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

Coronavirus - 19th April 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 14:50

Summary for Monday, 19th April

  • Delhi begins week-long lockdown after a weekend curfew failed to halt record spike in cases overwhelming health services
  • India has had over 200,000 cases a day since 15 April - with 1,620 new deaths reported on Sunday
  • UK health officials investigating whether India variant might spread more easily and evade vaccines
  • UK PM Boris Johnson has cancelled his planned trip to India next week
  • No announcement has yet been made about whether UK will add India to travel "red" list
  • Meanwhile healthy volunteers in UK who have already had Covid are to be deliberately re-exposed to it to test immune responses
  • The long-awaited Australia-New Zealand travel bubble, meaning visitors no longer need to quarantine on arrival, has opened
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock making statement in the Commons at 15.30 BST on latest Covid developments


Welcome to our live page – bringing you the latest coronavirus updates throughout the day.
Here are the main headlines:

Today so far …


  • Thierry Breton, the European commissioner responsible for the bloc’s vaccine supply, has said the EU may not renew its contract with AstraZeneca because of persistent shortfalls in the Anglo-Swedish company’s deliveries.
  • India’s capital New Delhi will be under a strict lockdown for six days starting tonight. The announcement has come from the city’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, who added that the healthcare system was at a breaking point because of the worsening Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Reports say that India is set to accept the Serum Institute of India’s (SII) request for a grant of 30bn rupees ($400m) to boost its capacity to make the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
  • British prime minister Boris Johnson has cancelled a planned trip to India next week over Covid concerns.
  • Spain’s health ministry is considering delaying second doses of some coronavirus vaccines for under 80-year-olds to maximise the number of people who have received at least one injection.
  • A Greek cargo ship sailing from Egypt has been quarantined in Crete after a sailor was found dead and 10 others tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Thailand reported 1,390 new coronavirus cases today, slowing slightly after a run of record daily highs. A third of the country’s cases have been recorded this month alone.
  • Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund has said today it has agreed with Hualan Biological Bacterin to produce more than 100m doses of the Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 in China.
  • And after a year of closed borders, Wellington airport in New Zealand was filled with emotional reunions as hundreds of travellers touched down on the first day of quarantine-free travel from Australia.

Latest on Europe's pandemic

Portugal and Switzerland are easing their Covid restrictions from today, but in much of Europe the infection rates are deemed too high for any relaxation.

  • In Portugal, shopping centres have reopened for the first time in two months in most areas, and all pupils are now back in school. The government is easing a lockdown imposed in mid-January. Back then Portugal was among the worst-hit countries in Europe. Cafes and restaurants can serve customers indoors too now, while restricting numbers
  • In Switzerland restaurants have reopened outdoor terraces and people can return to the gym. It is seen as a calculated gamble by the government, as infections are still rising, and there is some opposition from scientists and the general public, the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes reports. Infections are rising fairly slowly and vaccinations are speeding up
  • Turkey had its highest daily death toll from Covid on Sunday – 318, with 55,800 new infections in 24 hours, officials said. The total infected in Turkey in the pandemic has risen to nearly 4.3m
  • Germany’s infection rate nationally has risen to 165 per 100,000 people across seven days, the RKI medical centre says. A national emergency brake – meaning tighter lockdown measures – kicks in when the rate passes 100.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 14:56

Australia opens travel bubble with New Zealand

There have been tearful reunions at Auckland airport as residents from Australia were able to travel freely to New Zealand for the first time in more than a year.
The long-awaited Australia-New Zealand travel bubble means visitors no longer need to quarantine on arrival.
Thousands of passengers were booked to fly between the two nations on the first day.
Both countries have contained Covid outbreaks and kept infection rates low, largely due to tight restrictions.
Read more here

Delhi announces week-long lockdown after record spike in cases

Indian capital Delhi is beginning a week-long lockdown after a record spike in cases overwhelmed the city's healthcare system.
Government offices and essential services, such as hospitals, pharmacies and grocers, will be open during the lockdown.
The city had imposed a weekend curfew but it reported its highest single-day spike so far on Sunday - 24,462 cases.
India is reeling from a deadly second wave since the start of April.
"I have always been against lockdowns, but this one will help us amplify the number of hospital beds in Delhi," Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal says.
He's also appealing to the city's migrant workers not to leave, after last year's national lockdown saw millions of them heading back to their villages after they found themselves unemployed and running out of money.
Read more here.

