Fresh warnings over Amazon, Royal Mail and Hermes scams targeting customers


There has been fresh warnings over scams relating to Amazon, Royal Mail and the DVLA.

Fraudsters are also passing themselves off as workers from Hermes, DPD, PayPal, and banks, according to warnings.

Cruel fraudsters are attempting to steal victims’ cash as Brits remain working from home, with anxieties high, Birmingham Live reports.

An ITV documentary Tonight, which aired on Thursday evening, shed light on the spate of scams and rise of vile fraudsters attempting to swindle unwitting victims across the country.

The Royal Mail scam has, by now, been well publicised.

But police forces are still urging people to exercise caution and stay vigilant amid a worrying rise in fraudulent text messages and emails.



The most popular scams
The most popular scams in the UK

A West Midlands Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), Sam Doninton said: “I have had a large number of residents mention scams and/or spam texts that they have been receiving as a real problem.”

The scams have left some Birmingham residents losing their entire life savings – including one graduate from the city who fell foul to Royal Mail scammers.

Research listed below also shows Hermes, DVLA and Amazon scams are massively rising, as well as scams relating to banking giants in the UK.



Royal Mail stock photo
The Royal Mail scam has, by now, been well publicised (file photo)

In March, The Mirror reported on how millions of people have been sent text messages from scammers posing as Royal Mail in an attempt to intercept their bank details.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said the messages claim a parcel is awaiting delivery but a “settlement” must first be paid.



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The messages include a link to a fraudulent Royal Mail website which asks the recipient to enter their bank details to release their parcel.

The CTSI warned that the rise in online shopping means more people are likely to be waiting for parcels and deliveries, making them more vulnerable to this kind of fraud.



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Large Hailstones Bounce Off Window Amid Severe Weather Warnings for Tennessee Capital


Heavy hail was reported in Nashville on Thursday, March 25, as thunderstorms rolled through several counties in Tennessee. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued severe thunderstorm warnings and a tornado watch for several counties in Middle Tennessee. This footage, captured by Laura Bond, shows large hailstones bouncing against a glass window. Credit: Laura Bond via Storyful

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Evacuation warnings for towns and suburbs along the Hawkesbury River


Rescue crews have been flown into North Richmond to assist residents isolated by NSW floodwaters while exhausted teams return after being stranded for more than 24 hours.

Fire and Rescue NSW volunteers from Wentworth Falls have been stuck in North Richmond since 10am yesterday due to flooding and a major landslide on Bells Line of Road.

New crews from Windsor and Richmond have now been deployed for the next 72 hours to provide ongoing support to people stranded in rising floodwaters.

Replacement Fire and Rescue NSW crews have been flown into North Richmond to assist residents isolated by floodwaters while other crew members return after being stranded for over 24 hours. (9News)
New crews have now been deployed for the next 72-hours to provide ongoing support. (9News)

North Richmond has been cut off by floodwaters overwhelming the Windsor and Richmond bridges, leaving hundreds unable to evacuate.

The relieving crew will be stationed at North Richmond Community Centre, assisting residents and providing essential goods including food and water.

Suburbs including Kurrajong and North Richmond have been left isolated due to flooding on the Hawkesbury River on one side and closures on the Bells Line of Road on the other.

The Bells Line of Road was cut at Mount Tomah in the Blue Mountains National Park this morning due to large landslips following days of heavy rain.

Residents in the Megalong Valley have also been cut off, thanks to a large landslip that closed Megalong Road.  (Blue Mountains City Council)

Police and State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers abandoned attempts to clear the road last night due to a “dangerous risk of collapse”, leaving engineers to assess the situation.

The North Richmond Bridge between Pitt Lane and Chapel Street is also closed in both directions with people told not to attempt to cross.

Flooding of the Hawkesbury at Agnes Banks, North Richmond, and Windsor meant residents living between the two locations were left isolated.

A landslip at Five Mile. (Paul Toole)

Evacuation warnings for Wisemans Ferry to Brooklyn

Further north, an evacuation warning has been issued for people in the lower reaches along the Hawkesbury River from Wisemans Ferry to Brooklyn.

The SES has told residents in the area, about an hour north of Sydney, to prepare to evacuate the area as widespread rainfall continues.

Further west along the Hawkesbury, Richmond residents have been completely cut off as a result of rising water levels and road closures.

Supermarket shelves stripped

Supermarket shelves have been stripped bare as families stock up on essential supplies including milk, bread and sanitary items, prompting calls for supplies to be flown in amid fears of food shortages.

North Richmond supermarket shelves stripped bare as the community is cut off by floodwaters.
North Richmond supermarket shelves stripped bare as the community is cut off by floodwaters. (Facebook)

“About 18,000 people have been evacuated,” she said.

“An additional 15,000 people may need to be evacuated.”

Ms Berejiklian said “massive water flows” are expected in rivers through the week, even after the rain stops.

Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman has asked Resilience NSW to consider airdropping supplies to the area.

“The Coles at North Richmond is one of the key providers of food and they literally have not been able to get trucks in because of land floods and road problems on the bells line of road,” she told 2GB radio.

“We’ve said to them you might need to look at actually airdropping in some supplies of bread and milk and all the basics.”

Emergency services have warned all residents in caravan parks along the Hawkesbury River from Windsor to Wisemans Ferry to prepare to evacuate as river levels rise.

The Hawkesbury River at Windsor peaked at 12.75 metres around 6pm yesterday, causing major flooding.

At Sackville, levels are currently nearing a peak of 9.50 metres and Lower Portland has reached its major flood level of 7.60 metres, with waters rising slowly.

The levels are similar to the July 1990 flood event.

