, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers

The public should be able to ditch face masks over the summer as vaccines do the heavy lifting in controlling Covid-19, Government scientific advisers believe.

Step four of the Government’s road map for England currently states that all legal limits on social contact will be removed by June 21 at the earliest, when restrictions on large events such as festivals are also expected to ease.

Scientists advising the Government say there is nothing currently in the data to suggest that people will not be able to enjoy a relatively normal summer, though coronavirus cases may well rise as the autumn approaches.

Asked about mask-wearing in the coming months, one source said that vaccines are working so well, and there is such good vaccine uptake among members of the public, that things will return to much more like normal life over the summer months, with cases dropping very low, particularly in May.

However, masks and possibly other measures may be needed next autumn and winter if cases surge, they said.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

Auto update

5:43PM

Indian variant has become the most imported form of Covid

The Indian variant is now the most imported form of coronavirus, a new analysis by Public Health England (PHE) has found, amid fears it contains mutations which could bypass immunity and make it more transmissible.

The variant has now overtaken the UK variant in travellers, even though the Kent mutated virus has spread rapidly round the world, meaning cases are regularly being imported back to Britain.

A report from PHE found that just three cases of the Indian variant have no link to travel, with 94 out of 119 cases imported, and 22 still under investigation. 

There are fears more cases will be found in the coming days following a scramble to return to Britain from India before the country was red listed on Friday

Anyone returning must now isolate in a government-approved quarantine facility, where previously they were trusted to stay at home and take PCR tests.

Sarah Knapton has the full story here

5:36PM

More surge-testing for parts of Birmingham over variant concerns

More surge-testing is to begin in another area of Birmingham after a confirmed case of the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa was discovered.

In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the individual concerned had “self-isolated and their contacts have been identified”.

Health officials added: “This follows recent surge testing in the Birmingham and Sandwell areas, although initial investigations indicate that this case is not linked to those cases.”

Households in the Highgate and Bordesley ward, which includes the city’s bustling Digbeth creative district, are to be targeted.

Only this week, surge-testing had already been announced for households in the city’s nearby Alum Rock area, as well as Glebe Farm and Tile Cross, after a confirmed case of the variant.

5:31PM

Turkey lifts ban on direct flights from UK in boost to holiday hopes

Turkey has boosted the prospect of UK holidaymakers being able to visit this summer by lifting flight restrictions.

The popular tourist destination announced it has ended its ban on direct flights from the UK.

Authorities also confirmed they will not require international tourists to have received a coronavirus vaccine but they will need to show evidence of a recent negative PCR test.

British nationals made more than 2.5 million visits to Turkey in 2019, according to Government figures.

Popular areas include Istanbul, Bodrum, Dalaman and Izmir.

5:26PM

PM considering Covid aid for India

Boris Johnson has said that he was looking at what could be done to help India, where the pandemic is entering a deadly new phase with which its health services are struggling to cope.

“We’re looking at what we can do to help and support the people of India,” the Prime Minister said. 

He described India as a “great partner”, explaining that the help could include providing ventilators or therapeutics. 

5:15PM

AstraZeneca jab gives significant benefit in avoiding ‘hospital admission’ 

The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine provides a “significant benefit” in avoiding hospital admission across all age groups, the European Medicines Regulator (EMA) has said.

Overall, the benefits of the jab continue to outweigh the risks of rare blood clots, and benefits increase in older age groups and in areas with higher levels of coronavirus infection, the regulator said.

The EMA said its human medicines committee (CHMP) had analysed available data on the vaccine to put the risk of rare blood clots into context of benefits for different age groups and different rates of infection.

Presenting interim findings on Friday, Dr Peter Arlett, the EMA’s head of data analytics and methods task force, said the AstraZeneca vaccine is “highly effective at preventing infection, and therefore hospitalisation and death”.

He said: “Today nine graphics have been published for the three outcomes, hospitalisations, ICU (intensive care unit) admissions and deaths avoided, assuming an 80 per cent vaccine effectiveness over a four-month period, and three levels of virus exposure, low, medium and high.”

5:13PM

40 new deaths from Covid-19 in UK

The Government said a further 40 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, bringing the UK total to 127,385.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have been 151,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The Government also said that, as of 9am on Friday, there had been a further 2,678 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.

It brings the total to 4,401,109.

5:00PM

Scotland’s largest pub operator blasts SNP hospitality restrictions as ‘nonsensical’ and ‘onerous’ 

Scotland’s largest pub operator has warned that only half its premises will be able to reopen on Monday thanks to Nicola Sturgeon’s “nonsensical” restrictions on hospitality.

Star Pubs & Bars, which is owned by brewing giant Heineken, said 50 per cent of its 230 businesses across the country will remain shuttered as they cannot operate with the SNP government’s curfews and ban on indoor drinking.

While beer gardens across Scotland will be able to serve alcohol outdoors until 10pm from Monday, the ban on indoor drinking is not set to be lifted until at least May 17 and customers enjoying a meal inside must leave by 8pm.

Warning that Scotland’s pubs are in a “fragile state”, managing director Lawson Mountstevens said that although the group is “delighted” at being able to reopen, the ongoing restrictions are “onerous”.

4:50PM

EU approves 462 million euros loan for beleaguered Portugese airline

The European Commission said on Friday it had authorised a loan of 462 million euros ($556.9 million) from the Portuguese government to airline Transportes Aereos Portugueses (TAP) to compensate for damage suffered during the pandemic.

The airline, similar to others across Europe, incurred significant losses due to travel restrictions in Portugal and destination countries, the Commission said.

“This measure will enable Portugal to compensate TAP for the damage it suffered as a direct result of the travel restrictions that Portugal and other destination countries had to implement to limit the spread of coronavirus,” EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

The support, in the form of loan, may be converted into capital and disbursed to TAP in one or several instalments. 

4:39PM

‘Hopeful trend’ as cases fall in U.S.

