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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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Corona Virus, Health

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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Food

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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US NEWS, World

Arkansas governor vetoes bill banning medical treatment for young trans people

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Arkansas governor vetoes bill banning medical treatment for young trans people” was written by Martin Pengelly in New York and AP, for theguardian.com on Monday 5th April 2021 20.03 UTC

The Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, has vetoed a controversial bill which would have stopped anyone under the age of 18 getting treatment involving gender reassignment surgery or medication in the southern state.

Arkansas would have been the first state to take such a move. Its Republican-controlled legislature could still enact the measure, however, since it takes only a simple majority to override an Arkansas governor’s veto.

The bill, known to supporters as the Safe Act, would prohibit doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.

Hutchinson’s veto followed pleas from pediatricians, social workers and parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide.

A number of measures targeting transgender people have advanced in states controlled by Republicans this year. The governors of Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have signed laws banning transgender girls and women from competing on school sports teams consistent with the gender identity.

Hutchinson recently signed a measure allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections, a law opponents have said could be used to turn away LGBTQ patients.

Last month, the Guardian interviewed a number of young transgender Americans about such threats to their rights and what they can do to fight them.

Corey Hyman, 15 and from Missouri, said: “It’s going to take a lot of us to stop these bills. It’s going to take a lot out of us, out of our parents, out of our supporters. [This fight will] probably go on for many years.

“I’m worried and I’m scared that even more bills are going to be put through. Sometimes we don’t get notice about the bills until 24 hours before. It’s like, ‘By the way, tomorrow’s a senate hearing that could quite literally end your life.’

“They just don’t care.”

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Corona Virus, Health, World

Covid live: Saudi Arabia reveals Mecca restrictions; Italy reports almost 300 daily deaths

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Covid live: Saudi Arabia reveals Mecca restrictions; Italy reports almost 300 daily deaths” was written by Harry Taylor (now); Yohannes Lowe and Nicola Slawson (earlier), for theguardian.com on Monday 5th April 2021 21.04 UTC

An investigation has been launched in France after a TV exposé revealed “clandestine” luxury dinners in Paris despite the pandemic.

The M6 channel showed the nation’s political elite were brazenly ignoring rules they had set for the public, according to AFP. Its report included hidden camera footage from a restaurant in a high-end part of Paris, where neither the staff nor diners were wearing masks. Government ministers are thought to have attended the restaurant.

“We don’t wear a mask here. Once you pass through the doors, Covid no longer exists. We want people to feel at ease,” a staff member told the undercover team.

All restaurants and cafes have been closed in France for dining in for the last five months. This week the country began a new national lockdown to deal with another surge in Covid infections.

Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz said Sunday that a criminal probe had been opened into putting the lives of others at risk.

The investigation would assess “if these evenings were organised in defiance of health rules and to determine who were the possible organisers and participants.”

People aged under-30 in the UK may stop being given the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, over concerns about rare blood clots, according to Channel 4 News.

Several countries across Europe have suspended its use in their vaccine programmes over the concerns, and data on Friday showed that seven people had died from blood clots in the UK after getting the jab.

“Two senior sources have told this programme that while the data is still unclear, there are growing arguments to justify offering younger people – below the age of 30 at the very least – a different vaccine,” the broadcaster reported on Monday night.

The UK’s regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said no decision had been taken. The body, along with several scientists, said the benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid far outweigh the small risks of blood clots, and continue to encourage people to get their jabs.

Chief executive June Raine said: “Our thorough and detailed review is ongoing into reports of very rare and specific types of blood clots with low platelets following the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca.

“No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action.”

Mexico’s government has reported another 252 more deaths from Covid, and a further 1,247 cases, according to the health ministry on Monday.

It means that 204,399 have now died from the virus, and there have been 2,251,705 infections. The country’s government says that real both figures are likely to be significantly higher, and the death toll itself may be 60% above the confirmed figure, Reuters reports.

A mass in Łagiewniki, Kraków on Easter Sunday.
A mass in Łagiewniki, Kraków in Poland on Easter Sunday.
Photograph: Łukasz Gągulski/EPA

Hospitals are coming under mounting pressure in Poland, where daily infections have been above more than 35,000 in each of the last two days.

New restrictions have been ordered to prevent large gatherings over Easter, according to Associated Press.

On Sunday, Covid patients filled all of the beds in the hospital in Bochnia, 40km east of Kraków. One patient Edward Szumanski, 82, said some still refused to see the virus as a threat. About 55,000 people have been killed by the virus in the country.

“The disease is certainly there, and it is very serious. Those who have not been through it, those who do not have it in their family, may be deluding themselves, but the reality is different,” he said.

Authorities in neighbouring Ukraine have also introduced tighter restrictions after a spike in recent cases. Schools have been closed by its government for the next fortnight, and public transport access has been restricted.

Updated

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.

The tally includes Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson jabs, according to the agency.

Heathrow airport
A sign at Heathrow airport directs travellers to a testing centre.
Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Travel companies in the UK have expressed frustration after Boris Johnson held off from confirming a date for international travel to resume.

All shops in England will be allowed to reopen from next Monday, while pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers outdoors, in line with the previously announced roadmap for easing restrictions.

However, the travel industry was disappointed with the lack of clarity on whether holidays will be allowed on 17 May, the date by which the government is aiming to restart international travel.

Read more:

Updated

Saudi Arabia reveals Covid restrictions for umrah

Authorities in Saudi Arabia said only people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 or had the virus, will be able to do the umrah pilgrimage from the start of Ramadan this month.

The hajj and umrah ministry said three categories of people will be considered “immunised,” those who have had two doses of the jab, those who have had a single dose more than two weeks previously or people who have had Covid.

Only people falling into those groups will be able to perform umrah, as well as to attend prayers in the great mosque in Mecca, according to AFP.

The conditions also applies for entry into the prophet’s mosque in Medina. The umrah usually attracts millions of Muslims from across the globe each year.

Updated

Data from Spain’s health ministry shows that its coronavirus infection rate is accelerating.

Latest figures, according to Reuters, indicate that the infection rate over the last fortnight is 163.4 cases per 100,000 people – up from 151.8 cases.

Health chief Fernando Simon said pressure on the health system was beginning to increase but added it was far milder than in previous waves. Another 10,360 cases were reported on Saturday, and the country’s death toll rose by 85 to 75,783.

“What is clearly decreasing is the number of deaths, which has a lot to do with the immunisation of the elderly and the most vulnerable,” he told a news conference.

UK firms will need help with the “ethical, legal and practical” challenges of Covid passports, according to the Confederation of British Industry.

John Foster, the body’s director of policy, said the government’s confirmation that retail and outdoor hospitality could reopen on 12 April meant the sector could “gear up with certainty and confidence”, according to PA Media.

He added: “The government has listened to industry concerns and is seeking to deploy them in a targeted way. These first trials will be watched with great interest.

“Any introduction ought to come with rigorous guidance and enforcement to help firms navigate ethical, legal and practical implementation challenges.”

Goldman Sachs logo
Up to 200 workers at the US investment bank’s office in London could return this week.
Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Goldman Sachs is preparing for hundreds of staff to go back to its London office this week in the latest sign of companies eyeing a return to more normal working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

As many as 200 of the US investment bank’s workers could return to the London office in the week after the Easter break. Goldman Sachs employs about 6,000 workers in London overall.

Bankers were classed as key workers if their jobs support the functioning of the economy and financial stability, meaning some have been allowed to go to the office throughout the pandemic.

Updated

Turkey nearly saw another all-time high level of Covid-cases, as 42,551 tested positive in the last 24 hours.

The country broke its record over the Easter weekend, and ranks fifth globally for the most daily cases based on a seven-day average, according to Reuters.

Cases have risen sharply since the government eased measures to curb the pandemic in early March. Saturday saw a record high of 44,756.

Last week president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reintroduced a tightening of measures, including full-national weekend lockdowns during Ramadan, which starts on 13 April. 32,456 have died of the virus in the country.

Another 296 deaths in Italy

Nearly 300 more people died from Covid in Italy on Monday, according to its health ministry, as the number of new infections also saw a fall compared to Sunday.

Its government said 296 people had died, bringing the total to 111,326 since the start of the pandemic in February 2020 – the second highest in Europe. 326 were reported as dying on Sunday.

As new infections fell in the same time period from 18,025 to 10,680, patients in intensive care rose slightly from 28,432 to 28,785.

Earlier the country shortened quarantine requirements for visitors from 30 countries, including the UK, under regulations taking effect from Tuesday.

