a group of people that are standing in the dark: Golfers use neon coloured balls whilst under floodlights at Morley Hayes Golf centre - PA


© PA
Golfers use neon coloured balls whilst under floodlights at Morley Hayes Golf centre – PA

Golfers have already begun to enjoy the relaxing of restrictions as England enters the second phase of its lockdown easing today thanks to a successful vaccination drive.

After schools reopened on Mar 8, England’s stay-at-home order will be relaxed to enable outdoor gatherings of up to six people, or two households, in what newspapers are dubbing “Happy Monday”.

While elite sports such as Premier League football have continued during the latest lockdown – minus fans – the new rules allow amateur team sports to resume, along with tennis, golf, basketball and swimming outdoors.

Among the first to re-open its doors was the Morley Hayes Golf Club, near Derby, with players teeing off at 12.01am on Monday for a seven-hole floodlit charity tournament.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hoped that Monday “will kick-start a Great British summer of sport – with people of all ages reunited with teammates, and able to resume the activities they love”.

“But we must remain cautious, with cases rising across Europe and new variants threatening our vaccine rollout,” he added, urging the public to adhere to guidance on social distancing and hygiene.

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06:52 AM

Covid originated in bats and transmitted to humans through another animal, study says

A joint WHO-China study on the origins of Covid-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario.

It also states that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press.

06:33 AM

Minister hails ‘really big day for millions’

Minister for sport and tourism Nigel Huddleston said today was a “really big day, (for) millions of people across the UK are just dying to get back to the things that they love”.

He told Sky News: “They are taking the responsibilities, those opening up spaces, really seriously with Covid-secure measures and then the grassroots sport as well, it’s all within guidelines.

“So those who are running these events know what they need to do and they’re doing so very responsibly, so I’m very confident things will open safely.”

06:30 AM

David Lloyd gym chain boss says people want to get out and do ‘something different’

Glenn Earlam, chief executive of gym chain David Lloyd, which reopens 79 of its clubs in England today, said people were “just desperate to get out of their houses and go and do something different”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s the majority of the UK clubs and it’s the outdoor facilities, so it’s outdoor swimming pools, outdoor tennis and what we call group exercise which is if you want to do a spin class or yoga or anything like that.

“All of those facilities will be open, but in big marquees, so we’ll have big marquees outside the clubs in the grounds and the sides of those marquees will be open to let the air come through, but you’ll be covered in case it chucks it down with rain.”

He added: “No, we won’t be at full capacity, but social distancing will be fully in place, so for the group exercise, we’ll typically have 2.5 metres between the identified locations where people will stand or where the bikes will be, whatever it will be. In fact all of the safety protocols that we agreed with the Government last year are still in place.

“So we regard ourselves as even safer in all honesty, we were last time round, there was a very, very low level of incidents in our facilities and in our sector, and now hopefully vaccination will make it even safer.”

He added that “sadly we lost members overall” due to an average closure of eight-and-a-half months over the last year, but there was “a lot of pent-up demand” and March sales were “very strong”.

06:21 AM

Golfers tee off at 12.01am 

A group of golfers greeted the easing of England’s coronavirus restrictions by hitting the fairways at just after midnight.

Seven teams used glow-in-the-dark balls and floodlit greens at the Morley Hayes Golf Club, near Derby, teeing off on the first at 12.01am.



Golfers use neon coloured balls whilst under floodlights at Morley Hayes Golf centre in Ilkeston, Derbyshire - Jacob King/PA


© Jacob King/PA
Golfers use neon coloured balls whilst under floodlights at Morley Hayes Golf centre in Ilkeston, Derbyshire – Jacob King/PA

Golf is among the outdoor activities which can now take place in England, with courses allowed to reopen along with football and cricket pitches, tennis and basketball courts, and outdoor swimming pools.

The seven-hole tournament was held to raise funds for the Nottingham Breast Cancer Research Centre.

