• EU removes six countries including US from Covid safe travel list | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    EU removes six countries including US from Covid safe travel list. Travellers from Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and North Macedonia also affected by move. The EU has removed six countries, including the US, from a Covid “white list” of places whose tourists should be permitted entry without restrictions such as mandatory quarantine.
    A majority of EU countries had reopened their borders to Americans in June, in the hope of salvaging the summer tourism season although most required a negative test ahead of travel. The move was not, however, reciprocated by the US.The EU’s white list necessitates having fewer than 75 new cases daily for every 100,000 people over the previous 14 days – a threshold that is not currently being met in the US. According to Johns Hopkins University, the US suffered the world’s highest number of infections over the past 28 days. Also removed from the EU’s safe list because of a rise in Covid infections are Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and the Republic of North Macedonia. The current white list now includes: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Ukraine and China.
    The member states are also advised that travel restrictions should be gradually lifted for the special administrative regions of China Hong Kong and Macao. The guidance is non-binding and the recommendation is that the fully vaccinated should nevertheless be granted entry for non-essential travel.


  • From hero of Hotel Rwanda to dissident facing life in prison | Rwanda | The Guardian


    Before history began to be rewritten, the hotel manager and the rebel leader were hailed as heroes of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

    Paul Rusesabagina, whose story of sheltering Tutsis from machete-wielding Hutu militiamen was turned into the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda, visited the White House to receive the US presidential medal of freedom from George W Bush.

    Paul Kagame, leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels who overthrew the Hutu extremist regime that led the killing of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis, has been feted by prime ministers and presidents for ending the slaughter and rebuilding Rwanda. Bill Clinton called Kagame “one of the greatest leaders of our time”.

    #rwanda #genocide

  • France fiasco to pingdemic U-turn: Boris Johnson’s week of chaos | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    France fiasco to pingdemic U-turn: Boris Johnson’s week of chaos. In the last seven days the UK government has flailed from one controversy or misstep to the next. Often, the political week heading into the Commons summer recess can feel almost soporific, with the thoughts of ministers and MPs geared more towards holiday sunbeds than rows. But the last seven days has been different, and not only because of the ongoing political flux of coronavirus, with the government seeming to flail from one controversy, U-turn or misstep to the next, day after day.
    The reports began earlier in the week: France, which in a normal years attracts 10 million-plus UK visitors, was to be put on Britain’s red list, in effect banning almost all travel, because of concern about the spread of the potentially vaccine-resistant Beta variant. Eventually, late on Friday, it was announced that although France would stay on the amber list, double-vaccinated Britons returning from there would still have to quarantine for 10 days, unlike the new, relaxed policy for other amber destinations. Cue: anger from holidaymakers and some Conservative MPs – and polite bafflement from France itself.


  • Bolsonaro in hospital as hiccups persist for more than 10 days | Jair Bolsonaro | The Guardian

    The Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been admitted to hospital complaining of abdominal pain after being struck down by an unremitting bout of the hiccups which has lasted for more than 10 days.

    10 jours de #hoquet, je n’y avais jamais pensé comme punition divine, mais il a bien mérité ça non ? #justice #estomac #abdominal #cruauté

  • Balearic islands likely to move to England’s travel amber list | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    Balearic islands likely to move to England’s travel amber list. Some holidaymakers returning from Spanish islands will need to quarantine when change enforced. Spain’s Balearic islands are likely to be moved from England’s travel green watchlist to amber, meaning some passengers returning from the popular holiday destinations will have to quarantine on their return. Multiple sources told the Guardian that the switch, which will affect those heading home from Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera, is expected to be discussed by ministers on Wednesday afternoon and come into force from early next week.There has been no official confirmation from the government and last-minute decisions are sometimes made not to move countries up and down the traffic light system.The move would make little difference to those who have had both Covid vaccines, given that from Monday 19 July, travellers returning to England from amber-list countries will not have to isolate if they have been double-jabbed. Those who have not been fully inoculated will need to isolate at home for up to 10 days – though they can use the “test to release” system from day five to leave quarantine early.The isolation measure is thought to disproportionately impact young people, who have mostly only had their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and must wait at least eight weeks to get a second.
    Several countries are expected to be added to the red list, meaning most travel from them will be banned, with the exception of arrivals of British citizens and nationals who will have to stay in a hotel for 10 days to avoid the importation of Covid variants.Meanwhile, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has voiced concern over a report in the Daily Telegraph that Britons who have had two AstraZeneca vaccines including one manufactured in India were turned away from a flight from Manchester to Malta.
    The news came despite Boris Johnson saying he was “very confident” that the non European-approved vaccines would not cause problems for travellers.Shapps said on Wednesday that the UK’s medicines regulator had “been very clear that it doesn’t matter whether the AstraZeneca you have is made here or the Serum Institute in India, it is absolutely the same product, it provides exactly the same levels of protection from the virus”.
    He added: “So we will certainly speak to our Maltese colleagues to point all this out. Obviously it is up to them what they do. But we will be making the scientific point in the strongest possible terms there is no difference, we don’t recognise any difference.”Luke Evans, a Tory MP who has been working in the NHS helping vaccinate people, said at the start of July he had one of the India-made vaccines and had vaccinated “many people” with it. He urged the health secretary, Sajid Javid, to explain how he planned to resolve the problem and said he hoped it was “purely a bureaucratic issue”.
    Javid did not explain what conversations were ongoing with the EU about recognising the vaccines but said “all doses used in the UK have been subject to very rigorous safety and quality checks, including individual batch testing and physical site inspections”


