April 29 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, James Griffiths, Kara Fox and Niamh Kennedy, CNN

Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT) April 30, 2021
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11:51 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

France announces a 4-step process to lift lockdown

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

Lewis Joly/AP
Lewis Joly/AP

France will see a progressive lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in four steps starting Monday until June 30, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview released today.

Here's a look at the steps:

  • Monday will mark the end of certificates required for movement, as well as the end of domestic travel restrictions. 
  • Starting on May 19 curfews will start at 9 p.m local time (as opposed to 7 p.m. currently) and shops, terraces and museums, cinemas and theaters will reopen with limited capacity. 
  • On June 9, curfews pushed further to 11 p.m local time. There will also be a return to offices, and cafes, restaurants and gyms can reopen. Subject to a “health pass,” sports and cultural events of up to 5,000 attendees will be allowed. Tourists will be allowed to return, also subject to a “health pass.”
  • The fourth and last step, on June 30, would see the end of curfews, but nightclubs would remain closed.

The progressive easing of restrictions is contingent on the situation in each department, which are administrative regions in France.

“I have good hope that the entire France will be able to get to the stage of May 19th. These are nation-wide measures, but we’ll be able to pull sanitary “urgent brakes” in places where the virus circulation would be too high,” Macron said in the interview, which took place with France’s regional press on Wednesday.

France went into a national lockdown again on April 3 due to a sharp increase in coronavirus cases. The nationwide nightly curfew, which came into effect on Jan. 16, currently runs from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time.

10:09 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

EU's Covid-19 certificates must facilitate free movement without discrimination, parliament says

From Sharon Braithwaite and Lindsay Isaac in London

The European Union’s much awaited “Covid-19 certificate” must "facilitate free movement without discrimination." 

The EU made the announcement in a press release published Thursday by the European Parliament.  

"The document, which may be in digital or paper format, will attest that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus or, alternatively, that they have a recent negative test result or have recovered from the infection. However, EU Covid-19 certificates will neither serve as a travel document nor become a precondition to exercise the right to free movement," EU lawmakers said in the press release

The certificates were initially slated to be called “Digital Green Certificates” and recommended for use only by EU citizens traveling within the EU. 

The EU has already launched discussions with the United States regarding the possibility of granting certificates to vaccinated US citizens according to EU spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz. 

Under the legislative proposal approved Thursday, holders of an EU Covid-19 certificate “should not be subject to additional travel restrictions, such as quarantine, self-isolation or testing."

The proposal only applies to EU nationals who may use the certificates “for 12 months and not longer.”  

Members of the European Parliament added that in order to avoid discrimination against those not vaccinated and for economic reasons, EU countries should “ensure universal, accessible, timely and free of charge testing."

The EU Parliament and the EU Council will now begin negotiations, with the aim to reach an agreement ahead of the summer tourist season.  

9:27 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

Indian government says it has more than 12 million Covid-19 vaccines, rebutting shortage reports

From CNN’s Swati Gupta in Delhi

People wait to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, April 29.
People wait to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, April 29. Rajanish Kakade/AP

The Indian Health Ministry announced Thursday that more than 10 million Covid-19 vaccines – both AstraZeneca and Covaxin — are currently in storage with states across India, and 2 million more will be distributed within the next three days. 

In a rebuttal to statements on severe vaccine shortages in multiple cities and districts across India, the health ministry released data detailing the free vaccine supply to different states in the coming days. 

On Thursday, the Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain told local reporters that the national capital did not have any vaccines left and had issued a request for more. 

According to the health ministry, Delhi has received 3.8 million vaccines to date, and has more than 500,000 doses in storage. 

Maharashtra state has also issued an appeal for more vaccines. 

"Because of the unavailability (of vaccines) from the central government, we are unable to cater to the needs of every center here," Maharashtra state health minister Rajesh Tope told CNN Wednesday. 

The Indian government has supplied a total of 161 million vaccines across the country.

8:52 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

New York City mayor says he plans to "fully reopen" the city on July 1

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at an event in New York City on April 28.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at an event in New York City on April 28. Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he plans to “fully reopen” the city on July 1.

“We are ready for stores to open for businesses to open, offices, theaters, full strength," he said on MSNBC Thursday.

When asked if that even included indoor dining, de Blasio said “based on all the progress that we’ve made in this city, we can go back to full strength.”

Asked if Broadway would be ready to go by July 1 he said it “takes time because they have to mount a whole production.” While most of Broadway is aiming for September he notes “some of the smaller shows might be able to come in earlier.”

And when pressed on whether or not the New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo could intervene and stop what the mayor intends regarding full opening, de Blasio said that federal and state governments “always have a say."

“I’m saying as leader of NYC we’re ready to come back and come back strong," he said. “We know the vaccination effort is going to grow and grow, we got to keep working hard at that but what’s amazing is every single day we’re beating back Covid more and more.”

He also said now that vaccination sites are accepting individuals without an appointment, he adds “walk in reality is changing everything.” 

