Coronavirus live: US expected to announce new travel rules for India; record daily deaths in Turkey – as it happened

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live: US expected to announce new travel rules for India; record daily deaths in Turkey – as it happened” was written by Nadeem Badshah (now); Yohannes Lowe, Kevin Rawlinson, Martin Belam and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Friday 30th April 2021 23.08 UTC

A summary of today’s developments

  • Brazil has reported 2,595 new coronavirus deaths, its health ministry said, bringing the total to 403,781. Brazil also reported 68,333 new cases of the virus, which now total 14,659,011, Reuters reports
  • A fire has broken out at a Covid centre in Gujarat, India, according to local reports.
  • US president Joe Biden has imposed new travel restrictions on India starting on Tuesday amid the Covid-19 epidemic, barring most non-US citizens from entering, the White House said.
  • The number of people hospitalised for Covid-19 in France decreased on Friday for the fourth straight day and the average number of new daily infections fell to the lowest in more than a month, Reuters reports.
  • Health officials in the Pakistani province of Sindh said they had detected two coronavirus variants first identified in Brazil and South Africa.
  • Turkey recorded 394 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, its biggest ever daily toll, data from the health ministry showed.
  • South Africas drug regulator has said that Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine can be given to pregnant women with co-morbidities or at high risk of contracting Covid.
  • Countries should share spare vaccine doses with Brazil to help the global fight against Covid-19, according to the Brazilian health minister.
  • Spain will extend the gap between the first and second doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine in under 60-year-olds to 16 weeks from 12, the health ministry said.

Our coverage is closing now but a new live blog on developments around the world will be starting in a few hours.

Updated

Britain’s NHS Test and Trace system is reducing the size of its contact tracing workforce after a decline in coronavirus cases in the country.

“Just as we increased numbers working in the trace service over the winter, we are now responding to the reduction in case numbers we’ve seen this spring”, a spokeswoman for the Department for Health and Social Care said.

“We are continuing to respond to changes in demand and reflect staff numbers accordingly”, the statement added.

The UK’s south Asian communities were more likely to test positive for Covid, become severely ill and die than any other minority ethnic group in the country’s second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study.

During the first wave from February to September 2020, the paper in the Lancet medical journal found, all minority ethnic groups had a higher risk than the white community of testing positive for Covid, ending up in hospital, being admitted to intensive care, and dying, after accounting for any underlying health conditions.

But in the second wave, from September to December 2020, minority ethnic groups did better – except for the south Asian communities.

Brazil has reported 2,595 new coronavirus deaths, its health ministry said, bringing the total to 403,781.

Brazil also reported 68,333 new cases of the virus, which now total 14,659,011, Reuters reports.

Updated

Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the US would probably send them around 5 million more doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, saying a factory set to make the drug domestically was not yet ready.

Reuters reports:

Struggling with delays at the factory and shortfalls in deliveries from foreign vaccine suppliers, Mexico has asked the United States for more shots after an initial loan of some 2.7 million AstraZeneca doses.

“It’s probable that they help us with a loan, while the AstraZeneca plant in Mexico gets up and running,” Lopez Obrador said.

The role of vaccines in keeping down coronavirus infections is growing but caution must be exercised in easing restrictions, a member of the UK’s government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation member said.
Professor Adam Finn told BBC Newsnight: “I think the role of the vaccine programme is increasing week on week. “Increasingly we’re seeing the impact of the vaccine, initially on hospitalisation and now increasingly actually on transmission of the virus. So we are in a good place. “The low figures are a reflection of that but I think there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 14 months is that how things are today is not a close and accurate predictor of how things will be in two or three months time, so we have to expect a certain amount of instability going forward, I don’t think this is all over yet.”

Here is some more information on US president Joe Biden announcing new travel restrictions on India.

The restrictions, which take effect on May 4 , are on the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and were imposed because “the magnitude and scope of the Covid-19 pandemic” in India was “surging,” the White House said.

Biden on Friday signed a proclamation implementing the restrictions, which were first reported by Reuters.

The proclamation said India “accounts for over one-third of new global cases” and added that “proactive measures are required to protect the nation’s public health from travelers entering the United States” from India.

Fire breaks out at centre treating Covid patients in India

A fire has broken out at a Covid centre in Gujarat, India, according to local reports.

The US is hearing “huge demand” from countries around the world for vaccines not needed by Americans but has not developed a criteria for allocating them, its government said.

The White House said on Monday it will start to share up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s coronavirus vaccine with other countries, as soon as the next few weeks, but the Federal Drug Administration still needs to approve those doses, Reuters reports.

Gayle Smith, the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for global Covid-19 response, said Washington has not decided yet on how to allocate those vaccines that will be shared with other countries, despite the clamor from allies like India, where the virus is surging.

“I think we certainly will be making a decision based on what impact we can have on the spread of the virus, where needs are most acute and what will be the most effective,” said Smith.

She said the situation in India was “very, very serious” but had not yet peaked and would need persistent attention for some time and the immediate aid that the United States was already providing, such as protective gear and vaccine manufacturing supplies.

“We’re also looking at other things that can be done to build up supply chains within India so there can be a more steady supply of all those things that are needed to manage this overtime.”

The US is extending face mask requirements across all transportation networks through to September 13, Reuters reports.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration requirements that took effect on February 1st were to set to expire on May 11.

They cover workers and travelers at airports, on board commercial aircraft, on over-the-road buses, and on commuter bus and rail systems through September 13.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the federal mask mandate in nearly all transportation modes in late January, including on ride-share vehicles.

The order does not apply to private cars or commercial trucks being driven by a sole operator.

Airlines for America, a trade group, hailed “the administration’s decision to extend the mandate requiring face coverings onboard commercial aircraft and in airports.”

David Ngwerume shows his artwork called “Arms” in Harare, Zimbabwe. David Ngwerume is making Sculptures which is disseminating COVID-19 messages through his artwork. He has carved a sculptor called Arms which has become his signature piece during the pandemic.
David Ngwerume shows his artwork called “Arms” in Harare, Zimbabwe. David Ngwerume is making Sculptures which is disseminating COVID-19 messages through his artwork. He has carved a sculptor called Arms which has become his signature piece during the pandemic. Photograph: Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty Images

Canada will start getting Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines from the US next week, a company spokesperson said, in what will be the first time the U.S. has allowed that company’s vaccine exported to Canada.

Canada has been getting Pfizer’s vaccines from Belgium until now, Reuters reports.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said starting next week, Canada will be receiving 2 million doses a week from Pfizer alone.

Vaccinations have ramped up in the country in recent months. Every adult in Quebec will be eligible to make a vaccine appointment on May 14 and in Ontario every adult can book an appointment starting May 24.

Updated

A summary of today’s developments

Updated

Brazilian pharmaceutical associations called for lawmakers to reject a bill that seeks to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents, saying it could spark international retaliation and reduce medical supplies, Reuters reports.

