Good morning. Caroline Davies in London here. Welcome to the coronavirus liveblog. I will be steering you through developments over the next few hours. You can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
As England sees a significant easing of restrictions from Monday, UK prime minister Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to reconsider the relaxation of Covid rules because of the threat posed by the India variant. His own advisers and independent health experts raised fears that it could lead to a surge in hospital admissions, especially among young adults, the Observer reports.
Meanwhile thousands of UK holidaymakers are preparing to head overseas with the ban on foreign leisure travel lifting in England and Wales on Monday.
Travel firms have reported a surge in demand for trips to Portugal, after the government put the country on its green list for travel, PA Media reports. That means returning travellers will not need to self-isolate on their return, and are only required to take one post-arrival test.
EasyJet has added 105,000 extra seats to its flights serving green-tier destinations, while Tui will use aircraft which normally operate long-haul routes to accommodate the surge of people booked to fly to Portugal. Only a dozen countries and territories are on the green list but most are either remote islands or do not currently allow UK tourists to enter.
The government is advising people not to make non-essential trips to locations on its amber list, which covers popular destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece. But this guidance is expected to be ignored by some holidaymakers.
Teachers, pupils and parents in England have greeted the easing of coronavirus safety measures in schools from Monday with a mixture of relief and, in the light of concern over the Indian variant, dismay and confusion. The government has announced that students will no longer need to wear face coverings in schools. But some areas in the north of England are being advised to continue measures, following rising numbers of cases of the new variant, known as B.1.617.2.
In Germany, the number of confirmed cases increased by 8,500 to 3,593,434, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose by 71 to 86,096.
Australia is sticking to plans to start re-opening to the rest of the world only from the middle of next year, officials said on Sunday, resisting mounting pressure to end the closure of international borders. In March 2020, Australia closed its borders to non-nationals and non-residents and has since been allowing only limited international arrivals, mainly citizens returning from abroad, Reuters reports.
Taiwan reported 206 new domestic Covid-19 infections on Sunday, as the island grapples with an increase in community infections.
Police are reaching out to villagers in northern India to investigate the recovery of bodies buried in shallow sand graves or washing up on the Ganges River banks, prompting speculation on social media that they were the remains of COVID-19 victims
PRAYAGRAJ, India (AP) — Police are reaching out to villagers in northern India to investigate the recovery of bodies buried in shallow sand graves or washing up on the Ganges River banks, prompting speculation on social media that they were the remains of COVID-19 victims.In jeeps and boats, the police used portable loudspeakers with microphones asking people not to dispose of the bodies in rivers. “We are here to help you perform the last rites,” police said.On Friday, rains exposed the cloth coverings of bodies buried in shallow sand graves on the riverbank in Prayagraj, a city in Uttar Pradesh state.Navneet Sehgal, a state government spokesman, on Sunday denied local media reports that more than 1,000 corpses of COVID-19 victims had been recovered from rivers in the past two weeks. “I bet these bodies have nothing to do with COVID-19,” he said.He said some villagers did not cremate their dead, as is customary, due to a Hindu tradition during some periods of religious significance and disposed of them in rivers or digging graves on riverbanks.K.P. Singh, a senior police officer, said authorities had earmarked a cremation ground for those who died of COVID-19 on the Prayagraj riverbank and the police were no longer allowing any burials on the riverfront.Sehgal state authorities have found “a small number” of bodies on the riverbanks, he said, but didn’t give a figure.Ramesh Kumar Singh, a member of Bondhu Mahal Samiti, a philanthropic organization that helps cremate bodies, said the number of deaths is very high in rural areas, and poor people have been disposing of the bodies in the river because of the exorbitant cost of performing the last rites and shortage of woods. The cremation cost has tripled up to 15,000 rupees ($210).Health authorities last week retrieved 71 bodies that washed up on the Ganges River bank in neighboring Bihar state.Authorities performed post mortems but said they could not confirm the cause of death due to decomposition.Story continuesA dozen corpses were also found last week buried in sand at two locations on the riverbank in Unnao district, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh state capital. District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar said an investigation is underway to identify the cause of deaths.India’s two big states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, with nearly 358 million people in total, are among the worst hit in the surge sweeping through the country with devastating death tolls. Hapless villagers have been rushing the sick to nearby towns and cities for treatment, many of them dying on the way, victims of India’s crumbling health care.After hitting record highs for weeks, the number of new cases was stabilizing, said Dr. V.K. Paul, a government health expert.The Health Ministry on Sunday reported 311,170 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, down from 326,098 on Saturday.It also reported 4,077 additional deaths, taking the total fatalities to 270,284. Both figures are almost certainly a vast undercount, experts say.