U.S. Covid-19 cases fell 10pc over the past week, signaling a “hopeful trend” even as wide gaps in vaccination rates across the country have raised new concerns, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention said on Friday.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, speaking to reporters in a news briefing, said there were “unsettling gaps” in parts of the country where vaccination rates were low and could allow spikes in cases of the coronavirus and possibly more deaths.

4:27PM

Cyprus to impose partial lockdown to stem virus surge 

Cyprus on Friday announced a two-week partial lockdown as hospitals struggle to cope with surging coronavirus cases, with restrictions covering the key Orthodox Easter holidays.

“The growing number of infections, combined with intense pressure on the health system, cannot leave us indifferent and requires difficult decisions, drastic measures,” Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told reporters.

The new restrictions, running from April 26 to May 9, mean that people are encouraged to work from home and must seek authorisation for only one non-work-related trip daily.

Non-essential shops will close, and a 9:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew will be imposed, tightening the start time from 11:00 pm.

4:19PM

WHO redeploys 2,600 staff in India to tackle Covid

The World Health Organisation has redeployed 2,600 staff in India to help with the Covid response from its other programmes on diseases like polio. 

“The situation in India is a devastating reminder of what this virus can do,” said WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

Multiple funeral pyres of victims of burn in a ground that has been converted into a crematorium for mass cremation. 

Credit:
AP

The WHO is also providing clinical advice on triaging patients to overwhelmed hospitals, and technical support for oxygen plants, Dr Tedros said. 

“[We] stand with the government and people of India and we’ll do whatever we can to save as many lives as we can.” 

4:17PM

Vaccines to arrive in Madagascar in two weeks as virus flares

Madagascar said on Friday it would receive a first lot of Covid-19 vaccines soon to fight a second wave that has overwhelmed health facilities.

The Indian Ocean island nation is struggling with burgeoning infections with nearly 9,900 cases recorded over the past month, of which at least 194 have been fatal.

The country of around 27 million people has so far reported 34,775 coronavirus cases, including 588 deaths.

The resurgence prompted President Andry Rajoelina to abandon a hard-line stance on vaccines and agree to a rollout.

Health Minister Jean Louis Hanitrala Rakotovao on Friday said the first jabs would arrive “within 15 days”.

4:15PM

Mark Drakeford: India’s Covid surge should be considered before UK travel resumes

India’s explosive surge in coronavirus cases should give “real pause for thought” to the UK Government before it reopens international travel, Wales’ First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford warned that the improving public health situation in the UK could be put at risk by the “wild card” of an imported strain of the virus from another part of the globe.

Wales has eight confirmed cases of the Indian variant of Covid-19 from people who have returned from India, with each being monitored by their area’s public health teams.

On Friday, Mr Drakeford said that an expected third wave of the virus in the UK could be triggered by newer strain from elsewhere.

3:58PM

Germany lists India as coronavirus ‘high incidence area’

Germany has classified India, Qatar, Oman, Tunisia and Cape Verde as new coronavirus ‘high incidence areas’  due to the number of infections there, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Friday.

People returning to Germany from high incidence areas must register with the German authorities before travelling and then quarantine on their return.

Germany has downgraded Albania and Moldova to risk areas, from high risk areas, the RKI said.

3:49PM

Canada’s Covid-19 cases could almost double soon unless stricter measures taken

New daily cases of COVID-19 in Canada could almost double to more than 15,000 from 8,600 by the end of April unless stricter measures are taken as new coronavirus variants spread, health officials warned on Friday.

The officials told a briefing that if people cut the number of personal contacts by 20 to 30 per cent, the number of cases could drop to around 4,500.

“Elevated case counts and severe illness trends remind us we are still in a right race between vaccines and variants and our actions matter,” said Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam.

Major provinces such as Ontario are struggling to cope with a worsening third wave of COVID-19 and accuse Ottawa of not doing enough to clamp down on the spread of new more highly transmissible virus variants and also of bungling the procurement of vaccines.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie are due to receive their first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday.

3:47PM

WHO initiative to tackle Covid suffers funding gap of $19bn

An initiative launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic exactly a year ago has a funding gap of $19bn.

The ACT-Accelerator was established to develop and deliver the tests, treatments, and vaccines the world needs to defeat Covid-19. 

While there have been major scientific advances and collaboration since then – a year ago, there were no vaccines available, no effective treatments, and very limited testing – the need for funding threatens to derail progress, the WHO warned. 

“One year after the launch of the ACT Accelerator, world leaders face a choice: invest in saving lives by treating the cause of the pandemic everywhere, now, or continue to spend trillions on the consequences with no end in sight,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom said. 

“With a remaining funding gap of US$ 19 billion for 2021 and limited supply of products, we can only end the pandemic by funding, sharing, and scaling-up access to the tools we need to fight the disease.” 

3:39PM

EU backs Astrazeneca’s vaccine as reviews into blood continue

Europe’s drug regulator reiterated on Friday that benefits of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine outweigh any risks, as part of a detailed guidance from ongoing reviews into rare blood clots to help individual nations determine the shot’s use.

The renewed backing comes after several countries in the European Union and worldwide have limited the use of the vaccine, known as Vaxzevria, while Denmark has stopped its use altogether, after possible links to clotting issues were confirmed.

The interim analysis by a committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) determined that serious side effects of rare blood clots are likely to occur in 1 out of 100,000 vaccinated people, the regulator said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the EMA said it had found a possible link between AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine and a similar, rare blood clotting problem connected to the one from Johnson & Johnson which led to a small number of deaths.

3:34PM

Indian hospitals plead for oxygen as infections rise to new record

India put oxygen tankers on special express trains as major hospitals in New Delhi begged on social media on Friday for more supplies to save Covid-19 patients who are struggling to breathe.

More than a dozen people died when an oxygen-fed fire ripped through a coronavirus ward in a populous western state.

