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

Coronavirus - 20th April 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 10:37

Summary for Tuesday, 20th April

  • Scotland's first minister is due to confirm the most significant changes to the nation's Covid restrictions since it went back into lockdown just after Christmas
  • Pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops are all expected to reopen on Monday
  • In Wales, six people from up to six different households will be allowed to meet outside again from Saturday
  • UK PM Boris Johnson is to hold a Downing Street press briefing at 17:00 BST
  • From Friday, India will be on the UK international travel "red" list amid fears over a new variant
  • Universities have expressed frustration at the travel ban, saying it could stop about 10,000 students returning to campuses
  • A review of policing says officers sometimes struggled to enforce lockdown restrictions because of a lack of clarity from ministers
  • And a new international group of scientists will meet today to discuss how to prepare more effectively for future pandemics


Welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

Here’s a summary of the key recent developments:

  • Scotland’s first minister is expected to confirm the most significant stage in the nation’s lockdown easing later
  • The scheduled unlocking on Monday will include the reopening of hospitality, gyms and non-essential shops
  • Six people from six households will be able to meet outdoors in Wales from Saturday , and in pub beer gardens once they reopen next week
  • The UK unemployment rate fell to 4.9% in the three months to February, according to the latest official figures
  • India has been added to a “red list” of countries from which most travel to the UK is banned - over fears of a new Covid variant
  • From 04:00 BST on Friday, most people who have travelled from India in the last 10 days will be refused entry
  • A review of policing says officers sometimes struggled to enforce coronavirus restrictions because of a lack of clarity from ministers
  • More than 10 million people in the UK have received a second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine , according to the latest government figures
  • Ireland has recorded its first three cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India, a senior health official said on Monday in a statement.
  • Greece has suspended its planned rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine pending review by the European Medicines Agency on 20 April.
  • India will let all citizens aged 18 and over get coronavirus vaccinations from 1 May, the government said on Monday, as cases there surge to record highs.
  • The UK reported four coronavirus deaths on Monday – the country’s lowest figure since September, government statistics show.
  • The University of Oxford has launched a study wherein participants who have previously had Covid-19 are reinfected with the coronavirus.
  • The US has expanded its vaccine eligibility to everyone aged 16 years and above, the country’s health agency said on Monday.
  • The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the world has the means to bring the global Covid-19 pandemic under control in the coming months provided countries work “consistently and equitably”.
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo has launched its vaccine rollout via the Covax scheme after it was delayed for more than a month over concerns about the AstraZeneca jab’s safety.
  • Austria will not use Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine until the European Medicines Agency approves it, chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said.


Latest in Europe


  • Austria is to oversee the distribution of 651,000 Pfizer/BioNTech doses to six countries in the Western Balkans as part of an EU scheme. Serbia already has a successful rollout so many of the doses will go to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Macedonia and Albania. Bosnia has the lowest vaccination coverage in Europe. Some of the doses will go to Kosovo and Montenegro.
  • Denmark is already using a corona pass to allow people to enter hairdressers and beauty salons, but now France has adapted a mobile phone app to enable people to travel to other French territories such as Corsica and Reunion. The TousAntiCovid (everyone against Covid) app can now be updated to show a negative Covid test or proof of vaccination. Travellers will still be allowed to provide their documents on paper.
  • All eyes in the Netherlands will be on the government’s evening press conference where a cautious relaxation of Covid measures is on the cards. The cabinet is expected to agree to reopening café and bar terraces under strict rules and an end to a controversial overnight curfew.
  • The EU’s medicines agency is set to announce the conclusion of its investigation into the safety of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine today. It’s reviewed four cases of rare blood clots, one of them fatal. The decision is significant as many EU countries have build the vaccine into their rollout.
  • French underwear shops have found a novel way of protesting against continued lockdown restrictions. Eight independent stores have sent Prime Minister Jean Castex some lingerie in a symbolic but humorous protest, complaining that it’s not their stores where Covid is circulating.
  • Students aged under 18 in Slovenia will get vaccinated ahead of their final exams -17,000 students are due to take final exams from next month but fewer than 3,000 have registered for vaccinations so far.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 10:58

What changes are expected in Scotland?

