Coronavirus latest news: Boris Johnson to unveil plan to lift England's lockdown and relaunch international travel

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out plans to reopen the economy and eventually relaunch international travel today when he updates the coronavirus roadmap, aided by one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world. As much of Europe enters new lockdowns to tackle surging cases, Mr Johnson will give an update on his staggered plan to ease restrictions in the coming months at a Downing Street press conference – to be held exactly a year to the day since he was taken into hospital with Covid-19. Mr Johnson is expected to confirm that non-essential retail, outdoor hospitality and hairdressers can reopen on April 12 in England, while he will also give more details on vaccine passports and international travel.

The government’s plan to use a traffic-light system for countries based on infection and vaccination levels gives a glimmer of hope that some form of holidays could take place.

Under the current plan international travel will not resume until May 17 at the earliest. Follow the latest updates below.

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2:01PM

China reports biggest daily Covid-19 case jump in over two months

China reported its biggest daily jump in new Covid-19 cases in more than two months, as a city on the border with Myanmar in southwestern Yunnan province accounted for all new local cases.

Ruili’s local government put residents in its urban area under home quarantine, launched a massive testing drive and began restricting people from leaving and entering the city from last week after reporting Covid-19 patients.

The city accounted for all of the 15 new local cases reported on April 4. The total number of new Covid-19 infections, including imported infections originating from overseas, stood at 32, marking the highest total since Jan.

31.

Genetic analysis of the cases discovered in Ruili suggest the new local infections stem from viruses imported from Myanmar, state media reported. Of the new patients reported in the city, 11 of them were identified as Myanmar citizens.

1:47PM

Coronavirus restrictions easing around the world, in pictures

Tel Aviv, Israel 

Vaccinated spectators wear face masks as they watch actors on stage at Habima, Israel’s national theater, in Tel AvivCredit:Ariel Schalit/AP

 Athens, Greece

People wearing masks wait to enter a shop on the first day of the re-opening of retail stores in Athens, GreeceCredit:LOUIZA VRADI/REUTERS

 Lisbon, Portugal

People take a gymnastic lesson on the first day of the reopening of gyms after a countrywide lockdown in Lisbon, PortugalCredit:PEDRO NUNES/REUTERS1:30PM

Watch: Lateral flow tests ‘highly accurate’ insists health minister

Health minister Edward Argar has defended the accuracy of lateral flow tests as the Government announced that everyone in England is to be offered free, twice-weekly coronavirus tests regardless of whether they have symptoms. 

1:03PM

The WHO first media briefing on Covid, March 16 2020: ‘You must test and self isolate’

The World Health Organization’s first media briefing on Covid-19 came just a few days before Britain went into its first lockdown – which officially began on March 23 2020 – and it urged nations to escalate their “testing, isolation and contact tracing” as the “backbone” of the pandemic’s response.

In the March 16 briefing, the WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that there was a “rapid escalation” of Covid cases worldwide, with more cases and deaths being reported in the rest of the world than in China.

Mr Adhanom said in the briefing: “But we have not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing – which is the backbone of the response.

“Social distancing measures can help to reduce transmission and enable health systems to cope. Handwashing and coughing into your elbow can reduce the risk for yourself and others.

“But on their own, they are not enough to extinguish this pandemic.

It’s the combination that makes the difference. As I keep saying, all countries must take a comprehensive approach.

“But the most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission. And to do that, you must test and isolate.”

Director General of the World Health OrganizationCredit:Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone12:38PM

India’s daily virus cases breach 100,000

India reported a record rise in Covid-19 infections on Monday, becoming the second country after the United States to post more than 100,000 new cases in a day, as politicians stage massive election rallies raising fears of further spreading the virus.

Hospitals in the worst affected state, Maharashtra, are being overrun by patients. India’s richest state, home to its commercial capital Mumbai and numerous industries, reported a record 57,074 new cases overnight.

The country’s daily infections have risen about 12-fold since hitting a multi-month low in early February, when authorities eased most restrictions and people largely stopped wearing masks and following social distancing.

People wait in a line to enter a supermarket amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease in MumbaiCredit:Francis Mascarenhas/REUTERSHow many people have been vaccinated in India? 12:30PM

Spanish MEP insists British tourists will not have to sunbathe in masks in Balearic Islands

Spanish MEP Jose Ramon Bauza has insisted that British tourists who plan to holiday in the Balearic Islands in Spain this summer will not have to sunbathe in masks. 

