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

Coronavirus - 16th April 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 14:34

Summary for Friday, 16th April

  • About 130,000 people in the UK are estimated to have had coronavirus in the week to 10 April, the Office for National Statistics says
  • That is down sharply from 185,000 people the previous week, and represents one-in-500 people having Covid-19
  • But the World Health Organization warns Covid cases around the world are continuing to increase at a "worrying rate"
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel says the third wave has Germany "firmly in its grip" and the situation there is "very serious"
  • England's reproduction number, or R value, is between 0.7 and 1.0 - meaning every 10 people with Covid will infect between seven and 10 others
  • New rules on travel and meeting people outdoors have come into force in Scotland today as restrictions are eased
  • People can now travel out of their local area for non-essential reasons and six people from up to six households can meet outdoors
  • China's economy grew a record 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier - the biggest jump since records began
  • A new Covid-19 variant in the UK, first identified in India, features two mutations that could be a cause for concern, an expert says


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:

  • New rules on travelling between council areas and meeting people outdoors have come into force in Scotland today as restrictions are eased. People can now travel out of their local area for non-essential reasons and six people from up to six households can meet outdoors
  • A company in which Health Secretary Matt Hancock and his sister have shares has won contracts from NHS Wales. NHS Wales has given Topwood Ltd, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, £300,000 of business this year
  • Successful vaccine programmes will prevent another washout for summer holidaymakers, the boss of Europe's largest tour company says. Friedrich Joussen, who runs TUI, tells the BBC the firm is “optimistic about the summer”. TUI - which owns a fleet of aircraft, cruise ships and a chain of travel agencies - says bookings in March alone hit 2.8 million
  • China's economy grew a record 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same quarter last year in a post-Covid comeback. It is the biggest jump in gross domestic product since China started keeping quarterly records in 1992.


Latest updates from around the world


  • The number of new Covid-19 cases per week has nearly doubled globally over the past two months, approaching the highest rate seen so far during the pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said this morning.
  • India’s daily Covid-19 vaccinations have slowed from their record high early this month while new infections have set a record in eight of the past nine days.
  • The CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has urged US president Joe Biden to lift an embargo on exports of raw materials that it says is hurting its production of Covid -19 shots.
  • Vietnam’s health ministry called for the acceleration of its Covid-19 vaccine rollout on Friday as the expiry date of the south-east Asian country’s first batch of jabs supplied through the Covax scheme approaches.
  • More than 16,000 expired AstraZeneca Covid-19 doses are to be destroyed in Malawi as concerns over vaccine hesitancy increase. The vaccines are among 102,000 doses donated by the African Union (AU) to the Malawian government last month.
  • Thailand will close close schools, bars and massage parlours, as well as ban alcohol sales in restaurants, for at least two weeks starting from Sunday, after a jump in Covid-19 cases.
  • Sweden will ease restrictions on citizens who have had at least one vaccination shot against Covid-19.
  • In Scotland, changes in the rules mean people will be allowed to meet in groups of up to six adults from six households in outdoor settings from today for socialising, recreation and exercise. They will also be permitted to travel across Scotland for the first time since December – provided they do not stay overnight.
  • Denmark advanced its reopening plan on the back of stable infection rates, allowing indoor serving at restaurants and bars and some football fans to cheer from the stands from 21 April, weeks earlier than originally planned.
  • French president Emmanuel Macron told local mayors that the epidemic was likely to progress over the next eight to 10 days, with a peak of infections in France between the 25 April and 30 April, and a peak in hospital admissions between now and the end of the month.
  • Monaco has announced it is easing health restrictions, without resolving fully whether fans would be allowed at its Formula One grand prix next month.


Latest in Europe


  • Denmark’s political parties have finalised plans to open up further next Wednesday – with indoor dining in cafes, restaurants and bars, as long as people book and provide a corona pass. Museums and art galleries will also be open for people with the “coronapas”. The downloadable pass shows if you have had a negative test in the past three days, have recently had Covid or have been vaccinated.
  • Two German states have decided to impose more stringent measures from Monday - Baden-Württemberg in the south-west and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in the far north. In the north most shops and schools will shut – although hairdressers will stay open. The German government is changing the law so it can pull the so-called "emergency brake" across the country from Berlin, but that won’t happen until later next week.
  • Portugal will start lifting lockdown on Monday, but 11 local authorities out of more than 300 will have to wait because of a high incidence rate. Restaurants, shopping centres, high schools and universities will all reopen but Prime Minister António Costa has warned the transmission rate is higher now than it was at the start of March. France has confirmed it will reopen primary schools on 26 April and secondary schools a week later.
  • Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has rejected criticism of the spiralling cost of holding 445 test events over the next few weeks which have attracted 232,000 people. He insists the events are a “fantastic investment”, but critics point to the cost and the lack of public tender for the groups involved. One event in eight days’ time will attract 10,000 people.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to have the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccination today. Aged 66, she is eligible for the AZ jab in Germany. Meanwhile, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, had her vaccination in Brussels yesterday.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 15:03

How are lockdown rules changing in Scotland today?