Scotland’s scheduled unlocking next Monday will include the reopening of hospitality, gyms and non-essential shops.
Non-essential travel between Scotland, England and Wales could also be allowed for the first time this year.
If First Minister Nicola Sturgeon approves the planned reopening, all local authority areas which are under level four restrictions will move down to level three.
The Scottish government's route map says that from Monday the following can happen:

  • up to six people from two households can socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant
  • unrestricted travel within Scotland, England and Wales (subject to local restrictions)
  • all shops, stores and close contact services like nail bars can open
  • hospitality venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants can open until 20:00 indoors, but without alcohol
  • alcohol can be served outdoors under local licensing restrictions
  • tourist accommodation to reopen (self-catering accommodation restricted in line with rules on indoor gathering)
  • funerals and weddings including receptions can take place with up to 50 people (alcohol permitted)
  • gyms and swimming pools can reopen for individual exercise
  • indoor attractions and public buildings such as galleries, museums and libraries can open
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 11:00

UK minister defends India travel 'red list' timing

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has defended the government’s timing in putting India on the travel "red list" to protect against coronavirus.
Speaking on Sky News, he says: "It's standard practice to give people a sort of short window in order to be able to manage their affairs. It's the right approach to do, it's the approach we've taken with other countries around the world when they've gone onto the 'red list'.
"The government continuously reviews the data, continues to review the information we're getting from the scientific community in terms of what countries should be put onto the 'red list', and sadly India has been one of those countries that has had to be added."


Decision on India may have come 'too late' - former government adviser

The decision to put India on the coronavirus travel "red list" may have come "a bit too late", a former chief scientific adviser to the government says.
Prof Sir Mark Walport tells BBC Breakfast: "These decisions are almost inevitably taken a bit too late in truth, but what's absolutely clear is that this variant is more transmissible in India.
"You can see that it's becoming the dominant variant and the other concern about it is that it has a second change in the spike protein which may mean that it's able to be a bit more effective at escaping an immune response, either a natural one or vaccine-induced one, so there's good reasons for wanting to keep it out of the country if at all possible.
"What we need to do is get the population vaccinated and also get booster vaccines prepared that will be able to deal with these new variants - so buying time... against these new variants is really important."
Asked if he feels confident that the next easing of lockdown restrictions in England will go ahead on 17 May, he says: "So far, so good. The numbers of case are low, but nevertheless, there are still new cases arising, and it's why data not dates are what matter.
"It takes time, we've only been under the latest relaxations for a few days and so we just need to see over the next few weeks how the numbers stack up, but so far so good and with the good weather, it's so nice to be optimistic that as long as people are careful, we should be alright for the next phase."
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 11:04

India to start vaccinating all adults over 18

India has widened its vaccination programme as infections surge and the capital goes into lockdown.
All adults over the age of 18 will be offered a coronavirus jab starting from 1 May, the government has said.
However, with vaccines in short supply in many states, it is unclear where the additional doses will come from.
The government said last week that it only had 27 million doses - or enough jabs for nine days at current rates of vaccination.
India is currently vaccinating health workers, front line workers and people over 45, but a number of states - including the worst-affected Maharashtra state - have reported insufficient supply.
There have been reports of people being turned away from vaccination centres in many areas.
India has been reporting around 200,000 cases daily since 15 April - this is well past its peak last year, when it was averaging around 93,000 cases a day.
UK health officials are currently investigating whether a Covid variant first found in India spreads more easily and evades vaccines.

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India's ruling party says UK travel 'red list' decision was a surprise

The decision to place India on the UK's coronavirus travel "red list" came as a surprise, a spokesman for India's ruling party says.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Nalin Kohli, the spokesman for BJP, adds that he does not know "if there's an explanation because there's nothing in the public space".
He says "there is a lack of data" on the variant in India.
UK health officials are currently investigating whether a Covid variant first found in India spreads more easily and evades vaccines.
Kohli tells the programme: "Of course, the UK is in its sovereign rights to decide whatever it deems fit. It would cause a lot of inconvenience to people who are travelling.
"It came as a surprise news item, so I don't know if there's an explanation because there's nothing in the public space.
"There has been a sudden spurt of numbers in whatever [it] seems to be... Some reports suggest that it's a double mutant.
"There's no data conclusively to say that it's the UK or the Brazilian or any other variant which is linking up with the local situation."
Kohli adds that India is taking steps in terms of vaccination and ramping up facilities such as isolation coaches on trains.
Asked about election rallies taking place in the country, he says cases are rising in areas where election rallies have not been held, including the state of Maharashtra and in Delhi.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 11:08

Police 'confused' by unclear pandemic laws


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Police officers sometimes struggled to enforce coronavirus restrictions because of a lack of clarity from ministers, according to a new review.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr, who led the review, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the police had heard about some of the new restrictions from the government's television briefings.
He said it wasn't always clear to the police what was guidance and what was legislation.
"It was a pretty extraordinary time, of course, for all of us and the changes came thick and fast and everybody had to adapt."
He said the review found that "by and large the police did pretty well in adapting to it but there was certainly confusion caused".
Read more on this story here.