His announcement follows the Spanish government’s introduction of a strict new law last week that requires people to wear face coverings at all times outdoors, even while sunbathing or walking on beaches.

The new law replaced the rule that had been in place since May of last summer, which only required face coverings to be worn when social distancing was restricted.

Mr Ramon Bauza, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Tourism Taskforce and the former president of the Balearic Islands from 2011 to 2015, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It makes no sense that you are on the beach and in open space with nobody around you, and you have to wear a mask.”

Read the full story here.

People wear masks at La Concha beach12:21PM

Huge increase in unemployment among over-50s during pandemic

Redundancies among the over-50s have soared in the past year, leading to calls for targeted support for the age group, says a new report. There were 107,000 over-50s made redundant between last November and January 2021 – an increase of more than 70,500 or 195% year on year, a study suggested. Redundancy levels in the UK have fallen from their peak, but has been slowest amongst the over-50s, said Rest Less, which gives advice and help to older people.

The redundancy rate of over-50-year-olds is now higher than all other age groups at 12.8 per 1,000 employees, said the report.

Rest Less said its study also found there were an estimated 1.3 million over-50s on furlough at the end of February 2021 – 28% of the total furloughed workforce of 4.65 million.

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said: “With an estimated 1.3 million workers over the age of 50 still on furlough, there is a very real danger of a tsunami of redundancies amongst workers in their 50s and 60s when struggling employers are required to increase their contribution to the furlough scheme from July.

“This is of concern to all of us, as previous research has shown that once unemployed, workers over the age of 50 are two and a half times more likely to drift into long term unemployment than their younger counterparts due to a mix of age discrimination in the recruitment process and a lack of accessibility to tailored retraining programmes.”

12:04PM

Japan fears Covid-19 variants are behind possible fourth wave

Japanese health authorities are concerned that variants of the coronavirus are driving a nascent fourth wave in the pandemic with just 109 days remaining until the Tokyo Olympics. The variants appear to be more infectious and may be resistant to vaccines, which are still not widely available in Japan. The situation is worst in Osaka, where infections hit fresh records last week, prompting the regional government to start targeted lockdown measures for one month from Monday.

A mutant Covid-19 variant first discovered in Britain has taken hold in the Osaka region, spreading faster and filling up hospital beds with more serious cases than the original virus, according to Koji Wada, a government adviser on the pandemic.

“The fourth wave is going to be larger,” said Wada, a professor at Tokyo’s International University of Health and Welfare. “We need to start to discuss how we could utilize these targeted measures for the Tokyo area.”

Credit:AP Photo/Koji Sasahara11:44AM

Vaccine passports would be ‘nightmare’ to put into law, expert warns

Putting vaccine passports into law would be a “nightmare” and require “enormous scrutiny”, an expert has warned.

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told Times Radio on Monday that while in general they were a good thing if they made people feel a bit safer and more people were vaccinated, they needed “enormous scrutiny”. He said: “I find it difficult to have the vaccine passport conversation, and I’ve had quite a lot of these discussions of policy advice level, without getting into the detail because who of us wouldn’t think that vaccine passports were in general, a good thing, if people felt a bit safer and more people were vaccinated and we had more assurance of that? “And yet, one or two sentences into discussion you get rather sort of bogged down at the devil is in the detail, and there are an awful lot of confounders there where you could make some very, very poor legislation.”

Asked if vaccination passports will require new laws which could be difficult to word correctly, Prof Altmann added: “I think the detail is an absolute nightmare and, without being pedantic or negative, requires enormous scrutiny.”

11:31AM

Getting testing regularly will help us in ‘reclaiming our lost freedoms’, says Matt Hancock

Everyone will be able to take a free rapid coronavirus test twice a week from the 9th April.

Reclaiming our lost freedoms & getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly.https://t.co/4i53gOmykA

— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) April 5, 2021

Read more about the introduction of twice-weekly lateral flow tests:

11:11AM

Boris Johnson to lead Downing Street press conference at 5pm

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will lead a Downing Street press conference on Monday at 5pm.

He will be joined by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

You can follow live text updates on this blog and watch our live video feed, which will be added to the top of the blog before 5pm.

