Life and Style

Observer sudoku

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Observer sudoku” was written by , for theguardian.com on Saturday 10th April 2021 23.01 UTC

Fill the grid using the numbers 1 to 9. Each number must appear just once in every row, column and 3×3 box.

Buy next week’s Observer Digital Edition to see the completed puzzle.

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Life and Style

How we stay together: ‘We’re the middle aged couple walking down the street holding hands’

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “How we stay together: ‘We’re the middle aged couple walking down the street holding hands’ ” was written by Alexandra Spring, for theguardian.com on Saturday 10th April 2021 20.00 UTC

Names: Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey
Years together: 36
Occupations: public servant and lab technician

“If you can travel together successfully, that is a sign of a strong relationship,” says Don Jarmey. “If you can sit for 41 hours on a bus from Istanbul to Budapest with about 2 metres of snow outside, where the bus stops three times in that 41 hours and you still love each other at the end, then yeah.”

At last count, he and wife Angela have travelled to almost 50 countries in their years together. They’ve had plenty of good and bad experiences – and certainly still love each other.

The Brisbane couple met as teenagers at Toowong high school in the early 80s. Don was the new boy in year 12 and Angela noticed him because he seemed more mature than his peers. “I can vividly remember [thinking], ‘Who is this guy? He is really cute’.” Don noticed her too: “I thought she had great legs,” he says with a laugh.

They were friendly, but drew closer after graduation. So close that Angela had to convince others that they were just friends. That is, until Don made his move. The pair had been out in Fortitude Valley watching a band, when “[he] kissed me and I was like, ‘Whoa, what the hell was that?’” Don shrugs: “I just thought, ‘I really like this woman, I’ll give it a shot, see how it goes’.”

Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey at Angela’s 19th birthday, 1985
‘I just thought, ‘I really like this woman, I’ll give it a shot, see how it goes’. Angela and Don at her 19th birthday in 1985. Photograph: Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey

Their relationship morphed quickly into a romantic one. “All of our friends said, ‘It was about time!” I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’,” laughs Angela.

They came together easily, she says, because they had much in common. “When you’re 18 and 19, you don’t have any relationship pressures … We liked to laugh, we liked to go out, we liked music, we had friends in common. I was attracted to him, he was attracted to me. When people talk about working at their marriages, I’m like, ‘I don’t know what this work is that you speak of.’” Don agrees: “ We just do.”

They moved in together in Townsville a few years later. It was a happy time, playing music together and with their friends. “We found our Townsville family … through music mostly, and that was really us finding that together,” says Don. They were good at cohabitation and divided chores equally. “We never fought but we had compromises,” says Angela.

Their only life goals were to travel the world. “I feel like we ricochet from this fun thing to another thing,” says Angela “Maybe is that the secret? No goals.”

After 10 years and a stint in London together, they decided it was time to get married. Nothing changed outwardly, but there was a shift in their connection. “It was just a feeling,” says Don. “If you’ve been together for 10 years then you decide to get married, well, that’s an important thing. If you jump into a marriage, you’re still trying to find your way through it. We didn’t have to find our way through it, we knew we were in love,” he says.

Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey Wedding part 1 Brisbane 1995
‘When people talk about working at their marriages, I’m like, “I don’t know what this work is that you speak of,” Angela says. Photograph: Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey

After that, they moved back to Brisbane and started trying for a baby. When things weren’t happening, they tried a few rounds of IVF. It was a heartbreaking time: expensive, an emotional rollercoaster and ultimately unsuccessful. “[Don was] really doing it for me, I think,” says Angela. “[Eventually] I said, ‘I don’t want to spend my 30s just constantly forking out money and being miserable’.”

It brought them closer together: “We knew how each other felt,” says Angela “He was so willing to go through this … Then I just went, ‘I can’t, that’s it’.” Don nods: “I was never going to put pressure on Ange to go any further. That would just be stupid.”

When they stopped, they knew they had to seek out a different kind of life for themselves. “[I said] if we’re not going to do this, we need to do something that is going to completely take our minds off this. So that I’m not thinking every month, oh it’s this time. So we packed up our entire house and we went back to London.”

They spent the next year travelling through Europe and the Middle East, then made their way home. Now, along with their busy jobs, they run the annual Neurum Creek folk music festival. They work well together – she comes up with the big ideas while he brings them to life. Angela admits she can be bossy sometimes, but Don doesn’t mind. “I used to argue sometimes with Ange and then I’ve realised, ‘Nah’, because, generally speaking, nine times out of 10 she’s right.”

“We’re the middle aged couple that’s walking down the street holding hands,” laughs Angela. The couple at their 20th Wedding anniversary in 2005
The couple at their 20th wedding anniversary in 2005. ‘We’re the middle aged couple that’s walking down the street holding hands,’ Angela says. Photograph: Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey

Angela says she sometimes feels she has to protect Don – from himself. “Someone once said, ‘The thing that you fall in love with in a person is often the thing that drives you mad.’ And I keep that in my head because there’s been times where Don is a giver of himself. He says yes to people, and he looks after people. And he does that a lot. And sometimes there’s been times where I’ve gone, ‘You need to stop. You need to calm down on that.’ And I guess it’s the way that I say it. Because I know how much people love him and how he takes care of people. And I try to remember that, because I’ll say, ‘You can’t just do all that for everybody. They’ve got to take care of themselves.’”

They are still very affectionate with each other. “We’re the middle aged couple that’s walking down the street holding hands,” Angela says with a laugh. “Always say ‘I love you’ when we leave each other, always give each other a kiss goodbye [and] we talk to each other at least once a day on the phone,” Don says.

In the early days, they did almost everything together but now they have their own interests. “I think that’s a really important thing to have,” says Don. Some things have remained the same though: “Our sense of fun, and our sense of this is a challenge, and looking for new experiences, I think that’s still there,” Angela says. “And how much we enjoy each other’s company.”

And they agree that, while they both enjoy their careers, it’s about having fun together. “My identity is not my work. My identity is so much more than that,” Angela says, “and when we retire, I would hate to be going, ‘Oh well, what do I do now?’”

Don compares them to his parents, who spent the last 20 years of their lives travelling together. “We’re nowhere near retiring yet but we’re living life now, we’re not just working towards retirement. We’re actually living life.”

For Angela, her commitment to Don means always putting him first. “Even though I have the big ideas … You will be absolutely number one in my thoughts,” she says looking at her husband. “I am going to look after you… if anybody comes at you … come at me first.”

Don finds it trickier to put his feelings into words: “It’s not that you get used to each other, it’s just you’re part of each other. As much as we have our independent ways of being, we’re entwined … It’s just such a natural thing.”

“Our sense of fun, and our sense of this is a challenge, and looking for new experiences, I think that’s still there. And how much we enjoy each other’s company.” The couple in Venice in 2017
The couple in Venice in 2017. ‘Our sense of fun, and our sense of this is a challenge, and looking for new experiences, I think that’s still there. And how much we enjoy each other’s company.’ Photograph: Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey

So what’s kept them together through everything? “Always respect for each other,” says Don, adding: “Don’t fight [but] if you have fights, work it out. I think some people that do fight, they don’t work it out and that stews up.”

Angela says her love for Don has never changed: “I love him. And I married you because I love you and why would that change?”

  • We want to hear your stories about staying together. Tell us about you, your partner and your relationship by filling in the form here

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Corona Virus, Health, India, World

Coronavirus live news: India’s cases surging as deadly second wave spreads, Iran imposes 10-day lockdown

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: India’s cases surging as deadly second wave spreads, Iran imposes 10-day lockdown ” was written by Nadeem Badshah (now); Edna Mohamed and Clea Skopeliti (earlier), for theguardian.com on Saturday 10th April 2021 18.12 UTC

New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo provides an update on the Covid numbers in the city.

France has recorded 43,284 new coronavirus cases.

The country has registered more than 4.98 million cases in total.

Soldiers patrol the outskirts of Bogota amid a reinstated strict lockdown to help curb the spread of coronavirus, in Bogota, Colombia.
Soldiers patrol the outskirts of Bogota amid a reinstated strict lockdown to help curb the spread of coronavirus, in Bogota, Colombia. Photograph: Fernando Vergara/AP

Tunisia’s prime minister announced a curfew tightened to combat a rise in coronavirus infections and deaths following a presidential request.

The government this week had called on governors to begin the nightly curfew at 7 pm instead of 10 pm, from Friday until the end of the month.

After meeting with governors, prime minister Hichem Mechichi said the curfew would remain from 10 pm to 5 am, adding “there is a social reality to consider”.

He cited “the president of the republic’s request and concerns expressed by certain segments of the population” over the additional restrictions but also emphasised the epidemiological situation was “very serious”.

Private and public gatherings remain banned and Mechichi urged Tunisians to be more vigilant about physical distancing and wearing masks.

France reported 72,450 coronavirus deaths in hospital, an increase of 227.

It also reported 5,769 people in intensive care units for Covid-19, Reuters reports.

Dozens of shopkeepers in Naples, took to the streets on Saturday holding up women’s lingerie to protest against the protracted shutdown of their businesses due to coronavirus restrictions, AFP reports.

Campania is one of the few regions in Italy where top-level “red zone” restrictions, meaning the closure of most shops, were on Friday extended for at least another week.

In the central Chiaia shopping district, shopkeepers formed a human chain, clutching women’s undergarments, and carrying placards such as “We can no longer pay rent and bills” and “The state has forgotten about us”.

Lingerie has become a symbol of retailers’ protests in Naples because, since underwear is considered an essential item, shops that offer them can stay open through the lockdown.

Many started to sell women’s underwear “because they have families to feed, rents to pay and staff to support”, Carla della Corte, head of the local chapter of the Confcommercio retailers’ lobby, told the Corriere della Sera daily.

“[Selling] underwear is a way to survive,” she added.

According to local newspaper Il Mattino, about 150 shopkeepers took part in the rally.

Italy reported 344 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday compared to 718 the day before, Reuters reports.

The daily tally of new infections fell to 17,567 compared to 18,938 the day before, the health ministry said.

Italy has registered 113,923 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has 3.75 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 27,654 on Saturday, down from 28,146 a day earlier.

In the UK, government data up to Friday shows of the 39,001,554 jabs given thus far, 32,010,244 were first doses – a rise of 106,878 on the previous day.

Some 6,991,310 were second doses, an increase of 450,136.

In the UK, 2,589 people have tested positive for the virus as of 4pm on Saturday, bringing the total to 4,368,045.
There have been 40 further deaths, bringing the total to 127,080.

Updated

Key developments summary

  • India records 145,384 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday and 794 deaths, the highest number of deaths in more than five months as the country deals with a deadly second wave of infections.
  • Russia has reported 8,704 new Covid-19 cases and 402 deaths on Saturday.
  • A scientist advising the British government has said that any blood clots associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are “extraordinarily rare events.”
  • The German biotech firm Curevac believes the EU might give its Covid-19 vaccine approval in May or June.
  • Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen has threatened quarantine-breakers with jail time on Saturday and told civil servants that they could lose their jobs if they go unvaccinated.
  • Thailand plans to install 10,000 field hospital beds in Bangkok, as it deals with the third wave of Covid-19.
  • Iran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country today to curb the spread of its fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Colombian capital, Bogotá, is under a strict lockdown to slow a third wave of the pandemic; as mayor Claudia Lopez has said, “only strictly essential activities will be allowed”.
  • Nearly 2 million coronavirus home testing kits are being distributed across Greece’s pharmacies as pupils and teachers are asked to present biweekly negative tests.

My colleague Nadeem Badshah will be taking over the blog now.

Libya has officially launched its coronavirus vaccination campaign, starting with prime minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, health authorities said. After the vaccination of Dbeibah, health minister Ali al-Zenati was next to receive a jab,

On Tripoli’s outskirts, Badreddine al-Najjar, head of Libya’s Centre for Disease Control, said, “The national vaccination campaign against Covid-19 has been launched at the CDC headquarters.”

AFP reports

Dbeibah urged fellow citizens to register online for their vaccinations.

He has earmarked the country’s jab campaign as a policy priority, alleging vaccine delivery was hindered by outgoing authorities.

“The arrival of vaccines has been delayed by political, not financial, considerations,” he said.

[…]

The World Health Organization said Thursday that two new variants of the coronavirus are present in Libya.

Officially, Libya has registered a total of around 167,000 coronavirus cases, including over 2,800 deaths, out of a population of seven million.

No lockdown measures are currently in place, and while masks are obligatory in public places, the measure is widely flouted.

Libya has so far received 200,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, alongside over 57,600 AstraZeneca shots, the latter delivered through the Covax programme for lower and middle-income countries.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, and Health Minister Ali al-Zenati.
Libyan Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, and Health Minister Ali al-Zenati. Photograph: Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images

Vaccine-makers around the world face shortages of vital components including large plastic grow bags, according to the head of the firm that is manufacturing a quarter of the UK’s jab supply.

Stan Erck, the chief executive of Novavax – which makes the second vaccine to be grown and bottled entirely in Britain – told the Observer that the shortage of 2,000-litre bags in which the vaccine cells were grown was a significant hurdle for global supply.

His warning came as bag manufacturers revealed that some pharmaceutical firms were waiting up to 12 months for the sterile single-use disposable plastic containers, which are used to make medicines of all kinds, including the Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax Covid-19 vaccines.

But Erck and his British partners said they were confident they had enough suppliers to avoid disruption to the supply of Novavax. The vaccine is waiting for approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) but the first of 60 million doses ordered by the government are already in production in Teesside.

Dozens of Bahraini detainees, including long-term political prisoners, have been released after protests by their families after positive Covid-19 cases in their prison, activists said today.

They said authorities had vowed to release 126 prisoners and 73 other detainees but only 166 had walked out so far from the jail in Faw, in the east of the kingdom, AFP reports.

Mohamed Jawad, 75, uncle of the prominent rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who spent 10 years behind bars, is one of the released detainees.

Those released are to serve out the rest of their terms under electronic tagging.

Bahraini officials say three Jaw inmates have contracted coronavirus but been isolated and that their condition is stable.

The London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy says dozens of prisoners have been infected by the virus in the reportedly heavily overcrowded jail. But according to the health ministry, a prison vaccination campaign has been completed.

Updated

A Covid-19 test tent set up in front of the Opera in Paris.
A Covid-19 test tent set up in front of the Opera in Paris. Photograph: Lewis Joly/AP

Updated

A further 466,480 vaccinations have taken place in England, including first and second doses, taking the total number since the rollout began to 32,737,372.

Of the daily figure, 62,274 were first doses while 404,206 people received a second shot as the rollout prioritises administering final doses within the three-month window.

A total of 26,996,936 have now had their first dose and 5,740,436 have had both, NHS England data shows.

Nearly 2 million coronavirus home testing kits are being distributed across Greece’s pharmacies as pupils and teachers are asked to present biweekly negative tests.

About 1,950,000 kits are being sent to the country’s pharmacies, which will ask people for their social security number and ID in order to dispense the tests, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reports.

Students and teachers must present a negative test result to their school every Monday and Thursday.

Updated

The British Retail Consortium estimated that lockdowns in 2020 cost non-essential retail £22bn in lost sales. So with non-essential shops allowed to open again on Monday after nearly four months, retailers have concocted plans to make real-life shopping trips a pastime once again.

Lauren Cochrane looks at how different shops are adapting:

Updated

According to a tally compiled by AFP, at least 2,917,316 people have died from Covid-19 worldwide since the virus first emerged in December 2019.

The US is the worst-affected country with 561,074 deaths, followed by Brazil at 348,718, Mexico with 207,020, India with 168,436 and Britain with 127,040.

Updated

The 8 million people living in the Colombian capital, Bogotá, are under a strict lockdown to slow a third wave of the pandemic mayor Claudia Lopez has said, “only strictly essential activities will be allowed”.

The strict lockdown comes in addition to night curfews that 7 million people in Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla and Santa Marta, where the health system is overwhelmed by the virus.

Colombia has the second-most cases in Latin America, recording more than 2.4m cases.

Updated

People are seen walking along a street in Iran
Iranian authorities begin a two-week lockdown from 10 April to slow the spread of the Covid-19. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA

Updated

A travel trade body has called for an investigation into the costs of the Covid-19 tests for people in the UK wanting to travel abroad this year, PA reports.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced a ‘framework’ for the resumption of travel, which includes requiring all arrivals to take pre-departure and post-arrival coronavirus tests.

But post-arrival tests must be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type which cost about £120, Shapps said.

The International Air Transport Association, the trade association for the world’s airlines, has called on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate testing prices.

In a statement, it said: “Engage the UK Competition and Markets Authority to act in the interests of consumers and launch an immediate investigation into coronavirus testing charges.”

Gwyn Topham has more on the new UK travel framework here:

Updated

The China National Biotec Group Company (CNBG) has obtained regulatory approval to move a third Covid-19 vaccine candidate into the human testing stage, CNBG said on Saturday.

Reuters reports:

The subsidiary of state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) said that manufacturing the candidate based on protein cultivated in factories does not require facilities with high biosafety levels.

This means it could be easier to produce than the two CNBG vaccines already being used in China’s mass vaccination drive, which involve active coronavirus during production.

More than 10 vaccine candidates led by Chinese scientists have entered different stages of clinical trials.

Four vaccines, two from Sinopharm CNBG, one from Sinovac Biotech and one from CanSino Biologics, have been cleared for use among the general public.

A fifth vaccine from the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is also based on protein, has gained the green light for limited emergency use.

Workers transport boxes of vaccines developed by Beijing Institute of Biological Products.
Workers transport boxes of vaccines developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products. Photograph: Reuters

Updated

Police in Paris fined more than 100 diners on Friday at an underground restaurant for breaking coronavirus restrictions and arrested its organiser.

Police officers were called “for an excessive noise complaint about a restaurant,” the French capital’s police wrote on Twitter.

Underground restaurants offering wealthy people pre-coronavirus dining experiences have made headlines in France this week after a private television channel, M6, broadcasted a report into a restaurant in an affluent area of Paris where neither the staff nor the diners were wearing a mask.

Updated

Iran orders 10-day lockdown as cases rise

Iran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country today to curb the spread of its fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported.

The new lockdown will affect 23 of the country’s 31 provinces, with businesses, schools, theatres and sports facilities forced to shut and gathering banned during the Muslim holy month Ramadan, whichbegins on Wednesday.

According to the health ministry, Iran’s cases have surpassed 2m with a new daily average of more than 20,000 infections over the past week and 64,000 total fatalities.

President Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks: “Unfortunately, today we have entered a fourth wave.” Blaming the new surge in cases on the variant first discovered in the UK, which spread to Iran from neighbouring Iraq earlier this year.

Updated

Phnom Penh authorities commence lockdown in parts of the city to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Phnom Penh authorities commence lockdown in parts of the city to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Photograph: Mak Remissa/EPA

Updated

Thailand plans to install 10,000 field hospital beds in its capital, Bangkok, as the country deals with a third wave of Covid-19, a health official said today.

Hospitals are reluctant to test for Covid-19 because they must admit people if they test positive.

At least a dozen hospitals in the capital have said they had stopped testing because of a lack of kits or capacity, authorities said.

Suksan Kittisupakorn, director general of Thailand’s medical service department, said: “We aim to increase [field] hospital beds to 10,000 in no time, which should give the public confidence that we can still contain this round of outbreak.”

Reuters reported that Thailand aims to begin mass immunisation from June and has so far vaccinated more than 530,000 health workers and those deemed vulnerable.

On Saturday, the country received 1m doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine and is due to get another 500,000 doses this month, according to deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Traisoranakul.

Updated

A former Brazilian president has told the Guardian that the country faces perhaps the gravest moment in its history and is “adrift on an ocean of hunger and disease”.

Brazil’s coronavirus death toll hit devastating new heights, with more than 12,000 deaths in the last three days.

Brazil first female president, Dilma Rousseff, believes that much of the devastating response to Covid-19 is because of the current far right leader, Jair Bolsonaro.

Rousseff claimed Bolsonaro’s sabotaging of containment and vaccination efforts, refusal to order a lockdown and failure to offer adequate economic support to poor people had contributed to a tragedy of “catastrophic proportions”.

My colleague Tom Philips has more in this interview:

Updated

Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen has threatened quarantine-breakers with jail time on Saturday and told civil servants that they could lose their jobs if they go unvaccinated.

Cambodia has registered more than 1,000 infections in the past two days, bringing the country’s tally to 4,081 cases and 26 deaths.

This week authorities banned travel between provinces, imposed a night-time curfew in the capital Phnom Penh and shut down popular tourism sites.

AFP reports:

Prime minister Hun Sen on Saturday threatened harsher measures, saying anyone who flouts a two-week quarantine period would face a quick trial and jail time.

“People who break Covid measures must be sentenced,” he said on state-run TV. “I accept being called a dictator, but I will also be admired for protecting my people’s lives.”

Cambodia has already passed a strict Covid-19 prevention bill that could mean people flouting virus rules are jailed for up to 20 years.

Hun Sen also announced that being vaccinated was mandatory for all state officials and the armed forces, warning them they could be fired if they refuse.

The kingdom’s vaccination programme began in February, and a million people have since received at least their first of two shots. Infection numbers started surging in late February when an outbreak was detected in the local Chinese community.

Vendors sit behind a piece of rope, used to create social distancing.
Vendors sit behind a piece of rope, used to create social distancing. Photograph: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Thailand has reported 789 new Coronavirus cases and one new death today, as it deals with a new wave of infections. The new case numbers bring the total number of infections to 31,658, with 97 deaths, according to the Covid-19 information centre.

Updated

The third-largest economy in the eurozone, Italy, will only recover from its coronavirus-related slump at the end of next year, the national business lobby Confindustria said on Saturday.

After a record fall of 8.9% last year, the association said the country’sGDP should expand by 4.1% this year and by 4.2% in 2022.

AFP reports:

Confindustria’s forecasts were more optimistic than the International Monetary Fund’s, which last week predicted growth of 4.2% and 3.6% in 2021 and 2022.

A crucial part of the recovery rests on the success of its so-far struggling vaccination programme and on a vast injection of loans and grants from the EU.

Italy is eligible for about €200bn (£174bn) from the bloc’s flagship virus recovery fund, but in return it has to commit to a comprehensive reform plan, subject to Brussels’ approval.

Prime minister Mario Draghi, the former European Central Bank president who has been tasked with reviving Italy’s economic prospects, is expected to present the plan by the end of the month.

The country badly needs relief from an economic and health emergency, after more than 113,500 people died with coronavirus and almost one million people lost their jobs since February 2020.

Updated

The German biotech firm Curevac believes the EU might give its Covid-19 vaccine approval in May or June, a spokesman was quoted as saying in Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper on Saturday.

Thorsten Schueller told the paper: “We are already very advanced in phase 3 clinical trials and are expecting the data for the final approval package.”

He said Curevac still planned to produce up to 300m vaccine doses this year.

Previously, approval for the German vaccine was expected in June.

Updated

A scientist advising the British government has said that any blood clots associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are “extraordinarily rare events,” PA reports.

Prof Peter Openshaw, a member of the Covid-19 clinical information network, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

We still don’t know whether they are directly related and caused by the vaccine, but it seems possible that they could be.

It wouldn’t be surprising to find the J&J, the Janssen vaccine, also causes rare blood clots because it’s based on an adenovirus technology, which is not that far away from the technology being used in the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

When asked if he was concerned it could undermine public confidence in the Covid-19 vaccines, he said:

These are extraordinarily rare events, and there is no medicine that is going to be completely free of side effects, but this is on the scale of the risk of adverse outcome you would expect if you get into a car and drive 250 miles, and many of us wouldn’t blink before taking that risk.”

While the vaccine is yet to be approved for use in the UK, the government has already ordered 30m doses.

Updated

Russia has reported 8,704 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, taking the national infection tally to 4,632,688 since the start of the pandemic. A further 402 deaths were confirmed in the past 24 hours, bring the death rate to 102,649, the coronavirus crisis centre said.

However, Rosstat, the government statistic service, has reported a much higher toll of 225,00 from April 2020 to February.

Updated

As many as 60 countries, including some of the world’s poorest, might have their first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine stalled as nearly all deliveries through the global initiative are blocked until as late as June.

Covax, the programme set up to provide the vaccine to low-income countries, has shipped more than 25,000 doses only twice a week on any given day, but deliveries have all but halted since Monday, AP reports.

According to daily data compiled by Unicef, during the past two weeks, fewer than 2 million Covax doses were clear to be shipped to 92 countries – the same amount that administered in Britain alone.

While the vaccine shortage is due mainly to India’s decision to stop exporting vaccines from its Serum Institute Factory, which produces the majority of the worlds Oxford/AstraZeneca doses, the head of the World Health Organization criticised the “shocking imbalance” in global Covid-19 vaccination output.

However, as Covax only ships vaccines cleared by the WHO, which currently are Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioTech and Jonhson & Johnson, it is prompting the WHO to consider speeding up its endorsement of vaccines from China and Russia, which have not been authorised in Europe or North America.

Updated

China’s Covid-19 vaccines output could reach more than 3bn doses by the end of 2021, a National Health Commission official said on Saturday.

Reuters reports that Zheng Zhongwei, who also heads a team coordinating the country’s vaccine development projects, made the comment at an industry event in the city of Chengdu.

Updated

Morning summary

  • Victoria in Australia has recorded its first overseas Covid-19 case in hotel quarantine since resuming international flights. The state began accepting international arrivals on Thursday.
  • Retailers prepare to open in many parts of the UK after at least 15 weeks of lockdown. The country’s next step on its road to recovery begins on Monday.
  • After New Zealand paused applications for family reunifications in the wake of Covid-19, the government has been urged to end months of misery for migrant workers.
  • People in England who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine are seeking help at A&E despite having only mild side effects.

India records more than 100,000 daily cases again this week

India records 145,384 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday and 794 deaths, the highest number of deaths in more than five months as the country deals with a deadly second wave of infections, Reuters reports.

The country’s overall caseload has increased to 13.21 million, the third-highest globally, behind the US and Brazil, recording 100,000 new cases on Monday and four more times after that.

Maharashtra, the Indian state with the highest number of cases, is imposing a weekend lockdown until Monday, after having already shut down restaurants, malls and places of worship.

As the government blames the resurgence mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks, many states have complained about the shortage of vaccines.

The entrance of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) in Hyderabad.
The entrance of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) in Hyderabad. Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

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Prince Philip: tributes paid to Duke of Edinburgh after death aged 99

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Prince Philip: tributes paid to Duke of Edinburgh after death aged 99 ” was written by Nadeem Badshah (now) and Jessica Murray (earlier), for theguardian.com on Friday 9th April 2021 22.27 UTC

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India Hicks, a cousin of the Duke of Edinburgh, told BBC Newsnight of her mother Lady Pamela Hicks’ enduring memory of the duke.