  • Britons will need negative Covid test or both jabs to travel to Balearics | Spain | The Guardian

    Britons will need negative Covid test or both jabs to travel to Balearics
    Britons travelling to the Balearic islands will need to show either a negative PCR test or proof they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said on Monday.The rules – which come into effect on Friday – were announced two days before the Balearics are due to move on to the UK’s green list for quarantine-free travel, and amid growing concerns over what Sánchez called “the negative evolution” of the virus in the UK.Spain had planned initially to let British visitors enter the country without the need for a negative PCR test, but pressure has been mounting on the central government following rising case numbers in the UK and clusters of cases in Spain that were traced back to an end-of-year school trip to Mallorca.
    “We’ve been seeing a negative evolution of the accumulated incidence in the UK over recent weeks,” Sánchez told Cadena Ser radio. The number of cases per 100,000 people over the past week stands at 123 in the UK and 46 in Spain.“We’re going to apply the same requirements for British tourists in the Balearics that we apply to those from the rest of Europe,” the prime minister added.“They will need to be fully vaccinated or have a negative PCR test to travel to the Balearics. This will take effect in 72 hours so that tour operators and British tourists can adapt to this new rule.”
    Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, later explained that the entry requirements would be published in the official state gazette on Tuesday, and come into force three days later. She also suggested the new rules would apply to the whole of Spain and not just the Balearic islands.
    The regional government of the Balearic islands – the only part of Spain to be included on the green list – had expressed concerns over rising case numbers in the UK and called for “strict and safer entry controls” for UK visitors.Although Spain is gearing up for the summer season and recently revoked its rules on wearing masks outdoors, the more contagious Delta variant and the 600 new cases traced back to the school trip have set alarm bells ringing.Spain has logged a total of 3,782,463 Covid cases and registered 80,779 deaths. More than half of the country’s 47 million people have received a single dose of the vaccine, while about a third – 15.9 million – have received both doses.On Sunday, the Portuguese government announced that British visitors would have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival if they were not fully vaccinated against Covid. The rule – which will remain in place until at least 11 July – stipulates that Britons arriving by land, air or sea must show evidence they are fully vaccinated or self-isolate for 14 days at “home or at a place indicated by health authorities”.
    The move came as case numbers in Portugal continued to surge, putting the number of new daily infections back to February levels, when the country of just over 10 million was still under a strict lockdown. Health authorities have blamed the Delta variant, which was first identified in India but is now spreading rapidly in Britain, for the recent rise in infections. More than 70% of Covid-19 cases in the Lisbon area are from the Delta variant.


  • Ireland to double quarantine period for unvaccinated UK arrivals | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    Ireland to double quarantine period for unvaccinated UK arrivals. Travellers not fully vaccinated face 10 days in quarantine amid concerns over spread of Delta variant. Ireland is to double to 10 days its quarantine period for travellers from the UK who are not fully vaccinated, joining a growing list of countries imposing stricter travel rules on British arrivals due to concerns over the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
    The announcement came after Boris Johnson on Monday delayed by a month the final stage of England’s exit from lockdown amid accusations the government should have acted faster by placing India, where the variant was first detected, on its red restricted-travel list before 23 April.
    Neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh had been added to the UK’s red list on 9 April, with India following a fortnight later, four days after a visit to the country during which Johnson hoped to announce a new trade deal was called off. The Delta variant accounts for 90% of new UK cases and critics have argued that since half of early infections involved international travel, a ban on all arrivals except UK citizens and residents should, as some argued at the time, have been imposed earlier. In fact, Britain was one of the first major western countries to severely restrict travel from India over Delta variant concerns. The French government announced a mandatory 10-day quarantine and test for all arrivals from India on 22 April, with Germany following suit four days later.Berlin designated India as a “virus variant area with a significantly elevated risk of infection”, in effect barring entry to the country, even with a valid visa, for almost everyone – except German nationals – who visited India during the last 10 days.


  • Taiwan factory forces migrant workers back into dormitories amid Covid outbreak | Taiwan | The Guardian