“We do have work to do, I want to emphasize,” he continued. “Anyone who likes what I’m saying, help us out by going out and getting vaccinated if you haven’t already,” he said.

8:49 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

Leader of India’s Rajasthan state tests positive for Covid-19

From Swati Gupta and Manveena Suri in New Delhi

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is pictured addressing the media in Jaipur, India, on February 24.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is pictured addressing the media in Jaipur, India, on February 24. Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

The chief minister of India’s northwestern Rajasthan state, Ashok Gehlot, tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday.

"After getting tested, today my report came back positive. I am asymptomatic and am feeling well. Following the Covid protocol, I will work while I am in isolation," Gehlot wrote on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Gehlot first said on Twitter that his wife, Sunita Gehlot had tested positive.

With an estimated population of 68,548,437, Rajasthan is the seventh most populous state in India, and home to the Jaipur, also called the "Pink City."

The state recorded 8,190 coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to the Indian Department of Health, increasing its total number of active cases to 163,372. 

120 deaths were also reported in Rajasthan, according to the health department, adding to the state's death toll of 3,926 people.

Gehlot is the latest in a string of high profile Indian political figures to test positive for the virus. 

One of the most notable politicians to recently contract Covid-19 was former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who led the country from 2004 to 2014. 

A spokesperson for Singh’s party said on Twitter on April 19 that the former leader had been admitted to hospital for Covid-19 treatment.

The chief ministers for the states of Kerala and Tripura also tested positive in April.

8:47 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

Air India to reintroduce near pre-pandemic frequency of direct flights to US

From Pavni Mittal in New Delhi

An Air India passenger flight prepares to land at Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar, India, on February 16.
An Air India passenger flight prepares to land at Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar, India, on February 16. Stringer/NurPhoto/Getty Images

India’s national airline, Air India, is planning to reintroduce near pre-pandemic frequency of direct flights to the US in the first half of May -- in spite of the country's surging coronavirus cases.  

An Air India spokesperson told CNN that the airline is planning to operate 32 direct flights to the US per week from May 11. Before the pandemic, Air India operated 33 flights per week.

The airline is currently operating 29 flights per week to the US, and will be gradually adding flights to their schedule starting Thursday.

When asked if the re-introduction of additional direct flights to the US was fueled by demand following the latest surge in Covid-19 cases in India, the Air India spokesperson said:
“Our non-stop flights on the India-USA-India sector have always been very popular. Any surge in interest for seats on our flights to the USA, can be attributed to various factors.”

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that India accounted for 38% of global coronavirus cases recorded in the week leading up to April 25.

According to guidance posted on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, “All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative Covid-19 viral test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from Covid-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States."

Meanwhile, a number of countries including the UK, France, Italy and Canada have placed either quarantine restrictions or an outright ban on travel from India.

8:17 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

UK says it doesn't have excess Covid-19 vaccine doses to send to India, but is providing them at cost

By CNN's Amy Cassidy, Sarah Dean, Zahid Mahmood, Florence Davey-Attlee, Richard Greene and Niamh Kennedy

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a virtual press conference at Downing Street in London, on Wednesday, April 28.
Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a virtual press conference at Downing Street in London, on Wednesday, April 28. Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

The British health minister has said that the UK does not currently have any excess doses to send to India -- currently home to the world's worst coronavirus outbreak -- despite the country's ongoing vaccination rollout that has successfully vaccinated its priority groups and is now targeting younger ages.

In spite of mounting calls for rich nations to equitably distribute their surplus vaccines, Hancock said that they are providing India with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at cost and are also working closely with the Serum Institute of India (SII).

The SII “are making and producing more doses of vaccine than any other single organization. And obviously that means that they can provide vaccine to people in India at cost,” Hancock said.

“We're leaning in, both on what we can provide and the material goods we can provide now like ventilators that we thankfully don't need any more here,” he said.

“India can produce its own vaccine, based on British technology, that is… the biggest contribution that we can make which effectively comes from British science,” Hancock added.

India is in throes of a deadly second wave of the coronavirus which has seen cases surge above 300,000 for eight consecutive days, and a death toll that has surpassed 200,000 -- after the country reported 3,293 deaths on Wednesday.

Hancock's comments on vaccine exports come as a recent Ipsos MORI survey found that many people in the UK are keen to send vaccines to India.

The survey, which polled 1,016 adults aged 16-75 on Tuesday, found:

  • Around two-thirds (63%) surveyed said they support the UK giving some of its vaccines to India when everyone in the UK has been vaccinated
  • 43% of respondents supported sending vaccines to India “as soon as possible” even if it meant relaxing UK lockdown restrictions at a slower pace. 
  • 36% of respondents said they were in favor of sending vaccines “as soon as possible” even if it delayed the UK’s vaccine rollout -- or resulted in a longer wait time for vaccines for their friends and family. 

