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Coronavirus - 15th April 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 10:55

Summary for Thursday, 15th April

  • Surge testing for the South African Covid variant is taking place in four London boroughs in a bid to halt its spread
  • Residents in the SE16 postcode in Southwark and N3 in Barnet are being urged to get tested, as well as all residents of Lambeth and Wandsworth
  • Most positive rapid Covid tests taken since 8 March seem to have given a correct result, according to data seen by the BBC
  • Analysis of Public Health England data shows 82% sent off for a confirmatory PCR test gave the same positive result
  • Introducing Covid status certificates to help reopen society risks discriminating against some groups, the UK equality watchdog warns
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission says certificates to prove vaccination could create a "two-tier society"
  • More than 32.3 million people in the UK have now had their first vaccine dose, and more than 8.1 million have had their second
  • More than 200,000 new daily cases have been confirmed in India, heightening concerns about the speed of the virus' spread


Welcome to our daily live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK and around the globe.
We’ll bring you the latest updates throughout the day.
Here are the main headlines this morning:

  • Surge testing for coronavirus is taking place in four London boroughs - Wandsworth, Lambeth and some parts of Southwark and Barnet - after cases of the South African variant were found
  • Most positive rapid coronavirus tests taken since 8 March seem to have given a correct result, according to data seen by the BBC
  • Introducing Covid status certificates to help reopen society risks discriminating against some groups , the UK equality watchdog has warned. The Equality and Human Rights Commission says certificates to prove who is vaccinated could create a "two-tier society whereby only certain groups are able to fully enjoy their rights"
  • More than 32.3 million people in the UK have now had their first vaccine dose, and more than 8.1 million have had their second, according to the latest government figures
  • Turkey recorded 62,797 new coronavirus cases and 279 deaths in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Wednesday, registering the highest daily death toll and rise in cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Portugal’s parliament extended on Wednesday a state of emergency for 15 days as health experts warned that a gradual relaxation of strict lockdown rules now underway could soon lead to a significant jump in coronavirus cases.
  • Mexico’s government reported 5,113 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 518 more fatalities, according to data from the health ministry on Wednesday. It brings the country’s total to 2,291,246 infections and 210,812 deaths, Reuters reports.
  • An NHS trust in England is planning to make Covid-19 vaccinations part of staff contracts, it has been reported. A letter from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust in London that is set to go out to staff is said to state: “We will be making Covid vaccination mandatory for all our employees and it will form part of the employment contract.”
  • Russia has announced the start of production of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Serbia, the first European country outside Russia and Belarus to begin manufacturing the jab.
  • France will use Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine as planned despite its suspension in the US, a government spokesman said, adding France had received a first shipment of 200,000 doses.
  • The pace of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine production is unlikely to speed up markedly in the next few months, though the drugmaker expects its manufacturing capacity to expand significantly by 2022, chief executive Stephane Bancel said during an investor call, Reuters reports.
  • Sweden’s Health Agency said it would pause plans to start vaccinations using Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine following reports of rare blood clots similar to those reported for the AstraZeneca shot.
  • EU countries will receive 50 millionm Covid-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech by the end of June, the head of the EU commission said on Wednesday, as deliveries expected at the end of the year will be brought forward.
  • Denmark will permanently cease to administer AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, broadcaster TV 2 reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.


Latest across Europe


  • Germany’s rising infection number – 29,426 in the past 24 hours – has prompted intensive care doctors to appeal for urgent action. Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for a nationwide emergency brake including a night-time curfew and school closures where incidence rates are high – but legal experts have raised concerns, particularly about the curfew. Leading emergency medicine specialist Christian Karagiannidis says there’s no time to wait.
  • The Swiss will be able to return to cafes and restaurants outdoors from Monday, and cinemas and theatres will start allowing audiences of 50 people. Football stadiums, concerts and other outdoor events will be allowed to admit 100 people if they wear masks.
  • France will become the third country in Western Europe, probably this evening, to surpass 100,000 Covid deaths after the UK and Italy. There is no let-up in the country's third wave with almost 6,000 people in intensive care - the highest number since mid-April last year. President Emmanuel Macron will chair a cabinet meeting this evening on a plan to reopen outdoor catering and eventually culture venues.
  • Italy reported another 469 deaths yesterday evening, bringing the death toll to 115,557. But hospital numbers are falling – with 3,490 in intensive care. Italian health officials have secured another seven million Pfizer-BioNTech doses by the end of June – it’s becoming the most important vaccine for much of Europe.
  • The Italian consignment is among 50 million extra doses that the European Union has secured from Pfizer for the second quarter of 2021. The agreement fills a gap created by delays because of the suspended Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the limits imposed on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Meanwhile, Serbia has started production of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. Russia's sovereign wealth fund says it may be exported to other countries in the region.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 11:06