    Taiwan factory forces migrant workers back into dormitories amid Covid outbreakManufacturer ASE defends imposing rules that do not apply to the broader community in Taiwan, drawing accusations of discrimination
    A major manufacturer in Taiwan is forcing some migrant workers out of private homes and back into shared accommodation at the height of the island’s worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic began, drawing accusations of discrimination and double standards.ASE, a semiconductor manufacturer, told its workers in the Taoyuan district of Chungli, about 50km (30 miles) from capital Taipei, that those who live independently in private rentals, must “move back to their dormitories immediately”, or be given “a major demerit”. Three such demerits are punishable by dismissal, the notice says.It stipulates residents will be banned from leaving the dorms except to go straight to and from work. Those who are late face being locked out and penalised. The workers cannot do their own shopping or have visitors.Such restrictions do not apply to the broader Taiwanese community. The island is currently under a level 3 alert, which allows gatherings and freedom of movement.Taiwan has recorded more than 12,000 local cases and 360 deaths since mid April. Hundreds of cases have been detected at four factories in Miaoli county, mostly among migrant workers and linked to crowded dormitory conditions.
    Central government orders require that the number of people per room in migrant worker accommodation be significantly reduced to cut the threat of infection among residents but offer no further detail, such as a maximum number per room.Footage seen by the Guardian purported to be of one of the ASE workers’ dorm rooms show rows of bunk beds on each side of the narrow room, with sheets hung around the edges to give occupants some privacy. Residents said they share bathroom facilities, sometimes with workers on different shifts or workers from other companies. Many migrant workers opt to live in private homes in which one or two people share a room.When asked about accusations it was discriminating against its migrant workers, she said: “ASE will do our best to follow the regulation. We are working under a lot of pressure and policies which may sound draconian and unfair but we appeal to our colleagues to abide by the regulations until the case numbers have come down. We appeal to their understanding. The rules are tight for a reason.”She said the company was not in breach of any rules, and was pulling people back to dorms “to protect them from further exposure outside, as well as to prevent cross-infections”. She said the company was also arranging other accommodation, including nearby university hostel rooms, aiming to have a maximum of four people per room.Similar restrictions on dorm-living migrant workers have been ordered by the Miaoli county government, prompting the health and welfare minister, Chen Chih-shung, to “remind” local authorities they can only implement measures in line with level 3 restrictions, which permit freedom of movement.
    The Guardian spoke to dozens of workers who fear that speaking out could see them fired or sent home. They stressed they had no issue with the job or the pandemic safety measures on the factory floor but they believed the accommodation order put them all in far greater danger than if they stayed in their own homes and practised social distancing. (...)
    The spokeswoman for ASE said the company had also increased cleaning and disinfection of the dorms, implemented social distancing measures, and was providing in-house counselling for distressed employees and financial incentives to not break rules “as a gesture of support”. Taiwan’s migrant worker population is considered vulnerable and unlikely to speak up against employers, according to rights groups, who also note weak labour laws in Taiwan.The situation is drawing comparisons to Singapore in early 2020, when officials were accused of overlooking migrant dormitories as part of their otherwise lauded pandemic response, leading to massive outbreaks among workers. “We know from Singapore’s situation that migrant workers who are confined to their dorms and not allowed to leave also face psychological adjustment issues, and some of them were known to have taken their lives in Singapore,” said Roy Ngerg, a Taipei-based writer covering human rights and labor issues. He said Taiwan had ample warning of the dangers. Lennon Ying-dah Wong, director of migrant worker policies at Taoyuan labor organisation Serve the People Association, said the decision to send workers back to dorms was “very questionable”. “The Covid-19 virus won’t be controlled merely by locking the migrant workers inside the factory.” Wong said.“It’s totally unfair and unjustifiable to continue this double standard for migrant and Taiwanese workers in the factory.”The ASEspokeswoman said the company was working closely with government to protect all employees “regardless of nationalities”.
    “We have already strengthened precautionary measures to ensure their safety and are following strict directives from the Taiwan health and labor ministry,” she said.“ASE is committed to international standards … that governs employee welfare and safeguards their rights. Our customers conduct audits at our sites on a regular basis, and we have always been transparent with our policies and conduct.”


  • China locks down part of Guangzhou amid outbreak of Indian Covid variant | China | The Guardian

    China locks down part of Guangzhou amid outbreak of Indian Covid variant. Chinese authorities in Guangdong province have cancelled flights and locked down communities in response to what is believed to be the first community outbreak of the Indian variant in China. Guangdong province had been reporting daily single figures of local cases, including asymptomatic cases, for more than a week, until the case load suddenly jumped to 23 on Monday, including three asymptomatic cases, and 11 on Tuesday. Most of Guandong’s cases are in the city of Guangzhou, with some in nearby Foshan, which has a population of 7.2 million.
    Authorities said all cases were found to be the strain commonly known as the Indian variant of the virus, now renamed by the WHO as the “Delta” variant.“In this race against the virus, we must run a bit ahead and run faster than before in order to block the spread of the virus and cut off the infection chain in time,” said Huang Guanglie, director of the Guangzhou municipal health commission.Guangzhou deputy mayor, Li Ming, said the strain had a short incubation period, a high viral load, and spread quickly. However she said that the trajectory was “under control”.
    In response hundreds of flights at the busy Guangdong Baiyun international airport have been cancelled, and authorities ordered some streets in the Liwan neighbourhood of Guangzhou city to isolate at home, with only one person per household allowed out to buy daily necessities.On Sunday all 15.3 million Guangzhou residents were barred from leaving via bus, air or train without a green code on the health management app and a negative Covid test taken in the preceding 72 hours.Restaurants have shifted to takeaway only and entertainment venues closed, while senior high school classes have been moved online, and vaccinations have been temporarily suspended. Authorities also placed reduced limits on gatherings at public venues, and visiting rights to care and medical institutions.The outbreak also prompted a temporary suspension of imports at Yantian port in Shenzhen last week, one of the world’s busiest export hubs. On Friday authorities launched compulsory Covid-testing for all Yantian residents.
    After the Covid-19 pandemic began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, prompting a long and strict lockdown which would later be emulated around the world, authorities have largely contained the virus. Sporadic outbreaks of varying sizes have prompted localised lockdowns and transport suspensions, most recently in Anhui, which also prompted a huge increase in people seeking to get vaccinated