Hicks said: “I called her (my mother) first thing this morning and said, ‘How are you feeling?’ and she said, ‘Emotional.’

“And I said, ‘What would be your defining words about your cousin Prince Philip?’

“She said, ‘He was a unique man, there will never be another man like him again.”’

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres paid tribute to Prince Philip for “his active work for the betterment of humankind”, his spokesman said.

A tribute from Kenya’s high commissioner to the UK.

Wales flags fly at half mast at Cardiff Castle which has been illuminated in Wales.
Wales flags fly at half mast at Cardiff Castle which has been illuminated in Wales.
Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

A striking message illuminating from Wembley Stadium.

The front page of tomorrow’s Guardian.

Tomorrow’s Independent.

Updated

Saturday’s Sun.

The Telegraph’s front page.

Here is a look at some of tomorrow’s front pages, starting with the Mirror.

The prime minister of Sri Lanka has tweeted a tribute to The Duke of Edinburgh.

A tweet from the actor Sanjeev Bhaskar.

A tribute from Sir Mick Jagger.

Tobias Menzies, who played the Duke of Edinburgh in the third and fourth series of The Crown, has paid tribute.

Updated

A tribute paid from the US vice-president Kamala Harris.

Updated

The Princess Royal told ITV News that without her father “life would be completely different”.

Speaking about Philip’s legacy, Princess Anne said: “Without him life will be completely different.

“But from society’s perspective he was able to keep pace with the kind of technological changes that have such an impact… but above all that it’s not about the technology it’s about the people.”

Prince Edward also told ITV News that Philip and the Queen had been a “fantastic support” to each other.

He added: “My parents have been such a fantastic support to each other during all those years and all those events and all those tours and events overseas.

“To have someone that you confide in and smile about things that you perhaps could not in public. To be able to share that is immensely important.”

Edward said he will remember his father in a number of ways, adding: “For what he has done in his public life for all the organisations he has supported and influenced and obviously as my father and husband to my mother and all the work that he has done there and as a family we will remember that more than anything else.”

The Duke of Edinburgh’s public image portrayed by some sections of the media was “always an unfair depiction”, his youngest son the Earl of Wessex said.

Prince Edward told ITV News his father had a “wonderful” sense of humour, but people could misinterpret things or “turn it against them”.

Edward said: “The public image that certain parts of the media would portray was always an unfair depiction.

“He used to give them as good as he got and always in a very entertaining way.

“He was brilliant. Always absolutely brilliant.

“He had a wonderful sense of humour but of course you can always misinterpret something or turn it against them, so it sounds like it’s not right.

“But anyone who had the privilege to hear him speak said it was his humour which always came through and the twinkle in his eye.”

Dame Shirley Bassey, Professor Brian Cox and Carol Vorderman are among those to share messages following the announcement of Prince Philip’s death.

Television presenter Vorderman recounted meeting the duke in a post on Twitter.

“I went for a private lunch with The Queen at Buckingham Palace quite a few years ago,” she wrote.

“They were both in their 80s and Prince Philip and she were flirting with each other madly and laughing.

“Theirs was a love and a marriage of more than 73 years. Deepest condolences Ma’am.”

Prof Cox reflected on his experience of meeting the duke.

He tweeted: “I sat next to Prince Phillip at a lunch a few years ago and we discussed cosmology and relativity for the whole lunch – I hardly ate anything! – he was indeed fiercely intelligent, knowledgable about the subject and endlessly curious. RIP.”

Singer Dame Shirley said she was “saddened” by the news of Philip’s death.

She added on Twitter: “He was an extremely kind & charming man with an exceptional dedication to Queen and Country.

“My thoughts are with Her Majesty the Queen and her family. May he rest in peace.”

Cyrus Todiwala, the chef and restaurateur, has paid tribute on Twitter:

The Scottish Parliament is to be recalled for only the sixth time in its history to show respect to the Duke of Edinburgh.

Holyrood’s presiding officer, Ken Macintosh, said MSPs will be recalled at 11am on Monday.

Macintosh said: “I have this afternoon decided that the Parliament should be recalled to show our respect to the Duke of Edinburgh following today’s sad announcement.

“His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, lived a life dedicated to duty and public service and his support for this institution was clear.

“This is why I have taken the decision to recall in order that we may take the time to pause, remember and pay tribute to his work.”

The meeting will start with a minute’s silence before considering a motion of condolence with a statement from party leaders.

Updated

The Prince of Wales visited his mother, the Queen, on Friday afternoon travelling from his Gloucestershire home to Windsor Castle following the death of his father, sources told the PA news agency.

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Westminster Abbey is paying tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh by tolling its tenor bell 99 times, once for every year of his life.

Following the royal’s death, the abbey announced it would toll the bell every 60 seconds, from 6pm on Friday.

Westminster Abbey said it would be open from Friday until Sunday for private prayer and worship following the duke’s death.

In tribute, the Dean of Westminster said: “It is with profound sadness that we learn of the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who served HM The Queen and our nation with an unwavering commitment.

“We remember, above all, a self-effacing sense of duty that has been a benchmark of moral purpose in public life for so many years.

“We note with deep gratitude his contribution to the military, charities and young people.

“We are also deeply thankful for his support of our abbey church, including his work to raise funds for the restoration of the abbey.”

The minister of the church used by the royal family when at Balmoral Castle has expressed the community’s sadness at the Duke of Edinburgh’s death.

Reverend Kenneth MacKenzie is the minister of the Parish of Braemar and Crathie and domestic chaplain to the Queen, who visits the church for Sunday services when staying at the castle with members of her family.

Rev Mackenzie, minister of the parish since 2005, told the PA news agency: “I think up here there are lots of people who have had the opportunity over the years to see the duke around and he’s so much part of this place.

“Everybody has favourite memories of the duke, he was just a very interesting man and took a real interest in this area.

“He knew a lot of people and a lot of families who have multi-generational interest in this area so some folk he knew not just their parents but grandparents.

“Everyone will remember him with respect but also a degree of affection, he was really highly thought of around here.”

Of the many sacrifices the Duke of Edinburgh had to make in marrying, one truly angered him. As he once put it: “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children.”

The question of what the royal family and its descendants should be called proved taxing. Princess Elizabeth was a Windsor, a name adopted under the 1917 proclamation by George V to replace the German Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The proclamation, however, did not cover married female descendants so she should have taken her husband’s name.

Philip was a Mountbatten, an appellation adopted on his British naturalisation, and an anglicised version of his mother’s Battenberg family name. That their first-born son could be the first king in the House of Mountbatten proved too unpalatable for Winston Churchill’s cabinet, which put pressure on the Queen.

Caught in the crossfire, she was sympathetic to her husband’s desire but was persuaded to give her formal approval to a proclamation in April 1952 that she and her descendants “should continue to bear the family name of Windsor”.

An exasperated Philip complained to friends that he was regarded as “nothing but a bloody amoeba”.

Matt Smith, who played the Duke of Edinburgh in the first two series of The Crown, said in a statement: “I’d like to offer my condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family.

“Prince Philip was the man. And he knew it. 99 and out, but what an innings. And what style. Thank you for your service old chap – it won’t be the same without you.”

People gather outside Buckingham Palace where the union flag flies at half-mast in central London after the announcement of the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
People gather outside Buckingham Palace where the union flag flies at half-mast in central London after the announcement of the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

Boris Johnson told his cabinet the nation will have the opportunity to reflect on the “life, work and legacy” of the Duke and Edinburgh in the days after his death.

After the prime minister assembled his top ministers to pay tribute to Philip on Friday afternoon, Downing Street said:

He noted this was a sad day for the country and that His Royal Highness would be remembered with great fondness and affection for generations to come.

He referenced the duke’s long and devoted public service, noting he had known 16 prime ministers.

Cabinet shared recollections of meeting Prince Philip and praised his work, including as an environmentalist and for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award which the prime minister said had benefitted the lives of countless young people.

Ministers said they had already received thousands of messages of condolence from all over the world.

The prime minister “concluded by saying that in the coming days the entire country would have a chance to reflect on his life, work and legacy”.

Gun salutes to be fired across UK to mark death of Philip

Gun salutes marking the death of the Duke of Edinburgh will take place across the UK, in Gibraltar and at sea on Saturday.

Saluting batteries will fire 41 rounds at one round every minute from midday in cities including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, as well as Gibraltar and from Royal Navy warships, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

Gun salutes have been fired to mark significant national events since as early as at least the 18th century. They were used to mark the deaths of Queen Victoria in 1901 and Winston Churchill in 1965.

The public is being encouraged to observe the gun salutes, which will be broadcast online and on television, from home.

In London, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery will ride out from their base at Napier Lines, Woolwich Barracks, onto the Parade Ground. There will be 71 horses, 36 of them pulling six 13-pounder field guns dating from the First World War.

The same guns were also fired for Philip’s wedding to the Queen in 1947 and at her Coronation six years later in 1953.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said: “His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh was a constant supporter and ambassador of the armed forces. We celebrate his life of service and offer our condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family.”

Chief of the defence staff, General Sir Nick Carter said:

His Royal Highness has been a great friend, inspiration and role model for the armed forces and he will be sorely missed.

The Duke of Edinburgh served among us during the Second World War, and he remained devoted to the Royal Navy and the armed forces as a whole.

A life well lived, His Royal Highness leaves us with a legacy of indomitable spirit, steadfastness and an unshakeable sense of duty. From all of us who serve today and who have served, thank you.

Updated

The Marylebone Cricket Club, based at Lord’s cricket ground in London, has remembered Prince Philip as “a hard-hitting batsman” and an off spinner with a notable “purity” to his bowling action.

In a letter to the Queen, the club sent condolences for a man who was twice its president first in 1949 and again in 1974. In his first stint, it said, he helped open out the game, championing youth cricket and combining his role with that of president of the National Playing Fields Association.

In his second stint he attended the final of the first cricket World Cup contested between Australia and the West Indies and presented the winner’s trophy to Clive Lloyd, captain of the Caribbean team.

Prince Philip captained his school team at Gordonstoun in Scotland and played charity matches in the 1940s and 1950s.

Prince Philip bowling during the 12 a side cricket match between the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of Norfolk in August 1953. Philip was an accomplished all-round sportsman with a particular passion for polo and carriage driving.
Prince Philip bowling during the 12 a side cricket match between the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of Norfolk in August 1953. Philip was an accomplished all-round sportsman with a particular passion for polo and carriage driving.
Photograph: PA

Carefully laid plans for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, revised over many years, have been abandoned owing to the coronavirus pandemic, with public elements unable to take place.

The Queen and senior aides have now to fashion a fitting farewell to the longest-serving consort in British history given current restrictions. The plans will be set in motion once they have been personally approved by the Queen.

It will be a major undertaking. Organisers are said to be “desperately anxious” not to stage anything that attracts mass gatherings. The police are facing the difficult, and sensitive, task of ensuring that crowds do not gather to pay their last respects to the duke.

All senior members of the royal family are regularly asked to update their funeral plans. The duke revised his – codenamed Forth Bridge – many times over his long life. “One thing he did not want was for it to be like the funeral of his uncle, Lord Mountbatten [in 1979]. He did not want that ostentation,” a source said. Of that, given all the present circumstances, he is assured.

More Guardian readers have got in touch to tell us how they met Prince Philip through taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme.

Elizabeth Harrison, 58, a product manager from east Sussex recalls receiving her gold certificate at Buckingham Palace forty years ago.

I was 18 and just blown away by the Palace drawing rooms and meeting a very jocular Prince Philip.

I had gained the award through a combination of community work, sports pursuits and a challenging few days on my expedition with three other young teenage girls in the wilderness of the Cairngorms, where we covered many miles hiking per day, camped out under canvas and carried all our supplies and tents with us.

My story of landing in a cowpat whilst parascending on the South Downs was not however considered appropriate to tell to the Duke that day, although I’m sure he would have loved the tale.

A photo of Elizabeth Harrison’s invitation to receive her gold certificate for completing her Duke of Edinburgh’s award.
A photo of Elizabeth Harrison’s invitation to receive her gold certificate for completing her Duke of Edinburgh’s award.
Photograph: Elizabeth Harrison

Updated

Former US president Donald Trump is the latest to issue a statement in tribute to Prince Philip, who he described as “a man who embodied the noble soul and proud spirit of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth”.

Melania and I send our deepest and most profound condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and to the entire Royal Family. We send our most heartfelt sympathies to the British people. This is an irreplaceable loss for Great Britain, and for all who hold dear our civilization.

Prince Philip defined British dignity and grace. He personified the quiet reserve, stern fortitude, and unbending integrity of the United Kingdom.

Over the past few years, Melania and I were honored to have the opportunity to visit the United Kingdom. We saw firsthand how the Monarchy epitomizes and carries on the virtues of the British People—and no one did so more than Prince Philip.

As we grieve his loss, we celebrate his memory and rededicate ourselves to the values to which he devoted his extraordinary life. He will be greatly missed.

‘Thank you for your service’: Duke and Duchess of Sussex post tribute to Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s website has been transformed into a memorial page to the Duke of Edinburgh.

A short message on archewell.com, set against a dark background, says: “In loving memory of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. 1921-2021.”

It adds: “Thank you for your service… you will be greatly missed.”

Updated

The British prime minster, the first ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, pay tribute to Prince Philip after his death on Friday.

Flags at Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and government buildings across Britain have been lowered to half-mast.

 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex face the prospect of at least five days in quarantine if they return to the UK for Harry’s grandfather’s funeral, unless they get an exemption – though the couple have yet to publicly indicate whether they will attend.

As Meghan is pregnant with the couple’s second child and is due to give birth during the summer, some commentators said it was more likely that Harry would make the journey from California, where they live, alone for the service for Prince Philip.

A return to the UK would be his first since the couple spoke candidly in a US TV interview about their experience of royal life and said racism was a large part of the reason why they had chosen to leave Britain.

Given his status as a member of the royal family travelling to support the Queen, there is speculation that Harry might be considered exempt from travel restrictions.

Some exemptions apply to members of diplomatic missions and consular posts in the UK, and officers, servants or representatives of international organisations, among others. They and members of their family do not need to quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel and are not subject to mandatory testing. However, for public health reasons they are “strongly encouraged” to complete tests on days two and eight after arrival.

A woman takes pictures of flowers in tribute to Prince Philip outside Buckingham Palace in London
A woman takes pictures of flowers in tribute to Prince Philip outside Buckingham Palace in London
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It was just a few weeks ago that the public felt reassured over the health of Prince Philip: he had been discharged from hospital after a month-long stay.

While the cause of his death on Friday is not yet known, it comes soon after the longest hospital stay of his life. He was admitted to King Edward VII’s hospital in central London on 16 February after feeling unwell, and later had a successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition at another London hospital, St Bartholomew’s.

After being discharged on 16 March, the duke returned to Windsor Castle and was said to be in “good spirits”. In a statement, Buckingham Palace said he was discharged “following treatment for an infection and a successful procedure for a pre-existing condition”.

“His Royal Highness wishes to thank all the medical staff who looked after him … and everyone who has sent their good wishes,” it added.

The reason for his initial admission was never revealed but palace officials said it was not related to coronavirus. He and the Queen had their first Covid vaccine dose on 9 January.

Philip’s health had been slowly deteriorating for some time. He joked he could no longer stand up when he stepped down from royal engagements in May 2017. His final official public appearance was made later that year during a Royal Marines parade on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

He then made fewer public appearances and spent most of his time on the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk. He turned 99 during the pandemic and moved to be with the Queen at Windsor Castle for most of lockdown.

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, is the latest world leader to pay his respects to Prince Philip:

Former US president Barack Obama has recalled when he first met Prince Philip in a moving tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, saying he “showed the world what it meant to be a supportive husband to a powerful woman”.

When we first met His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, he and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had already been on the world stage for more than half a century — welcoming leaders like Churchill and Kennedy; Mandela and Gorbachev. As two Americans unaccustomed to palaces and pomp, we didn’t know what to expect.

We shouldn’t have worried. The Queen and Prince Philip immediately put us at ease with their grace and generosity, turning a ceremonial occasion into something far more natural, even comfortable. Prince Philip in particular was kind and warm, with a sharp wit and unfailing good humor. It was our first introduction to the man behind the title, and in the years since, our admiration for him has only grown. We will miss him dearly.

Like the Queen, Prince Philip saw world wars and economic crises come and go. The radio gave way to the television, and the television to the internet. And through it all, he helped provide steady leadership and guiding wisdom. It has long been said that the United States and Great Britain have a special relationship — one that has been maintained and strengthened not just by presidents and prime ministers but by the Royal Family that has outlasted them all.

At the Queen’s side or trailing the customary two steps behind, Prince Philip showed the world what it meant to be a supportive husband to a powerful woman. Yet he also found a way to lead without demanding the spotlight — serving in combat in World War II, commanding a frigate in the Royal Navy, and tirelessly touring the world to champion British industry and excellence. Through his extraordinary example, he proved that true partnership has room for both ambition and selflessness — all in service of something greater.

As the world mourns his loss, we send our warmest wishes and deepest sympathies to the Queen, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; and everyone who knew and loved this remarkable man.

Updated

Royal family open online book of condolence

In normal times, thousands of mourners would travel in person to sign a book of condolence for Prince Philip.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the royal family have opened an online book of condolence which they have invited members of the public to sign. It is available here.

The family has also asked people to consider making a donation to charity instead of leaving floral tributes:

The deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, has offered her condolences to the unionist community following the death of Prince Philip. Northern Ireland has, of course, been rocked by a week of unrest in loyalist areas.

The Sinn Fein vice president said:

I want to offer my condolences to Queen Elizabeth in regards to the death of her husband, and to her family at this very sad time.

When any family loses a loved one, it is really difficult – and whilst they may be public figures they are also a family that are hurting, so I just wanted to extend my condolences to them.

Also to all those people in this community who come from the unionist tradition or indeed have a British identity, I want to again extend my condolences to you, because I’m quite sure that you felt this loss more significantly perhaps than others. I just wanted, as deputy First Minister, to put that on record.

The President of Greece, where the Duke of Edinburgh was born almost 100 years ago, has paid tribute to him and his decades of service.

President Katerina Sakellaropoulou shared a photo of Philip as a young boy dressed as an Evzone guard.

The Prince of Wales gave a framed copy of the photograph to the presidential guards in Athens just over a fortnight ago, PA Media reports.

The Evzones are the elite light infantry units of the Greek army and are known for their distinctive uniform, which originates from the clothes worn by Greek irregulars who fought against the Ottomans during the Greek Revolution in 1821-27.

Updated

US president Joe Biden pays tribute to Prince Philip

The US president, Joe Biden, and the first lady, Jill Biden, have released a statement paying tribute to Prince Philip:

On behalf of all the people of the United States, we send our deepest condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the entire Royal Family, and all the people of the United Kingdom on the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Over the course of his 99-year life, he saw our world change dramatically and repeatedly. From his service during World War II, to his 73 years alongside the Queen, and his entire life in the public eye – Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK, the Commonwealth, and to his family.

The impact of his decades of devoted public service is evident in the worthy causes he lifted up as patron, in the environmental efforts he championed, in the members of the armed forces that he supported, in the young people he inspired, and so much more. His legacy will live on not only through his family, but in all the charitable endeavors he shaped.

Jill and I are keeping the Queen and Prince Philip’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in our hearts during this time.

Joe Biden in the Rose Garden of the White House in on 8 April.
Joe Biden in the Rose Garden of the White House in on 8 April.
Photograph: Yuri Gripas/EPA

Updated

The Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, expressed his condolences to the Queen, the royal family and British citizens, describing Prince Philip as a figure who “for over 70 years offered his service to the Crown and the United Kingdom with exemplary dedication”.

Mattarella added: “During his visits to Italy, Prince Philip always showed sincere friendship towards the Italian people, who cherish a grateful reminder of his deep admiration for the artistic and cultural heritage of our beautiful country.”

The Queen and Prince Philip visited Rome four times, the last occasion being in 2014, when the couple also met Pope Francis.

Updated

Election campaigns suspended following Duke of Edinburgh’s death

Boris Johnson is to chair a meeting with ministers, police and members of the royal household on Friday afternoon to help plan events following the royal death, it has emerged.

It comes as the rest of political life, including campaigning for elections on 6 May, has effectively closed down for a period.

Downing Street has ordered that all ministerial speeches, visits and other activity to pause for an as-yet unknown number of mourning days following Prince Philip’s death.

There will be no official government communications beyond urgent messages connected to Covid, and even with this there will be no No 10 press conferences.

Ministers will not appear as planned on Sunday politics shows this weekend.

Later on Friday, the cabinet will meet for ministers to pay tribute to Philip, and it has been confirmed that the Commons will return on Monday, a day earlier than scheduled, for MPs to do the same.

The next stage of lockdown easing on Monday will go ahead as planned – even though Boris Johnson will not now pay a visit to a pub to mark it.

The PM was told about the death while working at No 10, and spoke to Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, to agree on a period of no election campaigning.

More Guardian readers are getting in touch to share their memories of meeting Prince Philip.

David Diprose, 74, from Thame, Oxfordshire, met Philip on several occasions during the 25 years he served in the Royal Air Force and later as a maths teacher.

I was very impressed every time I met him. He was always very polite and made a point of talking to people – asking how they were getting on. He was so easy to talk to. If you didn’t know any better, you would think him an ordinary man on the street with no particular airs or graces.

He was always the perfect gentleman and always treated me as if I were his equal. I remember attending a DofE award ceremony at Holyrood long after I had retired from the RAF. I had chosen to wear my RAF colours tie, which he spotted immediately. He wanted to know what a teacher, as I was then, was doing with such a tie, and we had a most pleasant conversation that lasted for several minutes.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to all of his family and friends.

Dr Andrew Eaton, 59, a product manager from Altrincham, Cheshire, recalls a time when he met the prince in 1991.

I was at a reception at Buckingham Palace as my company at the time was receiving an award. Upon hearing that I was from Cheshire, Prince Philip’s eyes lit up and he grabbed me by the arm and dragged me across the room.

He brought me to someone he had met who was also from Cheshire and said: ‘So that you can say you met at our place’.

His death is sad news indeed. He’s done so much – it’s a great loss to the country.

Cris Robson, 49, a software developer from Durham, recalls his encounter with Philip with some amusement.

Prince Philip was visiting Yarmouth back in the eighties, so I went with my two young cousins to see the walk past. Anyway Ben, who was about eight at the time, managed somehow to get purple iced lollipop juice literally all over his face, just as Prince Philip is walking past.

‘One moment …’ he said to the Queen and his escorts, as he marched over to Ben.

‘Young man,’ he said in a stern voice, ‘the lollipop doesn’t go on your face,’ at which point he pointed into his own mouth to demonstrate. ‘It goes in here!’

And with that, he did a complete turn around and marched off again. His face remained deadpan all the time, and of course we were all laughing.

Updated

Aintree has confirmed Saturday’s Grand National will take place as scheduled following discussions with the government after the death of Prince Philip on Friday.

There was speculation after the announcement of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh that there was a chance the meeting could be postponed. However, shortly before 3pm a statement was issued to confirm the world’s most famous race would take place in its planned slot.

The statement read: “Jockey Club Racecourses has held discussions with the British Horseracing Authority regarding the staging of Randox Grand National Day tomorrow at Aintree Racecourse. Following consultation with government, we can confirm that Randox Grand National Day will go ahead on Saturday.

“Following the sad news of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh a two-minute silence will be held on course ahead of the 173rd Randox Grand National, jockeys will be invited to wear black armbands and flags will be flown at half-mast at the racecourse.

“ITV will broadcast its coverage of Randox Grand National Day on its main channel as scheduled.”

In the parade ring before the first race at the Aintree Grand National racing festival, a two-minute silence was held following the death of Prince Philip
In the parade ring before the first race at the Aintree Grand National racing festival, a two-minute silence was held following the death of Prince Philip.
Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Updated

Plans for Prince Philip’s funeral will be affected by Covid regulations in England, with organisers said to be “desperately anxious” not to stage anything that attracts mass gatherings. Here is what we know so far.

  • A date has yet to be announced but it is expected in the coming days. Under pre-pandemic plans, it had been due to take place within about 10 days of his death. It will not be a state funeral, in line with the duke’s wishes.
  • The funeral is still expected to be held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, as planned. However, there will be no lying in state – something that would have involved thousands of members of the public queuing to view his coffin.
  • It is not yet known whether his coffin will be transported to the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, London, as originally planned. Arrangements will likely be put in place for members of the public and others to sign a digital book of condolences.
  • Under national lockdown restrictions in England, which are gradually easing, funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people. Those present must also socially distance if they do not live together or share a support bubble.
  • The public will be able to tune into extensive programming by broadcasters including the BBC. A memorial service could be held at a later date after Britain has dealt with the worst public health crisis for a generation.

Updated

Flags to fly at half mast until morning after Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

Flags will fly at half-mast on UK government buildings in tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh from now until the morning after his funeral.

On the other side of the world the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced that flags there would be lowered “in honour of His Royal Highness”, who he said had visited the Commonwealth country on more than 20 occasions.

The union flag on Buckingham Palace was at half-mast on Friday, while a framed plaque announcing Philip’s death was placed on the front gates by royal household staff.

Westminster Abbey will toll its tenor bell once every 60 seconds, 99 times, from 6pm on Friday evening in tribute to the duke, the abbey said.

Updated

Public urged not to leave floral tributes to Philip

The government is urging the public not to gather or lay flowers outside royal residences following the death of Prince Philip to prevent crowds forming during the pandemic.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Although this is an extraordinarily difficult time for many, we are asking the public not to gather at royal residences, and continue to follow public health advice particularly on avoiding meeting in large groups and on minimising travel.

“We are supporting the royal household in asking that floral tributes should not be laid at royal residences at this time.”

Stewards have put a barrier around floral tributes placed at the gates of Buckingham Palace, aimed at preventing overcrowding.

Members of the public were advised to join a queue to take pictures and place flowers, with stewards urging people not to gather in large crowds.

More than 100 floral tributes – ranging from bunches of daffodils to fuller bouquets, many with notes attached – and two union flags have been placed at the gates by mourners.

Updated

José Mourinho interrupted a press conference to pay tribute to Prince Philip. The Tottenham Hotspur manager was speaking when news filtered through that the prince had died.

“I have a deep, deep, deep, utmost respect for the royal family, so my deepest condolences and I believe it is not just this country that is going to be sharing these feelings,” Mourinho said.

 

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Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, tweeted: “My condolences on the demise of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Britain has lost a wise elder who was imbued with a unique spirit of public service. His role in promoting Pakistan-UK relations will always be remembered.”

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The Guardian view on Prince Philip – The death of the Duke of Edinburgh will leave a void in the heart of the monarchy.

The death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has been announced by Buckingham Palace. No trivialisation is intended by saying that this news has not come as a bolt from the blue. The duke was, after all, 99 years old and less than three months short of his centenary, a formidable age for any man, even in these days of unprecedented longevity.

