Coronavirus latest: Ireland stands firm on Easter church closures despite backlash

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France has put three more of its départements in the centre of the country into lockdowns from Friday midnight for the next month, as the third wave of the pandemic continues to rise and place hospitals in Paris and other areas under intense pressure. Olivier Véran, health minister, announced the enhanced restrictions for the Nièvre, Rhône and Aube départements at a news conference on Thursday. 

US President Joe Biden declared “hope is on the way” as he doubled his goal for coronavirus vaccinations to 200m within his first 100 days in office and trumpeted his $1.9tn fiscal stimulus deal for already delivering a stronger recovery.

Chile has implemented a strict new lockdown in the metropolitan area of Santiago, as the centre-right government of President Sebastian Pinera attempts to control a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the year. Daily new confirmed cases rose above 6,000 this week, almost doubling over the last month.

Florida will expand vaccine eligibility to every adult in less than two weeks, joining a growing list of states that have laid out plans to lift all age or occupational restrictions to getting the shot. Governor Ron DeSantis said that the state will first lower the age threshold to 40 on March 29. All Floridians who are 18 years old and up will become eligible on April 5.

New York City is readying to reopen Broadway in September more than a year after it closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The show must go on,” mayor Bill de Blasio said as he announced steps the city would take over the next month for an autumn comeback of Broadway, which accounts for nearly 100,000 jobs and has an economic impact of $15bn a year.

Air travellers entering Germany will be obliged to take a coronavirus test before they fly, according to new guidance issued by the country’s health ministry. The new rule will apply from Sunday morning and last until May 12, the ministry said.

The Netherlands has recorded the highest number of daily coronavirus infections since January as a third wave of the pandemic sweeps across much of continental Europe. Government figures on Thursday showed 7,740 new confirmed cases were reported in the 24 hour period, 137 more than the previous day.

UK companies have borrowed more than £75bn using government-backed Covid loan schemes, according to data released in the final week of the pandemic programme. About 1.6m companies, or more than a quarter of all small to medium-sized businesses in the UK, have now used pandemic loan support schemes.

Oxford university has begun advertising for participants in an early-stage trial to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine it jointly developed with AstraZeneca as a nasal spray, according to documents seen by the Financial Times. The phase 1 trial will involve about 30 healthy adults aged up to 40 and will study the safety of the formulation. It could begin as early as next week.

Ministers will give a provisional green light to the next stage of lockdown easing in England on Thursday in a sign that the vaccination programme is working. The latest figures show that 28.7m Britons have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, or 43 per cent of the population. The UK on Wednesday registered 98 daily deaths within 28 days of a positive test, from 323 on the same day a month ago.

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