US to share its AstraZeneca stockpile amid rising pressure to help vaccinate globe

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AstraZeneca said it "regrets" the European Commission's decision to take legal action - YVES HERMAN /REUTERS 
AstraZeneca said it "regrets" the European Commission's decision to take legal action - YVES HERMAN /REUTERS

The United States will start to share up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine doses with other countries as they become available, White House senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said on Monday.

The vaccine, which is not yet authorised for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will be sent to other countries as jab supplies begin to outweigh demand in the US.

The Associated Press reported earlier on Monday that the doses would be shared in coming months following a federal safety review.

The Biden administration in March said it would send roughly 4 million of the drugmaker's vaccine to Canada and Mexico and is under growing pressure now to expand sharing of its stockpile with India and other countries.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden said the United States would send raw materials for vaccines, medical equipment and protective gear to India.

06:00 PM

UK news in brief

Here's a summary of today's coronavirus headlines at home:

05:55 PM

World news in brief

Here's a summary of today's global coronavirus headlines:

05:41 PM

Workplace outbreak investigated in district with highest Covid-19 rate

A Covid-19 outbreak at a workplace is being investigated in the local authority area with by far the highest current case rate in England.

The premises being investigated in Selby has not been named, but North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) says it working with Public Health England (PHE) at the site.

Local public health officials have said the outbreak means the local authority's case rate "will appear higher and show a short term increase before they start to drop again".

The latest case rate figures show Selby district is a long way in front of other councils, with 101 new cases in the seven days to April 22 - the equivalent of 111.5 cases per 100,000 people.

This is up from 48.6 in the seven days to April 15, the largest increase in the country.

Selby's figure is more than 60pc higher than the next district on the table, which is Kirklees, in West Yorkshire.

05:33 PM

AstraZeneca to 'strongly defend' itself in court after Brussels sues over vaccine delivery

AstraZeneca told the European Commission on Monday that its lawsuit was "without merit" and that it would "strongly defend itself in court".

Brussels launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines and for not having a "reliable" plan to ensure timely deliveries.

"The terms of the contract have not been respected," an EU spokesman said, noting all 27 EU states backed the move.

The lawsuit started on Friday after discussions with EU capitals, some of which doubted that the action would help the EU get more jabs.

AstraZeneca said it "regrets" the European Commission's decision to take legal action - YVES HERMAN/REUTERS
AstraZeneca said it "regrets" the European Commission's decision to take legal action - YVES HERMAN/REUTERS

The pharmaceutical giant, which denies it has broken the terms of its contract, has told the EU it will deliver about 70m doses by the end of the first six months of the year but had pledged to make "best efforts" to deliver 300m.

A company spokesman said: "AstraZeneca regrets the European Commission's decision to take legal action over the supply of Covid-19 vaccines.

"Following an unprecedented year of scientific discovery, very complex negotiations, and manufacturing challenges, our company is about to deliver almost 50m doses to European countries by the end of April, in line with our forecast."

AstraZeneca blames production problems for the delays but there are suspicions in Brussels that some EU stock may have ended up in the UK.

05:31 PM

'We will see a big rise in deaths': India's Covid crisis spreads from cities to rural villages

India’s devastating Covid-19 epidemic, which is killing thousands of people each day in major cities including Delhi and Mumbai, is now spreading uncontrollably in its most vulnerable rural hinterland, home to 800 million Indians.

Decades of underfunding in India’s healthcare system has left the nation's rural areas facing widespread shortages of oxygen, tests, medication, and, in many areas, a medical professional, creating a vacuum of critical care and leaving openings for quack doctors.

The imposition of lockdowns in cities such as Mumbai and Delhi over the last fortnight again sent thousands of migrant workers back to their home villages, some carrying the virus with them.

Joe Wallen and Mohammad Sartaj Alam have the full story here.

05:19 PM

Pubs, restaurants and cafes reopen for outdoor service in Wales

Pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes have reopened for outdoor service in Wales for the first time since December.

Groups of up to six people from any number of households can be seated together at the newly reopened hospitality venues, which are subject to strict hygiene measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

On Monday, businesses in Cardiff city centre opened their doors to a largely subdued atmosphere.

Bars, pubs and restaurants reported being completely booked up for the evening and for the rest of the week, but many tables outside businesses were left empty during the afternoon.

A woman carries a tray of beer at Pitch bar on April 26, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images Europe
A woman carries a tray of beer at Pitch bar on April 26, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images Europe

05:15 PM

US to share up to 60m AstraZeneca vaccine doses globally

The United States will start to share up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine doses with other countries in coming months after a federal safety review, according to a White House official.

The vaccine, which is not yet authorised for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will be sent to other countries as jab supplies begin to outweigh demand in the US.

05:07 PM

Turkey's Erdogan adopts 'full closure' until May 17 over Covid-19

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday imposed a nationwide "full closure" until May 17 including a continuous lockdown, school closures and intercity travel restrictions to curb a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.

Total daily cases in Turkey had peaked above 63,000 on April 16 before dropping sharply to below 39,000 on Sunday, while the daily death toll has remained above 300 for the past week.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan said all intercity travel would need approval from authorities and all schools would stop in-person classes.

He said the manufacturing and food sectors would be exempt from the new restrictions. Daily case numbers needed to fall below 5,000 by the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, he added.

04:42 PM

'We are clearly heading towards a situation India is facing': Pakistan’s ticking Covid timebomb

When Dr Muhammad Suhail looks at the distressing reports of India’s battle against coronavirus, he fears it may be a forewarning of what could happen in his own hospital in northwest Pakistan.

His wards are already full of Covid-19 patients, yet the numbers keep creeping up and in the surrounding city of Peshawar residents refuse to abide by social distancing precautions.

The spectacle of India’s hospitals running out of oxygen, its crematoria setting up makeshift funeral pyres, and thousands of deaths has set off a wave of sympathy in neighbouring Pakistan, but also alarm that the country may be struck next.

Dr. Suhail said at his Hayatabad Medical Complex, all 130 beds were now full.

"We are clearly heading towards a situation India is facing today," he told the Telegraph.

"Both Pakistan and India have the same issues. People in both countries aren’t following the [precautions]."

Ben Farmer has more detail on this story.

People ignore social distancing while shopping at a market after the government announced new restrictions to help control the spread of the coronavirus, in Peshawar, Pakistan - Muhammad Sajjad/AP
People ignore social distancing while shopping at a market after the government announced new restrictions to help control the spread of the coronavirus, in Peshawar, Pakistan - Muhammad Sajjad/AP

04:33 PM

UK PM under pressure over 'let bodies pile high' comment

Boris Johnson on Monday denied airily dismissing the prospect of thousands dying from Covid-19, as a row over government "sleaze" escalated with a call for his resignation.

