Coronavirus in numbers
India’s coronavirus surge continues with case numbers above 300,000 for the sixth day in a row in a situation which World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called “beyond heartbreaking.”
The army has been called upon to help as international aid packages, including some from the UK containing ventilators and oxygen, arrive.
An Indian doctor has called the donation “a drop in the ocean.”
Dr Zarir Udwadia, who sits on a committee advising the Indian government on Mumbai’s Covid response, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s a political gesture – this will have a limited impact at this stage, sadly. We are past the stage of that.”
Meanwhile in the UK, ministers are calling for a review of all Covid related fines over concerns that they could be “muddled, discriminatory and unfair.”
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) added that the system “criminalises the poor over the better-off” and urged that no Covid fine result in a criminal record.
People in India are rushing to hospital unnecessarily, says WHO
People in India are rushing to hospital necessarily, making the country’s Covid crisis even worse, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said that less than 15 per cent of those infected with Covid-19 actually need to be cared for in hospital. He added that even fewer will need oxygen.
Mr Jasarevic added: “Currently, part of the problem is that many people rush to the hospital (also because they do not have access to information/advice), even though home-based care monitoring at home can be managed very safely.”
He suggested that community-level centres ought to triage patients and provide more at-home care.
India’s death toll from Covid-19 is growing increasingly worse, with hospitals unable to cope and many turning away coronavirus patients due to a shortage of oxygen supplies and beds.
It has been suggested that the appearance of a new variant in the country could be behind the increase in cases.
Mr Jasarevic explained: “As is true in any country, WHO has said the combination of relaxing of personal protective measures, mass gatherings and more contagious variants while vaccine coverage is still low can create a perfect storm.”
Fall in Covid-related deaths
Covid-19 related deaths in England and Wales have fallen by 97 per cent since the peak of the second wave, new figures suggest.
Several age groups have recorded a fall in coronavirus related deaths of up to 99 per cent as the combined impact of the vaccine rollout and lockdown has helped drive infection rates down.
In total, 266 deaths with Covid-19 recorded on the death certificate occured in the week ending 9 April, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is 97 per cent less than the 8,965 Covid-related deaths recorded in the week ending 22 January.
ONS data, analysed by the PA news agency, shows the age groups 75-79, 80-84 and 85-89 all recorded drops of 97 per cent. Those aged 65-69 recorded a drop of 96 per cent, meanwhile for those aged 60-64 it was 95 per cent.
People aged 70-74 had the greatest decrease in numbers of Covid deaths with a drop of 99 per cent and for those over the age of 90 this fall was 98 per cent compared to the January peak.
Lockdown restrictions are in the process of being eased in both nations, but it is too soon to see whether or not these will affect data and infection numbers.
Australia bans flights from India in latest international response to Covid wave
Australia has announced a ban on all flights to and from India amid the devastating second Covid wave surging across the country.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced that all flights to and from India shall be suspended with immediate effect until 15 May to prevent virus transmission across borders.
The decision was taken at the national security committee’s meeting on Tuesday.
Maroosha Muzaffar explains more:
First ‘Oxygen Express’ train arrives in Delhi as new Covid cases remain above 320,000 across India
The first “Oxygen Express” train loaded with around 70 tonnes of oxygen arrived in Delhi as the Indian capital suffered an acute shortage of the life-saving gas.
The train docked at a railway station in Delhi on Monday night for the oxygen tankers to be disbursed by the Delhi government to various hospitals in dire need.
“Oxygen Express has reached Delhi from Raigarh, Chhattisgarh with oxygen for patients in the capital,” railway minister Piyush Goyal said in a tweet.
Shweta Sharma has more:
The Netherlands’ King’s Day once again celebrated in lockdown
The Dutch are celebrating their annual King’s Day in a more muted fashion than usual as a coronavirus lockdown prevented large-scale street parties for the second year in a row.
King’s Day is a national holiday to celebrate the birthday of King Willem-Alexander, who turns 54 this year. The Dutch normally use the occasion to dress up in orange clothes, hats and feather boas and crowd the streets in major cities to celebrate.
This year however, people are being urged to stay at home. This comes amid rising lockdown fatigue and just one day before the easing of some restrictions in the northern European country.
In Amsterdam, the capital, residents are being urged to celebrate according to lockdown guidelines. However, people were told: “you can still dig out the orange T-shirt or silly hat and hang out the flag.”
