 BST from the new media room at No 9.
He will be joined by the UK government's chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, and the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
A meeting of Cabinet ministers is due shortly with Johnson expected to discuss the next step of easing lockdown in England from 12 April.
Speaking last week, Vallance said decisions on this latest step would be taken after reviewing data and evidence.

Portugal and Greece ease restrictions

While many other countries in Europe remain under full or partial lockdowns, two EU members are relaxing measures from Monday:
Portugal is entering its second phase of rolling back restrictions, with museums, cafe terraces and some schools reopening from today. The government introduced a lockdown in January after a spike in cases but allowed primary schools to resume in-person teaching in March, with more curbs expected to be reversed later this month.
However, the government on Sunday postponed a plan to allow travel to neighbouring Spain by land and air due to concerns over case numbers.
In Greece, meanwhile, some shops have been allowed to reopen today, despite concerns over high case numbers. Restrictions will still be in place, with shoppers required to pre-book appointments and limits on numbers allowed inside shops. The changes will not apply to areas with higher infection rates, including in the Athens and three northern regions.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 12:43

PM expected to unveil foreign travel traffic light system

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to make a series of announcements on changes to rules for foreign travel at a Downing Street briefing at 17:00 BST.
Johnson is expected to unveil a traffic light system when he gives an update on measures for easing restrictions in England.
Health Minister Edward Argar has said the government is acting "very carefully and cautiously" due to the risk of importing new variants.
The boss of travel giant Tui, Andrew Flintham, is calling for "clear guidelines" for the travel industry.
Read more here .

China to vaccinate entire city population after 15 cases reported


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Residents of the city of Ruili, a transit point on the border with Myanmar, are being vaccinated

China says it will for the first time vaccinate an entire local population of about 300,000 people following an outbreak of coronavirus near the border with Myanmar.
The residents of the city of Ruili in the southern province of Yunnan have also been placed under home quarantine.
The vaccination drive comes after the local authorities reported a cluster of 15 new Covid-19 cases - China's biggest daily increase in more than two months.
Officials say they are closely monitoring the border with Myanmar, where most of the new cases in the region appear to have originated.
State media is reporting the cluster has spread from infections being imported from Myanmar, which is experiencing significant turmoil after a military coup. Some patients are reportedly Myanmar citizens.
The coronavirus is, for the most part, under control throughout China and any outbreak is being met with harsh measures to restrict transmissions.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 12:46

Officers disperse party-goers in Herefordshire

The government is pushing back on a story in today's Times newspaper that reports Border Force figures suggest as many as 40% of the 20,000 or so people arriving into the UK each day are tourists.
The Times says one visitor from Peru wrote on their tourist visa application they were coming to Britain to "visit Big Ben".
Earlier, Health Minister Edward Argar said he did not recognise the figures - and now Home Office Minister Kevin Foster has issued a statement.
He echoes Argar's words and adds: "We are enforcing tough health measures at the border for the small minority of people coming to the UK, including those entering on a visitor visa for legitimate reasons.
"Since January 2021, we have paused all decisions on visitor visas to applicants applying from a 'red list' country or where it is apparent an applicant has visited one of those countries in the last 10 days.
"Border Force officers also have the right to refuse entry to any visitor who they believe has travelled to the UK to carry out activities not permitted under current local health restrictions, such as holidays or tourism, or who will not comply with self-isolation and testing requirements."
All UK nations have restricted foreign travel - and UK residents are not currently permitted to take holidays.

Government 'does not recognise' tourist numbers

The government is pushing back on a story in today's Times newspaper that reports Border Force figures suggest as many as 40% of the 20,000 or so people arriving into the UK each day are tourists.
The Times says one visitor from Peru wrote on their tourist visa application they were coming to Britain to "visit Big Ben".
Earlier, Health Minister Edward Argar said he did not recognise the figures - and now Home Office Minister Kevin Foster has issued a statement.
He echoes Argar's words and adds: "We are enforcing tough health measures at the border for the small minority of people coming to the UK, including those entering on a visitor visa for legitimate reasons.
"Since January 2021, we have paused all decisions on visitor visas to applicants applying from a 'red list' country or where it is apparent an applicant has visited one of those countries in the last 10 days.
"Border Force officers also have the right to refuse entry to any visitor who they believe has travelled to the UK to carry out activities not permitted under current local health restrictions, such as holidays or tourism, or who will not comply with self-isolation and testing requirements."
All UK nations have restricted foreign travel - and UK residents are not currently permitted to take holidays.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 12:49

