Coronavirus news latest – Boris Johnson insists no reason in data to halt easing of lockdown measures

BORIS Johnson has warned he is wary of the prospects of rising coronavirus infection rates, but said he sees “absolutely nothing in the data” to halt the easing of the lockdown.

The Prime Minister acknowledged cases could again spiral as restrictions are relaxed, with the “stay local” order having ended in Wales and larger outdoor meetings being permitted in England from Monday.

But he said on Saturday that the “key difference” this time is that the rise in prevalence should be “sufficiently mitigated” by the successful vaccine rollout.

Meanwhile, Monday marks the next milestone in the government's road to freedom out of lockdown.

 Under the current rules, many Brits have been fined for not having a reasonable excuse for heading outside.

But Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown has now started to unfold, with the next phase to take place from March 29.

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic

  • Alice Fuller

    HOLS PAYBACK

    Brits who were given credit notes for their cancelled holidays have been urged to check the expiry dates – as thousands approach the 12-month cut off date.

    Many airlines and travel agents who dished out vouchers for cancelled flights have failed to warn customers that they could be approaching the deadline.

    And as travel restrictions in Britain continue, thousands will expire before Boris Johnson reopens Britain's borders.

    Rory Boland, consumer expert at Which? Travel, urged holidaymakers to check the small print.

  • Alice Fuller

    RALLY RAGE IN BRADFORD

    Thirteen protesters have been arrested as anti-lockdown demonstrators clashed with cops while they tried to storm a vaccination centre today.

    Demonstrations "turned ugly" as up to 400 Covid protesters faced off with cops at Centenary Square in Bradford on Saturday afternoon.

    The group – believed to be called The North Unites – listened to an anti-lockdown speech between City Hall and Bradford Magistrates Court. They then moved to Centenary Square.

    West Yorkshire Police said 13 people had been arrested after they tried to get into a vaccination clinic.

    Nineteen people were also given fines for breaking Covid rules.

  • Alice Fuller

    WILL I NEED A VACCINE TO GO TO THE PUB?

    Pubs may be allowed to ban drinkers who have not had a Covid vaccination.

    Punters may have to show proof of a jab or a recent negative test to get a pint.

    But there is no rule yet in place – and it is believed any vaccine requirement would be at the discretion of individual landlords.

    Boris Johnson has previously dismissed the idea of a vaccine passport being needed to nip into a boozer.

    But speaking to a committee of MPs this week he indicated the decision will be handed to individual businesses.

  • Alice Fuller

    COVAX EXPECTS FULL VACCINE SUPPLY IN MAY, SAYS UNICEF

    A World Health Organization-backed programme to supply coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries expects that the Serum Institute of India (SII) will resume full deliveries of the AstraZeneca shot to it in May, UNICEF said today.

    "Deliveries of SII/AZ vaccine are expected to begin fully again by May, with catch-up deliveries to reach every participants full allocation up to May, accelerating thereafter," a UNICEF spokeswoman told Reuters in an email.

    The spokeswoman added that the programme, known as COVAX, was in talks with New Delhi to secure "some supply" in April too, expecting a total of 90 million doses from SII in March and April, of which it has received about 28 million.

  • Alice Fuller

    CONCERNS OVER 'ULTRA INFECTIOUS' PAPUA NEW GUINEA VAARIANT

    A new "ultra infectious" coronavirus variant has been detected in Papua New Guinea.

    Cases of the B.1.466.2 were detected in dozens of Australians who had recently returned from the country.

    Queensland Health today revealed that genomic sequencing had detected the variant.

    One health official in Queensland said it was critical that any cases of the virus were detected.

    Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said: "We are concerned by the new variants that are emerging overseas that are more contagious than previous variants we have seen in Queensland. It's also possible that this detection relates to previous Covid-19 cases that can shed viral fragments for a couple of months after they are no longer infectious."

  • Alice Fuller

    YOUTUBER OUT OF ICU

    YouTube star Grace Victory has finally been released from intensive care after being put in a coma with Covid-19 on Christmas Day.

    The 30-year-old has been able to spend time with her son for the first time after he was delivered over two months early due to her deteriorating health.

    The vlogger has now shared the first picture of herself with her son, showing her dressed in a hospital gown while he lies on her.