Indian variant should be 'watched carefully' - scientist

Today Programme - BBC Radio 4
UK health officials are investigating whether a Covid variant first found in India spreads more easily and evades vaccines.
Jeff Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, says the variant has a couple of mutations that they need to "watch carefully".
But, he says, it is not a "top tier of mutations" like the so-called Kent variant or South African variant, which generate the most concern.
"In terms of spread, clearly this variant has increased in frequency in India around the same time as their tragic recent wave, but I just don’t think we know yet if there is a cause and effect relationship," he tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"Is this variant driving that spread? Or is it happening at the same time perhaps due to a coincidence?"
Barrett says India has had about four million cases in the current wave, but only 1,000 genome sequences have been published, so it is a "very tiny window into which sequences are more common".
He says there was some evidence of this variant from the end of last year, so if it's causal than it's a slow "fuse".
More than 70 cases of this variant have so far been identified in England and Scotland.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 14:59

What's happening to unused vaccine jabs?

While some countries have been struggling to get their hands on Covid-19 vaccines others have stopped using some jabs over safety concerns. So what is happening to the unused doses?
Several countries have restricted use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca (AZ) and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines for younger age groups because of a very small risk of rare blood clots.
Denmark has stopped the use of the AZ jab altogether, leading to the Czech Republic offering to buy its unused doses. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also expressed interest.
On Thursday, the Europe director of the World Health Organization (WHO), Hans Kluge suggested Denmark was ready to share AZ vaccines with poorer countries.
There is also an international scheme that aims to ensure vaccines are shared fairly among all nations, rich and poor called Covax .
You can read more about what may be done with unused vaccines here.

Scientist quizzed over India and England travel "red list"

Today Programme - BBC Radio 4
India reported more than 261,000 new Covid infections yesterday, but it is not on the so-called travel "red list" for England - meaning travellers would have to quarantine in a hotel.
Asked whether India should be placed on the red list, Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London, says his preference is to "err on the side of caution and act sooner rather than later".
But, he says, the decision is a political one.
Hayward, who is on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), and is also a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) tells BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "The evidence of increased transmissibility and escape from immunity is circumstantial.
"That said, it's going to take a number of weeks at least before that evidence gets firmed up and we find out more."
Read more about the known Covid variants here

Rebuilding Wales' NHS 'could be bigger challenge than pandemic'

Rebuilding the NHS after Covid could be a bigger challenge than the pandemic itself, leading doctors have said.
Surgeons say a "radical rethink" of the way hospitals work is needed, while doctors have said tackling backlogs would be a "huge challenge" for exhausted staff.
Meanwhile, cancer charities fear the disruption will lead to a surge in deaths, particularly in Wales.
They all agree getting the NHS back on its feet will be the biggest challenge faced by an incoming Welsh government.
BBC Wales health correspondent Owain Clarke has been looking at some of the key health issues facing whoever wins the Senedd election on 6 May.
Read more here
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:06

UK's travel green list likely to be 'very short'


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Gibraltar is likely to be a possible destination this summer

Gibraltar and Israel are among the most likely destinations to be placed on a green list of countries which it will be easiest to travel to, a former strategy chief at British Airways owner IAG says.
Robert Boyle says told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that, judging by the UK government's criteria, it might be a "very short list".
As well as Israel and Gibraltar, which have vaccinated most people, countries such as Australia and New Zealand may be placed on the UK's green list but are not likely to allow entry at the other end.
Places like Iceland, Ireland and Malta have a good chance of being on the green list and maybe the US, he says.
France has high levels of infection, while rates in places such as Spain and Greece are not so bad but still above the UK rate, so Boyle says he would not put them on a green list.
But for those wanting to get away this summer he adds that airlines will "move heaven and earth" to put flights on to places travellers are allowed to go to.

'Hundreds' of vaccines being thrown away in Sweden

Maddy Savage - BBC News, Stockholm
One of Stockholm’s most senior doctors admits that hundreds of doses of AstraZeneca vaccines are being thrown away every day.
Johan Styrud, a consultant at Danderyd Hospital tells Swedish public service television’s breakfast programme Morgonstudion that many patients are cancelling appointments last-minute because of concerns about risks of complications from the British-Swedish vaccine.
Sweden currently only offers the AstraZeneca vaccine to over-65s.
Styrud says it was “scary” that people were turning down the chance to be immunised and stresses that the risk of complications for this age group is “extremely small”.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:09

Breaking News

PM's trip to India cancelled

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's trip to India next week is cancelled, No10 says.
Downing Street has issued a joint statement from the British and Indian governments which says:
"In the light of the current coronavirus situation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be able to travel to India next week.
"Instead, Prime Ministers Modi and Johnson will speak later this month to agree and launch their ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India.
"They will remain in regular contact beyond this, and look forward to meeting in person later this year."

