Coronavirus latest news: Europe passes one million Covid deaths

A vial filled with a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
A vial filled with a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

Seong Joon Cho/Bloomberg

There have now been one million coronavirus deaths in Europe, the World Health Organisation has said.

The situation is still “serious” across the continent, a WHO official said, with around 1.6 million new cases reported each week.

Almost three million coronavirus deaths have now been recorded worldwide.

Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, has told reporters there are “early signs that transmission may be slowing across several countries”, and a “declining incidence” among older age groups amid the roll-out of vaccines.

It comes as new Government data showed that infections continue to fall across all age groups in all regions of England.

France is expected to pass a death toll of 100,000 when it confirms figures this evening.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

Britain’s economic resurgence has caught the whole world by surprise

Two cheers for the British Wirtschaftswunder, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. It may not be an economic miracle, but the accelerating recovery now under way is a breathtaking turn of fortunes for the much denigrated Brexit economy.

The UK will probably regain pre-Covid levels of output before the eurozone, perhaps by Christmas. By the end of next year it may even have recouped the entire cross-Channel gap in growth since the referendum.

Philip Shaw from Investec has pencilled in blistering growth of 7.3pc this year, but says it could be over 8pc. “We’re trying not to sound outrageous but that is what the numbers are telling us,” he said. The firm has the eurozone pegged at 4.4pc.

Upgrades are pouring in. The Swiss bank UBS has raised its UK forecast from 3.8pc to 5.5pc. Bank of America and Barclays have both raised theirs to 5.9pc.

Read Ambrose’s full column here.

Covid face masks leave police struggling to compile e-fit profiles

Police are struggling to identify criminals because the widespread use of face masks in the Covid pandemic means they can no longer rely on e-fits to track suspects down.

Computer-generated images of wanted people, based on a witness’s description, remain a vital tool in the police’s armoury.

But with the majority of people now wearing face coverings in public it has become virtually impossible for victims of crime to prove an accurate description of their assailant.

The use of face coverings has become widespread since the Covid pandemic began

Hollie Adams/AFP

There are also fears that some criminals, especially muggers, thieves and shoplifters, are exploiting the situation in order to avoid being identified and caught.

Susan Morrison, a civilian supervisor at Kent Police’s identification suite, said it had proved extremely difficult for specialists to produce e-fit images of suspects in the past 12 months.

She said: “We are seeing an increase in reports of suspects wearing masks. And while we view each case separately, sometimes it can be more stressful for the victim to go through the process of making an E-fit than the result is useful to the investigation.”

Martin Evans has the scoop.

Department of Health under pressure to stop charging travellers ‘rip off’ fees for Covid tests

The Department of Health is under pressure to stop charging travellers and holidaymakers “rip off” fees of more than £100 for PCR Covid tests, reports Charles Hymas.

Travel industry and private testing firms said the charge by the Government was exorbitant at more than double the rate of the cheapest PCR tests.

They warned it was effectively sanctioning PCR test costs that were unaffordable for many travellers, adding at least an extra £400 to a holiday for a family of four.

The Department of Health claimed it was charging at that rate because it did not want to “undercut” the private sector even though Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has demanded companies bring down their charges which currently average £120 to £130.

“The Government needs to get a grip. They are not going out of their way to help recovery in the travel sector. They should be reducing costs as much as possible for consumers in order to encourage wider take up of testing,” said Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency.

Read the full story here.

Astrazeneca Covid vaccine Q&A: What we know about blood clots, side effects and risks for under-30s

The risk of a rare brain clot from coronavirus is approximately eight times greater than the risk presented by the AstraZeneca jab, an Oxford University study has found.

This research – which is yet to be peer-reviewed – comes after the UK medicines regulator decision to suspend AstraZeneca rollout among the under-30s, despite evidence that the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh any risks.

Meanwhile, in a separate update on its investigations on Wednesday, the European medicines watchdog has ruled that unusual blood clots were “very rare side effects” of the jab. Scientists have also insisted that further research is needed to understand more about the risk of these rare blood clots.

Paul Nuki has the answers to your questons here.

Northern Ireland hospitality opening brought forward

The reopening of Northern Ireland’s tourism and hospitality sectors have been fast-tracked as part of a series of lockdown relaxations agreed by Stormont ministers, the PA news agency has reported.

After lengthy discussions through Thursday ministers brought forward a series of reopening dates they had been initially considering.

Close-contact services are to resume from April 23, as well as outdoor visitor attractions, while remaining non-essential retail is to reopen on April 30 along with gyms.

Tesco prepares for supermarket price war

The boss of Tesco has vowed to continue waging a price war despite a Covid-hit to annual profits as supermarkets step up the battle to win customers.

Britain’s largest supermarket posted a 7pc increase in overall sales to £53.4bn for the year to February 27 as it benefitted from people staying home during lockdown, boosting its delivery business.