London surge testing extended over South African variant

Surge testing is taking place in four London boroughs after cases of the Covid-19 South African variant were found.
Residents in some parts of Southwark and Barnet have become the latest to be targeted, with those in certain areas within the SE16 postcode in Southwark and N3 postcode in Barnet being urged to get tested.
They join two other London boroughs - Wandsworth and Lambeth, where 44 confirmed and 30 probable cases were identified.
People aged 11 and over in the four boroughs are being urged to take a PCR test even if they have no symptoms.
Find out more about why experts are concerned about the South Africa variant.

More testing sites to tackle long queues

As surge testing takes place in four boroughs in London, some people complained on social media about long queues at test sites on Wednesday.
Isobel Knight tweeted: "I waited in line for over an hour this morning for the Lambeth surge testing.... If I didn't have Covid before, I probably do now."
Beth Eyre said she queued for two hours before having to leave to go to work, so was unable to get a test.
A Lambeth Council spokesperson said it has increased capacity to ensure queues are manageable, adding that tests were also available by post.
From today, additional testing sites will be available in Wandsworth.

'Significant day' as NI reopening dates expected

Stormont ministers will be asked to approve the full reopening of retail outlets in Northern Ireland on 30 April, the BBC understands.
Close contact services such as hairdresser and beauty salons will reopen the week before.
Outdoor visitor attractions will also open that week, if the proposed dates are agreed by the executive later today.
It’s the only part of the UK which hasn’t yet got planned dates for the lifting of restrictions.
It's thought that outdoor hospitality for pubs will have to wait until 10 May before being allowed to welcome back customers.
Details will be outlined to assembly members at a special sitting, with an announcement expected this afternoon.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 11:25

'Getting a Covid jab in Ramadan helps others'

Pop-up vaccination centres in mosques have been set up to help Muslims get a Covid-19 vaccine during Ramadan.
The NHS has also set up pop-up centres in workplaces and community centres, with options such as out-of-hours and women-only clinics under consideration.
It follows concern from Islamic scholars and NHS leaders that the month-long fasting period may discourage some from getting a jab.
During Ramadan, many Muslims abstain from allowing anything to enter their body, such as food and drink, between sunrise and sunset.
Dr Shehla Imtiaz-Umer, a Derby GP and representative of the British Islamic Medical Association, believes it is important not to delay the vaccination programme.
"As Muslims we have a duty to preserve life and getting vaccinated is the most effective way to prevent illness and loss of life from Covid-19," she says.
Read more here

India daily cases surpass 200,000


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Hundreds of people have tested positive at the Kumbh Mela festival

For the first time, India has registered a daily total of more than 200,000 new coronavirus cases.
Covid-related deaths exceeded 1,000 for the second day running.
The figures have doubled in 10 days, heightening concern about the rapid spread of the virus.
This week huge crowds have gathered in Haridwar city to participate in the Kumbh Mela festival, where hundreds of devotees, including nine top saints, have tested positive for Covid-19.
Many have criticised the government for allowing the festival to go ahead amid a raging pandemic.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 11:29

Analysis: Why is the virus spreading so fast in India?

Jill McGivering - South Asia editor
Some blame new variants. Others point to public behaviour - with many flouting rules on social distancing and masks.
In recent days, massive crowds have packed political rallies in states facing elections.
And at the vast Hindu festival, the Kumbh Mela, pilgrims continue to flock in their millions.
Organisers say the festival will continue.
But in the worst affected areas - including Mumbai, Pune and Delhi - hospitals and crematoria are now simply overwhelmed.