Paris police probe 'secret luxury dinner parties'

French police have launched an investigation into alleged clandestine fine dining and parties in Paris, revealed in an undercover TV report.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin ordered the probe, saying such gatherings - in breach of Covid lockdown rules - would be "totally unacceptable".
A private TV channel, M6, tweeted the undercover film, with the description "caviar, champagne, top chefs' menus and no compulsory mask".
The M6 film showed an unnamed private dining club in a "smart district" of Paris, where guests were told they could remove their masks.
The secret venue, with window blinds down, was accessed via an apartment block. A waiter is heard telling the reporter - who is posing as a guest - that "the people who come here don't wear masks; once you enter here there's no more Covid".
France is currently in its third lockdown in an effort to curb a surge in Covid-19 cases.
On Sunday, the number of Covid patients in intensive care rose to 5,341, putting French hospitals under huge strain.


Darts ace forced out of Premier League after positive test


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World number one darts player Gerwyn Price has been ruled out of the sport's flagship Premier League tournament in Milton Keynes after testing positive for Covid-19.
All players and officials were tested when they arrived on Sunday for the 17-night event.
World champion Price, who was the only person to test positive, was due to face Gary Anderson this evening but will now return home to self-isolate.
He will be replaced in the field by UK Open champion James Wade who had been standing-by.
The Premier League traditionally runs one night a week over the course of a few months - in front of huge crowds - but this year is being staged behind closed doors in one venue between 5 and 22 April because of the pandemic, so Price's need to isolate sees him miss the compacted event.
Read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 12:57

What's happened so far today?

If you're just joining us here's a quick summary of the main stories in the UK so far today:


Britons hoping to travel abroad when restrictions are eased will pay cost of Covid tests themselves

Lucy Campbell - The Guardian
Britons hoping to travel abroad when lockdown restrictions are eased will likely have to bear the cost of Covid-19 tests themselves, the health minister has said.
Speaking ahead of a Downing Street press conference led by the prime minister this evening, which will set out further detail on testing and and the possibility of international travel this year, Edward Argar told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “At the moment, testing for essential travel is paid for by the traveller, that model is likely to continue.”
Argar said the government would be focused on the use of PCR tests in the context of travel and that the testing regime would be key for the travel industry and travellers.
Non-essential overseas travel is currently illegal under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, with departures not expected to be allowed until 17 May at the earliest. Many countries have already set out that they will require a negative PCR test result (or proof of Covid antibodies or vaccination) for entry.
UK travellers are not permitted to use NHS tests for travel, except for freight drivers in limited circumstances. With private PCR tests costing as much as £120 on the high street, travel industry figures have previously said the cost of these tests will make international travel unviable for some, particularly families seeking to go on holiday.
Argar was keen to stress that at the moment, due to the ongoing risk of importing new variants from abroad, people should not be travelling purely for tourism and should only do so for essential reasons. He also did not recognise a figure put to him that 40% of travellers currently arriving in the UK are tourists.
The minister also said he would likely be staying in the UK this summer. He told Sky News that he understood people’s “desire to get away on holiday” after the events of the past year but said he expected he would spend his own break “at home in sunny Leicestershire”.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 15:56

How the virus has changed our sleep patterns

As the first lockdowns began last year, national surveys in the UK and Italy reported how the majority of people were having problems sleeping.
The world was lying awake staring at the ceiling. Isolation and confinement from the lockdown, the breakdown of our normal routines, anxiety about catching the infection, and stress from job and economic insecurity all contributed to our nocturnal restlessness.
In his latest diary for BBC News, Dr John Wright of Bradford Royal Infirmary writes about the link between the virus and our sleeping habits .

