Covid rules relaxed in Wales
A relaxation of Covid restrictions was due to begin in Wales today.
Under the new rules, announced by the first minister, Mark Drakeford, on Friday, four people from two households will be able to meet outdoors to socialise, including in gardens.
Outdoor sports facilities including basketball courts, tennis courts and golf courses can reopen, and indoor care home visits will restart for single designated visitors.
The relaxation of rules will also allow people from rural areas to travel greater distances than those who live in urban towns and cities.
Hairdressers and barbers can reopen for appointments from Monday, the same day that all primary school pupils and those in qualification years can return to schools.
Seven new Covid-19 cases have been reported in mainland China, down from nine cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority has said. Reuters reports:
All of the new cases were imported infections, the National Health Commission said in a statement. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 17 from 10 cases a day earlier.
The total of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 90,034, while the Covid-19 death toll remained 4,636.
Australia has recorded first local Covid-19 case in more than two weeks after a doctor tested positive for coronavirus, triggering restrictions in area hospitals and urgent contact tracing of her patients.
Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Queensland state premier, said the unnamed doctor last week treated two patients who had recently returned to Australia and had tested positive for the UK variant.
“We know this doctor, who assessed these two Covid-positive patients was at the hospital at the time. Now, she developed symptoms,” Palaszczuk was quoted as saying by Reuters. It was Australia’s first local infection since 24 February.
As officials seek to determine the size of the outbreak, Palaszczuk said, all hospitals in the state capital would be closed to visitors. The authorities have yet to determine how many people the doctor treated before testing positive.
Australia has reported just over 29,000 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths from Covid-19, far fewer than many developed countries.
Russia reported 9,908 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, including 1,600 in Moscow, taking its total case tally to 4,380,525 since the pandemic began, Reuters reports.
The government coronavirus task force also said that 475 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing its death toll to 91,695.
India to review Oxford vaccine side effects amid fears over blood clots
India is to begin a review of side effects from the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after several countries suspended its distribution over fears that it was causing blood clots in otherwise healthy recipients.
The World Health Organization has said there was no reason to stop using the vaccine, but Denmark, Norway and Iceland have paused its use as a precaution. India has so far distributed at least 28 million shots in a vast vaccination programme. Most of them have been AstraZeneca vaccines, which are produced at the Serum Institute of India.
At least 2 million people were vaccinated on Friday alone, as Covid-19 cases were rising across different Indian states after weeks of decline.
“We are looking at all the adverse events, particularly serious adverse events like deaths and hospitalisation. We will come back if we find anything of concern,” NK Arora, a member of India’s national task force on Covid-19, told AFP.
Arora said there was “no immediate issue of concern as number of adverse events (in India) is very, very low. We are relooking at (adverse events that were reported) to see if there was any issue of blood clotting.”
“As of yesterday there were 59 or 60 deaths, and they were all coincidental,” he said, adding hospitalisation cases were being re-examined.
“In fact there is a real effort from our side that once complete investigation is done, to put its results in public domain, on the ministry of health website,” Arora added.
The Philippines has detected its first case of the coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil, Reuters reports citing the country’s health ministry.
A statement from the ministry said that a Filipino returning from Brazil had tested positive for the P.1 variant after 752 samples were sequenced at the genome centre.
The ministry also reported 59 new infections of the B117 variant first detected in Britain, and 32 cases of the B1351 variant discovered in South Africa. This brings cases for those variants to 177 and 90, respectively.
Infections are on the rise again in the Philippines, which has the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in south-east Asia. The country started a mass vaccination programme on 1 March.
The health ministry reported 5,000 new coronavirus cases, the largest single-day increase in more than six months, and 72 additional deaths. Confirmed cases have increased to 616,611 while confirmed deaths have reached 12,766.
Thousands of UK businesses sign up for rapid testing scheme, says health secretary
Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, has said that more than 48,000 businesses have signed up to offer rapid coronavirus testing to their employees, a move he said would be a “huge step forward” in getting businesses “back on their feet”.
The government sees regular, rapid coronavirus testing is seen as key to preventing outbreaks in the workplace, and tests are now available to all businesses. In January it emerged that it had spent £800m on tests that were later found in a pilot to give the wrong results as much as 60% of the time.
Announcing the latest scheme, Hancock said:
We have built a huge asymptomatic testing system from scratch, which is an essential part of our plan to reopen cautiously.
Rapid testing has been rolled out at a vast scale across a range of sectors, and it is fantastic that now over 48,000 businesses have signed up to offer rapid testing to employees. This is a huge step forward in getting businesses back on their feet and helping to keep people safe.
With around one in three people with the virus not having symptoms, regular testing is essential to bearing down on the virus and identify new variants of concern as we work towards restoring normal life.
I strongly encourage all businesses to register their interest before the 31 March deadline.
This is Damien Gayle kicking off the live blog from London. If you have any comments, tips or suggestions for what we can be covering today, please feel free to drop me a line, either via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter direct message to @damiengayle.