How India failed to prevent a deadly second wave

Soutik Biswas - India Correspondent
Politicians, policymakers and parts of the media believed that India was truly out of the woods late last year. In December, central bank officials announced that India was "bending the Covid infection curve".
At the end of February, India's election authorities announced key elections in five states, where 186 million people were eligible to vote for 824 seats. In mid-March, the cricket board allowed more than 130,000 fans, mostly unmasked, to watch two international cricket games between India and England at the Narendra Modi stadium in Gujarat.
In less than a month, things began to unravel. India was in the grips of a devastating second wave of the virus and cities were facing fresh lockdowns.
By mid-April, the country was averaging more than 100,000 cases a day. On Sunday, India recorded more than 270,000 cases and over 1,600 deaths, both new single-day records.
If the runaway infection is not checked, India could be recording more than 2,300 deaths every day by the first week of June, according to a report by The Lancet Covid-19 Commission .
Read more from Soutik here
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:11

Boris Johnson's already shortened India trip now cancelled

As we reported a little while ago, Boris Johnson's trip to India has been cancelled amid rising coroanvirus cases there.
The trip, which had already been shortened from four days , has now been cancelled twice, having initially been meant to take place in January before the UK itself went into a national lockdown.
It had been billed as the PM's first major overseas visit since taking office and follows a pledge to boost the UK's alliances in the Indo-Pacific region .
Talks between Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were due to take place in the capital, Dehli, which has announced a week-long lockdown .
There have been more than 70 cases of a variant of coronavirus first identified in India now found in the UK . Scientists are investigating whether it might be more spreadable or able to evade vaccines, although it has not been classed as a "variant of concern".

PM: India red list status a matter for independent body

Boris Johnson says it is up to the UK Health Security Agency whether to add India to the UK's travel "red list" amid rising coronavirus cases there.
The prime minister's trip to India next Monday has been cancelled, which he describes as "only sensible" despite the frustration of conducting a diplomatic meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi online.
He says: "I do think it's only sensible to postpone, given what's happened in India, the shape of the pandemic there.
"Countries around the world including our own have been through this. I think everybody's got a massive amount of sympathy with India, what they're going through.
"And I just want to stress that this is, we're going to be going back, the relationship between the UK and India is of huge importance, and I'll be talking to Narendra Modi on Monday, we'll be trying to do as much as we can, virtually."
Calls for the UK to place India on the red list increased after the discovery of a new virus variant. The move would require all arrivals to quarantine in a hotel organised by the government for 10 days.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:14

Portugal eases lockdown as infection rate falls

Portugal has allowed shopping centres to re-open in most areas for the first time in two months following a steady fall in the Covid infection rate.
Schools have also reopened and restaurants and cafes can serve customers indoors. Some sports such as basketball are now allowed, as well as outdoor exercise with up to six people.
In mid-January, Portugal was one of the worst-hit countries in Europe as a third wave of infections swept in. The government imposed curbs on travel and a strict lockdown.
Only essential travel is now allowed, but last week the government lifted a ban on commercial flights from the UK and Brazil.

HSBC bosses to hot desk as post-Covid offices shrink

The office may look very different when we return after the pandemic.
And that is also true for top bosses at banking giant HSBC as it confirms they have lost their private offices at its Canary Wharf HQ and will have to hot-desk on an open-plan floor.
The move comes as HSBC plans to shrink its office space by 40% in a post-pandemic shake-up as it pursues deep job cuts.
Chief executive Noel Quinn tells the Financial Times it was "the new reality of life" and that he would no longer be in the office five days a week.
"We don't have a designated desk. You turn up and grab one," he adds.
Up to now, senior managers have been based on the 42nd floor of the building in east London in their own private offices.
But in future, they will be jostling for workspaces two floors down, while their old offices have been transformed into client meeting rooms and other communal spaces.
We've previously reported how Canary Wharf itself faces an existential challenge as Covid plays havoc with our working lives.

Swiss relax lockdown despite rising cases

Imogen Foulkes - BBC News, Geneva
Switzerland has begun relaxing Covid-19 restrictions, even though case numbers are rising.
Bars and restaurants will be able to reopen outdoor terraces, some university teaching can resume, and even gyms and cinemas can open as long as strict safety measures are observed.
Switzerland is alone in Europe in relaxing restrictions while Covid infections are rising. The government says the move is justified because they are rising very slowly, the vaccination programme is speeding up, and hospitals are not over burdened.
But the government’s own scientists say the risk is considerable and public opinion is divided.
If it works, Switzerland could emerge from the pandemic crisis relatively unscathed in comparison to its neighbours. If it doesn’t, and the third wave takes off, the Swiss are in for a very difficult summer.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:19

What is the Indian Covid variant?

There has been talk of India being placed on the UK's red list amid concerns over rising coronavirus rates and a new variant identified there.
Health officials say it has genetic changes that mean it might be more contagious than other strains - and past infection or current vaccines may not offer protection.
Up to 14 April, 77 cases of the Indian variant had been confirmed in the UK.
Public Health England says it appears a few of the cases are not linked to international travel and investigations into how they were infected are continuing.
There are many thousands of different versions of Covid circulating - including the Brazilian, South African and UK "variants of concern", but there is not enough data yet to say the Indian variant is of similar concern.
Read more on the Indian variant here.