  • Covid-19 variants to be given Greek alphabet names to avoid stigma | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    Covid-19 variants to be given Greek alphabet names to avoid stigma. WHO unveils new names for variants of concern to replace ones linked to where they were discovered. Coronavirus variants are to be named after letters of the Greek alphabet instead of their place of first discovery, the World Health Organization has announced, in a move to avoid stigma.The WHO has named four variants of concern, known to the public as the UK/Kent (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), Brazil (P.1) and India (B.1.617.2) variants. They will now be given the letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta respectively, to reflect their order of detection, with any new variants following the pattern down the Greek alphabet.
    The decision to go for this naming system came after months of deliberations with experts considering a range of other possibilities such as Greek Gods, according to bacteriologist Mark Pallen who was involved in the talks.The organisation said the labels do not replace existing scientific names involving numbers, Roman letters and full stops, which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research.
    The WHO said: “While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall and are prone to misreporting … As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory.“To avoid this and to simplify public communications, [the] WHO encourages national authorities, media outlets and others to adopt these new labels.”Historically, diseases have frequently been named after the locations they were thought to have developed, such as the Ebola virus, which takes its name from the Congolese river. However, such associations can be damaging for those places and are often inaccurate, as is the case with the “Spanish flu” of 1918, whose origins are unknown.Earlier this month, the Indian government ordered social media platforms to take down content that referred to the “Indian variant”. The government order was cited as an example of its sensitivity to accusations that it had mishandled the latest outbreak.Anti-Asian hate crime has risen as a result of the pandemic and associations between Covid and the site of its first outbreak in Wuhan, China.
    US anti-extremist groups said a rise in attacks on Asian-Americans was partly down to Donald Trump, who referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus”.Trump’s successor as president, Joe Biden, signed a hate crimes law this month to protect those who have suffered a surge in attacks during the pandemic. With US anti-extremist groups saying that the rise in hate crimes was partly due to former president Donald Trump who referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus”.The WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said of adopting new variant names: “No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants.”


  • Covid still a threat to Europe – travel should be avoided, says WHO | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    Covid still a threat to Europe – travel should be avoided, says WHO
    Vaccines work against new variants but ‘increased mobility may lead to more transmission’. Covid vaccines in use in Europe appear to protect against all new variants but progress in region remains “fragile” and international travel should be avoided to prevent pockets of transmission quickly spreading into “dangerous resurgences”, the World Health Organization has said.Weekly official cases in Europe have fallen by almost 60% from 1.7m in mid-April to nearly 685,000 last week with deaths also in decline, the WHO regional director, Hans Kluge, said on Thursday, but incidence rates remained stubbornly high in eight countries.
    “The pandemic is not over yet,” Kluge said. “Increased mobility and interactions may lead to more transmission … In the face of a continued threat and new uncertainty we need to exercise caution and rethink or avoid international travel.”European leaders should “not make the same mistakes that were made this time last year that resulted in a resurgence of Covid-19 and saw health systems, communities and economies once again bear the full force of the pandemic,” he said.Kluge said the B.1.617 variant first identified in India had been identified in at least 26 of the region’s 53 countries, with most cases linked to international travel but onward transmission also now occurring.“We are still learning about the new variant, but it is able to spread rapidly and displace the B.1.1.7 lineage [first identified in the UK] that has now become the dominant lineage in Europe,” he said.Kluge said vaccines were effective against the new strain, with all variants that have so far emerged responding to “available, approved vaccines”. But since only 23% of people in the region have received a vaccine dose and only 11% have had both, governments and citizens must continue to exercise caution.“Neither testing nor receiving vaccines is a substitute for adherence to measures such as physical distancing and mask wearing in public spaces or healthcare settings,” Kluge said. “Vaccines may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot be blinded by that light.”Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s senior European emergency officer, said it was difficult to know yet exactly how transmissible the India variant was.“There are three different sub-lineages in this particular variant of concern, and one of them has been shown to at least have a capacity to spread quite quickly in the presence of B.1.1.7,” she said. “We’ve seen this in several parts of the UK but also in other countries in the European region.”
    The organisation was “tracking it very closely”, she said. “We’re learning about it. We’re pulling as much information as we can together in order to be making some more specific statements around its characteristics both in terms of transmissibility, but also in terms of its ability to evade any immunity.”


  • Up to 8,700 patients died after catching Covid in English hospitals | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    Exclusive: official NHS data reveals 32,307 people contracted the virus while in hospital since March 2020

    Up to 8,700 patients died after catching Covid-19 while in hospital being treated for another medical problem, according to official NHS data obtained by the Guardian.

    The figures, which were provided by the hospitals themselves, were described as “horrifying” by relatives of those who died.

    Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, said that hospital-acquired Covid “remains one of the silent scandals of this pandemic, causing many thousands of avoidable deaths”.

    NHS leaders and senior doctors have long claimed hospitals have struggled to stop Covid spreading because of shortages of single rooms, a lack of personal protective equipment and an inability to test staff and patients early in the pandemic.

    Now, official figures supplied by NHS trusts in England show that 32,307 people have probably or definitely contracted the disease while in hospital since March 2020 – and 8,747 of them died.

    That means that almost three in 10 (27.1%) of those infected that way lost their lives within 28 days.

    The NHS has done us all proud over the past year, but these new figures are devastating and pose challenging questions on whether the right hospital infection controls were in place”, said Hunt, who chairs the Commons health and social care select committee.

    The Guardian obtained the data under freedom of information laws from 81 of England’s 126 acute hospital trusts.

    The responses show that every trust had to grapple with what doctors call nosocomial or hospital-acquired infection. Many hospitals were unable to keep Covid-positive patients separate from those without the disease, which led to its lethal transmission.