In a front-page headline, the Daily Mail newspaper reported Johnson had said he would rather see "bodies pile high in their thousands" than impose a third coronavirus lockdown.

Ultimately, Johnson did order a new round of restrictions in January.

But he is now locked in a war of words with his former top aide Dominic Cummings over his coronavirus policies last year and financial dealings.

Asked if he made the remark, Johnson told reporters: "No, but I think the important thing I think people want us to get on and do as a government is to make sure that the lockdowns work."

04:00 PM

Michael Gove backs Prime Minister about 'bodies pile high' quote

On the "bodies pile high" quotation, Labour's Wes Streeting (Ilford North) asked Mr Gove to be "absolutely categorical that he's never heard the Prime Minister say those words, that the Prime Minister didn't say those words and that prior to arriving in the House this afternoon he received assurances from the Prime Minister that he didn't use those words. Can he be absolutely clear and straightforward and honest about that?"

Mr Gove replied: "Totally... I made the point that I'd been in a meeting in the Cabinet room with the Prime Minister, I wouldn't ordinarily go into discussions that take place in Cabinet committees for reasons that he would well understand.

"But I never heard the Prime Minister say any such thing. We were all wrestling with an incredibly difficult decision, the decision to lock down necessarily imposes costs in other ways as we're all aware.

"But the Prime Minister not only concluded at the end of the discussion that we had, which was a sober, serious and detailed discussion, that it was necessary to have that second lockdown. He also concluded of course that it was necessary sadly to have a third lockdown as well."

03:52 PM

New vaccination figures as almost 13m have had their second jab

Government data up to April 25 shows that of the 46,650,008 jabs given in the UK so far, 33,752,885 were first doses - a rise of 79,695 on the previous day.

Some 12,897,123 were second doses, an increase of 260,801.

03:51 PM

The pandemic has been tough on everyone – but we can grow from adversity

It is 200 years since the great Romantic poet, John Keats, died at just 25 from tuberculosis. One of Keats’ enduring contributions was his description of negative capability.

"When a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reach after fact and reason," he wrote in a letter to his brother in 1817, "it is this that allows for unimagined possibilities to creatively emerge, but in order for this to happen, you have to be with doubt and confusion."

Keats' optimism that doubt is the impetus for creative renewal is key to our recovery. Our young who will bear the social, psychological and economic costs of the pandemic, will need our help to transform uncertainty into an opportunity for growth.

Post traumatic growth is an area of psychology which explores the prospects for positive change that come from adversity. A crisis can overwhelm us, but we can grow from it if we meet the challenge head on.

Read Stephen Blumenthal's full comment piece here.

03:31 PM

Test and Trace app only contacts half of people who need to self-isolate

The NHS Test and Trace app is contacting people who need to self-isolate in fewer than half of coronavirus cases, new data show.

A survey by the Office for National Statistics found that in early April, only 48 per cent of those who had downloaded the app and were required to self-isolate received a notification.

Of these, just 15 per cent received the app notification at least a day before any other source, such as a phone call from a contact tracer.

The figures are the latest indication of the extremely limited impact the technology has played in reducing the spread of cases, despite costing at least £35 million.

Read the full story from Henry Bodkin here.

03:19 PM

Switzerland puts India on Covid-19 quarantine list

Switzerland has added India to its list of high-risk countries from which travellers must enter quarantine following the surge of cases in the subcontinent and the discovery here of a first case of new variant of Covid-19 first identified in India.

Arrivals from India must immediately go into quarantine, under the government restrictions which go into effect at 1600 GMT on Monday, the Federal Office of Public Health said on its website.

India ordered its armed forces on Monday to help tackle surging new coronavirus infections that are overwhelming hospitals, as infections rose by 352,991 in the last 24 hours.

India was added to the UK's 'red list' on Friday last week.

03:09 PM

Daily coronavirus figures for Monday, April 26

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03:05 PM

Disruptions to immunisation put millions of children at risk, says UN

Millions of children whose immunisations have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in Africa, are now at risk from life-threatening diseases such as measles, polio, yellow fever and diphtheria, UN health agencies warned on Monday.

Gaps in vaccination coverage have already led to serious measles outbreaks in Pakistan and Yemen, the agencies said, and are likely to lead to more epidemics as more regular childhood vaccinations are missed.

Compared to 2020, some progress has been made in restoring routine vaccinations disrupted by the pandemic, but more than a third of the 135 countries that responded to a World Health Organization survey said they were still experiencing difficulties.

Health workers vaccinate children with drops of polio vaccines in Lagos, Nigeria - GEORGE OSODI/AP
Health workers vaccinate children with drops of polio vaccines in Lagos, Nigeria - GEORGE OSODI/AP

"Even before the pandemic, there were worrying signs that we were beginning to lose ground in the fight against preventable child illness, with 20 million children already missing out on critical vaccinations," Henrietta Fore, executive director of the UN children's fund UNICEF, said in a joint statement with the WHO and the GAVI vaccines alliance.

She said the pandemic had "made a bad situation worse".

The WHO survey found that at least 60 mass immunisation campaigns in 50 countries were currently on hold, putting around 228 million people, mostly children, at risk from preventable serious diseases. More than half the affected countries are in Africa.

02:51 PM

Danish bar offers Covid-19 tests on tap

A bar in Copenhagen has started offering customers a Covid-19 test and a beer while they wait for the result to help get business moving again after months of restrictions.

Punters hand over about $25 to get tested in a booth at Warpigs Brewpub. After about half an hour, if they get the all-clear, they are allowed inside.

It works under Denmark's "corona-passport" system where people can either use a mobile app or a government-approved form to show if they have been vaccinated, previously infected or have had a negative test in the past 72 hours.

Under the scheme that started on Wednesday, staff at museums, bars, cafes and restaurants check customers' status before they let them in.

Denmark is also offering free Covid-19 tests - but customers at the bar said the paid-for versions, sold by the company Practio, let them avoid the queues.

A cell phone with the Covid-19 passport app, in Copenhagen - TIM BARSOE/REUTERS
A cell phone with the Covid-19 passport app, in Copenhagen - TIM BARSOE/REUTERS

02:42 PM

Boris Johnson urges public to be 'realistic' about future UK Covid wave

Boris Johnson has urged the public to be "realistic" about the prospect of the UK being hit with another wave of coronavirus infections in the future.

The Prime Minister told broadcasters that while lockdowns meant the virus was now "under control", he warned that "there probably will be another wave of the disease".