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

Health workers carry a patient after a fire in Vijay Vallabh Covid-19 hospital at Virar, 

Credit:
Rajanish Kakade/AP

India’s underfunded health system is tattering as the world’s worst virus surge wears out the nation, which set a global record in daily infections for a second straight day with 332,730.

India has confirmed 16 million cases so far, second only to the United States in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. India has recorded 2,263 deaths in the past 24 hours for a total of 186,920.

The fire in a hospital intensive care unit killed 13 COVID-19 patients in the Virar area on the outskirts of Mumbai early Friday.

The situation is worsening by the day with hospitals taking to social media to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop admissions of new patients.

3:27PM

India must reduce mobility and mixing to rein in pandemic, says WHO 

India must control mobility and mixing to reduce a surge in infections, the World Health Organization emergencies director Mike Ryan said on Friday.

He called reducing transmission in India a “very difficult task”.

“We’ve got to reduce mixing in whatever way we can to reduce infection. The Indian government is looking to do that.”

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

Relatives carry the body of a man who died from Covid-19, during his funeral at a graveyard in New Delhi

Credit:
Adnan Abidi/Reuters

India reported the world’s highest daily tally of coronavirus infections for a second day on Friday, surpassing 330,000 new cases, as it struggles with a health system overwhelmed by patients and plagued by accidents and lack of oxygen.

3:16PM

UK ‘no longer’ facing pandemic, says Mark Drakeford

The United Kingdom’s coronavirus pandemic is over for now but there is no guarantee the situation will not worsen again, according to Wales’ First Minister.

Mark Drakeford said he agreed with reported comments from the Covid Infection Survey’s chief investigator, who said the UK had moved to an “endemic” situation thanks to the success of the vaccination programme.

Asked if he agreed the pandemic was over at the Welsh Government’s press briefing on Friday, Mr Drakeford said: “By its definition we’re no longer at this moment in a pandemic.

“I continue, as I feel I must, just sound a warning sign that this is not a one-way street. The fact that things aren’t getting better does not mean that it inevitably goes on getting better.

“We’ve just seen in recent weeks how fast things went from being in a good position to a very difficult position in France, in Italy, in Germany.

“Of course we are working very hard to make sure that the current progress is not reversed in Wales.

3:12PM

Austria  to reopen restaurants, hotels and theatres on May 19

Austria plans to loosen its coronavirus restrictions on May 19, letting restaurants, hotels and theatres reopen their doors for the first time in more than five months, the government said on Friday.

This is despite concerns about high rates of infection in the country. 

“The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a news conference.

A government statement published at the same time said a nighttime curfew would be scrapped, though meetings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. would generally be limited to four adults. 

3:05PM

Lost frescoes to greet visitors when Italy’s Uffizi reopen after pandemic

Recently discovered frescoes will greet visitors to Florence’s Uffizi Galleries when the museum reopens May 4 after the most recent lockdown. 

Workers doing restoration discovered the painted walls and ceilings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries beneath plaster in the museum’s west wing, which is where the new visitor entrance will be when the Uffizi opens to the public.

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

Restoration work has been taking place at the Uffizi Galleries in Florence

Uffizi director Eike Schmidt said the new entrance facing the Arno River would provide “a glorious introduction” for visitors.

The Uffizi, famed for its collection of masterpieces including paintings by Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, announced the May 4 reopening date Friday, as Italy gradually reopens from rolling regional lockdowns.

2:46PM

Mask wearing ‘under review’ in Wales, says Mark Drakeford

First Minister Mark Drakeford told the Welsh Government briefing he would continue to receive advice from the chief medical officer about mask wearing in public places.

“At the moment, the advice is that it is still a useful part of the defences that we have to keep one another safe,” he said.

“But you can be sure that it is kept very regularly under review when the chief medical officer says to me that he believes it’s no longer something that needs to be required, then that will be reflected in the decision making that we would then follow from that advice.”

Mr Drakeford said the latest modelling suggested there would be a third wave of coronavirus in Wales.

2:20PM

Immunologist warns against summer holidays resuming

Professor Sir John Bell, Oxford University’s Regius Professor of Medicine, raised concerns about the prospect of holidays abroad resuming this summer.

Asked how he felt about international travel, he told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme: “You only have to look at what is going on in India.

“I think you have to say, really? Do we want people flying around the world and getting exposed to those sorts of issues?

“Just to be clear, things are great here, they are not so great in Europe. There is quite a lot of variants circulating in Europe, they have got a lot of disease in this current wave.

“And then you get to the developing economies – India, Africa, central and south America – where they have terrible disease, with lots of variants.”

2:05PM

EU Commission sees potential in protein-based Covid-19 vaccines

The EU Commission may eventually expand its portfolio of Covid-19 jabs to protein-based vaccines, the EU executive’s President Ursula von der Leyen suggested on Friday.

“We will certainly add other potential vaccines, for example protein-based vaccines have also quite a potential,” von der Leyen said at a news briefing.

The vaccines currently being developed by Novavax and Sanofi/Glaxo-Smith-Kline are examples of protein-based vaccines

2:03PM

EU to have enough vaccines for 70pc of adults ‘in July’ 

The EU coronavirus vaccine programme will secure enough doses to immunise 70 percent of adults by the end of July, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Friday.

The EU chief had previously set a goal of late September for this feat, but announced the new target during a visit to a Belgian vaccine plant that is ramping up production.

“I’m confident we will have enough doses to vaccinate 70 percent of all EU adults already in July,” von der Leyen said, at a factory producing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Von der Leyen said the European Union would “in the next days” conclude a new contract with the firm – already a mainstay of the European effort – for an additional 1.8 billion doses in 2022 and 2023.

1:54PM

PM denies being ‘over the top’ in care home restrictions

Asked if he believed the self-isolation policy in care homes to be “a bit over the top”, the Prime Minister said: “I really appreciate people’s frustrations about some of the restrictions that are still in force and I know how difficult it can be.

“We have taken steps to ensure people can go and see their elderly relatives in care homes, we’ve increased the number of people who can go to see elderly relatives.