He had rarely been seen in public since he finally retired from public life in 2017. His health had been a cause for concern on several occasions in recent years, and a car crash in 2019 seemed to mark a more decisive retreat from the world.

Now the bell finally tolls for the man who spent more than 73 years married to the Queen. And, although his death was not unexpected, it sends an abrupt, sombre and resonant message to millions of people in all corners of Britain.

The duke’s passing is not merely a reminder, amid the continuing human loss of the Covid pandemic, of the reality of death itself. It is also a reminder that the current monarchical order is in the end a finite era too.

Only a minority of British people can remember a time when the Queen and the duke were not together. But the death of the duke forces the nation to recognise that all things must pass.

Duke of Edinburgh’s award calls for stories from those involved with charity

The Duke of Edinburgh’s award is calling for anyone who has been involved with the charity founded by Philip to share their stories.

In a statement following the announcement of the duke’s death, the charity invited volunteers and people who have completed the award to share memories on the charity’s website.

Ruth Marvel, the chief executive officer of the Duke of Edinburgh’s award (DofE) said:

The duke’s timeless vision for young people has never been more relevant or needed.

The DofE has played a crucial role in supporting young people to survive and thrive despite the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, and we will continue to build on his legacy.

The duke was a lifelong advocate for young people, believing in each individual’s potential and creating in the DofE what he saw as a ‘do-it-yourself growing up kit’.

We’re honoured to continue HRH’s work, to ensure that all young people – especially those from marginalised groups – can benefit from the better educational outcomes, employment prospects, community ties and better mental health that are associated with doing DofE.

The DofE works with thousands of organisations across the UK to run the award scheme, including schools, academies, youth groups and voluntary organisations, fostering agencies, young offender institutions and hospitals.

In the UK, 6.7 million young people have taken on the challenge of a DofE award to date.

The duke founded the award in 1956, inspired by his former headmaster at Gordonstoun, Dr Kurt Hahn. He remained heavily involved with the charity, as chairman of trustees until his 80th birthday and was patron throughout his life.

Philip celebrated attending his 500th gold award presentation in the UK in 2013, and carried out engagements on behalf of the DofE until his retirement from public engagements in 2017.

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The Metropolitan police commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, said the Duke of Edinburgh’s legacy “commands respect across policing”.

In a statement, she said:

Today the Metropolitan Police Service and I join the nation in mourning following the death of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.

I send my deepest condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and the entire royal family, as well as all those affected personally by his death.

Throughout his life, Prince Philip has been a great supporter of the Met, the policing family and the wider emergency services. Many Met colleagues will have worked closely with him during their service across many decades.

His legacy is a lifetime of public service that commands respect across policing.

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Guardian readers are getting in touch to share their tributes and memories of Prince Philip

Abbie Spence, 23, an admin worker in Sunderland, met the Queen and Philip when she was five years old and had been picked out from a crowd outside Sunderland station to give them her posy of flowers.

On that day when I met him, he was so lovely to me. They were really kind, you can see in the picture that he was smiling at the time. I was quite a shy little girl then.

I was absolutely devastated when I heard that he’d died. My whole family are supporters of the royal family and we’re all really upset about it.

Abbie Spence, when she was five years old, after handing a bouquet to the Queen and Prince Philip outside Sunderland train station.
Abbie Spence, when she was five years old, after handing a bouquet to the Queen and Prince Philip outside Sunderland train station.
Photograph: Abbie Spence/Guardian Community

Daren Lewis, 51, a Land Rover mechanic from the West Midlands, is one of the many people who took part in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme when he was at school.

As an urban child of the 80s, I feel I owe a great deal to Prince Philip for the opportunities he opened up for me after taking part in the DofE award scheme. The skills and love of the outdoors I gained have stayed with me for life.

I have recreated the expeditions I trained for in Wales, at the age of 13, across the length and breadth of Africa which has been the love of my life, and without doubt that would not have happened without the skills and discipline learnt through that excellent programme.

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United States house speaker, Nancy Pelosi, tweeted: “The US Congress extends condolences over the passing of Prince Philip, whose life was distinguished by an inspiring ethic of dedicated service.

“May it be a comfort to Her Majesty & the Royal family that so many mourn with and pray for them at this sad time.”

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Prince Philip will lie in rest at Windsor Castle in line with his wishes following his funeral, which will be at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, Sky News reports.

The College of Arms has confirmed the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral will not be a state funeral and the public has been asked not to attempt to attend any of the funeral events due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

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A message on a bouquet of flowers is seen outside Buckingham Palace.
A message on a bouquet of flowers is seen outside Buckingham Palace.
Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters
The big screen inside the Emirates Old Trafford displays a message in tribute to Prince Philip as players, staff and officials take part in a two-minute silence.
The big screen inside the Emirates Old Trafford displays a message in tribute to Prince Philip as players, staff and officials take part in a two-minute silence.
Photograph: Naomi Baker/Getty Images
Young children leave flowers in front of the gate at Buckingham Palace
Young children leave flowers in front of the gate at Buckingham Palace.
Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
Windsor Castle wardens move flowers placed by members of the public
Windsor Castle wardens move flowers placed by members of the public.
Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

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Vladimir Putin has issued his condolences to Queen Elizabeth on the death of Prince Philip, the Kremlin press service has announced.

In a telegram, Putin was said to write that Philip was “tied to many important events in the recent history of your country. He was rightly respected among the British public and bore international authority.”

Putin was said to wish Queen Elizabeth “courage and mental fortitude in the face of a heavy and irreparable loss,” and asked his condolences to be passed on to all members of the royal family.

Jockeys and trainers stand for a minute’s silence at the Grand National festival at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool.
Jockeys and trainers stand for a minute’s silence at the Grand National festival at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool.
Photograph: Peter Powell/AFP/Getty Images

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The makers of royal drama The Crown have said they are “deeply saddened” by the news of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Philip was played by Doctor Who star Matt Smith in the first two series of the lavish Netflix series, opposite Claire Foy as the Queen.

He was replaced by Outlander actor Tobias Menzies for series three and four, opposite Olivia Colman as the Queen.

A statement from the show, written by Peter Morgan, said: “Netflix, Left Bank Pictures, Sony Pictures Television and the production team on The Crown are deeply saddened to hear of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

“Our thoughts are with the Royal Family at this sad time.”

Oscar nominee Jonathan Pryce will take over the role of the Duke of Edinburgh for the fifth and six series of the show, which will be the last. He will star opposite Imelda Staunton as the Queen.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has also paid tribute, saying Philip represents a “special” place in its history, PA Media reports.

He became the organisation’s first president in 1959, one year after the British Film Academy and the Guild of Television Producers and Directors merged to create the Society of Film and Television Arts, a forerunner of Bafta.

The duke represented the society until 1965 and presented awards at ceremonies during this period.

Philip’s grandson, the Duke of Cambridge, is the current president of Bafta. The academy is due to hand out its film awards on Saturday and Sunday night in largely virtual ceremonies.

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Children add to the floral tributes for Prince Philip outside the Henry VIII Gate of Windsor Castle.
Children add to the floral tributes for Prince Philip outside the Henry VIII Gate of Windsor Castle.
Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

David Cameron offered a tribute following the “desperately sad news” of the duke’s death.

In a statement the former prime minister said: “He showed true dedication to our country, with unstinting service stretching back to his courageous naval duty in the second world war. He has been a huge part of our national life since long before most of us were born.

“It was an honour and privilege as prime minister to see up close what a powerful advocate the duke was for the causes he believed in.

“He leaves an incredible legacy having supported so many British charities, institutions and good causes, not least pioneering his very own Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, which millions of young people have participated in and benefited from all over the world since 1956.”

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Prince Philip had a fraught relationship with Greece, the country of his birth. One former Greek MP, whose father had been an aide and close friend of Prince Andrew, the Duke of Edinburgh’s father, recalls him shunning “any talk of Greece or relationship to our country” when a group of visiting Greek parliamentarians met him in London.

“The manner in which his family was forced to leave the country and the treatment of his father, Andrea, after the 1922 Asia Minor catastrophe was never forgotten,” she told the Guardian. “We had been delighted to meet him but the feeling wasn’t as mutual.”

The royal was said to have been incensed at the way the last Greek king, Constantine II, was not only ousted by popular referendum 1974 but treated by successive governments, with his citizenship rescinded and properties seized thereafter.

Greece was the only EU country not to have been officially visited by the Queen.

But Prince Charles, who regularly holidays in Greece and has spoken openly of his affection for the country, has done much to mend ties – relations similarly improved by the return of Constantine since.

During an official visit to Athens last month – his first engagement abroad this year – Charles spoke fondly of his Greek ancestry, saying:

After all, Greece is the land of my grandfather; and of my father’s birth, nearly 100 years ago, in the centenary of Greek independence. Later, it was in Athens that my dear grandmother, Princess Alice, during the dark years of Nazi occupation, sheltered a Jewish family – an act for which in Israel she is counted as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’.

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TV channels suspend planned programme scheduling

TV channels have cancelled their scheduled programming following the news of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The BBC suspended its schedule across BBC One, BBC Two and the News channel until 6pm to air special programmes about the senior royal, PA Media reports.

A statement from the corporation said: “With the sad news that HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has died, there is now special coverage across all BBC networks to mark his life of extraordinary public service and planned scheduling has been suspended.”

ITV also made schedule changes following the news. Entertainment show This Morning, which was being presented by Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford, was interrupted and Loose Women was scrapped.

The channel said ITV News will broadcast continuous coverage throughout the afternoon “celebrating Prince Philip’s life, his unique contribution to British history, and looking back at his decades of service to the Queen and the country”.

At 4pm it will air a specially commissioned film, Prince Philip: Duke of Edinburgh, narrated by James Mates, which will use personal testimony and archive content to tell the story of Philip’s life and times.

At 6pm ITV will air regional and national news, which will continue to cover reaction to the news and at 7pm Julie Etchingham and Phillip Schofield will host a live programme called Prince Philip, Fondly Remembered, when the presenters will talk to those who knew him about his personality and his passions.

Royal editor Chris Ship will present documentary special, Prince Philip: A Royal Life at 9pm, in which he visits key locations around the world to tell the story of his life, before an extended News at Ten at 10pm.

Channel 4 aired a special edition of Channel 4 News but resumed regular programming.

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The royal website’s usual functions have become temporarily unavailable following the announcement of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The web page, royal.uk, instead has become a memorial page with a black background and smiling image of Philip.

It features the short announcement from Buckingham Palace announcing the death of the 99-year old.

The page displays the duke’s year of birth and year of death – 1921 to 2021.

A message at the bottom of the page reads: “The official website of the Royal Family is temporarily unavailable while appropriate changes are made.”

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Prince Philip’s charm, wit and sense of duty recalled by world leaders

Political leaders and royal families around the world have aired recollections of the Duke of Edinburgh and expressed sympathy and support for the Queen following his death.

Prince Philip’s many years of service, his character, and his devotion to his wife and a variety of social causes were all recognised.

One of the first to pay tribute was the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, who said Prince Philip “embodied a generation that we will never see again”.

“Australians send our love and deepest condolences to her majesty and all the royal family,” he added. “The Commonwealth family joins together in sorrow and thanksgiving for the loss and life of Prince Philip. God bless from all here in Australia.”

Australia’s governor general, David Hurley, called it a “sad and historic day”.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said Philip would be “fondly remembered for the encouragement he gave to so many young New Zealanders through The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award” and the challenges if had offered thousands of young people.

In Canada, the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, described Philip as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others” and a lifelong companion to the Queen – “always at her side offering unfailing support as she carried out her duties”.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, remembered Philip’s “distinguished career in the military” and “many community service initiatives”.

The former US president George W Bush said he and his wife, Laura, had enjoyed Philip’s “charm and wit” but also noted his “devotion to worthy causes and others”.

Ireland’s prime minister, Micheál Martin, offered “thoughts and prayers” to the Queen and the people of the UK, while the foreign minister, Simon Coveney, tweeted: “I want to express sincere condolences to all British people on the sad passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Our thoughts and solidarity are with you on a very sad day for the United Kingdom.”

King Harald of Norway offered his condolences, as did King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, who said: “Prince Philip has been a great friend of our family for many years, a relation which we have deeply valued. His service to his country will remain an inspiration to us all.”

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European commission, said: “I would like to extend my sincere sympathy to Her Majesty The Queen, the royal family and the people of the United Kingdom on this very sad day.”

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Former British prime ministers have paid their respects to Prince Philip.

Tony Blair said in a statement:

Our whole nation will be united in sadness at the passing of Prince Philip. He will naturally be most recognised as a remarkable and steadfast support to the Queen over so many years. However, he should also be remembered and celebrated in his own right as a man of foresight, determination and courage.

He was often way ahead of his time in protection of the environment, in reconciliation between religious faiths and of course in the creation of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award which remains one of the most innovative and effective programmes for the betterment of young people anywhere in the world. My condolences and prayers and those of my family are with Her Majesty the Queen and all the royal family.

Sir John Major said:

It is impossible to exaggerate the role that the Duke of Edinburgh has played in his lifetime of service to the monarchy and to the United Kingdom.

A distinguished naval officer, he was – for over 70 years – the ballast to our Ship of State.

Modest to the core, and hating any kind of fuss or bother, he epitomised the British spirit and remained true to himself right up to the very end.

The outpouring of affection and sadness that will follow his loss would both surprise and embarrass him, but it will be real and heartfelt. Our hearts go out to Her Majesty the Queen – and all members of the royal family – who have lost a much beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Theresa May tweeted: “All my thoughts and prayers are with Her Majesty and the whole Royal Family today on the loss of a devoted husband, father, grandfather & great grandfather.

“The nation and the entire Commonwealth owe Prince Philip an extraordinary debt of gratitude for a distinguished life of service to the Queen, our country and so many around the world.”

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Parliament to be recalled early to pay tribute to Prince Philip

The House of Commons is set to be recalled a day early from recess so MPs can pay tribute to Prince Philip.

It was due to restart next Tuesday. However, MPs will be recalled on Monday from 2.30pm, for a session of tributes.

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The Belgian Royal Palace has said it is “deeply saddened” by the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, tweeting a tribute along with photos of the family with Philip.

The palace said: “Deeply saddened by the passing away of His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. We wish to express our deepest condolences to Her Majesty the Queen, the British royal family and the people of the United Kingdom. Philippe and Mathilde.”

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The Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Elizabeth at Broadlands, Hampshire, during their honeymoon in November 1947
The Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Elizabeth at Broadlands, Hampshire, during their honeymoon in November 1947.
Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
To mark their diamond wedding anniversary in 2007, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip revisited Broadlands, where they had spent their wedding night 60 years earlier.
To mark their diamond wedding anniversary in 2007, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip revisited Broadlands, where they had spent their wedding night 60 years earlier.
Photograph: Tim Graham/Rex/Shutterstock

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The Duke of Edinburgh’s award is likely to be judged Prince Philip’s greatest legacy.

Aimed at both able-bodied and disabled youngsters, it became one of the best known self-development and adventure schemes for 14- to 24-year-olds.

The duke was inspired to start the programme by his eccentric headmaster, Dr Kurt Hahn, and his much-loved school days at Gordonstoun in north-east Scotland – the educational institution loathed by the Prince of Wales.

He was closely involved in the organisation throughout and defended it against accusations that it was an award only for the middle-classes. In 2016 the scheme celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Despite his part in its success, Philip was always modest about his role. He once maintained that he “couldn’t care less” whether the scheme was seen as an important part of his legacy.

“Legacy? … It’s got nothing to do with me. It’s there for people to use. I couldn’t care less,” he barked.

He added: “It’s relevant too because it’s part of the process of growing up.”

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Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who has died aged 99, was the Queen’s husband for 73 years. He was the longest-serving royal consort in British history, the family’s patriarch and a well-known figure in public life for two-thirds of a century until his final disappearance into seclusion in 2019.

This was a marathon stint on which he had originally embarked with resignation, in the belief that a life of walking several steps behind his wife, curbing his opinions – though not always his tongue – and being an appendage to the institution, without even being able to pass on his surname to his children, would turn him into “nothing but a bloody amoeba”.

Things did not work out that badly. He brought a relaxed, mostly affable, peppery, outspoken – and occasionally brusque – style to a ceremonial monarchy that would have been more hidebound, introverted, insipid and decidedly stuffy without him. He introduced badly needed fresh air into the royal family but, while his longevity ensured that he became an integral part of the family firm, he clearly never forgot his initial, impecunious, foreign and outsider status within the institution.

His dutiful support for his wife and his engagement in public visits, ceremonial occasions and foreign trips continued well into old age. In 2011 he said in a television interview that he was winding down, but it was not until 2017 that he completed his final public engagement and it was only in January 2019, when he gave up driving after causing a car crash near the Sandringham estate, that he disappeared from view.

Northern Ireland’s first minister, Arlene Foster, and the deputy first minister, Michelle O’Neill, have issued a joint statement on behalf of the Stormont executive expressing their sympathies following the death of Prince Philip.

Foster said:

I am deeply saddened by the news of the death of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. It is a sadness that I know will be shared by countless others in Northern Ireland and right across the world.

Prince Philip was widely respected for his active and dedicated service to the country and for his steadfast support to Her Majesty the Queen throughout her reign.

He had a strong interest in Northern Ireland and I had the privilege of meeting him on a number of his many visits here.

He had a profound and positive impact on thousands of our young people who found their purpose, passion and place in the world through participation in the Duke of Edinburgh awards.

This inspirational programme is just one example of the many charities and voluntary organisations in which he was involved in right up to his retirement from public service at the age of 96.

I offer my deepest sympathies and condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and to the other members of the royal family at this sad time.

O’Neill said:

I wish to extend my sincere condolences to Queen Elizabeth and her family on the death of her husband Prince Phillip.

Over the past two decades there have been significant interventions by the British royal family to assist in the building of relationships between Britain and Ireland.

It is appropriate that this contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation is rightly recognised.

To all those of a unionist tradition and of British identity – those who value and cherish the royal family – I wish to acknowledge the sense of loss felt.

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Royal household staff have placed a framed plaque announcing the Duke of Edinburgh’s death on the front gates of Buckingham Palace.

Members of the royal family staff put the official announcement of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death on the fences outside Buckingham Palace
Members of the royal family staff put the official announcement of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death on the fences outside Buckingham Palace.
Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Around 30 people have begun queueing to read the sign, as four police officers on horses have stopped small crowds from gathering.

Members of the public have also started laying flowers at the foot of the gates.

A woman lays a bunch of flowers at the gates of Buckingham Palace after the announcement of the death of Prince Philip
A woman lays a bunch of flowers at the gates of Buckingham Palace after the announcement of the death of Prince Philip.
Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

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There must have been intense frustration at the limitations of his role, but Prince Philip was a rock for his hardworking wife, writes Simon Jenkins.

It is not disparaging of Prince Philip, who has died aged 99, to say he was always a walk-on part in the pantomime of monarchy. It was a part in which he was a star.

Plucked from the ranks of lesser European royalty as the “suitable” husband for a queen, he was perfectly cast. Nephew of the king of Greece, safely naval and effortlessly gracious, he took to his assigned role as if to the manner born.

He served in the war, but when his wife became queen in 1952, he gave up a naval career. While known as the Queen’s consort, he did not hold the title Prince Consort, one confined to Victoria’s Albert.

Political campaigning suspended in Scotland

Scotland’s political parties are suspending election campaigning following the announcement of Prince Philip’s death.

The SNP, the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour have all said they will cease campaign activities for the Holyrood elections on 6 May immediately.

The SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said she was “saddened” by the news and sent “personal and deepest condolences” to the Queen and her family.

The Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, said: “In the middle of a political campaign, this is a reminder of what’s most important in life. We have lost a tremendous public servant who for decades served his Queen and country”.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, spoke of Prince Philip’s “deep love for Scotland”, adding: “We will now come together as a country to remember his life and mark his distinguished career.”

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Tributes to Prince Philip are flooding in from public figures, politicians and organisations.

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A look back at the life of Prince Philip, described by the Queen as her “strength and stay for decades”.

Born on the island of Corfu, the man who once described himself as “a discredited Balkan prince of no particular merit or distinction” played a key role in the development of the modern monarchy in Britain.

He lived a life of relentless royal duty, relinquishing his naval career to immerse himself in national life and carving out a unique public role. He could be blunt and outspoken but could also be charming, engaging and witty.

 

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The leader of the Liberal Democrats has also offered his condolences to the Queen and the royal family after the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Ed Davey said:

Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country. We will always be grateful for his amazing service, not least the powerful legacy he leaves to millions of young people who have taken part in his unique Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.

His quiet and steadfast counsel and support of the Queen is perhaps his greatest if unquantifiable contribution to our nation’s history.

At this sad time for millions, we should never forget Prince Philip was a much-loved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. So our thoughts must be with the whole royal family, but in particular with the Queen at this difficult time.

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News of Prince Philip’s death came in the middle of the National Education Union’s annual conference, with the NEU president, Robin Bevan, asking delegates for a “moment of reflection” to remember both Prince Philip and teachers and school staff who had been lost to Covid in the past year.

Bevan, a headteacher in Essex, highlighted the success of the Duke of Edinburgh awards for young people, which Prince Philip helped establish in 1956.

Bevan told delegates:

Many of you will have seen the news that Prince Philip has passed away … I do want to mark one particular aspect of the Duke of Edinburgh’s legacy that is considerable.

One of the things I have most missed in the last year is the opportunity to take students in year 10 from my school away camping for weekends, hiking in the countryside. They are never terribly good at finding their routes and half the fun is finding out where they end up when they were meant to be somewhere else.

But those weekends and opportunities to serve through the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme have transformed lives, young lives, given opportunities, given adventure, and that aspect of Prince Philip’s legacy is something we should pay due respect to.

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Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, has also paid tribute:

For nearly 80 years, Prince Philip served his Crown, his country and the Commonwealth.

His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was, in the words of Her Majesty, her ‘strength and stay’. He embodied a generation that we will never see again.

Prince Philip was no stranger to Australia, having visited our country on more than 20 occasions. Through his service to the Commonwealth he presided as patron or president of nearly 50 organisations in Australia. Given his own service, Prince Philip also had a strong connection with the Australian Defence Force.

For 65 years, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme has encouraged over 775,000 young Australians to explore their leadership potential. Forty thousand young Australians are currently participating in the program.

Australians send our love and deepest condolences to Her Majesty and all the royal family. The Commonwealth family joins together in sorrow and thanksgiving for the loss and life of Prince Philip. God bless from all here in Australia.

Further details about Australia’s remembrance of Prince Philip will be announced over coming days. Flags will be lowered in honour of His Royal Highness.

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Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said in a statement:

I join with the rest of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in mourning the loss of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and give thanks to God for his extraordinary life of dedicated service. Prince Philip continually demonstrated his unfailing support and unstinting loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen for 73 years.

He consistently put the interests of others ahead of his own and, in so doing, provided an outstanding example of Christian service. During his naval career, in which he served with distinction in the second world war, he won the respect of his peers as an outstanding officer.

On the occasions when I met him, I was always struck by his obvious joy at life, his enquiring mind and his ability to communicate to people from every background and walk of life. He was a master at putting people at their ease and making them feel special.

The legacy he leaves is enormous. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which he founded in 1956, has inspired generations of young people to help others and instilled in them a vision for citizenship and a desire to serve their communities. His work with countless charities and organisations reflected his wide-ranging, global interests in topics including wildlife, sport, design, engineering and inter-faith dialogue.

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Duke of Edinburgh’s job: first, second and last, never let the Queen down

Day in, day out, at thousands of engagements over 73 years, the Duke of Edinburgh could be found where protocol dictated and love determined: at the Queen’s side or a few paces behind.

Half of perhaps the world’s most famous partnership, Prince Philip was dutifully deferential in public, though the few glimpses afforded into the dynamics of their private relationship suggest a more patriarchal attitude was deployed at home.

For Philip – naturally brusque, easily exasperated and with no discernible inclination to suffer fools gladly – the role of prince consort (though he was never officially given that title) was one to which he was not immediately or obviously suited.

An “alpha male” who oozed masculinity, his physical fitness, sporting ability, inquiring mind and leadership qualities meant he excelled at Gordonstoun school, then later in his Royal Navy career.

Had he not married the young Princess Elizabeth, some believe he would have become First Sea Lord. “As far as I am concerned, there has never been an ‘if only’ except, perhaps, that I regret not having been able to continue a career in the navy,” he once said.

But marry her he did, overcoming many obstacles on the path to Westminster Abbey.

The young Prince Philip of Greece, a stateless, peripatetic, impoverished and exiled royal, was a third cousin to Princess Elizabeth, and so the royal family “knew all about him”, as the Queen Mother would put it.

But he really came to the attention of the 13-year-old princess in July 1939 during a royal visit to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, where he was a cadet. Charged with entertaining Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, 18-year-old Philip captivated the heiress to the throne as he demonstrated his sporting prowess by jumping over tennis nets.

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The Union Jack flag flies at half-mast on top of Buckingham Palace after it was announced that Prince Philip has died at the age of 99
The Union Jack flag flies at half-mast on top of Buckingham Palace after it was announced that Prince Philip has died at the age of 99
Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pays tribute

Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, saying said “he helped to steer the Royal Family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”

Speaking from a podium in Downing Street, Johnson said:

He was an environmentalist, and a champion of the natural world long before it was fashionable.

With his Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme he shaped and inspired the lives of countless young people and at literally tens of thousands of events he fostered their hopes and encouraged their ambitions.

We remember the duke for all of this and above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen.

Not just as her consort, by her side every day of her reign, but as her husband, her ‘strength and stay’, of more than 70 years.

And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today.

Because they have lost not just a much-loved and highly respected public figure, but a devoted husband and a proud and loving father, grandfather and, in recent years, great-grandfather.

 

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The wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947.
The wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947.
Photograph: ANL/Northciffe Newspapers/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated

The coronavirus pandemic will have a major impact on the carefully laid plans for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

The duke’s funeral is still expected to be televised and held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, PA reports, but with Covid restrictions still in place, the public elements of the final farewell to the Queen’s consort will not be able to take place in their original form.

Under the earlier arrangements for the coming days, codenamed Forth Bridge, thousands of people would have been expected to flock to London and Windsor for a military procession of Philip’s coffin on the day of his funeral.

Hundreds of members of the armed forces would have been called upon to line the streets in honour of the duke, along with thousands of police officers to keep control of crowds and protect the members of the royal family taking part.

Organisers are said to be “desperately anxious” not to stage anything that attracts mass gatherings, one source said.

From the onset of the pandemic, planners have been busy behind the scenes working out a contingency strategy in case the duke died during the coronavirus crisis – a worst-case scenario of major concurrent events – a fear that has come true.

Preparations are expected to centre on Windsor Castle, without the military procession in London or any processions through Windsor.