Breaking News 

UK prime minister to hold news conference later

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to hold a coronavirus press briefing at Downing Street at 17:00 BST.
We don't know yet who'll be standing beside him at the lectern.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 11:13

Wales outdoor rules to change on Saturday

Things in Wales are slowly getting back to normal. From Saturday, six people from six households will be able to meet outdoors.
The easing of the lockdown rules also mean that from next week pubs, restaurants and cafes will be able to reopen to serve customers outdoors.
The change was announced on Monday evening by First Minister Mark Drakeford, who said the move was guided by the fact there is lower risk of catching Covid in such a setting.
Currently, up to six people from a maximum of two households are allowed to meet outdoors, although children under the age of 11 or carers do not count in the total.
Children under 11 and carers remain exempt under the new rules.
You can read more about the lockdown rules in Wales here.

What's the roadmap for lifting lockdown?

The lockdown restrictions are continuing to be lifted.
As we've been saying, the latest changes are taking place in Wales, where the rules on meeting up outdoors are being relaxed further from Saturday.
And later today Scotland's first minister is expected to confirm the biggest raft of changes since the country went into lockdown on 26 December last year.
Nicola Sturgeon is set to detail the reopening of hospitality, gyms and non-essential shops from 26 April.
But what exactly can people now do across the UK - and what changes are to come? Find out here.

US ships vaccines for all overseas workforce

The Guardian
The US State Department has delivered Covid vaccines to all of its eligible workforce deployed abroad as of Sunday and is expecting its entire workforce to have been fully vaccinated by mid-May, State Department officials said.
Reuters reports that earlier this year, the department came under fire from its staff as it struggled to vaccinate thousands of diplomats stationed in 220 overseas locations, considered a key human resource in advancing America’s national security interests.
In internal cables dated late February, the department’s senior leadership acknowledged supplies were falling short of the demand, the New York Times reported.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his visit to Japan and South Korea last month, tried to reassure the embassy staff in virtual town halls that the department was working “as fast as it can” to get everyone vaccinated.
As the rollout of the vaccines within the United States accelerated, so did shipments to the State Department, one senior department official said.
“Within three or four weeks, whether they have Pfizer or Moderna, we will be complete with our vaccine program. So I would say easily by mid-May, anybody overseas that wanted a vaccine would be able to get one,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The department is also pressing ahead with its domestic vaccination campaign, but many employees are being inoculated through their states as vaccines become more widely available.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 11:23

Millions at risk of famine without urgent help, governments warned

Sarah Johnson - The Guardian
World leaders are facing a call to act immediately to stop multiple famines breaking out, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and caused by conflict, climate crisis and inequality.
On Tuesday, hundreds of groups working to combat inequality appealed to governments to respond to increasing levels of hunger caused by “an acute food insecurity situation” around the world.
In an open letter to support the UN Call for Action to Avert Famine in 2021 , they said millions of people faced starvation, and billions of pounds in investment was urgently needed.
Read more here .

Thailand's Health Ministry asks all hospitals to increase by 50% or double their intensive care capacity to prepare for a possible rise in more severe cases

Authorities in Thailand have been attempting to reassure the public that the country has sufficient hospital beds for the rising number of coronavirus patients.
Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat remind us for Reuters that Thailand has been implementing a “zero tolerance” policy for people who test positive. Even those without symptoms are immediately hospitalised if they test positive, prompting concern about the health system’s capacity in the event of a surge in the number of patients with severe symptoms.
Authorities reported 1,443 new coronavirus cases and 4 new deaths today, bringing total infections to 45,185 with 108 fatalities overall. Thailand has been credited for its swift containment of earlier outbreaks, but has yet to start mass vaccinations.