    She simply captioned it: “My heartbeat”, as she tagged in her boyfriend Lee Williams.

    In another post Grace revealed she had been given just a 5% chance of survival.

  • Alice Fuller

    FACEBOOK FREEZES ACCOUNT FOR SPREADING COVID MISINFORMATION

    Facebook said today that it was "freezing" Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's page for a month after repeated violations of the platform's rules against Covid-19 misinformation.

    A Facebook spokesperson said that Maduro's page would remain visible but closed to new posts, saying, "Due to repeated violations of our rules, we are also freezing the page for 30 days, during which it will be read-only."

    The spokesperson added that Facebook had removed a video from Maduro's page "for violating our policies against misinformation about Covid-19 that is likely to put people at risk for harm."

    It said the administrators of Maduro's account had previously been warned.

    In the video, the socialist leader had promoted the use of the drug Carvativir – saying a few drops under the tongue would provide a "miracle" cure with no side effects – in the latest of a series of remedies he has advocated without medical evidence.

  • Alice Fuller

    'HEALTHY' MUM DIES OF COVID AFTER FAMILY STRUCK DOWN WITH VIRUS

    A "healthy" mum, 33, has died of Covid after her newborn, four other kids and husband were all struck down with the virus.

    Victoria Gallardo tested positive for coronavirus just days after giving birth – and passed away after a month-long battle.

    According to a GoFundMe, the Texan tested positive for the virus on February 2 – just days after she gave birth to daughter, Gianna.

    The virus "quickly developed into pneumonia," the GoFundMe said.

    Her husband, Armando, told KTRK earlier this month as his wife was in a medically-induced coma that the family all took serious precautions against the virus – but the entire family got sick.

  • Alice Fuller

    UK COVID DEATHS IN LAST 24 HOURS

    A further 58 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 86,154, NHS England said on Saturday.

    Patients were aged between 39 and 95 and all except one, aged 90, had known underlying health conditions.

    The deaths were between December 11 last year and March 26 this year.

    There were 18 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

  • Alice Fuller

    VACCINATIONS SUSPENDED AT HOSPITAL AFTER SPARE DOSES GO TO PRIVATE SCHOOL

    Coronavirus vaccine operations at a private hospital in Dublin are to be suspended after it used spare doses to vaccinate teachers at a private school.

    Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has asked the Health Service Executive (HSE) to suspend vaccinations at the Beacon Hospital, with the exception of already scheduled appointments.

    The move comes after it emerged on Friday that earlier this week the hospital used 20 doses left over at the end of a day to vaccinate some staff members at St Gerard's School in Bray.

    The south Dublin hospital, which was administering vaccines as part of the state rollout, apologised for its decision, claiming it was made under "time pressure".

    The hospital admitted the move was not in line with the HSE's sequencing guidelines for vaccinating priority groups. Mr Donnelly said the hospital's actions were "entirely inappropriate and completely unacceptable".

  • Alice Fuller

    CASES IN ITALY FALL

    Italy reported 380 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday against 457 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell slightly to 23,839 from 23,987 the day before.

    Some 357,154 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the space of 24 hours, compared with the previous 354,982.

    Italy has registered 107,636 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain's and the seventh-highest in the world. It has reported 3.5 million cases to date.

    Patients in hospital with COVID-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 28,621 on Saturday, up from 28,472 the previous day.

    There were 264 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 288 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients stood at 3,635, compared to 3,628.

  • Alice Fuller

    GARDAI INVESTIGATE QUARANTINE HOTEL ESCAPE

    Gardai are investigating reports that three people have left mandatory quarantine at a Dublin hotel without authorisation.

    The quarantining rules came into effect on Friday with the first passengers impacted having checked into the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry near Dublin Airport.

    Travellers arriving from 33 countries deemed high risk by the Government must quarantine for 12 nights at a designated hotel.

    The new quarantine rules also apply to any passenger who arrives from any other country without a negative PCR test for Covid-19 carried out no more than 72 hours before they arrive in Ireland.

    The Defence Forces and private security guards are involved in monitoring compliance with the rules at the facilities.

  • Alice Fuller

    POLICE URGE AGAINST FURTHER PROTESTS

    Avon and Somerset Police have urged people considering taking part in further protests in Bristol over the weekend to "reconsider for the sake of public health".

