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COVID-19: India’s vaccine rollout-for-all stumbles before it starts amid record case numbers | World News

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India is still hitting yet more staggering new global highs for daily coronavirus cases as its vaccine rollout-for-all stuttered and stumbled even before it got properly off the ground.

Most states and many hospitals around the country reported being forced to postpone the programme for days, maybe longer as stocks failed to make it to the vaccination centres charged with inoculating everyone 18 years and older.

The citizens of India were left reeling, not for the first time, over how the world’s biggest manufacturer of vaccines has been left without enough for its own population.

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An out of stock sign at an Indian vaccine centre
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An out of stock sign at an Indian vaccine centre

We watched as people lined up, some dressed in hazmat suits, to make sure they got their vaccinations from the few centres in Delhi which had managed to procure the vaccine.

The centre we were at didn’t want to disclose exactly how many vaccines it had but a nurse told me they’d vaccinated 600 people the day before.

In a country of more than a billion, they have a long way to go yet if they’re to halt or even slow the rise in infections.

One woman told us: “I’m not sure India should have given so many vaccines away before vaccinating its own population.”

The government’s own data showed it had sent nearly 70 million doses overseas since January – enough to easily vaccinate the entire populations of Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta.

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A long queue outside a vaccine centre in India
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A long queue outside a vaccine centre in India

The country famously sent out vaccine stocks to Bhutan which inoculated 93% of its population in just over a fortnight.

The Indian government had reassured its citizens only days before the 1 May rollout that the vaccination programme which began in January for its elder population would be extended to everyone 18 years old and over.

There’s been a very slow take-up in the vaccines up until now, (around 2% are fully inoculated), possibly because they’d been informed the country had beaten coronavirus – and possibly because of worries over the vaccine side-effects.

But that was a few months ago.

Since then, the virus has ripped through the Indian population, overwhelming its fragile health service; causing an acute shortage in oxygen supplies; and transformed the country which once boasted it was in the pandemic end-game into the global epicentre of the disease.

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People queue to get fresh supplies of oxygen in India
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People queue to get fresh supplies of oxygen in India

Many scientists believe the only way India is going to get on top of the virus is to vaccinate.

Many will be questioning why this wasn’t started earlier and with vigour.

But the country which is home to the world-famous Serum Institute India (SII), the globe’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, must surely be in a good position to do just that now?

The institute seemed well ahead of the game having signed a deal with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, long before the vaccine had been authorised in mid 2020.

It was to manufacture a “billion doses for low and middle income countries”.

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A man gets his vaccination at an Indian vaccination centre
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A man gets his vaccination at an Indian vaccination centre

But it was still attempting to fulfil its contractual obligations overseas up until mid-April when the country was recording world record highs in daily coronavirus infections.

The Indian government has now temporarily halted vaccine exports while it gets to grip with one of the worst crises it has ever endured.

But the signs are not good. And vaccines are far from the only shortage.

Despite days ago promising that the oxygen shortfall would be sorted, we still saw queues and queues of people in Delhi, some of whom have waited 10 hours to try to fill up a cylinder of oxygen for hospitals who don’t have supplies for their sick relatives.

One young woman who’s mother is ill in hospital with COVID said she’d been looking for oxygen for the past three days.

COVID-19: Why India’s COVID spike means the world has to wait for its jabs

A sign advertising what India says it the world's largest vaccination drive
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A sign advertising what India says it the world’s largest vaccination drive

“When cases started rising up,” Urvashi Sharma told us, “I thought the government had a plan… but it turns out they didn’t… within the first week, I understood the government had no idea and they’re not prepared for anything… that we don’t have enough ventilators in one hospital, never mind whatever we need for the entire city or entire nation.”

Delhi’s High Court judges have now been forced to step in, warning the government it needs to fulfil its obligations, follow through on its guarantees to sort the oxygen and provide the capital with enough oxygen.

“Enough is enough,” the judges ruled. “Water has gone above the head. Now we mean business. You will arrange everything now.”

This is all happening nearly two weeks after the crisis ignited – and as the capital city is hearing that yet more patients – including a doctor – died when oxygen supplies ran out at a Delhi hospital for about 80 minutes.

People wait to be given their vaccine against COVID in India
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People wait to be given their vaccine against COVID in India

Hospital chiefs from the Batra Hospital reported at time of writing that 12 people had died after their oxygen stocks were depleted.

SOS calls from hospitals and relatives across the country are still filling social media pleading for oxygen, just days after the prime minister said he was putting the nation on a war-footing to try to solve the crisis.

I’m sitting late at night in Delhi listening to an official from Batra Hospital saying he only has enough oxygen until early morning.

“It’s been a harrowing nine days,” he said. “We are battling all the time. We are constantly running out of oxygen. The enemy is not at the doorstep. It’s right inside our houses.”

The worry for India is that the virus spread, the virus deaths and the virus chaos does not seem to be abating one bit. Rather, it seems to be growing.

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Euro 2020: Why no Scotland players have to isolate after Gilmour contracts COVID – but England pair do | UK News

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Confusion arose over the decision to force England footballers Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell to isolate after Scotland player Billy Gilmour tested positive for COVID-19.

The England duo must isolate until Monday after being deemed “close contacts” of their Chelsea teammate Gilmour when the Three Lions played Scotland on Friday.

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Ben Chilwell (L) and Mason Mount are having to self-isolate
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Ben Chilwell (L) and Mason Mount

But questions were raised over why Mount and Chilwell were affected after the entire England squad tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday, while no other Scotland player has been ruled out of their final Euro 2020 group game on Tuesday as a result of Gilmour’s infection.

As Euro 2020 is played in multiple countries against the backdrop of the pandemic, strict rules are in force to try to ensure the tournament is not disrupted.

So what happens when players test positive for COVID, could matches be abandoned as a result, and what steps are being taken to avoid outbreaks? Sky News explains.

What were the concerns about Mount and Chilwell’s contact with Gilmour?

Mount, Chilwell and Gilmour were seen embracing at the end of England’s match with Scotland at Wembley on Friday evening.

However, it is understood the contact that caused most concern was a 25-minute conversation between the three players in the tunnel following the game.

Billy Gilmour (left) and Mason Mount
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Billy Gilmour (L) and Mason Mount during the England v Scotland match on Friday

The Chelsea trio had not seen each other since returning to London after they won the Champions League final in Porto on 29 May.

Government guidance states that close contacts of COVID cases include people who had face-to-face conversations within one-metre, and anyone who was within two-metres for more than 15 minutes.

The FA said the decision for Chilwell and Mount to isolate was taken in consultation with Public Health England.

The two players are now isolating and training individually in private areas at England’s training base St George’s Park.

Ben Chilwell during a training session last week
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Ben Chilwell is now having to self-isolate

How long do players with COVID have to isolate?

Players at Euro 2020 are tested regularly, and those who are positive must self-isolate for 10 days.

Any other players or staff deemed to have been in close contact with someone with COVID during the tournament also have to isolate for 10 days.

It means Gilmour will be unavailable for Scotland’s final group match against Croatia tonight. If they progress, he will also miss their last-16 tie, Sky Sports News understands.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Group D - England v Scotland - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - June 18, 2021 Scotland's Billy Gilmour celebrates after the match Pool via REUTERS/Facundo Arrizabalaga/File Photo
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Billy Gilmour will miss Scotland’s final group game and last 16-tie if they progress

The Scottish FA and Public Health England are said to be satisfied that Gilmour had “no close contact issues” with any other member of the Scotland squad.

The isolation period for close contacts of COVID cases includes the date of their last contact and the next 10 full days, according to government guidance.

Mount and Chilwell, who came into contact with Gilmour on 18 June, must now isolate until Monday 28 June.

With England already through to the knockout stages of the tournament, it means Mount and Chilwell could miss their last-16 tie, with the round being played on 26, 27, 28 and 29 June.

Could matches be abandoned due to a COVID outbreak in a squad?

Euro 2020 squads were expanded from 23 players to 26 to account for the chance that some teams could be hit by COVID outbreaks.

If multiple players have to isolate, matches will still go ahead providing the team can name 13 players in their squad – a minimum of 12 outfield players plus one goalkeeper.

If a team cannot named 13 players in their squad, the game can be postponed by up to 48 hours.

If the affected team still cannot meet the minimum requirements for a matchday squad, they will forfeit the game and suffer an automatic 3-0 defeat.

Both teams line up to sing their national anthems. Pic: AP
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If a team cannot field 13 players in their squad, the match can be postponed. Pic: AP

Can players who contract COVID be replaced?

Outfield players cannot be changed but UEFA states that “goalkeepers can be replaced during the tournament in the event of physical incapacity, even if one or two goalkeepers in the squad are still available”.

Players that have been replaced cannot then return to the squad.

Can players see their families during the tournament?

UEFA has banned families visiting players at their training camps during Euro 2020.

England manager Gareth Southgate had hoped that players would be able to see family members at their St George’s Park training base, but UEFA’s strict COVID bubble rules forbid it.

“We’re not going to be able to let people in,” Southgate said before the tournament.

“There’s a clear edict from UEFA on what the bubbles need to look like to be as secure as we can make them, it’s never going to be 100% failsafe but we’ve got to comply with as much as we can.”

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Afghan interpreters who worked with British military land in UK today after fleeing Taliban | World News

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The first group of former Afghan interpreters whose lives are in danger because they worked for the British military are due to arrive in the UK from Afghanistan in the coming hours under a new government scheme, Sky News understands.

An aircraft reportedly carrying more than a dozen Afghans who were employed by UK forces, as well as family members, is expected to land at an airport in the Midlands later on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) declined to comment on the flight – first reported by the Daily Mail – because of security concerns for the men, women and children who have asked to flee Afghanistan after receiving threats from the Taliban.

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Afghan nationals given chance to live in UK

Taliban militants are growing in strength across the country, regaining more territory from the UK and US-backed Afghan government. It comes as British, US and other NATO forces prepare to withdraw over the next three months following almost 20 years of conflict.

The Taliban views anyone associated with the US and NATO-led mission in Afghanistan as a traitor who deserves to die.

The increased influence of the militant group means a corresponding risk for such personnel.

Concerns over the safety of former staff, most of them interpreters, prompted the MoD and the Home Office in May to expand the eligibility criteria of a relocation scheme for Afghans seeking to flee.

Previously, the government had resisted pressure to allow large numbers of men and women to relocate, saying such a move would deprive Afghanistan of a talented pool of young individuals, vital for the future prosperity of the country.

More than 3,000 Afghans are expected to take advantage of the offer, on top of some 1,300 who have already made the journey under a previous, more restrictive policy. They are expected to be flown to the UK in groups.

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‘It’s the right thing to do’ – Defence secretary

It is understood that the first flight left Kabul earlier on Tuesday. Everyone had to undergo stringent security as well as COVID-related health checks.

Afghanistan is on the red list of countries, which means the group will be put into quarantine upon their arrival in the UK.

The Daily Mail spoke to a 37-year-old former interpreter called Hash, who served in Helmand with the Army between 2007 and 2012 and is reported to be part of the first party along with his wife and two sons.

“We are so happy and so thankful,” he was quoted as saying. “The British government has taken its time but it has done the right thing and we are truly grateful.”

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Aston Martin sues Swiss car dealer over deposits on £2.5m Valkyrie model | Business News

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Aston Martin is suing a Swiss car dealer which it claims failed to hand over customer deposits for its £2.5m Valkyrie supercar.

The luxury vehicle maker said civil proceedings had been filed against Nebula Project and that, backed by some of its customers, it was asking prosecutors to consider a criminal investigation.

Aston Martin said the saga was expected to dent annual profits by £15m as it tries to recoup the money.

General view of an Aston Martin logo on the bonnet of an Aston Martin Rapide.
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UK-based Aston Martin is famous for making cars driven by James Bond

It said it was fully committed to customers receiving delivery of their supercars on schedule despite not having received the deposited funds.

The company added that it was on track to make its first deliveries of the Valkyrie – a limited edition supercar which uses Formula One technology – in the second half of this year.

It said in future it would take deposits for “special vehicles” directly and not through a third party.

Nebula had signed an agreement in 2016 to help finance the Valkyrie, which would have entitled it to potentially “significant” royalty payments as they rolled off the production line, alongside commission on sales of Valhalla and Vanquish models – but this has now been terminated, Aston Martin said.

The deal had been signed at a time when the carmaker was struggling financially.

Aston Martin also said that it was scrapping dealership arrangements with AF Cars, a company operating in Switzerland with the same board members as Nebula, “after learning that vehicles have been sold in breach of terms of the dealership agreement”.

Aston Martin, famous as the maker of cars driven by fictional spy James Bond, said that aside from the “short term negative financial impact” of this issue, it was on course to meet financial guidance for 2021.

An Aston Martin Valkyrie car is seen during the 87th International Motor Show at Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland March 8, 2017.
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Aston Martin said in future it would take deposits directly

Reuters news agency reported that Nebula and one of its board members, Andreas Baenziger, did not respond immediately to emailed requests for comment.

Florian Kamelger, another board member, said in an email that Nebula would release a statement later on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

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