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

Coronavirus - 29th April, 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 11:50

Summary for Thursday, 29th April

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock, 42, receives his first Covid jab from Prof Jonathan Van-Tam
  • The vaccination programme is being extended to all 42-year-olds in England
  • India has reported another world record rise in daily cases
  • The country reported 379,257 new infections on Thursday, after the official death toll passed 200,000
  • Turkey is preparing to enter its first lockdown of the pandemic
  • British government has ordered an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
  • They will be used for a vaccination booster programme in autumn
  • Nearly two-thirds of adults in England have now received a first dose of the vaccine


Good morning and welcome to our coronavirus live page.
Here are the main stories this morning:

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock, 42, is to receive his first coronavirus jab. The vaccination programme is being extended to all 42-year-olds in England
  • India has reported another all-time high in daily cases and deaths as it struggles with a deadly second wave of the pandemic. The country reported 379,257 new infections and 3,645 deaths on Thursday after the official death toll passed 200,000 on Wednesday
  • Turkey is preparing to enter its first full lockdown of the pandemic later. There has been a spike in infections after the government started to ease the restrictions in March
  • Children's charity the NSPCC says calls and messages to its helpline have risen to record levels. In the year to March 2021 the helpline was contacted almost 85,000 times, up 23% on the previous year
  • An extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been ordered by the UK government. They will be used for a vaccination booster programme in autumn


Today's news so far from around the world


  • India’s attempts to ramp up vaccinations in the fight against the Covid surge afflicting the nation have got off to a rocky start, with technical and supply issues thwarting attempts to open up jabs to everybody 18 or over.
  • India has prioritised imports of oxygen, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said this morning, adding that 40 countries had pledged their support. Prime minister Narendra Modi has announced that he has reviewed military preparations for assisting with the Covid surge.
  • Guardian readers in India have told us what it is like living through the Covid crisis, with one saying: “It’s everywhere you look” .
  • India’s health ministry on Thursday said the country had recorded 379,257 new cases and 3,645 new deaths. India’s total number of cases and deaths stood at 18.38 million and 204,832.
  • Arundhati Roy says it’s hard to convey the full depth and range of the trauma, the chaos and the indignity that people in India are being subjected to, saying “We are witnessing a crime against humanity”
  • The United States has advised its citizens inside India to leave as soon as it is safe.
  • Ireland will press ahead with plans to reopen all retail stores, personal services and non-residential construction in May with hotels, restaurants and bars to follow sooner than expected in early June, foreign minister Simon Coveney has said.
  • Covid-19 case rates in the UK have dropped below 50 cases per 100,000 people in more than 95% of local areas.
  • UK health secretary Matt Hancock has posted a picture of him receiving his Covid-19 vaccine from England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam at the Science Museum in central London.
  • Germany’s Spiegel magazine has today cited BioNTech’s CEO saying he expects results by September from trials testing its Covid-19 vaccine in children.
  • Business leaders and a Nobel-prizewinning biologist have called upon the government to reform Japan’s vaccination programme, including allowing drive-through inoculations in mass centres. Japan has secured the largest quantity of Covid-19 vaccines in Asia, but it has inoculated only 1.6% of its population so far.
  • South Korea’s drug safety ministry has said that Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine and a shot developed by Novavax have been submitted for preliminary regulatory approval.
  • Taiwan began moving more than 400 people to a centralised quarantine facility today from an airport hotel after a rare domestic outbreak of Covid-19.
  • Australia’s disability royal commission will investigate the Covid vaccine rollout amid complaints that disability accommodation residents and care workers are facing long waits for jabs – despite being in the top priority phase 1a group.


Latest across Europe


  • German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is considering improved police protection for critical locations because of recent attacks by protesters against Covid measures. The RKI public health institute was targeted by arsonists and journalists have been attacked during protests. Intelligence officials say they’re now watching some elements of the Querdenker (lateral thinkers) protest movement.
  • Turkey goes under its first long lockdown later today, with the highest infection rates in Europe. For the next 17 days intercity travel will be halted without official approval, Turks will be barred from going outdoors for a good reason and alcohol sales will be limited. Read more on the lockdown here.
  • In France, President Emmanuel Macron will give updated details tomorrow of his plan for a “gradual and phased exit” from lockdown restrictions. Daily cases numbers have fallen below 30,000 but intensive care cases are still high, at 5,879.
  • Dutch ministers will decide today if and how they’ll allow an audience of 3,500 to watch next month’s Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam. There are three televised shows and even more that aren’t televised, and the ministers have to work out if they can be held safely by letting in the public.
  • European plane-making giant Airbus has returned to profit in the first three months of 2021 – up €362m. But Chief Executive Guillaume Faury warns the pandemic crisis isn’t yet over and the market remains uncertain. German airline Lufthansa has reported a €1bn loss - but that’s better than the first quarter of 2020.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 12:03