Current rules on funerals in England mean only a maximum of 30 people may attend, and they must socially distance if they do not live together or share a support bubble.

This means the Queen will have to decide which members of her large family should be invited.

The monarch, her children and other relatives present may have to wear face coverings and stay 2 metres away from one another if they are not from the same household.

It is likely there will be some military involvement to honour the duke’s service to the armed forces. This will most likely be socially distanced and in the confines of Windsor Castle’s grounds.

World leaders and Commonwealth representatives, as well as foreign royals, former and current politicians and military chiefs would have been among those due to be invited to gather at the funeral, but such arrangements will now be impossible. Much depends on the guidance issued to the royal household from the government over the next few days.

Updated

The Labour leader Keir Starmer has paid tribute to Prince Philip, saying:

The United Kingdom has lost an extraordinary public servant.

Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country – from a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during the second world war to his decades of service as the Duke of Edinburgh.

However, he will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to the Queen.

For more than seven decades, he has been at her side. Their marriage has been a symbol of strength, stability and hope, even as the world around them changed – most recently during the pandemic. It was a partnership that inspired millions in Britain and beyond.

My thoughts are with the Queen, the royal family and the British people as our nation comes together to mourn and remember the life of Prince Philip.

Updated

Buckingham Palace pays tribute to Prince Philip

The statement from Buckingham Palace reads:

It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

Further announcements will be made in due course.

The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.

Updated

The news of Prince Philip’s death was announced by Buckingham Palace on Friday. It came after he was admitted to King Edward VII’s hospital in London on 16 February. He was moved to St Bartholomew’s hospital in the City of London where he underwent the heart procedure on 3 March and was discharged nearly two weeks later.

Prince Charles made the 100-mile trip from his home in Highgrove, Gloucestershire, to visit his father at the hospital on Saturday afternoon for about 30 minutes.

Prior to that, the duke had last been admitted to hospital in December 2020, for four nights, on the advice of his doctor as a precautionary measure due to a “pre-existing condition”. He was discharged on Christmas Eve.

Philip retired from public duties in 2017 at the age of 96, although he continued to attend occasional public events. He stepped back after undertaking 22,191 solo engagements and giving 5,493 speeches. He once described himself as “the world’s most experienced plaque unveiler”.

His last official engagement was in July last year, when he handed over his role of colonel-in-chief of The Rifles to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in a ceremony at Windsor.

Prince Philip at his last official engagement in July last year.
Prince Philip at his last official engagement in July last year.
Photograph: Reuters

Updated

The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s “strength and stay” for decades, has died at the age of 99.

Born on the island of Corfu, Prince Philip, who once described himself as “a discredited Balkan prince of no particular merit or distinction”, played a key role in the development of the modern monarchy in Britain.

Though never officially given the title of prince consort, he lived a life of relentless royal duty, relinquishing his promising naval career for a role requiring him to walk several feet behind his wife.

Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth shortly before their wedding.
Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth shortly before their wedding.
Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Having made this choice he immersed himself wholeheartedly in national life, carving out a unique public role. He was the most energetic member of the royal family with, for many decades, the busiest engagements diary.

Even when well advanced in years, he could be seen on walkabouts hoisting small children over security barriers to enable them to present their posies to his wife.

Often he received little public recognition for his endeavours. In part this was due to his uncomfortable relationship with the press, whom he labelled “bloody reptiles” and whose coverage often focused on his gaffes. He once told the former Tory MP and biographer Gyles Brandreth: “I have become a caricature. There we are. I’ve just got to accept it.”

Updated

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Corona Virus, Health

Brazilian Covid variant: what do we know about P1?

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Brazilian Covid variant: what do we know about P1?” was written by Sarah Boseley Health editor, for The Guardian on Thursday 8th April 2021 14.14 UTC

Is the P1 coronavirus variant a major threat to the world?

The P1 variant is causing devastation in Brazil, where an uncontrolled Covid pandemic is raging. P1, behind the terrible scenes of hospital overload in Manaus with patients’ relatives pleading for oxygen cylinders, is now the dominant form of coronavirus in many of Brazil’s cities and partly responsible for the high death toll. Other Latin American countries have closed their borders and restricted travel to and from Brazil but P1 is now in at least 15 countries in the Americas, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

P1 is highly transmissible. Jesem Orellana, an epidemiologist at Fiocruz, the renowned Brazilian scientific research institution, said on 10 March that because of its epidemic, Brazil was “a threat to humanity”.

As of 6 April, there were 356 cases of P1 in the US, spread across 25 jurisdictions, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The first case arrived in Minnesota in early January. There are far more cases of the UK variant – 16,275 – which like P1 spreads easily, but is very susceptible to vaccines. There were 32 cases of P1 in the UK as of 31 March.

What do we know about the P1 variant?

It is one of two coronavirus variants that have been detected in Brazil, or in people who have travelled from Brazil, called P1 and P2. The P1 variant has more changes – three mutations to the spike protein instead of one – and is causing the most concern.

P1 was first detected in Japan, in people who had travelled from Manaus in Brazil. Investigations confirmed the variant in Manaus, the city on the Amazon that suffered an intense first wave of coronavirus that peaked in April last year. A survey of blood donors in October suggested that 76% of the population had antibodies, so were presumed at least temporarily immune. But in January, there was a big resurgence among people who had previously recovered from Covid, suggesting that P1 is capable of infecting people who thought they had natural immunity.

P2 is widespread in Brazil but has fewer worrying mutations.

The UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) has designated P1 a “variant of concern”, as has the CDC in the US. Not only is it more transmissible – like the “Kent” variant B117 – but may also be capable of antigenic escape. In other words, the vaccines designed against coronavirus may not work so well against it.

How is it different from other variants and will vaccines work?

Nervtag says P1 “contains 17 unique amino acid changes, three deletions, four synonymous mutations and one 4nt insertion”. A variant is a virus with mutations, which sometimes have little effect. However, P1 has three that cause concern: K417T, E484K, and N501Y.

E484K is the most worrying. It is in the so-called South African variant too, which has almost identical changes in its spike protein. There are also a few cases where B117, the Kent variant, known for its rapid spread, has gained the E484K mutation. This is the mutation thought to give the variants some ability to escape the vaccines.

Lab tests have suggested so far that the major approved vaccines will work against P1, but with reduced efficacy. A study from Oxford University published on 18 March, without peer review, looked at the antibody response in blood samples from people with P1 elicited by the AstraZeneca and also the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. They showed nearly a threefold reduction in neutralisation, so efficacy is reduced – but not as much as it is against the South African variant. The Chinese CoronaVac vaccine, which is being widely used in Brazil, also appears to have some efficacy, according to a separate non-peer-reviewed study.

What are the chances of P1 becoming widespread in Europe, the UK or US?

It will depend on genomic sequencing of the samples of virus given by people taking Covid tests – and thorough follow-up contact tracing to find anyone else who may have picked up P1.

The UK has become good at this. It is surge testing wherever cases of variants are found, whether P1 or B1351, which originated in South Africa. The UK does more genomic sequencing of viral samples than any other country so is in a good position to know what is going around. When six cases of P1 were picked up in February in the UK, a manhunt was launched to find one of them who had not left contact details when he took his test. Forty people were involved over five days. Eventually the person came forward.

Other countries are stepping up their genomic sequencing as the threat of the variants becomes clear. Even in highly-vaccinated countries, P1 could pose problems. Controlling its spread will become ever more difficult as people resume foreign travel.

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US NEWS, World

Biden says he’s ‘not open to doing nothing’ on infrastructure amid Republican criticisms of plan – as it happened

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Biden says he’s ‘not open to doing nothing’ on infrastructure amid Republican criticisms of plan – as it happened” was written by Maanvi Singh in Oakland and Joan E Greve in Washington, for theguardian.com on Thursday 8th April 2021 00.23 UTC

Summary

  • Joe Biden called on Congress to take action on his $2tn infrastructure plan. “We are not open to doing nothing,” the president said at the White House this afternoon. Biden noted he was open to compromise on his proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28%, echoing comments from the commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, earlier today.
  • The UK coronavirus variant is now dominant in the US, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Dr Rochelle Walensky said of the UK variant, “It is the most common lineage, period.” Studies have indicated the UK variant is more contagious and more likely to result in severe illness than the original virus.
  • An expert testified at Derek Chauvin’s trial that he should not have used force on George Floyd once the man was laid prone and stopped resisting. Sgt Jody Stiger, an outside expert brought in by the prosecution, told the jury, “No force should have been used once he was in that position.”
  • The treasury department announced it has distributed more than 150m checks as part of the coronavirus relief package. The news came on the heels of Biden announcing that his administration has administered 150m vaccine shots since he took office in January.

Updated

The National Nurses Union has condemned the Arkansas law banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth, and other laws like it.

“Nurses stand with the large community of LGBTQI and other human rights and medical professionals who are horrified at efforts to block access to healthcare for transgender youth,” said the National Nurses Union president, Jean Ross.

The “repressive laws” restricting care for trans youth and children “can cause severe, adverse long-term outcomes for LGBTQI young people to both their physical and mental health, even at the documented risk of suicide.”

Yesterday, Arkansas lawmakers overrode the state governor’s veto to enact a law banning doctors, nurses and health providers from providing gender-affirming healthcare. North Carolina is considering another bill to ban providers from performing gender confirmation surgery for transgender people younger than 21.

These bills have been criticized by human rights groups, child welfare advocates and medical groups.

Read more:

Updated

The White House is considering a promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030, Bloomberg reports.

From Bloomberg:

The emissions-reduction goal, which is still being developed and subject to change, is part of a White House push to encourage worldwide action to keep average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, according to the people. The administration of President Joe Biden is expected to unveil the target before a climate summit later this month.

Targets under discussion for the U.S. pledge include a range of 48% to 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, according to one person familiar with the deliberations. Another person said the administration, at the urging of environmentalists, is considering an even steeper 53% reduction. Both asked not to be identified in describing private communications.

The US is on track to meet an Obama-era commitment to bring emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

Read more on Bloomberg.

‘A system of global apartheid’: author Harsha Walia on why the border crisis is a myth

The rising number of migrant children and families seeking to cross the US border with Mexico is emerging as one of the most serious political challenges for Joe Biden’s new administration.

That’s exactly what Donald Trump wants: he and other Republicans believe that Americans’ concerns about a supposed “border crisis” will help Republicans win back political power.

But Harsha Walia, the author of two books about border politics, argues that there is no “border crisis,” in the United States or anywhere else. Instead, there are the “actual crises” that drive mass migration – such as capitalism, war and the climate emergency – and “imagined crises” at political borders, which are used to justify further border securitization and violence.

Walia, a Canadian organizer who helped found No One Is Illegal, which advocates for migrants, refugees and undocumented people, talked to the Guardian about Border and Rule, her new book on global migration, border politics and the rise of what she calls “racist nationalism.” The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Last month, a young white gunman was charged with murdering eight people, most of them Asian women, at several spas around Atlanta, Georgia. Around the same time, there was increasing political attention to the higher numbers of migrants and refugees showing up at the US-Mexico border. Do you see any connection between these different events?

I think they are deeply connected. The newest invocation of a “border surge” and a “border crisis” is again creating the spectre of immigrants and refugees “taking over.” This seemingly race neutral language – we are told there’s nothing inherently racist about saying “border surge”– is actually deeply racially coded. It invokes a flood of black and brown people taking over a so-called white man’s country. That is the basis of historic immigrant exclusion, both anti-Asian exclusion in the 19th century, which very explicitly excluded Chinese laborers and especially Chinese women presumed to be sex workers, and anti-Latinx exclusion. If we were to think about one situation as anti-Asian racism and one as anti-Latinx racism, they might seem disconnected. But both forms of racism are fundamentally anti-immigrant. Racial violence is connected to the idea of who belongs and who doesn’t. Whose humanity is questioned in a moment of crisis. Who is scapegoated in a moment of crisis.

How do you understand the rise of white supremacist violence, particularly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim violence, that we are seeing around the world?

The rise in white supremacy is a feedback loop between individual rightwing vigilantes and state rhetoric and state policy. When it comes to the Georgia shootings, we can’t ignore the fact that the criminalization of sex work makes sex workers targets. It’s not sex work itself, it’s the social condition of criminalization that creates that vulnerability. It’s similar to the ways in which border vigilantes have targeted immigrants: the Minutemen who show up at the border and harass migrants, or the kidnapping of migrants by the United Constitutional Patriots at gunpoint. We can’t dissociate that kind of violence from state policies that vilify migrants and refugees, or newspapers that continue to use the word “illegal alien”.

Read more:

Biden to nominate gun control group adviser Chipman to lead ATF – reports

Joe Biden intends to nominate David Chipman, a former federal agent and a senior adviser to the gun control group Giffords, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to multiple reports.

The AP reports:

If confirmed, Chipman would be the agency’s first permanent director since 2015.

Two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that Chipman’s nomination is expected to be announced Thursday. The people could not discuss the matter publicly ahead of an official announcement and spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity.

Chipman is a retired ATF agent who has for years worked as a senior policy adviser at Giffords, which advocates to strengthen gun laws.

The White House said earlier today that the president intends to make an announcement on gun regulations tomorrow.

A number of Biden’s allies have pressed him to take executive action to end gun violence after the mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado.

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden called on Congress to take action on his $2tn infrastructure plan. “We are not open to doing nothing,” the president said at the White House this afternoon. Biden noted he was open to compromise on his proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28%, echoing comments from commerce secretary Gina Raimondo earlier today.
  • The UK coronavirus variant is now dominant in the US, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Dr Rochelle Walensky said of the UK variant, “It is the most common lineage, period.” Studies have indicated the UK variant is more contagious and more likely to result in severe illness than the original virus.
  • An expert testified at Derek Chauvin’s trial that he should not have used force on George Floyd once the man was laid prone and stopped resisting. Sgt Jody Stiger, an outside expert brought in by the prosecution, told the jury, “No force should have been used once he was in that position.”
  • Biden is expected to make an announcement on gun policy tomorrow. Many of the president’s allies have been urging him to sign executive orders to address gun violence since the mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado.
  • The treasury department announced it has distributed more than 150 million checks as part of the coronavirus relief package. The news came on the heels of Biden announcing that his administration has administered 150 million vaccine shots since he took office in January.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Chauvin used deliberate and excessive pain technique on Floyd, expert says

An expert police witness has told the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minneapolis that the accused former officer used a technique designed to deliberately inflict pain and subjected George Floyd to it for an extended period.

Sgt Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles police specialist on the use of force, said on Wednesday that video shows Chauvin applying a “pain compliance” procedure by pulling the 46-year-old Black man’s wrist into the handcuffs, which can be heard clicking tighter.

Stiger said the technique, which also involves squeezing the knuckles together, is normally used to inflict pain in order to persuade a person to comply with an officer’s commands – but at that point Floyd was not resisting and was lying prone on the ground.

The procedure was also used for much longer than was necessary, Stiger told the jury.

The prosecutor asked Stiger what the effect is of using the pain compliance procedure if there is no opportunity for compliance.

“At that point it’s just pain,” he said.

US Capitol Police officers participated in a procession today to honor Officer William “Billy” Evans, who was killed in the car attack at the Capitol.

Evans will also lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda next week, House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer announced yesterday.

Evans died after a suspect rammed his car through a security barricade at the Capitol on Friday. The suspect, Noah Green, then exited the vehicle wielding a knife, causing a USCP officer to open fire. Green died of his injuries.

Evans’ passing marked the second line-of-duty death for the USCP force this year, after Officer Brian Sicknick died of his injuries from the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

EPA reverses Trump stance in push to tackle environmental racism

Michael Regan, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, has sought to revive the effort to confront environmental racism by ordering the agency to crack down on the pollution that disproportionately blights people of color.

On Wednesday, Regan issued a directive to EPA staff to “infuse equity and environmental justice principles and priorities into all EPA practices, policies, and programs”. The memo demands the agency use the “full array of policy and legal tools at our disposal” to ensure vulnerable communities are front of mind when issuing permits for polluting facilities or cleaning up following disasters.

The directive states there should be better consultation with affected communities and indicates the EPA will be tougher on companies that violate air and water pollution mandates. Regan’s memo calls for the EPA to “strengthen enforcement of violations of cornerstone environmental statutes and civil rights laws in communities overburdened by pollution”.

Enforcement of pollution violations dropped steeply under Donald Trump’s administration, with the EPA even suspending routine inspections of facilities while the Covid-19 pandemic raged in the US last year.

Joe Biden spoke to King Abdullah II of Jordan today, as the kingdom experiences turmoil over the alleged coup of a former crown prince.

According to the White House readout of the call, the US president took the opportunity to “express strong U.S. support for Jordan and underscore the importance of King Abdullah II’s leadership to the United States and the region”.

“Together they discussed the strong bilateral ties between Jordan and the United States, Jordan’s important role in the region, and strengthening bilateral cooperation on multiple political, economic, and security issues,” the statement says.

“The President also affirmed that the United States supports a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Guardian’s Martin Chulov has the latest details on the situation in Jordan:

Jordan’s king has claimed authorities foiled an act of sedition with the weekend arrests of a former crown prince and 17 other people, describing the events as the ‘most painful’ ordeal of his reign.

‘Nothing can come close to the shock and the pain and anger I felt, as a brother, and head of the Hashemite family, and as a leader to this dear people,’ the king said in a written statement on Wednesday.

Speaking four days after Prince Hamzah was detained, King Abdullah said his half-brother was ‘at home under my protection’ and that the former heir to the Jordanian throne had offered him his loyalty.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio had some great news this morning for Covid 19-weary residents: the city’s pools and beaches will be open this summer.

“Grab your towel and pack your sunscreen because summer is just around the corner and our beaches and pools will be BACK!” de Blasio says.

“We’re going to do it the safe way,” Bloomberg reports de Blasio also saying.

Indeed, a smiling de Blasio held up a giant flag to demonstrate safety measures.

De Blasio’s cheery tweets and flag-pose come as welcome news to New Yorkers.

Last spring, New York City, and state, became a global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. There have been 31,531 deaths in New York City and 50,239 in the state, according to New York Times data.

Restrictions to combat the pandemic in New York City and state were among the most strict across this country. While this has helped prevent a return to the chaos seen elsewhere, New Yorkers are tired after a year of emotional, economic, cultural, and social hardships.

Being able to fully enjoy the sun is one step back toward normalcy.

The opening of beaches and pools comes on the heels of more good news: a New York City health official recently said that the five boroughs “can be completely out of this within six to eight weeks of very aggressive vaccination,” WABC reports.

De Blasio said Tuesday that more than 4.6 doses had been administered in the city, and announced the launch of a mobile vaccination programme, with vans and busses headed to hard-to-reach residents.

Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo said earlier today that the Biden administration was open to negotiating over the corporate tax rate hike, echoing the president’s latest comments.

“There is room for compromise. That is clear,” Raimondo said at this afternoon’s White House briefing.

The commerce secretary encouraged businesses to engage in discussions with the White House about Joe Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28%.

“Come to the table and problem-solve with us to come up with a reasonable and responsible plan,” Raimondo said.

Biden hints at willingness to negotiate on corporate tax rate

Joe Biden took a quick media question at the end of his address at the White House just now and signaled that although he wants to raise the corporate tax rate above the current 21% introduced by Donald Trump, it does not have to be as high as the 28% now being proposed by the White House and Treasury Department.

Joe Biden speaks at the White House on the American Jobs Plan. Vice President Kamala Harris is at left.
Joe Biden speaks at the White House on the American Jobs Plan. Vice President Kamala Harris is at left. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

“We have got to pay for this,” he said, indicating his $2tn American jobs plan, but added: “But I’m willing to negotiate that.”

He said he was open to talking with bipartisan groups and Republican-only groups of lawmakers at the White House, issuing an open invitation. But they had to be open to compromise.

And while he may be open to movement on corporate tax rates he reiterated his pledge not to raise taxes on any American making less than $400,000 a year.

And the president criticized Republicans who came to the White House with the purported intention of negotiating prior to the passage of the $1.9tn coronavirus relief bill titled the American Rescue Plan and then didn’t bargain.

Biden said they proposed a $600bn alternative plan.

“And that was it. I would have been prepared to compromise but they didn’t, they didn’t budge an inch,” he said.

He made a final appeal for a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.

“These are not Republican bridges, Democratic airports, Republican hospitals, Democratic power grid [upgrades]. We are one America, united and connected,” he said.

And Biden reminded Republicans in Congress that the improvements are popular with the general public.

Updated

Biden is talking up his “blue collar blueprint” for jobs for working class people in the US.

Of the programs and job creation he is proposing within the $2tr infrastructure bill, “almost 90% of jobs can be filled by people who do not have a college degree,” he said, and three quarters by people without an associates degree.

It’s amazing how Joe Biden can sound angry even when he’s talking about good things. It’s his way of being emphatic, he shouts his announcements, but he yells “jobs!” like it’s a curse sometimes.

Of course he is frustrated that Republicans have been bashing the plan outright as “too big” and a ridiculous wish list.

Minority leader Mitch McConnell called it a Trojan horse for “massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy”.

Biden said moments ago:“We have to show ourselves democracy works. That we can come together. It’s the United States of America, for God’s sake,” he says, impatiently. He called the plan “fiscally responsible”.

He called on Republicans to come to the White House for “good faith negotiations” and show that democracy in the US works and not with “trickle down economics from the very top”.

Updated

Biden: ‘We are not open to doing nothing’ on infrastructure legislation

Joe Biden is now talking at the White House about his “one in a generation” $2tn infrastructure plan.

The US president called his “American Jobs Plan” the “single largest investment in American jobs since World War II” and asserted that it doesn’t “tinker around the edges”.

Biden said that the plan, unveiled last week, said that debate was good, compromise over passing the legislation was “inevitable” but his conclusion was that “we are not open to doing nothing”, while Republicans criticize the program.

The president is criticizing not just crumbling roads and bridges and other such large-scale infrastructure, but the high incidence of lead in outdated drinking water pipes and a lack of high-speed internet in homes across the US.

Updated

Lawmaker who knocked on door at state capitol as Georgia governor was signing voter suppression legislation will not be charged, following her arrest.

State representative Park Cannon, a Democrat of Atlanta, is placed into the back of a Georgia State Capitol patrol car after being arrested by Georgia State Troopers at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta last month.
State representative Park Cannon, a Democrat of Atlanta, is placed into the back of a Georgia State Capitol patrol car after being arrested by Georgia State Troopers at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta last month. Photograph: Alyssa Pointer/AP

The Associated Press reports:

A district attorney in Atlanta today that she will not pursue charges against a Georgia state lawmaker who was arrested during a protest of the state’s sweeping new election law.

“After reviewing all of the evidence, I have decided to close this matter,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in an emailed statement. “It will not be presented to a grand jury for consideration of indictment, and it is now closed.”

Representative Park Cannon, a Democrat from Atlanta, was arrested March 25 after she knocked on the door to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s office while he was on live television speaking about the voting bill he had just signed into law.

Police charged her with obstruction of law enforcement and disruption of the General Assembly. She was released from jail later that evening.

“While some of Representative Cannon’s colleagues and the police officers involved may have found her behavior annoying, such sentiment does not justify a presentment to a grand jury of the allegations in the arrest warrants or any other felony charges,” Willis said.

Informed of the district attorney’s decision by The Associated Press, Cannon’s attorney, Gerald Griggs, said, “We are appreciative of the decision of the district attorney after we provided witnesses to her and we plan to speak publicly very soon about our next steps.”

The Republican-backed rewrite of Georgia’s election rules adds a new photo ID requirement to vote absentee by mail, gives the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials, prohibits people from giving water and snacks to people waiting in line, and makes some changes to early voting, among other things.

Read my colleague Sam Levine’s interview with Rep Cannon here.

Today so far

The White House press briefing has now concluded. Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The UK coronavirus variant is now dominant in the US, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Dr Rochelle Walensky said of the UK variant, “It is the most common lineage, period.” Studies have indicated the UK variant is more contagious and more likely to result in severe illness than the original virus.
  • An expert testified at Derek Chauvin’s trial that he should not have used force on George Floyd once the man was laid prone and stopped resisting. Sgt Jody Stiger, an outside expert brought in by the prosecution, told the jury, “No force should have been used once he was in that position.”
  • The treasury department announced it has distributed more than 150 million checks as part of the coronavirus relief package. The president will likely highlight that achievement when he delivers a speech on his infrastructure plan in just a few moments.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Asked about when the US may start sharing more vaccine doses with other countries, Jen Psaki reiterated that Joe Biden is currently focused on vaccinating Americans.

The White House press secretary added the president is “absolutely committed to playing a constructive role” in distributing vaccines around the world.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer are not expected to attend Joe Biden’s announcement on gun policy tomorrow, according to Politico.

Other lawmakers, as well as gun safety groups and survivors of mass shootings, are expected to attend the White House event.

Biden to make announcement on gun policy tomorrow, White House says

Joe Biden plans to make an announcement tomorrow on gun regulations, the White House press secretary confirmed.

Jen Psaki would not provide further details on what executive actions the president will take to address gun violence. She told reporters that Biden will have “more to say” on the issue tomorrow.

Politico broke the news of Biden’s planned announcement, and the outlet has these details on the president’s thinking:

Biden will direct the administration to begin the process of requiring buyers of so-called ghost guns — homemade or makeshift firearms that lack serial numbers — to undergo background checks, according to three people who have spoken to the White House about the plans. He is expected to be joined at the event by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Other executive actions remain unclear. But stakeholders have speculated that the president could announce regulations on concealed assault-style firearms; prohibitions on firearm purchases for those convicted of domestic violence against their partners; and federal guidance on home storage safety measures.

Raimondo on corporate tax hike proposal: ‘There is room for compromise’

Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo took a few questions from reporters after delivering some prepared remarks on Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.

An NBC News reporter asked Raimondo if the Biden administration was open to a lower corporate tax rate than the 28% that the president has proposed.

“There is room for compromise. That is clear,” Raimondo said.

The commerce secretary urged businesses to participate in discussions with the White House on the corporate tax rate, rather than just walking away to criticize the 28% proposal.

“Come to the table and problem-solve with us to come up with a reasonable and responsible plan,” Raimondo said.

Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote will likely determine whether Democrats can pass an infrastructure bill, has expressed criticism of Biden’s proposal on the corporate tax rate, instead calling for raising the rate to 25%.

“We’re serious about this,” Raimondo said. “We want to get this done.”

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, is now holding her daily briefing with reporters.

Psaki is joined by Gina Raimondo, the secretary of commerce, who is serving as a member of Joe Biden’s “jobs cabinet” to promote the president’s infrastructure plan.

Raimondo, the former governor of Rhode Island, said Biden’s infrastructure proposal was built to help vulnerable communities in the US.

The commerce secretary said America’s lack of investment in infrastructure “has hurt low-income folks and people of color the most”.