What are India's coronavirus figures?

We've been hearing about the situation in India at the moment, as a new lockdown begins in Delhi and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancels his trip to the country.
Our graphic below shows the number of cases and deaths being reported each day, over the past 12 months - and the recent spike is clear to see.

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Rapper apologises after Manchester gig called off


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Rapper AJ Tracey has apologised after a gig in Manchester was cancelled on Sunday due to the number of fans who showed up.
Organisers of the event, at Platt Fields Park, have been fined £10,000 for breaching Covid regulations.
He's been forced to also cancel a Bristol gig he was due to perform after the Manchester visit.
Greater Manchester Police has warned people not to "flout the lifting of restrictions".
Only six people, or two households, can meet outside in England.
In a video posted online, AJ Tracey said he was sorry for cancelling the gig, adding: "I didn't expect that many people to turn up in Manny and genuinely it's just not OK for me to go ahead."
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:21

Re-cap: If you are just joining us here's what is happening

Here are some of the main coronavirus developments from around the world so far today.


Irish bishops call for talks over Mass ban

The leader of Ireland's Roman Catholic Church is seeking an urgent meeting with the government over what he calls a "draconian" ban on public Mass.
Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly signed a regulation last week that allowed only virtual religious services due to the pandemic.
But Archbishop Eamon Martin accused the government of acting in a "clandestine manner without notice or consultation".
"We shall be seeking legal counsel to advise on several questions concerning the extent of the statutory instrument," he said.
At the weekend, Donnelly said steadily declining numbers of Covid infections meant the country was in a “very positive position to talk about May, June, July" for the easing of restrictions. Since the pandemic began, Ireland has registered more than 243,000 cases and 4,800 deaths.
Read more on this story here.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:25

Rail passengers given extra six months to use travel vouchers

Thousands of rail passengers will have an extra six months to redeem travel vouchers, the transport secretary has announced.
Those with vouchers that have expired, or are due to expire, from 20 October 2020 and 30 June 2021 are being given the extra time as they won't have been able to use them during the second and third lockdowns.
The easing of lockdown restrictions in England means travel is allowed again - but the government is still advising people to minimise travel and work from home where they can. Passengers are also advised to travel at quieter times, or on quieter routes, where possible, and to follow coronavirus safety guidelines.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "This extension ensures that passengers with travel vouchers are not penalised for following government advice.
"By offering people more time to redeem their vouchers, we are ensuring that passengers will not be left out of pocket as they come back to the railways."

Scotland's hospitality Covid guidance a 'bombshell'

A Scottish restaurant owner says new draft hospitality Covid guidance is a "bombshell" and warns it will be "crippling" for the sector.
The sector had expected that 1m (3ft) social distancing would apply between tables when it reopens next Monday but new proposals state people from different households will now have to observe social distancing at tables.
Carina Contini, co-owner of Cantini restaurants in Edinburgh,tells BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "They have thrown us an absolute bombshell, an absolutely impossibility in terms of reopening.
"The bookings that we have already got we will have to phone up and say 'I'm sorry we can't honour your booking because we can't host this level of capacity'."
Scotland is easing lockdown at a different speed to England, with the majority of pupils returning to schools for the first time since Christmas today .
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:28

Slovenia eases restrictions as infections fall


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Infection rates are still high in the capital, Ljubljana

Slovenia is another European country to have eased restrictions following a fall in Covid infections.
Today, café and restaurant terraces have reopened for the first time in six months in most of the country's 12 regions. They remain closed in four regions, including the capital Ljubljana, where cases remain high.
Strict social-distancing measures are still in force and diners must be at least 1.5m (5ft) apart.
"It's not only about the coffee, it's the chats that we've been missing," said David Delfar, who runs the Kapetanija café in the port town of Koper.
Slovenia, which has a population of two million, has reported more than 4,160 deaths from the coronavirus.

Shoppers flock back for 'revenge purchases' as lockdown eases

Shoppers have been rushing back to shops to "treat themselves" after non-essential stores reopened in England and Wales last week.
Analysts Springboard said footfall across all UK shopping destinations was up 87.8% week-on-week.
Jewellers Beaverbrooks told the BBC visitor numbers and sales had spiked at its more than 60 shops.
It said people were making so-called revenge purchases - splashing out after months of being unable to go shopping.
"They are just treating themselves which is brilliant to see," said boss Anna Blackburn.
Springboard said footfall across High Streets, retail parks and shopping centres was up 330% from 11-17 April versus the same week a year ago.
The East Midlands, South East and South West of England saw the greatest demand.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: "These results provide concrete evidence of the desire of shoppers to return to bricks and mortar stores and destinations.
"The key issue for retail destinations will be whether this momentum can be sustained."
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:33

When can I go on holiday?

