Health

Coronavirus live news: UK put 600,000 vaccine doses into arms on Friday; Brazil crisis likened to ‘raging inferno’ by WHO


Global death toll tops 3m; pandemic made 2020 ‘the year of the quiet ocean’, say scientists

9.47pm BST

Tokyo confirmed 759 new infections on Saturday, the highest since late January and topping 500 for the fifth consecutive day, while the city of Osaka recorded 1,161 fresh infections, it’s fifth straight day of over 1,000.

The Japan Times reports:

The figure in the capital comes after stricter virus counter measures were implemented Monday for its 23 wards and six cities. Saturday’s daily number is the highest since January 30 when Tokyo reported 770 infections.

Tokyo’s daily coronavirus tally averaged 569 in the last week, up 24.1 % from the preceding week.

8.42pm BST

Mexico recorded another 4,157 coronavirus cases and 535 new deaths on Saturday, according to health ministry data, bringing the total number of cases to 2,304,096 and 212,228 deaths.

8.19pm BST

Israel will lift its mandatory requirement to wear a mask outdoors on Sunday, but wearing masks in closed spaces will remain compulsory.

Haaretz reports:

This comes as a result of Israel’s Health Minister Yuli Edelstein’s instruction to his ministry’s director general Chezy Levy on Thursday to sign an order lifting the restriction, after the opinion of ministry professionals stated that masks can be dispensed with in open-air areas due to low coronavirus morbidity.

The statement from Edelstein’s office on Thursday stressed that Israelis would still be required to wear a mask indoors, and this message was echoed by Israel’s coronavirus czar, Professor Nachman Ash.

7.31pm BST

Music lovers in Liverpool will get the chance to enjoy the uninhibited intimacy of a gig once again, after the government announced a pilot event without social distancing.

PA reports:

The live concert at Sefton Park on May 2 will not require the audience to be socially distanced, but attendees will have to provide proof of a coronavirus negative test before gaining entry, ministers have confirmed.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said he hoped the Events Research Programme (ERP) test event, being held in the city famous for The Beatles and other musical heavyweights, meant the wait for gigs to return would not be “too much longer”.

7.01pm BST

Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga asked US drugmaker Pfizer Inc on Saturday to provide additional supplies of Covid-19 vaccine to Japan, Nikkei reported, citing Japanese officials.

Suga made the request during a telephone call with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on the last day of a three-day visit to Washington, according to the report.

6.08pm BST

Turkey recorded 62,606 new coronavirus cases in the space of 24 hours, close to its highest daily tally, and 288 deaths, data from the health ministry showed on Saturday.

Turkey currently ranks fourth globally in the number of daily cases based on a seven-day average, according to a Reuters tally.

6.01pm BST

The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units in France has fallen, the health ministry said on Saturday.

Health ministry data showed that 5,877 people were in intensive care units with Covid-19 on Saturday, 37 fewer than on Friday.

5.46pm BST

Police in cities across Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, on Saturday refused to make random stops greenlighted by the provincial government seeking to impose a stay-at-home order amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Reuters reports:

Toronto, the country’s largest city, Ottawa, Hamilton, Windsor and at least 19 other municipal police forces said they would not conduct random vehicle or individual stops though they had been given the power to do so.

“The Toronto Police Service will continue to engage, educate and enforce, but we will not be doing random stops of people or cars,” the force said on Twitter.

5.21pm BST

The UK government reported a further 35 deaths within 28 days of a postive Covid-19 test as of Saturday, bringing the UK’s total death toll to 127,260.

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

5.14pm BST

More than 600,000 first and second doses of coronavirus vaccine were administered in the UK in the space of 24 hours, according to data released on Saturday.

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Official figures showed that 119,306 first doses were given on Friday, and 485,421 second doses. The data also showed a further 35 people had died from the virus within 28 days of a positive test, and 2,206 people had tested positive.

4.55pm BST

Italy reported 310 further deaths from Covid-19 on Saturday, as well as 15,370 new infections.

On Friday, the country had logged 429 fatalities and 15,943 new cases. The overall death toll now stands at 116,676 since the pandemic started.

4.26pm BST

Tunisia has announced the closure of all schools until 30 April, as well as restrictions on movement, to slow the spread of coronavirus.

A government spokeswoman said on Saturday that the situation was very serious, and that there would be a 7pm curfew for cars, Reuters reports.

Since the start of the national vaccination campaign on March 13, 103 seniors housed in public retirement homes have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, or about 20% of the total (500), according to the director of seniors at the ministry of women, family and seniors Imen Ben Cheikh.