Indian state elections go ahead as deaths hit record high

People in the Indian state of West Bengal are voting in the final phase of elections, as cases and deaths continue to surpass record levels.
Long queues were seen outside polling booths, raising concerns about the further spread of Covid amid a deadly second wave sweeping the country.
West Bengal has a population of around 90 million.
India reported 379,257 new infections on Thursday - another all-time global high for one country.
It was also the deadliest day so far in India, with 3,645 deaths reported.
Read more

Turkey prepares for its first full lockdown


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Turkey is to to enter its first full lockdown of the pandemic later, to curb a surge in infections and deaths.
This time last year, the country was seen as a success story for its early action against coronavirus, and was praised by the World Health Organization.
But now it is among the countries worst affected by Covid, with the highest infection rate in Europe.
A second wave begun in the country after the government started to ease restrictions in March.
Read more
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 12:17

What is the situation in Europe?

Turkey will enter its first lockdown today, as cases in the country rise. These charts show where case numbers in Europe are rising and falling. Remember - each country has its own scale.
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Heathrow Airport's losses deepen as Covid impact continues

Heathrow Airport's losses have deepened as the coronavirus collapse in travel continues to "devastate" aviation.
Britain's biggest airport sunk a further £329m into the red in the first three months of the year, bringing total losses since the start of the pandemic to £2.4bn.
Just 1.7 million passengers travelled through the airport during the quarter, down 91% on the period in 2019.
Boss John Holland-Kaye said the figures revealed the scale of the Covid hit.
But he said hoped this was as bad as it gets now that lockdown restrictions are easing and economies are opening up.
Read more
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 12:21

South Pacific family stranded in Scotland for a year


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Amosa Soani and his son and grandson have been staying with his sister Nafiata McNaughton in Scotland

A family from a South Pacific island have been stranded 9,000 miles from home in East Ayrshire for a year because of Covid travel restrictions.
Amosa Soani, 60, travelled with his son and eight-year-old grandson from Tuvalu to the village of Stair for a family reunion in November 2019.
They enjoyed what was to be a six-month stay with Amosa's sister Nafiata and her Scottish husband Neil McNaughton.
But the trip was repeatedly extended after 12 flights home were cancelled.
Read more

UK government considering whether large events will require Covid passports

The government is still considering whether large events in the UK will require the use of so-called vaccine passports, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said.
Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: "We are exploring through the different pilots that we are running, certainly for mass events which could prove more challenging for us to open up, say, Wembley Stadium for the semi-final of the FA Cup or the final.
"If you want to go to 100% seat capacity at Wembley, you have to look at all these technologies which are available to you and I think it is only right and responsible for any government to explore that."
Cabinet office minister Michael Gove is currently reviewing the idea.
Zahawi said there were "very important questions" about the use of Covid passports domestically, including ensuring they were not "discriminatory in any way".
"Internationally, it is right to make the certification available for our citizens and to shape the protocols around the world because clearly a number of countries are going to do this - we'd much rather do it in a co-ordinated way, which is what [Transport Secretary] Grant Shapps is trying to do at the moment and he is chairing the G7 meeting of ministers on this."
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 12:24

Sikh temple in India offering drive-through oxygen

A Sikh temple, or Gurdwara, is providing drive-through oxygen supplies to Covid patients in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
More than 1,000 people have used the service so far, as the country's hospitals become increasingly overwhelmed with the number of rising cases.
Families say they bring their loved ones because there is nowhere left to go.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 12:32

Covid-19 causes number of prison deaths to reach record high

Callum May - BBC News

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Wormwood Scrubs prison in London (file image)

Coronavirus has caused the number of deaths in prison in England and Wales to rise sharply to a record high, the Ministry of Justice says.
In the 12 months to March 2021, there were 408 deaths in custody - an increase of 42% from 287 deaths during the previous 12 months.
There was a record quarterly total of 154 deaths in the last three months of that period. Officials say the increase has been driven by deaths related to Covid-19.
But the numbers suggest there was less violence in prisons during the pandemic, as inmates and staff spent less time in contact with each other.
The number of assaults on inmates and staff all fell in the past 12 months.
The rate of self-harm incidents per 1,000 prisoners decreased by 13% in prisons for men, but increased by 13% in women’s prisons.