Brazil’s Senate passed the proposal on Thursday night, sending it to the lower house for consideration.

The bill’s backers say the emergency measure is needed due to a shortage of shots and a grave outbreak in Brazil, where over 400,000 people have died from the virus.

The government of President Jair Bolsonaro has publicly opposed calls to suspend patent protections, arguing they could endanger talks with vaccine producers.

In a joint statement, five of Brazil’s leading pharmaceutical associations sided with his administration.

“The approval of a bill that allows for the weakening of intellectual property could lead to international retaliation and reduce the supply of pharmaceutical inputs.

“We cannot support measures that could generate more instability and scenarios that may have irreversible consequences, in the short, medium and long term for Brazil.”

Updated

More than 90 people were found “huddled together” in a home in Houston in the US in a possible case of human smuggling, police said, ABC News is reporting.

No one was seriously injured but Houston Police Assistant Chief Daryn Edwards said “We are concerned that there may be some positive Covid cases inside the house.”

Cape Verde announced new coronavirus-related restrictions on Friday, after a recent surge of infections in the West African archipelago nation.

AFP reports:

Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva told reporters on the island of Sal, a popular tourist destination, that sports facilities will close for a month from Friday, and that restaurants and bars must shut after 9 pm.

Cape Verde has reported over 23,500 Covid-19 infections, with 213 deaths, according to official statistics.

But health officials in the country of 550,000 people have recorded an uptick in cases, which have recently averaged about 250 a day.

Updated

Disneyland reopened on Friday and cruise lines welcomed the news that they could be sailing again in the US by midsummer, as the number of Americans fully vaccinated against Covid–19 reached another milestone: 100 million.

Visitors cheered as the Southern California theme park swung open its gates for the first time in 13 months, allowing only in-state guests for now and operating at just 25% capacity, Associated Press reports.

Masks, temperature checks and no hugs with Mickey Mouse greeted visitors.

Guests, age 2 and older, were required to wear face masks and there were none of the usual hugs with costumed characters like Mickey Mouse and Snow White.

There will be no parades, and the nightly fireworks displays have been put on hold to prevent crowds from gathering closely together.

A group stage a demonstration to remember the 400,000 deaths by Covid-19 in Brazil, in Praia do Leme, next to Copacabana Beach, in Rio De Janeiro.
A group stage a demonstration to remember the 400,000 deaths by Covid-19 in Brazil, in Praia do Leme, next to Copacabana Beach, in Rio De Janeiro. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The number of people hospitalised for Covid-19 in France decreased on Friday for the fourth straight day and the average number of new daily infections fell to the lowest in more than a month, Reuters reports.

Also the overall number of hospitalisations was down by 557 to 28,930 and the number of patients in intensive care wards fell by 129 to 5,675.
The health ministry reported 24,299 new confirmed virus infections, taking the total to 5.6 million.

The seven-day moving average of new cases is now down to just over 25,000, from a high of more than 42,000 mid-April.

France also reported 290 new coronavirus deaths, to 104,514, the eighth highest tally globally.

US expected to announce new travel rules on India

US president Joe Biden is expected to impose new travel restrictions on India starting on Tuesday amid the Covid-19 epidemic, barring most non-U.S. citizens from entering, a White House official told Reuters.

The new restrictions are on the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are imposed “in light of extraordinarily high Covid-19 case loads and multiple variants circulating in India,” the official said.

President Biden in January issued a similar ban on most non-US citizens entering the country who have recently been in South Africa.

He also reimposed an entry ban on nearly all non-US travelers who have been in Brazil, the UK, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders.

Health officials in the Pakistani province of Sindh said they have detected two coronavirus variants first identified in Brazil and South Africa.
Reuters reports:

The highly contagious variants were discovered at a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, which has also reported the most deaths in any city, accounting for 3,903 of the country’s 17,811 deaths.

Some 820,823 cases have been detected in the country, with 5,112 in the last 24 hours, according to the National Command Operation Center (NCOC), which oversees the government’s pandemic response.

Yesterday 13 samples underwent genomic study at the Agha Khan University Hospital, of these 10 were of the UK variant, and 2 were of the Africa and Brazil variants”, Minister for Health & Population Welfare, Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho said.

Early evening summary

Here is a quick recap of all the main Covid updates from around the world:

Pfizer Inc will next week start supplying Canada with Covid vaccine made in its US plant, a senior official has said.

Federal procurement minister Anita Anand told a briefing:

I can confirm that as of 3 May, the Canadian supply of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will come from its manufacturing site in Kalamazoo. We expect to remain on the same delivery schedule, with 2m doses expected each week in May, starting next week, and 2.4m doses each week in June.

Reuters reports:

Russia recorded more than 400,000 excess deaths from last April to this March during the pandemic, according to Reuters calculations based on data from the state statistics agency published on Friday.

Excess death figures, which some epidemiologists say are the best way to measure the true toll from Covid-19 given that counting methods vary between countries, surpass official Covid death figures in many countries.

Albania has approved the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19, Reuters reports the Russian Direct Investment Fund as saying.

According to the RDIF, which promotes the vaccine abroad, the first batch of Russian vaccines had already been delivered to Albania.

Turkey records biggest daily Covid death toll

Turkey recorded 394 Covid-linked deaths in the last 24 hours, its biggest ever daily toll, data from the health ministry showed on Friday.

The figures also showed 31,891 new coronavirus cases in the same period, Reuters reports.

Ankara has tightened restrictions as infections and deaths surged to record highs after an easing of measures in March.

On Thursday, people in Turkey have entered a nationwide lockdown that will last until 17 May.

In England, clubbers have been able to return to the dancefloor at a pilot event for 3,000 people.

Club night Circus hosted The First Dance in Liverpool, where revellers, who all had to produce negative tests, did not have to wear face coverings or social distance for the first time since before lockdown.

Updated

Daily lateral flow tests could provide an alternative to quarantining for close contacts of people with Covid-19, according to data submitted to the government’s Sage committee.

The government is understood to be weighing up various alternatives to the current ten day quarantine period for those contacted by Test and Trace officers because they’ve been within two metres of an infected person up to two days before they tested positive.

Taking a daily lateral flow test for seven days could be one such option, a newly released Sage document suggests.

If the tests were negative, the individual could continue with their daily activities, potentially reducing the negative psychological and financial impact associated with self-isolating, as well as reducing onward transmission of the virus by boosting compliance.

Nearly two thirds of individuals offered this option chose to take it, according to the results of a Public Health England pilot study which were shared with Sage.

Participants from White backgrounds reported a strong preference for daily testing over a ten day quarantine period, although participants from ethnic minority groups were more divided.

More than half (52%) of those who participated said they would be more likely to share the details of people that they had been in contact with following a positive test result, if they knew that their contacts would similarly be offered the option of daily testing instead of quarantine.