Scotland more cautious on international travel


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We're expecting more detail from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the reopening of international travel from England later.
But in Scotland, the approach has been slightly more cautious, with talk of foreign travel discouraged.
There still isn't a date for crossing the border on non-essential business, let alone flying to Malaga.
However, there is the prospect of a bumper year for staycations, as BBC Scotland's business editor Douglas Fraser explains .
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 16:01

The woman who refuses to be defeated by Covid


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Josephine Muchilwa and her family

"I don't have any job, I don't have a life, I don't have any food for my kids," says Kenyan single mother Josephine Muchilwa, as she records her life during lockdown.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the 31-year-old was working as a cook, but like many others in Kenya and around the world, she lost her job.
She then started to document her experiences. "I'm just bargaining with God," she says, adding: "I don't know what to do."
Josephine shared her stories with BBC World Service Business Daily presenter Ed Butler.
After hearing about her plight, a couple of generous listeners stepped in with a donation.
It was not a huge amount - about $150 (£110) - but it was enough to allow Josephine to launch herself into a fruit and vegetable business.
Travelling by bus to a big wholesale market in the centre of Kenya's capital, she bought sacks of onions, tomatoes and more, bringing them back to Kibera where she began renting a small, wooden kiosk.
But she was always battling the odds.


Analysis: Unanswered questions remain over travel abroad

Caroline Davies - Transport correspondent
After months of anticipation, many in the travel industry will be pleased if the prime minister announces some measures on how international travel can restart.
But there will still be unanswered questions. Boris Johnson is unlikely to announce which destinations will be designated green, amber or red yet under any traffic light system.
The vaccination rate and the level of variants in a country are likely to determine which level a country is placed at, but the travel industry still wants to know more about how this will be decided and how quickly things could change to move countries into different categories.
The government's roadmap has stated international travel could restart from England on 17 May at the earliest; there's no guarantee yet that it won't be pushed back.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 16:05

Normality hinges on new rapid tests, says Hancock

New rapid Covid tests for everyone in England are vital for "reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal", Health Secretary Matt Hancock says.
The road to normality "hinges on us all getting tested regularly", Hancock has written on Twitter.
The government has announced plans for everyone in England to be given access to two rapid coronavirus tests a week from Friday , in an expansion of its testing programme.
The lateral flow kits, which can provide results in about 30 minutes, will be available for free at testing sites, pharmacies and through the post.
Read more here .

Vaccine passports could be counterproductive - Labour

Introducing vaccine passports could be "counterproductive", Labour's shadow health secretary is warning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to give more details later about the possible use of Covid certificates to access services or events in England.
The potential role of certificates - which could record whether people have been vaccinated, recently tested negative or have natural immunity - is being reviewed by the government.
But Jonathan Ashworth tells BBC Radio 4's World at One: "All the evidence has always suggested that if you want to maintain confidence in vaccination, that you don't make it compulsory, don't force people to be vaccinated - you encourage people, you persuade people.
"And my worry with what the government are suggesting is they are effectively trying to force people into taking a vaccine and I think in the end that will be counterproductive."
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 16:09

Greece waits to welcome the tourists back

Bethany Bell - BBC News, Athens and Vienna


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Travelling between countries is currently a complex process, as our correspondent has found

All over Europe, people are waiting and hoping to find out whether foreign summer holidays will be possible. Many countries are currently banning or strongly discouraging them, and returning travellers have to quarantine on arrival.
Greece is among those that are heavily reliant on tourism and looking to open up for foreign visitors who have been vaccinated or who have had a recent negative Covid test. With coronavirus cases still surging in many parts of Europe, the situation is uncertain.
Greece is planning to vaccinate all tourism workers by the summer, and it is leading calls for vaccination certificates or passports to allow foreign visitors to travel.
The Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, believes the vaccination certificates are very important to make people "feel really safe", so they can come and see Greece's archaeological sites and museums.
The EU is discussing plans for a common digital pass, which will show whether people have been vaccinated, tested or have antibodies.
Meanwhile some countries, inside and outside the EU, have already announced plans for "vaccine passports".