New rules on travelling between council areas and meeting up outdoors are coming into force in Scotland as restrictions continue to be relaxed.
From today, people are permitted to travel outside their local area for non-essential reasons and six people from up to six households can meet up outdoors.
The easing of the rules has come earlier than expected, with the changes originally planned to come into force on 26 April.
The Scottish government says the changes are designed to help reunite families and close friends and have been brought in earlier to help boost people’s mental health and wellbeing.
The next significant easing of restrictions on 26 April should see all shops and some hospitality reopen.
You can read more here .

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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 15:13

China's economy in post-Covid comeback

China's economy is recovering after shrinking in the first quarter of last year due to nationwide lockdowns at the peak of its Covid-19 outbreak.
The economy has grown a record 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021, compared with the same quarter last year.
It's the biggest jump in gross domestic product since China started keeping quarterly records in 1992.
"The national economy made a good start," says China's National Bureau of Statistics, which has released the first quarter data.
But it adds: "We must be aware that the Covid-19 epidemic is still spreading globally and the international landscape is complicated with high uncertainties and instabilities."
In the first quarter of 2020, China's economy shrank 6.8% due to its response to the coronavirus pandemic.


We're optimistic about summer holidays - TUI boss

Successful vaccine programmes will prevent another washout for summer holidaymakers, the boss of Europe's largest tour company tells the BBC.
Friedrich Joussen, who runs TUI, says the firm is "optimistic about the summer".
TUI - which owns a fleet of aircraft, cruise ships and a chain of travel agencies - says bookings in March alone hit 2.8 million.
As a result, it expects to operate up to 75% of its normal schedule for the summer season.
The company, which sells holidays to 180 different countries, suffered heavy losses during the pandemic.
Across the industry, income slumped by almost $4.5 trillion last year, leaving more than 62 million people without work, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
The industry body is pressing for international travel to resume in June to stem further job losses.
You can read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 15:21

Health secretary Hancock and sister own shares in NHS Wales contract firm


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It has emerged a company in which Health Secretary Matt Hancock and his sister have shares has won contracts from NHS Wales.
The health service in Wales has given Topwood Ltd, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, £300,000 of business this year.
In March this year, Hancock declared in the MPs' register of interests he had acquired more than 15% of the shares of a company called Topwood Ltd.
But the register did not mention his sister Emily Gilruth owned a larger portion of the shares and is a director of the firm, or that Topwood has links to the NHS - as first reported by the Guido Fawkes blog and Health Service Journal .
Public contract records show the NHS awarded Topwood a place in its Shared Business Services framework as a potential supplier for local NHS trusts in 2019, the year after Mr Hancock became health secretary.
Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth says it amounts to "cronyism at the heart of this government".
A government spokesman says Hancock acted "entirely properly" and there was no conflict of interest.
Matt Hancock has not yet had the opportunity to respond.

India's Covid patients turn desperate amid punishing second wave

Vikas Pandey - BBC News, Delhi
Accounts of people struggling to find a bed, or life-saving drugs or oxygen cylinders, are being reported all over India.
An example is Akhilesh Mishra, who developed a fever and a cough last Thursday and initially thought it was just the flu.
Akhilesh began to worry the next day, when his father Yogendra developed similar symptoms. The two men decided to get Covid RT-PCR tests done and tried to book a slot online - but the next available appointment was three days later.
They finally managed to get a slot on Sunday. In the meantime, Yogendra was running a very high fever and his doctor advised him to look for a hospital bed, which turned out to be another daunting task. They were turned away by many private hospitals in the city of Noida and also in the capital, Delhi.
The family finally managed to get a bed for him in a private hospital in Delhi and he is now recovering.
India has reported more than 150,000 Covid cases a day for the past three weeks.
The demand for medical oxygen has soared in several Indian states and several hospitals are turning patients away because they lack supplies.
In some cities, there is also a long waiting list at the crematoriums.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 15:24

Time to rebuild NI economy as restrictions ease - minister

Northern Ireland can begin rebuilding its economy under plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions from next week, says Economy Minister Diane Dodds.
The Stormont executive agreed reopening dates for some sectors yesterday, including hairdressers, non-essential retail and hospitality .
The current lockdown has been in place for more than 100 days in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Dodds tells the BBC precautions will still be needed to reopen businesses safely "but it does mean we can get on with opening our economy, recovering our economy".
She says growing the economy willd help to mitigate the fallout from the pandemic, including a potentially huge spike in unemployment.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 15:31

