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

Coronavirus - 18th April 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 11:05

Summary for Sunday, 18th April

  • There has been a "small amount" of community transmission of the South African variant, Public Health England's Prof Susan Hopkins says
  • She tells the BBC's Andrew Marr Show two-thirds of the cases of the variant have been linked to travel
  • "However in pockets around the country we have seen transmission," she says - the largest being in London
  • Vaccine passports are "unnecessary, expensive and divisive", Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey says
  • An outdoor gig with an audience of 5,000 will be held in Liverpool on 2 May
  • No-one will have to wear face masks or socially distance - but they will have to provide proof of a negative test
  • It comes as Wembley is set to host the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton later with 4,000 attending
  • Fans have also been allowed in at the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield, which began on Saturday
  • The number of people who have died worldwide has surpassed three million, Johns Hopkins University says


Welcome to our coronavirus live coverage this Sunday morning. We will be bringing you the latest from the UK and around the world.
Here are some of the morning's headlines:

  • An open-air gig is to be held in Liverpool next month with 5,000 fans who do not have to socially distance
  • It's part of government plans to test how live events can resume safely
  • The FA Cup semi-final will take place later with a crowd of 4,000 watching
  • On Saturday, the UK recorded 2,206 new cases and 35 deaths, according to the latest government figures
  • The first weekend after the easing of restrictions in England saw crowds gather to eat and drink with friends outside
  • In Scotland, people can now travel between council areas and meet more people outdoors - they have been urged to stay "sensible" and stick to guidelines will doing so
  • The worldwide coronavirus death toll has passed three million people, Johns Hopkins University says


'One step closer to live events'


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Wembley will see the return of fans for today's match

Music fans are to get the chance to enjoy a near-normal gig as part of a government pilot event next month .
The 5,000-strong crowd at Sefton Park, Liverpool, on 2 May will not need to be socially distanced or wear face coverings - but will have to provide evidence of a negative Covid test to get in.
They will also be asked to take a lateral flow test after the event and give contact details to NHS Test and Trace to make sure they can be reached if someone does later test positive. It's not yet known who will be performing at the outdoor event.
Meanwhile, the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton at London's Wembley Stadium will host a crowd of 4,000 this evening as part of a series of government trial events.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says: "We're one step closer to a summer of live events now our science-led programme is under way."

Pandemic death toll passes three million


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The number of people who have died worldwide in the Covid-19 pandemic has surpassed three million , according to Johns Hopkins University.
The US, India and Brazil - the countries with the most recorded infections - have accounted for more than a million deaths between them, the university says.
The milestone has come the day after the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the world was "approaching the highest rate of infection" so far.
India - experiencing a second wave - recorded more than 230,000 new cases on Saturday alone.
Almost 140 million cases have been recorded since the pandemic began.
WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Friday that "cases and deaths are continuing to increase at worrying rates".
He added "globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months".

Information on Indian variant needed 'as soon as possible'

BBC Breakfast
A leading epidemiologist says it is crucial scientists learn as much as they can, as soon as possible, about the Indian Covid-19 variant to assess what action needs to be taken to restrict its transmission.
Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which feeds into the government's Sage committee, says the variant is a "concern".
"I would always say when these new variants do emerge it is a concern and it's really important that we get as much information as we can as quickly as possible," Dr Tildesley tells BBC Breakfast.
"What's concerning about the Indian variant is there appear to be two mutations which... may make the vaccines less effective, and may make the virus more transmissible.
"The key thing here is 'may'. We are still trying to gather evidence about this."
While variants arise all the time, action needs to be taken - for example with surge testing - if they are found to be of specific concern.
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 11:12

Clearing NHS waiting list is 'high' priority, says minister

Clearing the NHS waiting list will be "very high" on Health Secretary Matt Hancock's agenda, says the environment secretary.
George Eustice says the NHS has been through a "huge endeavour" with coronavirus. He says the government has tried to encourage people to keep coming in, other than at peak periods for the NHS, to have their routine operations.
He says those operations are "so important" and can have "life consequences" so it is vital to get on top of them.
Moving on to the Indian variant, Eustice says a "fairly small" number of cases have been found, about 70 so far. No evidence yet says it is more contagious or resistant to vaccines.
The wider concern is that at some point a variant does evade the vaccine so it is "high on our concerns", he adds.
Asked why India is not yet on the red list, given its current number of Covid cases, Eustice says the list is often reviewed - he adds everyone arriving needs a pre-departure test and another on arrival.

