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

Coronavirus - 26th April 2021


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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 11:17

Summary for Monday, 26th April

  • Shops, gyms, swimming pools, pubs and restaurants in Scotland are reopening after a four month-long lockdown
  • Pubs and restaurants in Wales are also reopening to customers outdoors
  • The defence secretary dismisses as "nonsense" a report that Boris Johnson said he would rather see "bodies piled high in their thousands" than order a third national lockdown
  • Labour calls for ministers to publish links with firms awarded Covid contracts
  • The vaccine rollout in England is opening up to 44-year-olds
  • International efforts are under way to help India amid a devastating surge in cases
  • A number of overseas players have left the country's high profile cricket league, the IPL, early

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are the main stories in the UK today:

What’s happening around the world?

Here are some of the other main stories from around the world:

  • International efforts are under way to help India as the country suffers critical oxygen shortages amid a devastating surge in Covid cases
  • Meanwhile, thousands of people across India are outraged after the government ordered social media platform Twitter to remove posts critical of its handling of the pandemic
  • Singapore and Hong Kong have agreed to start quarantine-free travel between the two cities from 26 May
  • Covid restrictions are being relaxed in the Republic of Ireland , with non-contact sports allowed to resume and zoos allowed to reopen
  • And in Italy, restaurants and bars in much of the country will be allowed to serve customers outside, while some cinemas and concert halls are also reopening
  • In India, hoarding oxygen and vital medicines in homes is “creating panic” and causing shortages in hospitals, according to senior Indian doctors, prompting fears of shortages for critically ill patients amid the worsening Covid crisis .
  • It comes as India recorded 352,991 new cases, breaking the global record it set the day before, and 2,812 new deaths, its highest daily figure for fatalities. It was the fifth day in a row that cases topped 300,000.
  • UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has said the Covid-19 pressures in India were becoming “unbearable” and that the UK would “do everything we can to alleviate their suffering”.
  • Germany will send oxygen and medical aid to India in the coming days to help it tackle its Covid crisis, foreign minister Heiko Maas said.
  • The World Health Organisation has said it will start a technical assessment of the Moderna Covid vaccine on Friday.
  • Greece will lift quarantine restrictions on coronavirus-free visitors from more countries including Australia and Russia from Monday as it extends exemptions ahead of formally opening up to tourists on 15 May.
  • Turkey’s cabinet will discuss adopting a tighter lockdown as the government tries to prevent a second lost year of tourism revenues.
  • Forty-four-year-olds in England are being urged to take up the Covid vaccine from today when about half a million of them will receive a text inviting them to get their jab through the national booking service.
  • In Northern Ireland, the vaccination programme will fully open to all those aged between 35 and 39 from Monday.
  • France’s infant and primary schools have reopened for the first time in three weeks with strict health rules and increased coronavirus testing.
  • New Covid-19 restrictions came into force in Thailand today to try to halt a spiralling outbreak that saw deaths hit a record single-day high over the weekend.
  • In Cambodia, the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged factory owners in the key garment sector to help protect workers.
  • Japan’s vaccination programme still lags behind the rest of the developed world, raising questions about its preparedness and doubts about the wisdom of holding the Olympics in Tokyo in less than three months’ time. Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto has said today that the committee will decide on rules for limiting spectators in April.
  • Kazakhstan has rolled out its homegrown coronavirus vaccine, with the central Asian country’s health minister receiving the jab on live television. QazCovid-in, also known as QazVac, is a two-shot vaccine that is in third-stage trials.
  • The Philippines announced that the total number of coronavirus cases it had recorded had exceeded one million.
  • Facebook has removed Australia’s federal independent MP Craig Kelly’s page for repeatedly breaching the social media company’s misinformation policy.

Latest on Europe's pandemic

  • Most Italians are able to return to local restaurants and cafes for outdoor lunch and dinner from today. Table service remains outdoors only; masks and social distancing also remain in force. Under the national colour-coded system for Covid risk, most of Italy is returning to the less restrictive yellow, from orange or red
  • A night curfew remains in force from 22:00 local time. Shows are also finally resuming in theatres, cinemas and concert halls. But they can be no more than half-full and spectators have to sit 1m (3.3ft) apart. In Milan, film fans booked all available seats at the Beltrade cinema, where some even turned up at dawn for the first showing, Rai news reports
  • In France, nursery and primary school pupils are going back to lessons after three weeks away, with secondary age students returning next week. Belgians now no longer have to make an appointment to visit non-essential shops, but cafes and restaurants don’t yet offer outdoor table service
  • In north Germany, police in Friesland have questioned a nurse who admitted swapping saline for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine when injecting six people last Wednesday. Police quote the woman as saying she did it after dropping a vial, and wanted to cover up her mistake. The Friesland authorities now want 200 people to come forward for antibody testing, as the six are thought to be among them.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 11:34