Residents in the Megalong Valley have also been cut off, thanks to a large landslip that closed Megalong Road. 

Blue Mountains City Council said temporary works to open one lane would take two to four days.

“If access can be gained, council will be able to provide a shuttle bus to possibly transport residents or supplies,” the council said on Facebook.

Another landslip further west on the Jenolan Caves Road at Five Mile, severed the link between Hartley and Jenolan.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Paul Toole said there had been “multiple slope failures and another tree down at Hampton, forcing drivers to go via Bathurst to get between the two towns”.

One of two westbound lanes on the Great Western Highway was also closed at Mount Victoria, due to another landslip.

Last night, the Bureau of Meteorology said while the Hunter and Central Tablelands weren’t likely to cop as much rain as the Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast, some risk still remained due to the already-sodden catchments.

More than 23,000 people evacuated during NSW flood disaster

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SES issues evacuation warnings for several parts of NSW


Sydneysiders have been urged to batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst as the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) extends its flood warnings to include the Blue Mountains and the city.

The heavy rain has prompted the NSW State Emergency Service to issue fresh evacuation warnings to several areas near the Hawkesbury River.

Residents of Pitt Town Bottoms, low lying parts of North Richmond, Grono’s Point and Cornwallis residents should prepare to evacuate over the next 12 hours.

Picton flooding.
NSW SES has issued an evacuation warning for people within the Picton CBD south-west of Sydney earlier this evening. (9News)
Picton flooding.
“As a result of rising flood waters people within the Picton CBD should prepare to evacuate,” the NSW SES said. (9News)

NSW SES also issued an evacuation warning for people within the Picton CBD south-west of Sydney earlier this evening.

“As a result of rising flood waters people within the Picton CBD should prepare to evacuate,” the NSW SES said.

“Residents should monitor the situation and be prepared to evacuate when instructed to do so.

“A flood evacuation order will be issued by the NSW SES if evacuation is required”.

Warragamba Dam – Sydney’s main water source – has spilled, while a major flood warning is in place for the Gloucester and Manning Rivers.

Residents on the NSW Mid-North Coast are on high alert tonight, with concerns the Macleay River may break its banks.

Residents of Coffs Harbour are being told to expect more than 250mm of rain tomorrow alone.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that the wet weather will continue to drench Sydney for days to come.

“The last time we got major floods in the NSW the weather event passed in two or three days, unfortunately this will be a deep-seated, extreme weather event, likely to rain until towards the end of next week on Thursday or Friday,” she said.

A man watches the rising Parramatta River with the Powerhouse Museum site in the distance.
A man watches the rising Parramatta River with the Powerhouse Museum site in the distance. (Dylan Coker)
NSW, Sydney floods
Warragamba dam is spilling over. (WaterNSW)

“Warragamba Dam and the potential for spillover is a concern.

“The window for evacuation is not a big one depending on where you live, some communities already have been advised to stock up and stay home.

“I hate to say this again to all our citizens of the state but it’s not going to be an easy week for us.”

In the past day, the SES have responded to 4000 callouts and 500 direct flood rescues, Ms Berejiklian said.

Flooding Penrith
A person is seen next to the overflowing Nepean River at the Penrith weir in Penrith. (Getty)

Penrith and North Richmond are expected to experience flooding in the afternoon heading into the evening as the Warragamba Dam spills and combines with the Upper Nepean River and Grose River.

The last significant spill from Warragamba was in August 1990.

Justin Robinson, Flood Operations Manager at the BOM, said flooding levels near the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers could be similar to the major event which occurred in February 2020.

The Warragamba Dam today. (9News)

“(We are) expecting the levels to be similar to the February 2020 event and usually we’ll see Penrith peak first and you go downstream to North Richmond and then Sackville and lower Portland,” he said.

“So, expecting the initial rivers to peak Saturday night into Sunday, and maybe lower Portland might start peaking into Monday.”

Dams such as Nepean, Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon are also expected to reach capacity and begin spilling.

In the west, the Parramatta River broke its banks this afternoon at the Charles Street weir and ferry wharf.

Floodwaters have completely submerged the terminal and have also inundated the ground level of the new Powerhouse Museum site in Parramatta’s CBD.

The State Emergency Services (SES) have already performed at least two flood rescues in Western Sydney.

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Buy now, pay later for elective surgery sparks warnings of financial risk


Elective surgery patients will have the option to delay payments for procedures worth tens of thousands of dollars, as the buy now, pay later industry enters the private health system for the first time in Australia.

St John of God Health Care’s hospitals at Murdoch and Mt Lawley in Perth and St John of God Berwick Hospital in south-east Melbourne are starting a six-month trial with credit lender Openpay.

They will allow patients who have dropped their private health insurance and are self-funding their health care to set up payment plans for up to 12 months for knee, hip and other elective surgery operations.

The Financial Counsellors Association warned buy now, pay later companies such as Openpay were not regulated and people could quickly find themselves in financial trouble.

But Openpay sought to reassure consumers it was a responsible lender and had a series of checks in place to prevent people from overextending themselves.

Under the deal, patients will initially be able to borrow up to $10,000 during the trial period.

That may cover only part of their elective surgery. A hip replacement can cost more than $30,000.

“To be very clear, we’ve got some very strict guidelines in place,” Openpay chief commercial officer Dion Appel told ABC Radio Perth.

“It’s very important to understand we’ve excluded any cosmetic surgery procedures from this particular function. So it really is elective surgery for things people actually need.”

Patients download an app and apply to sign up, provided they are over 18 years of age and have a debit or credit card.

They can request an increase to the $10,000 limit through the app.

“Ultimately that will determine how much you are able to spend to manage your treatment,” Mr Appel said.