Like many of us, you may be wondering when you can go on holiday.
Foreign holidays are currently banned until 17 May at the earliest, and returning travellers have to quarantine .
Travel is banned from many countries which appear on the UK's "red list" , although UK and Irish nationals and people with residence may enter if they quarantine for 10 days in a hotel.
A UK-based holiday is now possible with people free to travel between England and Wales and self-contained holiday accommodation able to open to people from the same household or support bubble.
Read more on foreign travel here.

Facebook staff can continue working from home


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Facebook says its employees can continue working from home, even as other tech giants appear to be going off the idea.
The social media company tells the BBC it thinks remote work is "the future".
People in eligible roles at Facebook can apply for permanent remote working, subject to approval from managers.
Silicon Valley executives were quick to endorse the shift to remote work last year, with some indicating it could continue even after the pandemic.
But as the months have passed, some of the drawbacks have emerged.
At a conference in October, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said the lack of division between private life and work life meant "it sometimes feels like you are sleeping at work".
Last month, Google announced it was bringing forward its timetable of moving people back into the office.
Read more on working from home here.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:37

How do I get a Covid test?

Everyone in England is being encouraged to have two rapid coronavirus tests a week - with or without symptoms.
The government wants people to use the tests as part of easing restrictions.
If you don't have symptoms , you can get tests from testing sites, pharmacies or through the post (in packs of seven) .
If you test at home, you are asked to report your results online or on the phone (by calling 119).
If you get a positive result from a lateral flow test, you and your household must self-isolate immediately .
You should get a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm the result.
This can be booked online , or by phone - 119 in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland.

Lockdown lifted for third time on Isle of Man

The Isle of Man has begun returning to normality once again after the island's latest Covid-19 lockdown ended.
Shops, pubs and cafes have reopened and the mandatory requirement to work from home has been lifted.
Education minister Alex Allinson said school attendance would not be compulsory for the "next week or two" while people adjusted to the new regime.
The third lockdown came after a rise in cases sparked by people travelling to the island from the UK.
Read more here .

Some under-40s in NI can now book jab

Vaccine appointments for a limited number of people in Northern Ireland aged between 35 and 39 are being made available from today .
It's the latest phase of the vaccine roll out and it's expected that booking will open for everyone in that age group by the end of the month.
The slots are mainly for the SSE Arena vaccine centre in Belfast and were available to be booked, on a first-come first-served basis, from 14:00 BST.
Appointments in community pharmacies will be made available later this month, depending on supply.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: "Opening up to 35-39 year olds earlier than expected is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all staff who are delivering the vaccination programme in Northern Ireland.
"I encourage those who are eligible to seize this opportunity and take up the offer of vaccination."
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:40

Indian ex-PM Manmohan Singh 'in hospital with Covid'


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Former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has been admitted to hospital after testing positive for coronavirus, Indian media reports.
Singh, who is 88, contracted a fever on Sunday evening and was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (Aiims) in the capital, Delhi, for observation and treatment, a source tells The Hindu newspaper .
There has been no official confirmation from the hospital or from Singh's Congress Party.
Singh had previously received two doses of coronavirus vaccine - the first on 4 March and the second on 3 April, NDTV reported .
Delhi has just announced a week-long lockdown after a record surge in infections overwhelmed the city's healthcare system.
As we've been reporting today, India has been engulfed in a deadly second wave of coronavirus since the beginning of the month.

Breaking News 

More than 10 million in UK have now had both Covid jabs

More than 10 million people in the UK have now received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine , government figures show.
It means nearly one in five of all UK adults have had both vaccines.
Celebrating the "remarkable milestone", Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK's vaccine programme had "already saved thousands of lives".
"I want to thank the brilliant staff and volunteers involved in the rollout, and urge all those who are called to keep coming forward.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Second doses are crucial to maximising the strength and duration of your protection from Covid-19 and I’m urging everybody eligible to get their jab as soon as possible.“
A total of 43,084,487 million vaccine doses were given between 8 December and 18 April - 32,932,448 million people with their first dose and 10,152,039 million with their second.
Read more here on who has been offered the vaccine so far and who is next.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:44

India strain 'likely to become variant of concern', says expert


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Some cases of the Indian variant have been found in parts of the UK including London

The new coronavirus variant first identified in India is likely to be classified as a "variant of concern" in the UK, an immunology expert says.
This could lead to India being put on the "red list" of countries from which UK arrivals need to isolate in government-approved hotels.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled a forthcoming trip to India, due to a rise in the number of cases in the country.
The Indian variant has been designated a "variant under investigation" in the UK, with more than 70 cases - almost all linked to travel - identified in Britain so far.
Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told ITV this morning: "I am concerned about all the variants. Don't get me wrong, I think our road map is going well and at the moment, in this country, we are doing rather well, enjoying unlocking.
"But out there, there is the Indian variant, the South African, Brazilian etc, and they do pose a threat."
He added: "My assumption from everything I've seen is that it will become a variant of concern. When it becomes a variant of concern, I'd be quite surprised if India wasn't on the red list."