But Mr Johnson said that coronavirus jabs would provide "pretty robust fortifications" should there be another spike in infections going forward, as he hailed the UK's vaccination programme.

He urged the public to take up the vaccine when offered it, with a Government campaign calling on people aged 50 and under to get their jab so the UK can "continue on the path back to normality".

It comes as the Prime Minister denied saying he was prepared to let "bodies pile high" rather than order another lockdown, amid a bitter briefing war that has hit Downing Street.

02:33 PM

British Airways CEO: "Great opportunity" for UK-US travel

The chief executive of British Airways said there was a "great opportunity" for Britain and the United States to open a travel corridor given their high vaccination rates, and said he was optimistic for European travel from June onwards.

Airlines are readying their planes, pilots and crew for travel this summer, hoping for a bounce back after over a year of pandemic restrictions, although governments have yet to agree the details of how and when the restart will work.

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle, who took the helm of the IAG-owned airline in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis last October, said that travel between Britain and the United States should be restriction-free.

"If you look at the progress of vaccinations that the UK and the US have made, they're almost neck and neck," he said, speaking to an online industry conference. "I think the US is a great opportunity to get up and running again."

Travel between Europe and the United States is also on the cards.

Holiday destinations in up to 30 countries – including Spain’s Canary Islands, Portugal’s Azores and Malta – could make the UK’s green list for summer breaks from May 17.

02:05 PM

Government opens applications for summer school fund to help pupils catch up

Schools in England can now register to offer summer provision for pupils who experienced the most disruption to their learning during the pandemic.

Secondary schools will be encouraged to bid for a share of a £200 million Government fund for summer schools this year, which is predominantly being targeted towards incoming Year 7 students.

The Government anticipates that a two-week summer school will give these students an opportunity to make up some lost academic ground before they start a new school, following a year of disruption.

Summer schools will include a variety of activities, from group activities, such as sports, to mental health support and academic catch-up, such as maths and English lessons, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "Additional support this summer - on top of the National Tutoring programme and additional funding for schools - will help boost learning and wellbeing plus help prepare those pupils about to start secondary schools.

01:56 PM

Philippines seeks to lift medical capacity as Covid-19 cases top one million

The Philippines announced on Monday that its Covid-19 cases had exceeded one million, as the country sought to boost healthcare capacity to ease strains on hospitals and medical staff stretched by a second wave of infections.

The Philippines imposed a two-week lockdown of Manila and surrounding provinces late last month to try to stem a surge in cases blamed on more contagious Covid-19 variants.

In the capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities home to at least 13 million people, intensive care unit (ICU) capacity is above 70pc, while 57pc of isolation beds and 64pc of ward beds for Covid-19 patients were occupied as of April 26.

In a bid to admit more patients, tents were turned into Covid-19 emergency rooms at the National Kidney Transplant Institute, a government hospital in Manila.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said on Monday 289 additional ICU beds would be made available in the capital.

A health worker wearing a protective suit goes out of a tent with Covid-19 patients outside a hospital in Manila, Philippines - Aaron Favila/AP
A health worker wearing a protective suit goes out of a tent with Covid-19 patients outside a hospital in Manila, Philippines - Aaron Favila/AP

01:37 PM

Why has India been hit so badly now – and where could be next?

India’s second wave is devastating the country, but it also holds warnings for the world.

With people dying on the streets and hospitals running out of oxygen, India’s situation is one of the worst the world has yet seen. But why has India been hit now and might other countries follow?

Health workers unload oxygen tanks from a cart at the Covid-19 Care Center set up at the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex in New Delhi, India - T. Narayan/Bloomberg
Health workers unload oxygen tanks from a cart at the Covid-19 Care Center set up at the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex in New Delhi, India - T. Narayan/Bloomberg

"We let our guard down," Dr Shahid Jameel, one of India’s leading virologists, said. "It was complacency."

The government was in a bind: the first lockdown stopped the virus but caused economic collapse and untold human suffering. Spooked, the state is now relying on local authorities to take action.

Critics accuse the government of abdicating responsibility.

Read the full story from Jennifer Rigby and Sarah Newey here.

01:22 PM

Sturgeon: 'It is all too believable' that Johnson made 'bodies pile high' comment

Asked about the reports by journalists this morning, Nicola Sturgeon said she was appalled by the remarks, if true, writes Simon Johnson.

Boris Johnson has denied saying that he would rather see bodies pile up than go into a third coronavirus lockdown.

She said: "I feel a combination of being shocked, profoundly shocked at any suggestion that was said, but also, on some level, not being that surprised.

"I don't know if he said it because I wasn't there, but based on my experiences of him I don't find it impossible to believe. On the contrary, it is all too believable."

She continued: "For any Prime Minister, for any human being, to be so glib and crass about human life, is profoundly shocking.

"I can only speak for myself, as First Minister over the past years I can't begin to tell you the hours I've spent lying awake at night worrying about the impact of the decisions we're taking, about whether we're doing enough to save lives and what the impact of all of that was having on businesses.

"This has been a profoundly serious situation that we've all faced and I think it will upset and shock everybody to hear the very suggestion that a Prime Minister may have said something like that."

01:17 PM

India sends army to help hospitals hit by Covid-19 as countries promise aid

India ordered its armed forces on Monday to help tackle surging new coronavirus infections that are overwhelming hospitals, as countries including Britain, Germany and the United States pledged to send urgent medical aid.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said oxygen would be released to hospitals from armed forces reserves and retired medical military personnel would join Covid-19 health facilities.

And where possible, military medical infrastructure will be made available to civilians, a government statement said, as new coronavirus infections hit a record peak for a fifth day.

"Air, Rail, Road & Sea; Heaven & earth are being moved to overcome challenges thrown up by this wave of COVID19," Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter.

Modi on Sunday urged all citizens to get vaccinated and to exercise caution amid what he called a "storm" of infections, while hospitals and doctors in some northern states posted urgent notices saying they were unable to cope with the influx.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden said the United States would send raw materials for vaccines, medical equipment and protective gear. Germany joined a growing list of countries pledging supplies.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that the UK would "send to India oxygen compressors and ventilators".

01:09 PM

Shopper footfall dips after initial reopening rush

Shopper footfall has dipped in the second full week of eased restrictions, according to new figures.

The latest weekly footfall monitor from retail research specialists Springboard has revealed that footfall across all UK shopping destinations in the week starting April 18 dipped by 3.4pc against the previous week.

It revealed that all retail locations saw a slight decrease in footfall following the initial rush after curbs eased on April 12, allowing non-essential retailers and outdoor hospitality to reopen.