UK variant is now dominant in the US, CDC director says

The UK variant of coronavirus is now the most dominant variant spreading in the US, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.

During the White House coronavirus response team’s briefing this morning, Dr Rochelle Walensky said of the UK variant: “It is the most common lineage, period. So there are many different lineages. Of the many different potential variants, there are several different kinds – of sort of wild type variants – and this is, in fact, the most common lineage right now.”

Walensky noted the UK variant appears to be more contagious than the original virus, and studies have suggested it also carries a higher risk of severe illness and death.

Health experts have warned the rising number of coronavirus cases in dozens of US states is likely attributable to the spread of virus variants. Michigan has recorded the worst increase in infections over the past two weeks, at a rate not seen since early December.

Speaking at the White House yesterday, Joe Biden celebrated 150m vaccine shots being administered since he took office, but he also sounded a note of caution about the spread of coronavirus variants across the US.

“We’re making incredible progress. There is a lot of good news, but there is also some bad news,” the president said. “New variants of the virus are spreading and they’re moving quickly.”

Updated

Chauvin trial: expert witness says police should’ve stopped force once Floyd was prone

The trial of Derek Chauvin has resumed in Minneapolis, where the former police officer is facing murder charges over the killing of George Floyd.

Sgt Jody Stiger, an outside expert brought in by the prosecution, has told the jury that police involved in the restraint of Floyd should have ended any use of force at the point he was laid prone and had stopped resisting.

“No force should have been used once he was in that position,” Steiger told the jury under direct examination.

It’s a repetition of what other members of the Minneapolis police department have told the jury already, but the fact it is now being said by an outside expert gives this argument even more weight.

Steiger says at the point Floyd is laid prone by officers, including Chauvin, “He was not attempting to evade. He was not attempting to resist.”

He says the officers should have considered the fatal risk of positional asphyxia.

Follow the latest updates from the trial by reading the Guardian’s live blog:

Updated

Trump breaks silence on sex trafficking allegations against Gaetz

Donald Trump has released his first statement in response to the sex-trafficking allegations against Republican congressman Matt Gaetz, a close ally to the former president.

“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” the former president said in a statement released by his political action committee. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

That unenthusiastic statement comes one day after the New York Times reported that Gaetz asked the White House for pre-emptive blanket pardons for himself and some congressional allies.

According to the Times, Trump was told of the request, but it’s unclear whether he discussed it directly with Gaetz. The request was ultimately denied.

The justice department is reportedly investigating whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him, in violation of sex trafficking laws.

Gaetz has denied the allegations and claimed to be the victim of an extortion plot by a former justice department official. That official has said Gaetz’s claims are “completely false”.

During Trump’s time in office, Gaetz was one of his fiercest defenders in Congress. Gaetz frequently sought to discredit investigations into Trump or his administration, often by spreading conspiracy theories about the former president’s critics.

Updated

Rudy Giuliani’s son, Andrew, who worked as a top aide to Donald Trump, said he’s “heavily considering” running for governor in New York during the 2022 election.

“I plan to run,” he has told the Washington Examiner in a 7 April story.

“Outside of anybody named Trump, I think I have the best chance to win and take the state back, and I think there’s an opportunity in 2022 with a wounded Democratic candidate, whether it’s going to be Governor [Andrew] Cuomo, whether it’s going to be a radical [Attorney General] Letitia James, whether it’s going to be a no-name lieutenant governor, I think there’s a very, very real chance to win,” Andrew Giuliani remarked.

New York’s current governor, Andrew Cuomo, is in his third term, and it’s thought that he will run again. He is the son of the former New York governor Mario Cuomo, who held the office for three terms.

The Washington Examiner story on Andrew Giuliani’s potential run has cast this race as a “Titanic battle of New York families, a liberal-conservative fight that the state hasn’t seen in years”, given Cuomo’s lineage and the fact that Giuliani served as New York City’s mayor and lawyer to Trump.

If the son of “America’s mayor” turned Trump lawyer did stick to his word, it wouldn’t be that surprising, and probably not all that “Titanic”, considering that Cuomo has recently been embroiled in several damaging scandals.

Reports have revealed that top Cuomo aides rewrote a report from state health officials to conceal Covid-19 deaths at care homes – and to secure his reputation as a strong, effective leader. More, Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by numerous women.

Federal authorities have launched an investigation into Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, including whether he and his senior staffers gave the US justice department false figures on deaths in these facilities, per The New York Times.

The state attorney general is investigating the sexual harassment claims, and New York lawmakers have launched an inquiry to determine whether they should bring articles of impeachment against him, Politico reports.

Updated

Fauci urges Americans to remain vigilant: the end is ‘on the way. Hang in there’

A reporter asked members of the White House coronavirus response team what the “finish line” of the pandemic looks like for the US.

The question comes one day after Joe Biden said at the White House: “We aren’t at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do.”

Senior White House adviser Andy Slavitt once again emphasized that more than half of American adults have not yet been vaccinated and cases are rising in dozens of US states.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said the country will see a significant decline in case numbers once more Americans are fully vaccinated.

Fauci said of the “finish line” of the pandemic: “It’s on the way. Hang in there.”

Updated

The White House coronavirus response team is now holding a briefing to provide an update on vaccine distribution and case numbers across the country.

Andy Slavitt, a senior White House adviser, announced the Biden administration is now making vaccines available at all community health centers nationwide, a move that is aimed at closing the racial gap in vaccinations.

“Many community health centers are located in underserved communities and serve patients that are predominantly either uninsured or underinsured,” Slavitt said.

Slavitt noted 108 million Americans have now received at least one dose of a vaccine, representing about 40% of all US adults. But Slavitt echoed Joe Biden’s warnings against becoming complacent about practicing social-distancing and wearing masks.

“Even as we vaccinate Americans in record numbers, we’re still not even halfway there,” Slavitt said.

The senior adviser offered reassurances that “better days are on the horizon”, but he added: “It’s in our power to limit death, disease and misery.”

Updated

Jill Biden is expected to announce today the next steps for the military family support program that she and Michelle Obama led during Barack Obama’s presidency, according to a new report.

The AP reports:

Biden says that military families are as important as a rudder is to a ship and that supporting their physical, social and emotional health is a national security imperative.

‘We have an all-volunteer force, and it continues only because generations of Americans see the honor, dignity and patriotism of this calling,’ the first lady will say during an event at the White House, according to her prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.

‘How can we hope to keep our military strong if we don’t give our families, survivors and caregivers what they need to thrive? If we don’t act on our sacred obligation?’ she asks.

Biden said her relaunch of the Joining Forces initiative will focus on employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for military families, education for the more than 2 million children with enlisted parents, and the overall health and well-being of these families.

Joe Biden frequently notes that his own family is a military family because his late son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, served in the Delaware army national guard, including a year in Iraq.

Updated

The federal government will not be distributing vaccine passports as many US states start easing coronavirus-related restrictions, the surgeon general reiterated this morning.

“The government will not be requiring or issuing vaccine credentials,” Dr Vivek Murthy told MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle.

Murthy, who also served as surgeon general under Barack Obama, said decisions about requiring vaccine verification will be left up to private businesses.

“What the government and administration really believes, is that if the private sector is going to do that, that there need to be strict standards to ensure that people are protected, that their privacy is protected, and also to ensure that these are accessible to everyone and not only available to those who have economic means,” Murthy added.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, made a similar point during her briefing yesterday, telling reporters: “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

Updated

At campaign rallies, Donald Trump specialized in crafting political slogans whose catchiness obscured the lack of actual policy behind them: lock her up, America First, build the wall, drain the swamp.

But there was one Trump slogan that turned out to have a shocking amount of policy behind it – hundreds of pieces of legislation nationwide in just the last three months, in fact, constituting the most coordinated, organized and determined Republican push on any political issue in recent memory.

The slogan was “stop the steal,” a tendentious reference to Trump’s big lie about the November election result.

And the policy behind it was aggressive voter suppression, targeting people of color, urbanites, low-income communities and other groups whose full participation in future elections is seen by Republicans as a threat.

For decades, conservatives have made limited government, lower taxes, “family” values, religious freedom, public safety, national security and restrictions on abortion the centerpiece of their pitch to voters.

In 2021, those issues have been joined on the party platform by – and sometimes seem to be eclipsed by – a bold new policy proposal: prevent voting.

Since the November election, Republican state legislatures across the country have introduced more than 250 bills creating barriers to voting, cutting early voting, purging voter rolls, limiting absentee options and now, in Georgia, outlawing giving someone stuck in a 10-hour line a bottle of water.

Treasury has distributed more than 150m checks from Covid relief package

The Biden administration has distributed more than 150m checks to Americans as part of the $1.9tn coronavirus relief package, the treasury department has just announced.

The department said in a statement that it is disbursing more than 25m checks in the fourth batch of payments from the relief package, which Joe Biden signed last month.

“Today’s announcement brings the total disbursed so far to more than 156m payments, with a total value of approximately $372bn, since these payments began rolling out to Americans in batches,” the treasury department said.

The president will probably highlight this news when he delivers remarks on his infrastructure proposal at the White House later today.

Biden used his speech on vaccines yesterday to celebrate 150m shots being administered since he took office in January, and he can now tout 150m checks as well.

Updated

Half of all American adults are on track to receive at least one Covid-19 vaccination by this weekend, according to a government adviser, although Joe Biden offered a reality check on Tuesday when he warned the US is still in a “life-and-death race” against the coronavirus.

Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response, said that 50% of adults are likely to receive a shot in the next few days.

The good news is tempered by some states seeing coronavirus cases rising at a rate not seen since late 2020, however, with Michigan seeing a surge among young people in particular.

“We do have to remember that there are 100 million-plus adults that still haven’t been vaccinated,” Slavitt told CNN in an interview on Tuesday night.

“They’re not there yet, and you don’t win the war until you bring everybody over with you.”

About 63 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and adults in more than 30 states are now eligible to receive the vaccine. A record 4m doses were administered on Saturday, but health experts have consistently warned against complacency when it comes to limiting the spread of the virus.

Biden administration races to vaccinate Americans as Covid variants spread

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Joe Biden announces yesterday that all American adults will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by 19 April, pushing up his earlier deadline of 1 May by about two weeks.

The president also said the US has administered 150m vaccine doses since he took office in January, bringing him closer to his goal of administering 200m shots by his 100th day in office. About one in three Americans have now received at least one vaccine dose, according to Bloomberg.

Joe Biden delivers a vaccination update at the White House on 6 April.
Joe Biden delivers a vaccination update at the White House on 6 April. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

But Biden made a point to stress that the steady increase in vaccinations should not deter Americans from continuing to wear masks and practice social distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Dozens of states have reported increases in new coronavirus cases over the past couple of weeks, as virus variants have spread at a rapid pace.

“We aren’t at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do,” Biden said. “We’re still in a life-and-death race against this virus.”

The White House coronavirus response team will probably echo that message when it holds a briefing in about an hour. The blog will have updates on that once it starts, so stay tuned.

Updated

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Corona Virus, Health

UK Covid live: Van-Tam says AstraZeneca vaccine’s risk v benefit is finely balanced for younger people

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “UK Covid live: Van-Tam says AstraZeneca vaccine’s risk v benefit is finely balanced for younger people” was written by Andrew Sparrow, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 7th April 2021 16.16 UTC

Three men in a park, one in a suit, another one with professional-looking gardening equipment.
Boris Johnson bumps elbows with a man during his visit to the Perran Sands holiday park in Perranporth, Cornwall, this afternoon. Photograph: Tom Nicholson/AFP/Getty Images
A man in a suit holds an ice cream in one hand and makes a thumbs-up gesture with the other
And here is Johnson eating an ice-cream during his visit. Photograph: Tom Nicholson/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Here is the news release from the MHRA about today’s announcement.

And here is a page on the MHRA’s website with detailed briefing notes for healthcare professionals and vaccine recipients.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has warned that smaller pro-union parties will only benefit the Scottish National party in next month’s Holyrood election.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists’ Association after George Galloway launched his manifesto for the pro-union Alliance for Unity earlier today (see 2.45pm), Ross said:

It’s very clear that they are only going to harm the pro-UK side, they are not going to benefit the case for Scotland remaining in the UK, they’re going to take away the strong opposition that the Scottish Conservatives have been, and other pro-UK parties, rather than damaging the nationalist cause.

Ross added that voters should appreciate this is a “crucial” election in Scotland. He said: “The future of our country is at stake if the nationalists get another majority.”

Although polling earlier today (see 1.17pm) suggested that Scottish Labour is making gains on his party, threatening them for second place against the SNP, he insisted: “We can stop that obsession with independence and get back to the issue that really matters to people, which is our recovery from Covid-19.”

Douglas Ross.
Douglas Ross said the future of Scotland was at stake if nationalists win another majority. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Updated

Risks v benefits of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine shown on Van-Tam’s slides

Here are the three slides presented by Prof Jonathan Van-Tam during the briefing. They seek to present, in numerical terms, the risk-benefit balance, by age group.

They compare the number of people who would avoid ending up in intensive care as a result of the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against the number that might suffer a serious harm from the use of the vaccine.

The first slide covers the benefits and harms with a low rate of coronavirus in circulation – defined as 2 cases per 10,000, or about the rate it was in March. On the basis of these figures, it would be safer for under-30s not to take the AstraZeneca vaccine – although, as Van-Tam said, the figures do not take into account the risk of developing long Covid, or the fact that the benefit of the vaccine should last for longer than 16 weeks.

AstraZeneca benefits v risks - at low exposure risk
Benefits and risks of AZ vaccine – at low exposure risk Photograph: DHSC

But with a medium rate of coronavirus in circulation – defined as 6 cases per 10,000, or about the rate it was in February – even for the under-30s the balance of risk tips in favour of the vaccine.

Picture 862
Benefits and risks of vaccine – with medium exposure risk Photograph: DHSC

And with a high rate of coronavirus – defined as 20 cases per 10,000, or the situation at the peak – the vaccine benefits are even clearer.

Benefits and risks of AZ vaccine - with high exposure risk
Benefits and risks of AZ vaccine – with high exposure risk Photograph: DHSC

Updated

This is from Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister.

Van-Tam is summing up.

He says he hopes people will feel they have seen authentic experts doing their best to keep people safe.

And that’s it.

I will post a summary shortly.

Q: Are there any reasons women are at more risk than men?

Pirmohamed says of the 79 cases, 51 were in women. But that may be because more women have been getting the vaccine, he says. He says if you make allowance for the number of vaccines administered by gender, there is no difference, he says.

Q: Are there things that could be done to mitigate this risk?

Pirmohamed says an immune response seems to be targeting platlets. It is not clear why. When they understand this, they might be able to prevent it in individuals with risk factors, or they might be able to adapt the vaccine, he says.

Q: Does this mean young people could get the one-shot Janssen vaccine, and be able to go on holiday more quickly?

Van-Tam says the alternatifve now is the Pfizer vaccine.

The Moderna one will be available from mid-April in England.

The Janssen vaccine could become available over the summer, he says, but he says they do not know for certain when it will be available.

He says the UK’s plan was always to have “multiple horses in the race”.

He says it would have been impossible to pick this up without having deployed millions of doses of vaccine.

He says they do not know if other vaccines will present similar problems. They won’t know till the use them, he says.

Updated

Raine says the link between the vaccine and the blood clotting condition is “reasonably plausible”. But more work needs to be done on it, he says.

Q: Why can’t older people be given an alternative vaccine too? Some countries are not giving the AZ vaccine to the under-55s or the under-60s. Are they being too cautious?

Lim says every country has to make their own decisions. They take into account factors like the amount of Covid they have, the vaccines they have, and the amount of risk people will accept.

In some countries life expectancy will be much lower than in the UK. That means their assessment of risk will be different, he says.

He says, for the UK, they decided it was best to set the threshold at around the age of 30.

He says they do not know yet if this rare condition is related to one vaccine, or to several. And he says it may be linked to Covid, and not to the vaccine at all.

Van-Tam says the JCVI was free to make its own recommendation. It was free to decide what it wanted.

He says in the 40 to 49 age group, not using the AZ vaccine would avert 0.5 harms per 100,000 people. But it could risk an extra 51.5 ICU admissions. He says it would have been “absurd” to stop using the vaccine on people in that age group in those circumstances.

Van-Tam says many vaccine manufacturers are working on a vaccine for children. So the AZ vaccine is “not the only show in town”, he says.

Pirmohamed says there is a slightly higher risk of the rare clotting condition in younger people than in older people.

He says it is not clear why yet. More work needs to be done on this, he says.

He says the trial of the vaccine on children was paused out of an abundance of caution.

Q: Are the risks significantly higher for the under-30s?

Lim says it is not just the risk to an individual. There is a slightly higher risk to younger people compared with older people. But the key points is that the risk/benefit balance changes, because older people are at so much greater risk from coronavirus.

That is why the under-30s are being offered an alternative.

Van-Tam says his slides did not make allowance for the risk to young people of getting long Covid after an infection. The slides just focused on the risk of ending up in ICU.

Updated

Van-Tam says some people might have to wait longer for a jab, but impact on overall programme timetable ‘negligible’

Van-Tam says the impact of this on the overall timetable for the rollout of vaccines should be “zero, or negligible”.

He admits this is a course correction.

But he says this is normal in a vaccine programme.

The programme is a massive beast. If you sail a massive liner across the Atlantic, you are going to have to make at least one course correction.

He says the NHS will get the right vaccine to people.

But there might be a “small delay” for some people, and some people might have to travel a “slightly greater distance” to get their jab.

JCVI confirms under-30s to be offered alternative to AZ jab

Prof Wei Shen Lim is now giving the JCVI’s advice.

The information given to people getting the vaccine should be updated, he says.

People should get the AZ vaccine according to schedule, he says.

But he says people aged 18 to 29 who do not have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk from Covid should be offered an alternative to the AZ vaccine if one is available.

Van-Tam then show an alternative chart with the risk/benefit balance with a higher exposure risk (ie, if there were a high level of coronavirus in Britain). In those circumstances, even for younger people, the benefits are much stronger.

Van-Tam says risk/benefit balance for AZ vaccine for younger people could be finely balanced

Van-Tam says we have now heard from the regulators.

He is now presenting slides what illustrate the potential benefits and the potential risks.

He says the figures behind this slide assume that Covid cases are at a lower rate than they are now.

He says the figures also assume the vaccine benefit lasts for 16 weeks. But in practice the vaccines are expected to offer protection beyond that.

He says the chart shows that, in younger age groups, the risk/benefit balance is finely balanced. For older people, it is very clear, he says.

Risks v benefits
Risks v benefits Photograph: Sky News

Pirmohamed says people are at much greater risk of getting clots if they develop Covid.

He says more work is needed.

The benefits outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.

But it more finely balance for young people, he says.

Sir Munir Pirmohamed is describing the new advice.

Pregnant women should discuss the risks with doctor, he says.

People with a history of blood disorders should only take the AZ vaccine when they have assessed if the benefits outweigh the risks.

And any people who do have clotting episodes should not take a second dose, he says.

MHRA chief says risk of rare blood clotting condition after AZ vaccine about four people per million

Raine says the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for “the vast majority of people”.

She says up to 31 March there had been 79 cases of this condition, with 19 deaths. All occurred after the first dose.

The risk is about four people in a million, she says.

She says three of the 19 people who died were under the age of 30.

MHRA chief says there’s ‘strong possibility’ AZ vaccine causing extremely rare blood clotting side effects

Dr June Raine is speaking now.

She says more than 20m doses of the AZ vaccine have been given in the UK.

No effective vaccine or medicine is without risk, she says.

She says clinical trials allow people to find common side effects. But rare side effects only become clear when large numbers of people are being vaccinated.

She says it is a “strong possibility” that the vaccine is causing these extremely rare side effects.

 

Van-Tam says ‘course correction’ being ordered to UK’s vaccination programme

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam starts. He says this is a medical and scientific briefing.

He says it is about the AstraZeneca vaccine, or the AZ vaccine as he calls it.

He says there is a “change of course, a course correction if you like” to the UK programme.

He says he would have been amazed, before the programme started, if you had told him there would be no need for a course correction with a programme of this nature.

Updated

The UK press conference is about to start.

Under-30s in UK should be offered alternative Covid vaccine to AstraZeneca jab, says regulator

Adults under 30 should be offered an alternative vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca jab if there is one available in their area and they are healthy and not at high risk of Covid, the UK government’s vaccination advisory body has said. My colleague Sarah Boseley has the story here.

Johnson says AstraZeneca vaccine ‘safe’

This is what Boris Johnson said to reporters about the AstraZeneca vaccine during his visit to Cornwall. He said:

I think the crucial thing on this is to listen to what the scientists, and the doctors, the medical experts, have to say. The MHRA is meeting, the JCVI is meeting, they’ll be setting out the position and we will get on with rolling out the vaccine and obviously we’ll follow very carefully what they have to say.

I don’t think anything that I have seen leads me to suppose that we will have to change the road map or deviate from the road map in any way.

Johnson said the vaccine was “safe”. He went on:

But the crucial thing for everybody is to listen to what the scientists, the medical experts have to say later on today.

You can really start to see some of the benefits of that – it’s pretty clear that the decline in the number of deaths, the decline in the number of hospitalisations is being fuelled, is being assisted, the steepness of that decline is being helped by the rollout of the vaccines so it’s very important for everybody to continue to get your second jab when you’re asked to come forward for your turn.

Updated

The EMA has a live tweets from its press briefing on its Twitter feed.

Boris Johnson has been speaking about the AstraZeneca vaccine on a visit to Cornwall. According to the Mail’s John Stevens, Johnson has stressed it is safe.

(PR experts may be wondering why Johnson is commenting at the very moment when the scientists are about the deliver a news conference. It is generally accepted that public health messages have more credibility when delivered by experts, not politicians.)

Why EMA has decided all age groups should continue to use AstraZeneca jab

More from the EMA’s safety committee which has concluded that while the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should continue to be used to all age groups that unusual blood clots, with low blood platelets should be listed as a very rare side effect.

Those administered vaccine should be made aware of the possibility of very rare cases of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring within two weeks of vaccination.

Most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 years of age within two weeks of vaccination. Based on the currently available evidence, specific risk factors have not been confirmed.

The blood clots occurred in veins in the brain (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, CVST) and the abdomen (splanchnic vein thrombosis) and in arteries, together with low levels of blood platelets and sometimes bleeding.

The committee carried out an in-depth review of 62 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and 24 cases of splanchnic vein thrombosis reported in the EU drug safety database (EudraVigilance) as of 22 March 2021, 18 of which were fatal. The cases came mainly from spontaneous reporting systems of the EEA and the UK, where around 25 million people had received the vaccine.

The EMA said the reported combination of blood clots and low blood platelets was very rare, and the overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side effects.

One plausible explanation for the combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is an immune response, leading to a condition similar to one seen sometimes in patients treated with heparin (heparin induced thrombocytopenia, HIT), they say.

Updated

The EMA press conference is starting now. My colleague Rhi Storer is covering it on our global coronavirus live blog. It’s here.

We don’t know what the MHRA will be saying yet, but it seems likely that their recommendations will mirror those of the EMA.

From my colleague Aubrey Allegretti:

Updated

EMA says people should keep using AstraZeneca jab because benefits outweigh risks

The European Medicines Agency has confirmed that the “overall benefit-risk remains positive” for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab despite rare cases of blood clots.

The EMA guidance states that patients must be made aware of possible side effects. They say that “unusual blood clots should be listed as very rare side effects”.

A press conference is due to start shortly.

Updated

From Darren McCaffrey from GB News

From Reuters’ Guy Faulconbridge

Joint MHRA/JCVI press conference on AstraZeneca vaccine

The joint press conference for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is about to start.

Here is the list of people due to be speaking.

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA

Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the Committee of Human Medicines (which advises the government on the safety of medicines)

Prof Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI

What MHRA has said in the past about AstraZeneca vaccine and very rare blood clots

Although regulators in some European countries have changed their advice about the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the light of concerns about a possible link with blood clots, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has until now insisted that people should keep taking the jab because the benefits far outweigh the risks.

But on 18 March the MHRA did issue new guidance, after five cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) – an extremely rare blood clot in the brain – occurred in the 11 million people who had at that point had the vaccine.

Here is the news release the MHRA put out at the time. And here is an extract.

Given the extremely rare rate of occurrence of these CSVT events among the 11 million people vaccinated, and as a link to the vaccine is unproven, the benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, continue to outweigh the risks of potential side effects …

While we continue to investigate these cases, as a precautionary measure we would advise anyone with a headache that lasts for more than 4 days after vaccination, or bruising beyond the site of vaccination after a few days, to seek medical attention.

(CVST and CSVT are the same thing – both terms are in use.)

At the end of last week MHRA issued an update. It said by 24 March there had been 22 reports of CVST, and eight reports of thrombosis events with low platelets, out of a total of 18.1m AstraZeneca doses delivered at that point.

Updated

George Galloway has denied that his latest party – All for Unity, which is standing pro-union list candidates in the forthcoming Holyrood elections – is irrelevant, after polling under 2% in a new STV News/Ipsos MORI poll.

Launching a manifesto which included the idea of a confirmatory vote by region should Scotland end up voting for independence, Galloway said:

If we were irrelevant, none of you would be here and the Conservative party in particular would not be having a collective nervous breakdown.

Galloway, who has previously said that he would never share a platform with a Tory, is now encouraging people to vote for the Conservatives in the constituency poll and then All for Unity on the regional list. Challenged about this volte face, he said:

That was then and this is now. The danger of the break up of the country now is more acute.

He also warned that, if Alex Salmond – who is likewise standing list-only candidates with his new pro-independence Alba party – is elected then Scotland will take “the road to Catalonia”. He went on:

This election is effectively – if we lose it – the first stage of the next part of the neverendum, which if Alex Salmond has the whip hand, explicitly is the road to Catalonia. He’s not hiding it, it’s mass street protests, it’s immediate negotiation with the British government, it will be very quickly civil disobedience. It is a recipe for trouble in Scotland.

George Galloway (left) and Jamie Blackett at the All for Unity launch today.
George Galloway (left) and Jamie Blackett at the All for Unity launch today. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Any link between AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots ‘at limits of what is detectable’, says former MHRA chief

On Radio 4’s the World at One Sarah Montague interviewed Prof Sir Kent Woods about what the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is likely to announce. Woods was chief executive of the MHRA between 2004 and 2013, and so he is better placed to speculate on this than almost anyone. For four years he was also chair of the European Medicines Agency, which is making its own announcement about the AstraZeneca vaccine at the same time. Here are the main points from the interview.

  • Woods said the possible link between the extremely rare type of blood clot and the AstraZeneca vaccine was “at the limits of what is detectable”. He said:

I think this possible association between the vaccine and these clotting events as being at the limits of what is detectable by the methods that we have. We’re talking about a small number of cases emerging in many millions of vaccinated individuals, which is an extremely low incidence rate.

