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Coronavirus live news: Japan prefectures to declare emergency; Ireland’s health IT systems suffer ransomware attack Coronavirus live news: Japan prefectures to declare emergency; Ireland’s health IT systems suffer ransomware attack
(32 minutes later)
Japan to declare state of emergency in three more prefectures; Ireland says vaccine programme will be unaffected by IT shutdownJapan to declare state of emergency in three more prefectures; Ireland says vaccine programme will be unaffected by IT shutdown
Coronavirus is raging in India’s hinterland, where in some places bodies are being buried in shallow graves or given up to rivers and the sick have little hope other than herbal remedies and amateur doctors.
Kidwai Ahmad, from Sadullahpur village in Uttar Pradesh, a huge northern state, said the situation is “disastrous” with people dying all around his neighbourhood.
“There is so much poverty all around that people can’t even afford decent cremations. They often tie big stones to the bodies and throw them in the river,” he told AFP by phone.
“Others don’t even bother with that and just throw the bodies in as they are. It has become common practice here,” he added.
“Some are just burying their dead in shallow graves and not even waiting to see if crows or dogs feed on them.”
In the past month no medical team has visited the village. The sick are staying at home taking “herbal concoctions”, Ahmad said. Clinics, if people can travel to them, are low on beds, medicines and oxygen.
“People have been left to die,” he added. “This is the India which is hidden from everyone.”
Indian health ministry data show 4,000 deaths and 343,144 infections over the last 24 hours. But a lack of testing in many places meant the official count omits many deaths and infections, prompting experts to estimate the real figures could be five to ten times higher.
Not everybody is pleased with the way that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided to lift its recommendation on face masks. Leana Wen writes for the Washington Post:
Read more here: Washington Post – Leana Wen: The CDC shouldn’t have removed restrictions without requiring proof of vaccination
Here’s a bit more on the situation in Ireland, where a ransomware attack has caused the country’s healthcare IT system to be shut down.Here’s a bit more on the situation in Ireland, where a ransomware attack has caused the country’s healthcare IT system to be shut down.
AFP report that the Irish attack has been blamed on international criminals and was said to be targeting healthcare records, but officials said patient safety was not at risk.AFP report that the Irish attack has been blamed on international criminals and was said to be targeting healthcare records, but officials said patient safety was not at risk.
While Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) has said that coronavirus vaccinations are going ahead as planned, there have been some knock-on effects in the healthcare system.While Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) has said that coronavirus vaccinations are going ahead as planned, there have been some knock-on effects in the healthcare system.
The Rotunda maternity hospital in Dublin said that “due to a serious IT issue”, it was only admitting emergency cases and women who are at least 36 weeks pregnant.The Rotunda maternity hospital in Dublin said that “due to a serious IT issue”, it was only admitting emergency cases and women who are at least 36 weeks pregnant.
Hospital chief Fergal Malone said the attack had targeted computers storing patient records. Life-saving equipment is operating fine, “there’s no problem for patient safety”, and the hospital has switched to backup paper records, he told RTE.Hospital chief Fergal Malone said the attack had targeted computers storing patient records. Life-saving equipment is operating fine, “there’s no problem for patient safety”, and the hospital has switched to backup paper records, he told RTE.
“But obviously throughput will be much slower,” he said, urging out-patients with routine appointments to stay away.“But obviously throughput will be much slower,” he said, urging out-patients with routine appointments to stay away.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the attack in Ireland was “an internationally operated criminal operation”, and the authority was working with police, the army and its major IT security providers.HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the attack in Ireland was “an internationally operated criminal operation”, and the authority was working with police, the army and its major IT security providers.
“We are at the very early stages of fully understanding the threat,” he told Irish broadcaster RTE, adding it was trying to “contain” the issue.“We are at the very early stages of fully understanding the threat,” he told Irish broadcaster RTE, adding it was trying to “contain” the issue.
Airbnb has reported a surge in bookings as coronavirus restrictions are eased in some countries.Airbnb has reported a surge in bookings as coronavirus restrictions are eased in some countries.