All over-50s in Wales now offered jab - Drakeford

Everyone over the age of 50 in Wales has been offered a Covid vaccine, according to the Welsh government.
Together with people who have underlying health conditions, all top nine priority groups have now been offered a jab, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford says.
All four UK governments have promised to reach the milestone by mid-April.
Public Health Wales says 1,490,372 people have received a first dose of the vaccine, and 467,683 have had both doses and are fully vaccinated.
Read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 16:13

Iran's new cases hit four-month high

Iran's reported daily coronavirus cases have reached a four-month high as the capital Tehran is placed in the country's high-risk "red" zone.
The health ministry has confirmed 13,890 new Covid-19 cases across the country, the highest number since 3 December, bringing the total number of people to have tested positive in Iran to 1,945,964.
Of these new cases, 2,048 have been referred to hospitals, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari has said during a televised conference.
Over the past 24 hours, 172 Covid-related deaths have been reported, with the total death toll now at 63,332, she says.
The number of patients in critical condition is 4,095, Lari adds.
The fourth wave of the virus's spread in Iran has been gaining momentum and the health ministry has warned people to wear masks and to isolate the moment they recognise any symptoms.

What's the roadmap for lifting lockdown in England?

We're expecting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to confirm later whether stage two of easing lockdown in England will go ahead on 12 April.
Changes would include:

  • All shops allowed to open, along with close-contact services, including hairdressers and beauty salons
  • Restaurants and pubs allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors
  • Gyms and spas can reopen, as can zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres
  • Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
  • Weddings attended by up to 15 people can take place

You can read more about the current restrictions across the UK and the plans to lift them here .
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 16:15

Norwegian skier gets stuck trying to avoid quarantine at border


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A Norwegian man who tried to ski across the border from Sweden in an effort to avoid his country's virus quarantine restrictions had to be rescued after getting trapped in bad weather.
"To avoid the quarantine he decided to cross the border over the mountains," Trond Helge Ronning of the rescue group Norwegian People's Aid told the AFP news agency.
Ronning, from the Norwegian village of Tydal, added: "He was soaked through and he was cold."
The skier, reportedly in his 50s, had set out on Saturday to travel from a location in Sweden to Norway and back, a distance that Ronning said was about 40km (25 miles).
But he hit trouble at about 25km into his expedition.
He was initially rescued by a local reindeer breeder, who then left him with two fishermen at a nearby lake before the rescue group arrived.
Measures in place mean that the skier, who was not named, would have needed to present a negative Covid test result at the border before crossing, and then would still have to spend 10 days in quarantine.
He is now being questioned by police.

What to expect from today's Downing Street briefing

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will lead a Downing Street briefing in about an hour from now.
We're expecting quite a few announcements including:

  • Confirmation of whether England will proceed with stage two of the roadmap out of lockdown on 12 April, including the reopening of non-essential shops and allowing pubs and restaurants to serve customers outdoors
  • A new traffic light system for the restart of international travel - although we're unlikely to find out which countries will be in each category
  • More detail on the possible use of Covid certificates - recording whether people have been vaccinated, recently tested negative or have natural immunity - to access services or events in England

You'll be able to watch the briefing live from 17:00 BST on this page, as well as text commentary and analysis of what is announced.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 16:17

Breaking News

UK records 26 deaths and 2,762 cases

The UK has recorded a further 26 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, along with 2,762 new cases.
The number of deaths recorded tends to be lower over weekends and at the start of the week because of reporting delays.

More than 31.5 million people have had first vaccine dose in UK

A further 48,055 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine in the UK, taking the total number who have had their first jab to 31,581,623.
Meanwhile, 47,708 people have had their second dose, taking the total number of people who are now fully vaccinated to 5,432,126.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 18:45

Latest from the UK

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading a Downing Street briefing at 17:00 BST (16:00 GMT), where he will be joined by the UK government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty.
While we wait, here's a quick summary of the main stories in the UK today:


A summer resurgence is possible, Sage says

Rachel Schraer - BBC Health Reporter
The reopening of shops, pub gardens and hairdressers from next week is “highly unlikely to put unsustainable pressure on the NHS”, according to the government’s scientific advisers.
But later steps of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, including indoor mixing, are “highly likely” to lead to a resurgence in hospitalisations and deaths, SPI-M - a subgroup of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) - has predicted.
There is a lot of uncertainty, they say, and it is likely any resurgence would be smaller than the peak in January. There is a plausible, though pessimistic, scenario, however, in which opening up society could lead to another peak the size of this winter’s.
This assumes immunity doesn’t wane significantly and there are no mutations to the virus which affect the vaccine.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 18:49

Analysis: The four tests appear to have been passed

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
The government set four tests for the continued lifting of lockdown in England – successful vaccination rollout, those vaccines reducing hospitalisations and deaths, infection rates not presenting a risk of unsustainable pressure on the NHS and new variants not fundamentally changing the picture.
On all four counts, there seems to be nothing that should slow the easing of restrictions at this stage in either England or the rest of the UK for that matter.
More than 31 million people have been given their first dose of the vaccine, the numbers in hospital are more than 10 times lower than they were at the peak, while deaths have continued falling sharply – 35 deaths a day are now being seen on average, compared with 1,200 at the peak in January.
Meanwhile, the number of new cases being diagnosed each day has continued to fall too despite the relaxation in restrictions that took place in March.
New cases of the South African and Brazilian variants have been detected as have examples of the UK variant that has acquired the E484 mutation which seems to allow it to evade some of the immune response, but these all still constitute just a small fraction of overall cases. There are no signs they are taking off.
The picture is probably better than even the most optimistic experts expected.

Next stage of lockdown easing in England to go ahead on 12 April

With the four tests for easing the lockdown in England met, the prime minister confirms the next stage of the roadmap for relaxing restrictions can go ahead.
This means that from 12 April:

  • Non-essential shops and close-contact services such as hairdressers and barbers can reopen
  • Restaurants and pubs can start serving customers outdoors, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcohol, and no curfew. However, people will have to eat and drink while seated
  • Gyms and spas can reopen, as can zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres
  • Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
  • Weddings attended by up to 15 people can take place
  • The number of care home visitors allowed will increase to two per resident
  • All children will be able to attend any indoor children's activity, including sport
  • Parent and child groups of up to 15 people (not counting children aged under five years old) can restart indoors

People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise domestic travel. International holidays are still illegal.
Outdoor gatherings must still be limited to six people or two households and you must not socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with or have not formed a support bubble with.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 18:54

PM encourages those without symptoms to take tests

Boris Johnson encourages the public to take tests from local test sites, even if they are not feeling unwell, and says these tests are available from local testing centres, pharmacies, and can be delivered to your door.
He says the government is today publishing its "early thinking" on the return of normal events, and the potential of "Covid status certificates" to confirm if someone currently has immunity to the virus.
"We're setting out our roadmap, and we're sticking with it," he states.
Boris Johnson says there is "nothing in the present data," such as a surge in cases, or a new variant emerging, which suggests that the UK will have to deviate from its current roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions.

How many cases of variants of concern are there in the UK?


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The fourth test is that the assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.
From 24 March to 31 March there have been 17,513 new cases of the variant first discovered in Kent - the dominant variant in the UK - 57 cases of the variant first discovered in South Africa, five cases of the variant first discovered in Manaus, Brazil, and zero cases of the variant first discovered in Bristol.
Prof Whitty says the proportion of cases of the South Africa variant have stayed steady over time and there is no evidence they are increasing, although more cases are being picked up because of testing at borders.
Although variants of concerns will remain an issue, there is "no reason to feel this fundamentally changes our position", he says.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 19:00

Concerns being raised on rapid testing reliability

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
Unsurprisingly, there's lots of interest in the rapid testing announcement - the public in England are being offered two tests a week from the end of this week.
On the face of it, there seems to be little reason to object to it.
But concerns are being raised. The accuracy of the tests has been much debated. It's possible that if they're used in this way they may only pick up half of cases.
That - some argue - is better than nothing. They may be right.
But what has been exercising people the most with the announcement is the fear it will have little impact, because not enough is being done to help support people who test positive.
The virus is circulating the most in the poorest communities where people are more likely to work in insecure employment and need to leave home to work.
The government offers £500 in support for those on low incomes. But people have complained it is difficult to qualify for these.
Some claim that until more is done to support people who test positive, the idea of getting everyone to test regularly seems somewhat far-fetched.