Shoppers at Primark on Oxford Street - Jamie Lorriman
Shoppers at Primark on Oxford Street - Jamie Lorriman

High streets were the most robust location, with footfall dipping by just 0.8pc against the previous week.

Meanwhile, UK shopping centres saw footfall slide by 8.4pc while retail parks saw a 3.5pc decline against the previous week.

Total footfall was also about a fifth, 19.9pc, lower than for the same week in 2019, as footfall continues to remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels.

01:04 PM

Watch: I did not say let 'bodies pile high' instead of lockdown, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson denied saying that he would rather see bodies pile up than go into a third coronavirus lockdown.

Asked if he made the comments attributed to him, Mr Johnson said: "No, but I think the important thing I think people want us to get on and do as a Government is to make sure that the lockdowns work.

"They have, and I really pay tribute to the people of this country, this whole country of ours, really pulled together and, working with the vaccination programme, we have got the disease under control."

He later added that this allegation was "total, total rubbish".

12:56 PM

No positive test results in last week's Premier League Covid testing

There were no positive samples returned in last week's Premier League Covid-19 testing.

The league announced on Monday afternoon that 2,787 players and club staff all returned negative results across two rounds of testing.

It is the first time the English top flight has recorded no positives, with the previous lowest figure being one, which was recorded in the consecutive weeks ending March 28 and April 4.

12:53 PM

Italy relaxes lockdown amid criticism

Italy relaxed its coronavirus restrictions on Monday, despite experts warning that with the country still registering thousands of new cases and around 300 deaths each day it was too early to permit a reopening, writes Nick Squires in Rome.

Italians flocked to bars and restaurants, which for the first time in weeks were allowed to offer table service, although only in outdoor areas.

Eateries with no outdoor space were still confined to offering takeaway and delivery services.

People sit down for lunch at a restaurant in Rome, Italy, as much of the country becomes a 'yellow zone' - YARA NARDI/REUTERS
People sit down for lunch at a restaurant in Rome, Italy, as much of the country becomes a 'yellow zone' - YARA NARDI/REUTERS

Fifteen out of Italy’s 20 regions were declared lower-risk yellow zones, a handful remained medium-risk orange and only one, Sardinia, was designated high-risk red.

Museums, cinemas and theatres were allowed to reopen.

But Andrea Crisanti, a professor of microbiology at the University of Padua, said the reopening was rash.

"We still have a high number of cases every day. There are not the conditions for a safe opening, as there are in Britain. We’re not London. The priority is still to vaccinate old people and the most vulnerable."

Italy is way behind Britain on the pace of its vaccination programmes, with many people in their seventies and even eighties not yet having had even one jab, let alone two.

12:45 PM

Government has 'no capacity' now for inquiry, bereaved families told

The Government has "no capacity" at present to launch a public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, it has told bereaved families.

An inquiry "now is not appropriate" and people who would need to give evidence are "working round the clock" to keep society safe, families were told in a six-page letter from the Government Legal Department.

Members of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group were told that the Government is "focused entirely" on responding to the pandemic, in particular on the vaccination rollout and preparations for a third wave.

The letter, sent on April 1, says the Government's response is at a "critical phase" and all efforts are focused on this "monumental challenge".

It adds that the Prime Minister "has already made clear that there will be an independent inquiry at the appropriate time, which is not now".

It reads: "There is simply no capacity for Government to pause these efforts and divert resources to an intensive independent inquiry.

"The very people who would need to give evidence to an inquiry are working round the clock to respond to the pandemic and keep us all safe.

12:38 PM

Lateral flow tests 'offer great prospects' for the UK, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson said that lateral flow tests "offer great prospects" for the UK and insisted they are "very useful" in helping to isolate cases of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister told reporters during a visit to Wrexham: "I do think that the whole lateral flow test issue is very important.

"The lateral flow tests offer great prospects for the country. People, I think, try to sort of rubbish them and say, 'well, you get too many false positives'.

"Actually, a lateral flow test can be very, very useful in helping to isolate cases of the disease, getting people to take themselves out of circulation and stop the speed of the spread of the disease.

"So, I'm a big believer in lateral flow tests and would encourage everybody to make use of them."

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Wrexham on Monday - ROB FORMSTONE/AFP
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Wrexham on Monday - ROB FORMSTONE/AFP

12:25 PM

Your questions answered as NHS offers jabs to all adults aged 44 and over

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout has been extended to healthy adults aged 44 and over.

Here are your questions answered as the NHS in England takes another step forward in the biggest vaccination programme in its history.

- Who has been offered the jab?

All adults aged 44 and over living in England are being invited to book their jab.

Some 43-year-olds will also be eligible if they turn 44 before July 1.

- What should I do if I'm 44?

About half a million 44-year-olds will receive a text inviting them to get their jab through the national booking service.

Text invitations appear as an alert from "NHSvaccine" and include a web link to the NHS website to book an appointment.

People who cannot go online can call the service on 119 instead to book their jab.

- Where can people get their jab?

Vaccinations are now being administered at more than 1,600 sites across England, including GP surgeries, pharmacies, mosques, museums and rugby grounds.

The booking service will guide people to sites close to them and the NHS has said that the vast majority of people live within 10 miles of one vaccination site.

12:09 PM

11 million AztraZeneca jabs ordered by Netherlands to go unused

Most of the 11 million AstraZeneca vaccines ordered by the Netherlands to fight the coronavirus will go unused, the head of the Dutch public health institute’s vaccination department has said.

Jaap Van Delden has come under fire from Dutch doctors after he told the AD newspaper that there would be so many other vaccines available that the Oxford jab would not be needed.

The Netherlands, like a number of other EU countries, introduced age restrictions on the AstraZeneca vaccine limiting its use to the over 60s amid fears the jab could cause very rare blood clots. Public confidence in the jab has been dented, which has also hit pick-up of the vaccine, the Dutch News website said.

The Netherlands has ordered 11million AstraZeneca vaccines and administered 1.5million of the jabs. There are about 17million people living in the country.

The Dutch family doctors association accused Mr Van Delden of further damaging public confidence in AstraZeneca and harming the vaccination roll out.

A shipment of 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Netherlands arrives in Argentina - AFP
A shipment of 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Netherlands arrives in Argentina - AFP

11:54 AM

As outrage over 'imprisoned' residents grows, how will Covid shape the future of care homes?

As England opens up, millions of people across the country have swarmed pubs and gathered in gardens. But for those in care homes little has changed, as strict government guidance dictates anyone who leaves has to spend 14 days isolated in their room on their return.

"We recognise that in practice, this is likely to mean that many residents will not wish to make a visit out of the home," the guidance concedes, while insisting "we recognise how important [trips are] for residents’ health and wellbeing".