Over 33.9 million people in the UK have already received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with over 13.5 million now fully vaccinated, according to the latest government data.

On Wednesday, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced that said it will be sending three “oxygen factories” to India, saying in a statement that the three oxygen generation units – each the size of a shipping container - would be sent from surplus stock from Northern Ireland and would produce 500 litres of oxygen per minute each, which is enough for 50 people to use at a time.

The UK had already committed to providing India with 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators sent from surplus stock, the first batch of which arrived in India on Tuesday, the FCO statement said.

“International collaboration is more essential than ever, and this additional UK support package will help meet India’s current needs, particularly for more oxygen,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

The FCO statement comes as the aid sector has heavily criticized the UK's plan to cut 85% of the aid it has pledged to the United Nations’ family planning program.

A top UN official on Wednesday called the move "devastating for women and girls and their families across the world."

"When funding stops, women and girls suffer, especially the poor, those living in remote, underserved communities and those living through humanitarian crises," Natalia Kanem – head of the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, said Wednesday in a statement.

This means that the UK's expected contribution of £154 million (approximately US $211 million) will be reduced to around £23 million (US$32 million).

Speaking about the cuts, Raab said it was part of the Foreign Office’s efforts to ensure “maximum strategic coherence, impact and value for taxpayers’ money.”

Last year, the UK also garnered criticism from the humanitarian sector when it reduced its aid spending from 0.7% of the national income to 0.5%. 

8:29 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

Turkey prepares for a national lockdown, beginning Thursday evening

From CNN's Gul Tuysuz in Ayvalik

Vegetable seller Hakan Keskin, 40, is pictured at the farmers market in Ayvalik, Turkey. “This is our last chance before 3 hard weeks ahead. It’s going to be difficult our vegetables are going to get old and we won’t be making any money. It’s going to be hard days ahead for us.”
Vegetable seller Hakan Keskin, 40, is pictured at the farmers market in Ayvalik, Turkey. “This is our last chance before 3 hard weeks ahead. It’s going to be difficult our vegetables are going to get old and we won’t be making any money. It’s going to be hard days ahead for us.” Gul Tuysuz/CNN

Turkey is bracing itself for its first national coronavirus lockdown as infection rates continue to climb in the country, now the highest in Europe.

The lockdown will begin on Thursday at 7 p.m. local time and will last through the remainder of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and over the Eid al Fitr holiday. It is scheduled to end at 5 a.m. local time on May 17, according to a statement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

On Thursday, streets across the country's main cities were packed with people preparing for the restrictions, with traffic accidents and queues of traffic reported across the country's main Anatolian Highway.

In the seaside town of Ayvalik on Thursday, the streets were thronged with shoppers stocking up on essentials before the three-week lockdown kicks into effect.

Hakan Keskin, a vegetable seller at the farmers' market in Ayavilik told CNN that "there are more people at the market today and they are buying more of everything." He added Thursday was the "last chance" for vendors such as himself to sell before the "3 hard weeks ahead."

"It's going to be difficult, our vegetables are going to get old and we won't be making any money," he said.

It's going to be hard days ahead for us."

Leyla Ilmen, who was shopping at the farmers' market, told CNN that there were "more people than usual" and that "everything is more expensive."

Turkey initially responded to a surge in Covid-19 infections back in early April -- when the country recorded its highest daily cases and deaths with more than 60,000 daily new cases -- by tightening some Covid-19 restrictions. But on Monday, the government took that step further by announcing the national lockdown.

On Wednesday, Turkey recorded 40.444 new Covid-19 cases and 341 deaths, according to the Turkish Health Ministry Covid-19 online dashboard. 

The lockdown comes as the country faces expected delays in its vaccine rollout, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

To counter any delays in the campaign over the next two months, Koca said that the government had consequently decided to space out the two doses for the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.

The doses will be now be administered 6 to 8 weeks apart instead of the current interval of 28 days, the health minister said.  

Koca added that there is also concern around the import of one of the variants first identified in India, known as B1.617.

"We identified 5 cases of the Indian variant in Istanbul. Those cases have been isolated and are under observation" Koca said.

Meanwhile, the highly transmissive UK variant, known as B.1.1.7, continues to be the most prevalent in Turkey, he said.

7:45 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

Washington Post columnist speaks to CNN about losing a parent in India to Covid-19

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

Washington Post columnist and Mojo Story editor Barkha Dutt who recently lost her father to Covid-19, recounted to CNN's Kim Brunhuber how a faulty oxygen cylinder resulted in her father’s unfortunate death. 

Despite being “a journalist who knows doctors” and one who can “pay for the best private medical treatment,” Dutt said she was unable to overcome the obstacles posed by India’s collapsing healthcare system. 

In spite of her own personal loss, Dutt said that she felt she had a “duty” to shed light on the plight of “the orphans of the Indian state.”

In a moving interview, Dutt asks who will be held accountable for the “thousands that are dying," many of whom remain uncounted.

Watch the interview here: