Covid-19 wrap: NZ lifts Auckland restrictions, England virus prevalence drops, Tokyo numbers rising

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Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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All coronavirus restrictions lifted from New Zealand's largest city

WELLINGTON – All remaining restrictions in New Zealand's largest city Auckland have been lifted after no locally transmitted cases of coronavirus were reported for two weeks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.

Ardern imposed a seven-day lockdown on the city of 1.7 million after a cluster of cases were detected domestically. The lockdown was eased earlier this month, but some restrictions were retained, including limits on large public gatherings under an alert level 2 setting.

Ardern said the city will now join the rest of the country in alert level 1, which has no restrictions on gatherings or activity.

"I know everyone in Auckland will be looking forward to a weekend with fewer restrictions," Ardern said at a news conference.

The country has had about 2 000 cases and 26 deaths linked to coronavirus so far.

 - REUTERS


Wales begins slow easing of Covid lockdown rules

LONDON – Wales will begin the slow relaxation of Covid lockdown rules on Saturday, allowing up to four people to meet outdoors and starting a return to school for most children, its government said on Friday.

Different parts of Britain set their own lockdown rules, and Wales with a population of just over 3 million has seen some of the toughest restrictions.

Most shops have been closed since 20 December and supermarkets are banned from selling clothes, toys, electrical goods and any other items that the Welsh government has deemed non-essential.

"We will make step-by-step changes each week to gradually restore freedoms," Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford said in a statement.

Curbs on meeting people outside will be the first to ease, with the public required to "stay local" rather than "stay at home". From Monday, school children aged up to 11, plus older pupils who would normally sit exams, will return to class.

Barbers and hairdressers will also be allowed to reopen for pre-booked appointments on Monday – a rare case of the Welsh government moving more rapidly than authorities in England, where it will not be possible to get a haircut before mid-April.

Welsh supermarkets will continue to be banned from selling non-essential items until 22 March and other shops will reopen on 12 April.

 - REUTERS


Italy to impose nationwide coronavirus lockdown over Easter weekend - draft decree

ROME – Italy will be placed under a nationwide lockdown for the Easter weekend, a draft law decree seen by Reuters said on Friday, as the government battles to stem a fresh surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations.

Non-essential shops will be shuttered nationwide from 3 April to 5 April. On those days, Italians will only be allowed to leave their homes for work, health or emergency reasons.

The draft decree also said that as of Monday, curbs will be tightened in the country's low-risk 'yellow' regions, where movement between towns will be severely limited and restaurants and bars will be closed.

 - REUTERS


Covid-19 prevalence in England falls to 1 in 270 people infected

LONDON – The prevalence of Covid-19 infections in England has fallen again, with 1 in 270 people infected in the week ending 6 March, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday.

That is down from 1 in 220 people estimated to have coronavirus in the previous week's ONS Infection Survey, a widely watched estimate of community prevalence of Covid-19 infections.

 - REUTERS


Tokyo area Covid numbers showing signs of rising, health minister says - Kyodo

TOKYO – Coronavirus cases in the Greater Tokyo area are showing signs of creeping up, Japanese Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said on Friday, according to Kyodo News, raising questions over whether a state of emergency could be lifted on schedule on 21 March.

Tamura said that decision would ultimately be made after hearing the views of experts, Tamura said at a news conference, Kyodo reported.

 - REUTERS


Palestinians receive 40 000 Covid-19 vaccines from UAE

GAZA – Palestinians received 40 000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine on Thursday, a donation by the United Arab Emirates that could boost a long-time rival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of an election.

Mohammad Dahlan, who fell out with Abbas and was dismissed from the president's Fatah party more than a decade ago, took credit for securing the shipment to Gaza from the UAE, where he lives in exile.

In a potential challenge to Abbas, Dahlan has announced plans to field a list of candidates he dubs "Fatah reformists" in a parliamentary election scheduled for May.

The vaccine shipment brought to 60 000 the number of Sputnik V doses that Dahlan has obtained for Palestinians since February, outpacing official Palestinian authorities.

Dahlan, in a statement, said the latest doses "aim to afford protection for our courageous medical teams and people with priority ... particularly the elderly and those suffering from certain (chronic) diseases".

He said half of the new shipment would be allocated to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Abbas's Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule.

 - REUTERS


Thailand delays AstraZeneca vaccine rollout

Bangkok – Thailand abruptly delayed its rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Friday, stopping Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha from getting the first jab as several European nations suspended their programmes over blood clot fears.

The kingdom was scheduled to start administering the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday, with Prayut expected to be filmed receiving the first injection.

But by 08:30 (01:30 GMT) the gruff former general was nowhere to be seen, the event was abruptly cancelled, and a press conference with health officials was called.

"Vaccine injection for Thais must be safe, we do not have to be in a hurry," Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, an adviser for the country's Covid-19 vaccine committee, told a press conference.

"Though the quality of AstraZeneca is good, some countries have asked for a delay. We will delay (as well)."

 - AFP


Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 12 834 - RKI

BERLIN – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 12 834 to 2 545 781, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday. The reported death toll rose by 252 to 73 062, the tally showed.

 - REUTERS


China reports 9 new Covid-19 cases vs 11 a day earlier

Mainland China reported nine new Covid-19 cases on 11 March, down from 11 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Friday.

All of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas, the National Health Commission said in a statement. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, stood at 10, matching the tally from a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 90 027, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4 636.

 - REUTERS


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