Shops, gyms, pools and pubs reopen in Scotland

Shops, gyms, swimming pools, pubs, restaurants and cafes in Scotland are reopening after a four month-long winter lockdown.
Travel restrictions have also been eased, allowing trips to other parts of the UK for non-essential reasons.
Driving lessons and tests can resume, while nail salons, museums and holiday accommodation can also reopen.
Unlike England, pubs and restaurants will be able open indoors until 20:00 - but they will only be able to serve alcohol to customers seated outside.
Read more here.

Pubs and restaurants reopen outdoors in Wales

Pubs, cafes and restaurants in Wales can reopen to customers outdoors from today.
Up to six people from six households will be able to meet, with social distancing and hygiene measures in place.
Outdoor attractions, such as zoos and theme parks, can also reopen under the latest easing of lockdown.
Wedding receptions and funerals can again be held outdoors at regulated premises with up to 30 people.
And organised outdoor activities, such as sport activities limited to 30 people, are also able to resume.
Read more .

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 11:58

People in India turn to oxygen black market

Vikas Pandey - BBC News, Delhi

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The cost of oxygen cylinders and essential medicine has skyrocketed

Most hospitals in Delhi and many other cities in India have completely run out of beds, forcing people to find ways to get treatment for sick patients at home.
But as people become more desperate, the price of oxygen cylinders and essential medicines have skyrocketed on the black market.
The BBC called several oxygen cylinder suppliers and most of them asked for at least 10 times the normal price.
In Delhi, with ICU beds full, some wealthier families are hiring nurses and remote consulting a doctor to keep their loved ones breathing.
India has been reporting more than 300,000 cases for days, setting new daily global records. On Monday, it had the highest number of daily coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day, reporting 352,991 new infections and another 2,812 deaths in the previous 24-hour period.
Read more here

Anger in India after Twitter told to delete posts

Thousands of people across India are outraged after the government ordered social media platform Twitter to remove posts critical of its handling of the virus.
A Twitter spokesperson confirmed it had blocked some material from being viewed in India.
The country faces a massive surge in cases, with many of its hospitals facing an oxygen shortage.
One Twitter user accused the government of "finding it easier to take down tweets than ensure oxygen supplies".
The government made an emergency order to censor the tweets, Twitter revealed on Lumen, a database that keeps track of global government orders around online content.
Twitter did not specify which content it had taken down but media reports say it includes a tweet from a politician in West Bengal holding Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly responsible for Covid deaths, and from an actor criticising Mr Modi for holding political rallies while the virus raged.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 12:01

Relief as Scotland travel restrictions eased

Non-essential travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK is allowed again from today, as more lockdown restrictions are eased .
Pubs and restaurants are also allowed to reopen - two weeks after they reopened to customers outdoors in England.
The differences in restrictions between the two countries has been challenging for Yann Besombes, who manages the Halston Hotel in Carlisle, near the border with Scotland. He's relieved that travel restrictions have now been relaxed.
He told BBC Breakfast the hotel had seen customers trying to come over from Scotland to have a drink when pubs were still closed there.
"If they stay at the hotel, they book in advance and we can advise them to give proof they are travelling for business purposes, otherwise we have to cancel the room booking," he said. "For dining it is extremely difficult, we can’t really police it.”

Players leave IPL early amid Covid concerns

A number of overseas cricketers have ended their time in the Indian Premier League in order to return home amid Covid-19 concerns.
India has been reporting more than 300,000 cases for days, setting new daily records.
Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Andrew Tye have all ended the season early. While India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin also said he was taking a break from the league to support his family.
Tye, who was with Rajasthan Royals, flew to Sydney on Sunday, citing the “stress of bubble life” and concerns about borders closing in Australia.
"There's definitely concerns. A lot of guys have been in touch once they've realised I was leaving,” he told Australian radio station SEN.
A number of Australia's top players remain in India, including batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner, and paceman Pat Cummins.
Read more here

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 12:05

When will I get the vaccine?

