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

Coronavirus - 6th April 2021


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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 10:13

Summary for Tuesday, 6th April

  • Non-essential retail, gyms and spas can reopen from 12 April in England, with restaurants allowed to serve outdoors
  • Suggestions the UK could introduce Covid status certificates proving someone has had a vaccine, tested negative or has immunity have led to criticism by MPs
  • But Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said any plans to adopt such certificates would be brought before Parliament
  • The Moderna vaccine will be available in the UK "around the third week of April", Zahawi confirmed
  • Later steps in easing restrictions, such as indoor mixing, could cause a resurgence in hospitalisations and deaths, government scientists warn
  • The family of Captain Sir Tom Moore have encouraged people to take up their own "100" challenge on what would have been his 101st birthday weekend
  • Australian and New Zealand residents will be able to travel between the two nations without having to quarantine from 19 April
  • North Korea has announced it will not take part in the Olympics this year, saying the decision is to protect its athletes from Covid-19

Good morning and welcome to our coronavirus live page.
Here’s a round-up of the main stories this morning.

  • Businesses in England are gearing up for the next stage of unlocking, after the PM confirmed non-essential retail could reopen and restaurants would be allowed to serve outdoors from 12 April
  • There has been criticism over plans for Covid passports in England, amid fears they could create a "two-tier" society. Government documents released on Monday said such certificates - that prove if someone has had a vaccine, has tested negative or has immunity - were likely to become "a feature of our lives"
  • The family of Captain Sir Tom Moore have encouraged people to take on their own "100" challenge on what would have been his 101st birthday weekend. The Army veteran, who raised almost £33m for NHS charities by walking 100 laps of his Bedfordshire garden before he turned 100, died on 2 February
  • Unions have criticised a 50p-per-week increase in statutory sick pay as "miserly". TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said "no-one should be plunged into hardship if they need to self-isolate"
  • Australian and New Zealand residents will be able to travel between the two nations without having to quarantine from 19 April. Since October, New Zealand travellers have been allowed to enter most Australian states without quarantine, though this had not been reciprocated
  • North Korea has announced it will not take part in the Tokyo Olympics this year , saying the decision is to protect its athletes from Covid-19. The decision puts an end to South Korea's hopes of using the Games to engage with the North amid stalled cross-border talks

Here are the key recent developments from around the world:

The Guardian

  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed it will move to the second stage of its lockdown lifting from next week, as non-essential shops, pub gardens and hairdressers will reopen.
  • In France the number of people in intensive care units with Covid rose by 92 to 5,433 on Monday.
  • Another 296 people have died in Italy, bringing its death toll to 111,326. New infections fell from 18,025 to 10,680.
  • Authorities in Saudi Arabia said only people who have been vaccinated or had the virus will be able to do the umrah pilgrimage later this month.
  • The infection rate in Spain has risen again to an average of 163.4 per 100,000 over the last fortnight, as it reported 85 more deaths.
  • Up to 200 workers at Goldman Sachs’ office in London will return to the office this week .
  • The US has now administered 167,187,795 vaccines and distributed a total of 207,891,395 to clinics, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has reported.
  • Mexico’s government reported another 252 more deaths on Monday. It means that 204,399 have now died from the virus.
  • People aged under-30 in the UK may stop being given the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns about rare blood clots.
  • An investigation has been launched in France after a TV exposé revealed “clandestine” luxury dinners in Paris despite the pandemic.

Latest across Europe

  • The first phase of reopening has begun in Denmark, with hairdressers and tattooists back at work and some children’s age groups back at school. Key to the reopening is a negative test and test centres have been very busy in the run-up to reopening. So-called corona passports will also become very important in the coming weeks.
  • Several European countries are giving their vaccine campaigns a post-Easter boost from this morning. The Stade de France in Paris, known for legendary sporting clashes on the pitch, has opened this morning with the aim of providing 10,000 vaccinations a week. It’s one of more than 35 so called vaccinodromes that are aimed at ramping up the vaccine campaign. Latest figures show 9.3 million first doses have already been given in France. But hospital cases are still rising.
  • Germany’s network of 35,000 family doctors is getting involved too this week. So far the country's vaccination campaign has been limited to 430 special centres. Meanwhile, the south-western state of Saarland is beginning its exit from lockdown even though cases are still rising. Outdoor gatherings and outdoor café visits are allowed as well as contact sports with a negative test.
  • Italy is also aiming to speed up its vaccination campaign, with more than eight million vaccine doses expected to arrive this month alone. Prime Minister Mario Draghi has set an eventual target of half a million vaccinations a day.
  • Portugal's president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, last night hailed the second phase of lockdown easing as a "historic day". All but the largest on-street shops were allowed to open along with cafés and restaurants serving customers outside.
  • Spain’s health minister says 11 or 12 regions are seeing a clear upward trend in infection, particularly Catalonia and Navarre in the north and Ceuta on the African mainland. This month is seen as key to pushing the vaccine campaign and retired doctors and nurses are being enlisted in many areas to take part.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 10:30