Andrew Allsop, managing director of Morley Hayes Golf Club, said the idea for the nocturnal tee-off was made “on a whim”.

06:14 AM

Watch: Boris Johnson welcomes return of outdoor sports

Here’s what the Prime Minister had to say on “Freedom Monday”.

05:33 AM

The high street that’s gone from doom to boom

When lockdown hit in March last year, Emily Hoar, like many shopkeepers forced to shut their doors, thought she might have to close for good.

She’d opened Les Fleurs in Halstead, Essex, the year before – aged just 22 – with a start-up loan and had enjoyed a solid first year of trading. But now everything looked perilous.

As a florist, she was classed as a non-essential retailer; to make matters worse her supplier had closed amid the chaos.

“I was incredibly worried. I was crying for hours at a time every day. I’m pretty anxious at the best of times, and this just made everything worse,” she says recalling the dark days of March and April 2020. “I had taken on a lot of debt to open the shop and I was thinking I might have to apply for bankruptcy at the age of 23.”

One year on, however, and she is remarkably upbeat not just about her business but about the state of the high street.

Read the full story

05:19 AM

Tackling obesity is Government’s ‘top priority’ in pandemic recovery

Tackling obesity has been designated the country’s “top priority” in efforts to recover from the pandemic. 

Amid warnings that 80 per cent of health outcomes are caused by unhealthy lifestyles, Boris Johnson will today announce the creation of a new Office for Health Promotion (OHP), as part of efforts to boost activity levels and slim down waistlines.

Britain’s covid death toll has been fuelled by its obesity epidemic, with two in three adults overweight or obese. 

The new organisation, launched this week, has been given a remit to “tackle the causes, not just the symptoms” of ill health.

Read the full story

04:40 AM

Abu Dhabi plant to manufacture vaccine from China’s Sinopharm

A new pharmaceutical plant in Abu Dhabi will start making a Covid-19 vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm later this year under a joint venture between Sinopharm and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42.

The vaccine will be called Hayat-Vax when manufactured in the United Arab Emirates, but is the same BiBP inactivated vaccine that has been administered in the UAE since it was approved by authorities in Decemeber.

03:52 AM

Japan’s vaccine czar says inoculation pace to accelerate in May

 Japan’s vaccine minister, Taro Kono, said on Monday that the pace of inoculation in the country would accelerate in May, with 10 million doses expected to be imported every week that month.

“Starting in May, there will be no bottleneck in supply,” Kono told Reuters in an interview. Officially the minister in charge of administrative reform, Kono was tapped in January to lead Japan’s Covid-19 vaccination push.

Japan started its vaccination campaign last month, later than most major economies and dependent on imported doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. Shots developed by AstraZeneca and Moderna are awaiting regulatory approval in Japan.

Through Friday, just over 780,000 people in Japan, mostly healthcare workers, have received at least one vaccine dose. 



a group of people standing in front of a large crowd of people: Visitors wearing protective face masks walk underneath blooming cherry blossoms at Ueno Park in Tokyo - Reuters


© Reuters
Visitors wearing protective face masks walk underneath blooming cherry blossoms at Ueno Park in Tokyo – Reuters

03:28 AM

Parts of the Philippines back in lockdown

Philippine officials placed Metropolitan Manila and four outlying provinces, a region of more than 25 million people, back to a lockdown on Monday at the height of the Lenten and Easter holiday travel season as they scrambled to control an alarming surge in coronavirus infections.

Only workers, government security and health personnel and residents on urgent errands would be allowed out of homes during the weeklong restrictions, which prohibited leisure trips and religious gatherings that forced the dominant Roman Catholic church to shift all its Holy Week and Easter activities online.

The renewed lockdown brought President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration under fire for what critics say was its failed handling of the pandemic.