    According to the FoI responses, University Hospitals Birmingham trust had the highest number of deaths (408), followed by Nottingham University Hospitals (279) and Frimley Health (259). Nine trusts had 200 or more deaths.

    However, the numbers of deaths are influenced by factors such as a hospital’s size, number of single rooms and capacity of its intensive care unit, and the make up of its local population and level of infection among them, as well as weaknesses in infection control procedures.

    At a handful of trusts, about a third of all people who died after catching Covid had become infected in hospital. They include Royal Cornwall hospitals (36%), Salisbury (35.2%) and Kettering general hospital (31.2%).

    The answers provided to the Guardian reveal that the 8,747 who died were all in hospital for another reason, such as treatment for a fall, flare-up of a serious illness, or to have an operation.

    The figures include people who died in hospital and after discharge. They do not distinguish between those who died of Covid, with Covid or of another condition potentially exacerbated by the virus, such as a heart attack.

  • Britons should not be holidaying in Spain yet, says UK minister | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    Britons have been urged not to travel to Spain after the country opened its doors to tourists from the UK.Spain has lifted its restrictions on holidaymakers from the UK but the business minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has urged people not to go there unless there is an urgent reason.The country is still on the UK government’s amber list, meaning people should not visit unless it is for essential family or business reasons. Travellers will have to quarantine for 10 days and get tested for the virus upon leaving and returning.Despite this, Fernando Valdés, Spain’s tourism minister, suggested Spain could be added to the UK’s green list in the next government review, meaning travellers would not have to self-isolate on their return to England.He told Sky News: “What I can say is that right now Spain is doing a great effort not only in terms of vaccination … but also, we do have some holiday destinations which are very loved by British tourists such as the Balearic islands, Costa Blanca or Málaga, with our notification rates which are pretty low and by the same notification range of the UK, so I have to suspect that on the next review that the UK government can provide … Spain is going to change on its notification.”Earlier on Monday, the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said the country would “be delighted, very delighted to welcome all British tourists”. He said those coming over would also be welcome for non-essential travel.A state of emergency in Spain was lifted on 9 May, although curfews remain in some regions.Trevelyan told Sky News that amber meant “please don’t go unless there is an urgent family reason and so on.“Because we are still trying to slowly move through our roadmap to being able to open up on 21 June and we want to do that in a steady and careful way,” she said.She later told Times Radio: “The reality is, at the moment, amber countries are still not meeting the criteria for our scientists to say that they should be green. So the recommendation remains don’t go unless you have to and remember that, if you do go, you will have to quarantine for 10 days and that will be monitored.”The energy minister said: “The reason we ask people still not to go is because there is still too great a risk as far as our scientists are concerned.”Her words echoed those of the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, who said people considering going to not-yet-green-listed countries should have “more patience”.Those who come back from countries on the green list will need to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test and a post-arrival test, but they will not need to self-isolate upon return.
    On Monday, Andrew Pollard, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford, said the public health message to get people vaccinated was key, as new variants will spread and evolve among those who have not been inoculated.“If you’re unvaccinated then the virus will find [those] individuals in the population … There is a really important public health message that we have to get those small proportion of people not vaccinated to get their first dose,” he said.
    If you have been affected or have any information, we’d like to hear from you. You can get in touch by filling in the form below, anonymously if you wish or contact us via WhatsApp by clicking here or adding the contact +44(0)7766780300. Only the Guardian can see your contributions and one of our journalists may contact you to discuss further. Amid concern about the spread of the variant first detected in India, he added that understanding how effective vaccinations were in reducing hospital admissions was critical to understanding how they respond to new variants and, eventually, ending the pandemic.“If the current generation of vaccines is able to stop people going into hospital … then the pandemic is over,” he said.He added that it was unclear yet whether booster vaccines would be needed. “We might not need them but we are in a good place [if we do] as we have highly effective vaccines at the moment,” he said.


  • Mount Everest Covid outbreak has infected 100 people at base camp, says guide | Mount Everest | The Guardian

    Mount Everest Covid outbreak has infected 100 people at base camp, says guide. Austrian expedition leader Lukas Furtenbach says the real number could be 200, despite official Nepali denials. A coronavirus outbreak on Mount Everest has infected at least 100 climbers and support staff, a mountaineering guide said, giving the first comprehensive estimate amid official Nepalese denials that the disease has spread to the world’s highest peak. Lukas Furtenbach of Austria, who last week halted his Everest expedition due to virus fears, said on Saturday one of his foreign guides and six Nepali Sherpa guides had tested positive.
    “I think with all the confirmed cases we know now confirmed from (rescue) pilots, from insurance, from doctors, from expedition leaders, I have the positive tests so we can prove this,” Furtenbach said from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.“We have at least 100 people minimum positive for Covid in base camp, and then the numbers might be something like 150 or 200.”
    He said it was obvious there were many cases at the Everest base camp because he could visibly see people were sick, and could hear people coughing in their tents.A total of 408 foreign climbers were issued permits to climb Everest this season, aided by several hundred Sherpas and support staff who had been stationed at base camp since April.
    Nepalese mountaineering officials have denied there were any active cases this season among climbers and support staff at all base camps for the country’s Himalayan mountains. Mountaineering was closed last year due to the pandemic. Nepalese officials could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday. Other climbing teams have not announced any Covid-19 infections among their members or staff. Several climbers have reported testing positive after they were brought down from the Everest base camp.Furtenbach said most teams on the mountain were not carrying virus testing kits, and that before his team pulled out, they had helped conduct tests and had confirmed two cases. Most teams were still at base camp, hoping for clear weather next week so they can make a final push to the summit before the climbing season closes at the end of the month, Furtenbach said. In late April, a Norwegian climber became the first to test positive at the Everest base camp. He was flown by helicopter to Kathmandu, where he was treated and later returned home. Nepal is experiencing a virus surge, with record numbers of new infections and deaths. China last week canceled climbing from its side of Mount Everest due to fears the virus could be spread from the Nepalese side. Nepal reported 8,607 new infections and 177 deaths on Friday, bringing the nation’s totals since the pandemic began to more than 497,000 infections and 6,024 deaths.