From today, 44-year-olds in England are now being invited to book an appointment for the coronavirus vaccine .
The NHS said it would set out when 40 to 43-year-olds would be able to book appointments "in the coming days", as supply allows.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is opening its vaccination programme to people aged 35 to 39.
Wales has been asking over-40s to book appointments, while Scotland has been inviting over-45s.
You can read more about when you might get the vaccine here .

'It's great to be back in action'

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The Botanist in Cardiff is fully booked all week, with pubs and restaurants allowed to reopen outdoors in Wales from today .
The restaurant has space for about 160 people outside, but manager Jay Page says other venues in the city which only have indoor space are disappointed they can't open.
However, he said they are looking forward to when venues are allowed to reopen indoors, set for 17 May.
“It’s great to be back in action. Obviously with all this time off, we’re back doing what we’re good at," he told BBC Breakfast.
Jay added that he was looking forward to welcoming back customers "watching people celebrate missed birthdays, anniversaries, having a nice time with friends an family and catching up again".

Hong Kong and Singapore to open travel bubble

Singapore and Hong Kong have agreed to start a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two cities from 26 May.
The bubble was due to begin in November but was suspended after a sudden spike of Covid infections in Hong Kong.
If it goes ahead, this travel bubble will be the second major air route in the Asia-Pacific region to open after Australia and New Zealand resumed flights last week.
The two cities are eager to kick-start their tourism sectors, which were highly dependent on foreign tourists before the pandemic.
International arrivals to Singapore declined 81.2% in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter the previous year, according to the Singapore Tourist Board.
Read more here

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 12:09

'Unprecedented' demand as pubs reopen in Scotland

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The Carvale pub in Busby is anticipating a busy week, with pubs and restaurants in Scotland allowed to reopen for the first time in four months .
Owner Rick Houston says demand is "unprecedented" and the pub is fully booked tonight and over the weekend - although it is running at about 75% of normal capacity because of social distancing.
“We're really excited," he says. "It was the 9 October the last time we pulled a pint so we’re looking forward to welcoming our customers back.”
No alcohol is allowed to be served inside until at least 17 May - so most customers are enjoying a cup of tea or coffee instead. But many say they are planning to coming back for an outdoor pint later.
One says he is also looking forward to seeing his family in England, who he hasn't visited for over a year, with restrictions on non-essential travel to the rest of the UK also lifted today.

Cancer doctor calls for end of restrictions

A doctor who specialises in cancer treatment has called for all coronavirus restrictions to be lifted "immediately" to enable patients to seek hospital care.
Consultant oncologist, Professor Angus Dalgleish was one of the signatories of a letter calling for the Government to end lockdown.
He told ITV's Good Morning Britain he does "not see any reason" to wait until June 21 - as set out in the government's road map.
He says: "In my own professional capacity, we have people who've struggled and carried on with symptoms of cancer, too worried to come in to the hospital to get treatment, and now it's progressed further and their outlook is even worse."
He added: "We've got tens of thousands of cancer patients who should have been diagnosed and treated, with a much better outcome."
Around 4.7 million people were waiting for routine operations and procedures in England in February, NHS England figures showed.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 12:12

Australian city to end snap three-day lockdown

The Australian city of Perth will end a snap three-day lockdown that begin after a man contracted Covid in hotel quarantine and moved around the community while infectious.
Three local cases have been reported since Friday and restrictions are set to be lifted at midnight (GMT 17:00).
About two million residents in Perth, and the nearby Peel region, have been subject to stay at home orders since Friday.
State Premier Mark McGowan said the harsh steps had been “necessary”.
Schools and most businesses are set to reopen, though some restrictions - including mandatory mask wearing - will remain.
In Australia, snap lockdowns have proved to be an effective health measure to help suppress Covid outbreaks early on. The country has fared much better than most other nations during the pandemic, with fewer than 30,000 cases and 910 deaths.
Read more here

Around a third say self-isolation had impact on mental health - ONS

About a third of people self-isolating after being in contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid-19 said this had a negative effect on their wellbeing and mental health, according to new figures.
A survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also found 27% of respondents reported having lost some income because of self-isolation.
The ONS said the deprivation level of a respondent's home address had "no significant impact" on their understanding of self-isolation guidance or whether they adhered to it.

