The suspension of the Indian Premier League cricket is going to have knock-on effects in Australia, where there has already been vocal opposition to the government’s insistence that Australians cannot return home from the Covid-stricken country. More than 30 Australian cricket players, coaches and staff already in India are unable to fly home.
The travel ban runs until 15 May and – with the tournament originally slated to end on 30 May – Cricket Australia and the players’ union were hopeful those wishing to return home when the tournament concluded would be able to.
But today’s announcement to indefinitely suspend the tournament – with no clear plan on how and when to reschedule it – leaves the Australian group facing an uncertain and anxious wait for at least 11 days.
The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, dismissed claims made on Monday night by former Test cricketer Michael Slater that he had “blood on his hands” for banning citizens from returning home from India.
Read more here: Australian cricketers in limbo after IPL suspended
Indian Premier League cricket has been postponed with immediate effect
The Indian Premier League has been postponed with immediate effect. The competition has been carrying on against the backdrop of a public health emergency due to a huge coronavirus surge but with multiple reports of team bubbles being breached by positive cases, the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s governing council unanimously voted to suspend the action.
“The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect,” a statement on the official IPL website read. “The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and wellbeing of all the stakeholders in mind.
“These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times. The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021.”
UK minister Liz Truss has hinted that Britain is set to announce the green list for countries that people can travel to on holiday shortly.
The government has already said in mid-April it would announce which countries would be open for quarantine-free travel from England in early May, ahead of a plan to allow holidays again from 17 May at the earliest.
“I don’t think it will be much longer before we make those announcements,” Truss told Sky News. Sources have suggested to Reuters that the list could be published on Friday, after local and national elections are held in the UK on Thursday.
Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, Rita Marques, has been on the BBC Breakfast show talking up the prospects for holidays. PA report she said:
“We are really pushing hard to open up to third countries like the UK. The rules will be pretty much the same all over Europe. The Portuguese government is expecting what other governments are expecting, so basically you need to prove that you have a vaccine, or that you have an immunisation – so that you are immune to the virus since you have been in contact with it before – or that you have a negative test.
“That’s pretty much the rules. The rules will be quite simple. At our end, we are working to have an agile process, as simple as possible, in order to provide a seamless experience to everyone that would like to travel to Portugal.”
Truss, though had some words of caution, saying “People are looking to book a holiday but I would encourage people to wait until we make that announcement.”
Andrew Sparrow has launched our UK live blog for the day, which you can find here…
Hong Kong authorities have rowed back on plans to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for foreign domestic workers, after human rights groups slammed the policy as being discriminatory.
After a domestic worker from the Philippines was found to have a more contagious variant of the coronavirus last week, authorities said all 370,000 foreign domestic workers in the city would have to get tested before 9 May.
Domestic workers would also need to get vaccinated before renewing their employment contracts, authorities said.
But Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said the vaccine policy was being suspended after a backlash from workers’ groups who said they were being unfairly singled out, and a Philippine government official criticised the move.
“I have asked the secretary for labour to review the whole policy, and to consult advisers and consulates for the countries where domestic workers primarily come from as to whether compulsory vaccinations can be done,” Lam said, report Reuters.
There has been precious little news out of North Korea about the state of coronavirus pandemic in the country, but Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters that state media warned this morning of the prospect of a lengthy battle against Covid, saying vaccines developed by global drugmakers were proving to be “no universal panacea”.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party, said the pandemic was only worsening, despite the development of vaccines.
“Novel coronavirus vaccines introduced competitively by various countries were once regarded as a glimmer of hope for humanity that could end the fight against this frightening disease,” it added.
“But the situations in many countries are clearly proving that the vaccines are never a universal panacea,” it said, citing news reports of rising numbers of new cases overseas and safety concerns.
It urged people to brace for a protracted pandemic, describing it as an “inevitable reality”
North Korea was expected to receive nearly two million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine by the first half of this year, via the Covax sharing programme.
Professor Stephen Reicher, from the University of St Andrews and a member of the Sage sub-committee advising on behavioural science, has told BBC Breakfast this morning that the public should take prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that social distancing could be scrapped in June with a pinch of salt. You are welcome to insert your own punchline about the prime minister’s reputation for honesty there.
Reicher said: “I think we should take this with a little bit of a pinch of salt. Remember, he said it in the middle of an electioneering visit to the North of England, and clearly he wants to tell a good news story… He immediately qualified it by saying it depends on the data and how many infections there are and the state of things on 21 June, nearly two months away.
“Now, if a week is a long time in politics, two months is an eternity in a pandemic. Remember, two months ago in India they were declaring the pandemic was all over, now they’re having 400,000 cases a day.
PA report him saying that “if we believe there is no risk at all, if we start mixing without restraint, then we’re going to be in real trouble. And, as the World Health Organisation put it very clearly, one of the biggest things is complacency, so I think we need to be optimistic, but vigilant as well.”
Nepal makes appeal for more AstraZeneca doses to fulfil vaccination programme
Nepal urgently needs at least 1.6m AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine doses to administer second shots as the Himalayan country is recording a surge in new coronavirus cases.