“Overall, our data suggested that daily testing has the potential to be a feasible and acceptable alternative to self-isolation,” the researchers wrote.

However, there is a need to develop materials and campaigns to explain the rationale and procedures and address concerns, especially among BAME communities.

Our data also suggests that daily testing may facilitate sharing contact details of close contacts among those who test positive for Covid-19, and could promote adherence to self-isolation. ”

Vital coronavirus research, including a project tracking variants in India, has had its funding reduced by up to 70% under swingeing cuts to the UK overseas aid budget.

One of Britain’s leading infectious disease experts said the UK government cuts were certain to damage attempts to tackle the virus and track new variants.

Oliver Pybus, a professor of evolution and infectious disease at the University of Oxford and part of the team that identified the Kent and Brazilian Covid variants, said:

A 70% cut for a huge international consortium with a budget of £20m and over 80 employees – this is devastating.

Patrick Wintour, the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, has the full story here:

Italy reported 263 coronavirus-related deaths on Friday against 288 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 13,446 from 14,320.

The number of Covid patients in intensive care in France fell for the fourth consecutive day on Friday, decreasing by 129 to 5,675, health ministry data indicates.

From 19 May, restaurants, cafes and bars will be allowed to reopen their outdoor terraces. Museums, cinemas and theatres will also reopen on that day.

Turkey will receive a further 1m doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine in May, health minister Fahrettin Koca said, adding that there were no issues with an option to procure another 30 million in June.

Earlier this week, Koca had said that vaccines would be more scarce in the next two months, but President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that he saw no issues with procurement.

He confirmed that Ankara would receive shots from Russia, China and BioNTech in the next months, according to Reuters.

This thread is from Maria Van Kerkhove, of Imperial College London (see here for earlier comments from the briefing):

Argentina has announced a three-week extension of anti-coronavirus measures that include cancellation of in-person public school classes and an 8pm curfew for social activities in response to a deadly second wave of infections, Reuters reports.

The country has confirmed 2,954,943 cases of the virus with a total 63,508 deaths, as infection rates spike.

“The epidemiological situation in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires is critical and we have other areas with high health concerns,” said the centre-left president Alberto Fernandez in a recorded message for the media. “We must make a new effort to lower circulation, reduce infections and thus decompress our health system as much as possible.”

A few months before the mid-term elections in October, Fernandez faces criticism for the strict lockdown he applied in 2020 and for the slow progress of vaccination against Covid-19. The economy has been in recession since 2018.

Tension has risen between national and Buenos Aires city authorities over the cancellation of in-person school classes.

A single dose of Pfizer’s vaccine may not generate a sufficient immune response to protect against dominant new variants, except in people who have already been infected with Covid-19, Reuters reports a UK study as having found.

The Imperial College-led study, which looked at immune responses in British healthcare workers after their first dose of the Pfizer shot, found that people who had previously had mild or asymptomatic infection had enhanced protection against more infectious mutated variants that emerged in Britain and South Africa.

But the immune response after a first dose of the shot was weaker in people who had not previously been infected, potentially leaving them at risk from such variants, researchers leading the work said on Friday.

The eurozone fell back into recession in the first three months of the year, as a slow vaccination drive and tougher restrictions to stem a third coronavirus wave damaged the region’s economies.

GDP in the 19 economies sharing the euro shrank by 0.6% between January and March compared with the previous quarter, according to figures from Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office.

My colleagues Julia Kollewe and Graeme Wearden have the latest here:

South Africa regulator says J&J shot can be given to pregnant women

Reuters reports:

South Africas drug regulator has said that Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine can be given to pregnant women with co-morbidities or at high risk of contracting the coronavirus.

The South African health ministry said Sahpra had previously said pregnant and breast-feeding women should be excluded from a local research study evaluating the J&J vaccine’s efficacy.

That research study, which aims to immunize 500,000 health workers, resumed on Wednesday after it was temporarily suspended over extremely rare cases of blood clots in people given J&J’s vaccine in the United States.

But in recommendations posted on its website on Thursday, the regulator said pregnant women who have co-morbidities or are at high risk of exposure to Covid-19 like health workers “may be vaccinated in consultation with their health care provider”.

“Women who are breastfeeding should be counselled on the absence of information in this regard and a benefit-risk assessment should be made by the enrolling clinician,” it said.

On Thursday, Italy hit its target of administering 500,000 Covid vaccinations in a single day, health minister Roberto Speranza has confirmed.

Officials had originally hoped to pass the milestone mid-month but had to push this back mainly because of supply delays and persisting doubts over shots produced by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

The Italian government said that as of early Friday, some 19.4m vaccinations had been carried out, with 5.8m people having received their full vaccine cycle – just under 10% of the total population, Reuters reports.

The figures are in line with the EU average.

The World Health Organization expects to release its assessments for emergency use listing of the two main Chinese Covid vaccines, as well as the Moderna shot, by the end of next week, its assistant director-general said.

As Reuters reports, Mariangela Simao said the WHO’s independent panel was assessing the Moderna vaccine and a vaccine from China’s Sinopharm on Friday and was due to look at China’s other main vaccine, made by Sinovac Biotech, next week.

She told a briefing:

So, by the beginning of next week or the end of next week we will have the final assessment of these three vaccines out.

Demonstrators have laid hundreds of body bags on Brazil’s most famous beach in protest as the country’s Covid death toll hit 400,000 and anger at president Jair Bolsonaro grew.

A demonstrator from the Rio de Paz human rights activist group digs a symbolic grave in front of rows of bags symbolizing bodybags on Copacabana beach, during a protest against the Brazilian governments handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in Rio de Janeiro on April 30, 2021.
A demonstrator from the Rio de Paz human rights activist group digs a symbolic grave in front of rows of bags symbolizing bodybags on Copacabana beach, during a protest against the Brazilian governments handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in Rio de Janeiro on April 30, 2021. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Bolsonaro, who has undermined containment measures and trivialized the pandemic, has overseen one of the world’s worst Covid outbreaks with more than 14.5 million infections and 401,417 fatalities.

“Remaining silent at a moment this like would mean being accomplices,” the activist and church leader Antônio Carlos Costa told reporters as his group staged the protest on Copacabana beach.

Costa said the federal government’s handling of Covid had “cost thousands of lives”.

A parliamentary inquiry was launched this week to investigate Bolsonaro’s Covid response and his government’s failure to acquire sufficient vaccines to protect Brazil’s 212m citizens.

“There are culprits … and they will be held responsible,” the inquiry’s rapporteur, the senator Renan Calheiros, declared as it held its first session on Tuesday. “The country has the right to know who contributed to all these thousands of deaths and those people must be punished immediately and emblematically.”

The Morrison government is exploring the extraordinary option of making it a criminal offence for Australians to return home from Covid hotspots overseas.