Nine in 10 followed self-isolation rules after positive case contact

Nine out of 10 people who were required to self-isolate after being in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 said they fully adhered to the rules, according to new figures .
Experimental data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found 90% of respondents in England reported following the rules throughout their 10-day self-isolation period.
Of respondents who did not follow the self-isolation requirements, 78% reported they left the house for non-permitted reasons, the ONS said.
The data - collected between 1 April and 10 April - also found 6% of all respondents had contact with people outside their household during their isolation period.
Of these, 57% allowed visitors into their home and 55% had contact somewhere outdoors.
There is a legal requirement for people in England to self-isolate for 10 days - which means staying at home - if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 12:18

Caravans pitch up early as Scotland's holiday rules ease

Caravan holiday-makers pitched up early this morning as Scotland's lockdown rules eased to allow self-catering breaks.
Barry Cowan from The Walled Garden Touring Park, near Maybole in Ayrshire, says seasonal pitch holders are "absolutely desperate" to get to the park - so he opened the gates four hour early.
And with restrictions on foreign travel still in place, Barry has already taken bookings as far ahead as August and September.
"We can't wait, we're really, really excited and we're sure we're going to have a good season," he says.
What are Scotland's rules on holidays?

  • Unrestricted travel within Scotland, England and Wales (subject to other local restrictions in place)
  • Tourist accommodation has reopened (self-catering accommodation is restricted in line with rules on indoor gathering)
  • Up to six people from two households can socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant

You can read more on the new rules here.

'A person cannot even die peacefully in Delhi'

As we mentioned earlier, India is suffering critical shortages of medical equipment and oxygen amid a surge in Covid cases there.
With the death toll steadily increasing, families are being forced to find their own oxygen and to wait to cremate their loved ones.
One crematorium worker in Delhi said "we don't even have enough resources" to cremate the dead.
The BBC's Yogita Limaye reports on the situation in Delhi.


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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 12:26

The latest headlines

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Friends catch up in the sun in a pub garden in Ystalyfera, Wales

Here's a recap of this morning's coronavirus news:

Early bird shoppers ready for Scotland lockdown easing

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Queues formed early in Glasgow's Argyle Street

Queues outside clothes shops were first sign that Scotland's lockdown was seeing its most significant easing this year.
While garden centres and hairdressers opened a few weeks ago, this is the first time that non-essential retail has been allowed to open its doors.

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Staff at this branch of Marks & Spencer in Glasgow were eager to welcome back customers

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 12:30

What's the roadmap for lifting lockdown?

Pubs, cafes and restaurants are reopening in Wales and Scotland today - as one of the big steps out of lockdown.
Those parts of Scotland that were at Covid protection level four have now moved down to level three
Indoor opening of cafes, pubs and restaurants has resumed - until 20:00 each day, no alcohol can be served, with groups of up to six people from two households
In Wales, hospitality has only reopened outdoors.
All non-essential retail is due to open in Northern Ireland on Friday along with cafes, pubs and restaurants outdoors.
The next relaxation of lockdown restrictions in England is due no earlier than 17 May - when it's hoped holidays abroad will be allowed.
Find out what the next steps of lockdown easing are here.

Pre-booked Snowdon parking to stop 'chaos'

People will now have to pre-book to park to walk up Wales' highest mountains to stop queues at the summit.
Hundreds of people were fined for dangerous parking as hikers flocked back to Snowdon when lockdown restrictions were eased last year.
Plans to help prevent future chaos include making visitors book 24 hours ahead to park near the mountain.
Holidays, day trips and travel from other parts of the UK are now allowed in Wales, following the easing of lockdown.
Read more here.


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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 12:39

Thailand PM fined for not wearing mask

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Prayuth Chan-ocha (pictured in March) has been fined for not wearing a mask

Thailand’s prime minister has been fined for not wearing a face mask, the governor of Bangkok has confirmed.
Prayuth Chan-ocha was asked to pay 6,000 baht (£137) on Monday for breaching coronavirus rules.
He was pictured on his Facebook page in a meeting not wearing a mask. The image later disappeared from his page, Reuters news agency reports.
People in 48 of Thailand’s provinces, including Bangkok, must wear a mask in public.
The capital has also closed a number of businesses such as cinemas, zoos, bars and massage parlours.
Thailand has seen cases begin to rise with more than 2,000 cases reported on Monday.