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Beds for patients at a field hospital set up at Bangkok Arena, in Bangkok, Thailand. Photograph: Anusak Laowilas/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

The current wave affecting the country includes the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 or “Kent” variant, which has been blamed for big jumps in infections in many countries, including the Philippines, where hospitals are struggling.
The health ministry has asked all hospitals to increase by 50% or double their intensive care capacity to prepare for a possible rise in more severe cases. Those with mild symptom are being sent to field hospitals and hotels that are being converted into care facilities.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 11:40

Philippines second wave is stretching health care workers to the limit

The Guardian
Already facing one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in Asia, the Philippines has seen a second wave of infections that is stretching health care workers in the capital like never before.
“The situation is more severe now. This is version 2.0. The cases are higher, we are more exhausted,” 28-year-old ambulance nurse Nick Yañez told Reuters
The country has averaged more than 10,400 daily Covid-19 cases since the start of April, nearly double the level in March and far above the 213 per day in April 2020 and 2,169 in the second half of last year, health ministry data showed.
A two-week lockdown of the capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities that is home to at least 13 million people, appears to have done little to ease the strain on the medical system.
Intensive-care units in the Manila area are at 84% capacity, while 70% of Covid-19 ward beds and 63% of isolation beds were full as of 19 April 19, government data showed.
The health minister said on Friday more than 1,400 beds would be added in the capital area and more than 100 health care workers from other parts of the country brought in to help.
For Encarnita Blanco-Limpin, a doctor at the Philippine Heart Center, the help is welcome. But she said that contact tracing must be improved and more vaccines distributed to take the pressure off hospitals.
“Our emergency room is running at 200% capacity,” said Blanco-Limpin, who recently was infected with Covid-19. “Many of these coronavirus patients are not on beds, some of them are being treated while in sitting positions.”

Fewer than 7% of disability care residents in Australia have received Covid jab

In Australia, less than 7% of disability care residents have so far received a dose of Covid vaccine, leaving 25,000 residents unvaccinated despite being in the top priority group.
Federal health department officials revealed on Tuesday that aged care residents had been prioritised meaning residents of 6,000 disability care facilities were yet to receive even one dose.
The department secretary, Prof Brendan Murphy, confirmed at the Senate Covid-19 inquiry that Australia was still aiming to vaccinate its entire vulnerable population by mid-year. But he refused to provide updated targets for the broader vaccination program citing increased hesitancy and uncertainty of supply.
Murphy conceded a warning against giving AstraZeneca to people aged under 50 due to rare blood clots has caused a rise in vaccine hesitancy, although the chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, argued this was also being driven by decreasing rates of people believing they were at risk of contracting Covid-19.
The Covid-19 inquiry hearing comes as Australia’s vaccination program is being redesigned, with a plan to accelerate the rollout for over 50 year olds set to be approved at national cabinet on Thursday.
Australia’s rollout is structured by priority cohorts , starting with the 1a group that includes quarantine and front-line health workers along with aged and disability care workers and residents.
Read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 11:43

Lockdown in Netherlands expected to be eased from next week

Lockdown measures in the Netherlands are expected to be eased from next week as pressure to reopen society mounts despite still-high coronavirus infection rates, Dutch broadcasters reported this morning.
Reuters report that broadcasters NOS and RTL, citing government sources, said that a nationwide nighttime curfew that has been in place for three months will be lifted on 28 April. Bars and restaurants will be allowed to gradually reopen next week.
Prime minister Mark Rutte is set to announce the measures at a news conference planned for 1900 CET (1700 GMT).
The Netherlands has been in varying stages of lockdown for more than six months, as all bars and restaurants have been closed since mid-October and public gatherings of more than two people are banned.
Since the start of the pandemic more than 1.4 million coronavirus infections have been confirmed in the Netherlands, with more than 20,000 deaths.
Opinion polls have shown support for lockdown measures is waning, and hospitality associations and mayors from major cities have argued that the ban on outdoor dining spaces should be removed immediately, citing large numbers of people gathering in parks.

Today so far…


  • The EU will have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to cover 70 percent of its adult population by mid-July, internal markets commissioner Thierry Breton told French daily Le Figaro in an interview.
  • The European Medicines Agency is preparing to present the conclusions of their investigation into possible links between the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine and very rare cases of unusual clotting disorders detected in the US.
  • The US state department is planning to drastically ratchet up the warnings it is giving Americans about international travel during the pandemic. Roughly 80% of countries worldwide would soon be marked at the highest warning of “Level 4: Do Not Travel”.
  • Osaka prefecture in Japan is expected today to ask the government to declare a state of emergency in the region, the country’s third most populous.
  • Some police forces in England and Wales did not follow self-isolation rules after staff came into contact with someone who had coronavirus symptoms, according to inspectors.
  • British prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to hold a coronavirus press conference this afternoon, after the UK put India on its “red list” of travel destinations.
  • Israel has registered eight cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in India, and believes that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is at least partially effective against it, an Israeli health official said.
  • In Australia, it has emerged that less than 7% of disability care residents have so far received a dose of Covid vaccine , leaving 25,000 residents unvaccinated despite being in the top priority group.
  • World leaders are facing a call to act immediately to stop multiple famines breaking out , exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and caused by conflict, climate crisis and inequality.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 17:59

Egypt to buy 20m doses of China's Sinopharm jab

Egypt has struck a deal to buy 20 million doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine, officials in Cairo have announced.
A batch of 500,000 jabs is expected to arrive this month, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
Egypt has already received just over 1.5 million doses of Sinopharm and of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and has been trying to accelerate its inoculation programme.
Plans are currently under way to open 75 new clinics at Cairo's International Exhibition Centre which can administer up to 10,000 jabs every day.
Egypt, with a population of 100 million, has registered more than 213,798 infections and 12,600 deaths since the pandemic began.