Away from the UK, in France the number of people in intensive care units with Covid rose by 92 to 5,433 on Monday – higher than the peak of the second wave.

The country, where a third national lockdown was imposed on Saturday, reported 197 more Covid-19 deaths in hospitals over the last 24 hours according to Reuters. A total of 70,771 have now died from the virus in French hospitals.

Some reaction is starting to filter through, the CEO of London’s Heathrow airport said it was disappointing Johnson didn’t say when international holidays would start again.

The government said it was too soon to confirm whether holidays could happen this summer, suggesting it could be pushed back beyond 17 May.

“Now that a safe, scientifically-backed process has been agreed upon, a clearer timeline for the return to international travel is needed,” its CEO John Holland-Kaye said.

Updated

Boris Johnson gives a briefing at Downing Street on 5 April.
Boris Johnson gives a briefing at Downing Street on 5 April.
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/AFP/Getty Images

“The roadmap continues to be one we are sticking to like glue,” Johnson says, rounding off the briefing. “All the data suggests that we have no reason to deviate from it, we are going to get to step two on 12 April and at the moment things seem set for 17 May but we will keep things constantly under review.”

And that’s the end of it.

Final question from CityAM, who asks whether there be clarity and certainty for the aviation industry ahead of further unlocking, and says whether there will be more support for London – including a long term financial settlement for Transport for London (TfL)

Johnson says he will give as much notice as possible to the aviation industry, and adds that the London economy is capable of “bouncing back”, and that he wants to get people moving again and back into central London.

“That requires people to be safe, that requires people to be confident and requires the vaccine rollout to continue to be successful until we get to steps three and four, then you will see a big change in the way we live our lives,” he said.

The prime minister also says he believes there’s a paradox in that the more people work remotely, the more they will want to work together in person. He ends by saying he left TfL’s finances in “robust order” and blames London mayor Sadiq Khan for its financial problems.

A question for the scientists from the Daily Express’ Macer Hall, who asks for an update on an end to social distancing measures, on when they can hug friends and family.

On Covid certificates, he raises the idea that Covid certificates are “un-British,” asking the PM if this is the case.

Vallance says it will be hard to assess the impact of the changes in the roadmap until later, and that scientists still don’t know the impact of the relaxation on 29 March. Social distancing measures like hand hygiene and people staying at home if they are ill, are likely to be important measures.

On vaccine passports, Johnson says some medical professionals already have to show they have had jabs for work, but full plans are still a way off – and encourages people to get their jabs.

Updated

Jane Merrick from the i, asks about children and vaccination passports – and asks whether Johnson, a year since he was admitted to hospital, expected to be in this position now.

Johnson repeats his line about people taking their fences too early, including on the idea children will have to produce them. He says that a year on he is filled with “amazement” that science has produced so many vaccines. “I was a great believer in testing being the way through, I could see this going for a long time, but I would never thought we’ve have had so many workable vaccines.”

Whitty said it’s no surprise the virus is still in the population and it isn’t going to disappear. He said his surprise is the speed with which the vaccines have been produced. Vallance agrees, adding that the second and third waves he feared have been borne out.

Beth Rigby from Sky asks whether twice-weekly testing and Covid certification is Johnson’s “vision for freedom”.

She asks Whitty on whether the UK can learn anything from Chile, who has one of the world’s fastest vaccination rates but has recently closed its borders to stop new variants entering.

Johnson said: “On the vision for the future of Britain after 21 June, many things will depend on the vaccine roll out and us satisfying the four tests, and if things continue to go well, for many people life will begin to get back to at least some semblance of normality.

“A world in which we continue to have testing is not gong to be too onerous, but you’re slightly putting the cart before the horse, we need to make sure we get through stage two right and get through 12 April openings, 17 May openings and then 21 June 21, we finally open up a lot of things we couldn’t open up last year. Things will feel very different for the first time in a long time.”

On Chile, Whitty says both Chile and Israel provide two differing examples, and the UK needs to learn from countries ahead of it, but there are others. “Information from other countries and ourselves will show how much we need to lower our guard.”

Updated

Question on support for business from Shehab Khan, from ITV, on vaccine passports and whether there will be any support for businesses and low compliance levels with test, trace and isolating.

Johnson says there will be more information to come on when vaccine passports might be used. He adds that testing has been a great success, in helping identify variants.

First question from the media is from the BBC on whether there will be a vote on vaccine passports in parliament, and saying that 40 Conservative party MPs have already said they will opposite them.

Johnson starts by saying the vaccine passports would not be used for the opening up of the country in step two being confirmed today, but envisages it being used for international travel and “mass events”.

He adds: “There are complicated ethical and practical issues raised by the idea of vaccination status certification. Using vaccination alone, many people for one reason for another may be unable to get the vaccination for medical reasons, perhaps because they’re pregnant, so you’ve got to be very careful in how you handle this.”

On a vote, he says: “We are taking too many fences at once, we need to work out exactly what the proposal might be, but certainly if there is something to put to parliament, I have no doubt we will do that.”

The next is from Matthew in Norwich, who asks whether Covid-19 mutations could end up affecting children more.

Vallance says that there are few signs that the virus affects children but that trials have begun to see how safe it would be for children to have the vaccine.

Updated

First question from the public, Catherine from Basingstoke, who asks when care home residents can leave for a walk, or a visit to a cafe, saying she’s asking on the behalf of her 94-year-old grandmother.

Johnson replies that more people are able to visit elderly relatives in care homes now, and that a review is taking place on her request, to get it going in a “reasonable and safe way”.

Updated

Data shows 37m vaccines have been given in UK

Prof Whitty has moved on to the slides, which show that hospitalisations from Covid are continuing to fall from the peak in January. “Alongside this, the number of people who are dying is decreasing,” he adds, attributing it to both the vaccination programme and restrictions.

Government data up to 4 April shows that of the 37,013,749 jabs given in the UK so far, 31,581,623 were first doses – a rise of 48,055 on the previous day. Some 5,432,126 were second doses, an increase of 47,708.

He turns to variants, detailing four; Kent, South Africa, Japan/Brazil and Bristol. The Kent variant is dominant in the UK, with 173,043 confirmed cases. The South Africa variant rates are stable, Whitty says. “Variants will remain an issue, but there’s no reason to believe this changes our position. We always believed it would be a risk.”

Updated

“We are setting out our roadmap to freedom and we are sticking to it,” Johnson continues. “We see no sign in our present data to think that we will have to deviate from the programme.

“But it is by being cautious and monitoring the data at every stage and by following the rules, remembering hands, face, space and fresh air, that we hope, together to make this roadmap to freedom irreversible.”

 

Updated

Shops and pubs to reopen in England from 12 April

After praising people’s efforts in following Covid-19 guidelines, Johnson confirms that England will move to the second part of the roadmap to relax restrictions, and that shops, pubs with outdoor space, hairdressers, gyms and other services will reopen on 12 April.

“This is paying off, your collective efforts and our collective efforts to give the time and space to vaccinate 31 million people,” he says.

Updated

Boris Johnson, flanked by the government’s chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance and its chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty, has just taken up position at Downing Street’s press briefing room.

That is me done for the day. But my colleague Harry Taylor is taking over the blog for the rest of the evening, so feel free to send any story tips to him.

Summary

Here is a quick re-cap of the main Covid related events from around the world:

Thailand’s capital Bangkok will close 196 entertainment venues for two weeks, the city’s governor has said, following a new surge in Covid cases, Reuters reports.

The venues will be closed from Tuesday until 19 April as they are located in three districts where some venues are linked to a new cluster of more than 100 people who tested positive for coronavirus in recent days, said Asawin Kwanmuang, governor of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Haiti does not have a single vaccine to offer its more than 11 million people over a year after the pandemic began, raising concerns among health experts that the wellbeing of Haitians is being pushed aside as violence and political instability across the country deepen.

Read the full story here:

In the UK, 26 more people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, and there has been 2,762 new cases, according to government data.

Both marked a rise from the figures released on Sunday, although the data was distorted over the long Easter weekend.

You can read the official release here.

Updated

A total of 31,090,290 Covid vaccinations took place in England between 8 December and 4 April, according to NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 66,108 on the previous day.

NHS England said 26,746,039 were the first dose of a vaccine, a rise of 26,617 on the previous day, while 4,344,251 were a second dose, an increase of 39,491, PA Media reports.

Pfizer has withheld a delivery of 700,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines to Israel after the country failed to pay for a previous shipment, the Jerusalem Post reports.

According to the paper, the company halted the delivery, which was expected to arrive on Sunday, after Israeli officials failed to approve transfer of payment for the last 2.5 million doses supplied to the country.