  • Spain accused of summary deportations as thousands sent back to Morocco | Spain | The Guardian

    Spain accused of summary deportations as thousands sent back to Morocco Campaigners say Spain may be violating migrants’ rights after mass crossing into enclave of Ceuta The rapid pace at which Spain is returning migrants to Morocco could mean that migrants’ rights are being violated, campaigners have warned, as Spain said it had already sent back 4,800 of the 8,000 people who had arrived in the north African enclave of Ceuta since Monday. “How can 4,000 people be summarily returned without violating the rights of children, asylum seekers, everyone?” Judith Sunderland, of Human Rights Watch, asked on Twitter. “The challenge of so many arrivals in a short time does not justify the violation of rights or abandoning our humanity.”
    On Wednesday arrivals in Ceuta had all but halted as Morocco tightened control of the border. Even so, Spain’s prime minister stepped up his criticism of the Moroccan government, drawing a direct link between its actions and the unprecedented influx of thousands of people, including an estimated 2,000 minors. “This is an act of defiance,” Pedro Sánchez told Spain’s parliament on Wednesday. “The lack of border control by Morocco is not a show of disrespect of Spain, but rather for the European Union.”
    The 36-hour mass crossing played out against a backdrop of deepening tensions with Morocco over Madrid’s decision to allow the leader of the Western Sahara independence movement to be treated for Covid-19 in Spain.As Spain scrambled to cope with the humanitarian crisis – deploying its army, military vehicles and 200 extra police to patrol the border – Sánchez promised swift action. “We will proceed to immediately return – I repeat, immediately return – all those who have entered Ceuta and Melilla irregularly,” he said, citing provisions set out in a longstanding bilateral agreement with Morocco. The agreement, however, stipulates exceptions for vulnerable groups such as minors, people with disabilities, pregnant women and asylum seekers. It also sets out a process that specifies that migrants must be identified before being returned.Rafael Escudero, of the Spanish Network for Immigration and Refugee Aid, said the frenzied pace of returns suggested Spanish officials were ignoring these provisions. “The maths don’t work out,” he said. “Even if there were 4,000 police officers on the ground, it would take at least 4,000 minutes to collect data and take a declaration. That’s dozens of hours … They’re carrying out summary deportations.”The concerns echo reports from journalists at the scene. The Associated Press said its reporters saw Spanish military personnel and police officers ushering adults and children through a gate in the border fence. Those who resisted were pushed and chased by soldiers who used batons to hasten them, it said.Spain’s interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, has denied that unaccompanied minors are being deported in violation of Spanish laws, but the ministry has not provided details on how migrants’ rights are being protected.Spain’s hardline approach has been vaunted by the Italian far-right politician Matteo Salvini on Twitter, and EU officials have backed Spain. “EU stands in solidarity with Ceuta & Spain,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU commission, said on Twitter on Tuesday.The commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas took a tougher stance, telling the Spanish broadcaster RTVE: “Nobody can intimidate or blackmail the European Union. Ceuta is Europe, this border is a European border and what happens there is not a problem for Madrid, but a problem for all.”


  • Fauci: ‘Undeniable effects of racism’ have worsened Covid for US minorities | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    Fauci: ‘Undeniable effects of racism’ have worsened Covid for US minorities. Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, said on Sunday “the undeniable effects of racism” have worsened the coronavirus pandemic for Black, Hispanic and Native Americans.
    Republican Covid lies follow foreign strongmen’s lead – and are deadly for it
    “Covid-19 has shone a bright light on our own society’s failings,” Fauci said during a graduation ceremony for Emory University in Atlanta. Speaking to students from Washington, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), who leads the Covid-19 response in the US, said many members of minority groups work in essential jobs where they might be exposed to the coronavirus. He also said they are more likely to become infected if exposed because of medical conditions such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes or obesity. “Now, very few of these co-morbidities have racial determinants,” Fauci said. “Almost all relate to the social determinants of health dating back to disadvantageous conditions that some people of color find themselves in from birth regarding the availability of an adequate diet, access to healthcare and the undeniable effects of racism in our society.” Fauci said correcting societal wrongs will take decades, and urged graduates to be part of the solution.
    Once society returns to “some form of normality”, he said, people should not forget that infectious disease has disproportionally hospitalized and killed people of color.Fauci was awarded the Emory University president’s medal. Previous recipients include former president Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama and the late John Lewis, a civil rights leader and congressman.
    Accepting the award, Fauci denounced the destruction of division. “Societal divisiveness is counterproductive in a pandemic,” Fauci said. “We must not be at odds with each other since the virus is the enemy, not each other.”
    Fauci has led NIAID since 1984. He led the US response to Covid-19 under Donald Trump and has continued under Joe Biden. He praised the Emory graduates for coping with the profound disruption of the pandemic.
    “Not since the influenza pandemic of 1918 has humanity faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,“ he said. “Each of you deserves enormous respect for your extraordinary adaptability, resilience and dedication to learning, completing your studies and graduating despite immense difficulties and uncertainties.”