Breaking News 

England's Covid cases lowest since September

The coronavirus infection rate in England has dropped to its lowest figure since September, new data shows.
A total of 16,776 people tested positive for Covid-19 at least once in the week to 21 April, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.
This is down 9% on the previous week and is the lowest number since the week to 2 September, 2020.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 12:37

Passenger ferry back for first time since December


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A passenger ferry service between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight has resumed after a four-month break due to the pandemic.
The Wightlink catamaran last operated on 24 December, due to reduced demand during coronavirus restrictions.
The service has resumed on an hourly basis, with reduced numbers of passengers to allow for social distancing. Everyone must wear a mask onboard unless exempt.
Chief executive Keith Greenfield said: "We know it's been a long wait for our regular FastCat customers and we thank them for their patience.
"We are delighted that we can now reinstate our Portsmouth to Ryde service as demand for leisure travel starts to increase."
Read more here


PM accused of visiting Covid memorial wall 'under cover of darkness'


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Boris Johnson has been accused of visiting the National Covid Memorial Wall "under cover of darkness" by campaigners for bereaved families.
But Downing Street says the prime minister went to the wall, opposite the Houses of Parliament, for "quiet reflection" on Tuesday.
Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice accused Johnson of trying to avoid relatives of those who have died during the pandemic.
The group is currently considering legal action against the government as it demands a date is set for an independent, judge-led inquiry into the crisis.
Co-founder Matt Fowler said: "For weeks we've asked him to come to the wall and meet bereaved families. He's refused to even acknowledge our request."
A No 10 spokeswoman said: "The prime minister offers his deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one during this very difficult pandemic.
"On Tuesday the prime minister visited the Covid Memorial Wall in private for quiet reflection."
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 12:42

How do I get my free Covid tests?

As the number of coronavirus infections in England drops to its lowest in almost nine months, people are being encouraged to take rapid tests to prevent new outbreaks.
About one in three people have coronavirus without any symptoms.
Anyone without symptoms in England can get free tests from testing sites and pharmacies or order online to get packs of seven in the post.
Anyone in Scotland can also order lateral flow test kits online or collect them from local testing centres in the afternoon or early evening.
Some people without symptoms can now get lateral flow tests in Wales, including volunteers and those who cannot work from home.
The workforce testing programme in Northern Ireland is now open to all organisations with 10 or more employees or volunteers , who cannot work from home.
Here's our guide to getting your free coronavirus tests.

What's the latest in India?

India reported 379,257 new infections on Thursday, the world's highest single-day total ever. The official death toll is nearly 205,000, but there are fears the real number is far higher, because deaths at home are rarely registered, especially in regional areas.
Despite the crisis, state elections are going ahead . In West Bengal, population 90 million, there were long queues outside polling booths. Experts fear it could be the next epicentre. Cases there rose by 17,000 on Wednesday - a state record.
Meanwhile, India's foreign secretary has thanked countries around the world for their "outpouring of solidarity". Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters more than 40 countries had pledged to send equipment like ventilators and oxygen concentrators.
The US says it is sending more than a $100m worth of supplies. Two flights from Russia have already arrived, carrying much needed medical equipment.
From Saturday, an estimated 500-600 million people will become eligible to get the vaccine in India. But the roll out so far has been plagued with shortages and hesitancy.
So far about 150 million shots have been administered, which is 11.5% of the population of 1.3 billion people.

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People in Kolkata, West Bengal, queue to vote in the state elections
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 13:33

What's been happening in the UK and beyond?

It's lunchtime in the UK so here's a recap of the coronavirus news we've been covering this morning.

  • Covid infection rates have dropped to their lowest in England since early September, NHS Test and Trace weekly figures show
  • At the same time, the number of rapid tests taken in England rose by 1m to 5.8m in the week up to 21 April, the same data shows
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock received his first Covid jab from Prof Jonathan Van-Tam as jabs are offered to 42-year-olds in England
  • Meanwhile, coronavirus has caused prison deaths to reach a record high in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice says - although violence has fallen
  • India has recorded another world record rise in Covid cases with 379,257 new infections recorded today



Liverpool prepares for first gig with no social distancing


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A tent is up in Sefton Park, Liverpool ahead of a pilot gig with no social distancing

