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Coronavirus - 1st MAY 2021


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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 12:14

Summary for Saturday, 1st May

  • Care home residents in England will be able to make low-risk trips without having to self-isolate for two weeks on their return
  • The rules will be relaxed from Tuesday, allowing for quarantine-free outings such as walks or garden visits
  • Campaigners had threatened legal action, arguing that residents' human rights were being breached
  • South Asian communities in England were more at risk of infection, severe illness and death during the second wave of the pandemic, compared with other ethnic groups, a study says
  • A campaign is launched to raise money to build a memorial in St Paul's Cathedral to those who've died as a result of the pandemic
  • India is due to begin vaccinating all adults over the age of 18 amid a deadly second wave of infections
  • Australian citizens returning home from India could face up to five years in jail and fines after the journey is made temporarily illegal

Welcome to today’s coronavirus live page, bringing you all the news on the pandemic from the UK and around the world.
Here are the main headlines this morning:

What the papers say

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Saturday's papers are confident that coronavirus restrictions will continue to be eased in England.

  • The Times reports that family and friends will be allowed to hug in just over a fortnight in what it calls "the first significant easing" of social distancing rules.
  • The paper predicts ministers will approve the next stage of the road map from 17 May and that it will include allowing people to have physical contact with other households for the first time in more than a year.
  • The Daily Telegraph says 17 May is also the date that foreign travel will be allowed again - as the first step towards reviving the holiday industry – but it adds that only a "tiny handful" of countries will be on the approved list to start with.
  • The Daily Express says a "green list" of countries which people can visit without any quarantine requirement will be published next week. Most European countries are expected to be on the amber list, according to the Telegraph.
  • Meanwhile, the i newspaper claims scientists and No 10 are "increasingly" confident about mass gatherings without social distancing.
  • And the FT Weekend warns that drinkers have downed so many pints since lockdown restrictions were eased that pubs are facing a beer shortage over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Read more.

Relief as care home isolation rule axed for low-risk trips

Care home residents will be able to leave their home for low-risk trips without having to quarantine for 14 days afterwards, the government says.
The rules will be relaxed in England from Tuesday, allowing for outings such as walks or garden visits without self-isolation.
The move follows threats of legal action by the charity John’s Campaign - who said the rule encouraged care homes to act unlawfully by "falsely imprisoning" residents.
"This will be a huge relief to residents, families and care homes who have all been crying out for change,” said lawyer Tessa Gregory, whose firm is representing the charity.
Under the changes in England, residents on trips out must be accompanied by either a member of staff or one of their two nominated visitors and they must follow social distancing throughout.
They cannot meet in groups or go indoors, except for the use of toilets, and public transport should be avoided where possible.
There are different rules in the UK's devolved nations, with residents in Wales able to leave homes - where there is no Covid outbreak - without isolating on their return.
Scotland's guidance for care homes allows for residents to see loved ones outside of the care home, while rules for care homes in Northern Ireland vary by region .
The government says a fall in Covid cases means it is now "much safer" for care home residents to go outside.
Read more.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 12:54

Australians could face jail or fines if they return from India

Australian citizens returning home from India could face up to five years in jail and fines after the government made the journey temporarily illegal.
The health ministry said the ruling had been made "based on the proportion of people in quarantine who have acquired a Covid-19 infection in India".
Earlier this week, Australia banned all flights from India.
There are an estimated 9,000 Australians in India, 600 of whom are classed as vulnerable.
This will be the first time Australians have been criminalised for returning to their country, Australian media report.
One doctor told ABC that the government's move was disproportionate to the threat posed by those returning from India.
"Our families are quite literally dying in India overseas... to have absolutely no way of getting them out - this is abandonment," GP and health commentator Dr Vyom Sharmer said.
From Monday, anyone who has been in India within 14 days of their intended arrival date in Australia will be banned from entering the country.
Failing to comply with the new ruling could result in a five-year jail sentence, an A$66,000 (£37,000) fine, or both.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was "critical the integrity of the Australian public health and quarantine systems is protected".