The value of bookings made by holidaymakers shot up 52% year on year to $10.3bn (£7.3bn) in the first quarter, with locations outside city centres and rural areas proving particularly popular.The value of bookings made by holidaymakers shot up 52% year on year to $10.3bn (£7.3bn) in the first quarter, with locations outside city centres and rural areas proving particularly popular.
The San Francisco-based company said the recovery in bookings is being led by families and small groups, as opposed to solo travellers, while there has also been a jump in bookings for longer-term stays.The San Francisco-based company said the recovery in bookings is being led by families and small groups, as opposed to solo travellers, while there has also been a jump in bookings for longer-term stays.
Almost a quarter of nights booked in the first three months of the year were for stays of 28 days or longer, up from 14% in pre-pandemic 2019.Almost a quarter of nights booked in the first three months of the year were for stays of 28 days or longer, up from 14% in pre-pandemic 2019.
“Increasing numbers of guests are discovering that they do not need to be tethered to one location to live and work,” Airbnb said.“Increasing numbers of guests are discovering that they do not need to be tethered to one location to live and work,” Airbnb said.
In the US, searches for summer travel by those aged 60 and over, the first groups to be vaccinated, soared more than 60% in February and March.In the US, searches for summer travel by those aged 60 and over, the first groups to be vaccinated, soared more than 60% in February and March.
Airbnb experienced “steady improvement” in Europe, led by the UK and France, where some travel restrictions have been lifted, with “strong” domestic travel bookings.Airbnb experienced “steady improvement” in Europe, led by the UK and France, where some travel restrictions have been lifted, with “strong” domestic travel bookings.
Read more of Mark Sweney’s report: Airbnb holiday bookings soar as Covid restrictions easeRead more of Mark Sweney’s report: Airbnb holiday bookings soar as Covid restrictions ease
Mattha Busby has launched our UK Covid live blog, leading with officials considering “surge vaccinations” to combat spread of the variant first detected in India. You can follow UK Covid news over there with him …Mattha Busby has launched our UK Covid live blog, leading with officials considering “surge vaccinations” to combat spread of the variant first detected in India. You can follow UK Covid news over there with him …
I will be continuing here with the latest global coronavirus news.I will be continuing here with the latest global coronavirus news.
By the way, if you missed it yesterday afternoon, my colleague Ian Sample did an exemplary job of laying out whether the Covid variant first detected in India is a threat to the UK’s reopening plans, asking what is the variant, how transmissible is it and what should we do about it.By the way, if you missed it yesterday afternoon, my colleague Ian Sample did an exemplary job of laying out whether the Covid variant first detected in India is a threat to the UK’s reopening plans, asking what is the variant, how transmissible is it and what should we do about it.
You can read it here: India Covid variant – is it a threat to the UK’s reopening plans?You can read it here: India Covid variant – is it a threat to the UK’s reopening plans?
We get two sets of numbers like clockwork every day – and they usually show China administering a large number of vaccine jabs, and Russia with a rock-steady level of new cases.We get two sets of numbers like clockwork every day – and they usually show China administering a large number of vaccine jabs, and Russia with a rock-steady level of new cases.
It is business as usual for China – the country says it carried out about 12.6m vaccinations yesterday.It is business as usual for China – the country says it carried out about 12.6m vaccinations yesterday.
The number from Russia stands out slightly though. I normally don’t blog it every day as the case numbers are nearly always the same, in a range of 7,000 to 8,000 cases. But it has caught my eye this morning with a slight tip up to a reported 9,462 new Covid-19 cases.The number from Russia stands out slightly though. I normally don’t blog it every day as the case numbers are nearly always the same, in a range of 7,000 to 8,000 cases. But it has caught my eye this morning with a slight tip up to a reported 9,462 new Covid-19 cases.
Reuters report that the government coronavirus task force said 393 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 115,116.Reuters report that the government coronavirus task force said 393 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 115,116.
However, it is worth noting that the federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and says Russia recorded about 250,000 deaths related to Covid-19 from April 2020 to March 2021.However, it is worth noting that the federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and says Russia recorded about 250,000 deaths related to Covid-19 from April 2020 to March 2021.