The moves comes after two Australian cricketers who had been in India returned home on Thursday after transiting through Qatar, despite the government earlier in the week banning all direct flights from Covid-ravaged India.

Guardian Australia has confirmed the government is mulling the option of criminalising returns from countries experiencing severe outbreaks. Biosecurity regulations invoked to manage public health during the pandemic already give government authorities sweeping powers.

You can read the full story here:

Reuters reports:

India’s coronavirus cases may peak between 3-5 May, according to a mathematical model of a team of scientists advising the government, a few days earlier than a previous estimate as the virus has spread faster than expected.

The world’s second-most populous country has reported more than 300,000 new infections daily for nine consecutive days, hitting another global record of 386,452 on Friday.

The surge has led to a public health crisis in India, forcing the government to seek oxygen, medicines and other essentials from countries around the world.

“Our belief is that by next week, the daily new cases nationwide would have peaked,” M. Vidyasagar, head of a government-appointed group of scientists modelling the trajectory of infections, told Reuters.

Brazil calls on countries to share spare vaccines

Queiroga said Brazil had given out 41m vaccine doses but needed more supplies to meet a target of 2.4m doses per day.

Countries should contribute spare doses as soon as possible “so we can broaden our vaccination campaign and contain the pandemic at this critical time and avoid the proliferation of new variants,” he said.

Speaking at the WHO press conference, Marcelo Queiroga, the Brazilian health minister, says he is committed to ensuring vaccinations are accelerated across the country. Querioga adds that the federal government has tried to strengthen Brazil’s health care system to rise to the challenges of the crisis. But he is calling on other countries to share doses with Brazil to ensure equitable access to Covid vaccines.

Updated

Turkey’s official Medicines and Medical Devices Agency has said the country has granted emergency use authorisation to Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine.

Health minister Fahrettin Koca said earlier this week that Turkey has signed a deal for 50m doses of Sputnik V, Reuters reports.

Updated

You can watch the World Health Organization chief participate in a Covid press conference with Brazilian health minister on the player at the top of this blog. The focus will be on Brazil and the Americas regions.

Spain to extend gap between AstraZeneca doses to 16 weeks

Spain will extend the gap between the first and second doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine in under 60-year-olds to 16 weeks from 12, the health ministry has confirmed.

The extension gives authorities more breathing space to determine how best to handle shifting safety guidelines for the drug, the ministry said.

Spain, as Reuters reports, initially gave AstraZeneca shots to essential workers aged 18-65 before restricting their use to over-60s amid concerns about blood clots in younger people.

That change provoked widespread uncertainty and meant some younger people who had already received a first dose have been excluded from getting a second.

By extending the interval between doses, authorities will be able to evaluate the results of trials on mixing different vaccines before deciding whether those groups will receive a second AstraZeneca shot or another drug, the ministry explained

Updated

Here is some analysis on the breakdown of Covid cases (per 100,000 over a week) in under-20s in England by Kit Yates, co-director of the Centre for Mathematical Biology at the University of Bath:

Foreign tourist arrivals to Portugal slumped 92% in the first quarter from a year ago as a sharp surge in Covid infections at the start of the year forced the country into lockdown, data indicates.

As Reuters reports, the National Statistics Institute said about 160,000 foreign visitors stayed in Portuguese hotels between January and March 2021.

The country’s first lockdown began in mid-March 2020, meaning the first quarter of that year was still little affected.

A woman sits facing the Tagus River in Ribeira das Naus a day before the end of the state of emergency during the pandemic on April 29, 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal.
A woman sits facing the Tagus River in Ribeira das Naus a day before the end of the state of emergency during the pandemic on Thursday in Lisbon, Portugal. Photograph: Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis/Getty Images

Updated

The percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 is estimated to have decreased in all regions of England except in Yorkshire and the Humber and in eastern England, where the trend is uncertain, the ONS said.

Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest proportion of people of any region in England likely to test positive for coronavirus in the week to 24 April: about one in 530.

South-west England had the lowest estimate: around one in 2,980, PA Media reports.

Updated

Proportion of Covid infections in England at lowest level since September- ONS

The prevalence of Covid infections in England has fallen sharply for a third consecutive week, the Office for National Statistics has said, with the estimated proportion of people infected at its lowest level since early September.

According to the ONS, an estimated 1 in 1,010 people in England had Covid-19 in the week ending 24 April, compared to 1 in 610 a week earlier.

You can read the full release here.

Updated

About 22m people in the UK are living in areas that have not reported any Covid-19 deaths that happened in April, according to BBC News analysis.

By comparison, in a month period during January’s peak, less than 50,000 people lived in such places.

AP reports:


India has tried to fight skyrocketing coronavirus infections by increasing its production of vaccines and banning their export, cutting off supplies to neighbors such as Bangladesh and Nepal as they struggle with infection surges of their own.

These nations have imposed lockdowns as residents of big cities flee to the countryside seeking safety. They are also turning to China and Russia for vaccines in a desperate effort to deal with a pandemic that is becoming bigger and deadlier across South Asia.

Although new, more transmissible variants appear to be partly behind the surge, experts say other factors are contributing, including large holiday gatherings and growing fatigue with social distancing and mask wearing.

Gyms, leisure centres, and pools can reopen in Wales from next week

In Wales, gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools will be able to reopen from next Monday, the government has confirmed.

Organised children’s indoor activities and indoor adult fitness classes can also resume as part of further easing of curbs.

Two households will also be able form an exclusive bubble and be able to meet indoors, PA Media reports.

The Welsh Government said the changes meant Wales will have moved to Alert Level 3 by 3 May.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

The public health situation continues to improve and our vaccination programme remains a success. Thanks to the efforts of people across Wales, we are in a position to further ease the restrictions, in the way we have previously signalled, to allow more elements of normal life to return. However, the virus has not gone away.

This has been shared by Stephen Reicher, of the school of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews:

Updated

Hello everyone, this is Yohannes Lowe. I’ll be running the blog until the evening (UK time). As always, feel free to get in touch on Twitter if you have any story tips.