Analysis: Care home day trip quarantine rules relaxed

Alison Holt - Social affairs correspondent
Fourteen days is a long time to be stuck in your room because you have ventured out with a relative for a walk or a visit to a park.
Guidance put in place to protect people from a virus which has claimed so many lives in care homes has more recently become a source of great anguish for many residents and families.
As life has begun to open up for others, younger people with disabilities - as well as older residents - have felt unable to leave their care home, trapped by the requirement to self-isolate on return.
Government guidance is there to balance the risks faced by an extremely vulnerable group of people, but with most residents vaccinated and infection rates falling, families complain that the guidance is too slow to change.
They argue that with each month of restrictions, the damage to the people they love deepens.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 13:02

Call for traffic light list of holiday destinations to be published

According to the government's road map for easing lockdown restrictions, the ban on non-essential international travel will be lifted from the 17 May at the earliest - with a traffic light system of green, amber and red lists introduced to indicate how safe different destinations are considered to be.
People returning to England will face different rules according to where they went.
The Commons' Transport Select Committee issued a report last week which stated that the grading of destinations should be published by today "at the latest", but the government has said the lists will be made public in "early May".
Tory MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the committee, says the categorisation of countries is "the bare minimum" that the travel industry and consumers need to make preparations if restrictions are eased on 17 May.
He says continuing uncertainty is putting travel industry jobs under threat, and the government risks "squandering" the success of the vaccine programme.
Here's our explainer on foreign travel and the traffic light system.

UK doctors offer virtual ward rounds to Indian hospitals

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Hospitals in Delhi display signs saying they have run out of oxygen

UK-based doctors of Indian heritage are doing "virtual ward rounds" to help their colleagues in the coronavirus-stricken nation.
India is one of the worst-hit countries in the world, recording a new global record of 401,993 new cases in the last 24 hours - taking its total number to 19.1 million. Another 3,523 people died of the disease in the past 24 hours.
Members of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) are working to help their counterparts in India to get some breathing space as case numbers grow.
Professor Parag Singhal, who is part of the group, told Sky News they were offering long-distance consultations and advice to patients who did not need critical care, and also analysing the results of tests conducted in Indian hospitals.
Prof Singhal says: "The problem seems to be that this appears to be panic mode.
"So people are queuing up for hospital beds, but if they get proper advice through a network of doctors here, along with Indian doctors, they can be managed in a home setting, thereby reducing the pressure on hospitals."
"Those are the patients we are trying to help through virtual ward rounds," he says.
Prof Singhal says the virtual ward rounds project will begin from next week, with many hospitals in India expressing interest in using the service.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 13:08

What's happening so far today?

If you are just joining us, here is a brief round-up of the main coronavirus stories this Saturday:

India daily cases top 400,000 for first time, government 'ignored warnings on variant'
India has posted a record daily rise of 401,993 new coronavirus cases today as the country opened up its humungous vaccination drive to all adults, although several states warned of acute shortages.
Reuters has the story:
It was the first time India’s daily case count had topped 400,000 after 10 consecutive days over 300,000. Deaths related to Covid-19 jumped by 3,523 over the past 24 hours, taking the total toll to 211,853, according to official data.
The world’s biggest producer of Covid-19 vaccines has a limited number of shots available, worsening a grim second wave of infections that has overwhelmed hospitals and morgues while families scramble for scarce medicines and oxygen.
The chief minister of the hard-hit state of Delhi yesterday implored people not to queue at vaccination centres, promising more vaccines would arrive “tomorrow or the day after”.
India’s eastern Odisha state said it had received a consignment of 150,000 shots but would only allow a few people to get shots due to lockdown restrictions preventing movement.
Meanwhile, a fire in a hospital about 115 miles south of Ahmedabad killed 16 coronavirus patients and two staff, the latest in a series of deadly accidents at hospitals.
A forum of scientific advisers set up by Modi administration warned Indian officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country, five scientists who are part of the forum told Reuters.
Despite the warning, four of the scientists said the federal government did not seek to impose major restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. Millions, largely unmasked, attended religious gatherings and election rallies that were held by Modi, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition politicians.
Read more

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 13:16

Ukraine eases restrictions

Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, has today eased tough restrictions imposed last month geared to prevent the rapid spread of the new coronavirus.
Reuters reports:
In early April, Kyiv limited its public transport services, closed schools and kindergartens, theatres and shopping centres, and banned spectators from sporting events.
Starting from today, the capital will allow the operation of transport, cafes and restaurants, although passenger and customer numbers will be restricted. Wearing masks is still mandatory in transport and public places.
Shopping malls and sports clubs will be able to reopen, while schools and kindergartens will open from 5 May, local authorities said.
Last month, Kyiv recorded some of highest numbers of new infections among Ukrainian regions, but new cases dropped significantly last week.

