Coronavirus newest information: Vaccine rollout prolonged to 44-year-olds

The NHS is today inviting all 44-year-olds in England to come forward for a vaccine. Around half a million of the age group will begin receiving a text inviting them to book a jab, with health service sources predicting that the 40- to 43-year-olds will get the call later this week.

Two thirds of people aged 45 to 49 have now been vaccinated. It coincides with the launch of a new government campaign urging younger people to take up the offer when their turn comes.

This will include the vaccine programme’s first use of TV advertising.

The “every vaccination gives us hope” campaign will also run across social media and on billboards.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: “The biggest vaccination programme in NHS history has delivered 45.5 million doses so far across the UK, and we are on track to offer a jab to all adults by the end of July. I encourage everyone who is 44 to book an appointment to get the jab.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

05:04 AMTravel bubble plans for Singapore and Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Singapore today announced they will launch an air travel bubble in May, months after an initial arrangement that would allow tourists to fly between both cities without having to serve quarantine was postponed.

Flights will begin from May 26. Visitors will not have to quarantine as long as they fulfil the conditions of travelling within the bubble.

Hong Kong and Singapore announced the launch of a bubble in November but shelved the plan days before it was to start after Hong Kong saw a surge in Covid infections.

04:57 AMCovid cases surpass 17 million in India

Exhausted workers who bring bodies for cremation, in New Delhi, India – Altaf Qadri/AP

India today set another global record for a rise in daily coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day, while Covid deaths also jumped by an all-time high over the past 24 hours.

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With 352,991 new cases, India’s total caseload has crossed 17 million.

Deaths rose by a record 2,812 to reach a total of 195,123.

Delhi has been cremating so many bodies of coronavirus victims that authorities are getting requests to start cutting down trees in city parks – Altaf Qadri/AP

04:31 AMAre you suffering from a ‘lockdown low’?

Even as the vaccination programme kicks in and restrictions start to lift, many of us are feeling residual tension from the year we’ve been through, combined with a strange sense of stagnation, listlessness and low mood, writes Helen Chandler-Wilde.

Our batteries are running low but they can be recharged

Adam Grant, psychologist from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, described this as “languishing” in The New York Times last week. “It’s the void between depression and flourishing – the absence of wellbeing,” he says.

“You’re not functioning at full capacity… It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.”

In fact, a prison report by the Centre of Mental Health suggests that the uncertainties of the first two weeks after release from a long period of incarceration – or, in our case, lockdown – are the time of most heightened psychological risk.

Read Helen’s story: Are you suffering from a ‘lockdown low’? Here’s how to get your energy back

04:00 AMSuperspreader funeral leads to lockdown in Fiji

The Fijian capital Suva entered a 14-day lockdown today as the Pacific island nation battled to contain a Covid spike after a “superspreader” funeral.

Around 100,000 people in the city must stay in containment zones and non-essential businesses are shut after the first community coronavirus cases in 12 months were detected.

A soldier contracted the virus at a quarantine facility and is believed to have transmitted it to a maid, who then exposed up to 500 people at a funeral.

The permanent secretary for health and medical services, James Fong, said four new cases emerged over the weekend.

Fiji has largely contained the virus through strict isolation measures and border controls, recording fewer than 100 cases and two deaths in a population of 930,000.

03:02 AMUS to ramp up support for virus-hit India

The United States will “immediately” make supplies of vaccine-production material, as well as therapeutics, tests, ventilators and protective equipment available to India as the South Asian giant battles a Covid-19 surge, the White House said on Sunday.

Western nations including Britain, France, Canada and Germany have also pledged help as India’s coronavirus crisis grows, driving an increase in the global case count in recent days even as the number of vaccines administered worldwide surpassed the one billion mark.

“The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India,” a White House statement said.

Washington has also “identified supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will immediately be made available for India,” said the statement from National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne.

Read more: Britain pledges emergency aid for Covid-hit India

02:08 AMItaly reopens as parliament debates recovery plan

Bars, restaurants, cinemas and concert halls will partially reopen across Italy on Monday in a boost for coronavirus-hit businesses, as parliament debates the government’s €220 billion (£191billion) EU-funded recovery plan.

After months of stop-start restrictions imposed to manage its second and third waves of Covid-19, Italy hopes this latest easing will mark the start of something like a normal summer.

Three-quarters of regions will drop into the low-risk “yellow” categories from Monday, with bars and restaurants permitted to restart table service outside – although a 10pm curfew remains in place.

Italy was the first European country to be hit by the pandemic and remains one of the worst affected, with the EU’s highest reported death toll and one of the deepest recessions.

The economy contracted by a staggering 8.9 percent last year and a million jobs have been lost.

Italy is pinning its hopes on a €222.1 billion investment and reform plan funded largely by the European Union.

People enjoy a sunny day during the last weekend in the orange zone, in Rome – Giuseppe Lami/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

01:55 AMScot shoppers urged to ‘spend and keep safe’ as doors reopen

Shoppers in Scotland have been reminded over mask-wearing and distancing as retailers look to claw back £4.1 billion in lost sales since the start of the pandemic.

From Monday, “non-essential” shops are allowed to open their doors to the public after being shuttered since Boxing Day, with millions spent on safety-proofing them against Covid transmission.

The Scottish Retail Consortium urged shoppers to queue considerately and be mindful over distancing and mask-wearing after “four long months of closure” for shops.

It expects an “initial surge” as customers venture out but said the “real test will be how this holds up”.

Read more: Scotland lockdown roadmap – what rules are lifting on April 26?

01:30 AMMexican minister visits Russia, vying to bring vaccine production home

Mexico’s top diplomat traveled to Moscow on Sunday for a visit with Russian officials, his office said, amid talks to hammer out plans for Mexico to bottle Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine domestically after delays in shipments.

The government is aiming to quicken its pace of vaccinations, with just more than 4 per cent of its population of 126 million people fully inoculated.

Mexico has registered 214,947 deaths, the fourth most worldwide, and 2,328,391 infections from the pandemic. The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher.

Mexico’s state-run vaccine manufacturer, Birmex, is working with Russia on a plan to bottle Sputnik V in Mexico, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said last week, just as Argentina produced test batches of the two-shot vaccine.

12:58 AMToday’s top stories

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