EU may let vaccinated Americans holiday in Europe this summer, says Brussels

The president of the European commission has offered fresh hope of a summer holiday in the EU for those living outside its borders.
Ursula von der Leyen suggested in an interview with the New York Times that Americans who were fully vaccinated would be able to visit the EU in what would be a change of policy on non-essential travel.
The EU adopted tough restrictions on travel into the the bloc’s 27 member states last year. Non-essential trips are permitted only from Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.
To qualify for the list, countries must record no more than 25 new Covid cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days and no more than 4% of tests carried out in the previous week can return positive.
The latest statistics, dated 20 April, shows the UK recorded 24.7 cases per 100,000 across a seven-day period. The list of countries exempt from the ban is reviewed every two weeks.
Von der Leyen suggested, however, that the EU’s rules on non-essential travel would change in time for summer to also take into account vaccination coverage.
Full story here

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 15:04

A day to celebrate for bar staff and customers

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Early drinkers in Glasgow

There are many ways of saying "Cheers" around the world but in Scotland it's "Slàinte"
It may have been early but for Scots who have waited four months to be able to buy a drink at a bar it was a moment to celebrate.

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For bar staff it was a welcome return to employment after a difficult winter.
Under Scotland's relaxed restrictions, alcohol can only be served outdoors, subject to local licensing rules. Cafés, pubs and restaurants are allowed to serve food indoors without alcohol until 20:00.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 15:09

South Africa to resume Johnson and Johnson vaccine rollout

South Africa says it will resume its Johnson and Johnson vaccine rollout on Wednesday after recommendations from its cabinet and the health regulatory authority.
The country suspended its Johnson and Johnson vaccination programme two weeks ago over concerns that the jab could cause blood clots.
“It has since been established there is a one-in-a-million chance of getting the clot after the vaccine and that it appears that women between the ages of 18 and 48 years old are particularly at risk,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.
“With such a low probability of developing a clot, all the regulators across the world have recommended the continued use of Johnson and Johnson.”
He added that authorities will work to ensure there is intensified pre-vaccination assessment and post vaccination monitoring when the rollout resumes.
The number of vaccination sites will also be expanded.
South Africa has recorded more than 1.5 million Covid cases and 54,148 deaths.

Breaking News 

PM denies lockdown delay comment

The prime minister has denied making comments about delaying the last lockdown.
When asked by a reporter whether he had ever made the comment that he would rather see bodies pile up than go into a third lockdown, Boris Johnson replied "no".
He also said he had "absolutely not" interfered with an inquiry into a government leak about a meeting on the decision.
Speaking from Wrexham, North Wales he said people wanted the government to focus on getting on with the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

Starmer calls for PM to explain

Speaking before the prime minister was questioned by reporters during a visit to Wrexham in North Wales, Sir Keir Starmer said Boris Johnson needed to "make a public statement" about reports he is alleged to have claimed he would "let the bodies pile high" rather than have another lockdown.
Mr Johnson has flatly denied making the remarks reported in the Daily Mail.
The Labour leader says: "I think, like everybody reading that, I was astonished to see those words.
"It's for the Prime Minister, I think, now, to make a public statement about that.
"If he did say those things then he's got to explain it, if he didn't, go on the record and publicly explain what was said and what wasn't said.
"I think everybody will be deeply concerned, not least those all families that have lost someone during this pandemic."

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 15:37

Peru ex-leader tests positive months after being vaccinated

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Martín Vizcarra received a vaccine in October, four months before Peru started rolling out its vaccination programme

Peru’s former president, Martín Vizcarra, has tested positive for covid some six months after he said he had been vaccinated.
His positive test result comes just days after he was banned from public office for allegedly jumping the queue to receive the vaccine.
In a post on Twitter, Mr Vizcarra said he and his wife had tested positive for the virus and were “symptomatic”.
Mr Vizcarra said he and his wife had received the Sinopharm vaccine last October as they were volunteers in a clinical trial. But the doctor leading the trial said Mr Vizcarra approached him about being vaccinated. The doctor said that the then-president knew he would be getting the real vaccine and not a placebo.
Only 2.5% of people in Peru have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine so far.
Read more here

Breaking News

European Commission launches legal action AstraZeneca

The European Commission says it has launched legal action against vaccine maker AstraZeneca.
It started legal action against AstraZeneca on Friday for not having a “reliable” plan for ensuring timely delivery of vaccines, Reuters news agency reported a spokesman telling a news conference on Monday.
The two sides have been in dispute over the matter for several months.
The move was confirmed by Stella Kyriakides, European commissioner for health and food safety.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 15:42

European Commission taking legal action

As we mentioned earlier, the European Commission has announced it is taking legal action against vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.
A spokesperson for the commission said some terms of the contract signed with AstraZeneca “have not been respected and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure a timely delivery of doses”.
Earlier this year AstraZeneca said its supplies would be reduced because of problems in one of its EU factories.
The shortfall was expected to be about 60% in the first quarter of 2021.
The EU called on AstraZeneca to honour its commitments and deliver the jabs it ordered by diverting doses manufactured in the UK. But AstraZeneca said it had to fulfil Britain’s order before it could send supplies made there abroad.