Pakistan to reduce number of inbound international flights

Pakistan plans to reduce the number of inbound international flights to 20% of current numbers to curb rising Covid cases, the official body overseeing the country’s pandemic response said.
“In view of prevailing global and regional disease trends, Pakistan has decided to reduce inbound international travel from 5 May to 20 May,” said the National Command Operation Center (NCOC) on Twitter.
It was not immediately clear which routes and air carriers would be affected. The NCOC added the decision would be reviewed on 18 May.
Pakistan has seen record deaths in recent days from the coronavirus, and stricter restrictions on movement and gathering in public are planned for the upcoming Eid holiday.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 13:27

Canada will get Pfizer vaccines from the US next week

Canada will start getting Pfizer Covid vaccines from the US next week, a company spokesperson said, in what is to be the first time the US has allowed that company’s jabs to be exported to Canada.
AP reports:
Despite Canada’s tightly woven commercial ties with the U.S., it has been getting Pfizer’s vaccines from Belgium until now because U.S. authorities had kept supplies made in the U.S. for domestic use.
Prime minister Justin Trudeau repeated yesterday that starting next week, Canada will be receiving 2 million doses a week from Pfizer alone.
Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada in recent months. Every adult in Quebec will be eligible to make a vaccine appointment on May 14 and in Ontario, Canada’s largest province, every adult can book an appointment starting May 24.
Trade-dependent Canada previously lagged on vaccinating its population of 38 million because it lacks the facilities to manufacture the vaccine itself.
Pfizer has delivered almost 160 million doses to the U.S. from its Kalamazoo, Michigan, plant and that figure is expected to reach 200 million by the end of May.

How continental Europe is emerging from Covid lockdown

Jon Henley - The Guardian
Counting on an accelerating vaccination campaign to keep new infections in check, much of continental Europe has announced plans for a gradual exit from lockdown over the coming weeks as case numbers begin to fall. Here is where things stand.
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Hong Kong's plan to make coronavirus vaccines compulsory for foreign migrant workers labelled "unjust"
Hong Kong migrant worker groups have criticised plans to make coronavirus vaccines compulsory for all foreign domestic workers, labelling the move “discriminatory and unjust”.
AFP reports:
Health officials said they were planning to roll out mandatory inoculations for the 370,000 domestic helpers in the city, mostly poorly-paid women from the Philippines and Indonesia.
Those wanting to apply for work visas - or renew their current ones - would need to show they had been vaccinated, officials said Friday. If the plan goes ahead it would be the first time Hong Kong has directly tied working rights for foreigners to vaccines.
“This is clearly an act of discrimination and stigmatisation against migrant domestic workers,” said Dolores Balladares Pelaez, the chair of United Filipinos in Hong Kong.
Labour groups representing domestic workers said they were angered other foreigners – and locals working in environments such as care homes – were not also required to get vaccinated. “Again, we are being singled out and targeted,” Pelaez added.
Health officials announced the vaccination plan after two domestic helpers were found to be infected with one of the more virulent strains of the coronavirus. All domestic workers have also been ordered to get tested over the coming days – a measure that did not extend to the families they work for.
Hong Kong labour secretary, Law Chi-kwong, defended linking domestic worker visas to vaccination. “Of course they can choose not to work in Hong Kong as they are not Hong Kong residents,” Law said.