Payments need to be made every two weeks and a late fee of $7.50 applies.

Mr Appel said Openpay was an accredited member of the buy now, pay later code of conduct and it would work with customers having trouble making payments.

But that did not ease the concerns of the traditional financial industry.

Partnerships like the one between Openpay and St John of God are not covered by the National Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Financial Counsellors Association of WA executive officer Melanie Every said that meant they did not have the same obligations as banks.

“What that means for people is if you do get into trouble, if you do have problems with paying, that they don’t have the same obligations around hardship policies and procedures you would find the banks having,” Ms Every said.

She urged consumers to properly inform themselves, seek financial advice about all the available options, and be aware there could be hidden fees.

“What we’re seeing is people ending up with several of these buy now, pay laters and they quickly add up,” Ms Every said.

“People can lose track of their spending and problems come when people start to default on repayment of these.

“So we just urge consumers to make sure they’re well informed.”

An Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) report from November 2020 indicated 21 per cent of buy now, pay later users who were surveyed missed a payment in the previous 12 months.

It found revenue from missed payment fees for all the buy now, pay later providers it had reviewed amounted to $43 million in 2018-19.

That was 38 per cent more than the previous year, as the number of buy, now pay later transactions increased from 16.8 million to 32.0 million over the same period.

ASIC said some consumers who used buy, now pay later arrangements were experiencing financial hardship, “such as cutting back on or going without essentials” like meals, or they were taking out additional loans.

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Buy now, pay later for elective surgery sparks warnings of financial risk


Elective surgery patients will have the option to delay payments for procedures worth tens of thousands of dollars, as the buy now, pay later industry enters the private health system for the first time in Australia.

St John of God Health Care’s hospitals at Murdoch and Mt Lawley in Perth and St John of God Berwick Hospital in south-east Melbourne are starting a six-month trial with credit lender Openpay.

They will allow patients who have dropped their private health insurance and are self-funding their health care to set up payment plans for up to 12 months for knee, hip and other elective surgery operations.

The Financial Counsellors Association warned buy now, pay later companies such as Openpay were not regulated and people could quickly find themselves in financial trouble.

But Openpay sought to reassure consumers it was a responsible lender and had a series of checks in place to prevent people from overextending themselves.

Under the deal, patients will initially be able to borrow up to $10,000 during the trial period.

That may cover only part of their elective surgery. A hip replacement can cost more than $30,000.

“To be very clear, we’ve got some very strict guidelines in place,” Openpay chief commercial officer Dion Appel told ABC Radio Perth.

“It’s very important to understand we’ve excluded any cosmetic surgery procedures from this particular function. So it really is elective surgery for things people actually need.”

Patients download an app and apply to sign up, provided they are over 18 years of age and have a debit or credit card.

They can request an increase to the $10,000 limit through the app.

“Ultimately that will determine how much you are able to spend to manage your treatment,” Mr Appel said.

Payments need to be made every two weeks and a late fee of $7.50 applies.

Mr Appel said Openpay was an accredited member of the buy now, pay later code of conduct and it would work with customers having trouble making payments.

But that did not ease the concerns of the traditional financial industry.

Partnerships like the one between Openpay and St John of God are not covered by the National Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Financial Counsellors Association of WA executive officer Melanie Every said that meant they did not have the same obligations as banks.

“What that means for people is if you do get into trouble, if you do have problems with paying, that they don’t have the same obligations around hardship policies and procedures you would find the banks having,” Ms Every said.

She urged consumers to properly inform themselves, seek financial advice about all the available options, and be aware there could be hidden fees.

“What we’re seeing is people ending up with several of these buy now, pay laters and they quickly add up,” Ms Every said.

“People can lose track of their spending and problems come when people start to default on repayment of these.

“So we just urge consumers to make sure they’re well informed.”

An Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) report from November 2020 indicated 21 per cent of buy now, pay later users who were surveyed missed a payment in the previous 12 months.

It found revenue from missed payment fees for all the buy now, pay later providers it had reviewed amounted to $43 million in 2018-19.

That was 38 per cent more than the previous year, as the number of buy, now pay later transactions increased from 16.8 million to 32.0 million over the same period.

ASIC said some consumers who used buy, now pay later arrangements were experiencing financial hardship, “such as cutting back on or going without essentials” like meals, or they were taking out additional loans.

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U.S. Air Travel Is Rising Fast, Despite C.D.C. Warnings


Credit…Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

U.S. airports had 1.357 million people pass through on Friday, the highest number on any day since March 2020, just after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

The new figures from the Transportation Security Administration will be welcome news for the aviation industry, which has particularly been decimated during the pandemic but was granted some relief in the stimulus bill that President Biden signed on Thursday.

Still, nonessential flights go against the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warned last week that even fully vaccinated people should avoid travel unless necessary.

“We know that after mass travel, after vacations, after holidays, we tend to see a surge in cases,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Monday on MSNBC. “And so, we really want to make sure — again with just 10 percent of people vaccinated — that we are limiting travel.”

Plane travel remains relatively low in the United States — Friday’s figures are nearly 38 percent less than what they were on the same day in 2019, according to T.S.A. data — but the latest increase in airline passengers has come as states continue to expand vaccine eligibility criteria and during the peak of spring break season.

Photos of spring break partyers without masks in Florida spread on social media this week, prompting concern from some local officials. “Unfortunately, we’re getting too many people looking to get loose,” Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach said. “Letting loose is precisely what we don’t want.”

The T.S.A. said it had prepared for a possible increase in spring break travel between late February and April, including through recruitment and vaccination efforts for its own officers. The agency’s employees had previously alleged that the more than 6,000 cases among their ranks were fueled by lax safety measures.