Carbon 'surge' predicted in post-Covid energy boom


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China's coal-fired power stations are expected to play a role in the carbon surge

The world's climate faces a surge in carbon emissions this year, experts warn, as economies rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.
Total energy emissions for 2021 will still be slightly lower than in 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts, but CO2 will rise by the second largest annual amount on record.
The use of coal in Asia is expected to be key. The IEA says it will push global demand up by 4.5%, taking it close to the global peak seen in 2014.
However, renewable energy is also booming, with green sources set to supply 30% of electricity this year.
Read more on this from our environment correspondent Matt McGrath .

Travel across the UK can resume on Monday

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirms mainland Scotland will move down to level 3 of the country’s coronavirus restrictions from Monday.
She also says all of Scotland will move to level 2 on 17 May. She adds that the intention is to move to level 1 on 7 June, then return to "normality" in July.
From 26 April, the following can happen:

  • All shops, stores and close contact services like nail bars can open
  • Hospitality venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants can open until 20:00 indoors, but without alcohol
  • Alcohol can be served outdoors under local licensing restrictions
  • Up to six people from two households can socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant
  • Unrestricted travel within Scotland, England and Wales (subject to local restrictions)
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 18:04

Sturgeon working with UK government over international travel

Nicola Sturgeon turns to the UK’s decision to add India to the "red list" of banned countries saying that it was because of the “significantly deteriorating” Covid situation there, as well as concerns over a new variant.
British or Irish passport holders, or people with UK residence rights, will be allowed in but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.
She says people need to quarantine in the place they arrive, so people travelling via London need to quarantine there.
Things are opening up domestically, Sturgeon says, but she says the approach to international travel “must be sensible”.
She says she wants to agree a common approach with the UK government but until at least 17 May, and “possibly a period after that”, there will be no foreign travel.

Lunchtime round-up

Here's a rundown of what's happened this morning:
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 18:11

US warns against travel to 80% of world

The US state department is to advise Americans to avoid 80% of countries worldwide because of the pandemic.
Currently, the highest category of the department's four risk levels - "Do Not Travel" - covers 34 out of 200 countries.
In a note to the media about its updated travel guidance, officials said the pandemic continued to "pose unprecedented risks to travellers".
Only three places in the world are assessed at the lowest risk level - "Exercise normal precautions" - Macau, Taiwan and New Zealand. Even Antarctica is at level two - "Exercise increased caution" - while the UK is at level three - "Reconsider travel" - with an extra warning to exercise caution because of the risk of terrorism.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends all Americans refrain from travelling domestically until they have been fully vaccinated.


Air passengers 'at risk' at border


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Long delays at UK airport border conrols are a "breeding ground" for Covid infection, a Parliamentary committee has been told.
Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the Immigration Services Union, agreed that travellers and airport staff faced risks, saying people could currently find themselves standing for up to five hours in a confined space.
Giving evidence to the All-Party Group on Coronavirus, she was asked about government plans for a traffic light system to grade countries on their risk when lesiure travel starts to resume.
She said "it is not possible to segregate people from red, amber and green" in the airport.
"Even if we separate that one risky passenger out, at some point in that journey, my understanding is that... we are not truly isolating that risk."
Ms Moreton says plans to reintroduce e-gates at borders should help ease delays - and the technology can check whether a form detailing a pasenger's journey has been filled out. But she said the system cannot verify whether a passenger is telling the truth about where they have been.
"A lot of the border, immigration, migration and quarantine controls are based on trust. We trust people when they say they haven’t been in a red-list country in the last 10 days. We trust people when they say they are going to quarantine."