Tesco said online sales grew by 77pc to £6.3bn during the year to reach 1.5m weekly delivery slots

However, Covid-related costs caused pre-tax profits to drop by almost 20pc to £825m. The chain handed back £535m claimed in business rates relief and paid out £892m on health and safety measures such as plastic screens in stores to keep staff and customers safe.

Tesco warned that it expected some of the recent growth will fall away as pubs and restaurants reopen and Britons return to work but said profits should bounce back as some one-off costs will not be repeated.

Laura Onita has the story.

Locking down whole streets could be way to stop new Covid variants, says expert

An expert has suggested that locking down entire streets could be an important way of keeping outbreaks of new Covid variants under control, writes Lizzie Roberts.

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said using interventions to minimise asymptomatic transmission could be crucial.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dr Barrett said it was important to deploy “the most effective measures possible” to contain these outbreaks.

When questioned if shutting down entire streets would have a medical impact on clusters of cases, he responded: “Well it certainly could, because one of the trickiest parts of this virus overall is, of course, some individuals who are infected don’t have symptoms and so they can transmit.

“Trying to use interventions that might stop asymptomatic transmission may well be an important part of keeping outbreaks of these new variants to be as absolutely small as possible.”

Read more here.

Most care home vaccine rates below Government guidance

Vaccine rates among staff at older adult care homes is below the level recommended by Sage in more than half of all English local authorities, new data show.

Figures published by NHS England on Thursday show that 86 out of 149 local authorities have not reached an 80 per cent immunisation threshold for employees, and in 22 areas less than 70 per cent of staff have had a first jab.

Lambeth in south London had the lowest uptake at 50.1 per cent. The figures show the proportion of employees in older adult care homes who have been vaccinated has risen just 10 percentage points in two months.

More than 96,000 eligible staff have not received a vaccine, the figures suggest.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would consider the results of the consultation, but that high rates in Wales show it “must be possible to have high levels of vaccination without making it mandatory”.

Further 2,672 cases and 30 deaths confirmed

A further 2,672 new cases and 30 coronavirus deaths have been confirmed across all settings in the UK.

Infections are down 6.9 per cent in the last seven days, while deaths have fallen by 2.3 per cent.

As of yesterday 1.16 million tests for the virus were carried out.

There were 117,835 vaccine first doses administered yesterday across the UK, and 343,783 second doses. 32.44 million Britons have now had their first dose of a vaccine, and 8.5 million have had both doses.

Spain plans green energy push after Covid tourism collapse

Spain will plough billions of euros from Brussels into green and digital projects amid a collapse in its tourism industry during the pandemic which has wreaked havoc on its economy, writes Tom Rees.

Prime minister Pedro Sanchez said he hopes the plans to shift investment in Europe’s hardest-hit economy to the green and digital transitions will help to unlock Spain’s “biggest economic opportunity since the 1980s”.

Mr Sanchez claimed the €140bn (£121bn) of grants and loans from the EU’s Recovery Fund will boost its GDP by two percentage points annually in the coming years as he revealed details for 110 projects worth €50bn.

He said: “Chances like these only come around a couple of times a century. This plan is the greatest opportunity for Spain since its admission into the EU.”

Spain will receive around €70bn in grants and a further €70bn in loans from the EU’s Recovery Fund but the help will be staggered over several years.

Read the full story here.

Government needs to sort out airport queues before May 17, warns airline group

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has warned that lengthy checks at the UK border could “pose a major risk for a recovery in international travel”, writes Hugh Morris.

The group, which represents many of the world’s airlines, said the UK Government needs to ensure it is able to “digitalise the current paper-based system used to manage passenger tests and vaccine certificates”.

This week London Heathrow criticised the Government for the length of queues growing at its border checks. Some travellers faced waits of up to six hours . The airport said the situation was close to “untenable” and that police had to step in on more than one occasion.

A spokesperson for Iata said: “When international travel ramps up from May 17 it’s critical that passengers are not left queuing for hours for the manual checking of vaccine and testing certificates.

Deliveroo warns growth could slow as lockdown eases

Deliveroo has warned its rapid rate of growth could slow as lockdown restrictions ease in its first trading update since its disastrous London listing cut its value by £2bn, Matthew Field reports.

The food delivery company more than doubled its orders in the three months to March 30 and growth accelerated as lockdowns in its London heartland in particular kept restaurants closed and left people stuck at home.

Orders increased 114 per cent year-on-year to 71m in the quarter while revenue jumped 130pc to £1.65bn.

Deliveroo also said it increased market share in London, despite heavy investment from Just Eat, which this week said it planned to take a bite out of its rival’s main markets.

But the company admitted it was “difficult to say” how much of this growth was driven by lockdown restrictions. “Deliveroo expects the rate of growth to decelerate as lockdowns ease, but the extent of the deceleration remains uncertain.”

Read the full story here.

Brazil coronavirus response has led to ‘humanitarian catastrophe’

Médecins Sans Frontières has warned in a stark statement that Brazil’s “failed” response to Covid-19 has driven the country to a “humanitarian catastrophe” which President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has only made worse, Sarah Newey reports.