PM did make 'bodies could pile high' remark, BBC told

Boris Johnson did make remarks suggesting that "bodies could pile high" during a heated discussion about lockdown in Downing Street last autumn, the BBC has been told.
The Daily Mail reported that the prime minister had said he would rather see "bodies piled high in their thousands" than order a third national lockdown.
However, earlier Johnson denied making the remarks, saying the report was "total rubbish".
Read more .

PM 'had big concerns' about impact of another lockdown

Laura Kuenssberg - Political editor
Boris Johnson made remarks suggesting that "bodies could pile high" during a heated discussion about lockdown last autumn.
At the time the prime minister was reported to have had big concerns about the implications of another lockdown on the economy and non-Covid related health issues.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 15:48

Sweden's PM faces questions over Covid strategy

Maddy Savage - BBC News, Stockholm
Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is facing a grilling about how his government has handled the coronavirus pandemic.
The leader is appearing before Sweden’s Committee on the Constitution, which has the job of scrutinising the government and ministers.
Over the next few hours, he’s expected to be quizzed on matters including the availability of testing, how bans on visits to elderly care homes were handled and the country’s general approach to the crisis, which included leaving larger parts of society open than most of Europe.
The committee has already questioned several of Löfven’s senior team including Health Minister Lena Hallengren.
She revealed last week that although the Swedish government agreed on a general approach to handling the pandemic, it never formalised or voted on a Covid-19 strategy.

Top civil servant to face questions on lockdown leak

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The UK's most senior civil servant is answering questions from MPs shortly - and the issue of a leak about details of the November lockdown in England is expected to come up.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, is due to appear before the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee at about 14:15 BST.
On Friday, the prime minister's former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings made a number of allegations in a blog post.
In it, he denied leaking details about the November lockdown and alleged Boris Johnson had tried to block an inquiry into the leak in case it involved a friend of his fiancee, Carrie Symonds.
Downing Street has said the prime minister has "never interfered in a government leak inquiry".
The issue of government contracts awarded during the pandemic could also come up - after it was revealed Johnson had responded to a text from businessman James Dyson agreeing to "fix" his concerns over tax bills if his workers came to the UK to make ventilators.
Our political editor Laura Kuenssberg has explored the possible ramifications of Cummings's allegations in more detail here .
And we'll bring updates from the committee when it starts.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 15:55

Montenegro offers Russians unrestricted holidays

Guy Delauney - BBC News, Balkans

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The beach near Sveti Stefan, Montenegro (2019)

Montenegro is welcoming back tourists from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus without restrictions. Finance Minister Milojko Spajic says they won’t need to have a Covid PCR test.
It might look like a gamble, but the tiny Adriatic country is betting that the economic benefits will outweigh the risk of a fresh coronavirus surge.
The Russian-language billboards on the road from Tivat airport to the ancient coastal town of Kotor indicate the importance of visitors from the east. In 2019, almost 400,000 Russian visitors arrived in Montenegro – only neighbouring Serbia had more.
Russian businesses and individuals are also the biggest investors. By 2018, Russian foreign direct investment (FDI) amounted to almost $1.3bn (£930m) – that’s 13% of all the FDI in Montenegro. Most of the projects are connected to tourism and property.
Tourism contributes a quarter of Montenegro’s GDP. And last year was a disaster, with arrivals falling by more than 80%.
So from an economic perspective, encouraging visitors from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus makes perfect sense. But from an epidemiological perspective it still seems risky.