Hungary retreats from opening of primary schools

Nick Thorpe, BBC News
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban has partially retreated from an earlier decision that all primary schools should restart from Monday 19 April.
Now only the first four classes will return, and that is also not compulsory.
The decision was made in response to public and expert concern over the move, as Hungary remains near the peak of the third wave of the pandemic.
Kindergartens, supposedly compulsory, currently have barely 10% attendance. About 10,000 people remain hospitalised - 1,100 on ventilators, while 241 have died in the past 24 hours.
Covid-19 is blamed for 24,500 deaths so far.
With vaccinations, Hungary is leading most EU countries. About 3.1 million people have received a first vaccination dose (32% of the population) and 1.3 million have had a second dose.
The outdoor spaces of restaurants and cafes are expected to reopen next Thursday, when first vaccinations reach 3.5 million. In total, 4.2 million people have registered for vaccination in the country.
The government is launching a new poster campaign to try to persuade the remaining 5.5 million to get on board.

Chile sees Covid surge despite vaccination success

Chile's Health Minister Enrique Paris has been striking a gloomy note at his daily Covid news conferences in recent days.
The number of daily cases reached a new record high on 9 April, going over 9,000 for the first time since the pandemic began and considerably higher than the previous peak of just under 7,000 cases in mid-June.
"It's worrying," he said last Friday. "We're going through a critical moment of the pandemic… I urge you to take care of yourselves, of your loved ones, of your families."
Intensive care units are again overwhelmed, the country has for a second time closed its borders to everyone who is not a resident and most of its 18 million inhabitants are back in lockdown.

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The frustration and confusion many Chileans are feeling over the renewed lockdown is due partly to the fact that just two months ago, President Sebastián Piñera was boasting about Chile having one of the fastest vaccination rollouts in the world.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 15:45

Students call for day of action over tuition fees

A group of university students are calling for a day of action to demand tuition fee refunds because of how the pandemic has affected their learning experience.
The Write Off, Right Now (WORN) group, led by three University of Bristol students, wants 16 April to be used to apply pressure to the government.
It says online learning does not provide the same value for money and students should not be charged their full fees.
The government has said before fees must be paid in full for remote study.
University students in England have been told they will be allowed to return to face-to-face teaching - but no earlier than 17 May.
About a million students, taking courses taught online since Christmas, will be able to go back to university campuses.
Since the start of the year, only students on hands-on courses have been allowed in-person teaching.
The campaign's vice president Scott Weavers says it is "morally unfair" for students to have to pay their full fees when education in lockdown has been limited to "inadequate zoom lectures".
"We were promised when we signed up for university that we would receive sufficient access to facilities, course equipment and social contact to help us achieve our degrees.
"This year we have acquired anything but that standard, and yet we're still expected to pay full price," he says.

Merkel warns of 'very serious' situation in Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging the country's parliament to approve a new law obliging regional leaders to impose curfews and lockdowns once coronavirus infections exceed a certain level.
"Unfortunately I have to say it again today: the situation is serious, very serious and we all need to take it seriously," Merkel has said during a parliamentary session this morning.
She says the third wave has Germany "firmly in its grip" and healthcare workers are crying out for help.
"Intensive care workers are sending one distress call after the other - who are we to ignore their pleas?"
Merkel was heckled as she spoke by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which opposes lockdowns.
Supporters of the bill argue measures are needed now. They say by the time a final vote is taken next Wednesday, with upper house approval still to come, it will be too late.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 15:49

Australia considers prioritising Olympic athletes in vaccine rollout

Australia is considering prioritising athletes for vaccinations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics planned for July and August.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is reportedly in talks with the government about allowing more than 400 Australian participants of the games and hundreds more support staff to jump the queue.
"The government is in direct contact with the AOC over its proposal to priority vaccinate all Olympic team athletes and support staff," sports minister Richard Colbeck told broadcaster ABC.
Australia's vaccine rollout has been delayed after regulators advised limiting use of the AstraZeneca shot - the country's main vaccine - following reports of a rare blood clot risk.
Australia began its inoculation programme in February, later than many nations due to its low infection rates.
It is in the second stage of a five-stage rollout, where the dose is being offered to more vulnerable sections of the population.
Most athletes would fall into the fourth phase - labelled by the government as Phase 2b, which covers the "balance of adult population" ahead of the final stage, for those aged 16 and under.
The government has previously pledged to have all Australians vaccinated with at least one dose by October. A revised target has not been set.
The Tokyo Olympic Games are scheduled to take place from 23 July to 8 August 2021.
The Paralympics follow the Olympics a month later, from 24 August.
There have been calls to postpone or cancel the Games amid the spread of coronavirus, but Japan's Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto has today said the country is committed to holding them this summer.