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Australia’s ban on travellers returning from India due to Covid crisis may be unlawful
Nino Bucci - The Guardian
The travel ban preventing Australians in India from returning home could be subject to legal challenges, with lawyers and academics believing the extraordinary measure may breach the law.
Scott Morrison’s government has been condemned for its “outrageous” decision to introduce fines of up to $66,600 or five years in prison, or both, for anyone defying a travel ban preventing Australians returning home from India.
The travel ban officially begins on Monday, in what is believed to be the first time Australia has banned its own citizens from returning home.
Griffith University human rights law professor Sarah Joseph said the ban, implemented under the Biosecurity Act, must satisfy section 477 of that act, which states that the measure has to be “appropriate” and “no more restrictive or intrusive than is required in the circumstances”.
Read more here

Thailand: New daily record of 21 coronavirus deaths in one day

Reuters reports:
The health ministry today reported 1,891 new cases, bringing the total number of infections to 67,044 since the pandemic began last year, with 224 deaths. Thailand is fighting a fierce third wave of infections, the worst of the pandemic after a year of relative success in controlling the virus.
The new outbreak includes the highly transmissible B117 variant and has accounted for about half of its total cases and deaths during the pandemic. A slow rollout of vaccines has churned public frustration, with the 2.5m doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine received so far going mostly to medical and frontline workers and the most vulnerable.
Registration for vaccinating the general public begins today through mobile applications, with about 16 million people over 60 or those with pre-existing conditions like diabetes getting priority. By late afternoon, nearly 200,000 people across Thailand had registered and booked appointments to get vaccinated, health authorities said.

Impeachment for governor of Brazil's state Rio de Janeiro

A Brazilian court has confirmed the impeachment of Rio de Janeiro’s state governor Wilson Witzel over alleged graft in the purchase of medical supplies and services to fight the pandemic.
Witzel, who denies any wrongdoing, had been temporarily removed from power in August 2020. Brazilian prosecutors say that Witzel bought 700 million reais ($128.76 million) in ventilators which have never been delivered to treat Covid patients.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 13:47

Snooker World Championship final will play out to full crowd

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Social distancing is being eased at the Snooker World Championship to allow the final to be played in front of a capacity crowd at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
The return of fans is being staggered throughout the event from 33% capacity for the first round to 100% for the final games on Sunday and Monday.
World Snooker says face coverings are required but social distancing "will not be expected".
The tournament is part of the government's pilot scheme to ensure fans can safely return to sporting and cultural venues.
Fans have to take a Covid-19 test before arriving and another five days afterwards.

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Philippines receives first batch of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

The Philippines has received its first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, the president’s office has said.
Reuters reports:
The 15,000 doses of Sputnik V, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, will be used in four cities in the capital region, the Philippines’ coronavirus hotspot, the health ministry said.
It was supposed to arrive on 25 April, but was delayed by logistical issues. The Philippines is negotiating to buy 20 million doses of Sputnik V, as part of its target to inoculate up to 70 million adults this year.
It has so far received 4.04 million vaccine doses, more than 86% of which were from China’s Sinovac Biotech and the rest from AstraZeneca through the Covax facility. More than 1.8 million doses had been administered as of 27 April, government data showed.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 13:51

UK government 'has not missed deadline' on overseas travel

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There has been some criticism over the goverment's failure to reveal more details about the traffic light system that the government has proposed to help regulate international travel after 17 May.
Tory MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the Commons' Transport Select Committee, accused the government of missing today's deadline to grade overseas destinations.
But a spokeswoman for the Department for Transport insists the government "has not missed a deadline".
"We have always said we will confirm by early May if international travel can resume on 17 May and which countries will fall into which list.
"This will determine the requirements for travel for passengers."
She says the government's Global Travel Taskforce is working towards restarting international in a "safe and sustainable way".
Mr Merriman earlier bemoaned the lack of information, which meant travellers and the travel industry were "still in the dark".
"Uncertainty has been prolonged. This uncertainty could cost people their jobs," he said.
"How can it be right that countries with slower vaccination roll-outs are safely reopening to international travellers while the UK stays static?"

Isle of Man border opens to allow family visits

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Border restrictions have been eased on the Isle of Man to allow non-resident family members to visit from today.
The island's border has been closed to almost all non-residents since the start of the pandemic, keeping some families apart for more than a year.
Anyone who visits must isolate for seven days and pay £60 for two Covid-19 tests.
Following a second negative test, people can leave isolation but will face further restrictions for the next three days, including a ban on using public transport or visiting pubs, restaurants and theatres.
Anyone visiting from further afield must isolate for 14 days.
Chief Minister Howard Quayle says the relaxation is possible because of the island's progress with its vaccination programme and the fall in infection rates in the UK.
More than three quarters of adults living on the island have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and there are only 10 active coronavirus cases.
We've got more on this story here.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 15:50

Analysis: Vaccinating India could take years

Aamir Peerzad - BBC News, Srinagar
According to the federal government's new vaccination policy, the state governments and the hospitals can purchase the vaccines directly from the manufacturers.
But while India is the largest vaccine manufacturer, it seems there are not enough vaccines available.
Many states have announced that they can't begin the vaccination drive as the manufacturers have not been able to keep up with demand. That has led to widespread disappointment.
Experts say at the current rate, it may take India years to vaccinate its entire population.
But can India's estimated 800 million eligible citizens, and indeed the world, afford to wait for so long?