“But don’t forget, and I know that it seems a long time ago now, but don’t forget how bad that epidemic was in our care homes – it was a huge number of lives that we lost.

“We are advancing, as you know, cautiously, but we hope irreversibly, down the steps of the road map, through the road map, and we hope to make sure people can get back to life as close to normal as possible.

“May 17 is the next big date, June 21 we hope everything will be opened up. At the moment, as I look at the numbers today, there’s no question it continues to look very promising, but we’ve got to remain prudent and stick to the road map.”

1:46PM

Quicker vaccinations in prisons needed to lift severe restrictions

Severe coronavirus restrictions may have to be in place for “many more months” in prisons unless there is faster “universal vaccination” of staff and inmates, according to the Government’s scientific advisers.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said measures behind bars to keep the infections under control and outbreaks to a minimum – such as keeping prisoners locked in cells for up to 23 hours a day, a ban on visits and cuts in training and exercise – have a “highly negative effect” on rehabilitation and mental health.

In the March paper on Covid-19 transmission in prison, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to help inform long-term policy, scientists from Sage said: “Prisons will remain at high risk of outbreaks even when disease levels in the community are low because importation of a single case can lead to a large outbreak.

Without high levels of immunity or continued intensive control measures, prisons could in future become amplifiers or reservoirs of infection, including variants of concern.

1:36PM

R number keeps falling below 1

The pandemic is still estimated to be shrinking, though possibly a little less quickly compared to last week, the health ministry said on Friday, adding that the closely watched reproduction “R” was still estimated below 1.

The daily growth rate of Covid-19 infections was estimated between -5% and -1%, compared to an estimate of -6% and -1% last week.

The estimated range for the R number was 0.8 to 1.0, meaning on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 8 and 10 other people. Last week it was estimated at 0.7 to 1.0 #

1:30PM

PM: ‘Britain is getting pandemic under control’

Britain is getting the pandemic under control as case numbers fall and vaccines are rolled out, Boris Johnson said on Friday, adding that he would stick to a cautious plan for easing lockdown restrictions.

“We’re getting through this. There’s no question that things are better than they were,” he told broadcasters, adding that he thought the next stage of reopening would proceed on May 17, with all restrictions hopefully lifted on June 21.

“There’s no question that we’re starting to get the pandemic really well under control at the moment, but we’ve got to stick to our cautious approach and go through the steps of the roadmap.” 

1:21PM

Swiss teenagers to receive ‘coronavirus present’ from city council 

Teenagers in Basel, Switzerland are set to receive a “coronavirus present” from the city council as a way of saying thank you for going without seeing friends and respecting pandemic restrictions over the past year.

Basel City councillor Jenny Schweizer passed a motion on Wednesday that was supported by almost all political groups in the canton, according to local media.

“It is now time that we thank the young people in our canton with a special gesture,” Ms Schweizer told Swiss national broadcaster SRF. 

“They have shown consideration for the most vulnerable people in society,” she added.

The motion proposed that all people between the ages of 12 and 20 in the canton receive a “sign of thanks” for doing without certain activities over the past year and cutting contacts. 

It is not yet clear what form the present might take, although local media reports suggested it could be anything from a cinema or concert ticket to a voucher for a meal.

1:00PM

Swedish Health Agency recommends continued pause on J & J vaccine

Sweden’s Public Health Agency said it was extending its recommendation against starting vaccinations using a vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.

The agency said on April 14 it would not start using the Covid-19 vaccine following reports of rare blood clots, similar to those reported for the AstraZeneca shot

12:57PM

WHO urges African nations to keep expired vaccines

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged African countries not to destroy Covid-19 vaccines that may have passed their expiry date. 

Countries have been told to keep hold of them and wait for further guidance.

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

People wait to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at Ndirande Health Centre in Blantyre Malaw

Credit:
AP

The appeal comes after Malawi and South Sudan said they would destroy more than 70,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab because they expired in mid-April.

But the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC) said it had been assured the doses were safe to use.

Many vaccines can be used up to 36 months after manufacture, but because Covid-19 jabs are so new there is not enough data to prove their effectiveness over longer periods.

12:51PM

Cases decrease across the North 

The percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 is estimated to have decreased in North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands and London, the ONS said.

The trend was uncertain for all other regions.

North-west England had the highest proportion of people of any region in England likely to test positive for coronavirus in the week to April 16: around one in 370.

South-west England had the lowest estimate: around one in 1,540.

12:44PM

Infections drop below 100,000 for first time since September

Around one in 610 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to April 16 – down from one in 480 the previous week, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS said an estimated 90,000 people within the community population in England had Covid-19.

This is the first time it has dropped below 100,000 since the week to September 10 2020, when the estimate stood at 59,800, the equivalent of around one in 900 people.

12:36PM

Pope visits homeless getting free vaccines from Vatican

Pope Francis visited homeless people getting free Covid-19 vaccines from his Vatican charity on Friday as he celebrated his name day, the feast of St. George.

About 600 of the 1,400 people who received a first dose several weeks ago got their second shot on Friday.

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

Pope Francis tap hands with a child during his visit to a vaccination centre on Friday

Credit:
AFP

Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio 82 years ago in Buenos Aires, spent about 30 minutes chatting with some of the recipients, many from the area around the Vatican.

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

He offered them food and sweets including chocolate Easter eggs, according to a statement and Vatican images of the event.

The Vatican also has begun a campaign that allows donors to contribute, via the website of the Vatican almoner’s office, the cost of a vaccine destined for people in poor countries.

12:32PM

Mark Drakeford ‘hopeful’ third wave will not bring return of restrictions

A third wave of coronavirus during the summer is “likely” but will not necessarily see restrictions reimposed in response, Wales’s First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said he is “hopeful” that a spike in Covid-19 cases caused by the return of freedoms will be mitigated by the country’s vaccination programme and better understanding of the virus.