Ireland’s health authority says it has shut down its computer systems after experiencing a “significant ransomware attack”.Ireland’s health authority says it has shut down its computer systems after experiencing a “significant ransomware attack”.
“We have taken the precaution of shutting down all our IT systems in order to protect them from this attack and to allow us to fully assess the situation with our own security partners,” the Health Service Executive said on Twitter, AFP report.“We have taken the precaution of shutting down all our IT systems in order to protect them from this attack and to allow us to fully assess the situation with our own security partners,” the Health Service Executive said on Twitter, AFP report.
“We apologise for inconvenience caused to patients and to the public and will give further information as it becomes available,” it added, stressing Ireland’s coronavirus vaccination programme was unaffected and “going ahead as planned”.“We apologise for inconvenience caused to patients and to the public and will give further information as it becomes available,” it added, stressing Ireland’s coronavirus vaccination programme was unaffected and “going ahead as planned”.
The 2-metre social distancing rule in Wales will not change on Monday, mainly due to the Indian variant, first minister Mark Drakeford has said.The 2-metre social distancing rule in Wales will not change on Monday, mainly due to the Indian variant, first minister Mark Drakeford has said.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Within your own household bubble or extended household you’ll be able to make decisions about who you hug and who you cwtch.He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Within your own household bubble or extended household you’ll be able to make decisions about who you hug and who you cwtch.
“But we’re not yet thinking, largely because of the Indian variant, we’re not going to change the rules about people more generally. We expect the two-metre social distance to be sustained.”“But we’re not yet thinking, largely because of the Indian variant, we’re not going to change the rules about people more generally. We expect the two-metre social distance to be sustained.”
PA Media reports that asked whether people will be able to hug a family member outside of their household bubble or extended household, Drakeford replied: “I’m afraid you have to wait a little bit longer. We can change the rules, we don’t have to wait two or three weeks. If we get advice that says it’s safe to move ahead on that, we’ll do so as soon as we get that advice.PA Media reports that asked whether people will be able to hug a family member outside of their household bubble or extended household, Drakeford replied: “I’m afraid you have to wait a little bit longer. We can change the rules, we don’t have to wait two or three weeks. If we get advice that says it’s safe to move ahead on that, we’ll do so as soon as we get that advice.
“But we are just pausing to make sure that we have the best possible evidence about the newly emerging risks that there may be because of (the) Indian variant.”“But we are just pausing to make sure that we have the best possible evidence about the newly emerging risks that there may be because of (the) Indian variant.”
Infection rates are continuing to go down in Germany, with the crucial indicator of infections per 100,000 people over seven days dropping below the threshold mark of 100 on Friday for the first time since 20 March.The German disease control agency registered 11,336 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, a week-on-week drop of almost 40%.In Germany, 38.6m doses of vaccine have been administered so far, meaning 35.9% of the population has received at least one jab.Infection rates are continuing to go down in Germany, with the crucial indicator of infections per 100,000 people over seven days dropping below the threshold mark of 100 on Friday for the first time since 20 March.The German disease control agency registered 11,336 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, a week-on-week drop of almost 40%.In Germany, 38.6m doses of vaccine have been administered so far, meaning 35.9% of the population has received at least one jab.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the 21 June lockdown lifting in England could be in doubt if the variant first detected in India causes increases in cases in elderly people and a rise in people needing hospital care.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think the big question is how many of people who are getting the Indian variant will end up requiring hospitalisation.
“And at the moment the hospitalisation rate doesn’t seem to be increasing yet, although if this becomes much more common we’ll almost certainly see some increase, so I think it’s certainly a concern.
“I think the step four is in doubt in June now, but we really need to see what impact it has on severe disease before we can really be certain.”
PA Media reports that, asked why 21 June is in doubt, he said: “Well, because if the epidemic continues to increase, if the Indian variant of the epidemic continues to increase at the same rate as it has over recent weeks, we’re going to have a huge number of cases by June.