What did we learn from today's briefing?

There were lots of announcements in today's Downing Street briefing so here's a quick summary of the main points:

  • The four tests for easing lockdown in England have been met, so step two of the roadmap for relaxing restrictions can go ahead on 12 April
  • This includes the reopening of non-essential shops and allowing pubs and restaurants to serve customers outdoors
  • The prime minister says there is nothing in the current data to suggest England will have to deviate from its roadmap out of lockdown
  • The PM says the government is "hopeful" international travel can go ahead from 17 May and it will aim to give the industry "as much notice as possible". But he says it is important to be "mindful" of the surge taking place in other parts of the world
  • The Global Travel Taskforce will report later this week but an update on its ongoing review published today sets out how the government intends to bring in a risk-based traffic light system for non-essential international travel
  • The government has also set out some of its thinking of the use of Covid status certificates - but the PM says they will not be part of stage two or three of the easing of lockdown.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 19:06

Kyiv healthcare system 'very close' to collapse, mayor says

The mayor of Ukraine's capital Kyiv says the city's healthcare system is "very close" to collapsing.
"Today our hospitals are almost completely full," Mayor Vitali Klitschko told Ukrayina 24 television.
His comments come as new measures came into force as infections surge across the country.
The new curbs include primary school closures and travel restrictions. Only essential workers such as doctors are allowed to use public transport.
The country of 40 million has recorded more than 1.7 million Covid infections and more than 34,000 deaths.

What is the Global Travel Taskforce?

On 12 April, the government is expected to release information on how international travel is expected to continue while preventing further Covid variants from spreading in the UK.
No earlier than 17 May, the government is expected to announce when international travel should resume to and from the country.
The government says the announcement will consider variants abroad, the speed of vaccine roll-outs both here and abroad, as well as the global picture of the virus.
The taskforce is to be led by the Department for Transport and the prime minister.

Use of vaccine certification apps is far from certain

Rory Cellan-Jones - Technology correspondent

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The Prime Minister hasn’t yet said how the vaccine certification system will work. But it seems likely the government will go for an in-house solution of the NHS app , which was launched in early 2019 to give people in England access to their GP services, and is separate to the contact-tracing app.
As this app can already give users access to their GP records, adding in their vaccination history should be relatively simple. But with the app needing to record a person’s broader Covid status - recent test results for those who’ve not been vaccinated - and the need to make it more user-friendly, both for those showing it and those checking it, there is still plenty of work to be done.
That means there is a race to have it ready by the time all restrictions could be lifted in England in late June. It may be tested at various events in May, but remember what happened with the Test and Trace app last year when a trial on the Isle of Wight showed up problems which were only resolved with a full rollout in late September.
Even if the technology works, there will be more headaches for the government - the NHS app only works for people in England, so it will be no use to people in other parts of the UK and those travelling there. Then of course there is the continuing opposition to the whole idea from right across the political spectrum.
While it looks inevitable that travel overseas will require a vaccine passport, it is far from certain that carrying an app proving your Covid status will become normal behaviour in the UK.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 19:12

Covid rule-breaker 'dies after exercise punishment'


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Parts of the Philippines are under tight controls to stop the spread of Covid