On Friday, he confirmed that indoor supervised activities for children, indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults, and the reopening of community centres are being brought forward from May 17 to May 3.

Mr Drakeford also said indoor hospitality and all tourism accommodation can reopen from May 17, subject to confirmation by the party that leads the Welsh Government following the Senedd election.

Asked whether he is easing restrictions early in the hope that the spike will occur during the warmer months, Mr Drakeford told the PA news agency: “The modelling does show a third spike is likely to happen in the summer.

“But there’s a tension there. If it happens in the summer, in some ways that makes it more manageable.”

12:09PM

David Beckham leads global vaccine drive along with charity Unicef

David Beckham has partnered with charity Unicef to lead a global vaccination drive.

Beckham, a goodwill ambassador for the charity, said that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has “reminded us about the power of vaccines”.

In a video released ahead of World Immunisation Week, the former footballer urged families to ensure that their children are receiving routine vaccines to protect them against diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio.

“In the last year, Covid-19 has shown us how much we take for granted but it has also reminded us about the power of vaccines,” Beckham said.

“Vaccines work, saving millions of lives every year. I have learned through my work with Unicef just how important they are for the health of our loved ones.

11:58AM

Indonesia to restrict foreign travellers from India over new variant

Indonesia will stop issuing visas for foreigners who have been in India in the past 14 days to prevent the spread of different coronavirus strains, a government minister said on Friday.

India is facing a health crisis, including the impact of a “double mutant” strain of Covid-19, with the country posting the world’s highest single-day increase in cases on Friday for a second day, surpassing 330,000 infections.

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

Workers prepare to transport much-needed medical oxygen cylinders to hospitals outside Hyderabad

Credit:
Noah Seelam/AFP

“Based on these observations, the government has decided to stop issuing visas for foreigners who have lived or visited India in the past 14 days,” chief economic minister Airlangga Hartarto said on Friday.

The curbs follow the arrival in Indonesia of a chartered flight from Chennai carrying 129 people, 12 of which had tested positive for Covid-19. Samples had been taken for genomic sequencing, said health minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin.

“Lots of people still enter Indonesia,” he said. “We must be careful of those entering from South Asian countries.”

11:54AM

EU legal action against AstraZeneca won’t help vaccine drive, says German health minister 

Launching legal action against AstraZeneca will not help the European Union secure vaccine doses more quickly, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said today . 

“It is much more important to me that I get these vaccines,” Spahn told a weekly news conference in Berlin, adding that the EU should cooperate with AstraZeneca to get as many deliveries as quickly as possible.

While legal procedures and liability issues will have to be cleared up, Spahn said they were “not a priority” at this stage in the pandemic.

The European Commission is working on legal proceedings against AstraZeneca after the drugmaker cut Covid-19 vaccine deliveries to the European Union, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

11:49AM

Japan issues third state of emergency amid Covid surge

Japan declared a third state of emergency for Tokyo and three western prefectures on Friday amid skepticism it will be enough to curb a rapid coronavirus resurgence just three months ahead of the Olympics.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo from April 25 through May 11.

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

People dine in Tokyo’s Shimbashi district ahead of a new state of emergency

Credit:
Charly Triballeau/AFP

The step is largely intended to be “short and intensive” to stop people from traveling and spreading the virus during Japan’s “Golden Week” holidays from late April through the first week of May, Suga said.

He is due to explain the measures at a news conference later Friday as he seeks the public’s understanding.

Japan’s third state of emergency since the pandemic began comes only a month after an earlier emergency ended in the Tokyo area. For days, experts and local leaders said ongoing semi-emergency measures have failed and tougher steps are urgently needed.

11:46AM

Russia: Putin announces 10-day non-working period in May to prevent virus surge 

President Vladimir Putin on Friday backed a proposal by the head of Russia’s health watchdog to introduce a 10-day non-working period next month to prevent a surge in coronavirus infections.

“If you think that it’s necessary, let’s do it. Today I’ll sign the relevant decree,” Putin said in a televised meeting in response to a proposal from the head of Rospotrebnadzor, Anna Popova.

11:41AM

Germany backs use of J & J shot despite blood clot fears from U.S. 

Germany has decided not to impose limits on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, the head of the country’s vaccine regulator said on Friday, adding the expert panel that decides on its use will meet next week to evaluate new data.

Europe’s drug regulator backed J&J’s vaccine this week after examining cases of a rare blood clotting issue in U.S. adults who received a dose. But it left it up to the European Union’s member states to decide how to use it.

Germany’s vaccine committee, known as STIKO, has limited the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot to those aged 60 and above due to the risk of rare blood clots.

Klaus Cichutek, the head of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute, said J&J’s vaccine was safe and effective and that the frequency of reports of an extremely rare clotting issue were 10 times lower than with the AstraZeneca shot.

11:37AM

Fire at Mumbai hospital kills 13 Covid patients

Thirteen Covid-19 patients died in a Mumbai hospital fire as India’s health system continued to buckle under a new wave of infections.

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

Flames rise from cremation pyres of victims of a fire that broke out in Vijay Vallabh 

Credit:
Rajanish Kakade /AP

Lax adherence to public health precautions, more transmissible variants and the government allowing “super spreader” rallies and religious gatherings have all been blamed for a terrifying acceleration in the pandemic in India in recent weeks.

The Mumbai fire was only the latest such tragedy. “There were 17 patients inside when a fire broke out in the ICU of Vijay Vallabh Hospital, out of which 13 died and four have been shifted to other facilities,” fire department official Morrison Khavari told AFP.

Earlier this week, 22 Covid-19 patients died at another hospital in the same state of Maharashtra when the oxygen supply to their ventilators was disrupted by a leak.

11:30AM

Comment: A successful malaria vaccine could be a lasting legacy of the terrible Covid pandemic 

Trials of a jab against the mosquito-borne disease show real promise but we must ensure it can get to those who need it most, says Adrian Hill

We must maintain our longstanding focus on helping tackle other global health challenges that pose an ongoing threat to human lives, particularly malaria.