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On whether people should travel from Monday, Johnson has urged people to think twice and wants people to recognise there is “extra risk and disruption to progress caused by this new variant”.
He added it is important that people in the areas seeing spikes recognise there is an “extra risk, extra disruption, a threat of disruption to progress caused by this new variant”.
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In response to a question about how likely it is that the final unlocking of restrictions in England will happen on June 21, Johnson admits he cannot say “for certain”.
Numbers of infections remain “low” across the country, he added, and the situation is different from last year because of vaccines.
People will have to “wait and see” whether the new variant is more transmissible and wait for more evidence that vaccines have cut risks of hospitalisations and deaths.
The PM is asked how soon he would implement restrictions if cases of “variants of concern” put pressure on hospitals. Johnson responds he would implement measures if it appeared the NHS was becoming overwhelmed.
Prof. Whitty is asked when the under 30s can except to receive the vaccine. He replies he hopes everybody has their first vaccine by end of July, saying “that is the aim”.
The PM said he is “very sorry” for the those living in Bolton and Blackburn where there is a surge of the Indian variant and he will not impose further restrictions on them.
Johnson added advanced surveillance and data gathering means if there is a danger of the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure we would see the signs early on and could react in good time.
Indian variant ‘could make it more difficult to move to step four’ of lockdown-easing in June, Johnson says
To clarify, Johnson said the roadmap out of lockdown remains in place but the Indian variant “could make it more difficult to move to step four in June”.
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Johnson also said the NHS will also prioritise first doses for anyone eligible who has not yet come forward.
He urged people “to exercise the greatest caution because the choices we each make in the coming days will have a material effect” on England’s progress.
“We won’t be preventing businesses from reopening on Monday but we will be asking you do to your bit.
This includes getting the vaccine when eligible, getting free lateral flow tests and isolating when asked.
On the number of Covid-19 admissions in Greater Manchester NHS trusts, Prof. Whitty said hospital admissions are low but this is “early days”.
Now onto the seven-day case rates by age in Bolton, Prof Whitty said the Indian variant has been found in the region with cases going up significantly over the past few weeks, especially in the over 60s.
Onto the slide for the weekly number of sequenced cases of the Indian variant in England, Professor Whitty said this is on a steady upward curve. He added there is confidence the Indian variant is more transmissible than the UK strain.
The second slide shows the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 which is also decreasing.
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.Outside India, the UK has recorded the highest number of cases of the Indian variant, at 1,587 cases to date. The US, Singapore and Germany are the only other countries to have sequenced more than 100 cases of the B.1.617+ variant, according to the Gisaid Initiative.These numbers are only the number of recorded sequenced cases and, as most global cases are not sequenced, such numbers will be a drastic undercounting of the real number of cases of the variant around the world.There are also national disparities in sequencing rates. The UK sequences a large proportion of its positive Covid-19 cases and therefore recording a higher number of variants as a result.Recorded cases of the variant have been found on every continent, with Asia so far recording the highest total. European countries have sequenced almost 2,000 cases of the variant across 21 countries – the majority of which are in the UK.Here is a roundup of the countries with the highest rates of the Indian variant.USThe US has detected 486 cases of the Indian variant, approximately half of which were detected in the last four weeks. From 4 May, travellers from India, with the exception of legal permanent residents, spouses and close family members of US citizens, have been prohibited from entering the country. Despite the India-variant cases, the US has continued to ease coronavirus restrictions due to its vaccination programme. Joe Biden announced on Thursday that people who had been vaccinated would not be required to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor settings.SingaporeSingapore has detected 156 cases of the India variant, more than two-thirds of which were identified within the past four weeks. As a result, Singapore has introduced new lockdown measures. From 16 May to 13 June, gatherings and household visitors have been reduced to two people from five, workers have been instructed to work from home, and indoor dining has been halted.GermanyGermany has detected 103 cases of the Indian variant. More than 60% were detected within the past four weeks.A report published by Germany’s Robert Koch Institute on Wednesday suggested that the proportion of the variant in the country “has been steadily increasing in recent weeks”. In late April, Germany introduced a travel ban from India with the exception of citizens and residents.Germany is continuing to ease restrictions, and the government said on Friday that the number of infections per 100,000 had fallen to 96.5, the first time it had fallen below 100 since 20 March.AustraliaAustralia has detected 85 cases of the Indian variant. On Friday, the country introduced coronavirus restrictions for New South Wales and greater Sydney, to last until 17 May. They include prohibitions on more than 20 people gathering in private homes and compulsory mask-wearing in all public indoor spaces.DenmarkDenmark has confirmed 39 cases of the Indian variant, 11 in the last four weeks. Tyra Grove Krause, the director of the State Serum Institute, Denmark’s national infection disease agency, said the variant was not currently a cause for concern within Denmark. Since 21 April, bars, cafes, restaurants, and other venues have been open to anyone who can show a negative test result taken with 72 hours or has been vaccinated.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has dismissed criticism from India that Beijing has upped the price of the oxygen generators it’s sending to Delhi and has altered the component. Beijing blames a scarcity of anti-epidemic materials.