UK must 'keep control of its borders'

One way to get record hospital waiting lists down is to "keep a lid on the situation with Covid right now", says the shadow communities secretary.
Steve Reed tells Sky's Sophy Ridge: "We have to keep rolling out the vaccination programme but also we need to do much better with testing and contact tracing."
He says: "New variants are coming out and we need to identify and crack down on them quickly."
The UK needs to "keep control of the borders" to avoid the import of new strains of coronavirus, he says.
"The government still does not have a comprehensive quarantine programme," he says.
Reed says Prime Minister Boris Johnson should not travel to India to meet the government there and should "set an example" by having virtual meetings.
"The government is telling people people don't travel if you don't absolutely have to travel," he says.
"I don't see why the prime minister can't conduct his business with the Indian government via Zoom".
Asked on the same programme about the PM's India trip, Environment Secretary George Eustice says: "Public health does come first but there doesn't mean that there should be no visits at all for business purposes.
"But absolutely measures will be taken to ensure that the visit is Covid-secure."
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 11:16

Vaccine passports 'too intrusive' - night time economy expert

Vaccine passports are "too intrusive" of young people's freedoms, a pub and club industry expert says.
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, has been speaking to BBC Breakfast on the first weekend after lockdown easing in England that has allowed pubs, bars and restaurants to serve alcohol and food outdoors.
He says "it's great to be back" and hospitality venues have taken bookings weeks in advance but people without bookings are also willing to queue.
Asked whether people are sticking to social distancing rules he says "the first weekend has been a bit of a challenge".
He says "it's a very exciting time for people" who have been under lockdown for a long time and it will take some "bedding in" time for people to get used to things.
Kill is asked about the idea of vaccine passports to gain entry to a venue, given many younger people are still some way off having their jab.
He replies: "We don't believe vaccination passports are a necessary measure".
He calls for "other mitigating measures" to be put in place as passports are "too intrusive" of civil liberties.

'Positive progress' but precaution needed, says scientist

Prof Susan Hopkins of Public Health England, chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace, has been talking about plans to reopen the hospitality industry further in England on 17 May.
Restaurants and pubs are due to open indoors on that day.
"I think we've seen really positive progress over the last month," she says. "However the data from the ONS [Office for National Statistics] is a look back, it is looking a week or so behind us."
Because restrictions were eased on 12 April, that means we won't see the data we need until later, she adds.
"We can see right now the number of cases in the community is at the lowest level since September last year," she says.
"But as we release restrictions and as people start moving around again, then transmission can occur, so people need to take precaution as they do that.
"We really hope the next step can take place as planned but as we've always said, we will look very carefully at the data and we need two to three weeks' data at least."
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 11:17

Some community transmission of South African variant found

There has been a "small amount" of community transmission of the South African variant of coronavirus, Public Health England's Prof Susan Hopkins says.
She tells the Andrew Marr Show two-thirds of the cases of the variant have been linked to travel - either someone travelling directly or a member of their household.
"However in pockets around the country we have seen transmission," she says, adding surge testing in the community is being carried out as a result.
The largest community transmission is in South London, says Prof Hopkins.
There are small pockets of transmission in "urban areas like Manchester, Birmingham and London" - elsewhere in the country, there are very low levels of transmission or no transmission.
Some of those found to have the South African variant, or the Kent variant, have had their first vaccine, she tells the programme.
The first dose is not 100% effective, so people still can get the virus or pass it to others.
Some data from South Africa shows vaccines may not be as effective against the South African variant at preventing infection and transmission - but they are still likely to be very effective at reducing hospitalisations and death, adds Prof Hopkins.
Speaking about the Indian variant, she says a few cases are not linked to travel - but the vast majority of cases are in people who have travelled. Research is ongoing as to where those cases have come from, she adds.