This is a potent disease, with the World Health Organization reporting an estimated 229 million cases in 2019. In Africa malaria probably caused four times as many deaths as Covid-19 in the last 12 months.

Globally, the malaria death toll has been around 400,000 annually with no improvement in the last five years. Two-thirds of this terrible loss is amongst African children under five years of age.

But progress on malaria vaccine development is accelerating as illustrated by a report from a multi-national team in today’s Lancet – an especially poignant achievement on World Malaria Day.

For the first time, a vaccine is showing high efficacy of  77 per cent, a landmark achievement reaching WHO’s target efficacy level, of  more than 75 per cent, for the first time.

11:21AM

6.8m people now vaccinated with both doses in Russia, claims Kremlin

Russia has administered both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to 6.8 million people, while 11.1 million have received their first jab, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova announced today. 

Russia, she said in televised comments, has produced 27.9 million vaccine doses and 15 million have been made available on the civilian market. 

11:17AM

Suspension of J & J vaccine under review in U.S.

Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet again on Friday to consider whether to it is safe to resume injections of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, as senior U.S. health officials prepare for a green light.

The panel last week called for more data about a possible link to rare blood clots in the brain before deciding how and whether to end a “pause” in administration of J&J vaccines called for by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration.

The decision by CDC’s advisory panel has global implications since J&J’s immunization is seen as an important tool for poorer countries and less accessible populations, given that it only requires one dose and can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, making it relatively easy to transport.

Some panel members had argued that an extension of the pause could send a message to the world that the vaccine had major safety issues.

There have been six reported cases of rare brain blood clots accompanied by low platelets in the blood out of nearly eight million doses administered in the United States.

11:07AM

Drakeford hopes India will make PM ‘pause for thought’ on international travel

First Minister Mark Drakeford said he hoped the coronavirus situation in India gave the UK Government “real pause for thought” about reopening international travel on May 17.

Mr Drakeford said: “We have cases of the Indian variant in Wales, as we’ve had cases of the South African variant.

“The UK Government has a very important decision to make about May 17 and the reopening of international travel.

“I really hope that what we’ve seen in India in the last week will give them real pause for thought, and that we don’t run the risk of opening up international travel too quickly on too broad a front, and that results in the virus coming back into Wales.”

11:06AM

One year into the Covid-19 pandemic, testing is as vital as ever

A lack of testing in low-income countries creates the perfect conditions for evermore virulent and deadly strains of Covid-19 to emerge, say Emma Hannay and Peter Sands.

Here in Geneva, where many global health organisations (including our own) are headquartered, we now have access to five self-administered tests a month, free of charge, and the only effort required is a short walk to a local pharmacy.In England, everyone is now eligible for free rapid Covid-19 tests, twice a week. Compare two tests per week per person in England to the average of seven tests per week available per 100,000 inhabitants in low-income countries, and the inequity in access to testing is suddenly brought into stark contrast. The numbers are bleak. According to our latest data, for every test conducted in a low-income country, more than 86 are being conducted in high-income countries.Spot-checks in health facilities across 24 countries in Africa revealed that in 2020, only 11 per cent of health facilities could conduct Covid-19 antigen rapid diagnostic tests (Ag RDTs), and just 8 per cent could conduct molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. If testing is not available in low-income countries, where vaccines are equally hard to come by, we are creating the perfect conditions for evermore virulent and deadly strains of Covid-19 to emerge without us knowing.Since new variants can undermine the efficacy of vaccines and treatments, and will inevitably spread across the world, this puts at risk even those countries that have made most progress in vaccinating their populations.  Back in March 2020, testing was the most sought-after health tool, because it was – and still is – the only way to monitor where and how quickly the virus is spreading.

Read the full piece here.

10:45AM

England’s roadmap dates played part in Wales reopening, Drakeford says

First Minister Mark Drakeford said England’s date for reopening indoor hospitality and issues with people meeting up to drink in unregulated settings were “taken into account” with his plan to fully reopen the sector in Wales on May 17.

Mr Drakeford said: “I do take into account the border issue. So much of our population is alongside the border and when things happen on the other side of the border I think about that.

“I think about what people say about people being able to have a drink in a regulated setting and that being better than people doing it elsewhere.

“The dominant reason is because coronavirus is in a better place here in Wales, because our vaccination programme is going from strength to strength, and that’s what’s given us the headroom to set out what we’ve set out today.”

10:37AM

Prime Minister’s morning jog – but without Dilyn

Boris Johnson was seen out for his morning run again today. 

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

Prime Minister Boris Johnson seen running this morning

Credit:
Nigel Howard

 But today he was without his sidekick – Dilyn the dog.

9:58AM

Northern Ireland heads for a haircut

Stormont economy minister Diane Dodds has described the reopening of close contact services and outdoor attractions in Northern Ireland following lockdown as a “good day and an even better day for the economy”.

Mrs Dodds was speaking to media during a visit to the Natural Hair Company salon in Lisburn, Co Antrim.

“It’s the start of a road back to rebuilding and recovering our economy and a bit of normality,” she said.

“It has been an absolutely torrid year, particularly for our retail, for these close contact services. The cycle of lockdowns has been really, really devastating.

“We want to see the economy reopen safely, we want to see it reopen sustainably and we want to move forward.

“Next week is another momentous week and we will reopen all of retail, reopen hospitality outdoors and reopen self-contained accommodation. It’s a really big step forward.”

9:47AM

Olympics setback: Torch relay positive case

The Tokyo Olympics torch relay has suffered a setback after officials confirmed  its first positive coronavirus case along the route, reports Danielle Demetriou in Tokyo.

A policeman in his 30s tested positive for coronavirus just one day after being assigned to control traffic along the southwestern leg of the torch relay route in Kagawa Prefecture.