Breaking News 

Record number of patients waiting for treatment in England

Hugh Pym - BBC News Health Editor
A total of 4.7 million people were waiting for routine operations and procedures in England at the end of February 2021, the highest number since modern records began in August 2007.
New figures from NHS England also show that in February there were 387,885 people having to wait more than a year to start hospital treatment - the highest number for any calendar month since December 2007.
In February 2020, the number having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at just 1,613.

'How much longer should patients have to wait for treatment?'

Sticking with treatment waiting times during the pandemic, NHS England figures also show that 174,624 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in February 2021, compared with 190,369 in February 2020.
It is a year-on-year drop of 8%, although February 2020 had 29 days not 28 due to the leap year. It follows a year-on-year fall of 11% in January but an increase of 7% in December 2020.
Urgent referrals where breast cancer symptoms were present - though not initially suspected - were down from 13,627 in February 2020 to 12,199 in February 2021, a fall of 10%.
Tim Mitchell, vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "Although the most urgent operations, for cancer and life-threatening conditions, went ahead, hundreds of thousands of patients waiting for routine surgery such as hip and knee operations, cochlear implants and vascular operations had their treatment cancelled or postponed.
"People have been patient as they've seen the battering the pandemic has given the NHS, but how much longer can they be expected to wait?"
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 11:38

Why are so many babies dying of Covid-19 in Brazil?


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One-year-old Lucas died of complications from Covid-19

Despite the overwhelming evidence that Covid-19 rarely kills young children, in Brazil 1,300 babies have died from the virus.
One doctor refused to test Jessika Ricarte's one-year-old son for Covid, saying his symptoms did not fit the profile of the virus. Two months later he died of complications from the disease.
Jessika feels sure that if Lucas had been given a Covid test when she had requested it back in early May he would have survived.
"It is important that doctors, even if they believe it is not Covid, do the test to eliminate the possibility," she says.
There is a misconception that children are at zero risk for Covid, says Dr Fatima Marinho, who is also a senior adviser to the international health NGO Vital Strategies.
Experts say the sheer number of Covid cases in the country - the second highest number in the world - have increased the likelihood that Brazil's babies and young children are affected.
Another problem driving the high rates in children is a lack of testing. Marinho says that for children often the Covid diagnosis comes too late, when they are already seriously ill.
Read more about Jessika's story - and why so many children in Brazil have been affected - here.

Japanese politician says Olympics could be cancelled

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes - BBC Tokyo correspondent
A senior member of Japan’s ruling party has said cancelling the Olympics remains a possibility if the coronavirus situation in Japan becomes too severe.
Toshiro Nikai is a very powerful politician in Japan’s ruling party, so his words carry weight.
In the TV interview he said the Olympics should be cancelled "without hesitation" if the virus situation in Japan becomes too severe.
“If the infections spreads because of the Olympics then I don’t see what the Olympics is for,” he said.
Nikai’s comments have been dismissed by other ruling party officials who told Japanese media the games will not be cancelled.
The governor of Tokyo said she thought Nikai had only meant that the virus must be contained by all means.
But the virus is not being contained. On Wednesday, Japan recorded nearly 5,500 new cases.
The so-called “Kent variant”, originally identified in England, is now the dominant strain in western Japan, and it is spreading fast in the greater Tokyo area.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 11:42

Surge testing for residents in West Midlands town

Surge testing will be carried out in a town in the West Midlands after a case of the South African Covid-19 variant was found.
Sandwell Council says the extra testing will begin for some residents in Smethwick today.
A council spokesman "strongly encouraged everyone aged 16 and over within specific streets" in the Smethwick and Cape Hill area to take a swab test.
Here is a full list of the affected postcodes.
Six London boroughs - Barnet, Harrow, Hillingdon, Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth are currently carrying out surge testing.

What's happening with universities as lockdown eases?