According to the Jerusalem Post:

Senior officials at Pfizer have said they are concerned that the government-in-transition will not pay up and the company does not want to be taken advantage of. They said that they do not understand how such a situation can occur in an organised country.

Israel has been hailed for conducting one of the world’s fastest coronavirus mass vaccination campaigns.

Italy shortens quarantine to five days for visitors from 30 countries

Italy has shortened quarantine requirements for visitors from 30 countries, including the UK, under regulations taking effect from Tuesday.

Instead of the two-week quarantine previously in force, travellers from the countries on the list, most of which are in the European Union, need only spend five days in isolation, according to the AFP news agency.

Italians enjoy the quiet beaches at Lungomare di Ostia, Rome, on Monday.
Italians enjoy the quiet beaches at Lungomare di Ostia, Rome, on Monday.
Photograph: Emanuele Valeri/EPA

People from countries on the list with fewer restrictions still have to submit a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival in Italy, and take a second test following their five-day quarantine.

In January, Italy banned travellers who had stayed in, or passed through the UK as a new, more infectious coronavirus strain first detected in Kent spread.

Italians spent Easter under lockdown after the whole country was made a restricted “red” zone. From Tuesday, some regions will return to “orange”, with slightly loosened restrictions on movement, but bars and restaurants remain shut, with only takeaway service allowed.

Updated

Healthcare authorities in Rwanda have issued an important corrective to a businesswoman who claimed on Twitter that she would no longer need to be tested for coronavirus after receiving her vaccine.

After receiving her second dose of vaccine yesterday, Lina Higiro, the chief executive of NCBA Bank Rwanda, had tweeted: “Got my Covid certificate! No more tests … Gift of a lifetime.”

In response, the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Rwanda’s integrated healthcare agency, told her:

So there you go.

Updated

Greece allows some shops to reopen

Greece allowed shops to reopen under controlled conditions on Monday, despite heavy pressure on its health services, Reuters reports.

Last week, the government announced the easing of some restrictions, allowing small retail shops selling non-essential goods to reopen.

Under the rules, consumers must make appointments and comply with a three-hour limit for shopping, and retailers cannot allow in more than one customer per 25 sq metre.

The measure excludes shopping malls and department stores in the Athens area, which will remain closed. Shops will also remain closed in three regions with severe infection levels, including the major northern city of Thessaloniki.

Customers wearing protective face masks queue outside a clothing store in Ermou street, central Athens, on Monday, April 5, 2021.
Customers wearing protective face masks queue outside a clothing store in Ermou street, central Athens, on Monday.
Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP

Updated

Reuters reports:

Oman will only allow citizens and residents to enter the Gulf Arab state from 8 April following an increase in Covid-19 cases that is pressuring the health care system, the country’s coronavirus committee said on Monday.

The committee also extended an evening ban on all commercial activities until the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which is due to start in mid-April this year, according to a statement on state media.

A curfew imposed on 28 March on movement of vehicles and people outdoors between 8 pm and 5 am would be lifted, as scheduled, on 8 April but would be reinstated during the month of Ramadan from 9 pm to 4 am, the statement added.

Updated

Calls are growing in Germany for the introduction of nationwide coronavirus restrictions amid confusion and frustration over patchwork arrangements across the country as the infection rate continues to rise, my colleague Kate Connelly writes.

The majority of Germans are in favour of a more unified approach to tackling the virus, now in its third wave, according to a poll, ahead of an expected tightening of rules after the holiday weekend.

Fifty-three per cent of Germans have said they would like to see the government setting the rules without the support of the 16 states, according to a poll by YouGov, in order to introduce more clarity.

The chancellor, Angela Merkel, has persistently called for tighter, more unified rules across the country, but has frequently been overruled by the leaders of the states, leading to a weakening of her standing.

Here is the full story:

A further 15 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 86,422, NHS England said on Monday.

Patients were aged between 51 and 90 and all had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths occurred between 21 March and 4 April, with the majority being on or after 1 April, PA Media reports.

Scotland recorded 248 new Covid cases and no deaths of coronavirus patients in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data.

Updated

UK opposition fear vaccine passport could force people into having jab

In the UK, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said he worried that introducing vaccine passports would make people feel they were being forced into having a jab.

The senior Labour MP told BBC Radio 4’s World at One:

My concern is that if you want to drive up vaccination rates further – and to be fair, vaccine hesitancy has fallen in this country and we are doing very well. But all the evidence has always suggested that if you want to maintain confidence in vaccination, that you don’t make it compulsory, don’t force people to be vaccinated – you encourage people, you persuade people. And my worry with what the government are suggesting is they are effectively trying to force people into taking a vaccine and I think in the end that will be counterproductive.

Updated

Cruise operator Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd has said it would require mandatory vaccinations for guests and crew when it restarts trips from US ports from July, Reuters reports.

The company’s announcement follows the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance last week to the cruise ship industry, including the need for Covid vaccinations.

This is from Susan Michie, who is on the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science:

Indian biotech firm Panacea Biotec Ltd has agreed to produce 100m doses of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine annually, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets the shot internationally, said on Monday.

RDIF did not say when production would begin, according to Reuters.

The news comes after Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, discussed the Russian vaccine and its use in Europe with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron last week.

My colleague Jon Henley reported on the talks:

Updated

In Scotland, hairdressers are among the businesses allowed to reopen as some curbs have been eased (see earlier post for text):

Updated

A further eight people have died with Covid-19 in Wales since Saturday, health officials have reported.

It means the total number of deaths reported to Public Health Wales since the pandemic began stands at 5,519.

Labour has said it is “completely outrageous” that up to 8,000 tourists may be arriving in Britain every day and demanded the government tighten up its hotel quarantine system to avoid new coronavirus variants being brought into the country.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, said ministers were not doing enough to secure the borders after the Times reported the statistic, as well as other figures including that as many as 90% of arrivals at Gatwick airport are tourists.

Aubrey Allegretti, one of the Guardian’s political correspondents, has the latest:

French authorities are investigating accusations that government ministers and others dined in secret restaurants in violation of pandemic restrictions, AP reports.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said an investigation was opened Sunday into possible charges of endangerment and undeclared labour, and to identify the organisers and participants of the alleged gatherings.

A documentary that aired on French network M6 over the weekend included an unidentified man saying that he had eaten in two or three clandestine restaurants “with a certain number of ministers”.

Government members quickly denied knowledge of such wrongdoing. Interior minister Gérald Darmanin asked police to look into the claims.

France, where restaurants have been closed since October, has just entered a new partial lockdown in response to intensive care units filling with Covid patients.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on LCI television on Sunday night that authorities have been investigating reports of clandestine parties and restaurants for months, and 200 suspects have been identified and face “heavy punishment”.

Updated

This is from the World Health Organization Thailand account:

Updated

Japan fears Covid variants are behind possible fourth wave

Reuters reports:

Japanese health authorities are concerned that variants of the coronavirus are driving a nascent fourth wave in the pandemic with just 109 days remaining until the Tokyo Olympics.

The variants appear to be more infectious and may be resistant to vaccines, which are still not widely available in Japan. The situation is worst in Osaka, where infections hit fresh records last week, prompting the regional government to start targeted lockdown measures for one month from Monday.

A mutant Covid-19 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 utilize these targeted measures for the Tokyo area.”

Germany will have immunised 20% of its population against Covid-19 by the beginning of May, its health minister Jens Spahn has said.

Spahn, speaking at a vaccination centre in Berlin, said Germany had taken three months to get shots to the first 10% of its people who have been vaccinated, Reuters reports.

He said:

We will manage the next 10% in a month in light of the expected deliveries (of vaccinations).

Updated

Hello everyone, this is Yohannes Lowe. I’ll be running the blog until the early evening (UK time). Please feel free to drop me a message on Twitter if you have any coverage suggestions.

The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, has tweeted that everyone will be able to take a free rapid coronavirus test twice a week from 9 April.

In the statement, which he linked to in the tweet, Hancock said:

Around 1 in 3 people who have Covid-19 show no symptoms, and as we reopen society and resume parts of life we have all dearly missed, regular rapid testing is going to be fundamental in helping us quickly spot positive cases and squash any outbreaks.

The vaccine programme has been a shot in the arm for the whole country, but reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly.

The British public have shown over the last year that they quickly adapt and always do what it is right in the interest of public health, and I know they will do their bit by getting tested regularly in the months ahead.

Updated

Britons hoping to travel abroad when lockdown restrictions are eased will likely have to bear the cost of Covid-19 tests themselves, the health minister has said.