A curfew in the capital region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal was also expanded to 11 hours starting at 6pm.



a group of people sitting at a table: Police officers apprehend curfew violators at a quarantine checkpoint as a strict quarantine is reimposed in Manila and surrounding provinces - Getty


© Getty
Police officers apprehend curfew violators at a quarantine checkpoint as a strict quarantine is reimposed in Manila and surrounding provinces – Getty

02:48 AM

Mexico says deaths likely 60{540ccc4681f92a8237c705b0cdebbb9da373ec200da159e6cc1fd9f393be00be} higher than confirmed toll

Mexico’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is likely at least 60 per cent higher than the confirmed number, putting it in excess of 300,000, according to government data.

Updated figures on excess mortality in a table published by Mexico’s Health Ministry showed that by the end of the sixth week of this year, 294,287 fatalities “associated with Covid-19” had been registered on death certificates in Mexico.

That was 61.4 per cent higher than the confirmed death toll of 182,301 given as a comparison in the same table.

That figure did not coincide precisely with a specific day from the Health Ministry’s daily bulletins, but more than 25,000 Covid-19-related deaths have been reported since mid-February. As of Sunday, the ministry’s confirmed toll stood at 201,623.

Relatively low testing rates in Mexico mean that many fatalities are not confirmed, but they may still appear in death certificates as suspected cases, experts say.



Aerial view of graves at a special area designated for Covid-19 victims, at the Municipal Pantheon of Valle de Chalco, State of Mexico - AFP


© AFP
Aerial view of graves at a special area designated for Covid-19 victims, at the Municipal Pantheon of Valle de Chalco, State of Mexico – AFP

02:09 AM

Venezuela’s president proposes paying for vaccines with oil

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday proposed paying for vaccines with oil, though he provided few details about how such a scheme would work.

The crisis-stricken OPEC nation’s crude exports have plummeted to their lowest levels in decades since Washington sanctioned state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela in 2019, cutting off Venezuela’s exports to the United States and dissuading many other customers from buying Venezuelan oil as well.

Mr Maduro said Venezuela was working to pay for vaccines from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) COVAX mechanism – which provides vaccine access to poor countries – both through Venezuelan funds frozen in overseas accounts due to sanctions, and through oil shipments.

“Venezuela has the oil vessels and has the customers who will buy our oil,” Mr Maduro said in a state television address. “We are ready and prepared for oil for vaccines, but we will not beg anyone.”



a person standing on a sidewalk: A health worker rolls in an oxygen tank at the Ana Francisca Perez de Leon II public Hospital in Caracas, Venezuela - AP


© AP
A health worker rolls in an oxygen tank at the Ana Francisca Perez de Leon II public Hospital in Caracas, Venezuela – AP

02:05 AM

Australian city in lockdown after UK strain detected

More than two million people in Brisbane were ordered into a three-day lockdown Monday after a cluster of coronavirus cases was detected in Australia’s third-biggest city.

It is the second snap lockdown of Brisbane and the city’s surrounds this year, coming after seven people tested positive for Covid-19 – the first significant community outbreak in Australia in weeks.

“This is the UK strain. It is highly infectious. Now we need to do this now to avoid a longer lockdown,” Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. “We’ve seen what’s happened in other countries. I don’t want to see that happen to Queensland, I don’t want to see that happen to Australia.”

01:56 AM

Infections down 62{540ccc4681f92a8237c705b0cdebbb9da373ec200da159e6cc1fd9f393be00be} in care home residents 5 weeks after first jab 

Coronavirus infections in care home residents fell by 62 per cent from five weeks after they received their first vaccine dose, Government-funded research has found.

Residents in England who were infected after having the vaccine may also be less likely to transmit the virus, according to initial findings from the Vivaldi study.

The study, led by researchers from University College London, examined data on 10,412 elderly care home residents from 310 care homes between December and mid-March.

They looked at the number of infections confirmed with PCR tests within specific time periods after vaccination and compared this to the number of infections that occurred before vaccination.

They calculated the risk of infection was 56 per cent lower from four weeks after a single dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and 62 per cent lower after five weeks.

01:52 AM

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