Jacie Whittaker, team leader, with Gloria, 86, at Normanby House Residential Home, Scarborough - Simon Townsley
Jacie Whittaker, team leader, with Gloria, 86, at Normanby House Residential Home, Scarborough - Simon Townsley

The restrictions are intended to keep Covid-19 out of care homes, which have been devastated by the pandemic – according to the Office for National Statistics, around 42,000 residents have died from the disease since the pandemic began – roughly a third of all fatalities in the UK.

But campaigners say the "draconian" measures contravene human rights, residents are fed up of being "imprisoned", and care home staff feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Sarah Newey visited a care home in Scarborough to find out how the measures could impact the social care sector in years to come, read the full details here.

11:41 AM

French GP vents fury at throwing AstraZeneca doses in the bin due to scepticism

A French GP has made waves in France after publishing a furious social media post in which he throws AstraZeneca doses into the rubbish bin due to a dearth of takers, writes Henry Samuel in Paris.

Taking to Twitter, Patrick Vogt, a GP from Mulhouse, eastern France, vented his exasperation over patients’ scepticism regarding the Oxford-created vaccine, which is battling to counter resistance in many countries over blood clot concerns even though these are minimal.

"In mid-pandemic, I’m obliged to throw the Astra vaccine in the bin because nobody wants it," he said in a post published last week but which was relayed in French media on Monday.

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"From disinformation to backtracking, the major therapeutic weapon that this vaccine represents is perceived as a danger. Crazy isn’t it?," he said.

The doctor - who shot to national prominence a year ago as a whistleblower over a supercluster in his region that supercharged the epidemic in France - said that until late March, he had quite a few takers.

However, he said: "There is a clear rejection by the population for the Astra vaccine." After administering 150 jabs last month, he has only mustered 30 so far in April.

"(Last) week, I had planned to vaccinate so opened 10 doses on Monday and 48 hours later I had only managed to vaccinate six people," he said. "So with a heavy heart, I was obliged to throw four doses in the bin."

"Our enemy is not the vaccine, it’s the virus," he said. Failure to vaccinate would prolong the epidemic "for months", he warned.

11:34 AM

Could the world be split into vaccine blocs? Global divisions loom, experts warn

Countries risk splitting the world of travel and international business into vaccine blocs by accepting travellers with some jabs, but not others, experts have warned.

Plans to free up travel with the use of vaccine passports could be undermined if some shots are not accepted in some countries and which jab people receive dictates where they are welcome.

A European Union decision to allow vaccinated American tourists to enter this summer because the US is distributing shots already approved by EU regulators has highlighted that those who have shots by Chinese manufacturers are likely to be barred for the foreseeable future, Bloomberg reported.

Likewise, China so far only recognises Chinese shots.

Ben Farmer has the full story here.

11:21 AM

Beer gardens and shopping return as Scotland's Covid restrictions ease

Cafes, beer gardens, non-essential shops and museums are reopening in Scotland on Monday as lockdown easing continues.

The country moves from Level 4 to Level 3 of the Scottish Government's five tiers of restrictions on April 26.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last week that the continued suppression of coronavirus and the success of the vaccine rollout meant some restrictions can be lifted on Monday.

It means gyms, swimming pools, libraries and museums can reopen along with cafes, restaurants and beer gardens.

Hospitality will need to close at 8pm indoors, with alcohol only allowed to be served outside.

People will be able to meet others for a meal or drink, with up to six people from two households allowed to socialise indoors in a public place such as a cafe or restaurant.

11:01 AM

Pictured: Spread of coronavirus in India

A notice on a gate indicates that there is no oxygen at the Covid-19 Care Center set up at the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex in New Delhi, India - T. Narayan/Bloomberg
A notice on a gate indicates that there is no oxygen at the Covid-19 Care Center set up at the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex in New Delhi, India - T. Narayan/Bloomberg
People perform rituals next to a funeral pyre for a family member who died of Covid-19 at a ground that has been converted into a crematorium for mass cremation -  Altaf Qadri/ AP
People perform rituals next to a funeral pyre for a family member who died of Covid-19 at a ground that has been converted into a crematorium for mass cremation - Altaf Qadri/ AP
Health workers wheel a cart of oxygen tanks to a ward at the Covid-19 Care Center set up at the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex in New Delhi, India -  T. Narayan/Bloomberg
Health workers wheel a cart of oxygen tanks to a ward at the Covid-19 Care Center set up at the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex in New Delhi, India - T. Narayan/Bloomberg

10:41 AM

Tens of thousands of cancer patients worse off due to pandemic, says oncologist

A cancer doctor has reiterated calls for coronavirus restrictions to be eased "immediately", warning that tens of thousands of cancer patients are worse off because of the pandemic.

Professor Angus Dalgleish, who was one of the 22 signatories of a letter calling for the Government to end Covid-19 restrictions, said he does "not see any reason" to wait until June 21.

In the open letter, 22 scientists said "a good society cannot be created by obsessive focus on a single cause of ill-health" and that Covid-19 "no longer requires exceptional measures of control in everyday life".

But Prof Dalgleish told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "I would like to see the restrictions lifted immediately."

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He added: "Every day we have these lockdowns there is more businesses going bust, there are more people whose lives have been ruined because of this lockdown.

He suggested the fear of dying from the virus was "out of proportion" among some people with medical conditions who may have a higher chance of dying from another disease which they have put off seeking care for.

Prof Dalgleish added: "We've got tens of thousands of cancer patients who should have been diagnosed and treated, with a much better outcome."

10:23 AM

Nine out of 10 required to self-isolate followed the rules, according to ONS

Nine out of 10 people required to self-isolate after being in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus said they fully adhered to the rules, new figures have shown.

Experimental data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published on Monday, found 90pc of respondents reported being fully adherent to self-isolation requirements throughout their 10-day self-isolation period.

But of the respondents who did not follow self-isolation requirements, 78pc reported they left the house for non-permitted reasons during their 10-day self-isolation period, the ONS said.

Of those who left their homes, 27pc said they had gone to the shops for groceries, toiletries, medicine or other items, while 13pc went out for outdoor recreation or exercise.

The data, collected between April 1 and 10, also found 6pc of all respondents had contact with people outside their household during their isolation period, with 57pc allowing visitors into their home and 55pc having contact somewhere outdoors.