Speaking ahead of a Downing Street press conference led by the prime minister this evening, which will set out further detail on testing and and the possibility of international travel this year, Edward Argar told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “At the moment, testing for essential travel is paid for by the traveller, that model is likely to continue.”

Argar said the government would be focused on the use of PCR tests in the context of travel and that the testing regime would be key for the travel industry and travellers.

Non-essential overseas travel is currently illegal under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, with departures not expected to be allowed until 17 May at the earliest. Many countries have already set out that they will require a negative PCR test result (or proof of Covid antibodies or vaccination) for entry.

UK travellers are not permitted to use NHS tests for travel, except for freight drivers in limited circumstances. With private PCR tests costing as much as £120 on the high street, travel industry figures have previously said the cost of these tests will make international travel unviable for some, particularly families seeking to go on holiday.

Argar was keen to stress that at the moment, due to the ongoing risk of importing new variants from abroad, people should not be travelling purely for tourism and should only do so for essential reasons. He also did not recognise a figure put to him that 40% of travellers currently arriving in the UK are tourists.

The minister also said he would likely be staying in the UK this summer. He told Sky News that he understood people’s “desire to get away on holiday” after the events of the past year but said he expected he would spend his own break “at home in sunny Leicestershire”.

Updated

Boris Johnson will lead a Downing Street press conference at 5pm this afternoon.

The British prime minister will be joined by England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Updated

Everyone in England to be offered twice-weekly Covid tests, PM to say

Boris Johnson is to unveil a plan for routine, universal Covid-19 tests as a means to ease England out of lockdown, as the government faced a renewed backlash over the idea of app-based “passports” to permit people entry into crowded places and events.

Six months after Johnson unveiled plans for “Operation Moonshot”, a £100bn mass testing scheme that never delivered on its stated aim of preventing another lockdown, all people in England will be offered two Covid tests a week from Friday.

The prime minister is to announce the rollout of the lateral flow tests at a press conference on Monday afternoon, at which he will also outline a programme of trial events for mass gatherings, as well as proposals for potentially restarting foreign travel.

The testing scheme, involving kits for use at home or at test centres, workplaces and schools, is billed as a means to limit any continued community transmission of the virus, in parallel with the vaccination programme, and as a way to track outbreaks of potentially vaccine-resistant Covid variants.

Read the full story by my colleagues Peter Walker, Maya Wolfe-Robinson, Nicola Davis and Vikram Dodd here:

In Thailand, it’s the all-important tourism sector that has jumped to the head of the Covid-19 vaccination line, with the country’s most popular resort island embarking on a mass inoculation programme two months ahead of the rest of Thailand.

The island of Phuket aims to deliver shots to at least 460,000 people – the majority of its population – as it gears up for 1 July, when vaccinated overseas visitors will no longer be required to quarantine.

Phuket also has its own international airport, which means tourists should be able to visit the island without posing any coronavirus risk to the rest of Thailand’s population.

“If we can build immunity for 70-80% of the population on the island, we can receive foreign tourists who have been vaccinated without the need for quarantine,” Phuket’s Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong told Reuters.

Read the full story here:

A barber reopened at 6am on Monday to welcome back customers as further coronavirus restrictions were lifted in Scotland.

Hairdressers and barbers can reopen from Monday along with some non-essential shops, including garden centres and homeware stores, as lockdown measures are eased, PA Media reports.

Tony Mann opened his barber shop in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire, at 6am to enable people to get their hair cut for the first time in months.

Barber Maggie McGillivray trims Sam Rosenblom’s hair at Tony Mann’s Barber Shop in Giffnock, near Glasgow
Barber Maggie McGillivray trims Sam Rosenblom’s hair at Tony Mann’s Barber Shop in Giffnock, near Glasgow.
Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

It will be a busy day for the four barbers working, with 96 customers booked in on 5 April when the shop is open until 8pm.

Mann said: “It’s been four months since the last day we cut hair so the feeling today is slight anxiety and slight worry, like ‘is everything going to go to plan?’, but I’m also feeling really excited and happy because my shop is open again.”

The barber said customers have been delighted to be able to book haircuts again.

Barber Tony Mann trims Max Mann’s hair at Tony Mann’s Barber Shop in Giffnock near Glasgow.
Barber Tony Mann trims Max Mann’s hair at Tony Mann’s Barber Shop in Giffnock near Glasgow.
Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Mann said: “It’s mental health. Metting a haircut and making yourself feel good is a big part of life, and if you can’t make yourself feel good and you only get it from a small variety of places then you’re not going to be in a particularly good place.”

His brother Maxx Mann was one of the first people in Scotland to get a haircut on Monday and was delighted with the result.

He said: “It’s a good feeling … I usually get my hair cut once every week or once every 10 days so to go months and months without isn’t ideal. I’m sure the general public probably feel the same.”

Updated

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said Labour had “many reservations” about the use of vaccine passports in the UK.

The senior opposition MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today:

We have an amazing take-up of the vaccine, it is being rolled out incredibly successfully by the NHS – it is not totally clear to me that we need a sledgehammer to crack a nut here.

The big priority has got to be ensuring that everybody is vaccinated so we can get back as quickly as possible to the things we love doing, whether that is going to the pub, the restaurant, the football match or the concert.

The priority should be ensuring that the vaccine is rolled out, that we have a Test and Trace (system) that works properly but the government does not have a great track record in introducing new IT systems and what we don’t want to see is more taxpayers’ money wasted, more bureaucracy and red tape for businesses who have already gone through an incredibly tough year.

So we will see what the government bring forward and their rationale for it – we’ll keep an open mind but at the moment we have many reservations around what the Government looks like it might be suggesting.

Russia reported 8,646 new Covid-19 cases, including 1,876 in Moscow, taking the official national tally to 4,589,540.

The government coronavirus taskforce said 343 people had died in the past 24 hours, pushing its death toll to 100,717, Reuters reports.

The statistics agency has kept a separate count and reported a much higher toll of 225,000 from April 2020 to February 2021.

Updated

Leading UK scientific adviser Prof Neil Ferguson said testing everyone coming from continental Europe could be required to keep coronavirus variants of concern under control.

Asked about the risks with opening up to international travel, the Imperial College London academic told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

I think the key thing is the risk of importing variants which might undermine our vaccination programme and the one we’re particularly concerned about at the moment is the South African variant called B.1.351.

The concern here … is the proportion of cases reported in a number of European countries which are this variant is now up to anywhere from 4-5% in France and up to 17%, nearly 20% up in Luxembourg.

So rather than some of the ‘red list’ countries which are far away, I think where the real policy challenge lies in terms of mitigating risk is around what to do around travel to Europe and back.

I think that (testing everyone from European countries) would be sensible and reconsidering the exemptions in place at the moment.

At the moment, there is a very long list of exemptions for jobs and professions – if you’re a truck driver or travelling on government business, then you don’t have to quarantine and you don’t have to even test.

I think it would be sensible for at least everyone to be tested when they are coming in.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Flintham, managing director for Tui UK and Ireland, said there was still time before the summer season for European countries to get coronavirus cases under control again.

Asked on BBC Breakfast on Monday what the most likely destinations will be when foreign travel resumes, he said:

Cyprus have come out and been very positive, Greece and Turkey have come out and been very positive, and Spain again.

So I think all these European countries, whilst to a degree they are struggling with their rates at the moment, we are still a significant period away from the summer season properly opening up, we are probably 11 weeks away.

The world has been changing on a weekly basis, never mind an 11-weekly basis. So we are still positive about those destinations. We are also positive that the Caribbean and some of those destinations will open up.

Updated

India’s daily virus cases breach 100,000 in 24 hours

India recorded 103,558 new Covid cases on Monday, its biggest one-day figure, data from the health ministry showed – taking the national total to 12.59 million cases.

The country added 478 new deaths, raising the toll to 165,101. India has the world’s third-highest number of cases after the US, with 30 million, and Brazil, with just under 13 million.

Single-day infections have been rising since early February when they fell to below 9,000 after peaking at almost 100,000 in September.

India’s wealthiest state, Maharashtra, home to the financial capital, Mumbai, will impose a weekend lockdown and night curfew on its 110 million people in response to the rise in cases, authorities announced on Sunday.

From Monday night until the end of April a night curfew will be imposed, gatherings of more than four people banned, and private offices, restaurants, cinemas, swimming pools, bars, places of worship and public places such as beaches shut.

On weekends only essential services will be allowed to operate.

Read the full story here:

Updated

UK health minister denies government U-turn on vaccine passports

In the UK, the health minister has denied that the government has changed its mind on the use of so-called vaccine passports.