University students in England have been told that they can return to face-to-face teaching - but no earlier than 17 May.
It is a similar picture in Scotland, where students have had some in-person teaching, but will return to more "blended" learning from the same date.
In Wales, students have returned, with a mix of face-to-face and online study. In Northern Ireland, hands-on courses have been taught in-person, but others are set to remain online for the rest of the term.
University leaders had lobbied for all students to go back in April, at the start of the summer term.
They say it is unfair to keep restrictions on campuses when shops are open.
Universities minister Michelle Donelan said the timing of students' return in England was a "cautious approach to the easing of restrictions".
Universities should be in touch with students with specific information on how the latest government guidance will affect them.
You can read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 11:55

16 more countries, including United States, added to Ireland's Mandatory Hotel Quarantine list

Passengers from 16 further countries will be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine in Ireland from today.
As of 4am today, Thursday 15 April, passengers into Ireland from countries including the US and Europe must pre-book 12 nights in a designated hotel, in order to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The countries newly added to the list, due to the circulation of variants or a  high number of cases, are:

  • Bangladesh,
  • Belgium,
  • France,
  • Italy,
  • Kenya,
  • Luxembourg,
  • Pakistan,
  • Turkey,
  • the USA,
  • Canada,
  • Armenia,
  • Bermuda,
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina,
  • Curaçao,
  • Maldives,
  • Ukraine.

The move comes after the Department of Health yesterday confirmed that mandatory hotel bookings have been temporarily paused as the Tifco Group hotels have reached capacity due to 'walk ins' and people not pre-booking their slot.
The Department have said that anyone travelling into Ireland today should only be allowed on their flights if they have pre-booked their mandatory quarantine.
Those who have already made a booking are not affected by the pause in the scheme, and bookings will continue from 19 April onwards; those due to arrive in Ireland on those dates should still book their hotel.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health added: "The temporary pause will be kept under ongoing review should additional capacity become available".
They reminded the public that official advice remains "strongly against all non-essential international travel".
The 16 new countries join 59 others previously identified as 'high risk' and which are subject to mandatory hotel quarantine- you can read more about that here .
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 12:47

University students 'not an afterthought' - minister

Universities minister Michelle Donelan says she understands the frustrations of students in England who have been told they will not be returning to universities before 17 May at the earliest, but she says the government "cannot move too fast, too soon".
Responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons, she said that an estimated 23% of students were yet to return to their term time accommodation.
"This still leaves up to 500,000 students yet to travel, and throughout the pandemic Sage (the government's scientific advisers) has warned of the risk posed by the mass movement of students - especially given they form new households."
Asked whether the government could "think again" on the date of 17 May, she said she agreed that it was "disappointing" that the government cannot get students back earlier, adding that it was "a very difficult situation for those students involved".
"But we cannot move too fast, too soon. This does risk a resurgence in infections, hospitalisations and deaths."
Asked by shadow universities minister Matt Western why the announcement of the return date had come so late, she said she could "assure him that students have never and will never be an afterthought for this government".

Today so far…


  • Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is among a group of former world leaders and Nobel laureates calling on US President Joe Biden to waive intellectual property rules for Covid vaccines to accelerate global access to the jabs
  • Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive is expected to announce a series of measures to ease lockdown later today. It is likely to including a reopening of close-contact personal services from 23 April, with all non-essential retail following a week later.
  • The number of people waiting for routine operations and procedures on the NHS in England in February has hit its highest level since records began in 2007. Covid sceptics have blamed the health service’s focus on the coronavirus, while opposition health spokesperson John Ashworth has described it as the result of ten year of government “underfunding, cuts [and] chronic staff shortages [which] left the NHS weakened when the pandemic hit.”
  • Ireland is on track to ease restrictions from 4 May to allow the phased reopening of all retail stores and hairdressers, and will also develop a plan for further reopenings in June and July, the deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar, has said.
  • France’s coronavirus death toll is expected to pass 100,000 today. The country of 67 million will be the eighth in the world to reach the symbolic six figure mark, and the third in Europe after the United Kingdom and Italy.
  • Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn has again urged the country’s 16 federal states to impose tougher restrictions quickly to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus and not to wait until a national law on measures is passed.
  • Thailand reported 1,543 new coronavirus cases today, the sharpest increase since the start of the pandemic and the fourth record rise this week, amid a third wave of infections in the south-east Asian country.
  • Hong Kong authorities said the city’s vaccine scheme would be widened to include those aged between 16 to 29 years old for the first time, as they aim to boost the lacklustre demand for inoculations.
  • A senior member of Japan’s ruling party has said that cancelling the Tokyo Olympics “remains an option” if the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen.
  • Spiralling Covid-19 cases have put Cambodia “on the brink of death”, its premier Hun Sen has warned, as the country imposed lockdowns in the capital Phnom Penh and a nearby city.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 13:35

What's happened so far?