Covid testing programme scaled back in Newcastle

Daniel Holland - Local Democracy Reporter
A project set up in Newcastle to identify Covid cases among key workers showing no symptons is being reduced at two sites in the city, because not enough people are coming forward.
Take up for rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests, at the Newcastle Civic Centre and Westgate College sites, has “consistently remained well below the available capacity”.
The council says an estimated 7,500 tests have been conducted across the two sites so far, roughly 800 per week – 85% short of the maximum capacity of 5,200 per week.
Both venues will now see the number of days they're open reduced.
A testing facility in the civic centre’s banqueting hall will open from 08:00-16:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and the Westgate College site will operate from 08:00-16:00 on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Last week the government announced everyone in England can now get two lateral flow tests a week , which can provide results in just half an hour, every week regardless of their job or whether they have Covid symptoms.
The testing kits are now available via home delivery or collection, as well as through school and workplace testing and community testing offered by councils.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 15:53

EU unlikely to renew AstraZeneca jab orders, minister says

It is unlikely that the European Union (EU) will continue to purchase the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccines next year, a French official says.
Industry Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher tells radio station BFMTV that while no formal decision had yet been made, "it is highly probable" that no further doses would be ordered.
"We have not started talks with Johnson & Johnson or with AstraZeneca for a new contract, but we have started talks with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna," she says.
The EU said earlier this week that is was temporarily stopping the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson jab after reports of rare blood clotting.
Then, Denmark became the first European country to fully cease using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine amid similar concerns about rare cases of blood clots.
Several other European countries had previously briefly suspended the jab.
Most have now resumed vaccinations with AstraZeneca, but often with limits to older age groups.
Drug watchdog the European Medicines Agency last week announced a possible link between the vaccine and clots, but said the risk of dying of Covid-19 was much greater.



Outdoor socialising 'much safer' than indoors - chief medical officer

As we've been reporting this morning, people in Scotland are today enjoying new freedoms when it comes to travel and meeting up with people as lockdown restrictions are eased .
As a reminder, people can now travel out of their local council area for non-essential reasons and for six people from up to six households to meet up outdoors.
But people are not allowed to stay overnight outside their council area - even in a tent or caravan.
When meeting outdoors, people are advised to minimise meetings, maintain 2m distancing and "use common sense".
Scotland's chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith told Good Morning Scotland that people may be uncertain about using another household's toilet during a meet up - but that "pragmatism" was important.
He said: "Of course there might be a risk going into someone's house but if people are very, very careful and they make sure they're taking precautions - washing their hands afterwards - nipping in to use someone's toilet is not something I think anyone would frown on.
"What we don't want to see is people using that as an excuse to nip inside for cup of tea with people and sitting in unventilated areas. It's the ventilation aspect that's really, really important just now.
"We know at this point of time in the year with the circulating virus, that outdoors environment where we've got that free circulating air is a much much safer environment for people to be meeting in."
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 15:57

Portugal extends emergency amid warnings over easing

Alison Roberts - Portugal Correspondent, Lisbon
Portugal today begins a new 15-day state of emergency that President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa says he hopes will be its last, as most of the country prepares to move ahead with further easing of its coronavirus lockdown from Monday.
The state of emergency, which will last until the end of the month, allows the government to implement measures such as curfews and quarantine.
In regions where the coronavirus infection rate remains low, however, restrictions are being eased next week.
Shopping centres will be able to open and cafés and restaurants to serve up to four people at tables indoors and up to six outdoors.
Sports activities deemed to be of medium risk - such as handball and basketball - may resume and groups of up to six may engage in other physical exercise outdoors.
Portugal currently has the lowest infection rate in the European Union, according to figures released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), at 68 per 100,000 of population over a 14 day period.
However, health experts in the country warn that the gradual relaxation of lockdown rules could lead to a significant jump in coronavirus cases within weeks.
If the rate breaches the threshold of 120 per 100,000 set by the government as a limit for halting or reversing lockdown easing, measures may need to be reapplied.
In four municipalities the infection rate is over 240, and restrictions mean that all but a handful of non-essential shops and services have to close and cafés and restaurants are back to takeaways and home deliveries only.

Analysis: Are lateral flow tests mainly correct or in need of urgent review?

Robert Cuffe - BBC head of statistics

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Yesterday we reported our analysis of data that suggested most positive rapid tests from March had correctly spotted coronavirus.
And the Guardian today reported leaked modelling from the Department for Health
suggesting that their performance could in fact be much worse.
The Department for Health say that the models are “based on too small a sample size to draw conclusions” but you’d be forgiven for feeling confused.
What do we know for sure?
Rapid tests aren’t perfect .
But, in theory, if people use rapid tests repeatedly and regularly then they can spot infections that might otherwise slip through the net.
If those people then self-isolate, that can slow the spread of the virus.
All that theory only works if people use them in the way they’re supposed to.
If you don’t take a medicine as directed, the medicine won’t make you better.
It’s hard to know how all the theory shakes out because the government has not published proper data assessing their impact.
If the data we reported yesterday are borne out, most people who test positive at the moment probably do have coronavirus and that would be confirmed on retest.
But we don’t know exactly how good the tests are, how many people are using them as directed and how many people are successfully isolating.
Bodies like the Royal Statistical Society and experts on the UK National Screening Committee have repeatedly called for better data to assess how well mass testing is working.
And until we see those data, discussions about the promised theoretical benefits of mass testing will be confused and based on glimpses at the data: on leaks and half-hidden data spotted by eagle eyed reporters.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 16:01