The country is currently at the epicentre of the pandemic, accounting for 11 per cent of new infections worldwide and more than a quarter of fatalities last week. In all, the disease has claimed more than 360,000 lives in Brazil, second only to the US.

“The lack of political will to adequately respond to the pandemic is killing Brazilians in their thousands,” the humanitarian group said in a statement.

“These staggering figures are clear evidence of the authorities’ failure to manage the health and humanitarian crises in the country and protect Brazilians, especially the most vulnerable.”

Jair Bolsonaro has been criticised for his government’s handling of the virus

Evaristo Sa/AFP

Bolsonaro has long downplayed the pandemic and defied expert advice on measures to contain it, leaving state and local authorities to implement a messy patchwork of response measures.

A lack of an “effective, centralized and coordinated” response has exacerbated the crisis, according to MSF. “Public health measures have become a political battlefield in Brazil,” said Christos Christou, president of the group.

The statement came two days after the Brazilian Senate launched an investigative committee into Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic.

Covid cases: Rates fall across all ages and regions

Coronavirus case rates are continuing to plummet across all age groups and in all regions, according to Public Health England.

The highest rate is among 10 to 19-year-olds, with 42.8 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to April 11, down week-on-week from 53.8, while Yorkshire & the Humber has the highest case rate at 57.4 per 100,000 people, down from 68.5 the previous week.

South-west England recorded the lowest rate at 12.8, down from 15.3 the previous week.

NHS treatment waiting list hits record high of 4.7 million

Approximately 4.7 million people are waiting to start hospital treatments, the highest number since records began, according to new NHS figures, Henry Bodkin reports.

Health leaders warned Thursday that the backlog of non-Covid treatments could be getting worse, even as pressure from the virus eases.

They said patients with serious long-term illnesses were returning to hospitals having tried to cope at home since the crisis began.

The number of people admitted for routine hospital treatment was down 47 per cent in February compared with the year before

Niall Carson/PA Wire

The data also revealed that 387,885 people had been waiting for hospital treatment for more than a year in February. The total was just 1,613 in February 2020, a month before the pandemic struck Britain, representing a 240-fold rise. This means that nearly one in ten in need of hospital treatment are waiting longer than a year ago.

NHS chiefs on Thursday sought to paint a rosier picture of the situation, pointing out that two million operations and procedures had taken place throughout the winter Covid wave, and that A&E and ambulance waiting times were improving.

Read more details here.

5,800 ‘breakthrough’ Covid infections among vaccinated in America

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have revealed that around 5,800 Americans who were vaccinated against coronavirus have become infected anyway.

Seventy-four of these died, while 396 – seven per cent – of those who contracted the virus after they were vaccinated were ill enough to require hospitalisation.

Around 77 million Americans have been vaccinated against coronavirus to date.

“So far, about 5,800 breakthrough cases have been reported to CDC. To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics,” the CDC told CNN.

“The takeaway message – when vaccine trials show strong protection against serious disease, as they do, it is not 100% protection,” writes our Global Health Security Editor Paul Nuki.

“We will be looking at charts in six months time that compare vaccine ‘breakthrough’ rates by country. They will vary depending on the vaccine mix used and exposure to different Covid variants.”

Read more of Paul’s thoughts below:

1/4 Interesting data being reported by the US CDC on ‘breakthrough” infections – cases of #Covid19 in those who have been vaccinated. 5,800 cases out of 10s of millions vaccinated, so not high but…..

— Paul Nuki (@PaulNuki) April 15, 2021

Job vacancies surge to pre-Covid levels

Job vacancies surged last week as the economy sprang back to life with the partial reopening of the retail and hospitality industries, writes Tim Wallace.

The number of positions on offer last week was back up to 99.5pc of its February 2020 level, according to the Office for National Statistics and Adzuna.

This was driven in part by a large jump in hiring in catering and hospitality.

Vacancies in the industry rose to 58pc of pre-pandemic levels, according to the Office for National Statistics and Adzuna, the first time it has risen above half since last March, as outdoor dining and drinking returns.

Reservations through OpenTable for reopening day, April 12, hit 79pc of their level on the same day of 2019. .

Retail and wholesale workers are also in more demand than at any point in the past 12 months as shops are allowed to throw open their doors, even if only a limited number of masked customers are permitted inside. Job adverts in the industry are above three-quarters of their level in February 2020.

Read the full story here.

170 former leaders and laureates call on US to waive intellectual property

Some 170 former country leaders and Nobel prize laureates, including Gordon Brown, have called on the US to waive intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines to give poorer countries faster access to inoculations.

In an open letter to President Joe Biden published late last night, the group said it was “gravely concerned by the very slow progress” in scaling up global vaccine access and inoculation in low- and middle-income countries.

While vaccination rollout in the United States and many wealthier countries was bringing hope to their citizens, “for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen”, said the signatories who include Nobel winners Muhammad Yunus, Joseph Stiglitz and Mohamed ElBaradei and former world leaders such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Francois Hollande and Gordon Brown.