'Probable' source of lockdown leak will not be identified

An inquiry into a leak of details about the November lockdown in England is ongoing and it is "probable" the source of the leak will not be identified, given the amount of time that has passed, the UK's top civil servant has said.
Answering questions from MPs, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case said: "This is a clear indication that the source or sources haven’t been identified."
He said he hoped the inquiry would be concluded in "weeks rather than months", after which the government would update Parliament.
Asked whether an investigation has ever been stopped because the outcome would have been embarrassing, Case said he was not aware of any instance of this.
"The prime minister’s always been clear - very determined to see these inquiries complete," he added.
It comes after the PM's former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, denied being the source of the leak and alleged Boris Johnson had tried to block an inquiry into it in case it involved a friend of his fiancee, Carrie Symonds.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 15:57

'Leaker did not break the law' - Case

Sir Simon is asked: "Did you authorise the prime minister's then official spokesman to tell the media that your enquiry had shown that neither Mr Cummings and the then director of communications were the lockdown leakers?"
He says: "I'm genuinely not trying to frustrate the committee but I am constrained in what I can say because it's in the context of an ongoing investigation."
Asked if the leaker broke any laws, Case says the leak did not meet the threshold for an offence under official secrets act or the offence of misconduct in public office.
Case says he cannot confirm or deny whether the national security services are involved in the investigation of the leak.

Chinese media emphasise jab willingness, despite slow uptake concerns

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
Today, China’s National Health Commission says that 224.9 million vaccine doses have been administered . China is only five million doses behind the US , and may soon overtake the States to become the country that has administered more vaccine doses than anywhere else in the world.
Despite this momentum, in recent days, China has signalled concern that vaccination has not been progressing as quickly as it would like. The country has aims of vaccinating 40% of the population by the end of June, which at its current pace of around 3-4 million a day, would still be tens of thousands of doses short.
State media have recently tried to dispel fears about being vaccinated, noting concerns among the public over adverse reactions and the safety and efficacy of China’s vaccines.
Today, however, the national Global Times newspaper says that more than 80% of people surveyed out of some 12,000 expressed willingness to get vaccinated .
Media have increasingly tried to pin slim uptake on staff shortages, given that a number of people have recently complained of difficulties at booking their second dose. It is unlikely that there are vaccine shortages; China says it has the capacity to produce 5bn doses annually.
Last week, the National Health Commission said that it would “strengthen supervision” over the accurate deployment of personnel for vaccine administration.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 19:38

Hospitality should not seek cross-border trade - NI minister

Away from Westminster, Northern Ireland's health minister Robin Swann says the hospitality industry should not seek or promote cross-border business while there is a disparity in Covid vaccination numbers.
Venues, including pubs and restaurants, can reopen outdoors in Northern Ireland on Friday, while self-contained tourism accommodation can also reopen.
But no reopening dates for the sector have yet been announced in the Republic of Ireland.
Those resident in the Republic can travel within their county or up to 20km (12.4 miles) from home.
The Republic of Ireland, which is about a month behind Northern Ireland in its vaccination programme, has been in what has been described as the "longest lockdown in the world" and there is pressure to reopen society, particularly from the hospitality sector.
Read more .

Some hustle and bustle returns to Glasgow

Jamie McIvor - BBC Scotland News Correspondent
The newspaper headlines called it Happy Monday.
But for some there may actually have been a true sense of personal happiness or relief today.
In Glasgow's Argyle Street there was a sense of some normality and positivity.
A piper was playing as one large store fully reopened, queues built up outside others.
But perhaps today is about more than just the economic impact of reopening.

Italy slowly awakens from lockdown

Nick Beake - Brussels Corrspondent
Some of Rome’s most picturesque locations have more of a buzz today.
In Piazza Navona, American students Cora, Mary Clare and Brianna were enjoying lunch outside for the first time in more than six weeks – a moment that tasted even better as they’d just finished an architecture exam.
But many tables nearby were empty. Dorian, their waiter who was trying his best to coax any passers-by onto the terrace, said he’s been encouraged by news that vaccinated American tourists would be welcomed to the EU this summer.
But they’re not here yet and this is a country where many Covid rules remain in place, including the 10pm curfew (for at least another month, it seems) and the wearing of masks in public places.
Christian, a dad of two who works in an hotel which has been hit hard by the lack of visitors, told us today’s openings were “a sign that better days were on the way”.
The famous marbled figures that look out on Rome’s piazzas for centuries would still not recognise this as being normal life.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 19:43

Americans may be permitted to visit Europe this summer

Americans may be able to travel to the EU this summer if they are fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the New York Times this should be possible as both sides have approved the same jabs.
However she did not give an exact timetable and said it would depend on the “epidemiological situation”.
European countries have restricted non-essential travel from the US for more than a year.
The US still bans leisure travel from the EU and UK. There have been some suggestions it could reciprocate in lifting restrictions but nothing has yet been announced.
The UK, which is now outside of the EU, is introducing a traffic light system on 17 May that will set out its travel restrictions on countries around the world.
Read more here

Breaking News 

UK reports 6 Covid deaths

Six people were reported on Monday to have died with coronavirus within 28 days of a positive test and there were 2,064 new cases, according to government figures.