Global infections rising at 'worrying rate', says WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that Covid cases around the world are continuing to increase at a "worrying rate".
"Globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells reporters.
He says he is "very concerned" about a surge in coronavirus cases in Papua New Guinea, warning that it could lead to "a much larger epidemic".
"Papa New Guinea is a perfect example of why vaccine equity is so important," Tedros says.
The country has so far reported more than 9,300 Covid-19 cases and 82 coronavirus-related deaths.
"While these numbers are still smaller than other countries, the increase is sharp," Tedros adds.
He says that some countries which had previously avoided widespread transmission are now seeing steep increases in infections.
Tedros recently criticised what he described as a "shocking imbalance" in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines between rich and poor countries.

Germany removes UK from 'risk' list

Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases says the UK is no longer a Covid "international risk area".
The UK, along with Ireland, Finland and Barbados, was removed from a list of areas that the RKI classifies as a potential coronavirus risk based on analysis from government ministries.
Those entering Germany within 10 days of leaving a risk area have to register with the authorities and quarantine for up to 10 days.
After a minimum of five days in quarantine, arrivals can be tested for Covid-19 and, if they provide a negative test result, their quarantine can end early.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 16:05

Football stadium becomes Nightingale Court


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The Invincibles Pavilion and Sir Tom Finney Stand will host pop-up courts

A football stadium has become a temporary court for non-custodial criminal cases to help clear a backlog of cases during the coronavirus pandemic.
Preston North End's Deepdale stadium is being used as a Nightingale Court by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
The club said it was good to "have an activity" at the stadium after its "limited use" in the last year.
The pop-up courts will free up space for more jury trials at Preston Crown Court, the MoJ said.
Cases heard at the stadium will mainly include fines and community service orders.
Read more here .

Great North Run faces 'struggle' over insurance guarantee


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The Great North Run - the world's largest half-marathon - is facing a "struggle" because of issues getting insurance in case it has to be called off due to Covid-19, the founder says.
Sir Brendan Foster said "the key tool" in holding major events was missing and there had been "a huge market failure".
He said organisers faced being liable for costs and called on the government and insurance sector to meet.
The government said it was aware of the "wider concerns" around securing indemnity and was "exploring" support.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI), which represents the sector, said it was "happy to continue to engage with the government".
The Great North Run was due to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2020 but it was forced to be held virtually due to coronavirus.
This year's event is due to take place on 12 September, with about 57,000 adults set to run between Newcastle and South Shields.
Sir Brendan said organisers were "cautiously optimistic" it would take place but they would look to hold an alternative if the event was unable to go ahead as planned.
You can read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 16:08

Analysis: UK infections back to September levels

Philippa Roxby - Health reporter, BBC News
The latest figures from the ONS estimate the amount of coronavirus in the UK is still coming down in all four nations.
With one in 500 people infected in the population in the week up to 10 April, we are back to where we were in early September.
That was before the autumn surge of the virus (caused by the Kent variant) and the winter second wave which followed.
Since late February, the percentage of people testing positive has steadily been decreasing across the country.
In most English regions, the picture is similar and in most age groups, despite fears of a spike when schools reopened, there’s no sign of a rise in infections in school-age children.
This week’s figures don’t cover shops reopening – the next few weeks’ surveys will give an insight into the impact of those relaxations.
The ONS still estimates there are 11,000 new positive cases in England every day, however.
Despite the protection given by vaccines, testing for the virus and then isolating those infected is still as important as ever.

PM's trip to India will go ahead despite variant

Boris Johnson's trip to India will still go ahead later this month, Downing Street says, despite concerns about soaring cases and a coronavirus variant which was first detected in the country.
Scientists are checking if the variant, where two mutations come together in the same virus, may be more infectious or less affected by vaccines.

A No 10 spokesman told reporters the prime minister's trip would go ahead, but be shorter than planned, with the main meetings shoehorned into one day.
Asked why India has not been put on the red list of countries - from which entry to the UK is banned - despite a high number of cases, No 10 insisted the list was "under constant review".
"We add and remove countries based on the latest scientific data and public health advice from a range of world-leading experts," the spokesman said.
"We won't hesitate to introduce tougher restrictions and add countries if we think it is necessary."
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 16:14