    In a statement, chief superintendent Claire Armes of Avon and Somerset Police said: "While Covid restrictions are in place, gatherings of any kind will only put our communities at risk.

    "This pandemic has cost many lives and is still a significant challenge for our colleagues in the NHS. Anyone who chooses to flout the restrictions is playing a part in prolonging this difficult situation.

    "We fully understand the strength of feeling around the right to protest, but now is not the time. We're again asking people to please do the responsible thing and stay at home this weekend.

    "Policing resources are in place to ensure we're able to keep our communities safe and maintain order."

  • Jon Rogers

    TURKEY RECORDS MORE THAN 30,000 COVID CASES IN 24 HOURS

    Turkey has recorded 30,021 new coronavirus cases in the space of 24 hours, the highest number this year, health ministry data showed on Saturday.

    Measures to curb the pandemic in Turkey were eased this month.

    The cumulative number of cases stood at 3,179,115 and the latest daily death toll was 151, bringing the cumulative toll to 30,923. 

  • Jon Rogers

    ITALY REPORTS FURTHER 380 COVID DEATHS

    Italy reported 380 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday against 457 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell slightly to 23,839 from 23,987 the day before.

    Some 357,154 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the space of 24 hours, compared with the previous 354,982.

    Italy has registered 107,636 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain's and the seventh-highest in the world. It has reported 3.5 million cases to date.

    Patients in hospital with Covid-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 28,621 on Saturday, up from 28,472 the previous day.

    There were 264 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 288 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients stood at 3,635, compared to 3,628. 

  • Jon Rogers

    GERMANY NEEDS STRICT LOCKDOWN, SAYS HEALTH MINISTER

    Health Minister Jens Spahn says Germany needs a strict lockdown lasting at least 10-14 days to reduce the rapid rise of coronavirus infections, which has been fueled by a more contagious variant.

    The countrys disease control agency announced 20,472 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 157 additional deaths on Saturday. The head of the Robert Koch Institute said Friday that Germany could see as many as 100,000 infections daily if infections keep rising exponentially.

    This week, the governors of Germanys 16 states resisted imposing stricter rules demanded by medical experts. Some states have also refused to implement an emergency brake previously agreed with Chancellor Angela Merkel when weekly case numbers rise above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants.

    Spahn said at a public meeting Saturday, if we look at the numbers, including the developments today, we need another 10-14 days, at least, of properly driving down contacts and movements, a lockdown if you want to call it that, like we had for Easter last year.

  • Jon Rogers

    GERMANY EXPECTS FIRST DELIVERY OF J&J VACCINE MID-APRIL

    Germany is due to receive the first small delivery of Johnson & Johnson's single dose Covid-19 vaccine in mid-April, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Saturday, giving the country a further shot to help speed up its sluggish rollout.

    "It will only be a small delivery at first," Spahn told an online event, adding he expected a shipment of around 275,000 doses in the week of April 12.

    "But at least – because we have been waiting a long time for the first delivery from J&J – we will get the first deliveries of the vaccine in mid-April, and it will then be ramped up to millions of doses, as is the case with all deliveries."

    J&J's shot, which was approved by European Union regulators on March 11, is the fourth to be endorsed for use in the EU after vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford University and Moderna.

    After a sluggish start to its vaccine rollout, hampered by delivery delays and supply constraints, Germany hopes to ramp up vaccinations from next month when it expects to receive 15million doses from the three other suppliers.

  • Jon Rogers

    NHS ENGLAND PASSES 25M FIRST JABS

    On NHS England passing 25 million first jabs, Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS national medical director, said: "This is the latest major milestone showing rapid and targeted progress in getting people in England protected against coronavirus.

    "Passing the 25 million mark is a remarkable achievement for NHS staff across the country who have jabbed more than half the adult population and are continuing to work carefully to identify those last remaining people in the top priority groups yet to get their jab and urging them to come forward.

    "While supplies of doses will be tightened next month, anyone with a second jab booked should come forward, and our other top priority is to remind everyone who is aged 50 and older or who has an underlying health condition that their first jab is available to them, now and throughout April."