  • ‘I’m filled with hope’: cash-strapped Algarve awaits return of UK tourists | Portugal | The Guardian

    ‘I’m filled with hope’: cash-strapped Algarve awaits return of UK tourists
    Assistant in souvenir shop. Tatiana stands by the counter of the souvenir shop where she works in downtown Faro, with little in the way of company besides the postcard racks, the shelves of trinkets and towels, and an all too familiar silence.Outside, the cobbled streets of the Algarve tourist city are similarly quiet – but probably not for much longer. A week after the UK government added Portugal to its travel “green list”, Lisbon announced that British visitors would be welcomed back from Monday as long as they provided a negative PCR test.The news has been greeted with relief and excitement by those who work in one of the country’s most tourism-dependent regions. Portugal, which was praised for its speedy and far-sighted response to the first wave of the coronavirus, was pitched into crisis at the beginning of this year, logging more than 16,000 cases a day in a population of just 10.2 million people. In an effort to save the country’s paralysed health system from collapse, the government imposed a strict nationwide lockdown and banned foreign visitors, leaving the tourism sector struggling to survive.The Algarve bore the brunt of the losses: in February, the number of people registered at the regions’s job centres was up 70% on the previous year. Without income, many families found themselves dependent on charity. “We live in an area that lives off tourism,” says the charity’s vice-president, Elsa Morais Cardoso. “But tourism stopped and no one was prepared for it. Suddenly people saw themselves without any income – and that was when the hunger arrived.”
    While the Algarve has always suffered from seasonal unemployment and a precarious work environment – a situation exacerbated by the pandemic – Cardoso says the current situation is totally different: “We have entire families going hungry.”

    Cabrita Alves worries that the crisis will not die down until 2024, a fear shared by Paula Matias, the Faro coordinator for Refood, an NGO that works to cut food waste by redistributing leftover food from restaurants and supermarkets. Refood is helping 428 people – a fourfold increase on pre-pandemic demand – and the requests for assistance are still coming in.
    The Portuguese government hopes that its vaccination programme will head off a further economic crisis and has already handed out €233m (£200m) in financial aid to companies in the Algarve. João Fernandes, president of the regional tourism board, says a new financial package is on the way. However, like most people in the Algarve, he is not betting on a speedy recovery. Bookings from the UK have tripled since Portugal was added to the green list, leading Fernandes and others to cross their fingers – not least because neighbouring Spain remains on the amber list, meaning travellers returning to the UK will have to quarantine for 10 days and take two Covid tests. “We’re seeing quite interesting levels of demand, especially because some of our competitors were not included in the green list,” says Fernandes. “So every indicator points to a robust demand from the UK.”
    He and most of the people who live and work in the Algarve hope the worst has passed and that British visitors will arrive with deep enthusiasm and still deeper pockets. But the optimism is guarded. “There’s a renewed excitement,” says Fernandes. “But I don’t have a crystal ball.”
    Despite the pain of the past year – not to mention Portugal’s continuing state of emergency – Friday’s announcement was the best news many people in and around Faro had received in almost a year. Carla Lacerda, who was let go from her job at a duty-free shop in Faro airport last August, is a single mother who has been relying on Refood to help feed her nine-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. She cannot make ends meet on the €620 she receives each month in unemployment and child benefits.
    She is praying that the return of Britons will lead to a call from the duty-free shop for her and her 35 colleagues. “They’ll need staff,” she says. “I don’t think people understand the amount of British clients we had at the airport; sometimes there would be five flights arriving at the same time and we had no rest.” After what seems like an eternity, Lacerda is beginning to feel the stirrings of a long-forgotten emotion. “I’m filled with a lot of hope,” she says. “Hope is always the last to die.”


  • India variant could seriously disrupt lifting of lockdown, says Boris Johnson | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    India variant could seriously disrupt lifting of lockdown, says Boris Johnson
    The final stage of the lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions across England could face “serious disruption” due to the India variant, the prime minister has warned, as he announced plans to accelerate the vaccine programme to curb its spread.Boris Johnson said the gap between the first and second Covid jab would be cut from 12 weeks to eight for all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable, admitting: “The race between our vaccine programme and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter.”
    He announced that the army would be deployed to two variant hotspots – Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen – to help with vaccinations, and urged residents in those areas to “think twice” before taking advantages of the freedoms allowed again from Monday.
    Johnson said the India variant appeared to be “more transmissible” than the dominant strain in the UK, which originated in Kent, but that it was not yet clear by how much. If it is significantly more, then, he warned, “we’re likely to face some hard choices”. Asked whether the lockdown easing would have to be paused during a press conference, he added: “The truth is, we cannot say for certain … The situation is very different from last year, we are in the throes of an incredible vaccine rollout … We just have to wait and see … We rule nothing out.”The PM’s words came as new documents released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) revealed just how worried scientists are about the variant. Modelling by Sage suggested it was “a realistic possibility” that it could be up to 50% more transmissible than the Kent variant.If that was the case, they said, progressing to stage 3 of the road map – due on Monday – would “lead to a substantial resurgence of hospitalisations (similar to, or larger than, previous peaks)”. The variant’s spread will raise questions about perceived government delays in adding India to the “red list” of countries from which arrivals have to quarantine in hotels.Johnson’s announcement came following calls from councils in Lancashire and Greater Manchester to let them roll out vaccines to all over-18s in some variant hotspots, including Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen.