A huge tent has been put up in Liverpool ahead of a near-normal gig as part of a government pilot event.
A crowd of 5,000 will see headline act Blossoms without having to social-distance or wear face coverings on Sunday.
But they will only get into the event in Sefton Park by having a negative Covid test.
Ticket-holders will be required to take a lateral flow test, which can produce a result within 30 minutes, at a local testing centre before entry, the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport said.
Attendees will also be asked to take a test after the concert - and will have to provide contact details to NHS Test and Trace to ensure they can be reached if someone who attended tests positive.
Find out more about the gig - and Blossoms - here.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 13:41

China gears up for May Day holiday

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

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People wait at a vaccination centre in Ruili, Yunnan Province of China

This weekend, hundreds of millions of people will travel across China for the annual May Day holiday. It will be a public holiday in China from 1-5 May, and the Ministry of Transport has projected 265 million passenger trips, roughly 53 million a day.
There is currently only [url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/world-56898496?ns_mchannel=social&ns_source=twitter&ns_campaign=bbc_live&ns_linkname=608815fddcb43402eaf5ff38%26Celebrations as lockdowns end in China%E2%80%99s]one outbreak of Covid-19 in China[/url], in the city of Ruili. It has largely now been brought under control.
But despite this, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has issued recommendations that travellers should isolate for 14 days after their trip, and “take precautions to prevent infecting others”. There are fears that the rapidly rising number of cases in India could spill across the border into China, and while state media say there is “no need to worry too much, China still needs to stay vigilant over imports of infection”.
243 million vaccine doses have now been administered in China, more than any other country in the world, but given China’s huge population - and that this figure includes second doses - it means that less than 17% of the population has been vaccinated.
During previous national holidays, China has exercised similar caution. Venues – especially cinemas, which are popular during this time - have lowered their capacity, and tourist sites often demand that visitors show a negative test on condition of entry.
The country learnt the hard way in January 2020 how quickly cases could spread during the holidays. The first ever outbreak of Covid-19 coincided with the Lunar New Year, and the Wuhan government was criticised for not shutting its borders sooner, as mass travel led to cases erupting all across the country.

Romania detects first case of variant found in India

Romania has reported its first case of a Covid variant first identified in India , the health ministry has confirmed.
The case was diagnosed in a 26-year-old patient who arrived in Romania about a month ago and presented light symptoms, Reuters reports.
According to the ministry, the national public health institute said the identified mutation was not the more infectious one believed to have produced the sharp rise in cases in India .
Separately, the ministry added it was monitoring an outbreak of coronavirus cases among construction workers recently arrived from India in a village in Brasov county.
Romania reported 1,850 new Covid cases on Thursday, bringing its total to 1.05m cases and 27,971 deaths.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 13:51

Covid vaccines minister: Don’t hug friends and family just yet

Britons should be “careful” before starting to hug each other and meet indoors again, the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi , has said, as he also warned about the risks of making plans for the summer, according to a report in the Times.
You can read the story here (paywall).

Wales reports a further 69 cases

There have been a further 69 Covid cases in Wales , raising the total number of confirmed cases to 211,458.
Public Health Wales said there had been two further deaths, taking the total in the country since the start of the pandemic to 5,550.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 13:56

Sweden reports 7,158 new cases on Thursday

Sweden , which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, registered 7,158 new Covid cases on Thursday, health agency statistics indicated.
The country of 10 million registered two new deaths – which have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks – taking the total to 14,002.

Italy prolongs curbs on European travellers for 15 days

Italy has extended Covid restrictions already in place on travellers from other European countries for 15 days, the health ministry said, adding that it had also imposed a ban on people coming from Sri Lanka .
People entering Italy from other European countries face five days of quarantine and mandatory testing both before arrival and at the end of their isolation period, Reuters reports.
The government already banned travel from India and Bangladesh amid fears of a surge of cases in the region (see summary for more information).

More data needed before vaccinated people can meet up - No 10

More data is required before the government can agree to fully-vaccinated people meeting up, Number 10 says.
The prime minister's official spokesman was asked whether Boris Johnson agreed with England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam's suggestion it would be safe for two inoculated people to meet up.
The spokesman says that Prof Van-Tam went on to make the point "that we still need further data to understand whether these vaccines work as well for people who are frail and elderly as they do in fit and young people".
"There is some data on that - and that only 64.5% of the population have had their first dose, so we are still a way off the full population having been fully vaccinated," he says.
"The point he was making is that we are close but it is right that we continue to be cautious and follow the steps set out in the road map."
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 16:03

Not allowing trips out of care homes could be 'human rights issue'