Tickets still being sold for shows that can't happen as planned

Ian Youngs - Entertainment and Arts Reporter, BBC News
Back in February, the government said that full-capacity indoor events would not resume in England until at least 21 June, under its roadmap for unlocking Covid restrictions.
But tickets for arena shows by Alicia Keys, Haim and Mrs Brown's Boys in June are still on sale despite the fact they can't go ahead as planned.
Fans can only get refunds if shows are officially rescheduled or cancelled.
Keys is scheduled to play in Manchester, London and Birmingham from 6-10 June - dates that have already been rescheduled once. Her spokeswoman confirmed the tour will not happen this June.
The English leg of the Mrs Brown's Boys comedy tour is scheduled to start in Hull on 7 June. A spokeswoman said they are likely to announce new plans next week.
The shows are not expected to go ahead with smaller, socially-distanced crowds, which could be allowed from 17 May.
Promoters Live Nation said on Thursday that announcements about shows scheduled for before 21 June involving Keys, Haim and more were "imminent". Fellow promoters SJM, who look after Mrs Brown's Boys among others, have not responded to a request.
You can read more here .

Guernsey to begin easing border rules from 23 April


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Guernsey is to begin easing its border restrictions by reintroducing shorter self-isolation periods for people arriving from some areas from 23 April.
Currently, all travellers arriving must self isolate for three weeks, unless they test negative on days one and 13.
But people arriving from category three jurisdictions - with fewer than 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people - will only have to self-isolate for a week if they test negative twice.
A four tier system of border control is in place in Guernsey.
All countries and areas of the UK have been classified as category four since non-essential travel was banned in January , requiring the full self-isolation period for arrivals into Guernsey, Alderney and Sark.
The change on 23 April will see the reintroduction of category three jurisdictions, one week ahead of schedule .
People will be tested on arrival and day seven before they can leave self-isolation, but will be required to adhere to 'passive follow-up' rules for a further week.
You can read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 16:18

What's happening in the UK?

Here's a roundup of what's happened in the UK so far today:

  • About 130,000 people in the UK - or 1 in 500 people - are estimated to have had coronavirus in the week to 10 April, down sharply from 185,000 people the previous week, analysis from the Office for National Statistics suggests
  • The discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in the UK, which was first identified in India, features two mutations that could be a cause for concern, an expert has said
  • Boris Johnson's trip to India will still go ahead later this month, Downing Street says, despite concerns about soaring cases and the newly identified variant
  • England's R value is between 0.7 and 1.0, according to the latest government figures, meaning the epidemic is slightly shrinking or staying the same size
  • A company in which Health Secretary Matt Hancock and his sister have shares has won contracts from NHS Wales. NHS Wales has given Topwood Ltd, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, £300,000 of business this year
  • New rules on travelling between council areas and meeting people outdoors have come into force in Scotland today. People can now travel out of their local area for non-essential reasons and six people from up to six households can meet outdoors
  • A group of university students are calling for a day of action to demand tuition fee refunds because of how the pandemic has affected their learning experience.


The latest headlines from around the world


  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says that Covid cases around the world are continuing to increase at a "worrying rate", adding: "Globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months."
  • Portugal has begun a new 15-day state of emergency, which allows it to implement curfews and quarantine. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa says he hopes it will be its last as the country prepared to ease some restrictions
  • Australia is considering prioritising athletes for vaccinations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. It is reportedly in talks with the government about allowing more than 400 Australian participants and support staff to jump the queue
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging the country's parliament to approve a new law obliging regional leaders to impose curfews and lockdowns once coronavirus infections exceed a certain level
  • Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban has partially backtracked from an earlier decision that all primary schools should restart from Monday - the country remains near the peak of its third wave
  • China's economy grew a record 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same quarter last year in a post-Covid comeback. It is the biggest jump in gross domestic product since China started keeping quarterly records in 1992.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 16:28

Covid sees Diamond League athletics switched to Gateshead


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Gateshead, in north east England, will host the first Diamond League athletics fixture of the year on 23 May after Covid restrictions in Morocco stopped the event happening in the country's capital, Rabat.
The meet is an important build-up event for the rearranged Tokyo Olympics, which are due to start on 23 July.
UK Athletics chief Joanna Coates says the UK is a "lower risk option for athletes" because of the success of the vaccine rollout.
She also says a home-based event will help British athletes' preparations.
It is hoped some fans may be able to attend, subject to the easing of England's lockdown under the government's reopening roadmap .
You can read more here .