Public Health England recommends 'stronger enforcement' on India travel

Jim Reed - Health reporter, BBC News
Officials at Public Health England have recommended that ministers consider “stronger enforcement” on travel from India or “an alternative border policy” to minimise transmission of a variant of coronavirus first found in the country.
The recommendations are included in a document sent to ministers over the weekend and marked "official sensitive".
It comes after other independent scientists warned the discovery of the Indian variant in the UK should warrant the country being placed on the “red list”, meaning travellers are subject to mandatory hotel quarantine for 10 days.
The PHE document seen by the BBC says there were 83 confirmed cases of the variant discovered in England as of 16 April, of which 50 had recently travelled from India, six were the contacts of travellers, 23 were awaiting more information and four had no confirmed linked to travel.
Between 25 March and 7 April, 3,345 arrivals from India were registered in border travel data. Of those, 161 – or 4.8% - tested positive for Covid-19 after a PCR test.
The document said 36 cases of the India variant, officially called B.1.617, were registered in travellers from India in the most recent week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this morning it was "only sensible" to cancel his trip to India, due to take place on 26 April, given the Covid situation in the country.
According to the PHE briefing document, there is currently no data or intelligence to confirm whether the mutations seen in the Indian variant can make the virus behave differently. More work is needed to see whether it is more transmissible, leads to more severe disease or can evade natural or vaccine-derived immunity.
It said the characteristic of greatest concern would be the potential for vaccine escape.The variant needs to be grown in a laboratory and then tested on blood samples taken from vaccinated individuals to see what impact it might have - a process which PHE says may take six to eight weeks.
Until that time, health authorities have warned there will be a “period of uncertainty” during which it will be possible for cases of the variant to be imported into the UK as current arrangements stand.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:55

UK's second dose vaccine milestone comes at cost to first doses

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
The 10 million mark for second doses is a great milestone.
But the rapid acceleration in second doses has come at a cost to first doses – and this spells trouble for the government’s ambition to offer every adult in the UK a jab by the end of July.
Currently the UK is doing just over 100,000 first doses a day on average, that is down from 500,000 a month ago.
There was always going to be some drop off. But on that trajectory just over half the under 50s will be getting a first dose by the end of July.
Take-up is predicted to be lower in the younger age groups than it has been in the older ones so that shortfall may not be as bad as it first looks.
What is more, there is the hope vaccine supplies will increase. More doses of Moderna may become available, while there is hope the Novavax jab, which is being made in the UK, could come into play in May.
Nonetheless, it is another reminder that the vaccine programme still has many hurdles to cross.

Virus 'diminished not defeated', says Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is speaking in the Commons. He says "this virus is diminished but not defeated", with hospital admissions, cases and deaths down to the levels they were at in September.
He says the NHS has been "protected throughout". There are now 2,186 people in hospital - down 94% from the peak - and the daily average number of deaths is 25, down 98%.
This "brighter picture" has enabled restrictions to be eased, and Hancock said it was great to see the High Street "bustle with life once again" and to hear football crowds at Wembley.
The NHS now has to turn to tackling the backlog of cases.
He said "step by step" the country was returning to normal life and is on track to meet the roadmap, and also on track to all adults being offered a vaccine by the end of July.
But Hancock urged we must be "vigilant, cautious and careful" - "because we want this road to be a one-way street".
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 15:57

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Breaking News

India added to travel red list

Matt Hancock says that the government has made the "difficult decision" to add India to the travel red list.
It means people who have been in India in the last 10 days cannot enter the UK.
UK and Irish citizens and those with residence rights who have been in India will have to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel.

Care home workers could be required to have vaccine

Hancock says the government is "doing everything in its power to drive uptake" of the vaccine - especially where vulnerable people are concerned.
The vaccination rate among care home staff is below 80% in over half of all local authority areas, he says, with many care homes asking for vaccines to be required for people working in those settings.
The government is now looking at whether or not to require care home providers to only deploy workers who have had the vaccine, unless they have an exemption. A consultation has been launched on the issue.
Hancock said there was a "duty of care" to protect the most vulnerable and the government "will consider all options to keep people safe".
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 16:19


Breaking News

UK records a further 2,963 Covid cases

Another 2,963 coronavirus cases have been reported in the UK, alongside another four deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
The number of daily cases is a slight increase on recent days and almost 300 more than the number of cases reported last Monday.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 17:30

Surge testing for India variant to be carried out

Matt Hancock says surge testing will take place in areas where cases of the Indian coronavirus variant have been identified.
He was responding to a question from shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, who also said it needed to be designated a virus of concern.
The health secretary said on adding India to the red list: "This isn't a decision which we take lightly.
"(Mr Ashworth) is right to ask about surge testing to make sure that we limit the spread as much as is possible of the variant first found in India - and we will be doing that, I can confirm."