Border staff spotting 100 fake test documents a day

About 100 people are trying to enter England each day with a fake negative Covid certificate, a Parliamentary commitee has been told.
The documents are "very easy" to forge and it is "inherently unknowable" how many people who are not caught are adopting the same practice, Lucy Moreton, from the Immigration Services Union said.
To enter the country people must provide proof of a negative test taken in the three days before departure, which can take the form of a printed document, email or text message.
Asked how border officers were able to verify proof of a negative test, Ms Moreton told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus: "We're not is the simple answer, it's predominately taken on trust."
She added a spelling error gave some fake documents away but added: "Otherwise they are taken at face value... these things are very easy to knock up electronically unfortunately."

Will infections rise as UK lockdown eases?

The risk from new variants and the people mixing as lockdown eases could pose a continued threat in the UK, experts have warned.
Addressing the Parliament's All-Party Group on Coronavirus Dr Stephen Griffin from the University of Leeds medical school, said preventing the importation of cases and maintaining the vaccination programme will be key in the months ahead.
But he said it may be necessary to maintain some level of restrictions.
Prof Deenan Pillay, a member of the independent government advisory group Sage, told the hearing that the UK was doing a "tremendous job" in immunisation, and this will have a significant impact on hospital admissions.
But he said he was worried about variations in terms of vaccination uptake and the risk factors of being exposed to Covid in different parts across the country and suggested future waves could be more localised and focused on areas of disadvantage.
Prof Lawrence Young from the University of Warwick said: "We just can't predict the behaviour of these variants and how they are going to impact on outbreaks, on the possibility of reinfection and on the degree to which the vaccinations are protective against those variants."
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 18:17

Man fined £10,000 for fireworks tribute to M1 crash victim

A 23-year-old man has been fined £10,000 after organising a fireworks display attended by more than 400 people as a tribute to a friend who died in a crash on the M1.
Police said they responded to dozens of calls on the evening of 5 April from nearby residents in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, and dispersed the group.
They used social media videos of the gathering to help identify the organiser.
Ch Supt Hayley Barnett from Derbyshire Police said her "heart goes out" to anyone unable to grieve for lost loved ones during the pandemic, but she said coronavirus remains a very real risk at public gatherings.
"Over the last year thousands of people have lost loved ones and have been unable to grieve in the way they would normally be able to," she said.

Could there be a UK-Israel travel corridor?Coronavirus - 20th April 2021 YH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7

Foreign holidays from the UK are currently banned - and the timings for the resumption of leisure travel has still not been confirmed.
However, there is already speculation that the system of travel corridors, which allow passengers from some countries to avoid having to quarantine on their arrival could be re-introduced again at some stage.
The system was in operation last year and, speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP John Lamont raised the possibility of a future travel corridor with Israel.
Citing Israel's high vaccination rate, he asked whether discussions were going on about establishing a travel corridor arrangement.
Foreign Office minister James Duddridge would only say the prime minister is set to provide an update about travel on 17 May and reveal where countries will fit into the planned traffic light categorisations.
You can read more about the situation with holidays here.

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

Reality Check
As we've been reporting, India will be added to the government's travel-ban "red list" from Friday.
"Red-list" decisions are based on Joint Biosecurity Centre risk assessments, which include:

  • how good a country's testing structures are, including checking for variants of concern
  • how many cases those systems have identified
  • whether people in that country have been catching new variants at home or the cases have come from overseas
  • evidence of whether that country has exported cases of new variants to other countries, including to the UK
  • how good the country's travel links with the UK are

The first point on the list is important, because the genome sequencing needed to identify new variants is very sophisticated and relatively rare.
But just because a country has found new variants, or has many cases of coronavirus, it will not necessarily be on the "red list".
Bangladesh, which had the South Africa but not the Brazil variant, and Pakistan, which had neither, were added to the "red list" on 9 April.
But India, which had both as well as a new variant, was not added for another two weeks.
On 9 April:

  • Pakistan had a seven-day average of 21 cases per million people
  • Bangladesh had twice as many
  • India had four times as many

India has a greater sequencing ability than Pakistan or Bangladesh, although it is far behind the UK, which does about half of the world's sequencing.
Asked why India wasn't added before, the government said the "red list" was kept "under constant review".
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 18:20

Breaking News

'Possible link' between Johnson & Johnson vaccine and blood clots, says EMA

The European Medicines Agency has said a warning about very rare blood clots should be added to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The EU drugs regulator said there was a "possible link" between the vaccine, which has yet to be approved in the UK, and the unusual blood clots - described as "very similar" to those observed with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
But it concluded that the benefits of the vaccine still outweighed the risk.
The EMA reviewed eight cases detected in the US, out of more than seven million doses administered there.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine decision was 'expected' - vaccines expert