From Wednesday, the national lockdown will be eased with measures including the end of a nationwide curfew imposed in mid-January. Cafes will also be allowed to reopen their outdoor terraces from noon to 6pm.
Hong Kong to reopen bars and nightclubs from 29 April to those with a vaccine
Hong Kong is set to reopen bars and nightclubs from 29 April, but only to those who have been vaccinated and who use a government mobile phone application, said Hong Kong health secretary Sophia Chan on Tuesday.
Ms Chan explained that measures would extend to bathhouses as well as karaoke lounges, enabling venues to remain open until 2am.
In order to be able to attend, both customers and staff must have received at least one dose of the vaccine. She added that the venue must operate at half capacity.
“We all hope life can return to normal but we need to allow some time for everyone to adapt to these new measures,” Ms Chan said.
The announcement comes as authorities are attempting to increase vaccine uptake. Currently, only around 11 per cent of the city’s 7.5 million population have received their first dose.
Uptake has been slow, particularly since many are suspicious of China’s Sinovac vaccine and have avoided taking it over fear that it may cause adverse reactions.
Vaccinations in Hong Kong began with residents being offered doses from Sinovac in February and later Germany’s BioNTech was offered from March.
Overall, the BioNTech inoculation has experienced a far greater take up since its launch. Indeed two to three times more people have been booking it on a daily basis than they have been booking the Sinovac jab, according to government figures.
As well as the Sinvac vaccine, the Hong Kong government’s tracing app has been met with distrust.
Under the new rules, restaurants will be allowed to increase the number of diners per group from four to six per table. Customers will also be allowed to dine until midnight, rather than 10:00pm as is currently the case.
Those who have not been vaccinated will still be allowed to dine, just in different areas of restaurants and will have to write their details down on paper, instead of using the government app. Only groups of up to four people will be allowed in this area.
‘Political gesture’: Indian doctor says UK donation of ventilators is meaningless at this point
Medical equipment sent by the UK to India to help the country cope with its huge surge in Covid-19 cases is merely a “political gesture” and will have little impact, a leading Indian doctor has claimed.
The UK’s Foreign Office said it was sending 600 pieces of life-saving kit to India – including ventilators and oxygen concentrators – with the first plane-loads arriving on Tuesday.
Dr Zarir Udwadia, who sits on a committee advising the Indian government on Mumbai’s Covid response, said the donation was “a drop in the ocean”.
Adam Forrest reports:
France’s Emmauel Macron expected to make announcement on Covid restrictions in coming days
French President Emmauel Macron is expected to make an announcement in the coming days on plans to relax coronavirus restrictions, employment minister Elisabeth Borne told BFM TV on Tuesday.
France began its third national lockdown towards the end of March following a surge in coronavirus cases and Covid related deaths.
On Monday French schools reopened following a three week closure, Mr Macron has previously suggested that open-air bars and outdoor seating in restaurants could open from mid-May.
However indoor venues are not expected to reopen until at least June. This would only happen in regions where Covid figures have shown a significant drop.
Ms Borne also suggested that those working from home should prepare for a return to the office which she suggested should be “simultaneous” with the reopening of outdoor hospitality.
Mr Macron is hoping the effects of the country’s third lockdown, along with a faster vaccination campaign, will improve France’s coronavirus case numbers and allow the reopening of certain businesses.
Labour calls on government to implement NHS recovery plan as hospital waiting lists grow
Ministers have been urged to implement a clear recovery plan to bring down the country’s patient waiting lists that have ballooned to record-breaking levels as a result of disruption from the pandemic.
Labour has warned that thousands of people waiting for hospital treatment are at risk of permanent disability and losing their livelihoods and has demanded government action.
Some 387,885 patients in England are waiting more than a year for hospital treatment, according to NHS data. This has increased month-on-month since March of last year when the UK was first placed into lockdown.
Samuel Lovett reports:
Covid vaccines available to those aged 42 and over in England
The NHS Covid vaccine booking system in England has extended to health people aged 42 and over. This is the second time the system has been extended in a week, with it first being extended down to those aged 44 and over on Monday.
Those who are 42 and over or who will turn 42 before 1 July 2021 are able to arrange their vaccine appointment through the national booking website.
Meanwhile, on Monday a new government campaign, called “every vaccination gives us hope”, was launched. It includes a TV advert and will be on social media, the radio and billboards, in the hope that it will encourage those under the age of 50 to take the vaccine.