‘Only right’ for government to consider Covid certification - Zahawi

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Nadhim Zahawi said it would be "remiss and irresponsible" not to consider Covid certification

It would be "remiss" of the government not to consider Covid certification as a way of fully reopening the economy, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has said.
Amid some criticism of the idea, Zahawi said: "It's only right that we look at all these options that are available to us to take our lives back."
Speaking on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the certificates - showing vaccination, test or immunity status - wouldn't be needed while restrictions are eased between now and the middle of May.
But documents issued as part of a review, led by the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, say the certificates are likely to be a feature of life until the threat from the pandemic recedes.
Many MPs have criticised the plans, with senior Tory backbencher Mark Harper calling for a vote on the issue.
Zahawi pointed out that the concept of using Covid certificates to allow international travel was distinct from a review of using them within the UK.
"But I think it would be remiss and irresponsible for us to not look at all these things," he told BBC Breakfast.

Use of Covid passports in UK would be ‘discriminatory’, Labour says

Labour has said the use of so-called vaccine passports in the UK would be "discriminatory".
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told BBC Breakfast the party was "very sceptical" and wanted more details about how they would work.
"I'm not going to support a policy that, here in my Leicester constituency, if someone wants to go into Next or H&M, they have to produce a vaccination certificate on their phone, on an app.
"I think that's discriminatory."
He said it "makes sense" to ask people to take a test before going to events such as football games.
But asked if he would vote against any form of domestic Covid passport, Ashworth said: "We don't think asking you to produce a vaccination passport, which is this digital ID card, is fair. It's discriminatory."

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 10:34

UK a ‘long way’ from removing all restrictions

Former chief scientific adviser to the government, Prof Sir Mark Walport, tells BBC Breakfast: "It's clear that we're making good progress along the road map, and it's entirely appropriate that the first set of restrictions are being relaxed, so that makes very good sense indeed.
"But we're a long way from taking the brakes off completely."
He said the situation in France, which currently has more than 39,000 new cases a day, showed the virus was "still very much around".
He said that by June "the numbers are going to be really important here".
However, any further wave of infection was likely to be different from the first, he said.
"It's likely to be different from the first one because we know that the vaccines are very good at keeping people out of hospital and stopping people dying. And that's why it's important to really focus on what the data at the time are actually showing."

Covid certificates raise ‘ethical questions’

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told the Today programme people understood the idea of coronavirus certificates for international travel.
But he said the use of coronavirus certificates domestically "does raise a number of ethical questions".
This is why Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is reviewing the proposal and has been consulting with parliamentarians and other stakeholders, he said.
Zahawi said certification would be piloted for the FA cup final and semi-final, using testing technology.
"It would be irresponsible not to examine all of these things, because as I say, if another country finds a way of using these things in a really appropriate way you'd be saying why didn't you look at this."

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 10:38

What can I do in England from 12 April?

There is less than a week until the next step of lockdown easing in England gets under way - with the prime minister confirming stage two of his road map last night .
Pubs and restaurants serving outside can reopen as planned from next Monday, along with non-essential shops, gyms, spas and hairdressers.
Other changes include members of the same household being able to take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation; weddings can be attended by up to 15 people; children will be able to attend indoor activities and care home residents will be allowed two face-to-face visitors.
Trials will also begin to take place from mid-April to test the introduction of mass events in England, with later events testing the use of vaccine certificates.
You can read more on the road map for leaving lockdown in England and elsewhere in the UK here .