A decision by the European medicines regulator that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as a "very rare" side effect of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was "expected", a leading vaccines expert says.
Prof Andrew Preston, of the University of Bath, tells the BBC: "They're reflecting pretty much the same opinion as US regulators reached last week."
However, he stresses that they have concluded that the benefit of the vaccine still outweighs the risk.
Prof Preston adds: "Still, much of the EU is in the grip of a pretty ferocious wave of infection at the moment so that risk from Covid remains very high."
He says it will be down to individual countries in the EU to decide how to implement the vaccine, but says he believes they will put the same restrictions in place as they have done for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine "because the risk appears very similar".
Several European countries had previously briefly suspended the jab.
Most have now resumed vaccinations with AstraZeneca, but often with limits to older age groups.
Prof Preston also says it is important to be "transparent" about the risk from unusual blood clots.
"But trying to make it clear that the risk from the virus itself is far greater than the risk from this particular vaccine is probably about the best we can do in this situation," he adds.

UK passes 33 million first doses of vaccine

More than 33 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
The UK government’s latest figures showed the number has reached 33,032,120, while 10,425,790 have had both doses.
There were also another 33 coronavirus deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test, and 2,524 daily cases.
That compares to 23 deaths and 2,472 cases reported a week ago.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 18:24

What does the EU decision on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine mean?

The US, South Africa and the European Union all put their rollouts of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on hold after US regulators detected rare cases of blood clots.
Out of the eight cases identified - among more than seven million given the vaccine - one person died.
All the cases occurred in people aged under 60, most were in women, and all of them happened within three weeks of the person having the single-dose shot.
As we reported a short time ago, the safety committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) says a warning should be added to the product information to make people aware of this very rare side effect.
The EU drugs regulator says people who have the vaccine should seek urgent medical attention if they develop any of these symptoms within three weeks of being vaccinated:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain,
  • leg swelling
  • persistent pain in the belly
  • neurological symptoms such as severe and persistent headaches or blurred vision
  • or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.

But while the EMA wants medical professionals to be aware of these rare reactions, it said the benefits continue to outweigh the risks and the vaccine works at preventing hospitalisation and death due to Covid.
The vaccine has not yet been approved for use in the UK, although the government has ordered enough of it for 30 million people.

How do I get a Covid test?

People in England and Scotland are being encouraged to take rapid coronavirus tests regularly.
The government says regular testing could be an important tool for easing restrictions.
It's hoped the tests - known as lateral flow tests - can help stop individual cases from becoming outbreaks.
If you don't have symptoms , you can get tests from testing sites, pharmacies or through the post (in packs of seven).
If you get a positive result from a lateral flow test anywhere in the country, 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.
PCR test swabs are sent to a lab for analysis, with the result in 24 to 48 hours.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 18:30

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi tests positive for Covid


Coronavirus - 20th April 2021 D8a51f10

India's Congress Party leader, Rahul Gandhi, says he has tested positive for Covid after experiencing mild symptoms.
He urged “all those who’ve been in contact with me recently, please follow all safety protocols and stay safe”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished him “good health and a quick recovery”.
India is reeling from a severe second wave of the pandemic with daily cases of around 200,000 and a rising death toll.

Breaking News 

UK plans for two pills to treat Covid 'by autumn'

The UK wants to identify and deploy two effective treatments for Covid that can be taken as a tablet or capsule by the autumn, the government has announced just ahead of Boris Johnson's press conference.
People would be able to take them at home following a positive test or exposure to the virus to reduce the chance of spreading the virus and speed up recovery, the Department of Health said.
Finding the treatments will be the job of a new Antivirals Taskforce, which is being asked to search for the most promising medicines and to support their development through clinical trials.
The taskforce is also being asked to look at whether the treatments can be manufactured in the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said they would be "another vital defence against any future increase in infections".
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said antiviral drugs "could help protect those not protected by or ineligible for vaccines. They could also be another layer of defence in the face of new variants of concern."
The taskforce is modelled on the Vaccines Taskforce which was responsible for securing the UK's supply of vaccines.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 18:36

What's happened so far today?

Here's a quick round-up of the main stories so far today:


What we learned from today's briefing


  • The UK is launching a search for new antiviral medicines to treat Covid, which might mean a tablet or capsule taken at home, available as soon as the autumn
  • There has been nothing to suggest the UK needs to “deviate” from the roadmap out of lockdown, Boris Johnson said
  • But the majority of scientific experts believe the UK will face another wave of Covid and we must learn to live with the virus, the PM said
  • One in five adults has now received both doses of the vaccine.
  • Uptake by ethnic minorities has tripled, compared with the national average
  • The red list of severe travel restrictions is “under constant review”, Boris Johnson said
  • So-called Covid passports will not be required for any of the relaxed restrictions expected on 17 May, the prime minister said, but they may help to safely open up some other areas of society
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 19:00

Who decided to put India on the travel ban list?