Man jailed for spitting at police officer who caught Covid


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A man who spat at a police officer who later tested positive for Covid-19 has been jailed.
PC Joe Terry said he was "angry" at being exposed to the risk of the virus while arresting 41-year-old Steven Licorish in Bournemouth on 6 January.
Licorish, of no fixed abode, had pleaded guilty to assault by beating of an emergency worker and being drunk and disorderly in public.
He has been sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court to 10 weeks in prison.
Licorish was found in a drunken state by PC Terry and a colleague after police were called to reports of a man obstructing traffic, the court heard.
Footage played to the court from a body-worn camera showed the officers attempting to calm Licorish as he shouted racist abuse at himself, before he was then seen spitting on PC Terry's stab vest.
Richard Elliott, prosecuting, said the constable was immediately concerned he may have contracted Covid, developing symptoms two days later before later testing positive and falling ill for two weeks.
Richard Martin, mitigating, told the court his client was "horrified" by his behaviour but did not have Covid symptoms and has not tested positive for the virus.
Passing sentence, Judge Jonathan Fuller QC said although there was no evidence Licorish had caused PC Terry to catch Covid, the case highlighted "the very real dangers people on the frontline face".
You can read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 16:35

.
Breaking News

UK records 34 deaths as second vaccine doses near 9m

A further 34 people have died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus, according to the latest government figures .
Another 2,596 people have tested positive for the disease.
Meanwhile, 8,931,547 people have received their second dose of the vaccine and 32,574,221 have had their first.

What do we know about the Indian variant?

Philippa Roxby - Health reporter, BBC News
Viruses mutate all the time in a bid to survive. The challenge for scientists is to work out which mutations change how the coronavirus behaves.
Do they alter how the virus spreads, for example, do they cause people to be more seriously ill and could they evade the protection of vaccines?
These are all questions experts will now try to answer about the Indian variant by carrying out experiments in the lab and looking at data on cases in the real world.
So far, we know that it has two mutations – the first, E484Q is similar to one found in the Brazilian, South African and Kent variants – and the second, L452R has been found in a variant in California.
That means it could be a concern based on what is known about those variants already .
But the "double mutation" on its own isn’t unusual and has been found in other variants.
Covid vaccines are still very effective at reducing the risk of serious illness and manufacturers plan to update their vaccines in response to the most worrying new variants.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 16:40

Rome funeral staff protest over burial backlog


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A hearse with a placard that reads: "Sorry, but they won't let us bury your loved ones"

Funeral workers in Italy's capital city, Rome, are protesting over a build-up of bodies at cemeteries amid a backlog of burials and cremations following a surge in coronavirus deaths.
More than 2,000 bodies are being stored at Rome's main crematorium, which can carry out about 50 cremations a day, while other cemeteries in the city are also full, Reuters news agency reports.
"Every few days we are told the cemeteries are blocked and they haven't got any more room to take in the dead," head of Italy's federation of funeral workers, Giovanni Caciolli, says.
Workers have placed wreaths on display in hearse vehicles that read: "Sorry, but they won't let us bury your loved ones."
The city's authorities responsible for handling burials and cremations, AMA, said in a statement this week it was facing an unprecedented situation and was working to create 60,000 new burial plots for the city.
Italy has reported more than 3.8 million cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, and over 116,000 Covid-related deaths.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 18:09

No vaccine needed for fans attending FA Cup semi-final

Jonathan Blake - BBC political correspondent

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Fans attending the FA Cup semi-final and final and other sporting events which are part of a government pilot to manage Covid and large crowds will not need to show proof they've been vaccinated against coronavirus.
Those attending will only evidence of a recent negative test.
Guidance published on Friday says "there will be no requirement for participants to show proof of vaccine" at events in April and May including the FA Cup semi final and final at Wembley Stadium.
There had been speculation that proof of vaccination would be required for the pilot events after the government said two weeks ago that it was developing a certification system involving vaccination, a recent negative test, or natural immunity.
Read more: What are the UK plans for Covid passports?

Families and friends reunite as restrictions ease

In Scotland more families and friends have been able to reunite today at parks, gardens and beaches, after months in lockdown.
Restrictions have been eased allowing people to travel between council areas and meet up to six people outdoors.
St Andrews' famous West Sands beach was one popular spot for family reunions.
Ann Buchanan, who lives near Stirling, met up with relatives, whom she had not seen since last year, at St Andrews' West Sands beach.
"We have not been able to meet up for ages, for such a long time, and it is really nice to get together here, she says.
"This is the furthest I have driven in a year. It's just like passing your driving test again."
Andrew McVie, 27, from Glasgow, says he is "super excited" to be visiting Millport, on the Isle of Cumbrae, to cycle round the island for the first time in more than two years.
"I've missed it so much not being able to go because of the travel restrictions but I'll still be taking precautions," he says.
Read more in our story here
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 19:14

Kenyan teachers ordered to get Covid vaccine

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered all teachers to have a Covid-19 vaccine irrespective of their age.
The country has been vaccinating school managers and those aged above 50, elderly citizens and front-line workers.
More than 500,000 people have had the AstraZeneca jab out of the more than one million doses delivered to the country.
All teachers and non-teaching staff in schools should have the jab before schools reopen on 10 May, the president says.
According to the head of Kenya's Teachers Service Commission, Nancy Macharia, 15 primary teachers, three deputy headteachers and eight headteachers have died of Covid-19 during the pandemic.