Effect of vaccines on transmission still not fully known - scientist

As we've reported, government scientific advisers have warned that eventual indoor mixing is "highly likely" to lead to a resurgence in hospitalisations and deaths in the UK.
Asked about the predictions of a third wave, Prof Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It really just depends upon the impact of vaccination, particularly on transmission, so whether or not people can get infected and pass the virus on. And we just don't know that."
He said it was still unclear what effect the vaccine rollout would have on the course of the pandemic in three or four months' time.
"The only thing we can be sure of is that we don't know exactly what is going to happen - but we do know that, because the vaccine isn't 100% effective, there will be some transmission, and there will be some breakthrough of immunity."
Asked if mask-wearing and social distancing would have to continue past the end of 21 June, he said: "Yes, so the amount of infection and death is dependent upon not only the vaccine, but also what it is that people actually do.
"And then that's related to the policies that are put in place.
"Both of those are uncertain - both the policies but also then how people behave with the policies - so it's quite likely that we will have to see some kind of measures to reduce transmission for a long time."

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 10:42

Travel industry leaders call for clarity on holidays

Leading travel industry figures have reacted to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's latest comments on the easing of restrictions in England, saying they need more clarity .
During Monday's Downing Street briefing, the PM said he was "hopeful" that foreign travel could begin again on 17 May as planned, but added more data was needed before a firm decision could be taken.
The Business Travel Association said the comments were "beyond disappointing" and called for "a clear pathway to international travel and trade".
More details on a risk-based traffic light system for travel are expected later this week.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said the proposed system would "prevent meaningful travel even to low-risk destinations", while Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the Abta travel association, said travel "should not be suddenly closed off unless variants of concern dictate that this must happen".

Australia and New Zealand launch two-way travel bubble

Australian and New Zealand residents will be able to travel between the two nations without having to quarantine at either end from 19 April.
Since October, New Zealand travellers have been allowed to enter most Australian states without quarantine, though this had not been reciprocated.
Both nations have since contained Covid outbreaks and kept infection rates near zero.
The countries shut their borders in March last year and brought in compulsory quarantine for returning nationals.
When outbreaks have emerged, both Australia and New Zealand have instated snap lockdowns to halt the virus from spreading.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 12:11

EasyJet boss: Testing cost could open up holidays only to wealthy

Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, warns plans to require holidaymakers returning from "green" countries to take - and pay for - tests pre-departure and post-arrival will only open up international travel "for people who can afford it".
He tells BBC Breakfast: "If the government was choosing to take one of those PCR tests, [of] which the cost is way over and above what the cost is of an average easyJet fare as an example, you wouldn't open up international travel for everyone, you would open up international travel for people who can afford it.
"I don't think that is fair, I don't think it's right and I don't think it is necessarily established from a medical and scientific point of view that is the right thing to do."
He says cheaper lateral flow tests should be used instead, although these are not as accurate as the gold standard PCR tests.

Poland hospital beds and ventilators in highest use since pandemic start

Adam Easton - Warsaw Correspondent
Close to 900 people have been admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in Poland in 24 hours, the health ministry has said. New infections started to fall over Easter but hospital admissions are still to peak in the country’s third wave, Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska says.
In the previous 24 hours, 888 people were admitted to hospital and 46 patients required ventilators. The number of both hospital beds and ventilators in use is at its highest since the pandemic began, with 76% of available beds and 78% of available ventilators in use.
In the worst affected region of Silesia in southern Poland, patients are being relocated to neighbouring provinces with less burdened hospitals.
Poland reported 8,245 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the health ministry says, down 60% compared with a week earlier. There were 60 virus-related deaths in the previous 24 hours.
The recent surge in cases is mainly due to the rampant UK variant of the virus that is responsible for almost all new infections.
In total, Poland has reported more than 2.4 million cases and more than 55,000 virus-related deaths. In contrast, Germany which has more than double the population of Poland, has registered just over 2.9 million infections and more than 77,000 deaths.
Poland became the 14th country in the world to surpass two million cases, but with a population of 38 million, it was the smallest. Poland has administered 6.6 million vaccine doses, and 14.5% of adults have received at least one dose.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 12:21

DVLA workers strike over Covid fears

Staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea are "scared to go to work" over Covid concerns, a union says.
Members of the PCS union are beginning a four-day strike at the agency's headquarters .
DVLA sites in the city have recorded more than 500 Covid cases since September.
Agency officials say they are disappointed by the industrial action, which they say will affect motorists.
Public Health Wales declared a Covid-19 outbreak at the DVLA's contact centre in Swansea Vale in Llansamlet in December, following more than 350 cases at the site.