Today so far…

  • India posted a record daily rise in coronavirus cases of 386,452, while deaths from Covid-19 jumped by 3,498 over the last 24 hours, according to health ministry data.
  • Several Indian states have run out of Covid-19 vaccines a day before a planned widening of a nationwide inoculation drive, authorities have said.
  • Indian scientists have appealed in an open letter to prime minister Narendra Modi to publicly release virus data that they say would allow them to save lives.
  • British bank Barclays says it has rushed out £1m ($1.4m) worth of medical supplies to India in the last week.
  • Ukraine will impose an entry ban on non-nationals arriving from India from 2 May.
  • Uganda has detected the Indian variant of the novel coronavirus, igniting fears the nation could suffer a resurgence of cases just when its outbreak has waned.
  • Shops and pubs, restaurants and cafes with outdoor service have started to reopen in Northern Ireland after four months of lockdown. Its vaccination programme is also to be opened up to some 30- to 34-year-olds
  • Access to vaccinations in England has been expanded again – with all over-40s being offered the opportunity to book their jabs.
  • A new survey suggests that 31% of people in the UK believe vaccine passports will reduce civil liberties. That number is up from 25% when people were asked the same question last month.
  • In Ireland, drinkers may be able to enjoy a pint inside a pub by the end of July and holiday abroad in late summer, prime minister Micheál Martin has said.
  • Hopes are rising in Germany that the country has managed to flatten the curve of its third wave of the pandemic, as the latest infection rates defy worst-case predictions from earlier this spring.
  • AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot told a media briefing that the company did its best to deliver as much as it could to the EU. “We never overpromised, we communicated what we thought we would achieve at the time,” he said.
  • In Cambodia a court has jailed three people, including a top police general, for more than a year for violating Covid-19 restrictions by attending a party.
  • Russia’s agricultural regulator has said that Russia has produced the world’s first batch – 17,000 doses – of Covid-19 vaccines for animals.

That is it from me Martin Belam, I will be back with you on Monday. Yohannes Lowe will be taking over from me on global coronavirus news, and Andrew Sparrow has the UK live blog over here.

Updated

Irish drinkers may be able to enjoy a pint inside a pub by the end of July and holiday abroad in late summer as the government seeks to largely lift all Covid-19 restrictions, prime minister Micheál Martin has said this morning.

Padraic Halpin at Reuters reports that the government pressed ahead yesterday with plans to reopen all retail stores and personal services for the first time in more than four months in May, with bars and restaurants allowed to serve guests outdoors from early June.

Irish pubs shut their doors when the first wave of Covid-19 hit Ireland in March 2020. Some were allowed to open their doors last summer and briefly again in December, the only periods the economy has not been subjected to a strict lockdown.

“The indoor pint? Certainly not in May or June. It may be possible towards the end of July,” Martin told the Newstalk radio station.

The government has said it will develop a plan for a phased return to international travel and Martin said it was possible that holidays abroad could be permitted in July or August as the EU rolls out digital health passes for vaccinated citizens.

Northern Ireland has also relaxed some restrictions on retail and hospitality this morning.

Top police general in Cambodia jailed for breaking Covid restrictions

A Cambodian court has jailed three people, including a top police general, for more than a year for violating Covid-19 restrictions by attending a party, a court official said on Friday.

Reuters report that Major General Ung Chanthuok, deputy chief of staff of the national police, was sentenced on Thursday to 12 months in prison over a party he organised earlier this month, while two other attendees received 18-month terms. Ung Chanthuok was sacked after his arrest.

Kuch Kimlong, deputy prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said all three were also fined $1,250 each.

The sentences were among the toughest so far under a strict law passed in March this year by Cambodia’s parliament, which prescribes punishments that include jail terms of three years for quarantine breaches and 10 years for leaving treatment facilities while infected, or intentionally spreading Covid-19.

Cambodia is fighting a surge in coronavirus infections that has seen its case total jump from about 500 to 12,641 since late February, including all 91 of its deaths.

British bank Barclays says it has rushed out £1m ($1.4m) worth of medical supplies to India in the last week to help communities there tackle the surge in Covid-19 cases.

“We are very focused on India right now, which is our second biggest employee location,” chief executive Jes Staley told Reuters after a briefing announcing the bank’s first quarter results.

Staley said Barclays – which has roughly 20,000 employees in India – had directed money from its charitable funds to partners in India.

“We are very mindful that a number of employees need to stay home. We want to keep paying them, but allow them to help their families manage,” Staley said.

Northern Ireland hospitality and retail outlets reopened

Shops and pubs, restaurants and cafes with outdoor service have started to reopen in Northern Ireland on Friday after four months of lockdown.

Gyms, swimming pools and self-contained tourist accommodation such as caravan sites also reopened, broadly aligning the region with the rest of the UK.

Rules on outdoor meet-ups have been relaxed to allow 15 people from three households to meet in a private garden.

Shoppers in Derry and Belfast formed long queues outside stores from early morning.

Shoppers queue ouside Primark in Belfast as shops reopen and hospitality is able to open outdoors in Northern Ireland.
Shoppers queue ouside Primark in Belfast as shops reopen and hospitality is able to open outdoors in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Mark Marlow/PA

The region’s health minister, Robin Swann, urged the hospitality industry to not court cross-border business from the republic, which lags Northern Ireland in vaccinations.

The Irish government has announced a reopening plan for the south. From 10 May hairdressers can reopen and people can travel across county lines. On 17 May all shops can reopen and on 2 June hotels, guesthouses and self-catering accommodation can reopen.

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s tanaiste, or deputy prime minister, told RTE the plan had an “emergency brake” to reimpose restrictions if the Covid-19 virus surged out of control.

Economy minister Diane Dodds welcomed the relaxations on an early morning visit to Belfast’s Victoria Square shopping centre.

Economy minister Diane Dodds speaks to the media during a visit to to the Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfas.
Economy minister Diane Dodds speaks to the media during a visit to to the Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfas. Photograph: Mark Marlow/PA

PA report that Dodds also highlighted that the Stormont Executive’s delayed high street voucher scheme is set to start operating at the end of the summer, with every adult in Northern Ireland eligible for a £100 prepaid card to spend in the local retail sector.

“Today’s a really good day for the economy,” she said. “Our shops are opening, our hospitality is able to open outdoors, our self-contained accommodation is opening, we’re announcing the high street voucher scheme.”

As noted earlier, health minister Robin Swann has also announced that the region’s vaccine programme is now open to the 30-34 age group.

Don’t forget that Andrew Sparrow has fuller coverage of today’s developments in the UK over on our politics live blog

Updated

AstraZeneca CEO insists ‘We never overpromised’ vaccine deliveries to the EU

AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot has been giving a wide-ranging media briefing this morning, which Reuters have been following.

In one key passage he has stated that the drugmaker had not overpromised on its ability to supply Covid-19 vaccines around the world, and he defended big cuts in deliveries that prompted a lawsuit by the European Union.

Pascal Soriot told a media briefing that the company did its best to deliver as much as it could to the EU. “We never overpromised, we communicated what we thought we would achieve at the time,” he said.

Soriot said the company still expected to hit output of 200m doses of the vaccine this month.

The company said it planned to apply for US approval for its vaccine in the coming weeks. That is a delay from late March when the company also said it would submit the data in the coming weeks.

Mene Pangalos, who is executive vice-president of BioPharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, said “There’s a lot more data than just a phase III study and so we’re working as fast as we can to pull it all together and submit.”

Updated

Uganda says it has detected its first case of ‘Indian variant’ of Covid

Uganda has detected the Indian variant of the novel coronavirus, igniting fears the east African nation could suffer a resurgence of cases just when its outbreak has waned, a senior health official has said.