We don’t know with precision how common these events are outside vaccination. In other words, it still remains possible that this is a chance association.

And then, of course, coronavirus infection itself does very considerably increase the risk of blood clotting events.

So what we don’t know is the background occurrence of these blood clotting events in the population now when we know there’s a lot of coronavirus around.

  • He suggested the regulators would have two options. He said:

I think that the policy options would include either regarding it as a risk which is so much smaller than the risk of Covid that the information should simply be added to the information sheet underlying the licensing of the product.

This is what usually happens, it is a continuous process of finding out new things about new medicines, and generally some statement is put into the information leaflets for health professionals and for patients. That would be one thing to do.

The other might be advice specifically to selectively use some other vaccine in particular sub-groups of patients. The question then would be, do we know enough about the alternative vaccines to be confident that that would be a good thing to do.

  • He stressed the dangers of advising particular groups of people to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine. He said:

If it were considered that the very small risk should be avoided by not giving this vaccine to young women, the alternative might be either that they don’t get a vaccine, in which case they’d be exposed to a very, very much higher risk of complications from Covid itself.

Or if it were to be to advocate another vaccine in certain ages, then you’d have to be absolutely certain that the other vaccine didn’t have any other offsetting low level risks that might complicate the risk/benefit equation. So it’s not an easy decision to make.

  • He said the theory that the very rare blood clotting condition mainly affects younger women because of a link to taking the contraceptive pill was a “hypothesis to be explored”. (Many of the very small number of people who have developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis [CVST] after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine have been women under the age of 55.)
  • He said until now the MHRA and the EMA have always said the benefits of using the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh any possible risks. But he criticised some European governments for issuing their own advice on this. He said that had caused “great confusion” and undermined confidence in the vaccine.

Updated

The latest edition of the Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast is out. Rafael Behr steps in behind the mic and he chats to Gaby Hinsliff about Keir Starmer’s upcoming challenge at the ballot box. Following on from that, Peter Walker talks to a couple of Green party councillors about their plans to capitalise on Labour’s loss of dominance in the north of England. Plus, in a week that has seen violence break out in Northern Ireland, Lisa O’Carroll speaks to the EU ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida.

Starmer says government’s policy on Covid-status certificates a ‘complete mess’

Here is the full quote from Sir Keir Starmer saying the government’s plans for Covid-status certificates are a “complete mess”. (See 11.50am.) Speaking on a visit to Plymouth, he said:

We do not support the government’s plans in their current form, it’s as simple as that.

In fact the government’s plans seem to be changing on an almost daily basis. Only a few weeks ago the prime minister was saying he was thinking of vaccine passports to go to the pub – now he says isn’t. One day he’s talking about tests – then it’s certificates. It’s a complete mess.

There isn’t a real plan around this and what I fear it will be is another example of the government with a plan that doesn’t work, costing lots of taxpayer money, when I think the focus should be on getting as many people vaccinated as possible – that’s the light at the [end of the] tunnel.

Sir Keir Starmer (second from left) speaking to students during a visit to the City College Plymouth Institute of Technology with Luke Pollard MP (right).
Sir Keir Starmer (second from left) speaking to students during a visit to the City College Plymouth Institute of Technology with Luke Pollard MP (right).
Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Updated

Only 3% of SNP supporters would back Salmond’s new Alba party, poll suggests

Alex Salmond’s new pro-independence party Alba has not yet made a breakthrough with nationalist voters, according to a major poll by Ipsos-Mori, which found only 3% of Scottish National party supporters will back it.

The poll for STV put Scotland-wide support for Alba, which Salmond launched 12 days ago, at just 3% and found that only 4% of SNP voters would support Alba with their second list vote in May’s Holyrood elections.

Those figures suggest Salmond, a former first minister and SNP leader, will struggle to get elected on the north-east regional list, despite fears amongst SNP strategists he may well win a seat due to his residual popularity in Aberdeenshire.

One Ipsos Mori analyst, Emily Gray, suggested the data showed Alba had inadvertently boosted support for the other pro-independence party, the Scottish Greens, to 12%, by reminding SNP supporters they could use their list votes for other parties.

In a significant boost for Nicola Sturgeon, the poll put the SNP constituency vote at 53%, up one point, with the Tories down three to 20% and Labour up three to 18%.

Polling experts regard Ipsos Mori surveys as more authoritative than others because it uses telephone canvassing of randomly-called voters instead of self-selecting panels of voters who sign up to participate in online polls – the method used by a large majority of commercial pollsters.

STV forecast 70 seats for the SNP, enough to give Sturgeon a Holyrood majority, leaving the Tories on 25 seats and Labour on 19. If the Greens secured a uniform 12% on the list, it would have a record 11 seats, but Alba none.

The STV poll also had sobering findings for pro-UK party leaders who have tried to portray Nicola Sturgeon as a politician who prioritises independence over recovering from the Covid crisis.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, and Willie Rennie for the Lib Dems have both tried to pivot away from constitutional politics onto Covid and domestic policies, but the poll found 49% of voters believed independence and devolution were a priority, with just 15% identifying Covid as one.

Gray pointed out, however, that 62% of Conservative voters believed independence is the main issue, perhaps vindicating the decision by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to make the UK’s future a central issue of his campaign.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Updated

Public Health Wales has recorded no further coronavirus deaths, and 82 new cases.

A week ago today the equivalent figures were one death and 60 new cases.

Updated

The 3pm joint MHRA/JCVI briefing will feature:

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA

Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the Committee of Human Medicines (which advises the government on the safety of medicines)

Prof Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI

Updated

MHRA and JCVI to hold press conference at 3pm amid speculation AstraZeneca guidance may be revised

The MHRA is going to hold a briefing at 3pm, it has been confirmed. It will be a joint affair with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. We’re expecting that they will provide an update on guidance for the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the light of concerns about its possible link to a form of extremely rare blood clot in the brain. (See 9.28am.)

Here is the clip of Sir Keir Starmer signalling that he is expecting an announcement from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) about the AstraZeneca vaccine this afternoon.

In Wales Plaid Cymru has launched its manifesto for the Senedd (Welsh parliament) election. Adam Price, the party leader, said that if Plaid formed a government, it would hold an independence referendum before the end of its first time in office. “Wales and Westminster are increasingly two different universes,” he said.

This is from ITV’s Paul Brand.

Sir Keir Starmer has been speaking to journalists on his visit to Plymouth. These are from Sky’s Joe Pike.

(Starmer might also have been referring to the European Medicines Agency, which is holding a briefing on the AstraZeneca vaccine this afternoon.)

Updated

Sir Keir Starmer trying block work during a visit this morning to the City College Plymouth Institute of Technology.
Sir Keir Starmer trying block work during a visit this morning to the City College Plymouth Institute of Technology. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Louise Haigh, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, has criticised Boris Johnson for not addressing the problems that have led to rioting in Northern Ireland over the past week. In a radio interview, she also said the government had not properly considered the impact its Brexit deal, and the effective border that places down the Irish Sea, would have in the region.

On the Today programme earlier Naomi Long, minister of justice in the Northern Ireland executive and leader of the cross-community Alliance party, said the government’s “dishonesty” over the consequences of hard Brexit has contributed to the anger felt by loyalists. She told the Today programme:

Instead of trying to work through the issues legally, it opted to promote lawlessness by suspending the Northern Ireland protocol.

They promised people unfettered access, which is not the case. And they denied the existence of borders, even as those borders were being erected.

I think that that dishonesty, and the lack of clarity around these issues has contributed to a sense of anger in parts of our community.

My colleague Lisa O’Carroll has a full write-up of Long’s comments here.

In a speech today Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, will say that the SNP will raise NHS inpatient, day case and outpatient activity in Scotland to 10% above the pre-pandemic level if it wins the Holyrood election. According to extracts released in advance, she will say:

If we are re-elected the SNP will bring forward a plan for a full-scale post-pandemic remobilisation of the NHS.

Our plan has three clear steps: firstly invest in, and recognise, the contribution of the magnificent NHS staff who care for us.

Secondly, enable more people to get the right support closer to their home.

Thirdly, building and maximising hospital capacity so more patients can be treated more quickly …

Our overarching aim will be to raise inpatient, day-case and outpatient treatment activity by 10%, compared to pre-pandemic activity, within the first year of the new parliament and to maintain that level for the rest of the term.

The Office for National Statistics has been producing regular reports showing, although young people have been at very little risk of dying from coronavirus, students have been particularly badly affected in other respects. An update has been published today, and it shows the average life satisfaction score for students in England was higher in March (5.2) than in January (4.6) or February (4.9). But life satisfaction improved for adults generally over that period, and in March students were still less happy than other British adults, who had an average life satisfaction score of 6.8.

Updated

Scottish Labour is proposing free school meals for all school pupils during the summer holidays. In an announcement ahead of next month’s Holyrood election, it says the SNP is only committed to free school meals for primary school pupils during the summer holidays. Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said:

By introducing summer meal clubs for all of Scotland’s school pupils, Scottish Labour will put the fight against child poverty and holiday hunger at the heart of our national recovery plan.

Elle Taylor, who works at a further education college in Llanelli, was the first person to receive a dose of the Moderna vaccine in the UK, PA Media reports. She received jab from staff nurse Laura French at West Wales general hospital’s outpatients department.

Speaking after receiving the vaccine, the 24-year-old told PA:

I’m very excited and very happy. I’m an unpaid carer for my grandmother so it is very important to me that I get it, so I can care for her properly and safely.

Elle Taylor, 24, an unpaid carer from Ammanford, receiving an injection of the Moderna vaccine at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen this morning.
Elle Taylor, 24, an unpaid carer from Ammanford, receiving an injection of the Moderna vaccine at the West Wales general hospital in Carmarthen this morning. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Updated

Prof Calum Semple, professor of child health at Liverpool University and a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told LBC this morning that he was not worried at all about the AstraZeneca vaccine. He said:

I’ll take myself, I’m 53, my risk of death from Covid is about one in 13,000, for me it’s a no-brainer, I need to have the vaccine …

This vaccine is safe. What do I mean by safe? You can look right, look left, look right again cross a road, it’s safe to cross because you don’t see any cars [but] you can trip, you can stumble.

Nothing is risk-free, but is the vaccine safe? I would say yes.

Welsh patients to be first in UK to receive Moderna Covid vaccine

Patients in Wales will from today become the first in the UK to receive the Moderna vaccine as part of a mass vaccination programme, with the first doses in Scotland set to come later this week, my colleague Harry Taylor reports.

Pharmacists carrying a cooler containing the Moderna vaccine at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen this morning.
Pharmacists carrying a cooler containing the Moderna vaccine at the West Wales general hospital in Carmarthen this morning. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Updated

Prof Sir Kent Woods, the former chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, told LBC this morning that he had “no reservations” about the AstraZeneca vaccine and that he was happy for younger relatives to have it. He explained:

Covid itself – the infection itself – is known to be associated with a substantial increased risk of blood clots of various kinds.

At a time when the population has got lots of Covid going around, it’s very difficult to know what the actual background rate of these clotting events is without the vaccine.

We can say I think, that if there is a connection, it’s a very, very rare one and this is why I am not concerned about the fact that relatives of mine have had the AstraZeneca vaccine in their 40s.

Updated

MHRA should issue new guidance on AstraZeneca vaccine urgently, says health committee chair

Good morning. As Channel 4 News revealed on Monday, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has been reviewing its advice about the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine following concerns about its links to a very rare blood clotting condition, and an announcement may be coming soon. On the Today programme this morning Jeremy Hunt, the chair of the Commons health committee, said a decision was needed as a matter of “urgency” – although he also stressed that in the past the MHRA had always acted quickly. He told the programme:

I think there is urgency; I think the one thing you can’t say about the MHRA is that they act slowly – they have been very, very fast and fleet of foot throughout this pandemic.

Currently the MHRA is advising people in all age groups to take the AstraZeneca vaccine if it is offered to them – although last month, in response to concerns about five cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) – the extremely rare blood clot in the brain – occurring in the 11 million people who had then had the vaccine, the MHRA did issue some precautionary guidance. Since then more cases of CVST have occurred, but they remain a minuscule proportion of the total number of people vaccinated.

As my colleague Sarah Boseley reports in her overnight story, some UK drug safety experts believe there could be a causal link between the AstraZeneca jab and CVST. But they say vaccination programmes must continue, with risk mitigation for women under 55. Sarah’s story is here.

This morning Prof Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said that figures up to 24 March showed 30 cases of CVST and seven deaths in the UK amongst more than 18 million people given the AstraZeneca jab. He said more up-to-date figures were due soon.

Most of these CVST cases are occurring in women under the age of 65 and Finn said this could lead to certain vaccines being used for certain age groups. Asked if younger people could be limited to certain vaccines, he told the Today programme:

That’s certainly possible. We are seeing another vaccine coming in [Moderna], and further vaccines are approaching licensure, and I know that the UK has made contracts for quite a wide range of different vaccines.

As time goes forward we will have much more flexibility about who can be offered what.

On the other hand, we do need to keep the programme going if the plan to open things up and allow things to get back to normal is to proceed without another wave of the pandemic coming through.

So it’s quite a tricky balancing act here, getting the balance right, getting vaccines coming through … getting the risk-benefit right for people coming forward.

Some European countries have decided to limit the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to older people. In Germany it is only given to the over-60s, and in France to the over-55s.

Finn urged people being offered the vaccine at the moment to take it, saying the “risk-benefit is very strongly in favour of receiving the vaccine”.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: The ONS publishes a report on the impact of Covid on students.

9.30am: Plaid Cymru launches its election manifesto for the Senedd election.

2pm: Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, holds a press conference.

Afternoon: Boris Johnson is out on a visit, where he is expected to speak to the media.

And Sir Keir Starmer is visiting Plymouth today.

Politics Live has been mostly about Covid for the last year and I will be covering UK coronavirus developments today, as well as non-coronavirus Westminster politics. For global coronavirus news, do read our global live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Updated

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The Guardian view on the pandemic: a universal crisis is revealing our divisions

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view on the pandemic: a universal crisis is revealing our divisions” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Tuesday 6th April 2021 18.10 UTC

The pandemic has transformed the lives of billions around the globe, but beyond that common experience, it has highlighted and deepened divides rather than closed them. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund warned that inequality both within and between countries will not just persist, but increase this year. It predicted that rich western nations will recover faster than expected from the crisis due to successful vaccine programmes and the ability to increase public spending and borrowing, while developing countries will struggle; the number of people in extreme poverty last year was almost 95 million above pre-pandemic projections.

At the same time, a divide is opening up between places that are experiencing some kind of new normal, with large parts of life assuming a recognisable pattern – including China, where the virus first emerged – and those plunging deeper into disaster. New Zealand and Australia are planning to open a trans-Tasman travel bubble. In Taiwan – perhaps the greatest success story – crowds happily mingle. In Israel, where more than half the population has been fully vaccinated, daily life in some ways resembles pre-pandemic times for many – though Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza remain under tight rules with relatively high infection rates. The government has faced condemnation for not vaccinating millions living under its military control. (It inoculated 100,000 who work in Israel or its settlements.)

Meanwhile, India recorded its biggest ever one-day tally of new cases on Monday: more than 100,000. Europe is struggling with a third wave. And in Latin America, a surge in the virus has hit even Chile, which ranks third in the world for vaccinations per capita. Last week, it closed its borders after two record daily increases in cases in a row.

That sends a chilling message to Britain, as it gradually loosens restrictions but faces a long haul back to something approximating life as we knew it. People are joyfully reuniting with friends and families. But Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, has warned that another surge in Covid is inevitable, and documents released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies forecast a late summer peak, with the worst case scenario of a situation as bad as January’s – when half of all UK Covid deaths occurred.

Chile has shown the dangers of relying on vaccines alone, and perhaps of them creating a false sense of security. The prime minister should take heed as the Tory right press him to speed ahead with relaxation. It is still unclear to what extent vaccines prevent infection, and the UK faces a sharp slowing in the pace of vaccination; the pace of easing must not outrun it and must be guided by infection levels. Another risk is the importation of variants that spread faster or could even prove resistant to existing vaccines if the possibilities of foreign travel are extended.

The virus and its variants have shown how vulnerable we are to the decisions made by other nations as well as our own governments. Wealthier countries should be ensuring a fairer share of vaccines, in a more timely manner, than they have so far managed, perhaps prioritising areas with the greatest risk of variants emerging. Though global leaders talk about their plans for coming pandemics, they are failing to work together to counter this one. Some countries appear – for now at least – to be striding out of Covid’s shadow. But no one can count on going it alone.

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Coronavirus live news: EMA denies establishing link between AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: EMA denies establishing link between AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots” was written by Jedidajah Otte (now), Rhi Storer, Martin Belam and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Tuesday 6th April 2021 16.02 UTC

The Dutch government will begin opening museums and zoos this month by offering coronavirus tests before entry, ANP news reported on Tuesday, citing the health ministry, in a first easing of far-reaching lockdown measures.

Under current measures, public gatherings of more than two people are banned, restaurants are allowed to serve only takeaway food, and there is an evening curfew, Reuters reports.

Coronavirus cases in the Netherlands are falling, but intensive care admissions are still rising.

Dutch News reports:

The number of positive coronavirus tests declined for the first time in eight weeks during the first week of April, but the pressure on intensive care beds shows no signs of easing.

In total 48,186 people tested positive in the seven days to April 6, compared to 51,866 in the last week of March.

The drop of 7.1% contrasts with a 13% rise the previous week. Hospital admissions declined by 3% to 1,588, but 376 patients were transferred to intensive care, an increase of 18.6%.

The total number of patients in intensive care is currently at its highest level since last April. The fall in cases could be partly due to the Easter holiday period, the public health agency RIVM cautioned in its latest weekly update.

Fans are seen in the Johan Cruijff Arena during the World Cup 2022 Qualifier between Netherlands and Latvia on 27 March, 2021 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. 5000 fans were allowed in the stadium as part of the Fieldlab experiments, which are held to explore how events with public can be organised safely during the pandemic.
Fans are seen in the Johan Cruijff Arena during the World Cup 2022 Qualifier between Netherlands and Latvia on 27 March, 2021 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. 5000 fans were allowed in the stadium as part of the Fieldlab experiments, which are held to explore how events with public can be organised safely during the pandemic.
Photograph: BSR Agency/Getty Images

The Trinidad and Tobago prime minister, Keith Rowley, has tested positive for coronavirus, the prime minister of Barbados said on Tuesday.

Mia Mottley wished Rowley a quick recovery, in comments at a World Health Organization news briefing, Reuters reports.

Updated

Italy reported 421 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday against 296 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 7,767 from 10,680 the day before.

The country’s seven-day average of infections has been declining since 22 March.

Italy has registered 111,747 deaths linked to Covid-19 so far, the second-highest toll in Europe after the UK’s and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 3.69 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 29,337 on Tuesday, up from 28,785 a day earlier, Reuters reports.

There were 221 new admissions to intensive care units, up from 192 on Monday. The total number of intensive care patients edged up to 3,743 from a previous 3,737.

Hungary’s economy will begin reopening as it has vaccinated more than a quarter of its 10 million people with at least a first shot, the prime minister, Viktor Orban, said on Facebook on Tuesday.

Orban, who faces an election in a year, is trying to balance measures to tame a huge surge of coronavirus infections and the need to reopen the economy to avoid a second year of deep recession.

Euractiv reports:

The central European country reported record coronavirus fatalities last week and doctors described hospitals filling beyond capacity, signalling the government may be forced to postpone a reopening.

Hungary has had the highest weekly per capita fatalities in the world for several weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Its health care system has come under extreme stress, the government has said, despite vaccinating a fifth of the population in one of the fastest inoculation drives in Europe.

There were nearly 12,000 coronavirus patients in hospital on Sunday, 1,451 of them on ventilators, the government said on Monday.

But the government has also vaccinated among the most citizens per capita in the European Union and imported the EU’s highest number of vaccine doses per capita, aiding a rapid inoculation drive.

Updated

The UK government said on Tuesday that 31,622,000 people in the country had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, up from 31,582,000 in the previous day’s data.

The figures also showed there were 20 additional deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, compared with 26 on Monday.

The pace of England’s vaccination programme could slow down sharply to 2.7m a week until the end of July, meaning there would be little surplus for first doses until tens of millions of second doses had been administered, my colleague Dan Sabbagh reports.

The latest modelling paper, produced for the Sage scientific advisory committee, said that “the central rollout scenario” provided to academics by the Cabinet Office was “considerably slower” than previously used.

That, the document added, amounted to “an average of 2.7m doses per week in England until the end of July (2m thereafter)” which was compared with “3.2m per week in the previous iteration (3.9m thereafter)”.

Updated

The Czech government has approved its first loosening of coronavirus curbs this year, including reopening shops selling children’s clothing and stationery, the industry minister, Karel Havlicek, said on Tuesday.

Reuters reports:

Limited outdoor operations at zoos and botanical gardens will also be allowed, he told the CTK news agency.

The relaxation will coincide with a return of 1st to 5th graders to school, which the government is likely to approve later on Tuesday, and the end of curfews and limits on movement around the country when a state of emergency expires April 11.

The Czech Republic has been one of the hardest-hit countries by Covid-19.

Shops, restaurants, services and most school classrooms have been closed almost continuously since October.

In March, the government shut all schools and used state of emergency powers to restrict people to their home districts.

Prime minister Andrej Babis’s minority government has come under criticism from opposition parties for its handling of the pandemic. It will let a state of emergency expire over the weekend after struggling to win approval to prolong its use in recent votes.

The government is also seeking to re-open schools, which have faced the longest period of full or partial closures in the European Union, according to UNESCO data.

The loosening comes as the number of daily infections has dropped below a seven-day average of 5,000 for the first time since mid-December. Hospitalisations have also eased.

However, the death toll has more than doubled to over 27,000 since the beginning of 2021 and is the highest in the world on a per-capita basis, according to Our World in Data.

Updated

‘Travesty’ that some countries lack access to Covid vaccines, WHO says

It is a travesty that some countries still have not had enough access to vaccines to begin inoculating health workers and the most vulnerable people against Covid-19, the head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

“Scaling up production and equitable distribution remains the major barrier to ending the acute stage of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a news conference.

“It’s a travesty that in some countries health workers and those at-risk groups remain completely unvaccinated.”

In mid February, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of Covid vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every country vaccinated as soon as possible.

Updated

France is likely to prioritise citizens based in its overseas territories and those with low income for the single-dose Covid-19 vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, a health ministry official said on Tuesday.

Reuters reports:

French president Emmanuel Macron last week ordered a third national lockdown expected to last at least a month in the hope of pushing back a third wave of Covid-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

Meanwhile, authorities are speeding up vaccinations across the country after what critics depicted as a slow start earlier this year. The aim is for 30 million people to have received first-round doses by mid-June, compared with 9.35 million as of Monday.

The other approved vaccines in the EU, which are Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, require a two-dose regimen, whereas J&J’s recently approved vaccine is delivered in a single dose.

This allows for more deployment flexibility, the official said.
J&J’s vaccine, like AstraZeneca’s vaccine, can also be stored at refrigerator temperatures. France expects to receive about 600,000 doses of the jab later this month.

“There are discussions still taking place, but we expect to prioritise first doses to overseas territories, where the vaccines are particularly difficult to deliver,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We are also contemplating the possibility of assigning doses to low-income populations that are eligible to vaccination but who do not have good access to the healthcare system or are hard to reach.”

France has started administering vaccine shots inside the Stade de France, the national stadium that once hosted soccer’s World Cup final.

Updated

That’s it from me for now. I will now hand over the liveblog to my colleague Jedidajah Otte.

Bosnians protest in Sarajevo, Bosnia. They demanded the resignation of ministers in the government accusing them of poor response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bosnians protest in Sarajevo, Bosnia. They demanded the resignation of ministers in the government accusing them of poor response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Photograph: Fehim Demir/EPA

More than 1,000 people have marched through the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, demanding the resignation of the government over what they say is poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The protesters blocked traffic in a central street in Sarajevo while hundreds more joined in from their cars, honking horns through the city. The protesters wore face masks and carried banners reading “Don’t play with our lives,” and “Resignation!”

Authorities said 99 people have died with coronavirus in Bosnia in the past 24 hours, a record for the country of 3.3 million people. Bosnia has so far reported about 7,000 fatalities from coronavirus, which is among the highest per-capita deaths rates in Europe.

Updated

EU drug agency denies already finding causal link between AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots

Europe’s drug regulator has denied it has established a causal connection between the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare blood clotting syndrome, after a senior official from the agency said there was a link.

In a statement to Agence France-Presse, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Tuesday it had “not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing,” adding that it expected to announce its findings on Wednesday or Thursday.

Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of vaccines, had earlier told Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper that in his opinion “we can say it now, it is clear there is a link with the vaccine … But we still do not know what causes this reaction.”

Concerns over rare but serious blood clotting events in a small number of recipients have dogged the vaccine in recent weeks, with more than a dozen European countries briefly suspending its use last month pending an EMA investigation.

Updated

The latest IMF world economic outlook has been published.

In the report, The International Monetary Fund is expecting a stronger economic recovery in 2021 as coronavirus vaccine rollouts get under way, but it warns of “daunting challenges” given the different rates of administering shots across the globe.

The organisation said it expects the world economy to grow by 6% in 2021, up from its 5.5% forecast in January. Looking further ahead, global GDP for 2022 is seen increasing by 4.4%, higher than an earlier estimate of 4.2%.

“Even with high uncertainty about the path of the pandemic, a way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible,” IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said in the latest world economic outlook report.

The US is set to expand by 6.4%. The positive assessment for the US is highly driven by Joe Biden’s $1.9tn (£1.37tn) coronavirus rescue package, which came into force last month.

The world’s second-largest economy, China, will record 8.4% growth this year and 5.6% in 2022, the IMF estimates, after a jumpstart – and heavily criticised – lockdown.

The monetary fund expects European countries which share the euro currency to collectively expand 4.4% this year and 3.8% in 2022. Japan is expected to register 3.3% growth this year and 2.5% next year.

The latest IMF report
The latest IMF report
Photograph: IMF

Updated

US president Joe Biden is set to announce he is shaving about two weeks off his 1 May deadline for states to make all adults eligible for coronavirus vaccines.

From Associated Press:

With states gradually expanding eligibility beyond such priority groups as older people and essential, front-line workers, the president plans to announce that every adult in the US will be eligible by 19 April to be vaccinated, a White House official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s plans before the formal announcement. Biden was scheduled to visit a Covid-19 vaccination site in Virginia on Tuesday, followed by remarks at the White House updating the nation on the administration’s progress against the coronavirus.

Biden is also expected to announce that 150m doses have been put into people’s arms since his inauguration on 20 January. That puts the president well on track to meet his new goal of 200m shots administered by 30 April – his 100th day in office. Biden’s original goal had been 100m shots by the end of his first 100 days.