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

  • Around 4.7 million people were waiting for routine operations and procedures in England in February - the most since 2007, new figures show
  • Positive tests in England are down by 34% in a week, according to NHS Test and Trace figures. The 19,196 positive cases in the week to 7 April is the lowest since 2 September last year
  • Ministers are meeting in Northern Ireland to approve the full reopening of NI retail outlets on 30 April. Close contact services such as hairdresser and beauty salons will reopen the week before - if the dates being proposed are agreed by the executive
  • Surge testing for the South African Covid variant is taking place in six London boroughs, and in parts of Smethwick in the West Midlands
  • More than 200,000 new daily cases have been reported in India for the first time, with deaths exceeding 1,000 for a second day running
  • And a senior member of Japan’s ruling party has said cancelling the Olympics remains a possibility if the coronavirus situation in the country becomes too severe



Is Justin Trudeau right about the UK's Covid situation?

Reality Check
On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was grilled about his country’s vaccination rollout.
“We know for example that the UK is ahead of just about everyone else on vaccinations, but they maintain very strong restrictions and are facing a very serious third wave,” he said.
“Vaccinations on their own are not enough to keep us safe.”
He is right to say the UK is ahead of almost all other countries, currently ranking sixth in the world for vaccination rates.
While the UK has given out 60 vaccine doses for every 100 people, Canada has given 23 doses, according to Our World in Data.
He is also right that social distancing is still required and restrictions remain in place, although they are slowly being removed with pubs reopening outdoors on Monday.
However, the UK does not appear to be facing a “very serious third wave”, in fact in the latest week cases in the country dropped by 12% and hospitalisations by 16%.
There is a belief, however, that the UK will see more cases over the summer as society reopens, but the vaccine could help prevent more serious cases.
Find out more about why vaccines alone won't stop the virus spreading.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 17:16

No 10 working on speeding up Covid checks at airports

No 10 has reminded people that foreign holidays are still banned after Heathrow airport bosses said queues of up to six hours caused by Covid checks were becoming "untenable".
The prime minister's official spokesman says: "People should not be travelling unless absolutely necessary.
"The Border Force has staff there to check passengers are compliant with our border health measures and we continue to ask that passengers completed the necessary requirements to enter the UK in advance - things like purchasing testing packages."
He says the government is "constantly trying to improve the processes at the border" to keep the public safe while avoiding "an undue wait" and more details would be set out ahead of the earliest date of 17 May.
The spokesman said the Border Force has the "right level of staffing" given the current restrictions in place on travel.

'Everybody wants care home staff to be vaccinated' - Starmer

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he will consider the results of the government's five-week consultation over making coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for care home workers.
Ministers are seeking views on the proposal , which would see the jab requirement introduced this summer.
During a visit to Gower in south Wales, Starmer was asked if he believed care home workers should lose their jobs if they refused to be vaccinated.
He replied: "I think everybody wants care home staff to be vaccinated. There's a unanimous position on that. The question is whether that should be mandatory.
"Here in Wales, with the Welsh Labour-led government, you've got high levels of vaccination without making it mandatory. So it must be possible.
"Obviously we'll look at what the government puts out in any consultation.
"But the most important thing is to roll out the vaccination programme fully, and make sure just as many people are vaccinated as possible."

Poland starts Johnson & Johnson vaccinations

Adam Easton - Warsaw Correspondent
Poland has started giving people Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccinations today and has so far seen no sign that patients are refusing it because of concerns about potential side effects, says Michal Dworczyk, who is in charge of the government’s vaccination programme.
“We have no signs from the vaccination points that there are any problems, that patients are refusing it. But these are the first days so we must wait for some time,” Mr Dworczyk told a news conference.
On Tuesday, the US Food and Drug Administration recommended there be a pause in using the vaccine following the appearance of blood clots in female patients in a handful of cases.
“I hope that, as was the case with the AstraZeneca vaccine, after initial concern caused by media information, the situation will return to normal and we will use all the vaccines we have in Poland,” he added.
Earlier this week, health minister Adam Niedzielski said the government would follow the European Medicines Agency advice, adding it believed the benefits outweigh the risks.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 17:21