“Yes, we have got one individual who has that variant,” Pontiano Kaleebu, head of the government-run Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) told Reuters on Friday.

The variant, he said, had been detected in recent days on a Ugandan who had returned from a visit to India.

Health Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Ainebyoona told Reuters the country’s coronavirus taskforce would discuss the situation on Friday.

So far, Uganda has experienced a relatively mild Covid-19 outbreak. But concerns it could be vulnerable to contagion from the Indian variant are underscored by its large Indian community and strong relationship between the two countries as India is a major exporter to Uganda.

On Thursday, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warned India’s intense outbreak was a reminder that Africa must stay vigilant.

The head of the health agency John Nkengasong said the African Union will convene a meeting of African health ministers on 8 May to “put everybody on alert”.

Updated

Andrew Sparrow has launched our UK politics live blog for today – you can follow that over here…

I’ll be carrying on here with global Covid news and the very top lines from the UK.

Indian scientists have appealed to prime minister Narendra Modi to publicly release virus data that would allow them to save lives.

India’s pandemic response has been marred by insufficient data and the online appeal – signed by over 350 scientists – asks government to release data about the sequencing of virus variants, testing, recovered patients and how people were responding to vaccines.

The appeal says that “granular” data on testing was inaccessible to non-government experts and even to some government experts too. Modeling work to predict future surges was being done by government-appointed experts with insufficient information. Similarly, scientists had failed to get information that would allow them predict how many beds, oxygen or intensive care facilities would be needed, it said.

Ashok Sharma in New Delhi for Associated Press says the appeal urged the government to widen the number of organisations sequencing the virus to study its evolution, and also increase the number of samples being studied.

It added that restrictions on importing scientific raw materials was an obstacle. “Such restrictions, at this time, only serve to impede our ability to deal with Covid-19,” it said.

Updated

Northern Ireland vaccinations to be opened up to some 30- to 34-year-olds

Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme is to be opened up to some 30- to 34-year-olds, reports PA Media.

Health minister Robin Swann said there is some limited availability for people in that age cohort.

The appointments are mainly available at the mass vaccination centre in Belfast’s SSE Arena, with bookings opening at 10am on Friday. Some appointments may also become available in community pharmacies.

Swann said: “It is worth remembering the progress that our vaccination programme has made in a relatively short period of time. In less than five months we have vaccinated almost 1 million people, and thousands of our citizens have been able to receive the vaccine well ahead of schedule.

“I know that we all long for a sustainable return to more normal times and vaccination offers the best hope for this. Uptake is very encouraging, and I’m pleased that we are moving so quickly through the cohorts.

“We have a limited number of slots that we can now offer to those aged 30 to 34, so, if you’re eligible, I would urge you to step forward and take the opportunity to get the jab.”

The booking service for Northern Ireland is available online here.

Earlier it was announced that vaccines in England would be extended to everybody over 40.

Updated

Hopes are rising in Germany that the country has managed to flatten the curve of its third wave of the pandemic, as the latest infection rates defy worst-case predictions from earlier this spring.

On Friday, the German disease control agency reported 24,329 new cases of Covid-19 infections, a week-on-week drop of 12%. The crucial indicator of infections per 100,000 over seven days has sunk to its lowest value since mid-April.

In mid-March, scientists and politicians had feared that new, more infectious variants of the virus could accelerate the spread of the pandemic so dramatically that Germany would record 40,000 new infections per day by April.

The reasons for the slow-down are unclear: the new “emergency brake” law developed by Angela Merkel’s government has only been in place for a week and would not show up on the latest numbers. Germany has been caught in a state of semi-lockdown since November.

A pick-up in the speed of the German vaccination roll-out could be one factor: as of Thursday morning, the country had vaccinated over a quarter of its population, with over a million doses administered this Wednesday alone. If the current pace is kept up, Germany could manage to vaccinate half of its population by the end of June, rather than September as previously expected.

Updated

Several Indian states have run out of Covid vaccines

Several Indian states have run out of Covid-19 vaccines a day before a planned widening of a nationwide inoculation drive, authorities have said.

India is the world’s biggest producer of vaccines but does not have enough stockpiles to keep up with the second deadly Covid-19 wave, despite prime minister Narendra Modi’s government planning to vaccinate all adults starting 1 May. Only about 9% of India’s 1.4 billion people have received a vaccine dose since January.

Chandini Monnappa and Tanvi Mehta report for Reuters that India had originally planned to vaccinate only 300 million of its highest-risk people by August, but widened the target due to the rise in cases.

However, its two vaccine producers were already struggling to increase capacity beyond 80m doses a month due to a shortage of raw materials and a fire at the Serum Institute, which manufactures AstraZeneca’s vaccine in India.

Inoculation centres in Mumbai will be shut for three days starting Friday because of the shortage of vaccines, authorities said.

Signs announcing that there will be no vaccination for three days, due to shortage of vaccine supplies, are seen outside a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccination centre, in Mumbai.
Signs announcing that there will be no vaccinations for three days due to a shortage of supplies are seen outside a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Mumbai. Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

In the southern state of Karnataka, home to the tech hub of Bengaluru, the state’s health minister said Karnataka’s vaccination drive for adults will not begin on 1 May.

“The state government has not received any information from companies about when they will be able to supply these vaccines,” said health minister K Sudhakar.

Updated

A quick financial snap from PA Media here – AstraZeneca has revealed it banked revenues of £197m ($275m) in the first three months of the year from sales of its Covid-19 vaccine, delivering 68m doses worldwide.

The pharmaceutical firm, which is not making a profit from the vaccine, said sales of some of the company’s other drugs had been affected by the global pandemic, as other medical conditions went untreated, but overall sales remained strong.

Updated

News that Russia was developing a Covid vaccine for dogs first broke at the very end of March, leading up to April fool’s day, and I must confess that I didn’t put it into this blog then for fear of it being revealed as a joke.

However, Reuters today are carrying the news that Russia’s agricultural regulator has said that Russia has produced the world’s first batch – 17,000 doses – of Covid-19 vaccines for animals.

Polina Devitt writes that tests showed Carnivac-Cov generated antibodies against Covid-19 in dogs, cats, foxes and mink. The first batch will be supplied to several regions of Russia, the regulator Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement.

It said companies from Germany, Greece, Poland, Austria, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Lebanon, Iran and Argentina had expressed interest in purchasing the vaccine.

One of the worries with continued transmission of the novel coronavirus is that it will be able to pass between humans and animals, potentially bringing about more mutations which could lead to a deadlier or more infectious strand, or one on which our current array of vaccines for humans do not work.

China appears to have set another daily record for vaccinations in the country. Reuters report that the National Health Commission figures published this morning show that yesterday 9.6m vaccinations were administered.