11:04AM

Labour has ‘many reservations’ about the use of vaccine passports

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said Labour had “many reservations” about the use of vaccine passports in the UK. The senior Opposition MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I have reservations, the Labour Party has reservations around the introduction of vaccine passports. “We have an amazing take-up of the vaccine, it is being rolled out incredibly successfully by the NHS – it is not totally clear to me that we need a sledgehammer to crack a nut here.

“The big priority has got to be ensuring that everybody is vaccinated so we can get back as quickly as possible to the things we love doing, whether that is going to the pub, the restaurant, the football match or the concert. “The priority should be ensuring that the vaccine is rolled out, that we have a Test and Trace (system) that works properly but the Government does not have a great track record in introducing new IT systems and what we don’t want to see is more taxpayers’ money wasted, more bureaucracy and red tape for businesses who have already gone through an incredibly tough year.

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

10:28AM

Hairdressers reopen in Scotland

Tony Mann opened his barber shop in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire, at 6am to enable people to get their hair cut for the first time in months. It will be a busy day for the four barbers working, with 96 customers booked in on April 5 when the shop is open until 8pm.

Raj Gill gets her haircut by Taylor Ferguson hairdressers on April 5 in Glasgow, ScotlandCredit:Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Barber Maggie McGillivray trims Sam Rosenblom’s hair at Tony Mann’s Barber Shop in Giffnock near GlasgowCredit:Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

When he reopened in July last year after the first lockdown, Mr Mann opened at midnight and worked for 24 hours.

He decided not to do the same this time but is excited to be welcoming back customers to Tony Mann’s Barber Shop.

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

10:01AM

‘It appears that risk is age related’ for blood clots, says Prof Ferguson

Professor Neil Ferguson said the development of blood clots in people who had been given the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine raised fresh questions over whether young people should be given a jab. The adviser, who has had the Oxford jab, told Today: “In terms of the data at the moment, there is increasing evidence that there is a rare risk associated, particularly with the AstraZeneca vaccine but it may be associated at a lower level with other vaccines, of these unusual blood clots with low platelet counts. “It appears that risk is age related, it may possible be – but the data is weaker on this – related to sex.

“And so the older you are, the less the risk is and also the higher the risk is of Covid so the risk-benefit equation really points very much towards being vaccinated. “I think it becomes slightly more complicated when you get to younger age groups where the risk-benefit equation is more complicated.”

Prof Ferguson said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) were “considering this matter very urgently” but added: “No vaccine, no medicine is risk free – it is always about a balancing equation against risk.”

9:38AM

Lateral flow tests ‘still highly accurate’, insists minister addressing false positive concerns

Health minister Edward Argar has defended the accuracy of lateral flow tests as the Government announced that everyone in England is to be offered free, twice-weekly coronavirus tests regardless of whether they have symptoms. Speaking to Sky News, Mr Argar said: “You’re right about the more people who are taking these tests the better because this is about trying to get people back to work, getting our society reopened, which we all want to see done as swiftly and safely as it can be done.

“These simple tests are a key part of doing that. “In terms of the reliability of the tests, I think recent Test and Trace analysis around this suggests that out of 1,000 lateral flow tests, there was less than one false positive within those 1,000.

“So that is still a highly accurate test which can play a really important part in reopening our country and our businesses, because it is so simple to take.”

9:18AM

Vaccine passports require ‘enormous scrutiny’, says immunology professor

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College, said legislating for vaccine passports would be a “nightmare”. He told Times Radio on Monday that while in general they were a good thing if they made people feel a bit safer and more people were vaccinated they needed “enormous scrutiny”.

Asked if vaccination passports will require new laws which could be difficult to word correctly, Prof Altmann added: “I think the detail is an absolute nightmare and, without being pedantic, requires enormous scrutiny.”

9:06AM

Risk of importing variants through foreign holidays remains a risk, says health minister

Health minister Edward Argar said he was likely to be staying in the UK this summer and that there remained a risk of importing Covid-19 variants through international holidays.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Argar said the Prime Minister would be trying to give “as much foresight and as few surprises as possible” about the possibility of international travel this year during his press conference on Monday. Pressed on whether Europe was likely to be on the “caution list” of destinations due to a surge in cases, the minister replied: “We are seeing many of our friends in Europe seeing an increase in infections.

“That is one of the reasons why we have to be very careful that as we see an increase across the world in infections that we get this right because one of the things we don’t want to see – and just as the vaccination programme is working so well – is getting new variants or risking new variants getting imported into this country.”