Boris Johnson was asked about decisions about which countries should go on the “red list” of countries subject to the strictest UK travel rules.
He said the list was kept under constant review “and this work is done actually not by the government itself, it is done by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, the JBC, they look at the issue and will make their determination based on what they think we need to do”.
Asked about yesterday’s decision to put India on the red list he said that decision “was taken by the JBC”.
The government has previously been clear that decisions on travel restrictions are made by ministers based on advice from the JBC and other groups.
Indeed, when Reality Check asked yesterday about why it had taken so long to put India on the red list, the Department of Health said decisions were taken by ministers informed by evidence from the JBC and others.
You can read more about the decision on India here.

Delhi hospitals running out of oxygen and ICU beds

Yogita Limaye - BBC India correspondent
More than 99% of all intensive care beds are full in India’s capital Delhi as the country battles its second wave of Covid-19.
Just seven beds with ventilator facilities are available.
There is also a severe oxygen crisis in the city as well with just a few hours of supplies left in some hospitals, according to the government.
Delhi is known to have among the best healthcare facilities in India, but it has been brought to its knees by the pandemic.
People are going from hospital to hospital, desperately searching for any help for their loved ones. Many have died because they couldn’t get the treatment they need. Their families are having to wait for hours to perform funeral rituals as crematoriums and graveyards are running out of manpower and space.
In smaller towns the situation is even worse. A sharp surge in cases and deaths is being reported from many parts of India. Some areas are now in lockdown.

Can India vaccine producers meet demand?

As we reported earlier, India has pledged to offer alladults over the age of 18 a coronavirus vaccine from 1 May in a bid to stem a severe second wave of the virus.
However, domestic vaccine makers are struggling to meet demand both at home and globally.
The government has offered financial assistance to two vaccine makers - the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech - and halted large exports of vaccines in a bid to help boost local production.
But will it be enough? Read more about the situation here.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 19:36

Can India vaccine producers meet demand?

Reality Check
As we reported earlier, India has pledged to offer alladults over the age of 18 a coronavirus vaccine from 1 May in a bid to stem a severe second wave of the virus.
However, domestic vaccine makers are struggling to meet demand both at home and globally.
The government has offered financial assistance to two vaccine makers - the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech - and halted large exports of vaccines in a bid to help boost local production.
But will it be enough? Read more about the situation here.

Man fined £10,000 after 90-person party


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The 22-year-old organiser is believed to have booked a venue on Pilcher Gate in Nottingham city centre

A 22-year-old man has been fined £10,000 for organising a 90-person illegal party in Nottinghamshire, England.
Partygoers were found hiding in a laundry room, bathrooms and lifts when police broke up the event in the early hours of 10 April.
The organiser is believed to have booked a venue on Pilcher Gate, in Nottingham city centre, using an online booking agency, Nottinghamshire Police said.
The force added that "astonished" officers also saw people running into the basement, with some trying to leave through a fire escape.
The organiser's fine will be reduced to half if paid within two weeks, and if it is not paid, he will face a court appearance, the force said.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Apr 20 2021, 19:39

Latest world headlines

Here is a round-up of some of the main coronavirus stories we have been covering around the world:

  • The European Medicines Agency has called for a warning about very rare blood clots to be added to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but says the benefits of taking it outweigh the risk
  • Hospitals in Delhi are running out of oxygen and intensive care beds as India battles a severe second wave of the pandemic
  • In a bid to contain the surge, the Indian government has pledged to begin vaccinating every adult over the age of 18 from 1 May, but concerns remain over whether there is enough supply
  • Meanwhile, the leader of India’s opposition Congress Party Rahul Gandhi says he has tested positive for Covid-19 after experiencing “mild symptoms”
  • The US says it is updating its travel advisories and will be urging Americans to avoid travelling to some 80% of the world’s countries


What's been happening around the UK today

We're going to bring our live coverage of the Covid pandemic to an end shortly.
But first, here's are some of the main UK stories we've been covering today:


Thanks for joining us

We're bringing our live coverage to a close now. We'll be back on Wednesday morning with more developments.

The page was written by Ella Wills, Katie Wright, David Walker, Alex Kleiderman, Joseph Lee, Penny Spiller and Richard Morris, and edited by Marie Jackson.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 13:40