“The issue though is that because it seems to be spreading in unvaccinated younger people at the moment and not yet that much more active in older people maybe we’ll be able to weather it and we’ll still be able to have the step four in June.
“But if that increases cases in elderly and starts to increase hospitalisations, and puts pressure on the NHS again then I think step four would be in doubt.”
It is worth noting that the concern about the variant is not just the impact of it as it stands, but the risk that it could mutate further if allowed to spread unchecked.
Scotland is experiencing a “loss of control” of the pandemic in some areas and it is premature to lift restrictions, an epidemiologist has warned. Dr Deepti Gurdasani said action must be taken to prevent the situation worsening amid concerns about the spread of one of the new Indian variants of the virus north of the border.
Public health experts have warned that a spike in coronavirus infections in Glasgow could include the B.1.617.2 variant.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the situation in Glasgow is being monitored “very closely”, with cases in the city at 70.9 per 100,000 people in the seven days to 10 May, according to latest data.
Lucinda Cameron reports for PA Media Scotland that Moray has the highest rate in Scotland at 98.1 cases per 100,000 and is unlikely to join the rest of the country by dropping down a level under the Scottish government’s five-tier system as restrictions ease on Monday.
Dr Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist and senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, said lifting restrictions was premature. She told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “The idea is certainly premature, in fact the government should be considering the opposite.
“In Scotland as a whole we’ve actually seen the number of new cases double in the last week, and while the cases are so low it’s hard to see exponential rises.
She said the arrival of new variants in the UK was not inevitable and was a result of a “failed border policy”, pointing out that areas which have had comprehensive border restrictions such as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South East Asia, have not imported many of these concerning variants.
Dr Gurdasani said it is too early to say whether it will lead to an increase in hospital admissions.
Surge testing is under way in areas of north-west England where cases involving the variant first detected in India are on the increase.
The “variant of concern” has been detected in Bolton, Greater Manchester, as well as in Blackburn, Lancashire, and Sefton in Merseyside, which have all seen rates rise rapidly.
Blackburn with Darwen Council initially said on Thursday that it would be offering vaccines to all over-18s from next week following the increase in cases, but later said that, although additional vaccine clinics are being set up, the jab will only be offered to those eligible under current Government guidance.
The area’s director of public health, Dominic Harrison, said on Twitter that the authority had asked the NHS to “surge vaccinate” but the request was refused.
He tweeted: “At the moment the Indian variant is surging in a small number of localgov areas. These areas have a window of opportunity to control the wider spread across the UK by a mixture of community engagement, surge testing and surge vaccination.
“If the government stops areas with high IndianVariant cases from ‘surge vaccinating’ target areas (which will contribute to reduced transmission) – it will reduce our local capacity to control spread.”
Eleanor Barlow at PA Media reports that in Bolton, the area with the highest rate of cases, with 553 new infections in the seven days to 9 May, mobile testing units have been deployed and door-to-door PCR Covid testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.
A vaccine bus has been set up to increase uptake among those who are eligible and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers has been sent in.
Maeve Reston and Stephen Collinson at CNN today describe the US decisions that mask rules can be relaxed as “a great moment of liberation after a year of intense stress and fear, but also one of trepidation for many”. They write:
Read more here: CNN – America’s unmasking brings liberation but also trepidation as huge questions loom
The UK vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has been on BBC Breakfast now, where he told viewers that Britain will adapt its vaccine rollout to protect people more quickly in areas where the coronavirus variant first detected in India has emerged.
Nadhim Zahawi said in areas where the new variant has emerged that the government would step up enhanced testing and flex the vaccine rollout by offering it to younger people if they live in multi-generational households.
Reuters quote him as saying “We will flex the vaccine programme to where the clinicians thinks it’s best utilised”
He also said that if necessary the government would not rule out new local and regional restrictions.
Taiwan reported another record rise in domestic Covid-19 cases with 29 new cases, as community transmissions in part of central Taipei spread and the government called for people to be tested.