No obvious quick fix to solve waiting lists backlog

Hugh Pym - BBC News Health Editor
The full scale of the backlog of non-Covid work which has built up because hospitals had to focus on coronavirus patients has been laid bare again.
Things are likely to get worse before they get better as the NHS tries to deal with new patients being referred for treatment as well as those already on waiting lists.
There is no obvious quick fix. The workforce is already over-stretched and training more staff takes years.
The government has allocated some extra cash to the NHS in England to try to help deal with the backlog.
But there have been calls for significant extra investment to fund overtime payments and make maximum seven-days-a-week use of operating theatres.
There have been warnings that the NHS in all parts of the UK will take years to recover from the consequences of Covid care and longer-term plans to expand the workforce and build new hospital facilities will be needed soon.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 17:25

Zen waited six months for surgery


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Zen had a mass removed from his pancreas

We've been telling you about the millions of people in England stuck on the longest NHS waiting list since since 2007.
One of those people was Zen Kahn, from London, who spent much of the past year in pain waiting for a vital, but not urgent, operation to remove a mass on his pancreas.
The 23-year-old, who has severe learning difficulties and mental health issues, was originally told he would have surgery in September 2020 - but in the end he waited until March 2021.
"He was losing weight, turning yellow, and getting weaker and weaker," his older brother Waqas says.
"Just to see him deteriorate daily, it was hard on us as a family."
Dr Katie Urch, divisional director of surgery at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, where Zen was treated, says surgery that was "absolutely time-critical" was prioritised.
"As our services begin to resume, our clinical teams are constantly reviewing our waiting lists to ensure we're managing care as safely and effectively as possible," she says.

Risk of rare blood clots higher for Covid than for vaccines - study

A study suggests the risk of getting rare blood clots is eight to 10 times higher after contracting coronavirus than it is for those who have been vaccinated against the disease.
Researchers at Oxford University (independent of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine) said the risk of cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) - an unusual blood clot in the brain also known as CVST (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis) - is around eight to 10 times higher after catching the virus than getting vaccinated with the BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna or Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid jabs.
The researchers said people who have had Covid shouldn't be unduly worried by clots either.
The findings come after many European countries moved to restrict the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people following reports of these rare blood clots.
The UK's watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has said the benefits of the jab still outweigh any risks, but added that under-30s would be offered an alternative jab .
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 17:29

Ireland 'on course to ease restrictions in May'


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Irish government ministers have insisted that the Republic is on course to continue a cautious reopening of society in May and to meet its end of June vaccination target.
Taoiseach (Irish PM) Mícheál Martin has said he expects 80% of the adult population to be offered or to have had a first dose by the end of June and around 55% to be fully vaccinated.
He has estimated that the Republic's vaccination programme is about a month behind Northern Ireland's.
The Republic has been described as having the longest lockdown in the world.
Read more on this story here.

Breaking News 

UK records 30 Covid deaths

A further 30 people have died after contracting coronavirus in the UK, according to government daily statistics.
It brings the total number of deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test to 127,191.
There were also 2,672 new infections.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 17:37

Situation in Brazil humanitarian catastrophe, MSF says


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Thousands of people are dying every day in Brazil with Covid-19

Brazil's "failed Covid-19 response" is driving the country to a "humanitarian catastrophe", the international charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said.
The country has seen a sharp rise in cases and deaths in recent weeks, fuelled by more transmissible variants of the virus and a lack of co-ordinated national measures. President Jair Bolsonaro has strongly opposed imposing a lockdown, despite growing calls from health experts, and criticised state governors and mayors for announcing local restrictions.
"The federal government has all but refused to adopt evidence-based comprehensive public health guidelines, leaving Brazil's dedicated medical staff to manage the sickest in intensive care units and improvise solutions when beds are unavailable," MSF's international president Dr Christos Christou said in a statement.
"This has put Brazil into a permanent state of mourning and led to the near collapse of Brazil's health system."
The virus continues to circulate across the country and the situation is unlikely to improve in April as some states and cities are already easing restrictions, according to the health institute Fiocruz.
Patients with Covid-19 are occupying more than 90% of intensive care beds in most states, Fiocruz said, while some parts of the country have reported short supplies of oxygen and anaesthetics needed to help patients with serious complications.
The country recorded 73,513 new cases and 3,459 deaths in 24 hours on Wednesday, according to the health ministry. As the pandemic rages, hundreds of babies and young children have died, as our colleagues Nathalia Passarinho and Luis Barrucho from BBC Brasil report.