Mr Argar told Sky News he understood people’s “desire to get away on holiday” after the events of the past year but said he expected he would spend his own break “at home in sunny Leicestershire”.

Read:  10 unique UK holidays you probably haven’t thought of

Castlerigg Stone Circle8:57AM

Prof Ferguson: Testing everyone from Europe could be required to stop variants coming in

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

Asked about the risks with opening up to international travel, the Imperial College London academic told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “The concern here… is the proportion of cases reported in a number of European countries which are this (South African) variant is now up to anywhere from 4-5% in France and up to 17%, nearly 20% up in Luxembourg.

“So rather than some of the ‘red list’ countries which are far away, I think where the real policy challenge lies in terms of mitigating risk is around what to do around travel to Europe and back. “I think that (testing everyone from European countries) would be sensible and reconsidering the exemptions in place at the moment.

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

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

Rapid antigen swab tests for Covid-19 at Malpensa Airport in Milan Credit:Piero Cruciatti / AFP8:49AM

Health minister denies the Government changed course on ‘vaccine passports’

Edward Argar denied that the Government had changed its mind on the use of so-called vaccine passports.

Asked on BBC Breakfast the health minister said: “I don’t think it is that at all.

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

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

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

A man presents his “green passport,” proof that he is vaccinated against the coronavirus, on opening night at the Khan Theater in Jerusalem8:43AM

Watch: Police stop Good Friday service in London over Covid rules

Worshippers reacted with anger after police “brutally” ordered them out of a Good Friday service and threatened them each with a GBP200 fine for breaching Covid restrictions.

Officers shut down the service at Christ the King Polish church in Balham, south London, telling those assembled inside that they were breaking the law – watch below.

 Read the full story from Patrick Sawer here.

8:38AM

Those returning to work will be among first to use rapid tests, says health minister

Edward Argar said he expected those returning to work in the coming weeks to be among the first to use the lateral flow tests on offer. The health minister told BBC Breakfast: “I suspect in the first instance, a lot of them will be used by people who are starting to go back into their workplace again, as the economy starts opening up again, as pubs start opening for outside drinks and shops start opening again and as people start going back to their offices and businesses. “So I suspect that will be a very large proportion of people who use these tests.”

The Conservative MP said the cost of supplying the quick-fire result tests to everyone in England would be met by the two-year GBP37 billion NHS Test and Trace budget.

8:31AM

Still time for EU to get cases under control and be open for summer, says Tui exec

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

Asked on BBC Breakfast on Monday what the most likely destinations will be when foreign travel resumes, he said: “Cyprus have come out and been very positive, Greece and Turkey have come out and been very positive, and Spain again.

“So I think all these European countries, whilst to a degree they are struggling with their rates at the moment, we are still a significant period away from the summer season properly opening up, we are probably 11 weeks away. “The world has been changing on a weekly basis, never mind an 11-weekly basis.

“So we are still positive about those destinations. We are also positive that the Caribbean and some of those destinations will open up.”

8:27AM

Travel executive welcomes introduction of ‘traffic light’ system for foreign travel

Andrew Flintham, managing director for Tui UK and Ireland, welcomed the introduction of a “traffic light” system for foreign travel.

He told BBC Breakfast on Monday: “We are all trying to reopen the UK, the economy, and travel is an intrinsic part of that.

“So we are looking for some really clear guidelines so we welcome the traffic light system. We think it will give us some clear rules to work with and also it will make it obvious what data is driving what decisions.” Mr Flintham said the company was gearing up to restart and added: “All our teams are getting ready for restart, we believe and we hope the 17th [of May] will be possible.

“We think with the amazing vaccine programme and the greater provision of testing, we think we should be able to get going.”

8:24AM

EMA due to issue further recommendations on use of AstraZeneca vaccine this week

The EU’s medicines regulator, the EMA, is due to issue further recommendations on the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine later this week, writes Sam Morgan.

Its safety committee has continued to review cases of rare blood clots around Europe, as the agency sticks by its assessment that the benefits of the jab far outweigh the negligible side-effect risks.

The Netherlands on Friday followed the likes of France and Germany in suspending use of the vaccine in the under-60s until further advice from the EMA is issued.

Belgium, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with jabs but is ready to make a decision later this week depending on what the EMA decides.

Top epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson told the Today programme this morning that a better communications effort will be needed to reiterate to young people in particular that the Oxford jab’s benefits exceed the risk and that no vaccine or medicine comes risk-free.

8:20AM

Boris Johnson set to unveil plan to reopen economy and relaunch international travel

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out plans to reopen the economy and eventually relaunch international travel today when he updates the coronavirus roadmap, aided by one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world.

As much of Europe enters new lockdowns to tackle surging cases, Mr Johnson will give an update on his staggered plan to ease restrictions in the coming months at a Downing Street press conference – to be held exactly a year to the day since he was taken into hospital with Covid-19. Mr Johnson is expected to confirm that non-essential retail, outdoor hospitality and hairdressers can reopen on April 12 in England, while he will also give more details on vaccine passports and international travel.

The government’s plan to use a traffic-light system for countries based on infection and vaccination levels gives a glimmer of hope that some form of holidays could take place. Under the current plan international travel will not resume until May 17 at the earliest.

8:13AM

Prof Neil Ferguson urges Government to ‘reconsider exemptions’ for travel into UK

Scientific adviser Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said the concern is that the spread of the South African variant in the EU could undermine the UK’s vaccination programme.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme:  “It’s the risk of importing variants which might undermine our vaccination programme, and the one we’re particularly concerned about at the moment is the South African variant.”

He added that the “real policy challenges” lie in “mitigating risks” around what the Government does about rules surrounding travel to Europe and back, rather than focusing only on ‘red list’ countries. 

He said that everyone travelling into the UK should be tested whether they are vaccinated or not.

He told the Today Programme:  “I think, where the real policy challenges lie in terms of mitigating risks is around what we do around travel to Europe and back, so that means at the very least then testing people – everyone who comes back from any of these countries.

“I think that will be sensible and to reconsider the exemptions in place at the moment.

“If you’re a truck driver or travelling for government business, then you don’t have to quarantine and you don’t even have to test.

“I think it would be sensible for at least everybody to be tested when they’re coming in.”

7:54AM

Hairdressers reopen in Scotland as coronavirus restrictions ease

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

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

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

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the country’s route map out of lockdown on March 16, with Monday seeing customers allowed back into some businesses.

University and college students will also be able return for in-person teaching and outdoor contact sports for 12 to 17-year-olds will restart. Monday’s move will be followed on April 26 with a wider reopening of the economy, with beer gardens and gyms returning to trading and more people being able to meet up outdoors and inside public places.

Ms Sturgeon previously said she hopes the country will return to normality by the summer.

7:47AM

Boris Johnson to announce framework for easing foreign travel restrictions

The Prime Minister will lead a Downing Street press conference today, expected around 5pm. 

He will use the news conference to set out further details of the framework for easing foreign travel restrictions ahead of the report of the global travel task force, which is due on April 12.

While the ban on foreign travel from England will not be lifted until May 17, Downing Street has said that when the rules are relaxed there will be a risk-based “traffic light” system with red, amber and green ratings for countries around the world.

Travellers arriving from countries rated green will not be required to isolate although pre-departure and post-arrival tests will still be needed.

For those classed as amber or red, the restrictions will remain as they are with arrivals required to isolate or enter quarantine. Officials have made clear that there will be no announcement this week on which country is on which list – a decision which has been criticised by tourism industry bosses.

Martyn Sumners, executive director of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, told The Times: “The fact that we won’t know until next month which countries are permitted for travel will make it very difficult to get programmes up and running.”

7:22AM

Free twice-weekly rapid Covid tests to be offered to everyone in England

Everyone in the country will be encouraged to take two Covid tests a week to show they are not infected, Boris Johnson will announce on Monday.

The rapid lateral flow tests will be paid for by the Government and can be delivered to homes free of charge from Friday. The multi-billion-pound expansion of testing is designed to catch Covid outbreaks early as the economy reopens.

While the tests are voluntary, the announcement could pave the way for workplaces or businesses to ask staff or customers to show they have a negative result.

The Government is also understood to be considering how the mass testing system could form part of an official “Covid certification” scheme, through which the public would be required to prove they have been vaccinated, show an up-to-date negative test result or prove that they have antibodies from recent infection in order to attend events or venues.

from Charles Hymas here.

Lateral flow testing site in the University of Hull’s Allam Sport Centre in Hull,Credit:OLI SCARFF / AFP7:03AM

Schools may face rise in Covid cases if face masks in class are scrapped, says union

A third wave of Covid-19 cases could threaten schools after Easter if the Government abandons strict safety measures, a union has warned. The NASUWT teaching union is calling on ministers not to water down guidance on face coverings in secondary schools and colleges ahead of the return of pupils for the summer term.

Secondary school and college pupils in England are currently being advised to wear face coverings wherever social distancing cannot be maintained, including in the classroom. But the Government has said the measure will be reviewed at Easter. The NASUWT is concerned that ministers may relax the guidance as lockdown measures begin to be eased across the country.

Such a move would undermine Covid-19 safety and reduce pupils’ adherence to the wider safety controls in schools and colleges at a time when the risk of transmission remains high, the union claims.

A survey of more than 4,000 NASUWT members found that 75% support secondary school pupils being required to wear face masks in the classroom.

Credit:Danny Lawson/PA Wire6:00AM

India’s new daily cases surpass 100,000 for first time

India reported a record rise in coronavirus infections on Monday, becoming only the second country after the US to register more than 100,000 new cases in a day, as hospitals in its worst affected state are overrun by patients. The country’s daily infections have leapt about 12 fold since hitting a multi-month low in early February, when authorities eased most restrictions and people largely stopped wearing masks and following social distancing. More infectious variants of the virus may have also played a role in the second surge, some epidemiologists say.

With 103,558 new infections, India has now reported 12.6 million cases and  has recorded the most number of infections in the past week anywhere in the world.

People at a crowded beach in MumbaiCredit:Reuters4:40AM

 Philippine extends lockdown as infections spike

The Philippine government extended a lockdown by another week Monday after an alarming spike in coronavirus infections continued to surge and started to overwhelm many hospitals in the capital and outlying regions. President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metropolitan Manila and four outlying provinces, a region of more than 25 million people, back under lockdown last week as daily infections breached the 10,000-mark. The government-run Lung Center of the Philippines became the latest hospital in the capital region to announce over the weekend that it can no longer accept walk-in patients after its Covid-19 ward reached full capacity while its emergency room was now handling twice its capacity.

“We are not just full.

We are very full. In fact, the hospital has been full for the past two weeks,” Lung Center spokesman Dr. Norberto Francisco said.

Other hospitals said they could take steps to expand bed capacity but there was inadequate number of medical workers partly because many had also been infected.

Catholics attend a mass marking Easter Sunday outside the Saint Peter Parish Church in Quezon City, Metro ManilaCredit: MARK R CRISTINO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock2:19AM

China reports biggest daily case jump in over 2 months

China reported its biggest daily jump in new Covid-19 cases in more than two months, as a city on the border with Myanmar in southwestern Yunnan province accounted for all new local cases.

Ruili’s local government put residents in its urban area under home quarantine, launched a massive testing drive and began restricting people from leaving and entering the city from last week after reporting Covid-19 patients. The city accounted for all of the 15 new local cases reported on April 4. The total number of new infections, including imported infections originating from overseas, stood at 32, marking the highest total since Jan.

31.

2:17AM

China to donate 150,000 Sinovac vaccine doses to El Salvador

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele said on Sunday that China will donate 150,000 Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine doses to the Central American nation, on top of the 2 million Sinovac jabs his government already purchased.

“I received a letter from President Xi Jinping, where he informs me that he will donate 150,000 vaccines against Covid-19 to our country,” Bukele wrote on Twitter.

The donation will help El Salvador, a country of around 6.5 million people, which began its immunisation campaign with the AstraZeneca vaccine in February. El Salvador has reported 64,431 cases of coronavirus and 2,025 deaths from the virus. 

How the world’s leading vaccines compare on efficacy2:12AM

Sturgeon ‘can’t wait’ to get first dose of vaccine

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she “can’t wait” to receive her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine later this month. She said it had been a “grim year” for everybody because of the virus, as she revealed that she will receive her first vaccine injection in mid-April.

Like many other people, Ms Sturgeon, 50, tweeted a picture of her blue envelope with the vaccine appointment after it arrived through her letterbox.

My blue envelope has arrived (it really does soften the blow of being 50!)
We’re on track to offer first doses to all over 50s, unpaid carers & adults with underlying health condition by mid Apr & and all adults by end Jul (supplies permitting).

My thanks to our vaccination teams pic.twitter.com/bDxjyZ9wmw

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) March 26, 2021
2:00AM

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