The group said it was “encouraged” that the Biden administration was considering a temporary waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, as proposed by South Africa and India.

Such a waiver would be “a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic” as it would expand global manufacturing capacity, “unhindered by industry monopolies that are driving the dire supply shortages blocking vaccine access”.

Von der Leyen receives first dose of Covid vaccine

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, has received her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Ursula von der Leyen has received her first dose of a Covid vaccine

News Scans/Ursula von der Leyen

“After we passed 100 million vaccinations in the EU, I’m very glad I got my first shot of Covid-19 vaccine today,” she wrote on social media.

“Vaccinations will further gather pace, as deliveries are accelerating in the EU. The swifter we vaccinate, the sooner we can control the pandemic. #StrongerTogether”

It comes a day after Ms von der Leyen said European Union states should focus on vaccines that “proven their worth”, amid an ongoing row with AstraZeneca.

Coronavirus deaths in Europe pass one million

There have now been one million coronavirus deaths in Europe, the World Health Organisation has said.

The situation is still “serious” across the continent, a WHO official said, with around 1.6 million new cases reported each week.

Almost three million coronavirus deaths have now been recorded worldwide.

Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, has told reporters there are “early signs that transmission may be slowing across several countries”, and a “declining incidence” among older age groups amid the roll-out of vaccines.

France is expected to pass a death toll of 100,000 when it confirms figures today.

Number of positive patients self-isolating fell slightly in March

The number of people who reported self-isolating after they tested positive for Covid has marginally decreased in the past two months, Max Stephens reports.

Between March 8 and March 13, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that 82 per cent of people who tested positive for the disease self-isolated.

This is a four per cent decrease from the previous month’s figures.

Seventy-nine per cent of people self isolated between reporting symptoms of Covid-19 and testing positive – a seven per cent decrease from last month.

These figures come after Dido Harding, The Head of Test and Trace, said in February that approximately 20,000 people a day were refusing to comply with instructions to self-isolate.

Between 20 and 40 per cent of people contacted by the programme are not fully self-isolating after being instructed to do so, she told MPs at the Science and Technology Committee.

Other vaccines could have ‘background level’ of blood clot issues

Coronavirus vaccines other than the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab could have “some background level of clotting issues”, an eminent expert has suggested.

On the prospect of mixing doses of different vaccines, Professor Sir John Bell, Oxford University’s Regius Professor of Medicine, said he expected all vaccines to have some extent of association with blood clots.

Some European countries have limited their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine amid blood clot fears

Seong Joon Cho/Bloomberg

“We don’t have clear enough data on what the risks of these strange clots actually are with the different vaccines, and that data is coming together at the moment,” Sir John told Sky News.

“We know for sure there’s a small risk associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine but also with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“I suspect there will be risks associated with the other vaccines that use the spike antigen as the target.”

Coronavirus, travel insurance and the traffic light system: how do I make sure I’m covered?

Covid has not only thrown our holiday plans into confusion, it has also undermined our back-up plans: the travel insurance we rely on to help us when things go wrong.

Right at the start of the pandemic insurance providers moved swiftly to exclude claims related to the pandemic. Generally speaking, all policies sold after March 17, 2020 greatly reduced their cover and virtually all these have now expired. Only during last summer and autumn did less restrictive policies start to be offered, and many of these still had important exclusions.

In fact, such has been the disruption to the market that even Which? has temporarily stopped recommending specific travel insurance policies.

So now that there is hope on the horizon and we can begin to think about booking holidays again, what should you do about covering yourself? How can you be sure you have a decent policy which isn’t hedged about by exclusions and restrictions?

Nick Trend has more here.

Risk of Covid blood clot eight times greater than risk of vaccine, study suggests

The risk of a rare brain clot from coronavirus is approximately eight times greater the risk presented by the AstraZeneca jab, a University of Oxford study has found.

The research, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, and compared blood clot rates among 500,000 coronavirus patients with data from the roll-out of 34 million vaccine doses across Europe.

The incidence of rates for cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) – a rare blood clot on the brain – is 39 per million coronavirus patients, while it is five per million recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Although the magnitude of the risk cannot be quantified with confidence, the risk after Covid-19 is approximately 8-10 times that reported for the vaccines,” the study says.

“In summary, Covid-19 is associated with a markedly increased incidence of CVT compared to the general population, patients with influenza, and people who have received BNT162b2 or mRNA-1273 vaccines.”

“There’s no doubt that Covid is a much greater risk of this [condition] than any of the vaccines,” said Professor Paul Harrison, a co-author of the study.

NHS ‘set back years’ by effects of Covid, says think tank

The NHS has “been set back years” by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, a think tank has said.

Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust, noted waiting lists are now at their highest levels since records began and said the health service faces “a major battle”.

“Returning to the levels of activity seen before March last year will not be enough to meet demand, and we will continue to live with coronavirus for years to come,” she said.