'Not enough data' to class Indian strain 'variant of concern'

There is not yet enough data to classify the new Indian strain as a "variant of concern", Prof Hopkins adds, but she says investigations are ongoing.
"We have seen a couple of cases (of the Indian variant) that haven't arisen from travel but we're still trying to undergo the investigations to look in great detail at where they might have acquired it from," she says.
"To escalate it up the ranking we need to know that it is increased transmissibility, increased severity or vaccine evading, and we just don't have that yet."
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 11:20

Scotland's FM: Foreign holiday ban must stay for longer


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A ban on foreign holidays must continue to avoid the importation of new coronavirus variants, Scotland's first minister says.
Nicola Sturgeon tells Sky's Sophy Ridge: "The big risk we face, not just in Scotland but across the UK right now, is the importation of new variants."
"Which is why I think one of the restrictions we are all going to have to live with for longer is a restriction on international travel," she says.
"In Scotland we insist that people quarantine in managed isolation wherever in the world they come from...we mustn't allow the progress we are making domestically to be undermined by a lax position on international travel."
Sturgeon says a traffic light system that categorises countries red, amber and green due to the likelihood of a new strain originating there "poses a risk".
"None of us know where the next variant that might be really problematic is going to come from, which is why unfortunately we've got to be very careful we don't allow it to be reseeded with dangerous variants from elsewhere."
She says Scotland had almost eliminated the virus ahead of the current lockdown "but probably opened up international travel too quickly".

Green party calls for 'precautionary' approach to foreign travel

The Green Party is calling for a "precautionary approach" to lifting foreign travel restrictions, its co-leader Jonathan Bartley says.
"What we are very concerned about is that we don't see a proper quarantine system in place already so to go to this traffic light system then we are worried that it isn't going to be effective."
The discovery of a new coronavirus variant first identified in India "is very worrying", he says.
He urges the government to "follow the science, lets go slowly,"
On the idea of vaccine passports, Bartley says the Green Party is "worried it will produce a two tier system".
He says it is "much better to get test trace and isolate functioning far more effectively."
On making vaccines mandatory for care home workers he says: "We don't feel there should be a jab to work programme."
He says care homes are "a grey area".
"Certainly there should be the encouragement for it to happen but we are very, very cautious about making it absolutely mandatory."
He says he does not want a situation where care home workers face losing their jobs if they refuse to have the jab but suggests it could be a condition for new recruits.
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 11:23

South Africa coronavirus variant: What is the risk?

We've been hearing about pockets of transmission of the South African variant in England - but what risk does this new strain pose?
The largest surge testing operation to date is under way in parts of London, after 44 confirmed and 30 probable cases were identified in Wandsworth and Lambeth.
Residents in certain postcodes in Smethwick in the West Midlands are also being tested after a case of the South Africa variant was detected.
Cases of the South African variant have also been found in Manchester, Birmingham and London, Public Health England's Prof Susan Hopkins has told the Andrew Marr show.
A real-world data study in Israel - not yet peer-reviewed - has found some people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid have still caught the South Africa variant.
Trials of Novavax , Janssen and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines in South Africa, where B.1.351 is circulating, suggest the variant can escape some immunity and may not stop infections.
But experts say vaccines should still offer protection against severe and life-threatening Covid-19 illness.
Here's what we know about the South African variant.

Prime minister 'must stick to hospitality roadmap'

The UK's biggest hospitality firms have signed a letter urging the prime minister to stick with England's roadmap to reopen the economy.
The letter in the Sunday Telegraph , signed by 38 bosses, says two-thirds of venues "couldn't open outdoors from 12 April, and none is breaking even".
Signatories are urging the government to allow indoor dining to go ahead from 17 May in England.
The letter also warns against the introduction of vaccine "passports".
Chief executives of Mitchells & Butlers, Fuller's, Young's, JD Wetherspoon, Pizza Hut and Alton Towers owner Merlin have signed the letter.
It says: "The data says it is safe to confirm now the reopening of indoor hospitality on 17 May and the lifting of all social-distancing restrictions on hospitality on 21 June.
"This is vital as government support for hospitality tapers away then, and without it many businesses will be unviable."
Read more on this story here.
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 11:40

Australia in no hurry to reopen its borders

The Guardian
Australia is in no hurry to open up its international borders, prime minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday. The country has managed to return to something close to normality in recent months.
Australia closed its borders to everyone except citizens and residents in March 2020, and has been allowing just a small number of international arrivals in recent months - mainly citizens returning from abroad. This measure, alongside swift lockdowns, successful contact tracing, and high rates of compliance with public health measures, has been credited with making Australia’s response to the pandemic highly successful.
The country has recorded 29,500 cases of coronavirus, and 910 deaths. While there is of course a population difference, this stands in stark contrast to many other countries across the world - with the UK recording more than 4 million cases and 125,000 deaths.
“Australia is in no hurry to open those borders, I assure you,” Morrison said at a TV briefing. “I will not be putting at risk the way we are living in this country which is so different to the rest of the world today.”