Confirmation of the case reflects the widening scale of the coronavirus crisis in Japan, with the prime minister Yoshihide Suga due to announce on Friday a third state of emergency, just three months before the Tokyo Olympics is due to start.

The latest state of emergency is expected to cover Tokyo as well as Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo Prefectures, covering about a quarter of Japan’s 126 million population and a third of its economic activity.

The emergency declaration is likely to run from Sunday until May 11th, covering the major Golden Week holidays which start next Thursday, traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for travel in Japan. Tougher restrictions are expected to include the closure of establishments serving alcohol and major commercial facilities such as department stores.

9:09AM

You can still catch Covid even if you’ve had both jabs, says Oxford professor

People who have had coronavirus can catch it for a second time even if they have had both doses of the vaccine, an Oxford professor has said. 

Sarah Walker, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at Oxford University, said that while both doses will stop people dying or going to hospital, transmission was still possible among those fully inoculated. 

She told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “You can get Covid again, and we saw this, even with people who’d had two doses of Pfizer vaccine. And people who had Covid before – there was a reduction, but there were still cases of people getting Covid with with low viral load and without symptoms, and they can almost certainly transmit the virus, albeit at a lower rate.”

This was an issue, Prof Walker said, because “every Covid infection that somebody gets is just another opportunity for the virus to develop mutations and change again… and potentially undo all the gains we’ve done.”

8:36AM

Drakeford denies speeding up lockdown is political move

First Minister Mark Drakeford denied that announcing the easing of Wales’ coronavirus restrictions at Friday’s press briefing just two weeks before the Senedd election gave him an unfair advantage over opposition parties.

Mr Drakeford told Sky News: “If I had to be announcing more difficult news today, opposition parties would be demanding that I was there making that announcement.

“I make that announcement every three weeks. I’ve had to do it on some very difficult days when the news has not been good.

“Today I have to return to the podium, as I have every three weeks, to let people in Wales know the assessment of the current state of the virus in Wales, the decisions we’re able to make on their behalf, our assessment of what can happen in the future, and to remind people in Wales that coronavirus is by no means over.”

8:16AM

Drakeford: Cases in Wales continue to drop

First Minister Mark Drakeford said coronavirus case rates in Wales had continued to drop but warned the public to remain vigilant as more freedoms are returned over the coming weeks.

Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Three weeks ago the prevalence rate was 35 per 100,000. That’s today fallen to less than half of that, it’s below 15. We need now to see those numbers held up where they are.

“The more you open up society it’s inevitable coronavirus will begin to circulate. So, my message to people in Wales today will be that coronavirus is not over.

“We all have to go on being vigilant. We all have to go on doing the things that make a real difference and has led us being in today’s benign position.”

Mr Drakeford also said Wales was seeing the “positive effects of vaccination”, with a reduction of numbers of people becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 and needing hospital treatment.

8:15AM

Wales fast-forwards its roadmap out of lockdown

First Minister Mark Drakeford said bringing forward the easing of some coronavirus restrictions by two weeks in Wales was down to “extra headroom” in the public health situation and not to do with the Senedd election.

Indoor activities for children, indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults, such as exercise classes, and the reopening of community centres were all meant to happen on May 17. 

These have been brought forward to May 3 due to the low case rate in Wales.

Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 5 Live: “The rates of coronavirus in Wales are now the lowest in the United Kingdom, our vaccination rates are the highest in the United Kingdom, and that has created some extra headroom for us to be able to continue what we’ve been doing now for quite a few cycles.

“We continue to proceed in Wales in a cautious step-by-step way. But the fact that we have these low rates is the product of that way of doing things.

“It’s because we’ve done it in the way we have that we’re now able to accelerate some of the decisions because the prevalence of coronavirus has fallen to the lowest extent we’ve seen since the summer.”

8:13AM

Human-to-cat transmission confirmed in UK

A kitten has died from Covid-19 in the first case of its kind in the UK, as cat owners are warned not to hug their pets.

The four-month-old Ragdoll died from pneumonia believed to have been triggered by contracting the virus from its owner, according to scientists.

The cat developed severe shortness of breath a year ago and had to be put down after its condition deteriorated. A post-mortem found viral pneumonia and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, in its lungs.

This is believed to be the first case of a kitten dying from the virus in the UK, as well as the first evidence of human-to-cat transmission. Experts are now warning pet owners who have Covid-19 to avoid close contact with their cats until they have fully recovered.

Read Phoebe Southworth’s full story here.

7:56AM

Borrowing pushes deficit to highest since war

The huge sums that the Government has borrowed during the Covid-19 crisis have pushed the deficit to its highest point since the end of the Second World War, according to new figures.

The Office for National Statistics said that public sector net borrowing – the Government’s deficit – reached £303.1 billion in the financial year to the end of March.

This was 14.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), the highest level since 1946, when the deficit hit 15.2% of GDP.

It is a rise from a deficit of £57 billion in the tax year ending March 2020.

It pushed public sector net debt up to £2,141.7 billion, which is 97.7% of GDP – the biggest proportion since the early 1960s.

7:29AM

India now officially on UK red list

Passengers on flights into the UK from India must now enter hotel quarantine as the country is officially added to the UK’s coronavirus travel red list.

As of 4am on Friday, people returning from India must quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days, while anyone who is not a UK or Irish resident or a British citizen will be banned from entering the country if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.

Four airlines asked for a total of eight extra flights to arrive at Heathrow before the 4am cut-off, however it is understood Heathrow declined the airlines’ requests to ensure existing pressures at the border were not exacerbated.

The restrictions come in response to mounting concern about the number of coronavirus cases in India and the emergence there of a variant of the virus.

7:19AM

Today’s front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Friday, Apr 23. 

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

6:23AM

India added to UK’s red list

Passengers on flights into the UK from India must now enter hotel quarantine as the country is officially added to the UK’s coronavirus travel red list.

As of 4am on Friday, people returning from India must quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days, while anyone who is not a UK or Irish resident or a British citizen will be banned from entering the country if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.