North Korea to skip Tokyo Olympics over Covid fears

North Korea has announced it will not take part in the Tokyo Olympics this year, saying the decision has been made to protect its athletes from Covid-19.
It puts an end to South Korea's hopes of using the Games to engage with the North amid stalled cross-border talks.
In 2018, both sides entered a joint team at the Winter Olympics, which led to a series of historic summits.
Pyongyang says it has no cases of the virus, but experts say this is unlikely.
The country's health system is thought to be completely inadequate for dealing with the Covid pandemic, the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo says.
The announcement makes North Korea the first major country to skip the delayed 2020 Games because of the pandemic. The event is due to begin on 23 July.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 12:23

Valneva vaccine 'produces strong immune response'

The Valneva Covid-19 vaccine, which is set to be manufactured in the UK, produces a "strong immune response", Health Secretary Matt Hancock says.
Data from an early-stage phase one/two study involving 153 people showed promising results for the jab, paving the way for a phase three clinical trial.
The vaccine was safe and generally well tolerated, with no safety concerns identified by an independent data safety monitoring board.
The company says the results showed the vaccine was "highly immunogenic with more than 90% of all study participants developing significant levels of antibodies" to the Covid virus spike protein.
The vaccine also induced T-cell responses, which help the body fend off a virus and play a role in long-lasting immunity.
Mr Hancock says: "This vaccine will be made onshore in Livingston in Scotland, giving another boost to British life science, and if approved will play an important role in protecting our communities.
"I look forward to seeing the results of the upcoming phase three trial."
The government has pre-ordered 60 million doses of the jab, which, if approved, should become available later in the year and into 2022.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi says the jab will provide "another powerful weapon in our arsenal" if it is ultimately approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

What is the plan for easing rules around the UK?

England is on track to further ease restrictions next Monday after the prime minister confirmed the next stage of the roadmap for leaving lockdown.
On the same day Wales will move to its next stage of restrictions with an end to the ban on travelling in and out of the nation, the reopening of non-essential shops and close-contact services, and the return of all pupils to schools.
In Scotland, hairdressers and barbers reopened yesterday, along with more shops and there was a resumption of outdoors non-contact sport for 12 to 17-year-olds.
From 12 April all pupils will be able to go back to school full time.
That same date also brings the next stage of easing in Northern Ireland with the "stay at home" message to be relaxed, non-essential retail able to operate a click and collect service and 10 people from two households able to meet in a private garden.
Remaining school pupils, those in year groups 8-11 will be allowed to return to the classroom and sports training of up to 15 people can resume.
For the current rules around the UK click here .

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 20:30

PM: Keep getting your jabs

Amid continuing discussions about a potential link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine and rare blood clots, the UK prime minister says people should listen to the medical regulators.
Boris Johnson says: "On the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the best thing people should do is look at what the MHRA say, our independent regulator - that's why we have them, that's why they are independent.
"Their advice to people is to keep going out there, get your jab, get your second jab."
He says "clearly" the vaccine is starting to have a beneficial effect on the handling of the pandemic.

Vaccine passports for overseas travel 'fact of life' - PM

Speaking during a visit to AstraZeneca's Macclesfield factory, Boris Johnson says people will not need "any kind of certificate" when the country opens restaurants next Monday or when pubs can serve people indoors in May.
"What we are looking at is what several other countries are looking at and that is the role of vaccination passports for overseas travel, I think that is going to be a fact of life, probably," he says.
"I think we are also going to look at the role of the number of signals you can give that you are not contagious. First of all immunity, if you've had it that's going to be important, and number two, a vaccination will be useful but don't forget the importance of testing," he says.
The prime minister points to the government's policy to offer two lateral flow tests per week to everyone in England and says it will be important in "giving people the confidence to open up".
But he repeats the "key thing" is to get everybody vaccinated.

France steps up vaccinations with mass centres

As we reported earlier, France is stepping up its vaccination campaign by opening more than 35 huge vaccination centres across the country.
One of the biggest so-called vaccinodromes opened on Tuesday morning at the national stadium, the Stade de France, just outside Paris. It aims to provide some 10,000 vaccinations a week.
The centres will be run by the fire service and the Red Cross, and it is hoped they will inoculate more than half a million people a week.
Some centres have already been opened for a while, such as the one at the Velodrome Stadium in the southern city of Marseille.
With the whole of France in lockdown for the next four weeks , the government's aim is to be sufficiently in control of the virus so that restrictions can be gradually eased in May.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 20:45

Tokyo Olympic preparations hit by Covid amid new wave

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes - BBC Tokyo correspondent