Russia reports a further 8,632 coronavirus cases in last 24 hours

Russia has recorded a further 8,632 cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, including 2,252 in the capital Moscow, Reuters reports.
This takes the total number of cases in the country to 4,702,101.
The country also reported another 389 deaths, raising the official toll to 105,582.

Germany reports a further 19,185 cases in last 24 hours

Germany has recorded a further 19,185 cases of coronavirus, and a further 67 deaths, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases on Sunday.
This takes the country’s total number of confirmed cases to 3,142,262 and the total number of lives lost to 79,914.
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 11:44

Too early to say if hospitality can reopen on 17 May, minister says

It is “too early to say” whether all hospitality businesses can open fully as planned on May 17, the UK government’s environment minister has said.
“Well, it is too early to say. But I think we are on track in the sense that we are on track with the rollout of the vaccination programme,” George Eustice told Andrew Marr. “We have now vaccinated everybody over the age of 50 and this week they are offering vaccinations as well to those under the age of 50, starting with the 45 to 59-year-olds - so that bit is on track.”
“But we are being a bit cautious here. So although we have now got 60% of the adult population vaccinated we do just have to keep a close eye on these variants of concern.
“Also, see what the impacts are of the easements we have just made, the loosenings we have just made, before moving to the next stage.”

'Mistake' to discharge Covid patients, says Sturgeon

Glenn Campbell - BBC Scotland Political Editor
Nicola Sturgeon says the way elderly people were discharged from hospital to care homes in the early stages of the pandemic was a mistake .
More than 1,300 elderly people were sent to care homes before a robust testing regime was in place.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has previously described it as a "mistake" .
Asked if she agrees with Freeman's assessment, the first minister says "with the benefit of hindsight, yes".
Opposition parties have described the care home situation as "unforgivable".
Asked if discharging untested patients from hospitals into care homes had cost lives, the first minister says: "The number of people who died were too many and we got some things wrong and I feel the responsibility of that every single day."
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 11:56

Covid ban snarls thousands in Kenya traffic jams


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Thika road - pictured here on a previous occasion - was among major highways closed on Saturday night

Thousands of motorists and passengers were stuck in traffic for hours after police blocked major roads in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, to enforce a Covid curfew to battle infections.
Videos and pictures posted on social media showed ambulances struggling to manoeuvre through the snarl-up.
Last month President Uhuru Kenyatta introduced a 20:00-04:00 curfew to deal with a third Covid-19 wave.
He also ordered the closure of bars, schools and restriction of movement in five counties, including Nairobi.
Kenya has confirmed more than 151,000 cases of the virus and just over 2,400 deaths.
Travel bans are in place from the UK and US to the country because of Covid-19 and other security concerns.
Read more here .

Scotland travel restrictions likely to stay for some time

Easing restrictions on international travel could lead to a new surge in coronavirus cases, Scotland’s first minister has said, as she warned that travel restrictions were likely to be in place for some time.
Sturgeon said that she hoped that the reopening plans would not be delayed due to new variants, and that the country was making “good progress” but that the “big risk” was international travel.
“The big risk that we face, not just in Scotland but across the UK right now, is the importation of new variants of the virus… we’ve got to be very careful about that which is why I think one of the restrictions we are all going to have to live with for longer is a restriction on international travel...”
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 19:07

What are the rules for pubs in England?

This has been the first weekend since December that pubs in England have been able to serve customers.
But under the current rules people must be served outdoors so the prospect of an indoor pint is still some weeks away.
Other Covid restrictions include:

  • customers must order, eat and drink while seated at a table
  • you must follow either the rule of six , or be in a a group of any size with no more than two households present
  • every customer aged 16 and over will have to check in to NHS test and trace, or give contact details to staff
  • when not seated - for example being shown to a table, or going to the toilet - customers should wear face masks (unless exempt) and observe social distancing

Customers will be allowed to eat and drink indoors from 17 May, under the current roadmap for lifting restrictions.
In Scotland and Wales pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen with some restrictions in place from 26 April, while no date has been set in Northern Ireland.
For full details you can read our explainer here .