A Filipino man who was found breaking quarantine rules has died after being made to do 300 squat-like exercises by police as punishment, his family says.
Darren Manaog Penaredondo was allegedly stopped by officers while buying water after 18:00 local time in Cavite province on Thursday.
He collapsed the following day and later died.
Cavite province, on the island of Luzon, is currently under strict lockdown to tackle the spread of Covid.
Marlo Solero, police chief of General Trias City, says there is no physical punishment for those found violating curfew rules, only lectures from officers. He tells local media that if officers were found to have enforced the punishment, it would not be tolerated.
A relative of the victim, Adrian Lucena, announced his death on Facebook. He says Mr Penaredondo and others found violating the curfew were told to do 100 squat-like exercises in sync together.
If they failed to do them at the same time, they would have to repeat the set, he says. The group ended up doing 300 of the exercises.
Mr Penaredondo came home at 06:00 on Friday morning in pain, his brother says. His live-in partner told local news outlet Rappler that he struggled to move throughout Friday .
"That whole day, he struggled to walk, he was just crawling. But I did not take that seriously because he said it's just a simple body ache," Reichelyn Balce says.
The following day he collapsed and stopped breathing. Ms Balce asked the neighbours to help revive him, but he reportedly died not long after.
Read more here.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 19:15

Analysis: A cause for cautious optimism

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
The further easing of lockdown was expected given the data is perhaps as positive as it possibly could be.
Hospital admissions and deaths have fallen sharply. Even infection rates – that some warned would start rising quickly with the opening of schools – have continued to drop.
With the vaccination programme going well, the UK is certainly in a strong position compared with most.
What’s more, the steps being taken from 12 April are not considered particularly high risk.
It’s the return of indoor mixing in May that is more of a worry – and then how to allow foreign travel and big events such as live sport and music concerts.
The prime minister was careful not to make any promises on these.
Government modelling suggests a resurgence of hospital cases and deaths is still “highly likely” in the future.
That’s because the vaccine does not work for everyone and not all those in the at-risk groups have come forward for a jab.
There’s good reason to believe this resurgence will be limited – perhaps no worse than a bad flu season – but it’s the possibility it could be much worse that is causing the concern.

Italy includes UK in five-day quarantine rule

Italy is extending special measures that allow citizens of EU countries to quarantine for a shorter period of five days to include UK travellers.
The measure, which reduces the quarantine time from 14 days, will include the UK by Wednesday this week and will last until at least 30 April.
Austria and Israel are also included in Italy's list of so-called "safe countries", largely as a result of successful vaccination campaigns.
A negative test result will be required within 72 hours before entering Italy, and again before any departure.
Italy entered a strict three-day lockdown on Saturday to try to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases over Easter.
Following the holiday weekend many different regions will remain in either "orange zone" or "red zone" - the highest tier - restrictions until the end of the month.
Red zone restrictions normally mean all non-essential travel is banned.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 19:18

Industry bodies call for more clarity on return of international travel

The travel industry has broadly welcomed plans for a risk-based traffic light system when international travel restarts from England - but it called for more details on how this would work.
Destinations will be designated either green, amber or red, with greater restrictions on travel, such as quarantine, for red and amber countries.
Pre-departure and post-arrival testing will still be required for lower-risk green destinations.
Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye says it is "disappointing" the opportunity has been missed to "provide more certainty" and calls for a "clearer timetable" for the return of international travel.
The Airport Operators Association says "potentially costly and onerous testing requirements" for "green" destinations will limit travel options for many people.
Abta, which represents travel agents and tour operators, says a priority for the industry is "a more stable system which avoids the situation of last summer where travel to many destinations was quickly turned on and off".
Chief executive Mark Tanzer calls for clarification on how the transition between green, amber and red levels will work.
But Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, voices his concern more bluntly.
“Today’s announcement from the Prime Minister is beyond disappointing," he says. "We are leading the way in vaccination and science. This is a cause of huge celebration, but, if we are to re-start our economy, we need to have a clear pathway to international travel and trade. This has once again been kicked down the road.
"The business travel industry continues to be crippled by today’s lack of movement."
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 19:35

Bangkok to close 196 venues as cases rise


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Thailand's capital Bangkok will close 196 entertainment venues for two weeks as the city battles a surge in coronavirus cases.
The venues will be closed from tomorrow to 19 April.
They all lie in three districts where some venues have been linked to a new cluster of more than 100 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days, says Aswin Kwanmuang, governor of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
"We will close entertainment venues in the three districts, while other venues where cases are found will be individually closed," Aswin said, according to the Reuters news agency.
Thailand has avoided the worst of the pandemic so far, with 29,321 cases and 95 deaths.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 19:38