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Tokyo Olympic organisers are facing fresh headaches less than four months before the games are due to open.
According to Japanese media, a water polo preparatory event due to take place this weekend has been called off. Olympic officials are refusing to confirm why but Japanese media says it’s because foreign officials have been unable to enter the country due to Covid restrictions.
But it may also be due to an outbreak of Covid-19 in the Japanese men’s water polo team late last month. North Korea has now said it’s pulling out of the Tokyo games because of fears for the health of its team, and the organisers of the diving world cup have cancelled their event in Tokyo this month for similar reasons.
All of this does not bode well with the Tokyo games due to open on 23 July.
But the biggest threat comes from a new wave of Covid infections. On Monday, the city of Osaka recorded more new infections than on any other day since the pandemic began. Many of those are thought to be from new variants of the virus - including the Kent variant - which is much more infectious.
If the new variants continue to spread rapidly, they could cause havoc for Japan’s elderly and still largely unvaccinated population.

Travellers from 'green' countries should not need testing - Virgin

The UK government's traffic light system for reopening international travel should work towards enabling people to return from "green" countries without the need for coronavirus tests, Virgin Atlantic's chief executive says.
Shai Weiss tells reporters: "The essence of the framework should allow for a path to green and removal of testing and quarantine when it is safe to do so."
He adds: "We can't have a prohibitively expensive testing system that puts businesses, people and families off travelling.
"Passengers travelling to and from 'green' countries should be able to do so freely, without testing or quarantine at all, and vaccinated passengers travelling to and from 'amber' countries should not face testing or quarantine.
"Other than for 'red' countries, we do not believe quarantine is the answer for controlling the spread of the virus."

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 20:54

Brazil variant drives South America Covid surge

Coronavirus figures released by health authorities across South America on Monday show a number of countries grappling with a spike in infections and deaths.

  • Uruguay and Paraguay registered record numbers of daily deaths, while the total number of Covid cases passed the 13-million mark in Brazil.
  • The surge has been attributed to the spread of the Brazil variant, which has become a cause for concern because it is thought to be much more contagious than the original strain, and more than twice as transmissible as the original.
  • The director of the Pan-American Health Organization, Carissa Etienne, has warned the situation constitutes "an active public health emergency".
  • Peru's health minister on Monday said cases caused by the variant had been detected "almost everywhere in Peru".
  • Cases of the variant have also been confirmed in Uruguay and Paraguay, both of which registered record numbers of daily deaths on Tuesday.
  • Bolivia has registered cases of the variant and last week ordered the closure of its border with Brazil for at least a week, with a lockdown ordered for the border regions where the cases occurred.
  • Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro has blamed a recent spike in cases and deaths on the spread of the Brazil variant.
  • In Argentina, health officials have confirmed the presence of the variant. And while vaccination is going well in Chile and Uruguay, it has been slow in many other countries of the region.

Read more here.

NHS Covid-19 app to share QR code check-ins

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England and Wales's contact tracing app will soon ask users to share details of venues they have checked in to, if they test positive for the coronavirus.
The update to the NHS Covid-19 app will be deployed ahead of shops reopening in both nations on 12 April, as well as outdoor hospitality in England.
The authorities will be able to use the information to tell other visitors if they need to be tested for the virus.
But the system has been designed to protect users' anonymity.
Until now, the QR barcode-scanning facility only came into use if local authorities themselves flagged a location as being a virus hotspot by other means.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 20:57

NI tourism boss calls for UK travel plan

A tourism body is calling for Northern Ireland's Executive to ease travel restrictions between the nation and Great Britain .
Under current guidelines people should not travel in or out of Northern Ireland for non-essential reasons.
But the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance (NITA) says the sector is facing a setback of up to 15 years.
The executive's pathway to recovery plan includes preparing for the full return of leisure travel under step five of the plan for easing restrictions.
But Joanne Stuart, chief executive of NITA, says businesses have been left with little hope for the future due to a lack of reopening dates from the executive.
"The problem is we really don't have a plan. We want to see the roadmap for international travel, but for us we also want the roadmap for UK travel."

