Italy's 'virus-free' trains, Merkel gets AstraZeneca jab: COVID-19 daily bulletin
Updated 00:42, 17-Apr-2021
Aden-Jay Wood


- Denmark will allow indoor service at restaurants and bars and some football fans to attend professional matches from April 21, weeks earlier than first planned. "Denmark is in a good place with room for further reopening," Minister of Justice Nick Haekkerup said.

- Germany has removed the UK from its list of high-risk zones following a slowdown in new infections. From Sunday, travelers from the UK will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival. 

- Hundreds of people queued up to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca's Vaxzevria jab in Latvia on Friday. The government has offered the jab to anyone who wanted it in order to clear a backlog of the shot, after it was refused by many amid concerns over a small number of blood clot reports.

- Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has received her first dose of the AstraZeneca jab, her spokesman Steffen Seibert has confirmed. "Vaccination is the key to getting out of the pandemic," Merkel said after receiving the shot. 

- High-speed trains running between Italy's Rome and Milan have begun operating, carrying only passengers that have tested negative for COVID-19 from Friday. Branded the "COVID-19-free" train, passengers must show a negative test certificate before boarding.

- France has passed 100,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic as the country continues to battle a third wave of the virus.

- Sweden will begin easing restrictions for those who have had at least one vaccination dose, the country's Public Health Agency said.

- Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged lawmakers to approve new powers that would allow her more control over state lockdowns and curfews. "The third wave of the pandemic has our country firmly in its grip. Intensive care workers are sending one distress call after the other. Who are we to ignore their pleas?" She added.

- Lockdown measures in the majority of regions across Portugal are to eased further next week, but tough measures will stay in place in areas where infection rates remain too high. Prime Minister Antonio Costa said: "These measures are neither prizes nor punishments. They are public health measures for the safety of the population, of people."

- Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has received the first dose of a vaccine. Sturgeon, who was given AstraZeneca's Vaxzevria jab, urged other  people to "come forward, be vaccinated, because it's such an important part of our route back to normality."

- Russia has extended its ban on flights to and from the UK until at least June amid concerns over a variant first discovered there.


Italy has launched a 'COVID-19-free' high-speed train route between Milan and Rome. /Reuters

Italy has launched a 'COVID-19-free' high-speed train route between Milan and Rome. /Reuters



Ross Cullen in Paris

France has passed the mark of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, becoming the fourth European country and eighth nation in the world to do so. 

After the daily numbers were released on Thursday evening, France's President Emmanuel Macron said: "We will not forget one face, one name." 

Macron also confirmed the outside areas of bars and restaurants will be among the first places to reopen next month. The government wants to start to ease restrictions from mid-May. Macron met senior ministers and local mayors on Thursday and said museums would also be in the first phase of reopening and creches and primary schools will reopen as planned on April 26. 

French Guiana is tightening its restrictions due to the spread of the variant first identified in Brazil. France's territory on the northern coast of South America will impose a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew during the week and a lockdown on Saturdays and Sundays.


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Toni Waterman in Brussels

Several Belgian mayors are throwing up their hands in defeat, saying they can no longer stop the hospitality sector from reopening its doors. Jean-Marie Dedecker, the mayor of one of Belgium's coastal towns, said restaurant and bar terraces will reopen on May 1, a week ahead of the government's schedule. 

In Liege, more than 50 cafes and restaurants say they are planning to also ignore the government's May 8 target. 

Earlier this week, the Consultative Committee said terraces can reopen on May 8 as long as 70 percent of people aged over 65 have been vaccinated and pressure on hospital ICU has "substantially improved." 

The sector has been mostly shuttered since October and pressure is mounting to fling open the doors as the summer season approaches.


Hundreds of people in Latvia queued up to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca's Vaxzevria vaccine on Friday after the government offered the jab to anyone who wanted it. /Reuters

Hundreds of people in Latvia queued up to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca's Vaxzevria vaccine on Friday after the government offered the jab to anyone who wanted it. /Reuters


Nicole Johnston in London

There are now at least 600 people in the UK with the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa. 

Surge testing is being carried out in north London, and it's expected the results will increase the number of people with the variant. 

The UK is racing to contain the spread of the strain amid fears it could derail the country's vaccination program.

Public Health England has also reported that the variant first identified in India, which has a double mutation, has also been detected in the UK.

The UK has identified several "variants of concern", including ones first detected in Kent (UK), South Africa and Brazil.


Trent Murray in Frankfurt

The latest data from Germany's Robert Koch Institute show there have been 25,831 new COVID-19 cases recorded. 

That's about the same level as this time last week, showing that the large jumps we have seen in recent days might be slowing down. 

But health experts say the case numbers are still far too high and could soon cause hospitals to be overwhelmed. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government continues to try to push a new pandemic law through parliament, which would enable her to impose a national lockdown. 

Health Minister Jens Spahn has told regional leaders they shouldn't wait to be forced to introduce such measures, pleading with them to do it on their own to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.




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