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Coronavirus live news: US Covid death toll passes 500,000; hospitalisations rise in France

Gerard Meagher

Gerard Meagher

The Six Nations organisers will make a call on whether to postpone France’s match against Scotland on Wednesday after the number of Covid-19 cases in the French squad hit double figures on Monday.

France remain hopeful that Sunday’s match will go ahead despite six positive tests on Monday, including the captain, Charles Ollivon, taking the total number of players infected to 11 and plunging the fixture into serious doubt. The head coach, Fabien Galthié, and three members of his staff have also tested positive.

The Six Nations’ contingency plan would most likely be to move the fixture back a week to the championship’s second fallow weekend but that could cause problems over player release.

Scotland would need to reach an agreement with the English Premiership clubs to ensure access to a number of players, including their captain, Stuart Hogg, as well as Racing 92 for the release of the , Finn Russell.

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US president Joe Biden called on Americans to observe a moment of silence on Monday to commemorate the grim milestone of 500,000 US deaths from Covid-19.

Biden, vice president Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff were scheduled to hold a moment of silence on Monday evening after the president’s remarks.

“I ask all Americans to join us as we remember the more than 500,000 of our fellow Americans lost to Covid-19 and to observe a moment of silence at sunset,” Biden said in a proclamation.

Biden also ordered all flags on federal properties and military facilities be lowered to half-staff for the next five day, Reuters reports.

Brazil recorded 26,986 additional confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, along with 639 deaths, the health ministry said on Monday.

Brazil has registered more than 10 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, Reuters reports.

The official death toll has risen to 247,143, according to ministry data.

Public Anzac Day events will be held in Queensland, Australia this year, after being cancelled in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says dawn services, marches and public commemorations will return on April 25

She said in a statement:

In times of strife, Queenslanders do what it takes to protect each other.

We’ve done it in wartime, and we’re doing it now through the global pandemic.

Because we’ve worked together to keep safe, this year we can safely gather to mark the sacrifices of those who have served.

Last year, public Anzac Day events were cancelled across the state due to the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Instead, thousands of Queenslanders marked the day by standing in their driveways at dawn and other private commemorations.

Amanda Holpuch

Amanda Holpuch

The pandemic has thrown a harsh spotlight on the US ability to cope with such a disaster, especially during the tumultuous tenure of Donald Trump, whose administration botched the government response.

After a devastating winter surge in cases, for the first time in months, the average number of daily new coronavirus cases in the US fell below 100,000 on 12 February. Even with the decrease in cases, the US is still experiencing 1,500 to 3,500 deaths per day and public health officials have warned recent progress could easily reverse.

Perhaps the biggest threat is the new variants of the virus, which appear to spread more quickly and easily. Scientists are working to understand how these variants could change the effectiveness of vaccines as the US attempts to ramp up the scale of its inoculation distribution.

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US death toll passes 500,000

More than half a million people have died of Covid-19 in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The country had recorded more than 28 million cases and 500,071 lives have been lost as of Monday afternoon.

More people have died in the US due to Covid-19 than any other country in the world.

With 4% of the world’s population, the US has 20% of all deaths and one of the highest rates of deaths per 100,000 residents, exceeded by only a few countries including the UK, Belgium and Italy.

US president Joe Biden will be marking this latest tragic milestone on Monday night, with a candlelit commemoration and moment of silence for the 500,000 who have lost their lives.

On Sunday the country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci said that “decades from now” people would be “talking about this a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country.

“To have these many people to have died from a respiratory born infection, it really is a terrible situation that we’ve been through and that we’re still going through.”

Daily deaths and hospitalisations have fallen to the lowest level since before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Portugal is aiming to have 70% of its population vaccinated by some point over summer, health minister Marta Temido said.

Temido’s comments at a news conference came with the number of new cases in the country markedly declining after having suffered the world’s worst rate of infection in January, AFP reports.

So far, some 294,000 people have received a first vaccine dose and 106,000 have been administered two doses.

National vaccine programme coordinator Henrique Gouveia e Melo said herd immunity “should be achieved in August or early September” if “the forecasts on the availability of vaccines are confirmed.”

The vaccination programme should accelerate “from the second quarter to reach the rate of 100,000 vaccines per day” compared to the current average of 22,000, he said.

After weeks as the country with the greatest number of infections in relation to its population, Portugal recorded the strongest decline last week with a 51-percent drop in new cases to 2,100 per day.

Health authorities said the country, in lockdown since mid-January, had over 24 hours recorded 61 deaths from Covid-19 and 549 new cases, the lowest number of new infections since the beginning of October.

Angela Giuffrida

Italy allegedly misled the World Health Organization (WHO) on its readiness to face a pandemic less than three weeks before the country’s first locally transmitted coronavirus case was confirmed.

Each year, countries bound by the International Health Regulations (IHR) – an international treaty to combat the global spread of disease – are required to file a self-assessment report to the WHO on the status of their preparedness for a health emergency.

Italy undertook its last self-assessment report on 4 February 2020. In section C8 of the report, seen by the Guardian, where countries have to evaluate their overall readiness to respond to a public health emergency, the author marks Italy in level 5, the highest status of preparedness.

The category states that a country’s “health sector emergency response coordination mechanism and incident management system linked with a national emergency operation centre have been tested and updated regularly”.

However, it emerged last year that Italy had not updated its national pandemic plan since 2006, a factor that may have contributed to at least 10,000 Covid-19 deaths during the first wave and which is a key element in an investigation into alleged errors by authorities being carried out by prosecutors in Bergamo, the Lombardy province that was severely affected in the pandemic’s early stage.

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Sarah Boseley

Sarah Boseley

Real-world evidence from the Covid vaccination programmes in England and Scotland show that one dose of vaccine gives high protection against severe disease and admission to hospital – and protects against even mild disease with no symptoms in younger people.

The first real data from the mass vaccination programmes is promising, and although the results do not include evidence that they prevent transmission completely, there is data to show they are stopping some people becoming infected, which should slow the spread of coronavirus.

Three studies came to similarly positive conclusions about the protection offered by the vaccines – one in Scotland and two in England – although they were set up to look at the effects in different groups of people.

In England, the Siren study in healthcare workers under 65 found that one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine reduced the risk of catching the virus by 70% – and 85% after the second dose. The healthcare workers were all tested for the virus every two weeks, so the study picked up asymptomatic infections as well as those who had symptoms.

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