NHS services face unprecedented waiting lists for years to come amid the coronavirus crisis

Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“Nearly one in ten patients are now waiting longer than a year for routine treatment or operations, and these are the highest numbers seen since 2007.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the strain this is putting on these patients who need this treatment. But with hospitals and staff working under intense pressure amid the second spike in hospitalisations, it is no surprise that elective care had to be pulled back.”

Praising the “huge sacrifices” of healthcare staff during the pandemic, Ms Scobie said their wellbeing must be “an integral part of any credible, long-term recovery plan”.

Antibiotic pipeline not enough to counter ‘silent pandemic’ of superbugs, WHO warns

The pipeline to develop new antibiotics contains few drugs that can help counter a “silent pandemic” of superbugs, according to the World Health Organization.

The UN health agency warned that none of the 43 antibiotics currently in clinical development “sufficiently address” rising drug-resistance in the world’s most dangerous 13 pathogens, while the antibiotic pipeline is “near static”.

The growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – which is predicted to kill 10 million people by 2050 if it continues at its current rate – means that, increasingly, the treatments we rely on to kill infections are not working and new ones are needed.

Scientists confirmed in 2019 that bacteria can change their form to avoid being detected by antibiotics

Newcastle University

Many experts hope that the Covid-19 pandemic will shine a light on the importance of investing in tools to fight antibiotic resistance now, before the crisis becomes chronic.

“Opportunities emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic must be seized to bring to the forefront the needs for sustainable investments in R&D of new and effective antibiotics,” said Haileyesus Getahun, director of AMR Global Coordination at WHO.

But, despite some progress in the last few years, experts added that “the current pipeline is not strong enough to counter the silent pandemic of antimicrobial resistance”.

Sarah Newey has more details.

Cyprus’s whole cabinet receive Covid jabs

Cyprus’s entire cabinet was inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 today in an attempt to win over a cautious public on the safety of the shots, writes Memphis Barker.

Some countries have limited use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to certain age groups or have suspended the doses altogether after European Union and British regulators confirmed possible links to rare blood clots.

Eight ministers, two deputy ministers and three other senior officials received AstraZeneca shots at a vaccination centre in the capital Nicosia.

Nicos Anastasiades pictured before members of his cabinet received doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

Amir Makar/AFP

“We want to send a strong message that what is important is the vaccination, and not the vaccine itself,” said Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who received a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in January.

Two other members of the cabinet had been inoculated previously based on their age. Like some other EU countries, Cyprus temporarily halted AstraZeneca vaccinations in mid-March but resumed them shortly afterwards after the European Medicines Agency said the benefits of the shot far outweighed the risks.

However, there have been widespread reports of a slower take-up of the vaccine in favour of the other shots available, made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Scottish government ‘learned from experience’ in Covid response, Sturgeon says

The Scottish Government made mistakes in its response to the coronavirus crisis, Nicola Sturgeon has said at the launch of the SNP manifesto.

“A year ago, we had to act fast without the knowledge we have now about this virus – and without the benefit of the hindsight we have today,” the First Minister said.

“I know we didn’t get every decision right. But we have done our level best.

“And we have learned from experience. It is that combination of commitment and experience that I believe is so vital for these times.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, at the launch of the SNP manifesto

Andy Buchanan/Pool/Getty Images

It comes ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections on May 6. The SNP is currently projected to receive more than half of the constituency vote, but only two-fifths of the regional list ballot.

Meanwhile Edinburgh Airport’s chief warned that Scots will be forced to travel to London to fly abroad unless SNP ministers come up with an urgent action plan to revive the ailing travel industry.

Cancer patient saw disease all but vanish after catching Covid

Covid may have caused a cancer patient’s tumours to vanish, according to doctors, who said it could have sparked an “anti-tumour immune response” in the man.

The 61-year-old patient at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro had a check-up last summer after being diagnosed with Hogkin’s Lymphoma, a rare blood cancer that affects 2,100 people in the UK each year.

The disease, which occurs when white blood cells get out of control and spread to the lymph nodes, is typically treated with chemotherapy and around 90 per cent of patients are still alive five years afterwards.

Days after being told his chest was riddled with tumours and before starting treatment, the man was admitted to hospital after developing severe Covid. After making a full recovery, he had another scan and discovered the cancer had almost completely disappeared.

Sudden remission with Hogkin’s Lymphoma is possible but is extremely rare. Just a couple of dozen similar cases have ever been recorded worldwide.

Read the full story here.

Afghanistan’s young starve as Covid pushes families further into poverty

Bibi’s eyes were fixed on the small ambulance driving ahead. She was following behind in a cramped taxi, carrying a few of her belongings.

Riding over snowy mountain passes and through Taliban territory, the day passed in a blur, Bibi’s thoughts with her five-months-old daughter in the vehicle ahead of her, fighting for her life.

“Zahra had been losing weight,” Bibi, who is 27 and only goes by one name explained. “She stopped drinking, developed a fever and her belly started expanding.

“When they couldn’t help us at the hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif, they offered to take her to Kabul. I knew the road wouldn’t be safe but I didn’t worry about my life. I worried my daughter was too weak to survive the trip.”

