Shapps says “there is simply no substitute for human contact”, as he says travel is essential to rebuilding the economy. But he warns the success in combatting Covid in the UK is not yet replicated in “many countries abroad”. He notes the case in India.
Shapps says “we are not at the end” of the pandemic but the “signs are very hopeful” and thanks the “discipline” of the British public.
The UK government is to unveil its new traffic light system for foreign travel in a press conference at 5pm. We will be covering it live.
China’s Sinopharm becomes fifth WHO-approved Covid vaccine
The Sinopharm vaccine, produced by the China National Biotec Group, has become the fifth Covid-19 vaccine approved by the World Health Organization.
Emergency use listing (EUL) was granted to the vaccine on Friday, meaning it can now be rolled out globally and be used as part of the WHO’s Covax scheme to provide coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries.
The vaccine, which is taken in two doses spaced three to four weeks apart, was approved for use in adults aged 18 or over. No upper age limit was specified, despite the WHO saying that a lack of older subjects in clinical trials meant “efficacy could not be estimated in this age group”.
“WHO therefore recommends that countries using the vaccine in older age groups conduct safety and effectiveness monitoring,” the health agency said.
Announcing the approval on Friday, Dr Mariângela Simão, the WHO’s assistant-director general for access to health products, said she hoped it could boost supplies globally. Richer countries have obtained control of most supplies of vaccines for some time, and distribution in poorer parts of the world remains sparse. Simão said:
The addition of this vaccine has the potential to rapidly accelerate Covid-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk. We urge the manufacturer to participate in the Covax facility and contribute to the goal of more equitable vaccine distribution.
Health workers in Nepal have said they are struggling to cope with a surge in Covid-19 patients, a day after the country reported its highest daily increase in infections.
Hemanta Chandra Ojha, of Nepal’s epidemiology and disease control division, told AFP:
Health facilities have been flooded with symptomatic cases… The situation could become worse in the coming days.
We can manage the oxygen supplies but ventilators and ICU facilities required for the treatment of severe cases are in short supply.
The number of cases has shot up in the Himalayan country in the past three weeks, where two out of every five people tested are now coming back positive for the Sars-CoV-2 virus. On Thursday, Nepal reported new 9,023 infections, its highest single day increase.
More than 3,500 people have died since the pandemic began, 400 of them in the last two weeks alone, according to official figures.
Nepal shut down almost all flights this week and has imposed lockdowns or partial lockdowns in 80 percent of its districts to curb infections. But the country shares a 1,850-kilometre (1,150-mile) open border with India, and communities commonly travel across it for work and to visit family, and many are now returning home.
Bangkok, Thailand, is said to be facing a Covid pandemic resurgence after it confirmed 869 new coronavirus infections, a local record, and 18 deaths.
The Associated Press quoted Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s Covid situation centre, as saying that Bangkok has recorded more than 500 new cases every day since the beginning of this month.
On Friday night, the city government said it is extending restrictions – including limiting restaurants to takeaway meals, closing 35 types of venues including bars, gyms, stadiums and boxing rings, and limiting the operating hours of other businesses – until 17 May.
Bangkok currently has 496 patients in critical condition, a number that is straining the capacity of hospitals to provide ICU beds. Anyone in Thailand who tests positive for the virus, even without symptoms, is supposed to be hospitalized, so there is a shortage of hospital beds for non-critical cases as well.
Almost 30,000 patients, including 1,170 in critical condition, are in hospitals and field hospitals around the country.
Thailand reported 2,044 new cases and 27 new deaths nationwide on Friday, bringing the total since January last year to 78,855 cases and 363 deaths.