India: Deaths after oxygen shortage at one hospital and a fire at another

Meanwhile, several people have died at a hospital in Delhi today when critically ill patients were left without oxygen for about 80 minutes before re-supply tankers arrived, according to local media reports.
And a fire in a Covid-19 hospital ward in the western city of Bharuch killed 18 people - the latest in a number of deadly hospital fires across the country this week.
Vijay Gupta, 62, was gasping for air outside a hospital in the south-east of India's capital because all of its beds were full.
"We have been roaming around since 06:00 looking for a bed," a friend told Reuters news agency. "Where shall we go?"
In Srinagar, the main city of Indian-administered Kashmir, one man said he had been waiting for vaccines to become available at a health centre, only to be told to come back another time.
He said two relatives were with him who had health conditions.
"I'm very worried about them but we're still waiting," he told the BBC.
We've got more on the Covid situation in India here.

Analysis: India's leaders oppose a lockdown as Covid crisis deepens

Devina Gupta - BBC News
India continues to struggle. In the past 48 hours the situation has worsened.
Twelve people died when a private hospital in Delhi ran out of Oxygen.
Some hospitals are now turning away critically ill patients. To fight the pandemic, India's prime minister Narendra Modi has lowered the age limit for vaccination from 45 to 18.
This will make an estimated 600 million more people eligible for the jab starting today.
But only six states will be rolling out this initiative, others have put it on hold, saying their vaccine reserves have dried up.
So far, the central government has denied there are vaccine shortages in the country.
India is one of the world's largest vaccine manufacturers and produces nearly 80 million doses every month, but experts say this needs to be ramped up fast.
The government has so far opposed a national lockdown.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 16:16

'My aunt died sitting in her chair because of a lack of oxygen'

As we've been reporting, India has become the first country to report more than 400,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day, as its nationwide vaccine drive launches amid a supply crisis.
There are also acute shortages of oxygen and hospital beds. Members of the diaspora - with family and friends in India - have responded by raising funds, sending life-saving equipment and offering their own expertise.
Mehez Warsi is an Indian-born physiotherapist who has lived in the UK for the past seven years but is now back in Mumbai. She told the BBC's Newshour she had lost "at least 36 people in the last two weeks" including her father and her aunt.

Breaking News 

UK records seven Covid deaths

A further seven people have died with coronavirus in the UK, according to the government's daily figures.
This brings the total number of people to die within 28 days of a positive test to 127,524.
There were also another 1,907 new infections reported in the last 24 hours.

While India is desperate for oxygen, its politicians deny there’s even a problem

Mukul Kesavan
As coronavirus rages through Delhi, India, it has become nearly impossible to get a Covid test, writes Mukul Kesavan, essayist and author who teaches history at Jamia Millia Islamia university.
:Left Quotes: If you are lucky enough to get one, it takes up to a week to get the result. Until it arrives, if you have a severe case of Covid and need hospitalisation, you can’t be admitted to a hospital because you don’t have the paperwork to prove you are positive.
Delhi’s state government imposes a curfew to break the chain of transmission. Thirteen months on from the imposition of the first lockdown, it’s clear that we aren’t back to square one; we have been transported, unaccountably, to some strange circle of hell.
Read more

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 16:21

Kenya lifts lockdown as infection rate falls

Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has lifted the lockdown he imposed last month, allowing for a reopening of bars and restaurants, religious services and schools, as the rate of infections eases in the east African country.
Reuters reports:
Curbs on travel in the capital Nairobi and four surrounding counties are to be lifted, and schools will be allowed to reopen. Religious services will resume with some restrictions, while political gatherings would still be banned, he said in a speech.
An evening curfew that currently starts at 8pm will now be 10pm. The changes will be in effect from midnight on Saturday, Kenyatta said. Under the restrictions now being relaxed, Nairobi and surrounding counties were treated as one zone, with residents barred from traveling to other areas.
Cases in Kenya, the richest country in East Africa, have fallen from last month’s peak but it is still among the top five nations in Africa reporting new infections and deaths, according to a Reuters tracker.
Kenya reported 497 new infections and 17 deaths within the past 24 hours, according to the latest health ministry data released on Friday. Overall, the country of 53 million has recorded nearly 159,000 cases and around 2,700 deaths.

Cambodia begins vaccination drive of half a million people

Cambodia’s army has begun a drive to vaccinate nearly half a million people in the parts of Phnom Penh worst-hit by Covid, but there is criticism of the use of the military as the south-east Asian nation looks to step up the pace of inoculations.
Reuters reports:
The country, which had been one of the least affected by the pandemic, is seeing a rise in coronavirus cases that has seen the total number of infections jump from about 500 to 13,790 since late February, including all 96 of the deaths it has recorded.
Phnom Penh is under lockdown until 5 May and has declared some districts of the capital “red zones”, banning people from leaving their homes except for medical reasons.
Senior military official Eth Sarath said 471,573 people would be inoculated with China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac shots during a one-month campaign led by the military, according to a Ministry of Defence statement posted on Facebook.
“To date, more than 1.3 million Cambodians, including foreigners, diplomats and civil society workers in Cambodia, have been vaccinated,” the defence ministry said.
Soeung Senkaruna, senior human rights worker at local rights group ADHOC, criticised the use of the military, saying people might feel intimidated.
“Whether they want it or not, seeing soldiers like these, they are worried, they are scared in case they do not want to make a decision, do not want to get the jab,” he said.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 16:30

The Netherlands delays easing of lockdown as pressure remains high

The Netherlands has delayed its next phase of lockdown easing by at least a week as cases and pressure on hospitals remains high.
“We are passing the peak of the third wave. But the decline [of the infection rate] is not strong enough yet,” health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Twitter.
Gyms, zoos and amusement parks had been due to reopen on 11 May, but this has now been postponed to at least 18 May, Reuters reports.
The country slightly relaxed its restrictions last week, lifting a night-time curfew and allowing bars and restaurants to serve small groups outdoors between midday and 6pm.
The number of coronavirus patients in Dutch intensive care wards has surged in recent weeks to its highest in a year as infections swelled to levels last seen at the start of the year.

Turkish police arrest over 200 people at May Day marches

Turkish police have detained more than 200 people attending May Day marches amid a coronavirus-related curfew, Reuters reports, citing witnesses and the Istanbul governor’s office.
A total of 212 demonstrators were arrested as police threw people to the ground before detaining dozens of them near Istanbul’s Taksim Square.
The governor’s office said some unions were permitted to hold memorials to mark the annual holiday, while others who had “gathered illegally” in violation of the lockdown, and ignored calls to disperse, were detained.
State-owned Anadolu Agency said 20 protestors were also detained in the western city of Izmir.
Turkey entered a 17-day lockdown this week, imposing stay-home orders and closing schools and some businesses, to curb a wave of coronavirus infections.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 16:36

Portugal's flight restrictions extended until 16th May

Portugal is to extend until 16 May flight restrictions that prevent non-essential travel from countries with high coronavirus rates, including Brazil and India – a new addition to the list.
Reuters reports:
Travellers from countries where 500 or more cases per 100,000 people have been reported over a 14-day period - which also include South Africa, France and the Netherlands, among others - can only enter Portugal if they have a valid reason, such as for work or healthcare, the government said. They must then quarantine for 14 days.
People from countries where the incidence rate is 150 or more Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, such as next-door Spain and Germany, can also travel by plane to Portugal only for essential reasons.
They will have to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure for Portugal. Those without a test will have to take one upon arrival and wait for the result at the airport.
Portugal’s 1,200-km-long land border with Spain reopened today after more than three months of restrictions and border checks.