At Kabul’s Indira Gandhi Children Hospital’s malnutrition ward, doctors scramble to help the recent arrivals: Zahra is one of 25 babies and children.

Stefanie Glinski has this report from Kabul.

327,663 patients were waiting standard tests, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy

Nearly 330,000 patients in England had been waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in February 2021.

A total of 327,663 patients were waiting for one of 15 standard tests, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy, NHS England said. The equivalent number waiting for more than six weeks in February 2020 was 29,832.

The monthly total peaked at 571,459 in May 2020.

Urgent cancer referrals by GPs in England drop 8 per cent

NHS England figures also show that a total of 174,624 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in February 2021, compared with 190,369 in February 2020 – a year-on-year drop of 8 per cent, although February 2020 had 29 days not 28 due to the leap year.

It follows a year-on-year fall of 11 per cent in January but an increase of 7 per cent in December 2020.

Urgent referrals where breast cancer symptoms were present – though not initially suspected – were down from 13,627 in February 2020 to 12,199 in February 2021, a fall of 10 per cent.

Emergency admissions to A&E also rose

Emergency admissions to A&E departments at hospitals in England also showed a rise last month, up from 427,968 in March 2020 to 503,913 in March 2021.

The year-on-year change will have been affected by the lower than usual numbers for March 2020.

The equivalent figure for March 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 555,457.

A&E attendances at hospitals rises from last year

A&E attendances at hospitals in England last month were up 10 per cent year-on-year, NHS England said – although this is partly a reflection of lower-than-usual numbers for March 2020, which were affected by the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 1.7 million attendances were recorded in March 2021, up from 1.5 million in March 2020.

The equivalent figure for March 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 2.2 million.

Number of people admitted for routine treatment in England down 47 per cent

The total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was down 47 per cent in February 2021 compared with a year earlier.

Some 152,642 patients were admitted for treatment during the month, compared with 285,918 in February 2020.

Because 2020 was a leap year, February contained 29 days rather than the usual 28 days.

The year-on-year decrease recorded in January was 54%, while in December 2020 the drop was 25 per cent.

Number of people in England waiting to start hospital treatment rises to record high

The number of people in England waiting to start hospital treatment has risen to a new record high.

A total of 4.7 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of February 2021, according to figures from NHS England.

This is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment stood at 387,885 in February 2021 – the highest number for any calendar month since December 2007.

One year earlier, in February 2020, the number having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at just 1,613.

Cramped West End venues won’t survive social distancing, Wigmore Hall boss warns

Members of the audience arrive to take their socially distanced seats in the auditorium for a performance by German baritone Christian Gerhaher and German pianist Gerold Huber at Wigmore Hall in London on September 13, 2020


West End venues will struggle to survive if the government keeps social distancing in place, Wigmore Hall’s chief executive has warned.

The Covid-19 roadmap indicates that West End theatres and concert halls may be able to open with 50 per cent capacity from May 17, and with full houses from June 21.

But cramped London venues built before 1900 cannot maintain a one-metre rule for social distancing without sacrificing more than half of their capacity due to tightly packed seating, Wigmore Hall chief executive John Gilhooly has warned.

Craig Simpson reports here.

Britain will require ‘package of interventions’ for managing life with coronavirus in future

London’s regional director of Public Health England said vaccines and surge testing are part of a “package of interventions” for managing life with coronavirus in future.

“As we begin to recirculate in society, we want to encourage everybody to get vaccinated,” Professor Kevin Fenton told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“That certainly gives us additional protection. But we need to continue to practise our preventive measures, and we need to do the surge testing if we find variants in order to contain them.

“These are the package of interventions that we will need to be getting used to as we enter this new normal of living with Covid and managing our lives with Covid for the near future.”

Risk of blood clots from a coronavirus vaccination are ‘pretty trivial’, says Prof John Bell

The potential risks of developing blood clots from a coronavirus vaccination are “pretty trivial” when compared with those posed by contracting Covid-19, a scientist has said. Professor Sir John Bell, Oxford University’s Regius Professor of Medicine, told Sky News that blood clotting events being linked to vaccines are “extremely rare”.

He added: “The best way, if you want to have a bad clotting problem, is to get Covid.

“And if you don’t get a vaccine you’re going to get Covid, and if you get Covid you’ll have a very, very much higher risk of getting a bad clotting problem.

“So, the clotting problems of the vaccine are pretty trivial compared to the real risks of getting clotting problems if you get Covid.”

Low level of coronavirus infection in capital allows people to ‘move about’ after asymptomatic surge testing

London regional director of Public Health England Professor Kevin Fenton said the low level of coronavirus infection in the capital means those involved in asymptomatic surge testing are able to “move about” afterwards.

Asked why this group are not being told to stay at home until they receive their results, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In part, because the level of infection that we are now having across the city is actually quite low.

“The probability of you not having an infection is much higher, and, of course, we want to test individuals who may be asymptomatic, can be carrying the infection, so the risk of onward transmission is also much lower as well.