Danger from Covid 'far and away greater' than blood clot risk

A member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation says the chances of getting sick or dying from Covid are "far and away greater" for those currently being offered vaccines than the "theoretical risk" of blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca jab.
Prof Adam Finn says there are "a lot of uncertainties" around the potential link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab and rare reports of blood clots.
He tells the BBC News Channel: "We desperately need more information to understand these cases. They've certainly occurred and we need to know why they occurred and know more about the people in whom they occurred."
But he says some things are certain, including that both vaccines the UK is using - AstraZeneca and Pfizer - are "highly effective" against Covid.
The risk of getting sick or dying with the virus for all of the people currently being offered first and second doses is "far and away greater than any small theoretical risk that may exist relating to these cases, which are extremely rare", he says.
"So I think for people being offered a vaccine at the moment the choice is still very clear that if they want to reduce the risk of getting sick or dying during the course of the rest of this year they would be better advised to accept vaccine than not take it."
He adds is still plenty of time to understand the risks and benefits of the AstraZeneca jab in younger people.
"We have time to understand this better and to make clear and well informed decisions about this in due course."

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 21:01

Breaking News 

Further 2,379 cases and 20 deaths from Covid in UK

A further 20 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid test, according to the latest government figures , taking the total by that measure to 126,882.
There have also been 2,379 new cases of coronavirus infection across the UK.
The daily figures can fluctuate with numbers often being lower at the start of the week due to lags in reporting.
There have been 40,744 first doses of vaccine given as well as a further 64,590 second jabs delivered.

People urged to apply for passports in good time amid backlog fears

Daniel Sandford - Home Affairs Correspondent
The Passport Office is encouraging people to apply for their new travel documents in good time this year, whether they are renewing or applying for the first time.
There has been a significant drop in people asking for passports during the pandemic, from seven million in a normal year to four million in 2020, so there is a risk of large numbers of people applying at once.
Abi Tierney, the director general of Her Majesty’s Passport Office, says people should allow up to 10 weeks for their documents to be issued or renewed.
“It is vital those who may need to apply for a new passport do so now,” she says.
“If you have delayed renewing your passport or are applying for the first time, please apply now so you can receive it in good time."
The Passport Office says it will send text messages to those whose passports are coming close to expiring.
At the moment international travel for leisure is against the regulations, but that could change on 17 May.

Keep wearing a mask in school in England, say ministers

Chris Mason - Political Correspondent
The government says face coverings should continue to be worn in secondary school and college classrooms in England "as a precautionary measure" when students return after the Easter holidays.
In a statement posted online in the past hour, the government adds this will no longer be necessary once England moves into step three of the so-called "roadmap". Step three won't happen any earlier than 17 May.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 21:03

Tanzania president hints at new response to Covid

anzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has hinted at major changes in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
At a swearing in ceremony for ministers today, she has announced plans for an expert task force to advise government on anti-coronavirus measures.
This departs from the hard stance by her predecessor John Magufuli, who often dismissed the presence of the coronavirus in Tanzania.
"Tanzania cannot isolate itself as an island in the fight against Covid-19," said President Samia.
The president has also hinted at major potential changes in the country’s foreign policy - directing the new foreign affairs minister, Liberata Mulamula, to set about mending international relations and saying "no country can walk alone, co-operation is the only way".

'No link at the moment' between jab and clots - WHO doctor

Dr Rogerio Pinto de Sa Gaspar, director of regulation and prequalification at the World Health Organization, says there is "no link for the moment" between the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots.
He tells a briefing the "benefit-risk assessment for the vaccine is still largely positive".
"For the time being there is no evidence that the benefit-risk assessment for the vaccine needs to be changed and we know from the data coming from countries like the UK and others that the benefits are really important in terms of reduction of the mortality of populations that are being vaccinated," he says.
The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety will convene on Wednesday and by the end of Wednesday or Thursday, he expects "we might have a fresh conclusive assessment from our experts".

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 21:08

India ramps up vaccines as daily cases hit 100,000

India has stepped up its coronavirus vaccination drive amid a deadly second wave of infections.
On Sunday, the country breached the 100,000 daily caseload mark for the first time since the pandemic began.
Everyone above the age of 45 is now eligible for the jab. Some states are also targeting specific groups such as bank workers and lawyers.
Nearly 80 million doses have been given so far, mostly to front-line workers and people above the age of 60.
The world's biggest inoculation drive aims to cover 250 million people by July but experts say the pace needs to pick up further to meet the target.
On Sunday, India became the second country after the US to report 100,000 new cases in a single day. More than half of those were confirmed in Maharashtra, which has India's largest city, Mumbai, as its capital.
Read more here.