Four airlines asked for a total of eight extra flights to arrive at Heathrow before the 4am cut-off, however it is understood Heathrow declined the airlines’ requests to ensure existing pressures at the border were not exacerbated.

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

A mass cremation of victims who died from coronavirus, at a crematorium ground in New Delhi, India

Credit:
REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui 

The restrictions come in response to mounting concern about the number of coronavirus cases in India and the emergence there of a variant of the virus.

Public Health England said on Thursday that 55 cases of the Indian variant were found in the UK in the week to April 14.

​’There’s no oxygen left’: India’s war for supplies as nation breaks global record for Covid cases

5:51AM

How to overcome your fear of going out

How do we reconnect after more than a year apart? Maybe the answer is encompassed in a German concept, Stammtisch, which Rachel Kelly came across this week while chatting to consultant psychiatrist Dr James Arkell.

Their conversation was part of a series of “Inspire the Mind” online talks organised by King’s College, London.

“We were discussing how we have all felt, to a greater or lesser extent, disconnected from each other during lockdown,” Rachel says.

“Dr Arkell, who works at the Nightingale Hospital in London, mentioned the term, which is German for ‘regulars’ table’.

“It could prove the perfect solution to post-lockdown socialising, he says, and is something he recommends to patients.”

READ MORE: How to overcome your fear of going out – with a little help from Germany

5:09AM

Another state of emergency for Japan

, Coronavirus latest news: Mask-free summer ahead, say government advisers, The Nzuchi Times

The Japanese government is expected to announce a third state of emergency from Sunday that will cover Tokyo

Credit:
Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan is set to issue a third state of emergency for Tokyo and three western urban prefectures amid scepticism it will be enough to curb a rapid coronavirus resurgence ahead of the Olympics in July.

Health and economy ministers in charge of the virus measures were meeting with experts on a government taskforce to obtain their preliminary endorsement for the plan.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to formally announce later today a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and its two western neighbours Kyoto and Hyogo from April 25 to mid-May.

4:47AM

Vaccines slash Covid infections, data reveals

Experts say vaccines should be able to control the Covid-19 pandemic, as they published new real-world UK data showing jabs slash infection and are likely to cut transmission.

Just one dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccines led to a two-thirds drop in cases and was 74pc effective against symptomatic infection.

After two doses of Pfizer, there was a 70pc reduction in all cases and a 90pc drop in symptomatic cases – these are the people who are most likely to transmit coronavirus to others.

Experts are still collecting data on two doses of AstraZeneca but say their findings show that both vaccines work and are effective in the real world.

One of the new studies, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, is based on data from the national Covid-19 Infection Survey run by the University of Oxford and the Office for National Statistics.

It included a random sample of more than 373,000 adults from across the UK, who produced more than 1.6 million swab test results between December and April.

READ MORE: Covid pandemic is over in Britain, experts say

3:44AM

UK nurse infected with coronavirus in Australian quarantine hotel

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has called for a pause on travellers arriving from India amid concerns over infections of other guests at a hotel quarantine facility.

The state’s authorities are investigating how a couple from India staying in Perth’s Mercure Hotel infected a mother and daughter from Britain who shared a room across a corridor while they were all in quarantine.

ABC News reported that Alison Rose travelled to Perth from the UK with her daughter, 4, and “both returned negative results on day two of their stay, but on day 12 found out they had tested positive to Covid-19”.

“Ms Rose had been working as a nurse in the UK, including delivering Covid-19 vaccines, but said she had been careful to protect herself and her family for the last year, through the worst of the nation’s pandemic,” ABC News said.

Ms Rose said: “I self-isolated for three weeks before we left the UK … pulled our daughter from school just to make sure we were really careful.”

3:31AM

Australian man infected with Covid while in quarantine

A Melbourne man contracted coronavirus while staying at a quarantine hotel in Perth, Western Australia.

The man was unaware he was infected when he travelled to Victoria on a Qantas flight on Wednesday.

Health authorities are attempting to contact other passengers on the Perth to Melbourne flight who are “considered close contacts and will need to isolate for 14 days”, ABC News reported.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said the man had stayed in an adjacent room at the Mercure Hotel  to a person who later returned a positive Covid test.

“Out of caution, before that positive result was returned, the individual requested to be moved to hotel quarantine in Melbourne,” Mr Foley said.

“We will be examining the gentleman’s movements, particularly through the airport, where he did wear a mask, as he did on the flight.”

2:45AM

Wales’ indoor hospitality may reopen on May 17

Indoor hospitality and all tourist accommodation in Wales is expected to reopen on May 17 after the First Minister added further dates to the country’s coronavirus roadmap.

Mark Drakeford said it would be for the incoming Welsh Government to confirm the reopening, but the main opposition parties have already committed to the same date if they win the May 6 Senedd election.

Other changes expected by May 17 include reopening indoor entertainment venues and attractions, with more changes “subject to the public health situation remaining favourable”.

The dates for indoor hospitality and tourism accommodation brings Wales in line with the reopening dates in England.

Wales has the lowest level of virus infections in the UK and is third in the world in terms of vaccine delivery.

Wales lockdown: the rules that will change from Monday

2:19AM

Owners warned against cuddling cats due to Covid

A kitten has died from Covid-19 in the first case of its kind in the UK, as cat owners are warned not to hug their pets.

The four-month-old Ragdoll died from pneumonia believed to have been triggered by contracting the virus from its owner, according to scientists.

The cat developed severe shortness of breath a year ago and had to be put down after its condition deteriorated. A post-mortem found viral pneumonia and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, in its lungs.

This is believed to be the first case of a kitten dying from the virus in the UK, as well as the first evidence of human-to-cat transmission.

Experts are now warning pet owners who have Covid-19 to avoid close contact with their cats until they have fully recovered.

Read the full story here.

1:54AM

Today’s top stories

More Stories
China accuses G7 of ‘slander’ after world leaders vow take a harder line on human rights abuses