That takes the total number of vaccinations the state says it has administered up to 253m.

The country reported 13 new Covid cases on the mainland yesterday, all of which the government said were imported infections originating from overseas.

Updated

Joanna Slater and Niha Masih at the Washington Post have a piece this morning looking at the backlash against India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, as the Covid disaster unfolds under his watch:

For Modi, the most powerful Indian prime minister in five decades, it is a moment of reckoning. He is facing what appears to be the country’s biggest crisis since independence, a calamity that is challenging his vision of a proud, self-reliant nation.

Modi’s own lapses and missteps are an increasing source of anger. As coronavirus cases skyrocketed, Modi continued to hold huge election rallies and declined to cancel a Hindu religious festival that drew millions to the banks of the Ganges River, despite pleas from health experts.

Rather than making urgent preparations for a second wave of cases in an already weak health-care system, the government put much of its focus on vaccinations — a campaign too limited to blunt the oncoming disaster. The government repeatedly chose self-congratulation over caution, publicly stating that the pandemic was in its “end game” in India as recently as last month.

Modi’s national government as well as state authorities “went into the comfort zone of believing the pandemic has passed,” said Srinath Reddy, the president of the Public Health Foundation of India. “That illusion came to settle in the minds of most people and clouded their judgment.”

While health officials were reminding people to wear masks and maintain distance, Indians saw “their prime minister doing just the opposite on national television every evening”, said Navjot Singh Dahiya, national vice-president of the Indian Medical Association. Modi’s biggest failure is that “his government kept misleading people during such a huge tragedy. Now people are paying with their lives”.

Read more here: Washington Post – In India’s devastating coronavirus surge, anger at Modi grows

Updated

All over 40s in England to be offered Covid vaccines

Access to vaccinations in England has been expanded again – with all over-40s being offered the opportunity to book their jabs.

PA Media reports that NHS England said that text messages will be sent out from Friday to people aged 40 and 41. Nearly 750,000 appointments were made earlier in the week when the rollout was extended to people aged 42 to 44.

It means in England that vaccines are available if:

  • you’re aged 40 or over.
  • you’ll turn 40 before 1 July 2021.
  • you’re at high risk from Covid-19 (clinically extremely vulnerable).
  • you have a condition that puts you at higher risk (clinically vulnerable).
  • you have a learning disability.
  • you’re an eligible frontline health or social care worker.
  • you get a carer’s allowance, get support following an assessment by your local authority or your GP record shows you’re a carer.

You can book or manage your appointment on the NHS England website here.

If you live in one of the other nations in the UK, you can find out the latest status for booking a vaccine here:

Updated

Ukraine to close border to non-national arrivals from India

Ukraine will impose an entry ban on non-nationals arriving from India from 2 May, Reuters report. Ukraine itself has recorded more than 2 million Covid-19 cases so far, with 44,085 deaths.

Updated

31% of people in UK believe ‘vaccine passports’ will reduce civil liberties – poll

You can well imagine the issue of “vaccine passports” or “Covid vaccine certification” or whatever you want to call them dominating much of the discourse in the next couple of months as the UK gradually reopens the economy.

A new survey suggests that 31% of people in the UK believe the passports will reduce civil liberties. That number is up from 25% when people were asked the same question last month.

Forty per cent of people say they believe that vaccine passports will lead to people being discriminated against, and 49% of the public think vaccination passports will be sold on the black market.

The study has been carried out by the University of Bristol, King’s College London and the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Some other points of note in the data:

  • Seven per cent of the public think it is not worth getting the second coronavirus vaccination as it doesn’t increase protection very much.
  • Nearly one in five people (19%) don’t believe that it’s safe to get a Covid vaccine if you’re trying to have a baby.
  • Forty per cent of the public think younger people will be less likely to get vaccinated when it’s their turn.
  • One in 20 people (5%) believe Covid vaccines contain pork products, which rises to nearly one in five (19%) among Muslims surveyed.

Dr Siobhan McAndrew, who is a senior lecturer in quantitative social science at the University of Bristol, said:

There has been great policy interest in whether vaccination passports might encourage vaccine uptake. These findings indicate they may do so. But we also have evidence of the challenges that may come with the passports – as significant proportions of the public fear they will be misused, including through curtailing civil liberties.

You can have a look at the full results set here. Ipsos MORI interviewed a sample of 4,896 adults aged 16-75 in the UK in early April, although it is always worth noting the somewhat catch-all caveat: “All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.”

Updated

Ashok Sharma’s latest dispatch from India for Associated Press brings more grim details of the crisis unfolding in the country. With 386,452 new cases, India now has reported more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the US. The health ministry on Friday also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330. Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it’s unclear by how much.

Health workers attend to Covid-19 positive patients inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a covid care centre in New Delhi.
Health workers attend to Covid-19 positive patients inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid care centre in New Delhi. Photograph: Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images

In the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, a schoolteachers’ organization said that more than 550 members have died after they were infected with Covid-19 while helping conduct local council elections this month, the Times of India newspaper reported.

Experts have blamed the surge on new, more contagious virus variants and mass public gatherings such as political rallies and religious events that were allowed to continue. On Thursday, millions voted in state elections in West Bengal with little or no regard to social distancing.

In the southern state of Karnataka, revenue minister R Ashoka said nearly 2,000 coronavirus patients under home care have switched off their phones and cannot be traced. Police were trying to track them as they might be seeking hospitalisation on their own, he said.

Battling to find hospital beds, distraught people are flooding social media and messaging apps with pleas for oxygen, medicines and room in intensive care units.

India’s army chief MM Naravane met with prime minister Narendra Modi yesterday to discuss the crisis. Naravane said the sick can approach their nearest army hospitals for help. Troops were also assisting with imported oxygen tankers and vehicles where specialised skills are required, a government statement said.

Updated

UK economy builds momentum as Covid restrictions ease

Richard Partington, our economics correspondent, writes this morning:

Britain’s economy is building momentum and the Bank of England is expected to sharply upgrade its annual growth forecasts next week, as a Guardian analysis shows rapid progress rolling out the Covid vaccine is fuelling a boom in UK consumer spending.

Activity has held up better than expected after businesses adapted to life under the third national lockdown, while the reopening of non-essential retail and hospitality venues outdoors in England and Wales has benefited from pent-up demand.

Unemployment has fallen for two consecutive months, as companies started hiring again. Retail sales rebounded in March, before the official retail reopening, as consumers began to spend accumulated savings and manufacturer confidence returned to levels not seen since 1973.

However, with India suffering a devastating third wave and nearly 5 million UK workers still on furlough, there are concerns over rising unemployment in Britain after government wage support is scaled back this summer and closed entirely by the end of September.

As consumers return to high streets and pub beer gardens and take to alfresco dining, the Bank of England is poised to issue one of its most substantial economic growth upgrades in recent decades after a raft of positive data from the economy.