“So, the combination of factors, the timing of where we are in the phase of the epidemic, and the level of infections that we have, really means that we can allow people to continue to move about.

“But what’s really important is that we do do as much testing for asymptomatic infections as we can.”

South African variant cases identified in the capital, says Professor Kevin Fenton

Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director of Public Health England, said that more genetic sequencing of positive coronavirus tests had identified cases of the South African variant in the capital.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re finding cases because we’re doing more genetic sequencing of PCR positive tests of coronavirus which we’re seeing across the city.

“And that is identifying a low prevalence, a low number of cases, but we are finding cases of the South African variant.

“And in addition, we’re surging to identify additional cases belonging to the south London cluster, which we’re investigating in Lambeth, Wandsworth and Southwark. So we’re doing this very proactively.”

When normality becomes surreal: Pictures from the pandemic you may never see again

Jennifer Rigby and Anne Gulland report:

It’s twilight, and the park is draining of colour.

‘That’s The Way (I Like It)’, by KC and The Sunshine Band, drifts tinnily across the basketball court.

People sit on rugs. Some have wine. Some are playing cricket in the distance. Below the basketball court, a teenager clatters past on a skateboard.

The air smells vaguely of grass cuttings, and cannabis. It is achingly familiar, a warm weekend afternoon in a British park. But for months, our parks, skate ramps and streets have been silent and empty, as people of all ages stayed at home during the third national lockdown of the pandemic.

That is why these June, noon, Sunday afternoon scenes have been transposed here, to a chilly Thursday night in April, because England’s strictest lockdown rules lifted this week.

It is why this host of unlikely-to-be-seen-again images have been captured by Telegraph photographer, Simon Townsley, taken over the course of the last few weeks.

In the skate park at Clissold Park, North London, these girls are braving the cold for any taste of freedom

Simon Townsley

Chessington World of Adventures reopens

Simon Townsley

In the village of Sudbury in Sussex, Phyllida Hallidie, 48 Zara Hallidie, 60 Nick Hallidie, 85 Olivia Morris, 29 are finally celebrating the Christmas day they couldn’t have, at Easter.

Simon Townsley

Read the full story here.

Indoor ventilation will cost money but will help tackle transmission

Improving a building’s indoor ventilation to help tackle coronavirus transmission will cost money but will help maintain a degree of safety over time, an expert has said.

Dr Julian Tang, consultant virologist at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and honorary associate professor in the Department of Respiratory Sciences, told Sky News: “Improving the ventilation is not an overnight thing and a lot of places you can’t open the windows or keep the doors open easily because of security issues.

“But if the concept is there, if the kind of will is there, to improve ventilation over time, those improvements will come in gradually.”

He added: “Improving infrastructure and buildings is a very difficult thing and it costs money.”

Dr Tang highlighted that coronavirus could become a seasonal virus, not everyone will take a vaccine and new variants could appear.

He added: “This is a kind of backup to everything else we’re doing to maintain that degree of safety that we’re all looking for.”

Open windows like you would if you had ‘burnt toast’ to reduce transmission

Improving indoor ventilation, such as by opening windows, can help reduce coronavirus transmission, an expert has said.

Dr Julian Tang, consultant virologist at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and honorary associate professor in the Department of Respiratory Sciences, told Sky News: “If you think about it, if you burn your toast in the kitchen, if you open the windows and doors, the back door, it clears very quickly.

“So you keep the windows open even halfway most of the time, then you can improve that ventilation rate in the indoor area and that reduces the overall airborne concentration that you can actually then reduce the risk of transmission from.

“So I think this is a really kind of addition to what people are doing, the social distancing, the masking.

“But if you’re indoors having a drink or eating, you can’t mask, you can’t maintain social distance, so the ventilation becomes much more important precautionally.”

Containing variant outbreaks will require the ‘most effective measures possible’

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, Director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute has said asking entire streets to isolate until they get a Covid-19 test could help to keep transmission of variants low.

His comments come after surge testing operations have been widened across London as further cases of the South African coronavirus variant were found.

Three boroughs in south London have set up additional testing facilities to process thousands of residents, while a case of the variant was also detected in Barnet, north London.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed the case in Barnet was unrelated to other clusters, but it had been isolated and the person’s contacts traced.

Dr Barrett said it was important to deploy “the most effective measures possible” to contain those outbreaks.

When questioned if shutting down entire streets would have a medical impact on such outbreaks, he responded: “Well it certainly could because one of the trickiest parts of this virus overall is, of course, some individuals who are infected don’t have symptoms and so they can transmit.

“Trying to use interventions that might stop asymptomatic transmission may well be an important part of keeping outbreaks of these new variants to be as absolutely small as possible.”

German cases jump by most since early Jan

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany jumped on Thursday by 29,426 to 3.073 million, the biggest increase since Jan. 8 as the government seeks to push through tougher nationwide curbs to try to contain a third wave of the virus.