United States › United StatesOn March 13 14-day change
New cases 49,728 –19%
New deaths 1,846 –31%

World › WorldOn March 13 14-day change
New cases 444,389 +11%
New deaths 8,813 –9%

U.S. vaccinations ›

Where states are reporting vaccines given

A drag queen performed in a face shield at a restaurant in Miami Beach last week. Much of life seems normal in Florida, and not just because of the return of the winter tourism season.
Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

MIAMI — Other than New York, no big city in the United States has been struggling with more coronavirus cases in recent weeks than Miami. But you would hardly know that if you lived here.

Spring breakers flock to the beaches. Cars cram the highways, and thousands of motorcyclists have packed into Daytona Beach for an annual rally. Weekend restaurant reservations have almost become necessary again. Banners on Miami Beach read “Vacation responsibly,” the subtext being, Of course you’re going to vacation.

Much of life seems normal, and not just because of the return of Florida’s winter tourism season, which was cut short last year a few weeks into the pandemic. The state reopened months before much of the rest of the nation, and for better or worse, it offers a glimpse of what many states are likely to face as they move into the next phase of the pandemic.

Now, much of the state has a boomtown feel, a sense of making up for months of lost time, though its tourism-dependent economy remains hobbled. A $2.7 billion budget deficit will need an injection of federal stimulus money. Orange County, where Orlando is, saw the lowest tourist development tax collections for any January since 2002.

“You can live like a human being,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican. “You aren’t locked down. People aren’t miserable.” President Biden’s new hope of getting Americans together to celebrate with their families on the Fourth of July? “We’ve been doing that for over a year in Florida,” the governor boasted.

Relatives of Covid-19 patients who died when oxygen supplies ran short at a government hospital in Salt, Jordan, protested outside the complex on Saturday.
Credit…Mohammad Ali/EPA, via Shutterstock

At least seven people died at a hospital in Jordan on Saturday after it ran out of oxygen, according to Jordanian news reports, prompting an outcry in the kingdom, a visit to the hospital by King Abdullah II and the resignations of the country’s health minister and the hospital’s director.

Officials said that all of the victims were being treated for the coronavirus and that they had died after an interruption of oxygen supply that lasted around an hour at a government hospital in Salt, northwest of Amman, the capital.

Many countries across the world, including Mexico, Nigeria and Egypt, have faced oxygen supply shortages that have driven up the virus death toll. In Mexico, prices for oxygen have spiked, sales of oxygen tanks have thrived on the black market, and criminal groups have stolen them from hospitals. In Egypt, a New York Times investigation found that at least three patients had died of oxygen deprivation in a hospital that was running out of it earlier this year.

Last month, more than 500,000 people infected with the coronavirus were in need of oxygen every day, according to the World Health Organization, which identified up to 20 low- and middle-income countries that were in urgent need of oxygen supplies, including Malawi, Nigeria and Afghanistan. But there have also been fears that the world’s oxygen supply would be unable to meet the needs of all of those who need it, which include not only Covid-19 patients but also those being treated for many other diseases.

In Jordan, Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh said on Saturday that the government bore full responsibility for the deaths at the Salt hospital, and that he had ordered an investigation, according to Al-Mamlaka TV.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in front of the hospital to protest against the shortage of oxygen, including relatives of victims, according to news reports and photographs, and a video circulating online showed the king, in military fatigues, speaking with what appeared to be an official at the hospital as similarly clad members of his entourage held back a surging crowd.

Jordan, a country of 10 million people, has reported over 5,200 Covid-19 deaths, according to a count by The Times. On Friday, it received a first shipment of 144,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The Tesla car manufacturing plant in Fremont, Calif., remained open during the pandemic despite restrictions put in place by local officials.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

More than 400 workers at a Tesla plant in California tested positive for the coronavirus between May and December, according to public health data released by a transparency website.

The data provides the first glimpse into virus cases at Tesla, whose chief executive, Elon Musk, had downplayed the severity of the coronavirus crisis and reopened the plant in May, in defiance of guidelines issued by local public health officials.

Automakers across the country halted production and closed plants for two months last year from mid-March until mid-May. After resuming production, other automakers publicly announced when workers had tested positive for the virus and halted production to prevent further infection among employees and to disinfect work areas.

Tesla, however, has released little information about employee coronavirus cases.

The data was obtained by the website PlainSite, which works to make legal and governmental documents publicly accessible. It showed that 440 cases were reported at the Tesla plant, which employs some 10,000 people. The number of cases rose to 125 in December from fewer than 11 in May.

A year ago, after officials in California ordered manufacturing plants to close, Mr. Musk suggested on Twitter that the measure was unnecessary and that cases in the United States would be “close to zero.”

He also called virus restrictions “fascist,” threatened to move Tesla out of California, and then reopened the plant a week before health officials said it was safe to do so. More recently, Mr. Musk has questioned on Twitter the effectiveness of Covid vaccines.

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Protesters Defy Covid Restrictions to Rally for Slain London Woman

Thousands of people gathered at Clapham Common on Saturday, the London park near where Sarah Everard, 33, was last seen alive. Her death led to an outpouring of anger and solidarity over violence against women.

“The police have been known to intimidate us.” “The police have been known to intimidate us.” “We say no.” “We say no.” “The police are trying to repress us.” “The police are trying to repress us.” “This is a sickening response.” “This is a sickening response.” [applause] [chanting] “Let us speak.” [chanting] “Let us speak.” [cheering] [chanting] “No justice. No peace.” [cheering] [yelling] [booing] [chanting] “The police do not protect us.”

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Thousands of people gathered at Clapham Common on Saturday, the London park near where Sarah Everard, 33, was last seen alive. Her death led to an outpouring of anger and solidarity over violence against women.CreditCredit…Leon Neal/Getty Images

LONDON — Thousands of people gathered in South London on Saturday for a vigil in tribute to Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman whose body was found on Friday, despite police warnings that the event would defy coronavirus restrictions. The killing has touched off a national reckoning in Britain over violence against women.

As dark fell on London, a growing crowd chanted “Shame on you!” and “How many more!” In what became a rally against gender violence, some clapped their hands and others held tea lights or signs that read “End Violence Against Women.”

The event, in Clapham Common, near where Ms. Everard was last seen on March 3, had drawn small groups at first, with people gathering in silence around a memorial where flowers had been laid in her memory. Earlier, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, also laid flowers at the memorial.

Adding to the anger over the case, a 48-year-old police officer, Wayne Couzens, has been charged with kidnapping and murdering Ms. Everard.

A court had ruled late Friday that the gathering could be deemed unlawful because of Covid-19 restrictions, and the police had urged prospective attendees to stay home. Organizers eventually relented and called for a national doorstep vigil, though in the end that did not dissuade people from going to the park anyway.

As Britain is gradually coming out of a monthslong lockdown, the fight over the vigil posed critical questions over balancing freedom of assembly and safety measures in the months to come, and recalled debates over marches against police brutality last year.

More than 30 gatherings had been planned across Britain on Saturday, in what organizers hoped would convey the outpouring of solidarity and anger over Ms. Everard’s killing.

Children sanitizing their hands before entering school in Johannesburg. Many African nations have yet to start vaccinations, with less than one dose administered across the continent per 100 people.
Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

More than 345 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide in the three months since mass inoculation began in December, but there is still a huge disparity in the vaccination rates between countries.

At least one dose

Fully vaccinated

20% 40% 60% 28%63%Dec. 13 Mar. 12

Seychelles

Israel continues to stand out in the global vaccination race, with 58 percent of its population having received at least one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, and 46 percent having received both required doses. Despite a slow start, Chile is now making swift progress, with at least a quarter of its population having received at least one dose.

Despite some initial criticism of Britain’s decision to delay second doses until 12 weeks after the first, the strategy seems to be paying off, as more than a third of its population has received at least one dose, far ahead of any of its European counterparts. Studies appear to have vindicated Britain’s decision after finding a single dose could avert most coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

Some of the starkest differences can be found when comparing continents. In North America, 18 doses have been administered for every 100 people, while in South America, there have been just 4.9 vaccinations per 100 people amid growing outbreaks across much of the continent. Many African nations have yet to start vaccinations, with less than one dose administered across the continent per 100 people.

Until the bulk of the world’s population has been immunized, the virus will continue to evolve into variants that are more contagious, more deadly or that dodge the immune response at least in part, experts have warned. A global program led by the World Health Organization and other groups has made a few million doses of Covid-19 vaccines available to some African countries, but it is unlikely to have enough doses for the rest of the world before 2024.

People waiting to be vaccinated this month in Richmond, Va., where there have been delays caused by faulty software.
Credit…Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

When coronavirus vaccines first became available, state health officials in Virginia turned to software recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to schedule appointments. But people complained that the software, called VAMS, was too confusing for older adults to use.

So the state switched to another system, PrepMod — but that had problems, too. Links sent to seniors for their appointments were reusable and found their way to Facebook, leading to one vaccination event in Richmond with dozens of overbookings. Some of those people threatened health care workers when they were turned away.

“It was a nightmare scenario,” said Ruth Morrison, the policy director for the Richmond and Henrico County health district. “People showing up confused, irate, thinking they had an appointment.”

State and local health departments around the country continue to face delays dispensing shots, in part because flaws remain in the appointment software tools like those used in Richmond. The problems threaten to slow the vaccine rollout even as supplies and distribution are picking up quickly across the country.

Large software systems have often been problematic for companies and governments. HealthCare.gov, a site released after the Affordable Care Act, crashed early on. But the issues with the vaccine sites have an added sense of urgency because health officials are trying to vaccinate as many people as possible, as fast as possible.

President Biden said that his administration would send out technical teams to help states improve their websites. He also said the federal government would open a website by May 1 that would allow Americans to find out where the vaccine is available.

Aisha Jones, leaning in to give her grandmother, who died of Covid-19 last month, a kiss. The U.S. death rate remains at nearly 1,500 people every day.
Credit…Rachel Wisniewski for The New York Times

Coronavirus cases are trending downward across the United States as the country’s vaccine rollout picks up speed. But despite the large drop in new infections since early this year, the U.S. death rate remains at nearly 1,500 people every day. That number still exceeds the summer peak, when patients filled Sun Belt hospitals and outbreaks in states that reopened early drove record numbers of cases, though daily deaths nationwide remained lower than the first surge last spring. The number of new reported cases per day remains nearly as high as the summer record.

People lining up to receive China’s Sinovac vaccine at a community vaccination site last month in Hong Kong.
Credit…Kin Cheung/Associated Press

BEIJING — China raised the stakes in the international vaccine competition on Saturday, saying that foreigners wishing to enter the Chinese mainland from Hong Kong will face fewer paperwork requirements if they are inoculated with Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines.

The policy announcement, which covers foreigners applying for visas in the Chinese territory, comes a day after the United States, India, Japan and Australia announced plans to provide vaccines more widely to other countries. The four so-called Quad powers promised to help finance the production in India of at least a billion doses of coronavirus vaccine by the end of next year.

China is trying to increase the international appeal of its shots, even as scientists and foreign governments urge Chinese vaccine makers to be more transparent with their clinical trial data. Guo Weimin, a Chinese government spokesman, said that China had sent vaccines to 69 countries by the end of February and begun commercial exports to 28 countries.

Chinese state media organizations have also begun a misinformation campaign that questions the safety of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots and promotes Chinese vaccines as better alternatives.

Chinese-made vaccines have not yet been approved by most regulators in the West, though Hungary has agreed to buy five million doses. China has not yet approved the manufacture or distribution of foreign vaccines within its borders either.

This week, China introduced an international electronic passport for its citizens that shows whether a traveler has been vaccinated against the coronavirus. But it was not immediately clear how much of a difference Saturday’s policy announcement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry would make for foreigners living in Hong Kong, given that China has been issuing almost no visas lately.

In addition, Hong Kong’s borders have been closed to nonresidents for nearly a year. So the new policy will not help many foreigners in other countries who want to return to mainland China for work or family reasons.

The Hong Kong government allows residents to choose between the Sinovac vaccine from mainland China and a version of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that it imported from Germany. The announcement on Saturday did not specify whether people in Hong Kong who have already received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot would need to be vaccinated again with the Sinovac product.

Alan Beebe, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said that border restrictions had become the biggest concern for multinationals doing business in the country, and he questioned the need for restricting entry based on which vaccine was chosen by travelers.

“It’s not clear to us,” he said, “what is the difference between having an imported vaccine and one that is produced in China.”

Liu Yi contributed research.

The apparent assault of an Uber driver, Subhakar Khadka, is the latest incident involving confrontations around coronavirus protections.
Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

An arrest has been made after scenes from a viral video that circulated this week showed passengers taunting and deliberately coughing on an Uber driver.

In the dashcam video, the driver, who had a hand on his head, looked exasperated. A woman in the passenger’s seat uttered an expletive about a mask and then coughed on the driver, while using racial slurs. Another passenger joined in, pulling down her mask and laughing. “And I got corona,” she said.

The driver refused to continue the ride, and the situation escalated. The passenger who had initially coughed on the driver grabbed his phone and tore off his mask, breaking the strap. The women continued screaming profanities.

The San Francisco Police Department said in a statement that the driver, identified by KGO-TV as Subhakar Khadka, had picked up three passengers in the early afternoon on Sunday, but he ended the ride once he saw that one of the women was not wearing a mask. Mr. Khadka told the passengers that he would not continue unless they were all wearing masks, the police said. In a video that was posted on Instagram and has since been removed, one passenger said that the driver was trying to make them exit the car in the middle of the freeway.

Soon, “an altercation ensued,” the police said.

One woman grabbed the driver’s cellphone, which Mr. Khadka eventually retrieved, and another passenger sprayed “what is believed to be pepper spray” into the car through an open window after they exited the vehicle, according to the police.

The flare-up is the latest high-profile example of mask conflicts, which have sometimes taken violent turns. Last year, prosecutors in Chicago said two sisters attacked a store security guard with a garbage can. One of the women stabbed the guard repeatedly with a small knife after he tried to insist that they wear masks and use the store’s hand sanitizer on entry.

In another case last year, an 80-year-old man in upstate New York was killed after he asked a bar patron to wear a mask; the patron shoved the man to the ground, causing him to hit his head.

Mr. Khadka, an Uber driver from Nepal who came to the United States eight years ago, said in an interview with KPIX that he never said anything “bad” to the women, and that they had refused to leave his car. Mr. Khadka said he believed he was singled out for their ire because he is South Asian. “If I was of another complexion, I would have not gotten that treatment from them,” he said. “The moment I opened my mouth to speak, they realized I’m not among one of them. It’s easy for them to intimidate me.”

One of the passengers in the Uber car in San Francisco has now been arrested, the Las Vegas Police Department said. Malaysia King, 24, was taken into custody on Thursday on a warrant for assault with a caustic chemical, assault and battery, as well as conspiracy and violation of health and safety code, the police said.

Arna Kimiai, 24, who is also being sought in the case, communicated through her lawyer that she intended to turn herself in “soon,” the San Francisco Police Department said.

“The behavior captured on video in this incident showed a callous disregard for the safety and well-being of an essential service worker in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” said Lt. Tracy McCray, who heads the Police Department’s robbery detail.



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Coronial investigation into baby boy’s death finds Queensland Child Safety Department ignored warnings


A coronial investigation into the death of an eight-week-old boy has revealed how Queensland’s Child Safety Department ignored crucial warning signs from medical experts before the infant died in his mother’s lap.

The child — known as T — was born at Logan Hospital, south of Brisbane, in June 2015 with methadone and amphetamine in his body.

He was found dead less than two months later with his sleeping mother slumped over his body on the couch.

A forensic pathologist determined T had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and that it was highly likely mechanical asphyxia had occurred.

The family was known to the Child Safety Department due to the mother’s history of drug abuse, which had resulted in two of her older children being removed from her care.

After T’s birth, nursing staff reported seeing blankets over his face while the parents were present and said the mother had been found asleep on top of him while he was lying in a large cot.

The mother denied she used drugs during her pregnancy, but a test later found her positive for methadone, amphetamine and methamphetamine.

A family risk evaluation completed less than three weeks after T’s birth deemed the circumstances “high risk”, but a safety assessment found the baby was “safe” in the family home.

Main entrance of Logan Hospital at Meadowbrook, south of Brisbane on April 10, 2019.
The child, known as T, was born at Logan Hospital, south of Brisbane, in June 2015.(ABC News: Ellie Sibson)

An investigation by Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley found the Department ignored important information provided by medical professionals about the risk her drug used posed to the baby’s safety.

“I find that the department’s assessment of T as being a child not in need of protection was incorrect,” Ms Bentley said.

“Doctors and nurses warned the department that the mother was using drugs and had fallen asleep on top of T but the department did not adequately assess that information.

“I publish these findings in order to highlight the risk factors for SIDS including co-sleeping and the use of drugs.”

The death was investigated by the Child Death Case Review Panel (CDCRP), which said it was “alarmed at the poor and completely inadequate response by the department to the very serious child protection issues” in T’s case.

The panel found there was “clear evidence that the mother was using amphetamines” but it was accepted that she would “work with the department voluntarily to ensure T could remain with her at home”.

The panel said if department staff did not change their unsafe practices, their work may result in “children being placed at an unacceptable risk of future harm”.

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Before Himalayan Flood, India Ignored Warnings of Development Risks


NEW DELHI — Long before the floods came, washing away hundreds of people and wiping out newly constructed dams and bridges, the warning signs were clear.

The Himalayas have been warming at an alarming rate for years, melting ice long trapped in glaciers, soil and rocks, elevating the risk of devastating floods and landslides, scientists warned. Nearby populations were vulnerable, they said, and the region’s ecosystem had become too fragile for large development projects.

But the Indian government overrode the objections of experts and the protests of local residents to blast rocks and build hydroelectric power projects in volatile areas like the one in the northern state of Uttarakhand, where disaster struck.

Officials said Monday that bodies of 26 victims had been recovered while the search proceeded for nearly 200 missing people. On Sunday a surge of water and debris went roaring down the steep mountain valleys of the Rishiganga river, erasing everything in its path. Most of the victims were workers on the power projects.

Villagers said the authorities overseeing the expensive development projects had not prepared them for what was to come, giving a false sense of confidence that nothing was going to happen.

“There was no program or training in the village about disaster management by the government,” said Bhawan Singh Rana, head of the Raini village, hit by some of the worst damage. “Our village is on a rock, and we fear that it may slide anytime.”

Security forces focused on one tunnel where they said 30 people were trapped. Food was airdropped to about 13 villages where the roads have been cut off, with roughly 2,500 people trapped.

The devastation of the Uttarakhand floods has once again focused attention on the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas, where millions of people are feeling the impact of global warming. The World Bank has warned that climate change could sharply diminish living conditions for up to 800 million people in South Asia. But the effects are already felt, often in deadly ways, in large parts of the Himalayan belt from Bhutan to Afghanistan.

The region has about 15,000 glaciers, which are retreating at a rate of 100 to 200 feet per decade. The melting feeds or creates thousands of glacial lakes that can suddenly break through the ice and rocky debris holding them back, causing catastrophic floods. In Nepal, Bhutan, India and Pakistan, a large number of glacial lakes have been deemed imminently dangerous by The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, an intergovernmental group.

Nepal has been particularly vulnerable, with climate change forcing entire villages to migrate to lower lands for survival from a deepening water crisis. Deadly flash floods, some caused by glacial lakes bursting, have also become more frequent.

Scientists have warned repeatedly that development projects in the region are a deadly gamble, potentially making matters worse.

Ravi Chopra, the director of People’s Science Institute in Uttarakhand, said a 2012 expert group appointed by the government had recommended that dams should not be built in the Alaknanda-Bhagirathi basin, including on the Rishiganga. He was part of a scientific committee appointed by India’s highest court in 2014 that also advised against building dams in “the para-glacial zone,” what he described as an area where the valley floor is more than about 7,000 feet above sea level.

“But the government has gone ahead and chosen to build them,” he said. Both of the hydroelectric projects hit by Sunday’s flood — one obliterated and the other badly damaged — were built in that zone, he said.

D.P. Dobhal, a former scientist at the government-run Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology said, “When we develop such projects in the Himalayas such as hydro projects or roads and rail, in detailed project reports the glacier study data is never taken into consideration or included.”

The government is building more than 500 miles of highway in Uttarkhand to improve access to several major Hindu temples, despite environmentalists’ objections to the massive forest clearance required, which can hasten erosion and raise the risk of landslides.

A scientific committee appointed by India’s Supreme Court and led by Dr. Chopra concluded last year that the government, in building the highway to the width of 10 meters, about 33 feet, had gone against the advice of its own experts at the Transport Ministry. The government had argued a wider road brought more economic dividends and was needed for potential deployment of large-scale military equipment to the disputed border with China.

The Supreme Court sided with one faction of the scientific committee and ruled that the road should be limited to 5.5 meters, or about 18 feet. But by that time, hundreds of acres of forest and tens of thousands of trees had already been cut, a report in the Indian news outlet The Scroll said.

“When you have your own ministry experts telling you the Himalayan region roads should not have a tarred surface of more than 5.5 meters, and then to go against your own experts’ recommendations, then that is a serious matter,” Dr. Chopra said. “Unless the courts look into the issue of the sanctioning officials and the executing officials personally accountable, I don’t think the situation will change.”

Trivendra Singh Rawat, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, warned against seeing the flooding as “a reason to build anti-development narrative.”

“I reiterate our government’s commitment to develop hills of Uttarakhand in a sustainable manner, and we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring the achievement of this goal,” Mr. Rawat said on Twitter.

Exactly what caused the latest flooding was not clear as of Monday night, with the Indian government saying a team of experts would visit the site to investigate. Ranjeet Rath, the head of India’s geological survey, said initial information suggested a “glacial calving at highest altitude.” Calving is the breaking of ice chunks from a glacier’s edge.

Scientists studying satellite imagery from before and after the flooding said it was likely not caused by a glacial lake bursting, as no such lake was visible in the images.

They said the disaster most likely began with the collapse of a rock slope that had become unstable from thawing of ice in recent summers, and such a landslide could have broken up part of a glacier.