Speaking on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters that rising demand has affected the global supply chain and that this was the cause of price increases in India, specifically noting supply challenges from Europe. “In addition, Indian buyers usually express their needs widely through various channels, and sometimes purchase through different channels, which may also lead to excessive demand… and pushes prices up,” she stated.Hua was responding to an article published by India Today on Friday morning, which cited official documents and photos and claimed that Chinese firms had increased the price of the oxygen concentrators they’re sending to Delhi but had also lessened the quality of the specifications and components. The paper claims that one manufacturer, Yuwell, has increased its per-item cost from $340 per piece on April 30 to $460 as of May 12. India Today claimed that China’s “humanitarian gesture” is nothing more than profit making.“We are buying way more expensive products for half its quality, and the lifespan will be only a few hundred hours as opposed to a few thousand hours that it originally is meant to be,” one Indian buyer told the paper.
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Beijing has previously talked up its aid to India as its neighbor faces a staggering rise in Covid-19 cases. “China provides most oxygen concentrators to India, and keeps producing oxygen concentrators and other medical equipment for India,” Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong said in a tweet in early May. On Tuesday, Chinese state-run paper, the Global Times, made its own accusation, suggesting Indian middlemen were making large profits by reselling Chinese-made oxygen concentrators. The paper said Chinese suppliers were “upset and saddened” to hear that their humanitarian efforts were being undermined. India has been battling a very severe wave of Covid-19, registering more than 300,000 cases every day. The country has become reliant on foreign aid and imports for medical supplies. If you like this story, share it with a friend!
A Conservative council leader has strongly hinted that the UK government will give permission imminently for the “surge vaccination” of all adults in areas hit by outbreaks of the Covid-19 variant first identified in India.Boris Johnson is due to hold a press conference later on Friday in which he is expected to outline how the government will combat a sharp rise in infections linked to the B.1.617.2 variant.David Greenhalgh, the leader of Bolton council in north-west England, is one of a number of local leaders who had asked ministers to let them vaccinate all over-16s in areas where the virus is spreading rapidly.Greenhalgh said he had held “very, very constructive” talks with the health secretary, Matt Hancock, earlier on Friday.He said: “This is an issue of capacity but we have had very, very constructive talks and certainly all the soundings are that they are looking to progress that as soon as possible.”Bolton has the highest infection rate in the UK – seven times higher than the UK average – after a sharp rise in cases linked to B.1.617.2.Greenhalgh said the vast majority of the cases were of people in their teens, 20s and 30s, most of whom had not been vaccinated against Covid-19. The ability to vaccinate them more quickly would offer a “total transformation” of how the disease was spreading, he said, adding that the programme would be targeted in parts of the town with the highest infection rate.The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) were both understood to have provided advice to ministers on whether they recommend abandoning the age priority list for vaccines in Covid hotspots.Dominic Harrison, the director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen council, said on Friday he was “furious” that local health officials had not been allowed to order surge vaccinations to combat the outbreak.He said Blackburn needed to “at least double” its daily vaccination rate to get on top of the rise in cases, which is the second highest in the UK behind Bolton, but said the government was “tying one hand behind our backs”.He said: “It’s extremely frustrating. Matt Hancock said [on Thursday night] that the government was doing everything it can to take action on the Indian variants, but actually Blackburn with Darwen isn’t being allowed to do everything we can because that would include surge vaccination.”Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said on Friday that the government would “flex” its vaccine rollout to combat emerging variants, but it was not clear whether this was limited to accelerating the vaccination of eligible age groups.Public health officials, local MPs and the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, have asked the government to offer vaccinations to all people over 16 in hotspot areas in an attempt to curb infections.Zahawi told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the government had identified 1,400 cases linked to the B.1.617.2 variant and that 14,000 of their close contacts had been traced. He said more jabs would be sent to Bolton.He later said “we will take nothing off the table” when asked if local lockdowns were being considered by officials in areas with a surge of the variant first identified in India.Announcing further local lockdowns would be an extraordinary step as England takes its next step out of restrictions on Monday, when customers will be allowed inside bars, pubs and restaurants for the first time in months.Harrison said it would be foolish to impose further local lockdowns without first boosting vaccination rates in areas of high transmission: “What we need over the next three to four weeks is as much vaccine as we can get from the national supply system to shut down the continued spread of the variant.