Signs made by students are displayed in a window of their locked down accommodation building in Manchester, England - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Signs made by students are displayed in a window of their locked down accommodation building in Manchester, England - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

10:06 AM

‘Frankly unethical’ that Trump and Bolsonaro pushed unproven drugs, says Recovery co-founder

It is “frankly unethical” that leaders including Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro pushed doctors to use unproven coronavirus drugs throughout the pandemic, the co-founder of UK’s flagship Recovery trial has warned.

In a Telegraph interview Prof Peter Horby, an emerging infectious disease expert at Oxford University who helped set up the world’s largest randomised control trial for Covid drugs, criticised politicians in countries including Brazil and the United States for backing medicines based on “zero evidence”.

Perhaps the most infamous example is hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old malaria treatment now known to be ineffective against Covid-19.

Brazil’s President Bolsonaro was an early promoter of the drug on social media – claiming it helped cure him when he caught the virus and pushing his government to make it widely available – while former President Trump cited the treatment as “one of the biggest game-changers” in the pandemic. But Prof Horby said the UK’s commitment to using unproven drugs only inside clinical trials was a critical element of Recovery’s success.

Sarah Newey has more details here.

09:58 AM

Dogs are needier due to pandemic, study finds

A Japanese study exploring the impact of the pandemic on pets has found that many dogs are seeking extra attention as a result of their owners spending more time at home, writes Danielle Demetriou in Tokyo.

The study, conducted by Inunavi, a dog information website, found that 56 per cent of owners had experienced a change in their pets’ behaviour during the pandemic.

The research, which surveyed 694 owners across the country, described behavioural shifts among many of their pets, which ranged from young puppies to 18-year-old dogs.

As many as 254 owners found their dogs had demanded constant attention since the pandemic, while 98 said their pets now followed them around and 65 added that they bark more than previously.

Urging owners to tap into their pets’ emotional and physical well-being, a spokesperson from Inunavi told Kyodo News: “Changes in owners’ lifestyle habits, such as working from home, are proving somewhat stressful [for their dogs].”

Pet ownership, already high in Japan, has reportedly boomed further since the pandemic, reflecting an apparent growing appetite for connection with animals due to social restrictions.

The Japan Pet Food Association found that the number of dog and cat owners across the country rose 15 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year - with an estimated 8.49 million pet dogs and 9.64 million pet cats.

09:42 AM

Number of people following lockdown rules falls

A new survey by Ipsos MORI shows the number of Britons who say they are following the Government’s COVID lockdown rules completely has fallen from almost half (47pc) in January 2021 to just over a third (35pc) now.

A further 36pc are following the restrictions nearly all of the time (up from 31pc) while 21pc are following most/ half of the time (was 16pc) and 6pc less than half/ hardly at all (little change from 4pc).

Claimed adherence to the rules reached a peak in January but has now dropped back to the levels seen last autumn.

Among those aged 55-75, the number of people following the rules completely has fallen from 58pc in January to 4 in 10 now (40pc), perhaps related to the success of the vaccine programme among older people.

However, overall this this age group is still more likely than younger Britons to say they are following the rules.

09:21 AM

MPs call for Johnson to publish lobbying messages from pharmaceutical firms

A cross-party group of MPs and peers have signed a joint statement with patient advocacy organisations calling for the Prime Minister, ministers, and senior civil servants to publish all email, text, and WhatsApp messages exchanged with pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists.

Signatories want to understand if private lobbying has influenced the UK’s “outrageous” opposition to a waiver of intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in the wake of scandals involving Greensill Capital and Dyson.

Labour, Scottish National Party, Alba, Liberal Democrat, Green, and Independent MPs and peers have signed the statement, including Jeremy Corbyn MP, Diane Abbott MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Zarah Sultana MP, Richard Burgon MP, Clive Lewis MP, Kenny MacAskill MP, and Baroness Sheehan, the Liberal Democrat International Development spokesperson in the House of Lords.

09:12 AM

Devi Sridhar: 'Public understands this is a serious virus'

Devi Sridhar, public health professor from the University of Edinburgh, told the programme: "We still have a lot of unvaccinated 40-year-olds, 30-year-olds - these are people who are still at risk of serious illness.

"I find it astonishing that, while there's anti-lockdown protests in Britain, we're seeing across the world absolute carnage in terms of lives being lost outside hospitals because people can't get care."

She added: "People want to go to places and do want to enjoy their lives, but they want to do it safely because I think in general the public understands this is such a serious virus and you don't want to acquire it at any age."

09:12 AM

Professor calls for lockdown to end 'immediately'

Professor Angus Dalgleish said he would like to see Covid-19 restrictions eased "immediately".

The consultant oncologist, who was one of the signatories of a letter calling for the Government to end coronavirus restrictions, told ITV's Good Morning Britain he does "not see any reason" to wait until June 21 - as set out in the Government's road map.

He said: "In my own professional capacity, we have people who've struggled and carried on with symptoms of cancer, too worried to come in to the hospital to get treatment, and now it's progressed further and their outlook is even worse."

He added: "We've got tens of thousands of cancer patients who should have been diagnosed and treated, with a much better outcome."

08:45 AM

Watch: Matt Hancock's delight at over half of population vaccinated

08:40 AM

Flemings should 'not be victims' of French anti-vax campaigns

Wouter Beke, Flanders’ health minister and a member of the Christian Democratic and Flemish party, also suggested the region could relax lockdown measures faster, reports Europe Editor James Crisp.

He said that Flemings should “not be the victims” of French anti-vax campaigns influencing Belgium’s francophones.

“We have done our homework and we deserve something in return,” he said.

A Flemish breakaway would be embarrassing for Alexander De Croo, the prime minister. He has stressed the importance of unity in a country which remains deeply divided on political and linguistic lines.

Richer, more populous Flanders is right wing but Wallonia is rural, poorer and left wing. Two of the three largest political parties in the 2019 elections are Flemish nationalist.

Coalition talks were only successful in October 2020 but excluded the NVA, which was the most successful party at the elections, from government.

08:23 AM

Belgium's Dutch and French-speaking regions at loggerheads

Simmering rivalries between Belgium’s Dutch and French-speaking regions have bubbled to the surface during the country’s vaccination campaign, writes Europe Editor James Crisp.

Jan Jambon is the minister-president of Dutch-speaking Flanders and a member of the NVA, a Flemish nationalist party which campaigns for independence from Belgium.

He heaped pressure on francophone Wallonia and ostensibly bilingual Brussels, Belgium’s other two federal regions, to fight vaccine scepticism among French speakers.

He warned that Flanders could break away from the unified Belgian response to the pandemic, and ease restrictions faster than the rest of the country.

“I hope that Wallonia and Brussels will really make efforts to fight against the scepticism of the French speakers,” Mr Jambon said.