Hunt: Absolutely right to put India on red list

Former Conservative health secretary Jeremy Hunt says Hancock is "absolutely right" to put India on the red list and also backs the exploration of mandatory vaccination for certain frontline workers "however difficult or sensitive that decision may be".
He says NHS waiting lists have increased to nearly five million people amid the pandemic but that there have been capacity problems in the NHS for some time.
He asks whether Hancock agrees that it should be a statutory duty to publish regular and transparent workforce projections so "we can make sure we are training enough nurses and doctors".
Hancock says there are record numbers of doctors and nurses in this country but says that "we do need to look to the future" by delivering 50,000 more nurses over the parliament.

Re-cap: India to be added to travel red list, Hancock confirms

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has finished updating MPs on coronavirus developments. Here's a summary of what he said:

  • India will be added to the travel red list effectively banning travel between the two countries from 04:00 BST on Friday 23 April amid a surge in cases there
  • It means UK and Irish nationals and those with residency rights must quarantine in a government-approved hotel if arriving from India
  • Hancock revealed 103 cases of a new virus variant first found in India have been discovered in the UK, with the "vast majority" linked to travel
  • A new Covid test is being developed that can identify whether a positive result is of a known variant - this could reduce the time taken to identify new unknown variants, Hancock said
  • In a broad update on the UK's vaccine programme, Hancock said 98% of adults aged 70 to 84 had Covid antibodies
  • Demand for jabs was so high among those in their late 40s last week that the government website crashed, he said
  • Meanwhile, he confirmed ministers were working with drug firms to develop Covid "booster" jabs for later in the year - as part of efforts to ward off new variants
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 17:39

Reported deaths at lowest level since September

The UK has reported four new deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, the lowest figure since September .
You have to go back to 7 September for a day when fewer deaths, three, were reported across the country.
Due to lags in reporting, figures are often lower at the start of the week, and some deaths which have occurred in the past 24 hours may not yet have made it into the daily figures.
Wales has begun to report on a six-day basis with Monday's figure covering a 48-hour period.
The UK has recorded 127,274 Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test since the start of the pandemic.

Delhi prepares to lock down

As we reported earlier, the Indian capital, Delhi, is due to go into lockdown for a week after a record spike in cases overwhelmed the city's healthcare system.
The city had imposed a weekend curfew, but reported its highest single-day spike so far on Sunday - 24,462 cases.
It has almost run out of beds at hospital intensive care units and oxygen is in short supply, the city's chief minister said earlier. Crematoriums in the area are also overwhelmed.
One in three people in Delhi is testing positive, the BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan reports from the city.
Separately, the Indian government has said all adults will be eligible to get a coronavirus vaccination from the start of next month.
India has been reeling from a deadly second wave since the start of April.
Read more here.

More than 200,000 second doses given on Sunday

As has been mentioned by Matt Hancock, the government data shows more than 10 million people have now received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The figures show that up to Sunday 32,932,448 first doses had been given in the UK - a rise of 83,225 on the previous day.
There have also been 10,152,039 second doses, an increase of 221,193.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 17:45

Virgin to continue India flights until Friday

Airline Virgin Atlantic says it will continue to operate its flights to India until the country officially joins the UK travel red list at 04.00 BST on Friday.
"Our flights between London Heathrow and Delhi and Mumbai will be departing as scheduled until 23 April, with all customers arriving in England subject to a pre-departure Covid-19 test and 10-day self-isolation at home, with two further PCR tests," it says.
The airline is reviewing its schedule of India operations from Friday and says customers should check their flight status.
Virgin is due to operate one flight from Mumbai and one flight from Delhi to the UK before Friday's change.

How does travel red list work for different UK nations?

India is being added to the red list of countries from which travel is banned, we heard in the House of Commons this afternoon.
It means Britons arriving from India will have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days when they get back. Anyone who is not a UK or Irish resident or a British citizen will be banned from entering if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.
But is that new rule for England, or is it the whole of the UK?
Well, technically, as public health is determined by individual nations, it only concerns England.
As there are no international flights into Wales or Northern Ireland however, they tend to fall into line with England's decisions. And there are no quarantine hotels in Wales or Northern Ireland either.
Scotland currently requires hotel quarantine for all international arrivals at the moment anyway, so today's announcement makes no difference to anyone landing there.
Here's an explainer on which countries are currently on the red list and exactly what it means for travellers .
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 17:58