The World at One - BBC Radio 4
Not allowing care home residents on trips out could be in breach of their human rights, the chairman of an industry body has suggested.
Currently, if a resident leaves their care home in England, they have to isolate in their room for 14 days on their return.
Mike Padgham, from the Independent Care Group, which represents care providers in York and North Yorkshire, said his homes were taking "a common-sense approach". They are allowing trips out in minibuses where residents do not come into contact with anyone from outside the home - even though this is not strictly allowed under government guidance.
“They’ve all been vaccinated, the staff have all been vaccinated – there’s no risk in that in my view – it’s very, very low," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One.
“I think you’ve got to watch people’s human rights as well... they’re seeing the rest of the country enjoying a bit of freedom as the lockdown eases and I think they want to be treated the same.”
But Nadra Ahmen, chairwoman of the National Care Association, said her organisation was still following government guidance, adding: "If we don’t follow guidance we’ve got issues with our insurance policies, we’ve got a regulator who could come down on us really hard."
"There are still outbreaks in care homes so the virus hasn't gone away," she told the programme.

Restaurant told to remove 'noisy' dining pods


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A restaurant in Somerset that put up plastic dining igloos outside to comply with social distancing rules has been told to remove them by the council.
Martin and Susan Felstead installed three pods in their garden at Greenway Farm in Wemdon, Bridgwater, in July.
The couple applied for retrospective planning permission but it was turned down by Sedgemoor District Council after residents raised objections.
Barrister Derek Perry, representing a number of residents, said one 89-year old client was "happy for people to have a knees-up" but that the noise was "unbearable".
"It's a case of an inch being given and a mile being taken," he added.
We've got the full story here.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 17:10

.
Breaking News

Head of NHS England to step down from role


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Sir Simon pictured in early March 2020

Head of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens is to leave his post at the end of July.
It's understood Sir Simon told the NHS England board last year he intended to leave this summer.
He had intended to leave sooner - but agreed to stay on through the winter and into this year, so he could see through the vaccination rollout and head the NHS response to the pandemic.
Sir Simon became chief executive of NHS England in 2014.
He will join the House of Lords after he steps down, the government has said.

PM thanks Sir Simon for 'dedicated service' to NHS

Following the news of his departure, Sir Simon said he had had "the privilege of leading the NHS through some of the toughest challenges in its history".
"The people of this country have rightly recognised the extraordinary service of NHS staff during this terrible pandemic, as well as the success of our Covid vaccination deployment," he said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sir Simon had led the NHS "with great distinction".
"I want to thank him for his dedicated service throughout - but especially when facing the extraordinary pressures of the past year, and for his huge contribution to our vaccine rollout," he said.
Read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 17:15

France: Macron announces steps out of lockdown

The French government will begin to relax its nightly curfews and other lockdown restrictions from next month, reports Europe 1 radio .
President Emmanuel Macron is expected to give the details in an official announcement on Friday - however he spoke to local newspapers, saying the reopening will happen slowly over a number of stages:
May 19: Curfew moves from 19:00 to 21:00. Shops, museums, cinemas, terraces, outdoor sports venues can reopen. Gatherings of more than ten people are prohibited.
June 9: Curfew extended to 23:00. Cafes and restaurants can reopen inside with tables of up to six people.
June 30: Curfew comes to an end.
France entered its fourth national lockdown a month ago , as cases surged and threatened to overwhelm the country's health system.
There have been 5.6 million Covid-19 cases in France, and 104,077 people have died.

Covid severity is linked to weight, study suggests


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Researchers have found a potential link between weight and risk of severe coronavirus, especially for younger adults.
The study was based on more than 6.9 million people living in England and included data from more than 20,000 Covid-19 patients who were admitted to hospital or died during the first wave.
It found that the risk of worse outcomes from the virus starts rising in people with a body mass index (BMI) above 23kg/m squared, which is considered to be in the healthy range.
The healthy range of BMI is 18.5-24.9kg/m squared.
According to the study, the risks of hospital admission were 5% higher for each one unit increase in BMI and the risk of ICU admission was 10% higher for each unit increase.
People who were underweight, with a BMI less than 18.5, also experienced worse outcomes from Covid-19, the research suggests.
The study, published in The Lancet Diabetes And Endocrinology, found that the effect of excess weight on the risk of severe disease was greatest in people aged 20 to 39, and decreased after age 60.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 17:21

Risk of two vaccinated people meeting 'not nothing'

The World at One - BBC Radio 4
The risk from two vaccinated people meeting is not high but "not nothing", a scientist has said.
Yesterday, deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said it was "incredibly safe for two vaccinated people to meet freely" - raising questions about whether care home residents should be allowed more social contact.
Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said there as a "mismatch" between the average level of safety for the whole country and the safety of individuals visiting care homes - which could cause an outbreak.
He added that many people have only had one dose of a vaccine - which means they are not fully protected - and urged "just a tiny bit more caution, because it would be ghastly to undo all the good work".