The White House said on Monday that nearly 1 in 3 Americans and more than 40% of adults have received at least one shot, and nearly 1 in 4 adults are fully vaccinated. Among older people, 75% have received at least one shot, and more than 55% of them are fully vaccinated.

Updated

Hi everyone, this is Rhi Storer taking over from my colleague Jedidajah Otte for the next hour. Please feel free to send contributions to my email address rhi.storer@guardian.co.uk or my Twitter account. Thanks in advance.

Updated

Plans by EU countries to issue vaccine passports should have a legal basis to ensure that they are necessary and proportionate, the bloc’s privacy watchdogs said on Tuesday.

Reuters reports:

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) also warned against using data in such travel documents to create a central EU database.

Tourism-reliant countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal are hoping that vaccine certificates will revive international travel and save this summer’s holiday season. While some countries want an EU-wide approach to the issue, others are planning national schemes.

“Any measure adopted at national or EU level that involves processing of personal data must respect the general principles of effectiveness, necessity and proportionality,” EDPB head Andrea Jelinek said in a statement.

“Therefore, the EDPB and the EDPS recommend that any further use of the digital green certificate by the member sates must have an appropriate legal basis in the member states and all the necessary safeguards must be in place.”

The head of the EDPS, Wojciech Wiewiórowski, said the use of the documents should be restricted and that they should be scrapped once the pandemic is over.

“It must be made clear that the proposal does not allow for – and must not lead to – the creation of any sort of central database of personal data at EU level,” he said.

The watchdogs say EU countries should allow for three types of vaccine certificates – for people who have been vaccinated, recovered or tested – to avoid discrimination based on health data and hence a breach of fundamental rights.

Updated

The Indian capital of New Delhi on Tuesday imposed a night-time curfew until 30 April with much of the country struggling to contain a second surge in coronavirus infections that has eclipsed the first wave.

People walk at a crowded market amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease in the old quarters of Delhi, India, on 6 April, 2021.
People walk at a crowded market in the old quarters of Delhi, India, on Monday.
Photograph: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

Reuters reports:

The next four weeks in India’s fight against Covid-19 will be “very, very critical,” said senior government health official Vinod Kumar Paul, saying the disease was now spreading much faster than in 2020.

“The pandemic has worsened in the country … There is a serious rise in cases,” Paul told reporters.

India, the world’s second most populous country with 1.35 billion people, has administered 80.9m vaccine doses, the most after the US and China, but it lags far behind in immunisations per capita.

Healthcare and similar frontline workers as well as people over 60 have been the main recipients of vaccinations so far. Inoculations of people above 45 began only on 1 April.

New Delhi authorities launched the 10pm to 5am curfew a day after India surpassed the milestone of 100,000 new daily infections for the first time.

The curfew echoes tough restrictions in Maharashtra, the country’s hardest-hit state where the financial capital Mumbai is also located.

Rising Covid-19 fatalities in the states of Punjab and Chhattisgarh are also cause for “extreme concern”, India’s top-ranked health official Rajesh Bhushan told reporters on Tuesday.

Coronavirus cases jumped by nearly 97,000 on Tuesday, data from the health ministry showed. There were 446 new deaths, taking the total to 165,547.

With 12.7 million cases, India is the worst affected country after the US and Brazil.

Updated

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has insisted that the government will make good on its promise to have 70% of the country’s adult population vaccinated by the end of the summer.

To date, 8,743,694 people in Spain have received a single dose of the vaccine, while 2,852,806 have received both doses.

The country’s population is about 47 million. Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Sánchez said the pace of vaccination would be accelerated over the coming weeks.

“We’re going to manage to have 70% of Spain’s adult population – 33 million people – immunised thanks to the vaccine by the end of August,” he said.

The prime minister said Spain had ordered more than 87m doses of the vaccine for delivery between April and September, adding: “That allows us to ensure that any Spaniard who wants to be vaccinated within that period can be.”

Sánchez also said his government did not intend to seek an extension of the nationwide state of emergency in place since last October – which includes the current overnight curfew – when it expires on 9 May.

The prime minister was speaking after it emerged that the regional government of Madrid had held three meetings with the manufacturers of the Russian Sputnik vaccine.

The regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said the meetings had been held “to offer citizens answers”, and attacked the central government for what she termed its tardiness in getting people vaccinated.

”It wouldn’t be the first, or the fifth, or the tenth, time that the Madrid regional government has responded more quickly than the national government and looked into all possible scenarios when it comes to fighting the virus,” she said.

Sánchez responded by calling on regional governments to behave in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility, adding: “The success of the EU has been that we’ve been doing it together and negotiating in the name of more than 400 million people … We want to guarantee maximum safety and that’s why we’re using vaccines that have been approved by the EU.”

Spain has logged 3,311,523 cases of the coronavirus, and registered 75,783 deaths, according to the health ministry. The country is currently facing a fourth wave of the virus.

Updated

Indonesia reports first case of new contagious, more vaccine-resistant virus variant

Indonesia has reported its first case of a more transmissible new variant of the coronavirus known for reducing vaccine protection, but the government on Tuesday said vaccines being used in the country could withstand the mutation.

Reuters reports:

The new variant contains the E484K mutation found in variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil.

It is nicknamed “Eek” by some scientists for its apparent ability to evade natural immunity from previous Covid-19 infection and to reduce protection offered by current vaccines.

Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior health ministry official, said on Tuesday that the one variant case had recovered and did not infect close contacts, adding that the vaccines currently available in Indonesia could withstand the mutation.

However, Herawati Sudoyo, deputy director for fundamental research at the government-funded Eijkman Institute, which specialises in medical molecular biology and biotechnology, said the vaccines’ ability to withstand the mutation had yet to be determined.

[…]

With around 1.54 million cases and 41,900 deaths so far, Indonesia has the highest caseload in Southeast Asia and one of the worst epidemics in Asia.

Its vaccination programme aims to inoculate 181 million people and is relying heavily on a vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac due to shipment delays of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Sweden has registered 21,802 new coronavirus cases since Thursday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday, a marked rise in infections against the daily tally of cases recorded a week ago.

Reuters reports:

The figure compared with 16,427 cases during the corresponding period last week.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 35 new deaths, taking the total to 13,533. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks and could be less accurate than normal due to the Easter holiday last week.

Sweden’s death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours’ but lower than in several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

Updated

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, said on Tuesday that his government expects 25 million Spaniards to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by late July, while confirming the end-of-August target of inoculating 70% of the population.

“The pace of vaccination will accelerate in April and then each month we will improve the vaccination pace from the previous month,” Sanchez told a press conference.

Spain will update its 2021 economic outlook to reflect the impact of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic that weighed on growth in January and February, Sanchez said.

The government projects a 7.2% rebound this year after output tanked 11% in 2020, but the central bank and other analysts expect slower growth, Reuters reports.

People wait in a queue before receiving their first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine outside Enfermera Isabel Zendal hospital in Madrid, Spain, on 6 April, 2021.
People queue to receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine outside Enfermera Isabel Zendal hospital in Madrid on Monday.
Photograph: Sergio Pérez/Reuters

Updated

India’s fight against Covid-19 over the next four weeks will be “very, very critical” as its faces a faster second surge in infections, a senior government health official, Vinod Kumar Paul, said on Tuesday.

India’s daily infections passed the 100,000 mark for the first time on Monday, data from the health ministry showed. It recorded 96,982 new cases on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Owners and workers from the food and hotel service industry protest in Amritsar on Monday against a night curfew imposed by the state government.
Owners and workers from the food and hotel service industry protest in Amritsar on Monday against a night curfew imposed by the state government.
Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Germany should impose tougher lockdown measures for two to three weeks to bridge the gap until more people have been vaccinated and an easing of restrictions is possible, the chairman of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) said on Tuesday.

Reuters reports:

Armin Laschet said the aim of the stricter measures was to reduce the incidence of the virus to below 100 cases per 100,000 and enable compulsory testing, digital contact tracing and some reopening of the economy.

“My plan is for another big effort,” Laschet, premier of Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told ZDF television.

“Then we can enter the new period where we can carefully reopen,” added Laschet, who wants to run as the conservative’s chancellor candidate in a September federal election.

Laschet, previously criticised by Merkel for resisting tighter measures, also wants to bring forward talks with the chancellor and other state premiers scheduled for April 12.

A government spokeswoman was cool on Laschet’s proposals.

“The federal government is always ready for consultations. The condition is that they are well-prepared,” said a government spokeswoman. The reaction among state premiers was mixed.

Despite months of restrictions, Germany is struggling to contain a third wave of infections and many virologists say a tough lockdown is unavoidable. Lagging Britain, Israel and the United States on vaccinations, only about 12% of Germany’s 83 million population has had at least one vaccine dose.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 6,885 new confirmed coronavirus cases within 24 hours and the incidence of the virus per 100,000 fell to 123 from 128 on Monday. However, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said the numbers may be lower as less testing was carried out over the Easter holiday.

Due to its federal structure, Germany has a confusing patchwork of restrictions which varies from state to state. While the city states of Berlin and Hamburg introduced a night-time curfew over Easter, other states, including Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate were experimenting with some easing of curbs.

With an election due in September, many premiers are worried about a voter backlash if they impose new restrictions although polls show more Germans back a tougher lockdown than an easing.

The numbers of Covid-19 patients in hospital in Scotland has fallen to 196, the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed.

She told a Scottish government coronavirus briefing there were 19 fewer people hospitalised with Covid than before the Easter break.

Of these patients, the number in intensive care remains the same as prior to the Easter break at 21, PA reports.

Sturgeon said 2,577,816 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 463,780 have received their second dose.

Updated

The Polish president, Andrzej Duda, believes that the battle against the coronavirus epidemic is being handled well, the head of his office said on Tuesday.

First News reports:

Pawel Szrot told Polish Radio Three that the president has been participating in government activities to lower Covid-19 related mortality and infection rates in the country and “will continue to do so.”

Szrot added that the efforts of the president would be “similar” to those in which he participated before Christmas, such as “meetings with communities that are involved in combating the epidemic, that is to say, medics, the uniformed services and support staff,” said Szrot.

Poland recorded 8,245 fresh cases and 60 further deaths over the past 24 hours to Tuesday morning, compared with 9,902 cases reported on Monday, data released by the health ministry shows.

The number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients rose to 33,544 from 32,656 recorded the previous day, including 3,315 patients on ventilators, against the total of 4,245 ventilators available, the health ministry said on Twitter.

In total, 6,665,384 Poles have received jabs against coronavirus, with 2,074,033 of those having had both doses of the vaccine, according to data posted on the official government website, gov.pl.

Updated

Contract manufacturer Catalent Inc has reached an agreement with Moderna Inc to expand the US production of the vaccine maker’s Covid-19 shot, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The agreement will nearly double the vaccine output at Catalent’s Bloomington, Indiana, plant this month to about 400 vials a minute, the WSJ reported.

The Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Shai Weiss, told reporters that the UK government’s traffic light system for reopening international travel should work towards enabling people to return from “green” countries without the need for coronavirus tests.

He said:

The essence of the framework should allow for a path to green and removal of testing and quarantine when it is safe to do so.

We can’t have a prohibitively expensive testing system that puts businesses, people and families off travelling.

Passengers travelling to and from ‘green’ countries should be able to do so freely, without testing or quarantine at all, and vaccinated passengers travelling to and from ‘amber’ countries should not face testing or quarantine.

Other than for ‘red’ countries, we do not believe quarantine is the answer for controlling the spread of the virus.

Weiss said destinations that should be on the “green” list for international travel from 17 May include the US, Israel and the Caribbean.

He said the US was “vaccinating over 3 million people per day”, Israel was “the world’s leading vaccinated country”, and the Caribbean “has done an awesome job throughout this pandemic of keeping things under control”.

He added: “I think these three areas should be on that list.”

Speaking at the joint press conference, the Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said the United Arab Emirates could be included as “they also have very high levels of vaccination”, PA reports.

Updated

A senior official from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has told an Italian daily it is “clear” that there is a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare form of blood clot but that the cause is still not known, Agence France-Presse is reporting from Rome.

“In my opinion, we can say it now, it is clear there is a link with the vaccine. But we still do not know what causes this reaction,” the EMA head of vaccines, Marco Cavaleri, told Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper.

The official reportedly told the paper that Europe’s drug regulator would be making a statement on the issue “in the coming hours”.

However the EMA later denied establishing a causal connection between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare blood clotting syndrome. See entry at 14.53 BST and full story here. In a statement to Agence France-Presse, the EMA said it had “not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing”, adding that it expected to announce its findings on Wednesday or Thursday.

Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands have all recently limited inoculation with the Anglo-Swedish company’s vaccine to older age groups pending an EMA investigation, while reports from the UK on Monday suggested Britain’s MHRA was considering a similar restriction and could make an announcement as early as Tuesday.

The MHRA’s chief executive, Dr June Raine, said no decision had been made and urged people to continue to get vaccinated.”No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action,” she said.

Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London told the BBC that the clots raised questions over whether young people should get the jab. He said: “There is increasing evidence that there is a rare risk associated particularly with the AstraZeneca vaccine, but it may be associated at a lower level with other vaccines, of these unusual blood clots with low platelet counts.

“It appears that risk is age related, it may possibly be – but the data is weaker on this – related to sex.”

Updated

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not back requiring vaccination passports for entry or exit, due to uncertainty over whether inoculation prevents transmission of the virus, as well as equity concerns, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

In the UK, the Labour party has warned that Covid status certificates, whereby people would have to prove they have been vaccinated to enter shops, pubs and other indoor settings and mass events, could be “discriminatory”, with the party leader, Keir Starmer, poised to vote against the measures, my colleague Aubrey Allegretti reports.

The WHO now expects to review China’s Covid-19 vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac for possible emergency use listing around the end of April, as more data is required, WHO spokewoman Margaret Harris added at a UN news briefing.

Updated

Tanzania’s new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, marked a difference with her predecessor on Tuesday by saying her government would form a committee for scientific research into Covid-19, Reuters reports.

The recently deceased former president John Magufuli had dismissed the threat from the coronavirus pandemic, saying God and steam remedies would protect Tanzanians.

I’m Jedidajah Otte and will be helming this blog for the next few hours. Feel free to get in touch with updates and tips, I’m on Twitter @JedySays or you can email me.

Updated

Today so far…

  • In India, Delhi’s government has imposed a night curfew between 10pm and 5am, taking effect from today until 30 April.
  • Authorities say Australia has not yet received more than 3 million doses of previously promised AstraZeneca vaccines due to the European Union’s export ban. Prime minister Scott Morrison has refused to say how many doses of AstraZeneca vaccine CSL is producing in Melbourne each week.
  • New Zealand and Australia are opening up a trans-Tasman “travel bubble” which will remove the need for Covid tests or quarantine when travelling in either direction.
  • The Philippines recorded a new record high for Covid deaths, however the health ministry said the spike came after 341 deaths prior to April 2021 that had been unreported were added to the tally.
  • French drugmaker Valneva has reported positive results for its Covid-19 vaccine in early stage clinical trials and said it planned to launch a Phase Three trial later this month.
  • German GPs will start administering vaccines today, although the 35,000 practices involved are being hampered by limited supplies.
  • UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that the Moderna vaccine will be rolled out towards the end of April. In a series of media appearances, he also said that the issue of vaccine certification raises “difficult questions”. Opposition shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has called on government ministers to be clearer about plans for the use of so-called vaccine passports.
  • South Africa has signed an agreement with Pfizer for 20 million dual shot Covid-19 vaccine doses.

That’s it from me, Martin Belam, I’ll be back tomorrow. I’m handing over now to my colleague Jedidajah Otte, who will take you through the next few hours…

The Georgian prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, has tested positive for coronavirus amid a fresh spike in cases in the Caucasus nation, despite the start of a vaccine rollout.

“I am feeling well,” Garibashvili, 38, said on Facebook. “I am in self-isolation and continuing to work remotely.”

AFP reports that on Tuesday, Georgia registered 897 new coronavirus cases – three times the average number of daily infections recorded over the past months. Overall, the Black Sea nation of 4 million people has registered more than 275,000 coronavirus cases and 3,832 deaths, the health ministry said.

In May last year, Georgia lifted its coronavirus lockdown and allowed shops to reopen, but a night-time curfew has remained in place.

In mid-March, Georgia began a national vaccination campaign by inoculating medical workers with AstraZeneca’s jab. Authorities have so far ruled out any further anti-virus curbs.

Updated

German GPs due to start administering vaccine today – hampered by shortage of doses

Germany’s general practitioners are due to start vaccinating people today, although a shortage of supplies means that initially the 35,000 practices involved are only due to get around 20 doses a week each. Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, has promised that many more doses will be available by the end of the month, enabling GPs to become a more significant part of the programme.

Amid concerns that not enough Germans are embracing the vaccine programme, mainly due to scepticism over safety, the GP route is seen as an important way of increasing people’s trust. It won’t immediately make much of an impact on the overall vaccine rate. Confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine has been rocked by the national vaccine commission body STIKO’s decision to initially ban it for use in the over-65s, and later in anyone under 60, over health concerns.

Germany is struggling to cope with a rise in virus cases during a third wave of the pandemic, and has not been helped by its sluggish vaccine programme, in which 12.7% of adults have so far received a first jab, and 5.5% a full inoculation. Armin Laschet, the new head of the Christian Democratic Union, has proposed a nationwide “bridging lockdown”.

Laschet, a potential heir to Angela Merkel as German chancellor, has earned both praise and scorn for his plan, in effect a hard lockdown, which he said should last for two to three weeks, to bridge the time before vaccines start to have an impact and to dampen the virus’ spread.

The B117 mutation first detected in Britain is currently the main driver of the spread, and is increasingly being detected in children and young people.

Laschet has also said the urgency of the situation requires bringing forward the next meeting of Germany’s 16 minister presidents to decide on future coronavirus measures, currently scheduled for 12 April.

Commentators haver said Laschet is attempting to step into Merkel’s shoes. Since her recent apology over her proposal for a five-day Easter lockdown, which she admitted was impossible to implement, little has been heard from the chancellor, although it is widely accepted she would like a tougher, nationwide lockdown.

But with Germany in a sense of limbo and caught in a quagmire of rules and regulations which differ considerably from state to state, people, from restaurateurs to holidaymakers, are crying out for guidance and a sense of perspective on the future.

In just under a week, schools are due to go back after the Easter break, resuming the shift pattern model they adopted a month ago. But a programme meant to offer teachers and pupils access to a test twice a week has yet to be properly organised. Among outstanding issues, including a lack of supplies, is whether or not it should be obligatory or voluntary to take the test.

Updated

Here’s a little more detail from AFP on the situation in India, where Delhi has imposed an immediate night curfew a day after the nation posted a record coronavirus surge. Financial hub Mumbai is also introducing similar restrictions.

Alarm has grown since India passed more than 100,000 new cases in a single day for the first time on Monday. New Delhi, which is home to 25 million people, and other major cities have all ordered a clampdown on public movement.

The Delhi regional government said the “sudden increase in Covid-19 cases” and “high positivity rate” meant a night curfew was needed. The ban will be in place from 10 pm to 5 am with only essential services or people travelling to and from vaccination centres allowed on the streets.

Delhi reported 3,548 new positive cases on Monday, still below its peak of nearly 9,000 in November, when it was one of the worst-hit cities across the nation of 1.3 billion people. Delhi has meanwhile ordered one-third of all its vaccination sites at government hospitals to open around-the-clock to speed up the pace of inoculation.

India’s wealthiest state Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, on Sunday announced a weekend lockdown and night curfew on its 110 million population. The state currently accounts for more than half of the new cases reported each day nationwide.

The government has so far shied away from reimposing a repeat of nationwide restrictions imposed in March last year.

South Africa has signed an agreement with Pfizer for 20 million dual shot Covid-19 vaccine doses, a government official told Reuters today, boosting plans to start mass vaccinations from April.

The deal is another fillip for the country worst hit by Covid-19 infections in Africa as it adds to the 31 million single-shot doses from Johnson & Johnson which the government approved on Thursday.

The first batch from Pfizer is expected to arrive later in April, Anban Pillay, Deputy Director-general at the Department of Health, told Reuters. After the Pfizer deal, the government will have enough to vaccinate roughly 41 million people out of its total population of 60 million.

The country has also been allocated 12 million shots under the World Health Organization’s COVAX scheme and is likely to get doses for 10 million people from the African Union’s AVATT initiative.

South Africa’s vaccination campaign was dealt a blow in early February when it put on hold a plan to start inoculations with AstraZeneca’s vaccine, after a small trial showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate Covid-19 caused by the dominant local coronavirus variant.

We are beginning to enter the phase where we see a lot of year-on-year comparisons from the very start of the global pandemic and the impact twelve months of restrictions have had. It’s Spain’s turn today, with figures revealing that international tourism to Spain plunged 80% to 19 million visitors last year – the lowest since 1969.

Reuters report that the trend continued in the first two months of 2021. Data from the National Statistics Institute showed Spain received 284,311 foreign tourists in February, 34.6% less than in January. International tourism revenues dropped 93.3% year on year in February, putting many business in jeopardy.

While most tourists came from France, one in four travellers in February, the number of French fell 87.4% from February 2020, the last month before the pandemic hit.

It is further bad news for a country that used to get over a tenth of its gross domestic product from tourism. Estimates from the Funcas think tank show the tourism sector’s contribution to Spain’s economy slumped to between 4% and 5% last year from around 12% in 2019.

Philippines sets new record for daily Covid deaths after data collection issues

The Philippines has today recorded 382 novel coronavirus deaths, which is its largest single-day level of casualties. However the spike in the figures comes after previously unreported fatalities were validated then added to its tally.

Reuters report that the health ministry said total confirmed cases have increased to 812,760, after 9,373 infections were reported. Deaths have reached 13,817 in total.

“There were 341 deaths prior to April 2021 that went unreported,” the ministry said.

Updated

French drugmaker Valneva has reported positive results for its Covid-19 vaccine in early stage clinical trials and said it planned to launch a Phase Three trial this month.

Reuters report that the company tested its vaccine in 153 adults with three dose levels based on a schedule of two doses with vaccinations three weeks apart.

The vaccine, Valneva said, was “generally safe and well tolerated across all dose groups tested, with no safety concerns identified by an independent Data Safety Monitoring Board”. More than 90% of all study participants developed significant levels of antibodies to the coronavirus spike protein.

“Based on the data assessed, the company has decided to advance the high dose into the phase 3 clinical trial. Other trials, including booster trials, involving antigen sparing doses will also be evaluated,” Valneva said.

The company said it intended to submit the vaccine for approval in Britain in the autumn of this year and said discussions with other regulatory bodies were ongoing.

My colleague Andrew Sparrow has recently opened up our UK politics and Covid live blog for today, so if you want to follow the latest developments in the UK you’ll want to head over to here: UK Covid live news – Labour hardens opposition to ‘digital ID card’ Covid passports plan

I’ll be continuing this live blog with a global focus on Covid news from outside of the UK.

Chris Moss writes for us this morning on one silver lining of Covid pandemic measures in cities – that they provide an opportunity for the flâneur – an aimless stroller or ambler. Moss writes:

One can roam and ruminate equally in Cardiff, Dundee, Liverpool or Belfast. As urban consumer culture spreads, in the shape of delivery vans, Deliveroo bikes, “artisan” coffee shops and the like, you can arguably be a flâneur (there’s also a verb, flâner, to stroll) in towns, villages and countryside.

But to do so requires discipline. Ambling is best enjoyed slowly, daydreaming. “A dandy does nothing,” Baudelaire wrote. The pandemic-struck city, with its permanent Sunday-state, is ideal for leisurely meandering. Use it while it lasts.

Read more here: Why cities emptied by Covid are perfect for modern flâneurs

Voters in four Indian states and a union territory cast their ballots today in elections seen as a test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which faces a tough fight to stop the country’s latest surge in coronavirus cases.

News channels showed voters wearing masks as officials carried out temperature checks and tried to maintain physical distancing in lines.

A health worker checks the temperature of voters at a polling station in Gauhati, India.
A health worker checks the temperature of voters at a polling station in Gauhati, India.
Photograph: Anupam Nath/AP

Modi on Twitter requested people, particularly young voters, “vote in record numbers,” as the polls opened in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu states and the federally administered territory of Puducherry.

Associated Press note that the vote comes as as coronavirus cases in India are rising faster than anywhere else in the world. The results will not be declared until 2 May.

A health worker gives sanitizer to an Indian voter standing in the queue to vote in Gauhati, India.
A health worker gives sanitizer to an Indian voter standing in the queue to vote in Gauhati, India.
Photograph: Anupam Nath/AP

The latest surge in infections is worse than the last year’s peak. India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 73,000 cases per day and has reported 12.7 million virus cases since the pandemic began, the highest after the United States and Brazil.

The government has intensified its vaccination drive in recent weeks, but despite restrictions on exporting doses, the shots have been slow to reach India’s nearly 1.4 billion people. Experts say the surge is blamed in part on growing disregard for social distancing and mask-wearing in public spaces.

While on the campaign trail, politicians have been criticised for often showing little regard for social distancing and attending mammoth gatherings with tens of thousands of maskless people.

Here’s the video clip of New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announcing details of a trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia, meaning Australians will be able to travel to New Zealand without needing to quarantine.

Though most Australian states have allowed quarantine-free visits from New Zealanders for months, New Zealand has continued with enforced isolation for arrivals from its neighbour, citing concern about small Covid-19 outbreaks. The move to allow cross-border travel is one of the first such agreements since the pandemic prompted countries to block foreign arrivals to stop the virus spreading.

 

Ella Pickover and Jane Kirby report for PA that scientific advisers in the UK are warning of the likelihood of a third wave later in the summer as measures to unlock the economy take place.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, a former chief scientific adviser to the Government, said “very good progress” was being made on the roadmap out of lockdown, but that a third wave was possible if the brakes are taken off completely.

It comes after a paper from experts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggested that lifting restrictions in the next stage of the road map “may lead to a small surge of cases and deaths”.

And their modelling suggested that stage four in June, when restrictions are expected to be lifted completely, could “lead to a larger surge of cases and deaths comparable to that seen during the first wave”.

Earlier I mentioned that Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the pandemic modelling group which advises the UK government had said that data showed there may be a case for slightly speeding up the exit roadmap [see 7.48am]. There will almost certainly be pressure on the Conservative government to do so from some of their own MPs who have repeatedly opposed measures to combat the spread of Covid.

Tildsley also said to LBC radio this morning that: “I think we do have very high levels of vaccination now, we do need to remember this, we are protecting our vulnerable. But the vaccines are not 100% protective so when we switch from an R number less than 1 that we have at the moment, to a lot of mixing later on, we may get a resurgence.