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi had previously called them discriminatory but the concept is set to be tested during upcoming pilot events.

Asked on BBC Breakfast whether the government had changed its mind, Edward Argar said:

I don’t think it is that at all. What we are seeing here is that there are a number of things we’ve had to do as a country and individuals over the past year that I don’t think any of us would choose to do or want to do but the nature of this disease has meant we’ve had to do some fairly unpalatable things that we would not have chosen to do.

And in this context, and I don’t want to pre-empt the review that (Cabinet Office minister) Michael Gove is undertaking, but he has been clear that if you look at for example other countries like Israel, which have had a high level of vaccination and are beginning to see how they can open up their economy and country faster – I think they have something called ‘green passes’ – I think it is right that we look at this and see if there is a way that, while balancing all of those practical, ethical and fairness considerations, is there a way this could, in the short-term, speed-up our reopening of the country and getting back to doing the things we love?

I don’t think anyone would wish to do it but I think it is right that it is looked at as: ‘Can this help us go a little bit faster and get our country back to normal?”

Argar also said that he expected those returning to work in the coming weeks to be among the first to use the lateral flow tests on offer.

He said: “I suspect in the first instance, a lot of them will be used by people who are starting to go back into their workplace again, as the economy starts opening up again, as pubs start opening for outside drinks and shops start opening again and as people start going back to their offices and businesses.

The Conservative MP said the cost of supplying the quick-fire result tests to everyone in England would be met by the two-year £37bn NHS test and trace budget.

Updated

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US NEWS, World

Biden’s $2tn infrastructure plan ‘needs to be changed’, says key Democrat Manchin – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Biden’s $2tn infrastructure plan ‘needs to be changed’, says key Democrat Manchin – live” was written by Joan E Greve, for theguardian.com on Monday 5th April 2021 20.30 UTC

Today so far

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

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan is facing criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote will be crucial for the bill’s Senate passage, said today he does not support the president’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% to help pay for the infrastructure plan. “As the bill exists today, it needs to be changed,” Manchin said.
  • The Minneapolis police chief testified in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial. Police chief Medaria Arradondo said Chauvin’s neck restraint on George Floyd “absolutely” violated department policies on use of force. Chauvin kept his knee of Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, causing the Black man to lose consciousness and then die.
  • More than 4 million coronavirus vaccination doses were administered in a single day over the weekend, setting a new US record. The White House also announced it was establishing three more federally funded mass vaccination sites in Columbia, South Carolina; Pueblo, Colorado; and St Paul, Minnesota.
  • The Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, vetoed a controversial anti-trans bill passed by the state legislature last week. The bill, which had been widely criticized by pediatricians and parents of transgender youth, would have prevented anyone under 18 from getting treatment involving gender reassignment surgery or medication.
  • Treasury secretary Janet Yellen called for a global minimum corporate tax rate. Speaking to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs today, Yellen said US competitiveness must include “making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises, and that all citizens fairly share the burden of financing government.”

Lois will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

The Guardian’s Abené Clayton reports:

The bankruptcy trial for the National Rife Association (NRA) kicked off this morning, and for the first time embattled CEO Wayne LaPierre and other NRA executives will be testifying about the organization’s finances in open court.

The gun rights advocacy group filed for bankruptcy in January 2021, six months after New York’s attorney general filed a lawsuit to dissolve the group following allegations of financial fraud and mismanagement.

The six-day trial will decide whether the bankruptcy petition will be dismissed for being filed in bad faith.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a violence prevention organization, described the bankruptcy filing as “an attempt by an organization already losing power and hemorrhaging money to escape legal responsibility from the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit, for alleged fraud and lining the pockets of its top executives,” in a press release.

The NRA has been embroiled in internal conflict for the past two years as the extravagant spending habits of CEO LaPierre lead to increasing claims of financial mismanagement. Watch the trial here.

Police chief: Chauvin’s neck restraint ‘absolutely’ violates department policy

Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo said Derek Chauvin’s neck restraint on George Floyd “absolutely” violated department policies on use of force.

“I absolutely agree it violates our policy,” Arradondo said. “Force has to be reasonable … for an entire encounter.”

Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, continuing to do so even after Floyd lost consciousness. The former police officer now faces murder charges in connection to Floyd’s death.

The Guardian’s Joanna Walters is watching the trial, so read her updates on the other live blog:

Janet Yellen calls for global minimum corporate tax rate

The treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, made the case for a global minimum corporate tax rate on Monday as the Biden administration faces opposition to its plans to raise rates on US businesses.

Yellen’s comments come as Republicans and some Democrats have pushed back on Joe Biden’s proposed $2tn infrastructure investment bill. The bill would be funded in part by raising rates on US business and closing loopholes that allow domestic and foreign corporations to take advantage of lower taxes overseas.

“Competitiveness is about more than how US-headquartered companies fare against other companies in global merger and acquisition bids,” Yellen said in remarks to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“It is about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises, and that all citizens fairly share the burden of financing government.”

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been working on a new set of cross-border tax rules that would include a global minimum tax rate for multinational corporations.

Updated

Joe Biden addressed the Republican opposition to his $2tn infrastructure plan earlier today, as he arrived back at the White House after his weekend at Camp David.

The president was asked about Republican complaints that his plan covers many issues besides infrastructure, such as clean water access and broadband expansion.

“It’s kind of interesting. When the Republicans put forward an infrastructure plan, they thought everything from broadband to other things were worth paying for infrastructure,” Biden said.

“When you’re in a situation where you can’t turn on a water fountain in school because the water affects your health, that’s infrastructure,” he added. “I’m talking about making sure we are in a situation where we can redo federal buildings that are absolutely leaking energy every single day, that’s infrastructure, in addition to roads and bridges and broadband.”

Biden pledged to “push as hard as I can” to get his infrastructure plan through Congress. “Everybody else in the rest of the world is investing billions and billions of dollars in infrastructure, and we’re going to do it here,” the president said.

A former aide to Matt Gaetz told reporters earlier he was questioned by FBI agents over the Republican congressman’s alleged involvement in sex trafficking.

Matt Gaetz.
Matt Gaetz. Photograph: Octavio Jones/Reuters

“Neither I nor any other member of Congressman Gaetz’s staff had any knowledge of illegal activities,” said Nathan Nelson, formerly director of military affairs for the Florida representative.

Axios reports that Nelson said the “‘baseless claim’ that led to his questioning left him ‘further convinced’ that the allegations against Gaetz were fabricated to ‘discredit a vocal conservative’.”

Here’s our latest on l’affaire de Gaetz, or maybe Gaetzgate, which includes a rather amazing quote harvested by the Daily Beast:

Arkansas governor vetoes anti-trans bill

The Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, has vetoed a controversial bill which would have stopped anyone under the age of 18 getting treatment involving gender reassignment surgery or medication in the southern state.

Arkansas would have been the first state to take such a move. Its Republican-controlled legislature could still enact the measure, however, since it only takes a simple majority to override an Arkansas governor’s veto.

The bill, known to supporters as the SAFE Act, would prohibit doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.

Hutchinson’s veto followed pleas from pediatricians, social workers and parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide.

A number of measures targeting transgender people have advanced in states controlled by Republicans this year. The governors of Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have signed laws banning transgender girls and women from competing on school sports teams consistent with the gender identity.

Hutchinson recently signed a measure allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections, a law opponents have said could be used to turn away LGBTQ patients.

Last month, the Guardian interviewed a number of young transgender Americans about such threats to their rights and what they can do to fight them.

Corey Hyman, 15 and from Missouri, said: “It’s going to take a lot of us to stop these bills. It’s going to take a lot out of us, out of our parents, out of our supporters. [This fight will] probably go on for many years.

“I’m worried and I’m scared that even more bills are going to be put through. Sometimes we don’t get notice about the bills until 24 hours before. It’s like, ‘By the way, tomorrow’s a Senate hearing that could quite literally end your life.’

“They just don’t care.”

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan is facing criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote will be crucial for the bill’s Senate passage, said today he does not support the president’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% to help pay for the infrastructure plan. “As the bill exists today, it needs to be changed,” Manchin said.
  • The Minneapolis police chief testified in Derek Chauvin’s trial. Police chief Medaria Arradondo was called as a witness for the prosecution as Chauvin faces murder charges in connection to the killing of George Floyd.
  • More than 4 million coronavirus vaccination doses were administered in a single day over the weekend, setting a new US record. The White House also announced it was establishing three more federally funded mass vaccination sites in Columbia, South Carolina; Pueblo, Colorado; and St Paul, Minnesota.