Turkey's first lockdown: How did it get so bad?

As we've been reporting, Turkey is to to enter its first long lockdown at 19:00 GMT, to curb a surge in infections and deaths.
This time last year, Turkey was seen as a success story for its early action against coronavirus, and was praised by the World Health Organization (WHO).
But now it is among the countries worst affected by Covid, with the highest infection rate in Europe.
So how did get get so bad?
After a spike in cases in the new year (see chart below) the government started to ease restrictions in March, which sparked a second wave.
Officials then U-turned to re-impose restrictions at the beginning of April. Experts say it was too little too late, however, and it did not work to curb the spread.
Critics say the government was more concerned with private profits than saving lives and the vaccination process was too slow.
Another criticism was that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party organised packed congresses in March while many social gatherings and public protests were banned.
How's Turkey's vaccine drive going?
The country started vaccinating people on 14 January, and since then more than 22.5 million people have had a jab - which is 27.5% of the population.
Turkey mainly uses the Chinese Sinovac vaccine , as well as lower numbers of Pfizer-Biontech .
Turkey and Russia have also reportedly reached an agreement on producing the Sputnik V vaccine in Turkey, with the Health Minister Fahrettin Koca recently saying the country had "sped up vaccine diplomacy".
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 17:31

Tighter restrictions for Thailand

The Thai government has introduced stricter measures to try to curb a coronavirus outbreak, which has been traced back to the nightlife district in the capital, Bangkok.
Restaurant dining has been banned in and around Bangkok and across the whole country people must wear masks in public.
Parks, gyms, cinemas, bars, day-care centres and schools have also been closed in the capital. Non-essential travel from Bangkok is being discouraged.
Shopping malls are still open, but with shorter trading hours, and public transport is still running.
The order to make masks mandatory comes days after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was fined 6,000 baht (£137, $190) for not wearing a mask at an emergency government meeting on Monday.
There have been 63,570 official cases in Thailand, and 188 deaths.

US economy accelerates as recovery continues


Coronavirus - 29th April, 2021 4c526010
Shoppers queue to enter a discount store in New York

The US economy continued to recover in the first three months of the year as businesses reopened and the government spent heavily on Covid relief.
The economy grew at an annualised rate of 6.4% in the quarter, up from 4.3% in the final three months of 2020.
The US economy is rebounding faster than expected after contracting sharply in 2020.
But it is several years away from fully recovering from the pandemic recession.



Breaking News 
The US economy continued to recover in the first three months of the year as businesses reopened and the government spent heavily on Covid relief.
The economy grew at an annualised rate of 6.4% in the quarter, up from 4.3% in the final three months of 2020.
The US economy is rebounding faster than expected after contracting sharply in 2020.
But it is several years away from fully recovering from the pandemic recession.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 17:50

Yorkshire and Humber has highest Covid rate in England

Earlier data from Public Health England shows case rates in all regions of England have either fallen very slightly or remain broadly unchanged.
The highest rate in the week to 25 April was Yorkshire and the Humber, with 44.7 cases per 100,000 - down slightly from 46 cases the previous week.
And south-west England had the lowest rate, with 14.2 cases per 100,000 people. It had been 14.4 the week before.
Here's how the other regions of England stack up, from lowest to highest:

  • South East - 17.2 cases per 100,000
  • East England - 20.5
  • West Midlands - 21.3
  • London - 21.9
  • North East - 22.1
  • North West - 23.3
  • East Midlands - 24.7

PHE also said case rates had fallen slightly among most age groups - with a slight rise in some groups.
Those recording a slight rise are 10 to 19-year-olds, with 45.5 cases per 100,000 people up week-on-week from 44.0; five to nine-year-olds, up from 13.6 to 13.9; those aged four and under, up from 8.4 to 8.9; and 60 to 69-year-olds, up from 12.3 to 12.6.