Only the immunised will be able to do umrah pilgrimage, Saudi says


Coronavirus - 5th April 2021 Ba44df10

The Saudi government has said only people immunised against coronavirus will be allowed to perform the year-round umrah pilgrimage from the start of Ramadan, the holy fasting month for Muslims.
Three categories of people will be considered "immunised" - those who have received two doses of the vaccine, those administered a single dose at least 14 days prior, and people who have recovered from the infection - according to a statement.
Only those who fit into those three categories will be able to perform umrah, as well as to attend prayers in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca.
Saudi Arabia has reported more than 393,000 infections and 6,700 deaths from the virus.
The government says it has administered more than five million vaccines, in a country with a population of over 34 million.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 19:43

What's the roadmap for lifting lockdown in England?

The prime minister has confirmed the next stage of lifting the lockdown can go ahead in England from 12 April.
Changes from that date include:

  • All shops allowed to open
  • Hairdressers, beauty salons and other close-contact services can open
  • Restaurants and pubs allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors
  • Gyms and spas can reopen, as can zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres
  • Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
  • Weddings attended by up to 15 people can take place
  • Funerals be attended by up to 30 people, with 15 at wakes
  • Children will be able to attend any indoor children's activity
  • Care home visitors will increase to two per resident

You can read more about the plans for easing lockdown across the UK over the coming months here .

Alongside the news conference, the documents

Chris Mason - Political Correspondent
There were two documents published this afternoon, alongside the news conference hosted by the Prime Minister.
The first provides an update on the four reviews that have been under way in government since what ministers call their "roadmap" for England's unlocking was published in February.
On what we'll get used to calling "covid status certification" there'll be no need to prove anything to go for a pint in England next Monday, nor to do so in the next stage of unlocking currently planned for 17 May.
But there may be from 21 June: "Covid status certification could potentially play a role in settings such as theatres, nightclubs, and mass events such as festivals," the document says. It adds: "It is possible that Covid status certification could also play a role in reducing social distancing requirements in other settings which people tend to visit more frequently, for example in hospitality settings."
The second came from the SAGE scientists who advise the government.
They said the reopening of shops, pub gardens and hairdressers from next week is "highly unlikely to put unsustainable pressure on the NHS".
But later steps of the Prime Minister's "roadmap" out of lockdown, including indoor mixing, are "highly likely" to lead to a resurgence in hospitalisations and deaths, SPI-M - a subgroup of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) - predict.
There is a lot of uncertainty, they say, and it is likely any resurgence would be smaller than the peak in January. There was a plausible, though pessimistic, scenario, however, in which opening up society could lead to another peak the size of this winter's.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 05 2021, 19:55

Vitamin D: The truth about an alleged Covid ‘cover-up’

As Covid-19 swept the world, so did misinformation about how to treat it. But sometimes misinformation can develop even around ideas that have some truth to them - and that can be the most difficult kind to tackle.
Early or low quality research can be shared out of context online and the confusion this creates can be exploited by people promoting conspiracy theories.
Our health reporter Rachel Schraer has looked into what is known - and what is not - about the use of Vitamin D in treating Covid.

Round-up from around the world

We'll be wrapping up the live page for the day in a few minutes. Here are some of the day's major developments from around the world:

  • India has recorded its highest number yet of coronavirus infections in a single day, with 103,558 confirmed cases
  • Portugal is entering its second phase of rolling back restrictions, with museums, cafe terraces and some schools reopening
  • Police in France have launched an investigation into alleged clandestine fine dining and parties in Paris, revealed in an undercover TV report
  • Iran's reported daily coronavirus cases have reached a four-month high, with 13,890 new cases
  • China says it will for the first time vaccinate an entire local population of about 300,000 people following an outbreak of coronavirus near the border with Myanmar
  • A man in the Philippines who was found breaking quarantine rules has died after being made to do 300 squat-like exercises by police as punishment , his family said.


Thanks for joining us

That's it from us today. We'll be back tomorrow with all the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Today's live page was edited by Rob Corp and James Clarke and written by Becky Morton, Richard Morris, George Bowden, George Wright and Mal Siret.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 14:35