UK officials investigating Indian variant

Health officials in the UK are looking at whether a new Indian Covid strain spreads more easily and evades vaccines.
There is not yet enough data to classify it as a "variant of concern", a leading scientist says.
But Dr Susan Hopkins of Public Health England says some cases had been found in the UK that were not linked to travel, with their origin now being investigated.
More than 70 cases have been identified in England and Scotland.
It is also too soon to decide if India should be put on the government's travel "red list", Dr Hopkins says.

Analysis: Majority of Indian variant cases in UK linked to travel

Catherine Burns - Health correspondent
So far what has become known as the Indian variant is not classed as a variant of concern.
Public Health England said this morning that would happen only if it emerged the variant could spread more easily, be more severe or that vaccines did not work as well against it.
There are 77 cases in the UK so far and most of those people don't have any symptoms.
The vast majority of cases were picked up during routine testing while people isolated after travelling from India.
Experts say they have seen a couple of infections which don't seem to be linked to travel.
Overall cases of Covid-19 in the UK are at the lowest level since last September.
The country is cautiously opening up and this afternoon 4,000 football fans will be in Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton.
It is part of a government trial, with people having to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before they can get in.
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 19:13

German president speaks of deep wounds on day of national mourning

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has spoken of the deep wounds caused by the coronavirus pandemic, on a day of national mourning for the nearly 80,000 people in the country who have lost their lives to the virus.
In a televised address from a ceremony in Berlin, he reminded Germans that behind the statistics lay the fates of real people, who had suffered often lonely and agonising deaths.
Steinmeier paid tribute to doctors, nurses and carers who had looked after patients, as Germany battles a third wave of the virus.
He also acknowledged the damaging impact of restrictions on people's lives, but said decisions had been made to avoid an even bigger catastrophe.
"My request today is this: let us speak about pain and suffering and anger. But let us not lose ourselves in recriminations, in looking back, but let us once again gather strength for the way forward," he said.
The presidential post is largely ceremonial in Germany, but involves representing the country abroad and is seen as carrying moral weight.

Which countries are on the UK's red list?


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UK nationals arriving from red list countries must quarantine in hotels

Environment Secretary George Eustice says the government will keep "under regular review" whether to add India to the UK's red list of countries, from which travel is banned, amid rising cases in the country.
He told BBC's Andrew Marr Show there are "quite a lot of robust tests and checks for anybody coming into the country".
Currently there are some 39 countries on the red list , which means if a traveller has been through them in a past 10 days they will be refused entry to the UK.
British or Irish nationals and those with residence rights in the UK are able to enter but must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines are among the most recent countries to have been added to the list - being placed on it as of 04:00 on 9 April.
Most of the "red list" countries are in Africa or South America.
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 19:18

'Roving' Covid clinic ensures 'no-one is left behind'


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Farmer Anthony Robinson (right) was one of those to be jabbed by the service in Bellingham

A "roving" Covid vaccination service is making sure "no-one is left behind" in Northumberland.
The customised van creates "pop-up" clinics for those in remote areas and hard to reach groups such as homeless people or travellers.
In its first two days it has vaccinated more than 100 people.
Richard Hay, from the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group, says: "We understand the uniqueness of Northumberland and we've had to overcome some big challenges with this roll-out - for example, the distance people have been expected to travel to attend a large vaccination centre."
He adds the service is still in its early stages and is not a "walk-in" service.

UK headlines so far today

Here are some of the headlines from across the UK this Sunday afternoon:
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 19:27

Delhi residents returning from Hindu festival ordered to quarantine


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The Indian city worst affected by coronavirus, Delhi, has ordered all residents returning from a major Hindu festival on the Ganges to stay in quarantine at home for 14 days.
The order applies to all those attending the Kumbh Mela between 4 April and the end of the month.
They must also be registered and tested. Anyone found to have flouted the rules must go to government quarantine centres.
India has reported a ninth straight day of record Covid cases - more than 260,000.
The opposition has criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for continuing to attend huge political rallies in West Bengal state, which is currently undergoing elections.
Millions of devotees have descended on the banks of the Ganges river in the northern city of Haridwar to take a dip in the water. Hindus believe the river is holy and taking a dip in it will cleanse them of their sins and bring salvation.