Lockdown friends meet for the first time

Two women who forged a friendship during the pandemic have met for the first time.
Eileen Kirkham from North Shields has been kept company with regular phone calls from Age UK volunteer Dianne Graham.
The charity's Befriender service has been a lifeline for the 84-year-old widow through the pandemic.
She said it was "super duper" to finally meet up with Dianne in her back garden.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 17:59

Bars and restaurants in Hong Kong ease social distancing under ‘vaccine bubble’

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, China Media Analyst
In Hong Kong - which reported no new local Covid-19 cases today - bars and karaoke lounges have been allowed to open, and restaurants have been allowed to ease dine-in restrictions under a “vaccine bubble” scheme.
Businesses that register with the government’s LeaveHomeSafe app -which launched today and is similar to the UK’s NHS Covid-19 track-and-trace app - will be able to relax their social distancing measures and open at larger capacity for longer hours.
This is provided that staff and customers have been “fully vaccinated”, i.e. received their second dose more than 14 days ago.
The Hong Kong Free Press news website says that restaurants under this scheme can operate until 2am, at 75% capacity, with eight people per table. Those that do not participate in the scheme can only operate until 6pm, with two people per table. They can extend their hours to 10pm and sit four people per table if employees get tested every 14 days.
The lengthy rules attached to the scheme meant that the local South China Morning Post newspaper yesterday predicted that it would face a “chaotic start”.
And today, the paper says that “hosts of businesses” have chosen not to join the scheme, “to avoid burdening staff and customers, amid confusion over the rules and the post-launch release of official documents and tools underpinning the system”.
For some businesses, however, it may simply be a case of taking a bit more time to adjust.

India needs donations and 'moral support'


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Activists and charities have called for more donations as India's coronavirus crisis is leading to shortages of beds and oxygen.
Charities including the British Red Cross, ActionAid, Oxfam India and Save the Children are providing aid and medical equipment.
The UK government announced an initial package of support on Sunday. On Thursday, a shipment of 120 oxygen concentrators arrived in Delhi from the UK's surplus medical supplies, with a further 280 oxygen concentrators due to arrive on Friday morning.
Some Britons with family members in India have also arranged to travel there to assist them.
The British Red Cross is calling on the public to donate to its appeal, which will see 46,000 members of staff and volunteers across India provide medical care.
The country will also receive urgent humanitarian assistance from 14 of the UK's leading aid charities including ActionAid, Oxfam India and Save the Children, who will be providing PPE, disinfection kits, medical supplies and ambulances.
Read about Covid's impact on small-town India here.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 18:12

Back to business - with no social distancing

Four-hundred delegates gathered in Liverpool for the UK's first face-to-face, mask-free business conference since the start of the Covid pandemic.
The Good Business Festival was part of a set of trials being monitored by scientists .
The data will be analysed by experts as part of the government's Events and Research Programme.

Australia: Covid in wastewater prompts tests

Hundreds of people in the Australian state of Victoria have been told to get a coronavirus test after “strong and unexpected” viral fragments were detected in wastewater.
The health department said 246 people in parts of the state's capital, Melbourne, had been contacted on Thursday and advised to get a test.
Authorities said it is most likely the viral fragments are from people shedding the virus after the infection period.
"However, it could also be due to a person living in or travelling through the area in the early active infectious phase".
Authorities are using "an abundance of caution" because a known positive Covid-19 case was on board a flight that arrived in the state in the past 14 days.
Australia has fared much better than most other nations during the pandemic, with fewer than 30,000 cases and 910 deaths. It has imposed some of the strictest snap lockdowns and the international borders remain closed.
However, frustration has grown over the slow pace of the vaccination rollout. The programme has been beset by delays and the country has one of the world's lowest Covid vaccination rates.
Read more here .

India's Covid-19 variant detected in Uganda

Patricia Oyella - BBC News, Kampala
Uganda has reported its first case of the Indian variant of Covid-19
A sample from the infected person, who is receiving treatment at the Mulago National Referral Hospital in the capital Kampala, was taken on 26 March.
The country has also recorded variants from the UK, South Africa and Nigeria.
Uganda rolled out the first phase of its vaccination campaign in March after receiving 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab through the global-sharing Covax scheme, and an additional 100,000 from India.
Just 304,000 people have so far taken their first dose.
The first phase is aimed at front-line workers - including those in the health and education sectors, the elderly and adults with with underlying health conditions.
The country began a phased easing of lockdown restrictions in May last year. Preventative steps, like the wearing of masks and social distancing, are now largely being ignored.
Read more:
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 18:56

US tells citizens in India to leave country

The United States has told its citizens to leave India as soon as possible, as the country battles a devastating coronavirus wave.
The Level 4 "do not travel" advisory is the highest of its kind issued by the US Department of State.
It warns that "access to all types of medical care is becoming severely limited" and US citizens in India should leave "as soon as it is safe to do so".
India's official death toll passed 200,000 on Wednesday, although it is believed the real number is far higher. Hospitals continue to be overwhelmed, oxygen supplies remain critically low, and crematoriums are working non-stop to try and keep up with the number of bodies arriving.
Read more here .