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

The Easter Bunny arrived in the White House briefing room as press secretary Jen Psaki concluded the daily briefing.

Psaki expressed disappointment that the White House was not able to hold the annual Easter Egg Roll this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, so the Easter Bunny handed out commemorative eggs and chocolates to reporters to make up for it.

Updated

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked whether Joe Biden would consider supporting Republican Senator Roy Blunt’s $600 billion infrastructure plan.

Blunt’s proposal is much more narrow than Biden’s $2 trillion proposal, and it is focused on what has traditionally been considered infrastructure, meaning the nation’s transportation networks.

Psaki defended the Biden administration’s broader definition of infrastructure, which includes things like access to clean water and reliable broadband internet.

The press secretary emphasized the importance of strengthening the US workforce to guarantee a more promising economic future for American families.

“Infrastructure is not just the roads we get a horse and buggy across,” Psaki said.

Updated

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell also reiterated his criticism of Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan at a press conference in Kentucky earlier today.

The Republican leader once again argued that the bill is not truly an infrastructure bill because it includes a wide range of proposals, many of which are not directly related to the nation’s infrastructure.

McConnell also specifically criticized Biden’s proposal to roll back some Trump-era tax cuts to help pay for the $2tn plan.

“If that’s the package, a bunch of more borrowed money plus undoing the tax relief that drove our economy to a 50-year high — I can’t imagine that’s going to be very appealing to many Republicans,” McConnell said.

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

A journalist asked Psaki about criticism from members of both parties over Joe Biden’s $2tn infrastructure plan. The reporter specifically cited comments from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin that he would not support the plan as it currently exists.

Psaki said the president “looks forward to having conversations with members of both parties” as he works to advance an infrastructure bill.

When pressed on Manchin’s specific comments, Psaki deflected the question, saying, “We’re open to hearing ideas and proposals from members, and we encourage them to put them forward.”

Manchin criticizes Biden’s infrastructure plan: ‘It needs to be changed’

Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote will likely determine whether Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan can pass the Senate, has expressed criticism of the proposal.

In a radio interview with a local West Virginia station today, Machin said he had serious concerns about Biden’s plan to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% to help pay for the legislation.

“As the bill exists today, it needs to be changed,” the Democratic senator said.

Manchin said he was open to the idea of raising the corporate tax rate to 25%, but he expressed concern that raising it to 28% would make the US less competitive.

Manchin added, “If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere.”

Biden said last week that he hoped Congress would negotiate over his proposal, but he stressed the need to pass an infrastructure bill.

“Congress should debate my plan, change it, and offer alternatives if they think that’s what they have to do,” the president said on Friday. “But Congress should act.

Bidens celebrate Easter with a masked-up Easter bunny

Joe and Jill Biden just appeared on the Truman Balcony at the White House to wish Americans a happy Easter.

The president and the first lady were joined by a special guest: the Easter Bunny, who was played by Lt Col Brandon Westling of the US Air Force this year. Westling’s costume included a mask covering the bunny’s mouth.

Biden acknowledged many Americans were not able to celebrate Easter with their families as they usually would this year because of the ongoing pandemic, but he expressed optimism about the country’s trajectory as vaccinations ramp up.

“As we celebrate the renewal of this season, we know that longed-for dawn is almost here,” Biden said. “We will rebuild our nation. We will reengage and reimagine what we can be. We’ll remember that with faith, hope and love, anything is possible.”

The president said he was looking forward to next year, adding, “And there will be an Easter Egg Roll, God willing.”

The White House noted Joe and Jill Biden still managed to find a way to celebrate Easter with Americans this year, despite the ongoing pandemic.

The White House said in a statement to the press pool, “To spread Easter cheer safely this year, The President and the First Lady distributed wooden souvenir Easter Eggs to vaccination sites across the nation and local hospitals.”

The annual White House Easter Egg Roll is expected to resume next year, after more Americans receive their coronavirus vaccinations.

Joe Biden will soon deliver remarks to commemorate Easter, and the White House has been decorated to celebrate the occasion.

In past years, the White House has hosted an annual Easter Egg Roll, but that wasn’t possible this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the White House noted there will still be an Easter Bunny joining Biden for his speech. This year, the bunny will be played by Lt Col Brandon Westling, a US Air Force military aide to the president.

The House chaplain opened today’s pro-forma session by offering a prayer for William “Billy” Evans, the US Capitol Police officer who was killed in Friday’s attack.

“Gracious God, we grieve yet again for the loss of one of our own, another brave member of the Capitol Police, William ‘Billy’ Evans,” Chaplain Margaret Grun Kibben said.

“We pray for his family and friends, for those who served alongside him and all those who so deeply feel his passing.”

Kibben noted Evans’ death came on Good Friday, the day that Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus.

“How profound it is that, on that same day, Officer Evans sacrificed his own life for the love of his country and the defense of democracy,” Kibben said. “There is no greater love.”

Kibben questioned whether they should also pray for Noah Green, the suspect in the Capitol attack who died after officers opened fired on him as he wielded a knife at them.

“Lord, even in our anger may we find a way to pray for those who would turn their wrath on us,” Kibben said.

Minneapolis police chief testifies at Chauvin trial

The Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo, is now testifying as a witness for the prosecution at Derek Chauvin’s trial.

Experts have said Arradondo’s decision to testify against Chauvin in connection to the killing of George Floyd is a remarkable and potentially unprecedented move for a police chief.

Arradondo fired Chauvin and the other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest shortly after the Black man was killed last May.

The Guardian’s Joanna Walters is providing updates on the trial in a separate live blog. Follow along here:

Fewer than half of Americans belong to a house of worship, a new study shows, but religion – and Christianity in particular – continues to have an outsize influence in US politics, especially because it is declining faster among Democrats than Republicans.

Just 47% of the US population are members of a church, mosque or synagogue, according to a survey by Gallup, down from 70% two decades ago – in part a result of millennials turning away from religion but also, experts say, a reaction to the swirling mix of rightwing politics and Christianity pursued by the Republican party.

Among other groups Gallup reported, the decline in church membership stands out among self-identified Democrats and independents. The number of Democratic church members dropped by 25% over the 20 year period, with independents decreasing by 18%. Republican church members declined too, but only by 12%.

David Campbell, professor and chair of the University of Notre Dame’s political science department and co-author of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, said a reason for the decline among those groups is political – an “allergic reaction to the religious right”.

“Many Americans – especially young people – see religion as bound up with political conservatism, and the Republican party specifically,” Campbell said.

“Since that is not their party, or their politics, they do not want to identify as being religious. Young people are especially allergic to the perception that many – but by no means all – American religions are hostile to LGBTQ rights.”

Risk of surface transmission of coronavirus is low, CDC director says

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Rochelle Walesnky, noted the agency has updated its guidance on cleaning surfaces to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“People can be infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects. However, evidence has demonstrated that the risk by this route of transmission is actually low,” Walensky said.

The CDC director noted “regular cleaning of surfaces with soap and detergents” is enough to severely limit the risk of surface transmission of the virus.

Disinfecting surfaces is only recommended for indoors settings that have recently documented a confirmed case of coronavirus, Walensky said.

She also once again urged Americans to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing, which can further limit the risk of surface transmission of coronavirus.

The White House coronavirus response team’s briefing has now ended.

A reporter asked members of the White House coronavirus response team whether they anticipated coronavirus cases to fall as the weather warms up.

Dr Rochelle Walesnky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged the spread of other viruses usually decreases during warmer months. However, she expressed skepticism about a natural decrease in coronavirus cases in the coming months because of the surge in cases during last summer in the US.

Senior White House adviser Andy Slavitt emphasized vaccinations are the much stronger strategy for lowering the number of coronavirus cases.

Despite the encouraging news about the increase in vaccinations, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in the US, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Dr Rochelle Walensky noted the country’s seven-day average of new daily cases is approximately 64,000, representing a 7% increase from a week earlier.

“Please continue to hang in there,” Walensky said during the coronavirus response team’s briefing.

More than 4 million shots in a single day this weekend, White House says

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

Senior White House adviser Andy Slavitt announced the Biden administration is establishing three more federally funded mass vaccination sites.

The three sites will be located in Columbia, South Carolina; Pueblo, Colorado; and St Paul, Minnesota.

“These three new sites bring us closer to the president’s goal,” Slavitt said, noting the existing sites have already helped the administration “reach communities that have been hurt the most by the pandemic”.

Vaccinations continue to ramp up, Slavitt said, and more than 4 million vaccinations were administered in a single day this weekend, setting a new record.