The reported death toll rose by 293 to 79,381 while the number of new infections per 100,000 residents over seven days rose to 160.1, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures with a bandaged finger as she leaves after giving a statement, amid the pandemic, in Berlin, Germany, April 13, 2021.


Frustrated by a failure of some regions to implement tougher restrictions despite rising cases, Chancellor Angela Merkel wants parliament to grant the federal government temporary powers to enforce coronavirus lockdowns in areas with high infections.

On Thursday, Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz defended the changes to the Infection Protection Act which include curfews once the seven-day virus incidence exceeds 100,000.

“This has helped everywhere, it has been done in many countries around the world – and it has brought the incidence rates down,” he told ARD television, adding something had to be done to limit the spread of the virus.

“We want to have strict rules.”

India’s daily Covid case load doubles in 10 days to 200,000

India added a record 200,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, official data showed Thursday, as the country’s huge second wave accelerates.

The number of new infections in a day has more than doubled since early April, with a cumulative total 14.1 million cases. India also added 1,038 deaths in the past day, taking the total to almost 175,000, the health ministry data showed.

When virtual meetings go very, very wrong…

A Canadian Parliament member was caught stark naked in a virtual meeting of the House of Commons.

William Amos, who has represented the Quebec district of Pontiac since 2015, appeared on the screens of his fellow lawmakers completely naked on Wednesday.

The pandemic has meant many Canadian MPs participate in sessions via video conference instead of in person.

An MP for the opposition Bloc Quebecois party raised the incident in a point of order after question period, suggesting that parliamentary decorum requires male Parliament members to wear a jacket and tie – and a shirt, underwear and trousers.

Read the full story here.

Cat thefts soar during pandemic

All 10 million cats in the UK are to be microchipped by law after thefts soared by 12 per cent in a year, The Telegraph has learned.

Police figures show that the number of cats being stolen has risen by 12.3 per cent during the Covid pandemic and nearly three-fold in five years as the value of the most expensive breeds surged to £2,000.

Owners will be required to microchip their cats – as dogs already are – so they can be tracked and identified if stolen and resold, with fines of up to £500 for people who fail to do so.

EXCLUSIVE: Cats to be microchipped by law in Government crackdown on pet thefts

Doctors urge fresh air guidance for venues

More must be done to promote the importance of fresh air to stave off Covid-19, leading doctors have said.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said pubs, bars, restaurants, workplaces and other public settings should be given ventilation guidance as they prepare to bring customers indoors again.

It comes after an article in a leading medical journal emphasised the importance of aerosol transmission of the virus. The authors, from the University of Leicester, the University of Hong Kong, Edinburgh Napier University and Virginia Tech in the US, said the “tiniest suspended particles can remain airborne for hours”.

They added: “People are much more likely to become infected in a room with windows that can’t be opened or lacking any ventilation system.”

Expert suggests mix and match vaccines

Mixing vaccines could improve protection against coronavirus, a senior government scientific adviser has said.

Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said different vaccine types could coalesce to boost the immune system and provide a longer-lasting response.

He also said a “mix and match” approach could make future rollouts more flexible.

Read the full story here.

Could empty middle seats on planes offer protection?

A new study says leaving middle seats open could give airline passengers more protection from the virus that causes Covid-19.

Researchers said the risk of passengers being exposed to the virus from an infected person on the plane could be reduced by 23-57pc if middle seats are empty, compared with a full flight.

The study released on Wednesday supports the response of airlines that limited seating early in the pandemic. However, all US airlines except Delta now sell every seat they can, and Delta will stop blocking middle seats on May 1.

The airlines argue that filters and air-flow systems on most planes make them safe when passengers wear masks, as they are now required to do by federal regulation.

Researchers at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and Kansas State University estimated how far airborne virus particles travel inside a plane.

The study, however, did not take into account masks because it was based on a study from 2017, before the pandemic. Nor did it consider whether passengers are vaccinated against Covid.

The CDC says vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, although the agency still recommends against non-essential travel.

Formal review of NI lockdown exit strategy

Stormont ministers are set to agree to a series of fresh lockdown relaxations in Northern Ireland.

The power-sharing executive meets today amid an expectation that an announcement of several easements will follow.

When the lockdown exit strategyblueprint was first published at the start of March, the administration faced criticism for not including any indicative reopening dates.

At the time, ministers insisted the health picture was too volatile to offer up provisional dates that ultimately might have to be scrapped.

With Northern Ireland having marked one million Covid-19 vaccines by last weekend and with other key health and scientific indicators going in the right direction, ministers have made clear they are now in a position where indicative dates can be provided.

Science has proved Johnson wrong on vaccines

Boris Johnson raised eyebrows on Tuesday when he suggested that the reduction in Covid infections, hospital admissions and deaths had not been achieved by the vaccination programme, with the lockdown doing “the bulk of the work”, Sarah Knapton writes.

Thankfully, less than 24 hours later, science had proved the Prime Minister wrong.

New research from NHS England and the University of Manchester showed the stark difference in cases, admissions and deaths for elderly people who had been vaccinated compared to those who had not.

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