Sweden PM denies herd immunity plan

Maddy Savage - BBC News, Stockholm
Was there a plan to spread the infection of Covid-19 within Sweden in order to achieve herd immunity? “Never, never ever,” was the answer given by the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven today.
He was facing questions from Sweden’s Committee on the Constitution, which has the job of scrutinising the country's government and ministers and has been questioning a range of high-profile officials and politicians in recent weeks.
Last year Sweden’s Public Health Agency did suggest that by leaving more of society open, higher levels of immunity would be a beneficial side effect.
But the government has repeatedly stressed that its initial approach was to adopt measures designed to work in the longer term, rather than going in and out of lockdown. Löfven told the committee that there was a clear goal to limit the spread of infection and protect the most vulnerable.
But the Swedish PM admitted that although his ministers had agreed on a general approach to handling the pandemic, the government never formalised or voted on a Covid-19 strategy.
Sweden is currently experiencing a third wave of infection. Almost 14,000 people have died since the start of the pandemic, and close to 1 million people have tested positive for Covid-19, in a country of just 10 million.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 19:47

Can India make enough vaccines to meet demands?

The US is making available crucial raw materials needed for vaccine production in India, which is battling surging coronavirus cases.
Less than 10% of India’s population has so far received an initial vaccination and Indian manufacturers have complained of shortages of vital raw ingredients as they struggle to meet demand.
Read more about India’s current situation and what it is doing to meet the demand.

EU launches legal action against AstraZeneca

More details now on news that the European Union has launched legal action against vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.
The European Commission – the EU’s executive branch – said it was suing the company for not respecting its vaccine supply contract, and for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries.
AstraZeneca said the move was “without merit” and said it would “strongly defend itself in court”.
The EU is struggling with the slow pace of its vaccine rollout. A deal last August between the EU and AstraZeneca foresaw 300 million doses for the bloc.
However earlier this year AstraZeneca said its supplies would be reduced due to production issues.
Read more here

Spain's famous running of the bulls cancelled

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The Spanish city of Pamplona has cancelled the famous bull running festival for the second year in a row.
The San Fermin festival, which also features singing, dancing and drinking, was due to be held in July.
Mayor Enrique Maya made the announcement in a news conference, telling reporters that the event would be “very high risk” as the number of people vaccinated is still too low.
Last year’s cancellation was the first in more than 40 years.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 19:53

'I'm vaccinated but still shielding'

BBC Radio 5 Live
Michaela, who has spinal muscular atrophy, has said people should remember people who are shielding as lockdown restrictions ease.
The condition puts her at very high risk if she were to get Covid.
Michaela has gone from being very active to hardly leaving the house in over 400 days.
She told BBC Radio 5 Live's Stephen Nolan: "I think people don’t understand that it’s their behaviour… which drives up community transmission."
Although she has had both vaccines, Michaela plans to keep shielding until cases have gone down further.
Listen to 5 Live on the free BBC Sounds app.

Steam train returns to 'Harry Potter' viaduct

Coronavirus - 26th April 2021 C7b64910

A magical moment today as The Jacobite Express steams over The Glenfinnan Viaduct which famously featured in the Harry Potter films.
It was the first excursion of the year for the train as Covid restrictions eased in Scotland.
The train will run twice a day on the 84-mile round trip between Fort William and Mallaig.
Tourist accommodation and visitor attractions can all now open again, and you can travel anywhere in Scotland.
See other ways Scotland got back on track today, here .

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Post by Kitkat Mon Apr 26 2021, 19:55

What's been happening today?

We are going to be closing the live page soon so here's a recap of the main coronavirus updates we've brought you today:

Thanks for joining us

Thanks for being with us today.
Updates were brought to you by Becky Morton, Jennifer Meierhans, Sophie Williams, Laurence Peter, Chris Clayton and Claire Heald.
Please join us again tomorrow.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 13:42