Serbian president gets jab in hope others will follow suit

The president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, has been vaccinated with the Chinese coronavirus jab, Sinopharm, in an attempt to encourage reluctant Serbians to follow suit.
A poor uptake prompted the government last month to invite in foreigners to get inoculated. Several thousand Bosnians took up the offer.
A similar number marched through the Bosnian capital Sarajevo on Tuesday in protest at their own government's failure to secure enough doses - fewer than 200,000 for a population of 3.5 million.
Critics say Serbia's apparent generosity was a sign of its desire to restore its regional dominance, and that the Russian and Chinese vaccines on offer have not been approved for use in Europe.

Coronavirus - 6th April 2021 03117710
Thousands took to the streets in Sarajevo

Meanwhile, in Slovakia fresh doubts have been raised about a controversial stock of Russian vaccine.
The drug regulator has reportedly found the unused batch is different from the Sputnik vaccine reviewed by the medical magazine the Lancet.
Slovakia PM Igor Matovic resigned last week over the furore caused by his decision to buy the stock without consultation.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 21:13

UK has now vaccinated 60% of adults

Three in five UK adults have received a first dose of a coronavirus jab, the health secretary says.
Some 31,622,367 have received a first vaccine, with 5,496,716 people now fully vaccinated thanks to a second dose - 10.4% of the adult population.
Matt Hancock says it is "fantastic" news and has tweeted his thanks to "everyone involved in the vaccine rollout", saying "we're making great strides in our national effort".

Gravediggers torch coronavirus corpse in Egypt

Egyptian authorities have launched an investigation after the body of a coronavirus victim was dug up from a grave and then burnt.
According to local media, the remains were those of a hospital nurse who had died of the disease in Helwan, south of Cairo.
Such is the stigma surrounding the virus in Egypt there have been reports of some communities being very reluctant to allow its victims to be buried in their cemeteries.
In April last year, 23 people were arrested for blocking the burial of a doctor who reportedly died with coronavirus.
The group were believed to have feared a body buried with the virus could spread it.

The politics of a Covid certificate

Chris Mason - Political Correspondent
The process of unlocking society confronts us with a dilemma that will mould the politics of the coming months: what is, simultaneously, epidemiologically safe and yet ethically, practically and politically possible?
Having to prove you're not contagious - because you've been jabbed, tested or have immunity - is the very essence of this debate, because without that, argue some, how can social distancing be abandoned in the summer, while providing reassurance that is safe?
The government calls its exploration of this idea "Covid status certification." But critics, including about 40 Conservative MPs, think it reeks of a "papers, please" society; an ID card in all but name.
Ministers acknowledge the idea raises ethical issues. It raises colossal practical ones too: the NHS has been asked to look into what ministers call a "digital and non-digital route" to demonstrating your Covid status. An app and a scrap - of paper - in other words.
The Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs said today the idea would "lead to a two-tier Britain entirely incompatible with freedom".
And Labour are sceptical too.
The first ministers of Scotland and Wales have expressed a cautious openness to the idea of a domestic Covid certificate. Northern Ireland's Health Minister says he doesn't support them.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 21:15

All US adults to be eligible for vaccine by 19 April

The United States is further ramping up its vaccination programme, which has accelerated since Joe Biden took office in January.
The Biden administration says all adults will be eligible for a jab by 19 April - almost two weeks earlier than the previous target.
President Biden is expected to speak about the vaccination effort later today.
White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, tells reporters: "The president will announce officially later this afternoon that we've reached 150 million shots in arms since entering government and that by 19 April all adult Americans will be eligible to get the vaccine.
"That doesn't mean they will get it that day, it means they can join the line that day if they have not already done that beforehand."

Analysis: All medicines can cause side effects - but what's the risk?

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
All medicines, from vaccines to paracetamol, have the potential to cause severe side effects.
The seasonal flu jab has about a one-in-a-million chance of causing the nerve disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome.
The key question is whether the risks are worth the benefits.
Even if the vaccine was the cause, and this is still not proven, the numbers suggest about one death in every 2.5 million people vaccinated in the UK.
For everyone over the age of 75 infected there is one death per eight Covid infections.
For those in their 40s it is one death per 1,000.
On the face of it, the risk-benefit ratio is clearly in favour of vaccination if you assume you are going to be infected at some point.
But what is needed now is more information about who has been suffering from these rare blood clots. How old are they? Do they have any underlying health conditions that could explain what happened?
This will help narrow down the scale of any potential risks.
An update from the UK regulator - as well as the European one - is expected in the coming days.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 21:19