Covid in Brazil: Hunger worsens in city slums

The queue snakes around the block and each day it gets longer: hungry residents of Heliopolis, São Paulo's largest favela, waiting in line for the handout that will keep them going until the next morning.
They are given a bowl of pasta with meat and a portion of rice, two packets of biscuits and a carton of milk, shared between a whole household and usually their only meal of the day. Before the pandemic, 300 people would queue up here. Now it is more than 1,000, and the charity that runs it has 650 others across São Paulo.
"The vast majority of people who live in the favelas work in the informal economy, as cleaners in homes or helping to bake cakes, so when businesses close or houses stop using them, they feel the impact," says Marcivan Barreto, the local co-ordinator.
"You see people queuing up at 03:00 for food. I'm very worried that as the pandemic continues, a hungry father will start looting supermarkets. When you're starving, despair hits."
Read more here.
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 19:32

Fans to return to Wembley for FA cup semi-final


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Fans will return to Wembley Stadium later for the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton.
The match will have 4,000 fans, with tickets limited to Brent residents and key workers .
Elsewhere fans returned to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, which was about a third full for the first round of the World Snooker Championship on Saturday.
Before attending any of the events, spectators will have to test negative for coronavirus in a lateral flow test - supervised where possible - taken in the previous 36 hours.
And after attending they will be asked to conduct a PCR coronavirus swab test.

Visitors allowed on Caldey Island after all monks vaccinated


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There have been monks on Caldey Island since the 6th Century

A holy Welsh island cut off from the rest of the world by the pandemic can reopen to visitors now all the monks living there have been vaccinated.
NHS staff ferried first and second jabs to Caldey Island from Tenby .
The island, which is home to just 40 people - including about 18 Cistercian monks - will reopen to tourist boat trips from 1 May.
Islanders say the medics appeared "like angels" in wet weather as they carried a box of vaccines on to the island.
The health board's primary care director Jill Paterson says: "This is definitely one of our more unique vaccination clinics to reach our communities ."
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 19:35

Masks come off after a year in Israel

Israelis have been able to walk outside without masks today for the first time in a year.
About 81% of citizens or residents over 16 are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The government announced this week masks would no longer be required in public outdoor spaces.
Protective masks outdoors had been made compulsory a year ago for non-exercise activities.
"It's very strange but it's very nice," Eliana Gamulka, 26, tells the AFP news agency after getting off a bus in Jerusalem.
"You can't pretend that you don't know anyone any more," she smiles.
Israel boasts one of the world's fastest inoculation campaigns. But that is in stark contrast to the West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip, where infection rates remain high and vaccinations are low.

'Likeable' Church of Ireland rector dies of Covid-19

A Church of Ireland rector described as one of the church's "most likeable people" has died at the age of 46 with Covid-19 .
The Reverend John Anderson, rector of Billy and Derrykeighan in County Antrim, died on Saturday morning after going into intensive care.
He was admitted to Causeway Hospital just over a week ago.
He leaves behind his wife Eleanor and three young children.
The Bishop of Connor, Right Reverend George Davison, says his death had come "as a terrible shock to us all".
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 19:39

Do bar staff have to wear masks and or visors when serving?

As England enjoys eased lockdown restrictions - allowing outdoor eating and drinking at pubs, bars and restaurants - we've been answering your questions.
Frank Shaw, from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria asks: "When pubs open will bar staff have to wear face masks and/or visors when serving?"
The answer is yes. By law, staff working in venues that provide food and drink are required to wear face coverings (similar to masks), unless they have an exemption.
The government guidance for the hospitality sector in England says a face visor or shield may be worn in addition to a face covering - but not instead of one. This is because face visors or shields “do not adequately cover the nose and mouth, and do not filter airborne particles”.
The owners of pubs, restaurants and cafes are also being urged to put other measures in place when they reopen - including completing Covid risk assessments, cleaning more often and providing adequate ventilation.
You can read the answers to more coronavirus questions, and ask your own, here.

'Huge' patient backlog could take five years to clear

A "huge" backlog of patients in England caused by Covid-19 could take years to clear, NHS Providers says.
The organisation, which represents every NHS hospital, and mental health, community and ambulance service in England, says tackling the problem in the worst-affected areas could take three to five years.
According to data from NHS England, 4.7 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of February - the highest figure since records began in August 2007.
The number waiting more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment was 387,885 - the highest for any calendar month since December 2007.
NHS Providers is calling for a "bold transformative approach" with additional funding from the government to clear the backlog in a reasonable period of time.
Its chief executive Chris Hopson says: "We need to work together over the next few months to create a joint plan to deliver for patients and service users to be announced in the multi-year spending review we are expecting at the end of the year."
A Department of Health spokesman says the NHS has "faced significant challenges over the past year" and the government is backing the service with an extra £7bn this year.
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 19:42

Breaking News

UK records 10 coronavirus deaths

A further 10 people have died with coronavirus in the UK, the government's daily figures show.
That brings the total number of people to die within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test to 127,270.
There were also 1,882 new cases detected.