In a statement to TAP, the official said that vaccination operations took place in six public institutions for the protection of the elderly in Béja, Gammarth, Le Kef, Gafsa, Sousse and Jendouba. She further indicated that 16 workers in these institutions were also vaccinated against the coronavirus out of a total of 334 employees.

3.55pm BST

Below is a run-down of the latest news on coronavirus from around the globe.

3.46pm BST

Nearly 15% of health service workers in England remain unvaccinated, and the numbers coming forward for a jab have decreased sharply in the last two weeks, NHS figures have revealed, prompting concerns that many frontline staff are refusing the vaccine.

But health leaders, patients’ groups and unions have dismissed any suggestion of mandatory vaccinations after it emerged that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, had embarked on a plan before the pandemic to make flu vaccinations compulsory for NHS staff.

3.00pm BST

2.36pm BST

Libya has launched its coronavirus vaccination campaign for the general population in Tripoli, with elderly people and healthcare workers given priority in the country.

AFP reports:

2.19pm BST

A reminder from police about the new lockdown rules in Toronto, Canada.

New emergency orders announced yesterday to help limit the spread of Covid-19 are now in effect. The Toronto Police Service will continue to engage, educate and enforce, but we will not be doing random stops of people or cars. 1/2

2.11pm BST

Zimbabwe has begun releasing about 3,000 prisoners under a presidential amnesty aimed at easing congestion to reduce the threat of Covid-19 in the country’s overcrowded jails, Associated Press reports.

About 400 prisoners were released from Chikurubi prison and other jails in the capital, Harare, on Saturday with more coming from other prisons countrywide.

1.36pm BST

Delhi has registered at least 24,000 fresh coronavirus cases in 24 hours and faces a “grim” battle against a new pandemic wave with shortages of oxygen and drugs, said the Indian capital’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal.

The city of more than 20 million is already under a strict weekend lockdown after becoming the worst-hit city in a country confronting a new surge.

1.35pm BST

From Doug to Nelly and Eeek, we look at how mutations are affecting the battle against the virus.

Related: What are the new Covid variants and what do they mean for the pandemic?

1.22pm BST

12.58pm BST

In Brazil, where coronavirus deaths are running at about 3,000 per day, accounting for one-quarter of the lives lost worldwide in recent weeks, the crisis has been likened to a “raging inferno” by one WHO official. A more contagious variant of the virus has been rampaging across the country.

As cases surge, hospitals are running out of critical sedatives. As a result, there have been reports of some doctors diluting supplies and even tying patients to their beds while breathing tubes are pushed down their throats.

11.40am BST

The global death toll from Covid-19 passed 3 million on Saturday, with the pandemic already having killed more people than most other viral epidemics of the 20th and 21st centuries.

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But there have been notable exceptions. The post-first-world-war Spanish Flu wiped out 50 million people, according to some estimates. And over the decades Aids has killed 33 million people.

11.24am BST

The Dubai health authority said it would allow women who are breastfeeding and those planning on conceiving to take the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine, according to the Dubai media office.

In a Twitter post, the media office said this was in line with the latest international studies and guidelines on coronavirus vaccines. It also said the DHA was cutting the time frame of vaccine eligibility for those who have previously contracted Covid-19 to 10 days from three months, provided the case was mild or asymptomatic.

10.42am BST

Hundreds waited in grim silence at a Bangkok stadium to get free Covid-19 tests on Saturday as a spiralling infection rate gripped Thailand, on a fourth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases.

The capital appears to be at the centre of the kingdom’s third wave after infections were traced back to a nightlife district earlier this month.

10.15am BST

Imported coronavirus variants are unlikely to set lockdown easing back to “square one” because immunity from vaccines “won’t just disappear”, according to a key figure on the UK’s immunisation committee.

Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he expected a “gradual erosion” of vaccine protection as the virus evolves but not enough to “scupper” the prime minister’s roadmap, as one leading scientist had predicted.
On Friday, Imperial College’s Prof Danny Altmann said “we should be terribly concerned” after 77 cases of a potentially vaccine-busting Covid-19 mutation first discovered in India were identified in Britain.

“They (variants of concern) are things that can most scupper our escape plan at the moment and give us a third wave. They are a worry,” Altmann told the BBC.

Finn said he thought the immunology expert had been “a bit pessimistic” with his assessment. “We’ve all expected evolution of this virus to occur from the start,” he told Times Radio.

“I also think that we know from other viruses and previous experience that the immunity that vaccines give won’t just disappear.