More Europeans vaccinated against Covid than have had virus

More people in Europe have had a Covid-19 vaccine than have been infected with the virus, according to the World Health Organization.
Based on numbers of confirmed cases, 5.5% of the entire European population has now had COVID-19, while 7% has completed a full vaccination series, WHO's Regional Director for Europe says.
But Dr Hans Henri P Kluge adds: "To date, some 215 million doses of vaccine have been administered. Approximately 16% of the region’s population has had a first vaccine dose, and 81% of health workers in 28 countries in the region have had a first dose," he says.
But as our chart shows, vaccine rollouts in the EU are some way behind those in UK and the US.
Coronavirus - 29th April, 2021 D20a9110
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 19:00

Four in five over-70s have had both Covid jabs, figures show

Just over four in five people in England aged 70 and over are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, figures suggest.
An estimated 82.3% of people in this age group had received both doses of the vaccine as of 25 April.
For people aged 80 and over, the figure is 87.1%, while for 75 to 79-year-olds the estimate is 91.8%.
Some 70.8% of 70 to 74-year-olds are also likely to have had both doses.
The figures for vaccinations were published by NHS England, and have been combined with population estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

Ireland to gradually ease strict lockdown rules


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Ireland has been at its highest level of lockdown since Christmas

The government in the Republic of Ireland has agreed a phased relaxation of its Covid-19 lockdown rules - currently at the highest level - over the coming weeks and months.
The country has been at Level Five restrictions since Christmas.
From 10 May, hairdressers, barbers and other close-contact services can resume. Click-and-collect retail can also restart, with all shops reopening on 17 May.
To allow grandparents meet their grandchildren and extended families, a vaccinated household can meet indoors with an unvaccinated one.
Hotels and guest houses will be permitted to trade from 2 June.
All pubs and restaurants are set to open up for outdoor service five days later, on 7 June.
Find out all the details on the relaxation of restrictions here.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 19:02

New York mayor: We will 'fully reopen' on 1 July

New York's mayor has said the city will "full reopen" on 1 July.
"We are ready for stores to open, for businesses to open, offices, theatres, full strength," Bill de Blasio told MSNBC.
However he said there is still work to be done and the focus now is to get everyone vaccinated.
On Thursday, all state-run mass vaccine sites were open for those aged 16 and above to walk-in for their jab.

The mayor also did not specify how restrictions will be lifted, which is actually a decision for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, with whom he has a strained relationship.
Mr Cuomo has already relaxed a number of restrictions including allowing restaurants, stadiums, cinemas and performance venues to reopen with limited capacity.
In the US, it is largely up to state and local officials to decide what restrictions, if any, are put in place. This has resulted in vast differences in rules - for example wearing masks - in different parts of the country.

New York was hit hard by the pandemic in March last year. Early on it became the epicentre in the US, and the city has been under various restrictions since.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Apr 29 2021, 19:05

What's been happening today?

We are going to be bringing our coronavirus updates to a close soon, so here's a recap of the stories we've been covering from the UK and around the world.

  • Covid infection rates have dropped to their lowest in England since early September, NHS Test and Trace weekly figures show
  • At the same time, the number of rapid tests taken in England rose by 1m to 5.8m in the week up to 21 April, the same data shows
  • And across the UK, coronavirus cases are down 8.6% in the past week, compared to the previous week
  • Head of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens, will leave his post at the end of July and join the House of Lords
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock received his first Covid jab from Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, as jabs are now being offered to 42-year-olds in England
  • India has recorded another record rise in Covid cases with 379,257 new infections recorded today
  • Turkey is preparing to enter its first full lockdown of the pandemic to curb a surge in infections and deaths
  • Thailand has imposed greater restrictions with restaurant dining banned in Bangkok and the whole country told to wear masks in public
  • Hundreds of people in the Australian state of Victoria were told to take a test after “strong and unexpected” viral fragments were detected in wastewater
  • France will slowly start to lift its Covid restrictions, including the nightly curfews, from next month, with the majority of restrictions over by 30 June. Emmanuel Macron is expected to give full details on Friday


Goodbye for now

Thanks for joining us for today's coronavirus updates.
They were brought to you by Alex Therrien, Hazel Shearing, Jennifer Meierhans, Lauren Turner, Owen Amos and Tiffany Wertheimer.
We will have more rolling news tomorrow.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 14:03