  • UK travellers complain of ‘prison-like’ conditions in quarantine hotels | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    UK travellers complain of ‘prison-like’ conditions in quarantine hotels. Travellers staying in quarantine hotels in the UK after returning from “red list” countries have complained of “prison-like” conditions, including windows that do not open, a lack of fresh air, exercise and decent food.
    The Guardian spoke to nine travellers who are or have recently been in quarantine hotels after returning from countries including Brazil, India, Pakistan and South Africa. They complained of a deterioration in their mental and physical health due to being confined in their bedrooms round the clock and being forced into debt to pay the £1,750 per adult charge for the quarantine period.
    Some of them had travelled abroad due to sickness or death of loved ones and so were already in a distressed and traumatised state before entering the quarantine process.They also expressed concern about a lack of social distancing at UK airports and on the coaches transporting people to quarantine hotels.While nobody challenged the need to quarantine, it is the way the process has been handled that has generated the complaints. A Facebook group called UK Hotel Quarantine Support Chat has been set up and has thousands of members, many of whom have raised concerns about quarantine arrangements.Dr Sanjay Gupta, an NHS cardiology consultant, who was returning from Kenya where he had travelled to be with his dying father, said: “Not everyone can afford to pay the £1,750 cost. There seems to be something shamelessly opportunistic about this situation. But if you’re arriving from a red list country you don’t have a choice.”
    Dr Thanjavur Bragadeesh, also an NHS consultant, who had returned from India where he was helping to care for his elderly parents after both had had surgery, said: “It took several hours to reach the hotel after arriving at the airport. The food is not good and the quantities are small. I got a small box of cereal for breakfast with a cheese omelette that was so hard that if I had thrown it, it would hit someone. One of the things I got for dinner was half a naan bread. I don’t know who got the other half!”
    He said people quarantining had to be escorted by security guards for their 15 minutes of fresh air. “We are not prisoners, we are not trying to escape,” he said.“I really feel for the people who are quarantining with children. The hotel staff have been polite but the conditions here are claustrophobic. It is perfectly reasonable and sensible not to bring infection into the country but things don’t need to be this draconian.”
    Zahid Siddiqui, 58, returned from Pakistan where he had spent several months visiting his sick father. He expressed concerns about the lack of ventilation, fresh air and exercise and poor food.“The whole thing was a nightmare,” he said. “I have various medical conditions such as atrial fibrillation and medical advice is that I need to take daily exercise. But I was only allowed to go outside for two of the 11 days. I have never been in jail in my life but this experience felt like it. I have never before suffered from depression but after my time in the quarantine hotel I now understand the meaning of the word.”He was told his quarantine ended at midnight on a particular day so he could leave the following morning. He said he could not wait that long and arranged for a relative to collect him from the hotel on the dot of midnight.
    “I was so hungry I ate throughout my journey back to my home in Cheshire,” he said.One 69-year-old woman with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, who is in a quarantine hotel after returning from Brazil, said it was impossible for her to eat the fatty and sugary food she has been provided with. When she complained she was given an apple, a tangerine and a banana. “I have been left very hungry,” she said.A woman who had returned from visiting her sick mother in South Africa with her husband and four-month-old baby said: “We were treated like animals. I was begging for help sterilising my baby’s bottles after we arrived back at the airport. There was no social distancing there and I was terrified of catching Covid at the airport. The food was inedible, I can’t explain how bad it was. I took a bite of a chicken burger that tasted like pork, spat it out and felt sick all evening. We are in debt now from paying for the quarantine hotel and feel completely exhausted.”
    A government spokesperson said: “Our top priority has always been protecting the public and our robust border regime is helping minimise the risk of new variants coming into the UK. The government continues to ensure every person in quarantine gets the support they need, and all managed quarantine facilities are accommodating the vast majority of people’s requirements. Hotels do their utmost to take any necessary steps to address concerns raised by guests.”Government sources added that strict rules were in place, including seating plans, to ensure social distancing in vehicles used to transport people to quarantine hotels.


  • England’s travel green list sends Madeira flight bookings soaring | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    England’s travel green list sends Madeira flight bookings soaring. Portugal is only major European ‘sun and sand’ destination on list of countries for quarantine-free travel. Yet after months of lockdown it seems that not even the reputation of its international airport is deterring people in England from looking to Madeira, which has had the biggest jump in popularity among destinations on the government quarantine-free travel “green list”.
    Daily booking volumes recorded by Skyscanner for flights to the Atlantic archipelago jumped by 625% on Friday after Portugal became the only major European “sun and sand” destination for which self-isolation would not be necessary on a return for people in England.With the country now hoping to welcome tourists back from next week, the Portuguese government is expected to outline its plan for the reactivation of the sector on Thursday.
    Other figures provided to the Guardian by Skyscanner for economy-class return flights from the UK, showed that planned travel to Gibraltar went up by 335%. The other major choice was Israel, for which the daily booking volume was up by 290%. The green light for quarantine-free travel to the country with the world’s highest vaccination rate is also being seen as a lifeline for the airline industry.