“If the difference in vaccination coverage becomes even greater, we will have to think of additional relaxations for Flanders.”

07:48 AM

'We estimate that we will largely no longer need the AstraZeneca'

Most of the 11 million AstraZeneca vaccines ordered by the Netherlands to fight the coronavirus will go unused, the head of the Dutch public health institute’s vaccination department has said, reports Europe Editor James Crisp.

Jaap Van Delden has come under fire from Dutch doctors after he told the AD newspaper that there would be so many other vaccines available that the Oxford jab would not be needed.

The Netherlands, like a number of other EU countries, introduced age restrictions on the AstraZeneca vaccine limiting its use to the over 60s amid fears the jab could cause very rare blood clots. Public confidence in the jab has been dented, which has also hit pick-up of the vaccine, the Dutch News website said.

“At some point it is of course true that we are done with AstraZeneca. That moment will come a bit faster than expected, because Pfizer has started to deliver more,” Mr Van Delden said.

“We estimate that we will largely no longer need the AstraZeneca deliveries that we will receive from the second half of May. ”

The Netherlands has ordered 11m AstraZeneca vaccines and administered 1.5m of the jabs. There are about 17m people living in the country.

The Dutch family doctors association accused Mr Van Delden of further damaging public confidence in AstraZeneca and harming the vaccination roll out.

It said, “If the choice is AstraZeneca now or possibly another vaccine later, then the choice should absolutely be for AstraZeneca now.”

07:47 AM

Vaccine rollout extended to 44-year-olds - all over-40s could get call this week

The NHS is today inviting all 44-year-olds in England to come forward for a vaccine. Around half a million of the age group will begin receiving a text inviting them to book a jab, with health service sources predicting that the 40- to 43-year-olds will get the call later this week.

Two thirds of people aged 45 to 49 have now been vaccinated. It coincides with the launch of a new government campaign urging younger people to take up the offer when their turn comes.

This will include the vaccine programme’s first use of TV advertising.

The “every vaccination gives us hope” campaign will also run across social media and on billboards.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: “The biggest vaccination programme in NHS history has delivered 45.5 million doses so far across the UK, and we are on track to offer a jab to all adults by the end of July. I encourage everyone who is 44 to book an appointment to get the jab.”

07:40 AM

Watch: Oscar's most awkward moments in scaled-back ceremony

The Oscars took place last night, and once again it was a scaled-back version due to the global pandemic.

It meant that there was nowhere to hide during the ceremony's most awkward moments - and there were plenty of them.

07:24 AM

Uk will do 'everything we can to alleviate India's suffering'

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Covid-19 pressures in India were becoming "unbearable" and that the UK would "do everything we can to alleviate their suffering".

He told Sky News: "The United Kingdom is going to send to India oxygen compressors and ventilators, things that are really needed in the now.

"The pressure on hospitals in India is getting unbearable and we are going to do our part to make sure our friends in India get all the support they can.

"If you remember, we commissioned a huge number of ventilators to alleviate the pressure on our hospitals - it is only right that we share and help them in their time of need."

Asked whether he wished the decision had been taken sooner to provide aid to India, the Cabinet minister replied: "It is not like we just woke up this morning and thought we'd do it, it has been properly worked out and planned with the Indian government and made sure it became available as soon as needed

"If necessary, we'll put military planes together there or charter other planes - we'll do everything we can to alleviate their suffering."

07:08 AM

Hong Kong-Singapore air travel bubble opens in May

Hong Kong and Singapore said Monday they would launch an air travel bubble in May, months after an initial arrangement that would allow tourists to fly between both cities without having to serve quarantine was postponed.

Flights will begin from May 26. Visitors will not have to go through the quarantine as long as they fulfill the conditions of travelling within the air travel bubble.

Hong Kong and Singapore had previously announced the launch of an air travel bubble in November last year but shelved the plan days before it was to start after Hong Kong saw a surge in Covid-19 infections.

The air travel bubble comes as both Singapore and Hong Kong seek to boost tourism amid the pandemic, which has seen various countries close borders and declining air travel.

Travelers from Hong Kong will need to be fully vaccinated two weeks prior to departing for Singapore, although this requirement will not apply to those going from Singapore to Hong Kong. They are also required to have spent 14 days in each city before travelling, with compulsory quarantine periods not counting towards this period.

Under the new arrangement, the air travel bubble would be suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of local, untraceable coronavirus cases in either city exceed five.

06:52 AM

Lockdown in Bangkok as Thailand cases soar

Cinemas, parks and gyms were among venues closed in Bangkok on Monday as Thailand sees its worst surge of the coronavirus pandemic.

A shortage of hospital beds, along with a failure to secure adequate coronavirus vaccine supplies, have pushed the government into imposing the new restrictions, though no nationwide lockdowns, curfews, or travel bans. Health care workers say the measures are not enough to relieve overburdened hospitals.

Thai health authorities on Monday announced 2,048 new cases and eight deaths, bringing the totals to 57,508 cases and 148 deaths. The Thai capital has seen a rapid rise in infections since early April.

The latest measure aimed at curbing the spread of the virus is a fine of up to 20,000 baht ($636) for failing to wearing face masks in indoor and outdoor areas in 48 provinces including Bangkok.

06:40 AM

Johnson-Cummings war rages on

The Downing St war between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings rages on.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said reports that the Prime Minister said he would rather see "bodies pile high in their thousands" than order a third lockdown were "not true".

Speaking to Sky News, the Cabinet minister said: "Look, it is not true, it has been categorically denied by practically everyone.

"We are getting into the sort of comedy chapter now of these gossip stories - unnamed sources, by unnamed advisers talking about unnamed events.

"None of this is serious. The Prime Minister has been utterly focused on delivering, alongside Cabinet colleagues, the response to Covid."

He added: "All the 'who said, what said', I'll leave that to the Oscar gossip columns that are now being rolled out today after last night.

"I'll leave that to the Hello magazines of the world but Government is focused on delivering for the citizens on its Covid response."

06:17 AM

Today's front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Monday, Apr 26.

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05:31 AM

Israel examines heart inflammation cases after Pfizer jab

Israel's Health Ministry said on Sunday that it is examining a small number of cases of heart inflammation in people who had received Pfizer's Covid vaccine, though it has not yet drawn any conclusions.

Israel's pandemic response coordinator, Nachman Ash, said a preliminary study showed "tens of incidents" of myocarditis occurring among more than five million vaccinated people, primarily after the second dose.

Mr Ash said it was unclear whether this was unusually high and whether it was connected to the vaccine.

Most of the cases were reported among people up to age 30.