How many people have been vaccinated in the UK?

The UK has given a total of 42,780,069 coronavirus vaccinations, according to the government's daily statistics.
That's 32,849,223 first doses and 9,930,846 second doses.
You can use our postcode look-up tool to find out how many people have been vaccinated in your area.

UK daily cases drops below 2,000 as second jabs near 10m

The number of daily coronavirus infections recorded in the UK has dropped below 2,000 for only the second time in more than seven months.
As we reported earlier this hour, the government's daily figures show 1,882 new infections have been reported today.
Last Sunday, that figure was 1,730. But the last time cases fell below 2,000 before that was 5 September 2020 when the total was 1,813.
By contrast, in late December and early January the number of daily cases was more than 60,000 a few times - the highest figure was 81,529 on 29 December.
Meanwhile, the number of people who have had both doses of coronavirus vaccine is edging closer to 10 million.
Currently 9,930,846 people have had their first and second dose. But clinics across the UK could hit the 10 million milestone today and it could be announced in tomorrow's figures.
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 20:34

Portugal continues lockdown easing

Alison Roberts - Portugal Correspondent

Coronavirus - 18th April 2021 D4da0c10
Smaller shops in Portugal were able to open earlier in April

Portugal will continue its lockdown easing on Monday with shopping centres and the largest on-street shops allowed to open for the first time in two months, and pupils returning to school, in most areas.
Though coronavirus cases are rising again in the country, it still has the lowest infection rate in the European Union, at a time when most of the bloc is tightening restrictions.
As well as all retail and services being allowed to function more or less normally, cafés and restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors - up to four per table - as well as outdoors.
Medium-risk sports such as basketball will be allowed as well as outdoor exercise with up to six people.
But in 10 municipalities where infection rates are higher, restrictions are being kept in place or, in some cases, tightened.

Coronavirus documentary wins European film award

A "remarkable" documentary about a community coming together during the pandemic has won a European film award.
Volunteers in Blaenau Gwent in Wales were filmed as they completed 15,000 tasks including delivering food and prescriptions to those self-isolating.
The documentary, called Together - Volunteers of a Covid community, won two awards at the North Europe Fusion International Film Festival , including best film.
Festival director Steve Grossmith says: "A big part of why this film was chosen was because this group of film-makers are selfless and the work they have done is incredible...What they have done is nothing short of remarkable."
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Post by Kitkat Sun Apr 18 2021, 20:37

What's been happening in the UK and beyond?

We are going to be bringing our coronavirus updates to a close shortly so here's a recap of the news we've been reporting today:

  • The number of daily coronavirus cases in the UK has dropped below 2,000 for only the second time in more than seven months, according to government figures
  • And the same data shows the number of people who have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine is edging closer to 10 million
  • Meanwhile, England's "huge" patient waiting lists caused by the impact of Covid-19 could take years to clear, NHS Providers has warned
  • And UK health officials are investigating whether a new Indian Covid strain spreads more easily and evades vaccines, but have not labelled it a variant of concern
  • Meanwhile, the South African variant has spread a "small amount" in communities in London, Birmingham and Manchester, Public Health England's Prof Susan Hopkins says
  • Some 4,000 football fans are heading to Wembley this afternoon for the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton
  • And a 5,000 ticket open-air gig with no masks or social distancing will be held in Liverpool on 2 May as part of a government pilot for restarting events
  • Further afield, Germany is holding a national day of mourning to mark the country's nearly 80,000 Covid deaths
  • And Israelis have been able to walk outside without wearing masks today for the first time in a year after the government eased this measure.


Goodbye for now

Thank you for joining us for rolling coronavirus news today.
Your updates were written by Doug Faulkner, George Wright, Jennifer Meierhans and Lauren Turner and edited by James Clarke.
Have a good evening and we will be back tomorrow.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 13:56