Read more of Richard Partington’s report here: UK economy builds momentum as Covid restrictions ease

Updated

Good morning from London. It’s Martin Belam here. Just a quick Reuters snap about Hungary to start with – prime minister Viktor Orbán has said new easing measures announced earlier would take effect on Saturday as the vaccination rate surpasses 40% for people with at least one shot.

As the deadliest wave of the coronavirus slowly recedes and large shipments from both eastern and western sources arrive, there are enough vaccines in the country to inoculate everyone who has registered, Orban said.

Updated

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for the week. Martin Belam will be with you for the next few hours.

New Zealanders are still reporting negative impacts on mental health and income from the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reports, despite living in one of the world’s few countries to have largely returned to normal.

The Pacific island nation, which has had only about 2,200 cases and 26 deaths in a population of 5 million, enforced strict lockdowns and social distancing rules that helped to virtually eliminate the virus.

Indonesia approves Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use

Indonesia’s drug regulator on Friday approved a Covid vaccine produced by China’s Sinopharm, which is due to be used in a private vaccination scheme under which companies can buy government-procured vaccines to inoculate their staff, Reuters reports.

No detailed efficacy data of Sinopharm’s vaccine has been publicly released, but its developer, Beijing Biological Products Institute, a unit of Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group, said the vaccine was 79.34% effective in preventing people from developing the disease, based on interim data.

India confirms record daily rise in cases and nearly 3,500 deaths

Relatives perform the last rites for Covid-19 victims during their funeral at a cremation ground in New Delhi, India, 29 April 2021. Delhi reported 25,986 fresh cases, 368 deaths on Wednesday.
Relatives perform the last rites for Covid-19 victims during their funeral at a cremation ground in New Delhi, India, 29 April 2021. Photograph: Idrees Mohammed/EPA

India posted a record daily rise in coronavirus cases of 386,452 on Friday, while deaths from Covid-19 jumped by 3,498 over the last 24 hours, according to health ministry data.

India has added about 7.7 million cases to its total case load since the end of February, when its second wave picked up steam, according to a Reuters tally. In contrast, it took India nearly six months to add the previous 7.7 million cases.

Updated

All over 40s in England to be offered jab

People aged 40 and over in England are now being invited to book their coronavirus jab, NHS leaders have announced.

NHS England said that text messages will be sent out from Friday to 40- and 41-year-olds allowing them to arrange their vaccination appointments, PA Media reports.

It follows nearly 750,000 appointments being made on Monday and Tuesday after the vaccine rollout was extended to people aged 42 to 44, it added.

A health worker at the vaccination centre at Newbury Racecourse, Newbury.
A health worker at the vaccination centre at Newbury Racecourse, Newbury. Photograph: www.thisisjude.uk: Glenn Edward/PA

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “With nine tenths of people aged 45 and over having been jabbed, nearly three quarters of a million new appointments were made in just two days as our booking service opened to people aged 42 to 44.

“With second doses also proceeding apace, we’re now ready to invite all those aged 40 and over to join the most successful vaccination drive in health service history.”

NHS England said that with people aged 42 to 44 having already been texted this week it means 2.5 million more people have been invited for their jab.

Updated

UK cuts international aid by almost a third

The UK said on Thursday it is temporarily reducing its international aid from £14.5bn (about $20bn) last year to £10bn this year ($14bn) because of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and two UN agencies announced huge funding cuts of more than 80%, AP reports.

The UN Population Fund, which now calls itself the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, said it had been informed that its flagship family planning programme was being cut from £154m ($211m) to about £23m ($32m). In addition, it said £12m ($17m) is being cut from its core operating funds.

The agency, known as UNFPA, said the UK was its largest bilateral donor in 2020, providing a total of about $138m.

UNAIDS, which unites the work of 11 UN organisations trying to reduce HIV infections and deaths to zero, said its funding for 2021 was reduced from £15m ($21m) in 2020 to £2.5m ($3.5m) for 2021.

In 2020, the UK was the world’s third largest aid donor, spending £14.5bn (about $20bn).

“The seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on aid,” a British government spokesman said, speaking with customary anonymity.

“We will still spend more than £10bn ($14bn) this year to fight poverty, tackle climate change and improve global health,” the spokesman said. “We are working with suppliers and partners on what this means for individual programs.”

UNFPA said it had anticipated $322m from the UK for its family planning programme for 2021 and 2022, and the loss of $180m will have a huge impact.

“These cuts will be devastating for women and girls and their families across the world,” UNFPA executive director Natalia Kanem said.

The approximately 85% cut to the family planning programme “would have helped prevent around 250,000 maternal and child deaths, 14.6m unintended pregnancies and 4.3m unsafe abortions,” she said.

Updated

First US Covid emergency aid supplies arrive in India

A military plane on Friday brought the first US emergency coronavirus supplies to help India battle its devastating surge in the pandemic, AFP reports.

A Super Galaxy military transporter carrying more than 400 oxygen cylinders and other hospital equipment and nearly one million rapid coronavirus tests landed at New Delhi’s international airport as the Indian capital battles a major pandemic crisis.

India is recording a world record infection rate of more than 370,000 cases as well as 3,600 deaths a day and a huge international aid operation has been launched with countries around the world promising help.

The delivery, which flew in from the Travis military base in California, followed talks this week between US president Joe Biden and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi.

“The United States is delivering supplies worth more than $100m in the coming days to provide urgent relief to our partners in India,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday.

US officials said the special flights, which will also bring equipment donated by companies and individuals, will continue into next week.

Updated

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

A military plane on Friday brought the first US emergency coronavirus supplies to help India battle its devastating surge in the pandemic.

Meanwhile the UK saidon Thursday it is temporarily reducing its international aid from £14.5bn (about $20bn) last year to £10bn this year ($14bn) because of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and two UN agencies announced huge funding cuts of more than 80%.

Here are the other key recent developments:

  • Brazil’s death toll passes 400,000. Brazil on Thursday registered a further 3,001 Covid-19 fatalities, taking its official death toll since the start of the pandemic past 400,000, the health ministry said, second only to the death toll of the United States.
  • The World Health Organization has warned European governments that relaxing Covid restrictions too soon could cause cases to spiral again, potentially triggering a wave of new infections as seen in India.
  • The French president, Emmanuel Macron, unveiled a roadmap on Thursday for a progressive unwinding of France’s lockdown over the next two months.
  • Thailand has added more measures to contain its biggest Covid outbreak yet, including a nationwide requirement to wear masks in public and a ban on dining at restaurants in and around its capital, Bangkok.
  • Italy has extended Covid restrictions already in place on travellers from other European countries for 15 days, the health ministry said.
  • Romania has reported its first case of a Covid variant first identified in India, according to its health ministry.
  • Ireland will press ahead with plans to reopen all retail stores, personal services and non-residential construction in May with hotels, the foreign minister said.

Updated

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