India must go into lockdown for several weeks

India should go into lockdown for several weeks to arrest the current devastating surge in Covid cases, top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci has said.
AFP reports:
Prime minister Narendra Modi’s government has resisted imposing a national lockdown after a nationwide shutdown a year ago caused widespread human suffering and a painful economic hit.
“I think the most important thing in the immediate is to get oxygen, get supplies, get medication, get PPE, those kinds of things,” the Indian Express daily quoted Fauci as saying in an interview. “But also, one of the immediate things to do is to essentially call a shutdown of the country,” he said.
“And if you shut down, you don’t have to shut down for six months. You can shut down temporarily to put an end to the cycle of transmission,” he added. No one likes to lock down the country... But if you do it just for a few weeks, you could have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak.”
Many states have imposed heavy restrictions on activity, particularly in the western state of Maharashtra and the capital New Delhi where hospitals are at breaking point. The capital extended its shutdown for another week today.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 16:55

Thousands join May Day protests across France despite restrictions

Thousands of people have joined traditional May Day protests across France today, gathering despite Covid-19 restrictions to demand social and economic justice and voice their opposition to government plans to change unemployment benefits.
Reuters reports:
About 300 rallies were organised in Paris and other cities including Lyon, Nantes, Lille and Toulouse. In the French capital, trade unionists were joined by members of the “Yellow Vest” movement that triggered a wave of anti-government protests three years ago and by workers from sectors hit hard by pandemic restrictions such as culture.
Marchers, most wearing masks in line with Covid-19 rules, carried banners reading: “Dividends, not unemployment benefits are the income of lazy people” and “We want to live, not survive”.
“Loads of money is going to those who have plenty and less tor those who have nothing as reflected in the unemployment insurance reform plan that we want scrapped,” Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT labour union said.
Most demonstrations were peaceful, although Lyon police scattered a group of about 200 people who were throwing fireworks, the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes prefecture said on Twitter.

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Protestors wave trade unions flags as they take part in the annual Labour Day workers’ demonstration, in Paris on 1 May. Photograph: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands also join May rallies all over Spain

Thousands of people have also joined 1 May rallies in more than 70 cities across Spain today in the first Labour Day demonstrations since the pandemic began.
AFP reports:
Wearing masks and observing social distancing, demonstrators marched through the streets waving banners although in many places, numbers were capped to ensure anti-Covid measures were respected.
The main demonstration in Madrid, which was limited to 1,000 people, began at midday local time under the slogan “Now it’s time to deliver” with the participants marching from the town hall to the city’s Puerta del Sol square.
Seven government ministers attended the march, including labour minister Yolanda Diaz as well as representatives of the three left-wing parties running in Tuesday’s regional election in Madrid.
At the rally, union leaders Pepe Alvarez of the UGT and the CCOO’s Unai Sordo urged the government to honour commitments delayed by the pandemic, such as repealing a controversial labour reform, raising the minimum wage and approving a law on equal pay.
Alvarez said it was critical to ensure the funds were used “to face up to the needs of its citizens and ... to make a change to its production model”.

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People march during a protest to mark the International Labour Day in Madrid, Spain, 1 May. Photograph: Sergio Pérez/Reuters

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 17:08

May Day gatherings and protests in Belgium

Hundreds of mainly young Belgian people have gathered in a Brussels park in defiance of coronavirus restrictions and police orders.
AFP reports:
The so-called “Boum 2” protest, organised online, is a follow up to an action last month that was broken up by police with horses and water cannon, causing injuries. Ahead of the event, prime minister Alexander de Croo had urged the crowds to stay away, and hundreds of officers were deployed.
By late afternoon, AFP reporters in the Bois de la Cambre, a large park in the city, saw fireworks set off and some missiles thrown as police moved in. “We’re here to protect our freedom. Masks? I don’t wear them anymore. I want to be free,” said an 18-year-old high schooler from Flanders.

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Police officers ride horses next to people gathering at the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos park for a party called “La Boum 2”. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

As a police car rolled onto the grass close to the heart of the gathering, the merry-makers chanted: “Freedom, Freedom.” A helicopter and a drone hovered overhead, but the protesters’ music all but drowned out police demands for masking and social distancing.
“It’s been a year,” a 21-year-old from the capital told AFP. “A whole year we can’t go out. After a while you need an alternative.”
Belgium is under its second national lockdown as a coronavirus prevention measure and bars and restaurants have been shut since late October. But a vaccination drive is picking up speed and outdoor dining and drinking is due to resume on 8 May , and authorities have appealed for calm.
Norton, a 23-year-old cook who has lost his restaurant job, said the plan was not to provoke violence but to demand an end to what he called “illogical” anti-virus measures.
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Police officers scuffle with a man at the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos park as people gather for a party called “La Boum 2” in defiance of Belgium’s coronavirus measures on 1 May. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Elsewhere in the Belgian capital, people demonstrated to mark International Workers’ Day.