“It will be a gradual erosion. It won’t be back to square one. I would be really surprised if that happened.

“So, I think, possibly, that interpretation is a bit pessimistic.”

10.08am BST

In the UK, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) was asked whether India should be placed on the “red list” of hotel quarantine countries following the discovery of a new variant there.

Prof Adam Finn said there was a need to remain cautious about international travel. “I think we’re going to go on seeing restrictions on travel for some time to come, with the pandemic raging in so many countries around the world,” he told Times Radio.

“We’ve got very big epidemics going on in India, in Brazil and in other countries that have previously been less affected. This is going to be a problem.

“We’re going to need to continue to be really quite careful to avoid moving the virus around, so I think travel won’t go back to normal yet.”

Pressed on whether Boris Johnson should still be visiting India later this month, Finn added: “I’m sure he’s going to take lots of care to avoid getting infected.

“If you mean the message of going there, well, I think he has to balance up the importance of the trip. The prime minister’s in a different position from the rest of us, of course.”

10.01am BST

Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in the UK, said immunity from Covid-19 vaccines “won’t just disappear” despite warnings that new variants could “scupper” the route out of lockdown.

He told Times Radio: “We’ve all expected evolution of this virus to occur from the start. The changes that we saw at the end of the year were not really vaccine-related, it was just the virus learning to be more infectious which, of course, gives it an advantage.

“As we see more and more immunity from the infection and vaccination occurring, then mutations in the virus that favour the virus and enable it to escape that type of immunity will inevitably occur.

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“We always knew this was going to happen. I also think that we know from other viruses and previous experience that the immunity that vaccines give won’t just disappear.

“It will be a gradual erosion. It won’t be back to square one. I would be really surprised if that happened. So, I think, possibly, that interpretation is a bit pessimistic.”

9.43am BST

The global death toll for coronavirus has topped 3 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

On Saturday, it was revealed there were 3,000,225 deaths and global cases now stand at 139,963,964.

9.07am BST

The Indian coronavirus mutation could “scupper” the UK’s march to freedom, a leading scientist has warned, despite the lockdown and vaccine programme leading to cases falling to a seven-month low.

Covid-19 infections across the UK dropped to the lowest level since the autumn, according to the latest figures.

But a professor of immunology has called for Britain to be on its guard against a third wave after a possible vaccine-busting mutation was recorded in England and Scotland.

Public Health England (PHE) reported that 77 cases of the B.1.617 variant, which was first discovered in India, have been found.

Prof Danny Altmann of Imperial College London said that as a result, those arriving in the country from India should be subject to a hotel quarantine if the UK is to shut out variants that could set back the prime minister’s lockdown-easing plans.

But despite the warnings, Downing Street has insisted Boris Johnson’s trip to India later this month – his first major international visit since securing a Brexit trade deal with Brussels – will go ahead.

It comes as the group advising ministers on vaccine deployment recommended that pregnant women should be offered a Covid-19 jab at the same time as the rest of the population.

9.07am BST

Russia on Saturday reported 9,321 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, including 2,822 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,693,469. The country also reported another 398 deaths, raising the official toll to 105,193.

8.51am BST

In the UK, Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said high street shops had seen a “really positive” bounce after non-essential retail was allowed to reopen this week.

“It certainly started really well,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

“Although footfall was down on two years ago – because there wasn’t a lot of point measuring it against last year because we were already in lockdown in 2020 as well – it wasn’t down anything like it had been during the period of lockdown.

“From a retail point of view, people really did come out and support their local businesses and all the retailers I’ve spoken to said those first few days of the past week or so had been really positive in terms of trading.

“I think your piece highlighted the excitement of people getting back out and the excitement of the businesses in getting ready to welcome their customers back safely.”

On the growth of online shopping, Dickinson said she expected some of that to “absolutely shift back” now physical shops were open but said many retailers would continue to embrace the change, adding: “More and more people in the industry are seeing this as an opportunity rather than a threat.”

8.51am BST

The global death toll from coronavirus is expected to reach a milestone 3m as the race to vaccinate populations continues and countries such as India grapple with a surge in infections.

The number of deaths now stands at 2.9m, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. India, the world’s most populous country, racked up 234,692 Covid-19 infections in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, health ministry data showed, which was the eighth record daily increase in the last nine days.

8.50am BST

Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s Covid-19 live blog. I will be running the live stream today, so if you have any questions, comments or news tips then get in touch via the channels below.

Twitter: @sloumarsh
Instagram: sarah_marsh_journalist
Email: sarah.marsh@theguardian.com

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