“If we don’t do it, the variant is going to spread across the UK [and] it’s going to risk a surge of a much bigger scale than we’re seeing at the moment.Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire’s director of public health, said he was also angry that badly hit areas were not being allowed greater freedom to direct the vaccine rollout.“I share Dom’s fury,” he told BBC Radio Lancashire on Friday morning.Karunanithi said the region of 1.5 million people may only be “three or four weeks” away from further widespread outbreaks of B.1.617.2, as in Blackburn with Darwen, where the infection rate is five times the UK average.He added: “At this point in time I’m having to painfully accept that we can’t move faster with the vaccines in Lancashire but we will continue to [ask the government] for us to move faster.”Meanwhile, hopes remained high among politicians and officials in Bolton on Friday morning that the government would allow them the flexibility to start vaccinating all adults in the three worst affected wards.But a spokesperson for NHS Bolton clinical commissioning group stressed that, for now, it can only offer jabs to those aged 38 and older, or in one of the vulnerable groups. They said vaccine uptake had been very high since news broke that the Indian variant was circulating in three wards in the BL3 area of Bolton, which are relatively deprived neighbourhoods with large numbers of residents living in multi-generational households.“We’ve had our vaccine bus parked in front of the Essa academy, a school in BL3, all week and have had a fantastic response. Yesterday was our best day and we vaccinated over 340 people. It was Eid, so we were over the moon to see that people came out in their droves to queue in the rain,” the spokesperson said.It is understood local authorities are planning to ask pupils across large parts of north-west England, including Greater Manchester and most of Lancashire, to continue wearing face masks in schools from Monday, when masks will no longer be mandatory under government guidelines.Burnham urged ministers to allow younger people to be vaccinated much more quickly in areas with high case rates: “That is what is needed if we are to make the most decisive and effective intervention into this situation that we can right now.”
I don’t know what happened in this case, but there have been other cases where entire herds of deer have been killed. The reason is because the electricity dissipates through the wet ground and electrocutes all of them at once. It’s the reason you don’t stand next to a tall tree in a storm, the tree will get struck, but you’ll still be electrocuted as it dissipates into the wet ground.
London: Two Indian men being held in a detention van on “suspected immigration offences” walked free with the help of a human rights lawyer after an eight-hour protest by their neighbours in the Scottish city of Glasgow.Sumit Sehdev, a chef, and Lakhvir Singh, a mechanic, both in their 30s, have reportedly been in the UK for 10 years.Six UK Immigration Enforcement officers, backed by Police Scotland, removed them from their home in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow on Thursday and put them into a van heading to a detention centre, but were soon surrounded by a large crowd of protesters determined to free them.”This was a cynical and provocative action by the Home Office to do it on the day of Eid. To be honest, they don’t give a damn about the lives of these people, but the people of Glasgow do,” Aamer Anwar, a Pakistani-origin human rights lawyer, told ‘ITV News”.”This city is built on the backs of refugees, people who”ve given their blood, sweat and tears to build this city. We stand firmly with these men,” he said.This is the moment that People Power forced the release of Sumit Sehdev and Lakhvir Singh.They were detained following a Home Office Immigration raid during Eid – with the power of solidarity and humanity the people of Glasgow mobilised and said NO pic.twitter.com/bDCKI0UwdF- Claudia Webbe MP (@ClaudiaWebbe) May 14, 2021Lakhvir Singh spoke in Punjabi about how he feared for what would happen when the officers took them into custody in the van and tearfully thanked the people of his neighbourhood for turning out to support them.The duo then walked down the street with Anwar towards the local mosque, with the estimated hundreds gathered cheering and clapping, waving placards that read “refugees are welcome”.Videos posted across the social media channels showed protesters chanting “Leave our neighbours, let them go” and “Cops go home” during the nearly eight-hour-long standoff.”The Home Office needs to ask itself hard questions after today. Doing this on Eid, in the heart of our Muslim community, and in the midst of a serious Covid outbreak was staggeringly irresponsible – but the even deeper problem is an appalling asylum and immigration policy,” said Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Twitter, who had appealed directly with the UK Home Office to stand down.A Home Office statement said the operation was “conducted in relation to suspected immigration offences”.Eventually, Police Scotland said it had to make an operational decision to protect the “safety, public health and well-being” and the two men were released on bail and returned home to their families.