“I don’t expect we will have a resurgence of the same scale that we saw in January. So then there needs to be some very serious questions asked. If we do see a rise in cases, if we do start to see hospital occupancy go up a little bit, are we going to put in controls or is it something that we’re just going to try to manage with local testing and so forth?

“I think that’s the question the Government are going to potentially have to answer as we get towards the summer.”

He also compared the situation of the UK with that in France, saying “we’ve only got to look across the Channel and see that France currently has over 39,000 new cases a day, so the virus is still very much around and if we take all the brakes off, then it’s quite clear that there is a very substantial risk of a further wave of infection.”

Minister: Moderna vaccine to be deployed in UK later this month

The UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has completed pretty much a clean sweep of morning media appearances with a spot on the BBC Breakfast television programme. There, PA report, he confirmed that the Moderna vaccine will be in deployment in the UK “around the third week of April.”

“It will be in deployment around the third week of April in the NHS and we will get more volume in May as well,” he told the show.

“And of course more volume of Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca and we have got other vaccines. We have got the Janssen – Johnson and Johnson – vaccine coming through as well.

“So I am confident that we will be able to meet our target of mid-April offering the vaccine to all over-50s and then end of July offering the vaccine to all adults.”

There continues to be a mixed picture on the coronavirus in the US. While the vaccination programme is ramping up nationally under Joe Biden’s administration – at least 107.5 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the US – there are still hotspots.

Reuters report that Michigan on Monday reported a record number of daily coronavirus cases. The state reported 11,082 cases, bringing the total to 779,974, surpassing its previous peak of 10,140 on 20 November. Daily deaths increased by 23 to 17,282.

Local media report that there is hope that expanding vaccines will result in better numbers next month.

“We have to keep an eye on these numbers, we know that and we’re watching them very closely. But again with all the metrics working together we believe at this point we can continue on a vaccine strategy while maintaining all of the limitations that we have in place,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director, Elizabeth Hertel.

Senior public health physician Natasha Bagdasarian told Fox 2 Detroit that the state is encountering its third wave and it’s similar to what happened in November and December.

“Things are not looking good in terms of our current Covid status,” she said. “It very much is like our peak that we saw in the fall.”

Dr. Bagdasarian said the wave started spreading among teens and adolescents between 10 and 19 years old. But now it’s hitting 30, 40, and 50-year-olds hard. Overall, they’re seeing more of those age groups filling hospitals.

“More elderly groups have been somewhat spared this wave and that’s because of the vaccine. It shows that the vaccines is really, really effective,” she said.

The state has 1,500 B.117 variant cases and a handful of other variants. Dr. Bagdasarian said the more variants, the harder it is to control the spread. “What we’re concerned about is, while some variants are already here, we don’t want additional introduction of those variants,” she said.

If you were in the market for a lot of pictures of bats, then we’ve got you covered. This morning we have a photo gallery of researchers at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. They aim to catch thousands of bats to develop a Japanese-funded simulation model over the next three years that they believe could help avert future potential pandemics.

Phillip Alviola, a bat ecologist, holds a bat that was captured from Mount Makiling in Los Banos, Philippines.
Phillip Alviola, a bat ecologist, holds a bat that was captured from Mount Makiling in Los Banos, Philippines.
Photograph: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

They hope the bats will help in predicting the dynamics of a coronavirus outbreak by analysing factors such as climate, temperature and ease of spread.

In the UK, Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has called on government ministers to be clear about plans for the use of so-called vaccine passports.

He said a Government paper published yesterday permits shops and pubs to ask whether someone has been vaccinated as a condition of entry. “The Government just need to clear this up because they’re creating confusion,” he told Sky News.

“I do think it is discriminatory to say to somebody here in Leicester that you cannot go into Next or H&M unless you produce your vaccination status on an app, unless you produce that digital ID card.

“I don’t think that is fair. Now if ministers are saying, that is not what the policy is then they have to explain why does the policy document they produced last night permit that scenario?”, he asked, according to a report from PA.

“So, there’s a lot of confusion out there. I just want ministers to be honest and straight with us and tell us exactly what their policy proposals are.”

The government review said yesterday:

The government believes that introducing a ban on [vaccine certification] would in most cases be an unjustified intrusion on how businesses choose to make their premises safe – although, as set out below, there may be exceptions where the government needs to intervene to ensure equitable access to essential services. It is therefore right that the government provides a means of easily demonstrating Covid-status, in order to ensure UK citizens and residents are not denied opportunities to travel or attend certain venues or events.

Earlier this morning, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News: “Domestically … there will be absolutely no issue around pubs or restaurants requiring any form of certification” during the next stages of easing lockdown in England.

Delhi to impose 10pm–5am curfew until 30 April amid rising cases

In India, Delhi’s government has imposed a night curfew taking effect from today until 30 April. The curfew will be in place from 10pm to 5am every day. Sweta Goswami reports for the Hindustan Times:

“The proposal was prepared by the Delhi government. The lieutenant governor has just now approved the file and it has been sent back to the government. Now an order will be issued shortly wherein the night curfew will be enforced with immediate effect,” said a senior government official on condition of anonymity.

The official said no other curbs other than the night curfew are being ordered as of now. The curfew will mean that all restaurants, weddings, pubs and other places where people gather will have to close up by 10pm every day.

“Only essential services will be allowed in that seven-hour window. Only up to two persons will be allowed to be together. We observed that weddings, pubs, restaurants and other party venues were brazenly flouting Covid-19-appropriate behaviour. Even as most markets shut by evening, those that remain open till late will have to shut by 10pm,” said a second official.

Read more here: Hindustan Times – Starting today, night curfew in Delhi from 10pm to 5am amid rising Covid cases

At his press conference yesterday, UK prime minister Boris Johnson spoke of holding fast to England’s roadmap for unlocking the economy, and complaining that journalists were trying to “take too many fences” by leaping ahead to what happens next. Johnson has repeatedly insisted that his government’s approach to ending this period of lockdown will be cautious, and as a result irreversible.

This morning, however, Dr Mike Tildesley has been on the radio saying that there could be some arguments for lifting restrictions in the roadmap sooner. Tildesley is a professor of infectious disease modelling at the University of Warwick and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (SPI-M) of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

He told LBC: “I was really pleasantly surprised that when schools open we have managed to keep things in check, so I think… if these numbers keep going down over the next few weeks there certainly is an argument to say ‘well actually we’re doing really well with the road map, it could be sped up.’

“I would say I would want to be a little bit cautious over the next few weeks as we get beyond this April relaxation to monitor that just to be really sure that cases are continuing to go down.”

PA also quote him as saying: “Now I will say that if things keep going down at the rate that they are then there certainly is an argument for speeding up the process, but we do know that the later relaxations, particularly the May one when people can stay in each other’s homes for the first time for a long period of time, we might expect that could cause a… quite significant rise in mixing and potentially a rise infections which is why this monitoring is really needed.”

Vaccine minister rules out English pubs and restaurants requiring vaccine certificates as economy reopens

Pubs and restaurants in England won’t require vaccine certificates when they reopen, under the current plans for an exit from lockdown in England, Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi has told Sky News this morning.

Step two of the English roadmap will see shops and pub gardens reopen next week, while the reopening of indoor hospitality venues in step three is slated for 17 May.

(March 8, 2021)  Step 1, part 1

In effect from 8 March, all pupils and college students returned fully. Care home residents can receive one regular, named visitor.

(March 29, 2021)  Step 1, part 2

In effect from 29 March, outdoor gatherings allowed of up to six people, or two households if this is larger, not just in parks but also gardens. Outdoor sport for children and adults allowed. The official stay at home order ends, but people will be encouraged to stay local. People will still be asked to work from home where possible, with no overseas travel allowed beyond the current small number of exceptions.

(April 12, 2021)  Step 2

The official outline plan states that the next steps will rely on data, and the dates given mean “no earlier than”. In step two, there will be a reopening of non-essential retail, hair and nail salons, and public buildings such as libraries and museums. Most outdoor venues can open, including pubs and restaurants but only for outdoor tables and beer gardens. Customers will have to be seated but there will be no need to have a meal with alcohol.

Also reopening will be settings such as zoos and theme parks. However, social contact rules will apply here, so no indoor mixing between households and limits on outdoor mixing. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and pools can also open but again people can only go alone or with their own household. Reopening of holiday lets with no shared facilities, but only for one household. Funerals can have up to 30 attendees, while weddings, receptions and wakes can have 15.

(May 17, 2021)  Step 3

Again with the caveat “no earlier than 17 May”, depending on data, vaccination levels and current transmission rates.

Step 3 entails that most mixing rules are lifted outdoors, with a limit of 30 people meeting in parks or gardens. Indoor mixing will be allowed, up to six people or, if it is more people, two households. Indoor venues such as the inside of pubs and restaurants, hotels and B&Bs, play centres, cinemas and group exercise classes will reopen. The new indoor and outdoor mixing limits will remain for pubs and other hospitality venues.

For sport, indoor venues can have up to 1,000 spectators or half capacity, whichever is lower; outdoors the limit will be 4,000 people or half capacity, whichever is lower. Very large outdoor seated venues, such as big football stadiums, where crowds can be spread out, will have a limit of 10,000 people, or a quarter full, whichever is fewer. Weddings will be allowed a limit of 30 people, with other events such as christenings and barmitzvahs also permitted.

This will be the earliest date at which international holidays could resume, subject to a separate review.

(June 21, 2021)  Step 4

No earlier than 21 June, all legal limits will be removed on mixing, and the last sectors to remain closed, such as nightclubs, will reopen. Large events can take place.

Peter Walker Political correspondent

 

“Domestically, the step two, which we’re coming up to, and step three, there will be absolutely no issue around pubs or restaurants requiring any form of certification,” Reuters report Zahawi saying.

“But it’s only responsible as we see how this virus behaves, as we see how other countries are utilising technology to make sure that they keep the virus under control, then we should look at the same thing.”

Zahawi said the issue of vaccine certification throws up “difficult questions”.

In another media appearance on a busy morning for the minister, he said that parliament would vote on the issue before any type of vaccine passport would be enforced.

Australia vaccine rollout slows after delay in AstraZeneca exports from the EU

Renju Jose at Reuters reports overnight on the situation developing in Australia over the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, where authorities say the country has not yet received more than 3 million doses of previously promised AstraZeneca doses. That shortfall comes amid export curbs by the European Union, leaving a major hole in Australia’s early nationwide inoculation drive.

Authorities had pledged to administer at least 4 million first doses of the vaccine by end-March, but could only vaccinate 670,000 after the European Union blocked AstraZeneca vaccine exports to Australia in the wake of the drugmaker’s failure to meet its shipment pledge to the bloc.

“We were scheduled to have received over 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from overseas by now, which have not arrived in Australia because of the problems with shipments that we’ve seen happening here and in other parts of the world,” acting chief medical officer Michael Kidd told Sky News.

Michael Kidd speaks to the media during a press conference in Canberra last month.
Michael Kidd speaks to the media during a press conference in Canberra last month.
Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Australia began vaccinations much later than some other countries due to low case numbers, recording just under 29,400 Covis-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. But the AstraZeneca dose delay leaves it struggling to step up the pace of its vaccination drive.

The majority of Australia’s near 26 million population will be administered the AstraZeneca vaccine, with 50 million doses set to be produced locally from the end of March. About 2.5 million doses have been locally produced so far with thousands of doses already cleared testing and distributed to the vaccination sites.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, tasked to help with the rollout of the nationwide inoculation programme from May said on Tuesday that slow domestic vaccine approvals and logistics issues will now push deliveries to June.

Pharmacy Guild president Trent Twomey told Reuters he also blamed the slow rollout on a lack of co-ordination between the Australian national government and states, with the latter complaining about slower-than-expected distribution and a lack of certainty on vaccine supplies.

This morning we are carrying a joint op-ed by a group of leading health experts from around the world addressing the issue of global vaccination. They say that even with a worldwide approach to distributing vaccines, everyone is at risk from new coronavirus variants emerging. They write:

At the end of 2020, there was a strong hope that high levels of vaccination would see humanity finally gain the upper hand over Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. In an ideal scenario, the virus would then be contained at very low levels without further societal disruption or significant numbers of deaths.

But since then, new “variants of concern” have emerged and spread worldwide, putting current pandemic control efforts, including vaccination, at risk of being derailed.

Put simply, the game has changed, and a successful global rollout of current vaccines by itself is no longer a guarantee of victory.

No one is truly safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe. We are in a race against time to get global transmission rates low enough to prevent the emergence and spread of new variants. The danger is that variants will arise that can overcome the immunity conferred by vaccinations or prior infection.

What’s more, many countries lack the capacity to track emerging variants via genomic surveillance. This means the situation may be even more serious than it appears.

As members of the Lancet Covid-19 Commission Taskforce on Public Health, we call for urgent action in response to the new variants. These new variants mean we cannot rely on the vaccines alone to provide protection but must maintain strong public health measures to reduce the risk from these variants. At the same time, we need to accelerate the vaccine program in all countries in an equitable way.

Read more here: Susan Michie, Chris Bullen, et al – Global rollout of vaccines is no longer a guarantee of victory over Covid-19

New York state opens up Covid vaccines to all adults over 16 from today

New Yorkers over 16 years old can sign up for Covid-19 vaccinations starting today, report Associated Press. It’s a major expansion of eligibility as the state seeks to immunize as many people as possible.

Beleaguered Governor Andrew Cuomo – who has faced calls for him to step down over allegations of sexual harrasment and a scandal over Covid deaths in nursing homes – expanded the eligibility to the over-30s last week, and announced that people aged 16 to 29 would be eligible starting 6 April. Democratic president Joe Biden has been urging states to open up vaccination shots to more of the population.

In New York state teens aged 16 and 17 will be limited to receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, since that is the only one that has been authorized for use by people under 18. Parental consent will be required for vaccinations of 16- and 17-year-olds, with certain exceptions including for teens who are married or are parents.

About one in five New York state residents were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as of Monday, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A little more than one-third of the state’s residents had received at least one vaccine dose. The new vaccination rules add 1.7 million people to the list of eligible New Yorkers, for a total of 15.9 million individuals, state Health Department officials said.

The UK’s Captain Sir Tom Moore made it his mission to raise money for the NHS by doing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday.

Now, one year and nearly £39m later, his family are asking people to follow in his footsteps and come up with their own challenge based around the number 100 that they can complete over what would have been his 101st birthday weekend.

“This is to ensure that that message of hope is his lasting legacy,” said his daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore. “He gave us hope, so we’ve got to keep hope going. He said to us: ‘This is yours. I started it, now do it your way.’”

Moore’s laps gained the attention of a nation as it entered the first Covid lockdown. He planned to raise £1,000, a figure he had met several times over by the time he was featured on BBC Breakfast shortly after he started. Including Gift Aid, that figure now stands at £38.9m.

He died in February aged 100 and, on Tuesday, Ingram-Moore said: “My father was insisting right until the very end. He was insisting he was going to come back out and keep walking and raise money. So how can we not do it? He gave us hope as a nation. He represented us around the world as a beacon of hope. He’s passed the mantle on to us.”

She is encouraging people to run 100 metres, score 100 goals or bake 100 cakes – whatever they choose. The latter, she said, would have been one of her father’s favourites because he loved Victoria sponge.

Read more of Kevin Rawlinson’s report here: Family of Captain Sir Tom Moore issue Covid charity challenge to UK

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. My colleague Martin Belam will be with you for the next few hours.

I’ll be unwinding with my favourite movie Lord of the Rings:

Keir Starmer is likely to vote against introducing Covid-status certificates if the government presses ahead with such plans, the Guardian has been told, as Boris Johnson promised the documents would not be introduced earlier than mid-May.

A senior Labour source said they did not think ministers had adequately explained how the scheme would work, what its purpose was and the cost to the taxpayer, significantly increasing the chances that the prime minister could lose a vote in parliament:

More than 400 New Zealanders have been convicted of breaching coronavirus restrictions, with one in five of them sentenced to prison terms.

New Zealand passed new laws in May last year that gave the Ministry of Health special powers and provided a legal framework for closing businesses, enforcing lockdowns or creating stay-at-home orders during the pandemic.

Over the past year, thousands of New Zealanders broke those rules – with more than 7,500 breaches recorded across the country.

Most breaches of New Zealand’s Covid rules don’t result in prosecution, but according to new Ministry of Justice data, a total of 640 people were charged with Covid-19 related offences, and more than three quarters of those, or 460, were convicted. Of those convicted, almost 20%, or 85 people in total, were sent to prison. The vast majority – nearly 80% – of those charged and convicted were young men.

However, justice system advocates said the arrests indicated racial bias and profiling in the enforcement of Covid rules:

North Korea pulls out of Tokyo Olympics to ‘protect athletes’

North Korea’s sports ministry said on Tuesday that it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics this year to protect its athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was made at a meeting of North Korea’s Olympic committee, including its sports minister Kim Il guk, on 25 March the ministry said on its website, called Joson Sports. “The committee decided not to join the 32nd Olympics Games to protect athletes from the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus,” it said.

The meeting also discussed ways to develop professional sports technologies, earn medals at international competitions and promote public sports activities over the next five years, the ministry said.

North Korea has one of the world’s strictest quarantine regimes, despite the government’s denial that any cases have been detected in the country.

The measures have allowed the government to increase its control over daily life to levels similar to the famine years of the 1990s, according to analysts.

Outsiders doubt whether the country has escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China, its economic lifeline:

Cases rising in Japan

With just over 100 days to go to the Tokyo Olympics, Japanese health authorities are concerned that variants of the coronavirus are driving a nascent fourth wave.

The variants appear to be more infectious and may be resistant to vaccines, which are still not widely available in Japan. Osaka is the worst-affected city. Infections there hit fresh records last week, prompting the regional government to start targeted lockdown measures for one month from Monday.

A mutant Covid variant first discovered in Britain has taken hold in the Osaka region, spreading faster and filling up hospital beds with more serious cases than the original virus, according to Koji Wada, a government adviser on the pandemic.

“The fourth wave is going to be larger,” said Wada, a professor at Tokyo’s International University of Health and Welfare. “We need to start to discuss how we could utilise these targeted measures for the Tokyo area”:

Indian states call for people under 45 to be eligible for vaccine

Many Indian state leaders have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open up vaccinations to most of the country’s hundreds of millions of adults, following a second surge in infections that has eclipsed the first wave, Reuters reports.

India breached the grim milestone of 100,000 daily infections for the first time on Monday, and cases are likely to stay high again when fresh figures are released later on Tuesday.

The country, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, this month expanded its vaccination programme to include everyone above the age of 45. So far it has vaccinated only about 1 in 25 people, compared with nearly 1 in 2 in the United Kingdom and 1 in 3 in the United States.

“If a larger number of young and working population is vaccinated, the intensity of the cases would be much lower than the treatment that they need today,” Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of India’s worst affected Maharashtra state, wrote in a letter to Modi late on Monday.

Health workers wearing personal protective equipment walk past a quarantine centre in Mumbai, India, 5 April 2021.
Health workers wearing personal protective equipment walk past a quarantine centre in Mumbai, India, 5 April 2021.
Photograph: Divyakant Solanki/EPA

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and many other states have also asked for faster and wider vaccinations, with some flagging tightness in vaccine supplies even for the prioritised groups.

The federal government has said it will widen the vaccination campaign in the “near future” to include more people, and that vaccine supplies are being stepped up.
With 12.6 million cases, India is the worst affected country after the United States and Brazil. Deaths have gone past the 165,000 mark.

The country’s daily infections have risen many fold since hitting a multi-month low in early February, when authorities eased most restrictions and people largely stopped wearing masks and following social distancing.

India has recorded the most number of infections in the past week anywhere in the world. More infectious variants of the virus may have played a role in the second surge, some epidemiologists say.

Jacinda Ardern announces trans-Tasman travel bubble

After nearly a year shut off from the world, New Zealand is cracking open its borders to a trans-Tasman travel bubble. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that the bubble with Australia will begin on April 19, allowing quarantine-free travel
between the two nations. The plan has been in the works for months now – but was paused a number of times after outbreaks of Covid-19 on either side of the border.
Since October, travellers from New Zealand have been able to enter selected Australian states without quarantining, but not the other direction.

At a press conference this afternoon, Ardern said the government was, “Confident not only in the state of Australia, but in our own ability to manage a travel arrangement.”

New Zealand officials warned that those choosing to make the trip should be cautious, as another outbreak in either country could mean the border would close, leaving them stranded in Australia. Ardern told reporters “We may have scenarios where travel will shut down one way. It may therefore leave travellers – for a period of time – stranded on either side of the Tasman.”

Updated

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next little while – as always, you can find me on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

Indian state leaders have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open up vaccinations to most of the country’s hundreds of millions of adults, following a second surge in infections that has eclipsed the first wave.

India breached the grim milestone of 100,000 daily infections for the first time on Monday, and cases are likely to stay high again when fresh figures are released later on Tuesday.

The country, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, this month expanded its vaccination programme to include everyone above the age of 45.

Meanwhile with just over 100 days to go to the Tokyo Olympics, Japanese health authorities are concerned that variants of the coronavirus are driving a nascent fourth wave.

The variants appear to be more infectious and may be resistant to vaccines, which are still not widely available in Japan. Osaka is the worst-affected city. Infections there hit fresh records last week, prompting the regional government to start targeted lockdown measures for one month from Monday.

Here are the key recent developments from around the world.

  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed it will move to the second stage of its lockdown lifting from next week, as non-essential shops, pub gardens and hairdressers will reopen.
  • In France the number of people in intensive care units with Covid rose by 92 to 5,433 on Monday.
  • Another 296 people have died in Italy, bringing its death toll to 111,326. New infections fell from 18,025 to 10,680.
  • Authorities in Saudi Arabia said only people who have been vaccinated or had the virus will be able to do the umrah pilgrimage later this month.
  • The infection rate in Spain has risen again to an average of 163.4 per 100,000 over the last fortnight, as it reported 85 more deaths.
  • Up to 200 workers at Goldman Sachs’ office in London will return to the office this week.
  • The US has now administered 167,187,795 vaccines and distributed a total of 207,891,395 to clinics, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has reported.
  • Mexico’s government reported another 252 more deaths on Monday. It means that 204,399 have now died from the virus.
  • People aged under-30 in the UK may stop being given the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns about rare blood clots.
  • An investigation has been launched in France after a TV exposé revealed “clandestine” luxury dinners in Paris despite the pandemic.

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Barbecues are back! Ten perfect burgers to try – from vegan bean to bhaji bites

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Barbecues are back! Ten perfect burgers to try – from vegan bean to bhaji bites” was written by Stuart Heritage, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 6th April 2021 11.54 UTC

Even if the sun is only coming out now and again, the lifting of restrictions means many of us will be thinking it’s barbecue time. And while it may be easy to get overexcited and just sling a bunch of supermarket burgers on the grill, a special occasion like this calls for a bit of an effort. Here are 10 recipes for homemade burgers. My suggestion is that you try them all.

Felicity Cloake’s perfect hamburger.
Felicity Cloake’s perfect hamburger. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

The perfect burger

A quick warning before we start: this list features the “double Cloake”. If you’re new to making any type of food, the place to start is always Felicity Cloake’s “perfect” series. Her hamburger recipe is all the proof you should need. She has done the work here, so even the slightly more outre additions (ie Guinness) make perfect sense.

Vegan bean burger

Cloake part two is her recipe for vegan bean burgers. Like all vegan burgers, this requires a lot more ingredients than a meat-based burger – potato, broad beans, black beans, onion, garlic, coriander seeds, coriander leaves – but the effort pays off. Also pay attention to the burger sauce here, which is thickened with exactly 12 cooked chickpeas.

A vegan burger … the effort pays off.
A vegan burger … the effort pays off. Photograph: Svetlana-Cherruty/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Quince pork burger

And now, to class things up a bit, here’s Nigel Slater with a quince pork burger. It is, as you’d expect, a pork burger flavoured with sweetly sharp quince paste. Slater calls this “a ravishingly good little burger”. He also advocates frying the onion off a little before adding it to the meat, and I concur. If you want your friends to think that you have become really fancy over lockdown, this is the burger to serve.

Smash burger

People declare the tall burger dead all the time, and yet it clings on to life. So, for the last time: stop making tall burgers. Thin burgers taste better and have a much more pleasant texture. More importantly, you can eat them without looking like a snake eating an egg. Look at Bon Appétit’s smash burger recipe. It’s just seasoned beef that gets smashed down on the griddle with a spatula while it cooks. And it’s ready in three minutes.

Vegan ‘In & Out’ burger

As a vegan alternative, here’s Avant Garde Vegan’s plant-based ‘In & Out burger’. Again, this requires a ton of ingredients – this time black beans, miso paste, Marmite, wheat gluten, soy sauce – and they have to be steamed for an hour and then cooled before you can grill them. But it’s worth it because these are pretty flipping close to the real thing.

Vietnamese-style burgers.
Vietnamese-style burgers. Photograph: Alleko/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Vietnamese bun cha

Now, let’s explore the outer reaches of the burger world together. A 2013 Guardian-readers’ recipe-swap article threw up a beautiful salty/sweet Vietnamese bun cha recipe. The pork patties contain chicken stock powder, fish sauce and actual caramel, but all the cloyingness this suggests is offset by the sharp stab of pickled carrots and papaya. “You can smell the pork sizzling on the makeshift barbecues all around Hanoi,” says Jess Waller, who submitted the recipe, and I have never missed foreign travel more.

Carrot burger

I should also draw your attention to Anna Jones’s carrot burger. A bunch of carrots, roasted with paprika and cumin, blitzed with tofu and formed into buns. Just to add to the sensation of California-style clean eating, you can pile the burgers high with Jones’s avocado and cherry tomato salsa.

Bhaji burger

Anna Jones’s carrot burger.
Anna Jones’s carrot burger. Photograph: Matt Russell/The Guardian. Food and prop styling: Emily Ezekiel.

The Bosh! Boys have a recipe for bhaji burgers that, while it seems designed to give purists a heart attack, happens to be quite delicious. As they put it, these deep-fried beauties are “great with mint raita, or you can make smaller bhaji bites and serve them with curry”.

Cheesy veggie burger

The final meat-free recipe today is vegetarian rather than vegan, and for good reason. It’s Kitchen Sanctuary’s cheesy veggie burgers, and as such contains quite a lot of egg, cream and cheese. They’re all cooked into the patty along with carrots, potatoes and green beans. If you haven’t quite made the leap to veganism yet, this is a pretty good treat.

Whole truck burger

Now, finally, remember when I cancelled the tall burger? Well, I’m going to uncancel it, but only for a moment. The way I see it, if you’re going to make a tall burger, you should make it so tall that it’s impossible to eat. And that’s where Calgary food truck Alley Burger’s whole truck burger comes in. There’s a giant slab of meat, covered in cheese curd and topped with a fried egg, four rashers of bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, jalapeños, onion and aioli. Genuinely obscene.

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