Covid hospital patients at lowest level for six months

The number of patients in hospital in England with Covid-19 has dropped to its lowest level for six months, figures show.
A total of 2,588 patients were in hospital at 08:00 BST, according to figures from NHS England.
This is the lowest since the number was 2,435 on 4 October, and is down 92% from a record 34,336 on 18 January.
During the first wave of the virus, patient numbers peaked at 18,974 on 12 April.
Hospital admissions in England of patients with Covid-19 are at their lowest level for nearly seven months, with 156 admissions reported on Sunday, 4 April.
This is the lowest since 153 on 13 September and is down 96% from the peak on 12 January.
The fall in patients and admissions reflects the combined impact of the lockdown and vaccines in helping reduce the number of infections that need hospital treatment.

Breaking News 

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trial on children paused

Anna Collinson - Health Correspondent
The Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trial on children and teenagers has been paused while the UK regulator investigates whether there's a possible link with rare blood clots in adults.
Prof Andrew Pollard from Oxford University has told the BBC while there are no safety concerns with the trial itself, the paediatric clinical trial will not give any further vaccinations while they await for additional information from the MHRA.
Participants in the trial are advised to continue to attend all scheduled visits and can contact the trial sites if they have any questions.
About 300 volunteers signed up for the trial which started in February.
Researchers are assessing whether the jab produces a strong immune response in children aged between six and 17. Updates from the European Medicines Agency and the MHRA are expected in the coming days.
You can read more here.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 21:23

Rwanda newlyweds 'forced to spend wedding night outside'

Samba Cyuzuzo - BBC Great Lakes
Footage of Rwandan newlyweds and family guests forced to spend their wedding night in a stadium for breaching coronavirus rules has sparked criticism.
Spending the evening at a stadium "on my wedding day is a bad memory that will never fade in my life", one bride has told the BBC anonymously.
"Inflicting pain and shaming people like this doesn't make us fear corona or observe measures."
Police in the capital, Kigali, had stopped at least three weddings over the Easter weekend because they exceeded the maximum of 20 attendees.
A police spokesperson told Rwandan media "more people doing parties are violating the measures", and police wouldn't allow it to continue.
Some people online said police were "now going too far" by unlawfully holding people for hours at night in stadiums, while others praised officers for taking action to "keep them safe”.
Clarisse Karasira, a Rwandan music star, tweeted "this act lacks humanity", and said it was "an eternal pain to the couple and their children".
Rwanda’s response to Covid-19 has been praised internationally, but activists and opposition have deplored deep human rights violations in the process.
The country has recorded more than 22,000 cases of Covid-19 and 311 deaths.

What's happening with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine?

Discussions about a possible link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots are continuing.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says people should listen to medical regulators and keep getting their jabs.
But some EU countries recently paused the rollout of the vaccine amid concerns. And as we've told you in the past half hour, a trial of the vaccine on children has been paused while those behind it await more information from UK regulator the MHRA.
Regulators are carrying out a review into reports that a very small number of recently-immunised people suffered an extremely rare form of blood clot, called a cerebral sinus vein thrombosis (CSVT).
In the UK, 30 people have developed the clots - and seven have died as a result - out of 18 million people who have received the vaccine.
Regulators and experts say the benefits of the jab outweigh the risks, and no link has been established.
Read more here .

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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 06 2021, 21:26

Canadians warned as third wave hits

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has warned of a third wave of coronavirus infections sweeping the country.
"Around the world, countries are facing a very serious third wave of this pandemic," Trudeau tells a news conference. "And right now, so is Canada."
Hospitalisations are rising rapidly and intensive care beds are filling up as variants spread, he warns.
Canada has averaged almost 5,200 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week.
Ontario - the nation's most populous province - was put into a limited lockdown over the weekend, but some local health officials are calling for stronger restrictions.
More than 23,000 Canadians have lost their lives to the virus.

Round-up of UK coronavirus headlines

We'll be closing up for the day shortly but here is a reminder of what has been happening across the UK today:

What's been going on around the world?

We're wrapping up our live page coverage for the day. Here's a round-up of the day's biggest developments around the world:


That's all from us for today but the live page will return again tomorrow with more coronavirus updates.
Today's live page has been brought to you by Alex Therrien, Alexandra Fouche, Doug Faulkner, George Wright, Holly Wallis and James Clarke.

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