Covid forgery ring uncovered in Mozambique

Jose Tembe - BBC News, Maputo
Four suspected members of a counterfeit ring producing fake Covid-19 negative certificates have been arrested, the authorities say.
The gang’s operations centred around the Ressano Garcia border post where people need negative Covid-19 results to travel to neighbouring South Africa, Mozambique’s National Criminal Investigation Service (Sernic) said.
Two suspects were arrested in mid-March and the others on Monday in the capital, Maputo, Sernic spokesperson Hilario Lole said.
Three of those arrested were government health workers - another was someone who touted their services, he said.
The gang charged between $50 (£36) and $60 for each "test" with a guaranteed negative result.
It is not easy to get a free Covid-19 test at government-run hospitals for the purposes of travel - and private clinics tend to charge around $100 for a test.
Many Mozambicans travel to South Africa for work or to buy goods to resell back home.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 17:42

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Breaking News

NI cafes and restaurants to open outdoors from 30 April

Northern Ireland's ministers have agreed that indoor hospitality venues, including pubs and hotels, will reopen on 24 May.
It is understood unlicensed and licensed premises such as restaurants, beer gardens, coffee shops and cafes can open outdoors on 30 April.
We will bring you more updates as we have them.

How ready is Scotland to unlock?

Christopher Sleight - BBC Scotland News

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As we wait for more detail on Northern Ireland's dates for easing lockdown, let's take a look at what the timeline looks like for Scotland.
From tomorrow, Covid restrictions will be eased - earlier than expected - which will allow people to travel to meet up, and groups of six adults from six households to meet outdoors.
But there will be a much more significant relaxation in the rules from 26 April, when those parts of Scotland currently under Covid protection level four rules are moved into to level three .
This will mean:

  • All shops and most close-contact services (such as nail bars) are allowed to fully reopen. Mobile close-contact services cannot operate, with the exception of hairdressers and barbers
  • Six people (not including children under the age of 12) from two households can meet indoors in a public place - but not a private home
  • Restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars can open indoors and outdoors and offer food and non-alcoholic drinks - they must shut by 18:00
  • Hotels, B&Bs, self-catering, caravan and camping sites can open - but self-catering accommodation shouldn't be shared with another household
  • Driving lessons and tests can take place

But how ready is Scotland to unlock restrictions? The BBC's Christopher Sleight explains five things to know about the state of the pandemic.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 17:48

Hong Kong and Taiwan expand vaccine eligibility

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, China Media Analyst
Today, both Hong Kong and Taiwan have expanded their vaccine programmes to make new groups eligible for vaccination.
From tomorrow, people between the ages of 16 and 29 will be eligible for vaccination in Hong Kong.
There are two vaccines available in the city: Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech. Residents over the age of 16 are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, whilst Sinovac recipients must be over the age of 18.
Hong Kong’s vaccination drive began on 26 February. So far, about 967,000 vaccine doses have been administered in the city to health and care home workers, the elderly, and people with underlying health issues.
Some 7.5 million people live in Hong Kong.
Taiwan’s Centre for Disease Control has also announced that from today, people “who must travel abroad due to special circumstances”, i.e. diplomats, government personnel and athletes , are eligible for vaccination.
From next Wednesday, it will also allow other travellers to apply for vaccination under a self-paid system.
Taiwan began its vaccination drive on 22 March with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Some 27,000 people who are classed as high-risk, i.e. medical workers, airport and quarantine hotel personnel, have received Covid-19 jabs so far. Taiwan has a population of 23.5 million.