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans and over 40% of US adults now have at least one shot, and nearly 1 in 4 adults are now fully vaccinated. But Slavitt emphasized the country must remain vigilant about limiting the spread of the virus, echoing Joe Biden’s comments on Friday.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” Slavitt said. “The worst thing we could do right now is to mistake progress for victory.”

Updated

Supreme court dismisses case over Trump blocking Twitter critics

The supreme court has dismissed a case involving Donald Trump’s efforts to block some of his critics on Twitter, arguing the case is no longer relevant now that Twitter has permanently blocked the former president and he has left office.

The AP has more details:

The court also formally threw out an appeals court ruling that found Trump violated the First Amendment whenever he blocked a critic to silence a viewpoint.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate opinion arguing that the bigger issue raised by the case, and especially Twitter’s decision to boot Trump, is ‘the dominant digital platforms themselves. As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms.’

Thomas agreed with his colleagues about the outcome of the case, but said the situation raises ‘interesting and important questions.’

Twitter banned Trump from its platform two days after the Capitol insurrection, which resulted in five deaths. Trump had used his Twitter account to encourage people to attend the Washington rally that culminated in the insurrection.

It’s looking increasingly likely that we will get Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo on the stand for the prosecution today.

Arradondo (often known informally in the Twin Cities as “Rondo”) became chief in 2017. He very quickly condemned the killing of George Floyd, calling it murder last summer. He had swiftly fired Derek Chauvin and the three officers who helped him in the arrest of Floyd.

We expect that Arradondo will work hard to keep the focus on Chauvin and make efforts to show that the former officer stepped outside his training and police principles when he pinned down Floyd and knelt on his neck, even after the man was unconscious. (Floyd subsequently died on May 25, 2020. Chauvin denies murder.)

However, it will be difficult for the chief to divorce the department from the officer. Chauvin had been a police officer in Minneapolis for 19 years and had multiple complaints against him. There has also been evidence that he had used his knee to hold people down before, including by the neck.

Chauvin trial resumes, with police chief’s testimony expected

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

The sixth day of the trial may include testimony from Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo, who is expected to be called as a witness for the prosecution as early as today.

Last week, the court heard gut-wrenching testimony about the final moments of Floyd’s life as Chauvin kept his knee on the man’s neck for more than nine minutes.

Several witnesses became emotional and started crying as they testified, expressing guilt over not having prevented Floyd’s death.

Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded a video of Floyd’s death, told the jury last week: “When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad. I look at my brother. I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black.”

She added: “It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing, and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life.”

The Guardian’s Joanna Walters will be providing updates and analysis of the trial as the day unfolds. Follow along:

Anthony Fauci has described attacks on him from Republicans as “bizarre”, after a barrage of criticism from senior GOP figures.

The infectious disease expert who has led the US effort against Covid-19 was forced to defend himself after a former Trump official called him “the father of the actual virus” and the senator Lindsay Graham followed other Republicans in urging Fauci – Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to travel to the US-Mexico border.

Speaking to Fox News, Fauci said he had become a scapegoat for rightwing figures.

“I’ve been a symbol to them of what they don’t like about anything that has to do with things that are contrary to them, anything outside of their own realm,” he said.

In a flurry of tweets on Friday, Graham, from South Carolina, told Fauci: “You need to go to the southern border and witness in person the biggest super-spreader event in the nation.”

“It’s a little bit bizarre, I would say,” Fauci said. “I mean … Lindsey Graham, who I like, he’s … you know, he’s a good person, I’ve dealt with him very, very well over the years, you know, equating me with things that have to do at the border? I mean, I have nothing to do with the border.”

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell released a statement this morning criticizing the outrage over Georgia’s law restricting voting access.

“We are witnessing a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people,” the Republican leader said.

McConnell added, “The President has claimed repeatedly that state-level debates over voting procedures are worse than Jim Crow or ‘Jim Crow on steroids.’ Nobody actually believes this. Nobody really thinks this current dispute comes anywhere near the horrific racist brutality of segregation. And a host of powerful people and institutions apparently think they stand to benefit from parroting this big lie.”

In reality, a number of voting rights activists, including Stacey Abrams, have compared the Georgia law to Jim Crow-era tactics.

It’s also worth noting McConnell’s use of the phrase “big lie,” which has come to refer to Donald Trump and his allies’ false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

McConnell went on to say, “Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex. Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling.”

The Republican leader’s statement comes three days after Major League Baseball announced it was moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta due to criticism over the voting law.

Joe Biden has said his $2tn plan to rebuild America’s “crumbling” roads, bridges, railways and other infrastructure would rival the space race in its ambition and deliver economic and social change on a scale as grand as the New Deal. The president has also vowed his “once-in-a-generation” investment will reverse long-standing racial disparities exacerbated by past national mobilizations.

Embedded in his sprawling infrastructure agenda, the first part of which Biden unveiled this week, are hundreds of billions of dollars dedicated to projects and investments the administration says will advance racial equity in employment, housing, transportation, healthcare and education, while improving economic outcomes for communities of color.

“This plan is important, not only for what and how it builds but it’s also important to where we build,” Biden said at a union carpenters’ training facility outside Pittsburgh last week. “It includes everyone, regardless of your race or your zip code.”

His proposal would replace lead pipes and service lines that have disproportionately harmed Black children; reduce air pollution that has long harmed Black and Latino neighborhoods near ports and power plants; “reconnect” neighborhoods cut off by previous transportation projects; expand affordable housing options to allow more families of color to buy homes, build wealth and eliminate exclusionary zoning laws; rebuild the public housing system; and prioritize investments in “frontline” communities whose residents are predominantly people of color often first- and worst-affected by climate change and environmental disaster.

The plan also allocates $100m in workforce development programs targeting historically underserved communities and $20m for upgrading historically Black college and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and quadruples funding for the Manufacturing Extensions Partnership to boost investment in “minority owned and rurally located” businesses.

Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party (WFP), said it was clear Biden had been listening to activists and understood the interlocking challenges of racial injustice, climate change and economic inequality.

“This is not race-neutral – it’s actually pretty aggressive and specific,” he said, noting the coalition of Black voters and women who helped Biden clinch the Democratic nomination and win the White House.

Biden faces hurdles as Democrats and Republicans raise concerns with infrastructure plan

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Joe Biden and his administration are frantically trying to build momentum in Congress to pass the president’s $2tn infrastructure plan.

However, members of both parties are already raising concerns about the proposal, which Biden officially introduced last week.

Republicans have signaled they do not intend to support the plan because of Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to help pay for the legislation.

And now Democrats are making similar complaints. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he didn’t think paying for the full cost of the plan through tax increases was necessary. Mr. DeFazio said he would support an increase in the gas and diesel tax to pay for the new investments over time, as well as more borrowing to cover part of the cost. …

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D., N.J.) said he wanted to see the Biden administration consider alternatives to the corporate tax increases to try to court Republican support. ‘I think on the corporate piece, if it’s a nonstarter for the Republicans and it means we can’t get bipartisanship, I’m eager to hear their other ideas,’ he said, listing user fees as one possibility.

Mr. Gottheimer and other lawmakers from the New York area have also insisted that Congress restore the deduction for state and local taxes, which was capped at $10,000 in the 2017 tax law. [House speaker Nancy Pelosi] said she was sympathetic to that idea, while the White House has said lawmakers should propose a way for paying for the deduction.

Given his party’s narrow majorities in Congress, Biden needs to convince nearly every Democratic member of the House and the Senate to support his plan in order to get it passed.

As of now, it’s still unclear whether Biden will be able to get his own party on board.

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

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Health

Benefits of Taking Multivitamin Supplements

 

Benefits of Taking Multivitamin Supplements

By Manikandan V

All of us want to maintain our physical and mental health. Therefore, we try to choose the best diet, exercise regularly and get good quality sleep. At times, we need to give a boost to our health to make up for the dietary deficiencies. A good answer to this problem is dietary supplements, such as a multivitamin supplement. In this article, we are going to take a look at some main benefits of these products.

What are the Benefits of Taking Multivitamins?

Multivitamins, such as Vitamin D and calcium may help make your bones stronger. Apart from this, vitamin D may boost your colon health and prevent a lot of chronic conditions.

Folic acid, for instance, may help prevent birth defects and may reduce the risk of heart disease in addition to boost your energy levels. Similarly, magnesium may relax your body and antioxidants may prevent different types of cancer.

Both zinc and vitamin C is known for its immune-boosting properties. This is a description of some of the benefits of taking these supplements.