'We should be concerned about Indian variant' - UK scientist

As we've been hearing, 77 cases of a new variant first identified in India have been discovered in the UK.
Officials have called it a "variant under investigation" but Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College, says it is likely to be escalated to a "variant of concern".
"I think we should be terribly concerned about it," he tells BBC Radio 4's PM programme.
"It is similar to the ones we know about - it mixes and matches some of the features we've seen before with this E484 change that we've seen before in a similar but different version in South Africa and Brazil, and then the infectivity change that we saw in the Californian variant."
He says all of the variants are "a worry" as "they are things that can most scupper our escape plan at the moment and give us a third wave".
Read more about the Brazil, South Africa and UK variants here

How fast is vaccine progress around the world?

The Visual and Data Journalism Team
More than 860 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in 165 countries worldwide.
However, there are vast differences in the pace of progress in different parts of the world.
With an aim to give doses to nearly every adult around the world, this is the largest vaccination programme in history.
The US and China have administered the highest number of doses, 198 million and 183 million respectively.
India ranks third, with more than 117 million.
But while nearly all of Europe and the Americas have begun vaccination campaigns, some countries in Africa are still to get started .
The first vaccine to be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) was produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, and was then followed by several others.

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The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is now the most widely used around the globe.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 19:17

Surge testing in parts of Birmingham after South African variant found

A "small number of cases" of the South Africa Covid-19 variant have been found, Birmingham City Council says.
One case was within the Ladywood and Soho & Jewellery Quarter wards and surge testing will be carried out.
Residents aged over 16 who live or work there are strongly encouraged to take part in door-to-door testing when offered , even if they are not showing symptoms, the authority says.
This week surge testing for the South African variant has taken place in certain postcodes in Smethwick in the West Midlands, as well as in six London boroughs.
Read more in our story here

Labour calls for a 'proper hotel quarantine system' after UK Indian variant

As we've heard, 77 cases of a new variant first identified in India have been found in the UK.
Reacting to the news, Labour's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds is calling for a "proper hotel quarantine system in place urgently".
“Ministers have been warned time and again that failing to introduce a comprehensive hotel quarantine policy would leave us exposed to variants of Covid," he says.
"The blame for these dangerous new variants reaching this country rests squarely with the UK government, and lives are being put at risk."
Public Health England has designated the B.1.617 variant as a "variant under investigation" and said there was currently no evidence to suggest it caused more severe disease or that vaccines were less likely to work against it.
Find out more about other coronavirus variants that have been identified in the UK here: What are the Brazil, South Africa and UK variants and will vaccines work?
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Post by Kitkat Fri Apr 16 2021, 20:03

What happened in the UK today?


  • Pregnant women should be offered a Covid jab in line with their age group and clinical risk, the UK's vaccine advisers announced
  • Infections in all parts of the UK have fallen to the lowest level since September, the Office for National Statistics said. Around one in 500 people in the UK was estimated to have had the virus in the week to 10 April
  • Boris Johnson's visit to India will still go ahead later this month, No 10 has said, despite soaring coronavirus cases and a new variant identified there
  • One in six UK adults are now fully vaccinated against Covid, with more than 8.9 million people
  • having had two jabs.
  • A further 34 people died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus, and another 2,596 people were identified as being infected
  • Latest estimates put England's R value at between 0.7 and 1.0, meaning the epidemic is shrinking or staying the same size
  • A company in which Health Secretary Matt Hancock and his sister have shares has won contracts from NHS Wales. NHS Wales has given Topwood Ltd, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, £300,000 of business this year
  • New rules on travelling between council areas and meeting people outdoors have come into force in Scotland today. People can now travel out of their local area for non-essential reasons and six people from up to six households can meet outdoors.


The latest headlines from around the world


  • Funeral workers in Rome, Italy, are protesting over a build-up of bodies at cemeteries following a surge in coronavirus deaths
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says that Covid cases around the world are continuing to increase at a "worrying rate", adding: "Globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months"
  • President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, has ordered all teachers to have the Covid vaccine irrespective of their age
  • Portugal has begun a new 15-day state of emergency, which allows it to implement curfews and quarantine. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa says he hopes it will be its last as the country prepared to ease some restrictions
  • Australia is considering prioritising athletes for vaccinations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. It is reportedly in talks with the government about allowing more than 400 Australian participants and support staff to jump the queue
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging the country's parliament to approve a new law obliging regional leaders to impose curfews and lockdowns once coronavirus infections exceed a certain level
  • Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban has partially backtracked from an earlier decision that all primary schools should restart from Monday - the country remains near the peak of its third wave
  • China's economy grew a record 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same quarter last year in a post-Covid comeback. It is the biggest jump in gross domestic product since China started keeping quarterly records in 1992.


That's all for today

We're going to leave our live coverage here for today. For everything you need to keep up to date, visit our coronavirus page here .
Today's live page was brought to you by Vanessa Barford, Dulcie Lee, Emma Harrison, Mary O'Connor, Mal Siret, and James Clarke.

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