Covid pushing 30 million Africans into poverty - IMF

Will Ross - Africa editor, BBC World Service
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that more than 30 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are being pushed into poverty by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
It has called on wealthier nations to help African countries get better access to vaccines.
The IMF estimates that some African countries - aiming to vaccinate 60% of their populations - will need to increase their health spending by 50%.
Last year, economies in sub-Saharan Africa contracted by almost 2% - the worst year on record.
The lockdowns have hurt businesses from market-stall holders to tourist resorts and multinationals.
Having a young population seems to have helped protect the continent from the coronavirus.
But with Africa's population growing so fast, vast numbers of young people need work.
So the lockdowns need to end as soon as possible and the vaccines need to be rolled out quickly to reduce the economic impact across the continent.
The IMF estimates that they will recover this year with a growth spurt of 3.4%, although all other regions in the world are expected to experience greater economic growth.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 18:34

What is reopening when in Northern Ireland?

Hospitality businesses in Northern Ireland will be allowed to open earlier than initially proposed, BBC News understands.
Stormont ministers have been meeting to agree dates for the reopening of a number of sectors - and that meeting has now finished.

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Health Minister Robin Swann said yesterday the time was right for the NI Executive to further ease restrictions, after some outdoor retail reopened on Monday .
Read more about the new indicative dates here.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 18:52

Uni return date a 'crushing decision' for students

University bosses in England have been reacting to the news that students will be allowed to return to face-to-face teaching - but no earlier than 17 May.
Since the start of the year, only students on hands-on courses have been allowed in-person teaching.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said it was a "cautious approach" to the easing of restrictions.
The University of the West of England's vice chancellor, Steve West, said it was a "crushing decision for our students".
"I still have a difficulty in understanding the evidence base upon which it's OK to have half but not all students," he says.
Read more reaction here.

Care home staff vaccination rate 'too low' in more than half of England

The vaccination rate for staff at older adult care homes is below the level recommended by scientists advising the government in more than half of England's local authorities, figures show.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) says 80% of care home staff and 90% of residents need to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against Covid-19 outbreaks.
Figures just published by NHS England show that 86 out of 149 local authorities have not reached this threshold for employees.
In 22 areas less than 70% of staff have had a first jab.
Lambeth in south London had the lowest uptake at 50.1%.
The figures suggest more than 96,000 eligible staff have not received a vaccine.
It could be mandatory for care home staff in England to get a jab in new plans under consultation by the government.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 18:56

How many cases are there in your area?

There have been almost 4.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and more than 127,000 people have died within 28 days of a positive test, the latest government figures show.
More than 32 million people in the UK have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Find out how the pandemic has affected your area and how it compares with the national average with our postcode look-up tool.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 15 2021, 18:58

What's happened in the UK today?

Here's a recap of today's coronavirus developments in the UK:

  • Positive Covid tests fell by 34% in England, NHS Test and Trace figures show
  • Surge testing is under way in six London boroughs and an area of the West Midlands after cases of the South African variant were detected
  • The pandemic caused a backlog of 4.7 million people waiting for routine hospital procedures in England in February, NHS England figures show
  • NI pubs and cafes will be able to open outdoors from 30 April
  • The risk of developing a serious brain clot is 8 to 10 times higher in people with Covid than those who get a vaccine, a study suggests
  • Benefit Cosmetics has backtracked on a policy that reportedly saw NHS workers turned away for beauty treatments on the basis that they were in contact with Covid patients
  • And we also brought you the moment a great-grandmother living in a care home was reunited with the youngest members of her family after a year.

What's been happening around the world?

Here's a reminder of some of today's coronavirus news from around the world:

  • India has registered a daily total of more than 200,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time, as it suffers a surge in cases and deaths with figures doubling in the past 10 days
  • More than 30 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are being pushed into poverty by the economic impact of the pandemic, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned
  • People between the ages of 16 and 29 will be eligible for vaccination in Hong Kong from tomorrow
  • In Brazil, we examine why 1,300 babies have died from coronavirus , despite the evidence that Covid-19 rarely kills young children
  • Irish government ministers have insisted that the Republic is on course to continue a cautious reopening of society in May and to meet its end of June vaccination target
  • Poland has started giving people Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccinations despite some other countries pausing the rollout over a small number of blood clot cases

That's it from us

We're wrapping up for today. Join us tomorrow for more live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Today's updates have been brought to you by Emma Harrison, Vanessa Barford, Jen Meierhans, Mary O'Connor and Hazel Shearing.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 14:51