According to statistics, around 75% of Americans don’t have enough fruits and veggies. Similarly, most people don’t get enough important nutrients, including iron, fiber, potassium, calcium, and vitamin D.

According to some research studies, people who consume a lot of sugar are deficient in several micronutrients, such as vitamin A, C, and E. Therefore, you may want to reduce your intake of sugar and go for the best supplements to enjoy good health.

Are Multivitamins enough?

Multivitamins can supplement a healthy diet, although all of us have unique health needs. One size doesn’t fit everyone. Therefore, a multivitamin may not be an answer to all of our health concerns, such as sleep problems and poor digestion.

You can find many supplements that may satisfy your health needs. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids may be a good choice for people with high triglycerides. Besides, garlic may help normalize your blood pressure.

Rather than take one multivitamin, it’s better that you go for multiple vitamins. However, you may have to spend some time looking for the right supplement and follow the right routine.

How to choose the Best Types of Multivitamins and Supplements?

If you suffer from stress, poor sleep and a low level of energy, you can get high-quality multivitamins and make them part of your routine. Ideally, you may want to search for multivitamins that are:

  • Free of additives, artificial colors, and filters
  • Purity tested
  • Highly bioavailable
  • Allergens
  • Natural

Since there are many supplement companies out there, make sure you opt for the best company. Good supplements and multivitamins are backed by scientific evidence. Apart from this, reliable companies are always willing to share the ingredients of the supplements they offer.

The Verdict

If you take the right supplements, you can meet your nutrient needs and benefit your health. Therefore, if you follow a good diet, make sure you give a go to multivitamin supplements.

If you are looking for private label supplements, we suggest that you check out the Emerald Corp. A private label supplement can help you meet your health needs.

Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/Manikandan_V/2763305

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Health, Sport

Life after a stroke: a mountaineer’s guide to his biggest challenge yet

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Life after a stroke: a mountaineer’s guide to his biggest challenge yet” was written by Ed Douglas, for The Observer on Sunday 4th April 2021 06.15 UTC

One morning last August leading British mountaineer Malcolm Bass woke up knowing something was wrong with him but having no idea what it was. “I remember thinking I was struggling to sequence putting my contact lenses in, getting dressed and going through to the kitchen for breakfast,” says Bass, 56. “That sequence of tasks seemed very complicated to me when it wouldn’t normally be.”

The day before, he’d been rock climbing in the Cairngorms with his close friend Simon Yearsley. Now he found himself lying on the hall floor of Yearsley’s home in Perthshire. He had no idea how he’d got there. “Simon’s wife Sarah came down and said, ‘Are you all right, Malcolm?’ I didn’t feel weird. There was no pain. I kept thinking, just leave me for a moment and I’ll be all right. The next thing I remember was being put on the stretcher and in the ambulance.”

Bass didn’t know it then, but he had just become one of the more than 100,000 British people who suffer a stroke each year – 38,000 of them being fatal. The inner wall of his carotid artery had spontaneously suffered a tear that caused a clot, which had travelled into his brain, cutting off the blood supply to his right parietal lobe, wreaking havoc in the neural networks controlling movement down his left side.

When his partner, Donna James, reached the hospital in Dundee from their home in North Yorkshire, Bass had already been given medication to stop the clotting but she knew something was still badly wrong. Soon it became clear that the stroke had caused Bass’s brain to swell and he was rushed into surgery for a craniectomy, which involved removing part of his skull to ease the pressure on his brain that was about to kill him. James was told that he still might not survive.

Watch a video produced for the #MoveMountainsForMalcolm fundraiser.

For his tight-knit group of friends and the wider climbing community, the news was shocking. Not just because of the respect Bass had earned for the hard exploratory climbing he’d done around the world, from Alaska to the Himalayas, but because of his willingness to talk openly about the personal costs of a dangerous sport and its psychological effects. Having trained and then practised as a clinical psychologist for 30 years, he was acutely aware of why his chosen life was so rewarding and the risks from not talking openly about its costs.

Bass wearing a helmet to protect his head where a section of skull was removed.
Bass has to wear a helmet to protect his head where a section of skull was removed. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

Three years ago, in June 2018, Bass had made the first ascent of a difficult unclimbed mountain called Janhukot in the Indian Himalaya. Different teams from around the world had been trying the peak for almost 30 years. Bass himself had made two previous attempts, one of them with Yearsley. This time, climbing for four days and completely self-supported, Bass and his companions Paul Figg and Guy Buckingham made the summit, at 6,805 metres.

The climb was an ordeal: cold temperatures, broken sleep, hard climbing and plenty of danger. But the photograph Buckingham took of Bass and Figg hugging each other on the summit captured something of the philosophy Bass took with him into the mountains. “The psychology lessons that climbing, especially alpine climbing, have taught me,” he once wrote, “are about both the immense power of the human will, and about its utter impotence.” For years, he had felt “ashamed” about turning back in the face of bad weather, feeling that “if I was stronger I would have succeeded. But now I understand that the big forces of the world are far more powerful than even the best versions of us humans”.

Sitting in his wheelchair at the kitchen table, Bass resists easy cliches about using the lessons he’s learned from climbing mountains in dealing with what he faces now. “They’ve not presented themselves massively or obviously to me,” he says with heavy irony. Two-thirds of those who survive stroke are left with a disability and Bass’s has left him hemiplegic and affected his hearing, sight and speech. His sense of humour has somehow survived. “The one thing that stands out is the drudgery of climbing up a big difficult mountain. You have to break it down into little steps, because if you look at the whole thing all at once, it just blows your mind.”

Many who suffer strokes find their emotional selves in turmoil – the medical phrase is “emotionally labile” – and Bass has struggled with severe depression. “My mood’s been shocking,” he says. “I’m attacked by sadness. Fifty times a day. The sadness of missing my old self: my old physical self. I don’t mean climbing hard, I mean being able to stroll down the street.”

Bass grew up near his current home in the village of Great Ayton, on the edge of the North York Moors and the childhood home of the explorer Captain Cook. His mother was a dentist and his father the local GP. “Fly fishing, that’s the thing me and my dad do together. And the trout fishing season is about to start. It’s sad for him, and I feel his sadness too. There’s a thing called post-stroke depression, and nobody knows how much it’s the disturbance caused to your neurochemistry by the stroke or how much it’s to do with the fact that if you’ve had a life-changing injury you’re likely to be depressed.”

Malcolm Bass on expedition to Janhukot in 2018.
Malcolm Bass on expedition to Janhukot in 2018. Photograph: Guy Buckingham/Coldhouse Collective

The depression was at its worst in hospital, and at those moments Bass would text Yearsley: “I’m seeing ghosts.” It was shorthand for mental anguish so crushing that Bass needed to talk urgently. “It’s like a code word,” Bass says. “It means we need help. I had some absolutely desperate times in hospital. I would text Simon that I was seeing ghosts. And he would call me. Every time. No matter how busy he was. I’m immensely grateful for that.”

The phrase was a half-serious joke between them, born from an encounter on a glacier in Alaska 20 years ago. Bass was waiting for a ski-plane to take him out of the mountains after a climbing trip when he met the climber Barry Blanchard, born into Canada’s Métis nation. Blanchard had just come off a difficult climb having failed to reach the top. Bass asked him how things had gone. “Not so good,” Blanchard replied. “We came down early. I was seeing ghosts.” Bass laughs a little. “I would expect Barry meant it literally, because of Métis origins.”

After three months, Donna James finally managed to get Bass home from hospital where, he says, “I’m coping a lot better. My ability to cope with stress and anger has improved massively. That might just be my brain settling after the injury. It might be the acquisition of better skills for dealing with those things.” He has to wear a helmet to protect his head where the section of skull was removed; a ceramic replacement will be fixed in its place in the next few weeks.

As a clinical psychologist Bass would treat people who were suicidal or self-harming. Now he is himself seeing a psychologist from the local stroke team. “I find it very helpful. It’s reinforced my conviction that good psychological treatment is vital. We know that psychological therapies are a very effective treatment for people. We know the public really like it. We know those therapies don’t have many negative side effects. But it’s hard for people to access and there’s not very much of it available. There aren’t a lot of trained psychological therapists in the NHS, that’s the main problem.’

The summit Bass is now aiming for is a return to work in June. Meanwhile he takes pleasure in eating, and in the support of his friends, who have launched a crowd-funding campaign, #MoveMountainsForMalcolm, to help him and his partner adapt. Mostly he talks of the love and support she has given him through what they both describe as a waking nightmare. “I’m massively concerned with the strain on Donna,” he says. “How much she’s put aside. Until you’re actually that vulnerable you don’t know, do you?”

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