“People who have already got the first dose will be in difficulty if they don’t receive their second dose within the stipulated time,” said Samir Adhikari, a senior official of the ministry of health and population.
Gopal Sharma reports for Reuters from Kathmandu that on Monday, prime minister KP Sharma Oli urged foreign donors to supply vaccines and critical care medicines to prevent a collapse of the small country’s health infrastructure.
Nepal has already vaccinated more than 2 million people with the AstraZeneca vaccine provided by India and China’s Sinopharm. But authorities were forced to suspend the vaccination programme last month after the country failed to secure fresh dispatches of vaccine from India and China.
“I would like to request our neighbours, friendly countries and international organisations to help us with vaccines and critical care medicines … to support ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic,” Oli said in a televised address.
Oli said officials were in contact China and Russia and other manufacturers to urgently secure vaccines. Oli, who has been criticised for doing little to contain the pandemic, said vaccines and critical care medicines were “global goods” and that every one should have access.
On Monday, Nepal’s Covid-19 cases increased by 7,388 and deaths by 37, the highest daily spike since the pandemic started. Nepal has recorded a total of 343,418 cases and 3,362 deaths, according to official data.
Denmark to lift a range of Covid restrictions from 6 May
Denmark will allow elementary schools to fully reopen and a range of indoor activities to resume this week, the health ministry has said.
Indoor activities that can resume include theatres, concert venues, cinemas, indoor sports facilities and gyms, with some sites operating a cap on the maximum number of attendees.
Entrance to the reopened facilities will be dependent on showing a “corona passport”, which shows that holders have either been vaccinated, previously infected or have had a negative test in the past 72 hours.
The changes will take effect on 6 May, reports Tim Barsoe for Reuters
On the other side of the world from London, Katharine Murphy writes for us this morning on the controversy that Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has got himself into with the decision to prevent Australians returning home from India:
Serious illness and death are obvious potential consequences of Australia’s decision to “pause” returns from India, because India is currently in the grip of a humanitarian disaster. The country’s health system is collapsing under the weight of runaway Covid-19 infections.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the governments of Australia and the governments of the world to make very tough decisions. That’s what catastrophes do. But we all need to be very clear about the potential consequences of this decision for our fellow citizens who can’t get home.
We need to understand that people who had been given permission to travel to India by the Australian government are now being left by the same government to fend for themselves until authorities can clear a backlog of Covid cases currently in Australian quarantine. Former Test cricketer Michael Slater articulated this point economically with his pointed contribution on social media, noting he had “government permission” to work on the Indian Premier League “but now I have government neglect”.
Government permission to travel isn’t a warranty during a pandemic. People are ultimately responsible for the calculated risks they take.
But being abandoned by their government has evidently come as a profound shock not only to Slater – a citizen with resources and certain advantages – but also to less privileged Australians who scrambled to India to nurse their dying parents or deal with other family emergencies that they felt could not be deferred. Presumably they imagined Australian citizenship conferred certain protections.
Covid patients in hospital in London fall to seven-month low
Nicholas Cecil over at London’s Evening Standard has an analysis of the latest borough-by-borough figures for the UK’s capital city, suggesting that Covid-19 cases there have tumbled by more than 98% since the second wave peak.
He writes that the figures “also show that the number of coronavirus patients in the capital’s hospitals has fallen to a seven-month low. Just over one person is dying on average a day in the city, within 28 days of testing positive for Covid, according to the latest data.”
Not surprisingly, he also uses the figures to highlight a growing argument from lockdown-sceptics that England is lifting Covid restrictions too slowly, saying:
The figures reveal how Londoners have succeeded in combating the virus and will also raise fresh questions over whether the government is risking wasting the “vaccine dividend”, gained by the world-leading rollout of jabs, by being too cautious in lifting restrictions.
I should add the caveat here that while the UK’s vaccination programme from the NHS has been impressive, it is neither “world-leading” in terms of the proportion of the population vaccinated (that is Israel) or the sheer number of doses delivered (vaccination programmes in the US and China have already surpassed the UK’s effort).
One of the much-heralded events in British politics in recent weeks was the plan for prime minister Boris Johnson to head to India to announce new trade links, which were very much seen as a showpiece for the Brexit vision of “global Britain” doing trade with the Commonwealth. The Covid crisis in India has put paid to that visit – instead Johnson and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi will meet virtually today. You can imagine the latter might be somewhat preoccupied.
On Sky News this morning, Britain’s international trade minister Liz Truss has been out talking up the prospects for a deal, and PA Media reports her response when being questioned about what more the UK could do to assist India.
“It’s a heart-breaking situation in India and my heart goes out to the people of India and the severe problems they’re facing,” she said.
“The UK has already sent 600 pieces of equipment out, we’re sending oxygen out and we’ve got another shipment going out this week as well, and we’re working very, very closely with partners across the world to make sure India has the supplies it needs.
“And of course India was of huge help to the UK last year, making sure we had the paracetamol we need, they’re a close ally of the UK and we … really are working hard to make sure that we can help as much as possible.”
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