  • Jon Rogers

    SCOTLAND RECORDS SIX NEW COVID-19 DEATHS

    Scotland has recorded six deaths from coronavirus and 563 positive tests in the past 24 hours, according to Scottish Government data.

    The latest official figures bring the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,578.

    The daily test positivity rate remains at 2.4 per cent.

    There are 283 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down from 310 in 24 hours, and 26 patients are in intensive care, a decrease of six.

    A total of 2,358,807 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 294,714 have received their second dose.

  • Jon Rogers

    NETHERLANDS RECORDS FURTHER 8,800 COVID CASES

    Health authorities in the Netherlands reported 8,798 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours on Saturday, the highest level seen since early January, according to public data.

    The National Institute for Health (RIVM) has forecast that new cases will continue to rise through late April, even with the country's current lockdown measures that include an evening curfew and bans on public and private gatherings.

  • Jon Rogers

    BORIS JOHNSON PLEDGES COVID RECOVERY IN WALES

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to deliver a coronavirus recovery in Wales.

    Speaking at the Conservatives' virtual spring forum on Saturday, Mr Johnson said the pandemic had "laid bare the damage that 22 years of Labour government has done to Wales".

    But he said that the Welsh Conservatives had a plan to "build a better Wales".

    He added: "Very sadly the pandemic has laid bare the damage that 22 years of Labour government has done to Wales, but the Welsh Conservatives have got a plan to repair the mess and build back better.

    "Only if you vote Conservative can we build a better Wales and put the problems of the past, piled up by Labour, behind us."

  • Jon Rogers

    ENGLAND RECORDS FURTHER 58 COVID DEATHS

    A further 58 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 86,154, NHS England said on Saturday.

    Patients were aged between 39 and 95 and all except one, aged 90, had known underlying health conditions.

    The deaths were between December 11 last year and March 26 this year.

    There were 18 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    PM SEES 'NOTHING IN THE DATA' TO HALT EASING OF LOCKDOWN

    Boris Johnson has warned he is wary of the prospects of rising coronavirus infection rates, but said he sees "absolutely nothing in the data" to halt the easing of the lockdown.

    The Prime Minister acknowledged cases could again spiral as restrictions are relaxed, with the "stay local" order having ended in Wales and larger outdoor meetings being permitted in England from Monday.

    But he said on Saturday that the "key difference" this time is that the rise in prevalence should be "sufficiently mitigated" by the successful vaccine rollout.

    However, there were warnings that more must be done to prevent the import of new variants from overseas as vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi raised the prospect of booster shots beginning in September.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    KATE MIDDLETON LAUNCHES PHOTO BOOK OF PANDEMIC

    The Duchess of Cambridge has said a book of 100 photographs illustrating the past year of the pandemic will serve as a "lasting record of what we were all experiencing".

    Launched by Kate and the National Portrait Gallery, Hold Still: A Portrait Of Our Nation in 2020, features images of key workers and people isolated from family and friends, as well as moments of joy.

    Its publication follows the anniversary of the first national coronavirus lockdown on March 23, and it will be available from bookshops and online from May 7.

    The Hold Still initiative was launched by the duchess and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) last year and invited people of all ages from across the UK to submit a portrait they had taken during the first lockdown.

    From more than 31,000 images submitted, 100 portraits were selected and shown in a digital exhibition before being displayed across the UK in communities.

    Writing in the introduction, Kate said the portraits illustrate a collection of "poignant and personal stories" from the past year.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    VACCINE DEAL GETTING CLOSE, SAYS SOURCES

    Britain is close to striking a vaccine deal with the European Union as soon as this weekend that will remove the threat of the bloc cutting off supplies, The Times reported on Saturday.

    Under the agreement the EU will remove its threat to ban the export of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to Britain, it added.

    In return, the British government will agree to forgo some long-term supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that had been due to be exported from a factory in Holland run by AstraZeneca's subcontractor Halix, the newspaper reported.

    However, the EU has never threatened a ban on the export of vaccines, but has only said it could block on a case-by-case basis specific vaccine shipments to countries with higher vaccination rates or that do not export vaccines to the EU.

    "We are only at the start of discussions with the UK. There are no talks over the weekend," an EU Commission source said on Saturday, adding that sending vaccines produced at Halix was not part of the talks.

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