Pandemic could be under control 'in months', says WHO, as Thunberg donates to Covax

The world has the means to bring the pandemic under control within months, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
"We have the tools to bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months, if we apply them consistently and equitably," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is quoted by Reuters news agency as saying at a daily news briefing.
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who joined the briefing from Sweden as a guest, condemned what she said was the "tragedy" of vaccine inequity as she donated €100,000 ($120,000) from her foundation to Covax, the scheme aiming to give global access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Tweet  Greta Thunberg:

About 1 in 4 people in high-income countries have received a COVID-19 vaccine, compared with just 1 in more than 500 in low-income countries. My foundation will donate €100000 to support COVAX to ensure a more equitable global COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Coronavirus - 19th April 2021 Ezwfxh10

"We have the means at our disposal to correct the great imbalance that exists around the world today in the fight against Covid-19. Just as with the climate crisis, we must help those who are the most vulnerable first," the 18-year-old added.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 18:31

India red list delay questioned in Commons

During the health secretary's appearance in the Commons earlier, Labour's Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee, questioned why India was not put on the red list sooner.
She said: "Hong Kong this week have identified 47 Covid cases just on a single Delhi flight and we have still 16 more direct flights, many more indirect flights from India to here before Friday alone."
Matt Hancock said decisions on each country were "kept under constant review".

Everything to know about surge testing


Coronavirus - 19th April 2021 8aaae710

What is surge testing and where is it happening?

People who live, work or travel through two south London boroughs are being urged to take a Covid-19 test.
Read more

Why was India not already on the 'red list'?

As we've been reporting, India will be added to the UK's so-called red list - meaning there will be strict restrictions on travel between the countries from Friday.
It has been reporting more than 200,000 cases daily since 15 April, and near neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh have both been on the red list since 9 April.
Criteria for being added to the list include how good a country's testing is, how many cases have been identified, and whether the country has exported new variants of concern.
As of 13 April, Bangladesh, which had the South Africa variant but not the Brazil variant, and Pakistan, which had neither, were on the list.
But India, which had both, was not added for another two weeks.
"Nobody knows the full criteria - but there may be a political element because the UK wants a trade deal with India," Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, says.
Read more here.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 18:36

Hancock urged to fix Ramadan hotel food concerns

Matt Hancock has been urged to resolve concerns about food provision for people in quarantine hotels, particularly for those who are fasting during Ramadan - which is currently being observed.
Labour MP Imran Hussain called on Hancock to "urgently resolve this frankly absolutely shambolic situation with the booking system" and to ensure food "meets the faith and dietary requirements of travellers particularly those fasting during Ramadan".
Hancock said the government was "very careful" to ensure the majority of those who have to go through managed quarantine have a good experience and said he would make sure public health minister Jo Churchill met with Hussain to hear about individual concerns.
He added that "making sure that food provision is appropriate for those fasting at Ramadan" was "very important".

Explained: The Indian Covid variant that's under investigation


What is the Indian variant?


Coronavirus - 19th April 2021 _116518932_index_covid_variants_976
Cases are being found in the UK and the changes the virus is undergoing are concerning.
Read more
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 19:21

What are the exemptions for quarantine hotel stays?

Caroline Davies - BBC transport correspondent
With all British and Irish nationals and those with residency rights soon to be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine on arrivial into England from India, what are the exemptions?
Well, if you travel to England and have been in a red listed country in the last 10 days, in most circumstances, you will have to stay in a government-approved hotel at your own cost.
A few of the jobs that do not have to do so include: aircraft pilots and crew; seamen, masters, inspectors and surveyors of ships; those with border security duties; defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors; diplomatic missions and international organisations and conferences.
There are also some exemptions, such as for some unaccompanied minors attending boarding school who might be able to quarantine at their boarding school.
As well as some people attending someone who is dying or a funeral - if it is a close family member - although this is limited and requires requesting permission and they cannot use public transport to get there.
More details on exemptions can be found here .
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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 19 2021, 20:20

What were today's main developments?

It's time to re-cap some of the main developments from the day:


Scotland also adds India to 'red list'

The Scottish government has confirmed that India will be added to its travel "red list".
The UK government made the same decision earlier today for England, meaning anybody who is not a UK or Irish resident or British citizen cannot enter the UK if they’ve been in India in the last 10 days.
UK and Irish residents or British citizens arriving in Scotland and England from India will need to complete a 10-day quarantine in an approved hotel.
There are currently no direct international flights from India to Wales or Northern Ireland.
The Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said international travel required a “cautious approach, on a four-nation basis”.

Goodbye

We're bringing our live coronavirus coverage to a close. We'll be back tomorrow with more developments.

Monday's live coverage was edited by Martha Buckley and George Bowden, and written by Doug Faulkner, Alexandra Fouché, Lauren Turner and David Walker.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 13:43