An avalanche could have dammed the river temporarily, creating a lake which then broke free, said Umesh K. Haritashya, a scientist who studies glacial hazards at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

Avalanches also generate heat from friction, which can melt ice that lies in its path or is in the tumbling debris.

“Basically it’s a landslide that is some fraction rock, and some fraction ice,” said Dan Shugar, a geomorphologist at the University of Calgary in Alberta. “A lot of the ice melted. And it might have picked up a lot more.”

The Raini village was in one of the areas hit hardest on Sunday, where the 13-megawatt Rishiganga hydro power project was completely washed away. Afterward, roughly 100 of the village’s 150 residents spent the night in the open.

“We did not sleep in our houses out of fear that more water may come, rocks may shift, something more dangerous may happen,” said Mr. Rana, the village head. “We took our bedding up in the forest, lit some fires, and somehow passed the night.”

The area was the site of a well-known environmental protest against deforestation in the 1970s. Protesters, a large number of them women, would hug trees to stop loggers from cutting them, in a movement that became known as “chipko,” or embrace.

Mr. Rana said local residents also held protests against construction of the Rishiganga power project, which began generating electricity last year, and they even filed court cases, but to no avail. They feared that the blasting of rocks would cause deadly landslides.

“We used to hear blasting and see the rocks shift,” he said. “When this project was under construction, half of our village slid. We requested to be shifted from here to another place. The government said they would do it, but it never happened.”

Bhadra Sharma contributed reporting from Kathmandu, Nepal, and Henry Fountain from Albuquerque.



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Heavy rain keeps SES busy in Tasmania’s north-west, flood warnings remain


Tasmania’s north has been pounded by heavy rain and thunderstorms, leading to flash flooding and cutting power to thousands of homes overnight.

There have been no reports of major damage but the State Emergency Service (SES) received more than 50 call-outs, mainly to individual houses in the north-west.

Nearly 2,500 properties were without power overnight morning but it has since been restored to most areas.

Police have advised some roads are affected by water.

In the 24 hours to 5:00am, many parts of the north and north-west received more than 100 millimetres of rain.

The town of Wynyard has taken the brunt, with a record-breaking downpour.

Its 99.8 millimetres the biggest February rain recorded in nearly 30 years.

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“It’s the highest rainfall Wynyard has seen since the 6th of June in 2016,” Tasmanian meteorologist Luke Johnston said.

Meteorologist Alex Melitsis said higher than average rainfall over the summer created a perfect storm for the rain event.

“We have actually had a fair bit of rain over Tasmania over the last month so that’s helping to create runoff and the rain’s less likely to absorb into the soil,” he said.

Most of Tasmania’s rivers remain below flood level though the bureau reports several in the north are rising.

Flood warnings have been downgraded for several parts of the state.

The downpour led to a flurry of requests for assistance, with the SES responding to 52 call-outs, the majority in Wynyard and Devonport.

The SES said it was not expecting a repeat of the devastating 2016 floods.

Floodwaters cover a campground at Gunns Plains near Ulverstone.(Supplied: Wings Wildlife Park)

Nick Connolly from the SES told ABC Radio Hobart most were maintenance issues, such as blocked gutters and leaks.

He said while there had been no significant road closures, the worst could be to come.

‘Not over yet’

Ailsa Bonell, a resident of Blackwood Creek in Tasmania’s northern midlands, said the creek overflowed, leaving the land and house where she lives inundated.

“It came up to probably about an inch or so over my ankles and it’s got into the fridge, into the freezer, into the cupboards, into the bathroom,” she said.

“My shower is an absolute mess. It’s full of mud … all the power points, down lights. Everything just went under water.”

Waratah Wynyard Mayor Robby Walsh said council workers were kept busy unblocking stormwater drains to relieve flooding.

“There was six inches of water [on the roads], 150 mills of water in a couple of places, down at the wharf there was a blockage there,” he said.

“The table drains were working overtime to manage the run-off.”

He said it was hard to see driving on the roads and there was a lot of lightning.

The bureau said Wynyard got record 99.8mm but Cr Walsh said his rain gauge this morning showed more than that.

“I went to my rain gauge and I tipped out 110 mills from the downpour in the night.”

The Mayor said conditions looked ominous.

“I don’t think it’s all over yet.”

Water over a suburban road after heavy rain
Wynyard residents woke to water over several local roads.(Supplied: Tania Johnstone)

Independent MLC Ruth Forrest, who lives at Wynyard, said she had not seen such heavy rain.

“It was really heavy, I haven’t seen rain as heavy where we live in Wynyard with so much laying on the ground in such a short time,” she said.

She hopes it is a short-impact event for Wynyard.

“We don’t tend to have the high levels of flooding, some areas do, but we have had unusual flooding activity in the past when dried-up creek beds have reinvigorated.

“That happened in the big floods of 2016.”

Severe weather warnings to wind back

Ducks walk near a flooded road
It was good weather for ducks at Gunns Plains where a road has been closed by floodwaters.(Supplied: Wings Wildlife Park)

It wasn’t just the state’s north and north-west affected by the downpour.

There were a dozen call-outs across the rest of the state.

Hobart had 40 millimetres of rain and kunanyi/Mt Wellington had 69mm.

The east coast experienced wind gusts of more than 90 kilometres per hour.

“That’s pretty significant for the east coast,” Mr Johnston said.

“It’s not as interesting as the rain … but certainly anyone camping by the east coast would’ve noticed.

“The good news is things are easing pretty rapidly.

“The rain system itself is contracting to the east later on this morning so the severe weather warning for heavy rainfall and the severe weather warning for damaging winds about the east coast should contract and be cleared away later this morning.”

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