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People attend a parade on International Workers’ Day amid the coronavirus pandemic on 1 May in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 17:14

What rules are likely to change in England from 17 May?

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International travel is expected to be allowed again from 17 May at the earliest

Monday 17 May marks the next stage of the government's lifting of lockdown restrictions across England. So what is expected to change in mid-May?

  • People can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors
  • Six people or two households can meet indoors
  • Domestic overnight stays allowed with people not in your household or bubble
  • Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues can seat customers indoors
  • Up to 30 people can attend weddings or other life events, such as christenings
  • Outdoor entertainment still subject to restrictions, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas, can now open
  • Indoor entertainment including museums, theatres and cinemas can open
  • Performances and large events can restart, but with limits on audience numbers
  • Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen
  • International leisure travel may resume
  • Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes can restart

How and when restrictions change will ultimately depend on key data improving - and the easing differs between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You can find out all you need to know about the relaxation of rules here.

Covid variants prompt surge testing in London's Tower Hamlets

Surge testing is to be carried out in Tower Hamlets, east London after a small number of the coronavirus variants first detected in Brazil and South Africa were identified there.
These strains of Covid-19 may be more contagious and dodge immunity to some extent.
All the confirmed cases are self-isolating and there are no links between these cases and the cluster of cases recently identified in the South London area.
The variants have been identified in the area around E1 4 and E1 3 and some of E1 0, E1 1, E1 2, E1 5, E14 7, E2 0, E2 6, E3 4.
Everyone over the age of 11 in these areas is being advised to take a PCR test, even if they don’t have symptoms.
You can find out more about the variants of concern here.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 17:26

18 covid patients killed in fire in hospital ward in Western India

A fire in a Covid-19 hospital ward in western India killed 18 patients on Saturday, as the country grappling with the worst outbreak yet stepped up a vaccination drive for all adults even as some states said they don’t have enough jabs.
AP reports:
India on Saturday set yet another daily global record with 401,993 new cases, taking its tally to more than 19.1 million. Another 3,523 people died in the past 24 hours, raising the overall fatalities to 211,853, according to the Health Ministry. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.
The fire broke out in a Covid-19 ward on the ground floor of the Welfare Hospital in Bharuch, a town in Gujarat state, and was extinguished within an hour, police said. The cause is being investigated.
Thirty-one other patients were rescued from the blaze by hospital workers and firefighters and their condition was stable, said police officer B.M Parmar.
India’s government on Saturday shifted its faltering vaccination campaign into high gear by saying all adults 18 and over could get jabs.

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Post by Kitkat Sat May 01 2021, 17:34

What's been happening in the UK and around the world?

We're going to be drawing our live page updates to a close soon so here's a recap of the main coronavirus news from the UK and beyond.

  • Lockdown has been extended for another week in Delhi, as India grapples with record coronavirus cases and a shortage of vaccines
  • The country is also facing a devastating lack of medical oxygen and hospital beds
  • Several people died at a hospital in Delhi when they were left without oxygen for about 80 minutes before re-supply tankers arrived, according to local media reports
  • And a fire in a Covid-19 hospital ward in the western city of Bharuch killed 18 people - the latest in a number of deadly hospital fires across the country this week
  • Surge testing has been launched in the Tower Hamlets area of London after the discovery of several cases of the Brazilian and South African variants
  • Care home residents in England will be able to make low-risk day trips without having to self-isolate for two weeks on their return, from Tuesday
  • A campaign is launched to raise money to build a memorial in St Paul's Cathedral to those who've died as a result of the pandemic

Goodbye for now

That's all from the live page team. U
pdates were brought to you by Chris Clayton, Holly Wallis, Jennifer Meierhans and Victoria Lindrea.
We will be back with more coronavirus news tomorrow, have a good evening.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 13:28