While Taiwan has reported just 1,291 cases, mostly imported from abroad, out of a population of some 24 million, a recent small rise in domestic infections has spooked Taiwan’s people and the stock market, long used to the island’s relative safety.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told a news conference that of the 29 new domestic infections many were connected with an outbreak in Taipei’s Wanhua district, an often gritty area that mixes old temples with trendy shops and hostess bars.
Chen called on people who think they may have had contact with the infected patients or symptoms to come to rapid testing stations the government is setting up around Wanhua.
“The sooner testing happens the sooner the chain of transmission can be broken,” he added.
The coronavirus-related news is quite lively this morning in the UK. As well as urging people to holiday in Wales this year, Welsh first minster Mark Drakeford has used another media appearance to say that officials “decided to hold back” on relaxing some lockdown restrictions in Wales on Monday due to concerns about the Indian variant.
Wales will move to alert level two on Monday with the reopening of indoor hospitality and entertainment venues. PA report that Drakeford was asked if the Indian variant gives him any pause for thought, and he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “Yes, it certainly does. There were 17 cases of the Indian variant in Wales yesterday and over 700 in England. There’s quite a concentration of that in the north-west of England and there’s a lot of traffic between the north-east of Wales and the north-west of England so we were considering a small number of further easements from Monday but have decided to hold back on those.”
Asked if he would be prepared to delay further steps in his road map if advice from Sage - the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – suggests that it is necessary, Mr Drakeford said: “Yes, we would. We tried our best to follow the scientific advice at every step and if the advice were to be that we should hold back on some further easements because the risks in doing so would be too great then certainly that is what we would do.”
Just to add to the confusion this morning about whether travel from England to Portugal will be allowed from Monday, PA report Portuguese MP Cristovao Norte has said a decision should be taken “immediately”
Norte, who is MP for the Algarve, told BBC Breakfast on Friday he did not know whether Britons will be allowed to visit the country from Monday.
He said: “We are today going to make an urgent inquiry asking the (Portuguese) government whether or not the English travel can come to Portugal next Monday because we are three days ahead from 17th and no one is sure what is going to happen.
Mr Norte added: “Our vaccination process is going steadily and it is important a decision is taken immediately.
“The message is clear, there are no reasons, nor political or scientific reasons to maintain restrictions for travel from the UK to Portugal.”
Asked if the decision could change between now and Monday, he said: “It’s possible but I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Yesterday there was a council of ministers and the minister responsible told the press they didn’t have a definitive decision.”
While people in England seem desperate to get abroad as soon as restrictions lift, the situation is very different for those in India trying to get home to Australia, as Paul Karp and Elias Visontay report for us:
Almost half the Australians due to fly home on the first post-pause repatriation flight out of India have been thrown off the passenger list after they either tested positive to Covid-19 or were deemed close contacts of cases.
Guardian Australia has confirmed that of the 150 vulnerable Australians booked to take the first repatriation flight home from India when the travel ban expires, more than 40 have tested positive to Covid-19. The number who will be unable to fly rises to more than 70 when you factor in the close contacts of those who have tested positive.
The flight is due to leave Delhi after midnight and travel to the Northern Territory where repatriated Australians will quarantine at the Howard Springs facility.
These numbers come from the first Covid test, which is administered 48 hours before flying. There is a second test administered eight hours before flying, meaning it’s possible that more than 70 people will be barred from the flight. Other Australians will not be substituted onto the flight because of the strict processes to prepare for the repatriation flights.
About 10,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents have registered with the government as wanting to return from India. About 1,000 of these people have been deemed vulnerable.
Read more here: Almost half the Australians booked on India repatriation flight barred after Covid tests
The UK vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, has been on Sky News in the UK, saying England will push ahead with its plan to lift the Covid-19 restrictions gradually, because even though it is worried about the emergence of a variant first detected in India it believes the vaccines are working.
Reuters report that Zahawi said there were concerns about the presence of the Indian variant in some parts of England but that there was no evidence that the B.1.617.2 variant had a more severe impact on people or was able to escape the vaccines.
“The roadmap from Monday remains in place because the vaccines are delivering, vaccines are keeping people out of hospital and away from severe infection,” he said.