05:25 AM

Pakistan reaches out to neighbouring India

India's rival Pakistan is offering to send essential medical supplies to its neighbour, as India struggles to cope in the grip of a devastating coronavirus surge that has depleted oxygen stocks and other hospital needs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that as a gesture of solidarity with the people of India, Pakistan has offered to provide relief support including ventilators, oxygen supply kits, digital X-ray machines, PPE and related items.

It said authorities of both countries can work out modalities for a quick delivery of the items and can also explore possible ways of further cooperation to mitigate the challenges posed by the pandemic.

The offer came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan in a tweet prayed for the "speedy recovery of the Indian people affected by the virus".

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says Pakistan, believing in a policy of humanity first, made the offer to India and is awaiting a response.

05:04 AM

Travel bubble plans for Singapore and Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Singapore today announced they will launch an air travel bubble in May, months after an initial arrangement that would allow tourists to fly between both cities without having to serve quarantine was postponed.

Flights will begin from May 26. The scheme will start with one flight a day into each city, with up to 200 travellers on each flight

Visitors will not have to quarantine as long as they fulfil the conditions of travelling within the bubble. Those wanting to travel from either city must test negative for Covid before departure and on arrival.

Hong Kong and Singapore announced the launch of a bubble in November but shelved the plan days before it was to start after Hong Kong saw a surge in Covid infections.

04:57 AM

Covid cases surpass 17 million in India

Exhausted workers who bring bodies for cremation, in New Delhi, India - Altaf Qadri/AP
Exhausted workers who bring bodies for cremation, in New Delhi, India - Altaf Qadri/AP

India today set another global record for a rise in daily coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day, while Covid deaths also jumped by an all-time high over the past 24 hours.

With 352,991 new cases, India's total caseload has crossed 17 million.

Deaths rose by a record 2,812 to reach a total of 195,123.

Delhi has been cremating so many bodies of coronavirus victims that authorities are getting requests to start cutting down trees in city parks - Altaf Qadri/AP
Delhi has been cremating so many bodies of coronavirus victims that authorities are getting requests to start cutting down trees in city parks - Altaf Qadri/AP

04:31 AM

Are you suffering from a ‘lockdown low’?

Even as the vaccination programme kicks in and restrictions start to lift, many of us are feeling residual tension from the year we’ve been through, combined with a strange sense of stagnation, listlessness and low mood, writes Helen Chandler-Wilde.

Our batteries are running low but they can be recharged
Our batteries are running low but they can be recharged

Adam Grant, psychologist from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, described this as “languishing” in The New York Times last week. “It’s the void between depression and flourishing – the absence of wellbeing,” he says.

“You’re not functioning at full capacity... It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.”

In fact, a prison report by the Centre of Mental Health suggests that the uncertainties of the first two weeks after release from a long period of incarceration – or, in our case, lockdown – are the time of most heightened psychological risk.

Read Helen's story: Are you suffering from a ‘lockdown low’? Here's how to get your energy back

04:00 AM

Superspreader funeral leads to lockdown in Fiji

The Fijian capital Suva entered a 14-day lockdown today as the Pacific island nation battled to contain a Covid spike after a "superspreader" funeral.

Around 100,000 people in the city must stay in containment zones and non-essential businesses are shut after the first community coronavirus cases in 12 months were detected.

A soldier contracted the virus at a quarantine facility and is believed to have transmitted it to a maid, who then exposed up to 500 people at a funeral.

The permanent secretary for health and medical services, James Fong, said four new cases emerged over the weekend.

Fiji has largely contained the virus through strict isolation measures and border controls, recording fewer than 100 cases and two deaths in a population of 930,000.

03:02 AM

US to ramp up support for virus-hit India

The United States will "immediately" make supplies of vaccine-production material, as well as therapeutics, tests, ventilators and protective equipment available to India as the South Asian giant battles a Covid-19 surge, the White House said on Sunday.

Western nations including Britain, France, Canada and Germany have also pledged help as India's coronavirus crisis grows, driving an increase in the global case count in recent days even as the number of vaccines administered worldwide surpassed the one billion mark.

"The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India," a White House statement said.

Washington has also "identified supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will immediately be made available for India," said the statement from National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne.

Read more: Britain pledges emergency aid for Covid-hit India

02:08 AM

Italy reopens as parliament debates recovery plan

Bars, restaurants, cinemas and concert halls will partially reopen across Italy on Monday in a boost for coronavirus-hit businesses, as parliament debates the government's €220 billion (£191billion) EU-funded recovery plan.

After months of stop-start restrictions imposed to manage its second and third waves of Covid-19, Italy hopes this latest easing will mark the start of something like a normal summer.

Three-quarters of regions will drop into the low-risk "yellow" categories from Monday, with bars and restaurants permitted to restart table service outside - although a 10pm curfew remains in place.

Italy was the first European country to be hit by the pandemic and remains one of the worst affected, with the EU's highest reported death toll and one of the deepest recessions.

The economy contracted by a staggering 8.9 percent last year and a million jobs have been lost.

Italy is pinning its hopes on a €222.1 billion investment and reform plan funded largely by the European Union.

People enjoy a sunny day during the last weekend in the orange zone, in Rome - Giuseppe Lami/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
People enjoy a sunny day during the last weekend in the orange zone, in Rome - Giuseppe Lami/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

01:55 AM

Scot shoppers urged to 'spend and keep safe' as doors reopen

Shoppers in Scotland have been reminded over mask-wearing and distancing as retailers look to claw back £4.1 billion in lost sales since the start of the pandemic.

From Monday, "non-essential" shops are allowed to open their doors to the public after being shuttered since Boxing Day, with millions spent on safety-proofing them against Covid transmission.

The Scottish Retail Consortium urged shoppers to queue considerately and be mindful over distancing and mask-wearing after "four long months of closure" for shops.

It expects an "initial surge" as customers venture out but said the "real test will be how this holds up".

Read more: Scotland lockdown roadmap - what rules are lifting on April 26?

01:30 AM

Mexican minister visits Russia, vying to bring vaccine production home

Mexico's top diplomat traveled to Moscow on Sunday for a visit with Russian officials, his office said, amid talks to hammer out plans for Mexico to bottle Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine domestically after delays in shipments.

The government is aiming to quicken its pace of vaccinations, with just more than 4 per cent of its population of 126 million people fully inoculated.

Mexico has registered 214,947 deaths, the fourth most worldwide, and 2,328,391 infections from the pandemic. The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher.

Mexico's state-run vaccine manufacturer, Birmex, is working with Russia on a plan to bottle Sputnik V in Mexico, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said last week, just as Argentina produced test batches of the two-shot vaccine.

12:58 AM

Today's top stories

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