MILLIONS of lockdown-weary Brits have been told to ignore measures easing today and not sit inside pubs or hug relatives.
Although new rules in force today mean we can sit inside pubs for the first time since 2020 and guidance on hugging relatives has changed, a former government chief scientific adviser, a leading public health specialist and the union representing Britain’s doctors urged the public to think twice.
Prof Sir Mark Walport, a former director of the Wellcome Trust and a chief scientific adviser until 2017, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge “My personal judgement is that I will do things outside as far as possible… My advice is that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.”
Asked if that meant he would avoid going inside a pub, he replied: “For the moment, yes.”
Meanwhile Boris Johnson also warned Brits to be “cautious” as they enjoy hugs, indoor meals and holidays for the first time this year TODAY.
The PM said: “Together we have reached another milestone in our roadmap out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution. We are keeping the spread of the variant first identified in India under close observation and taking swift action where infection rates are rising.”
Reading our coronavirus live blog below for up to the minute updates…
MEXICO CONFIRMS 822 NEW CASES AND 56 MORE DEATHS
Mexico’s health ministry on Monday reported 822 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 56 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,382,745 infections and 220,493 deaths.
The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently suggested the actual death toll is at least 60% above the confirmed figure.
THE GREAT INDOORS
Brits blew £2.8million-a-minute on Mad Monday as pubs and restaurants opened indoors and other Covid rules were lifted.
Around 20 million went drinking and eating inside, shopped and hit cinemas, theatres and gyms for the first time in up to seven months.
Around 140,000 boozers, restaurants and cafes were the busiest for nine months, since August’s Eat Out to Help Out frenzy.
A dash of drinkers and diners was seen across the country, in cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle.
Cinemas saw a rush after Vue’s 88 sites and most of Odeon’s 112 locations reopened after some had been closed since October. Movie Peter Rabbit 2 drew fans.
More on the story here.
An MP in Covid-ravaged India has been blasted for her “disturbing” claim that drinking cow urine every day prevents her from catching the virus.
Controversial politician Pragya Thakur hailed it a “life-saver” – despite doctors repeatedly telling people not to use cow excrement as a way to treat coronavirus as the country continues to be battered by a deadly second wave.
The MP, who is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and represents Bhopal, claimed drinking cow pee protects her from Covid.
She has been slammed for her remarks which outraged politicians say “invite more devastation” by “discouraging people from getting the jab”.
More on the story here.
The chances of full lockdown being lifted on June 21 are “close to nil”, a government adviser has reportedly said.
The final decision on whether to ease restrictions could be delayed until the full extent of the spread of the Indian Covid variant – and the effectiveness of vaccines against it – becomes known.
A spike in cases of the variant has seen it spread rapidly to reach all parts of the UK within a matter of weeks.
Downing Street has refused to say if Boris Johnson’s promise to announce an update on post-June 21 plans by the end of the month will still go ahead as planned.
Some ministers and scientist have insisted the full easing of lockdown restrictions that will allow indoor mixing, weddings and clubs to reopen, is still likely to go ahead.
Coronavirus jabs will be open to 37-year-olds from tomorrow in a bid to keep the Indian variant at bay, the Health Secretary has announced.
Matt Hancock today stated that 37 year-olds will be next in line to have a dose before 36-year-olds are invited on Wednesday.
Speaking this afternoon Mr Hancock said jabs had been quadrupled in hotspot areas this weekend such as Blackburn and Bolton, where cases of the Indian variant are dominant.
He thanked the people of Bolton and Blackburn for their “community spirit” when it comes to the jab rollout and urged people to come forward for their jab when they are offered it.
Mr Hancock said the vaccine has saved lives and has prevented hospitalisations.
TURKEY’S ERDOGAN ANNOUNCES ONE-TIME PAYMENTS FOR BUSINESS HIT BY PANDEMIC
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday announced one-off payments totalling some 4.6 billion lira to several sectors that were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, including cafes, restaurants and musicians.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan said cafes, wedding venues and theme parks, among other businesses hit by the pandemic, would be given a one-off payment of 5,000 lira.
He said restaurants, cab drivers, barbers, musicians, car washes and others would receive 3,000 lira.
Erdogan also announced additional support for the agriculture sector.
Turkey emerged on Monday from a full lockdown that lasted nearly three weeks, during which many businesses were closed. A daily curfew and weekend lockdowns will remain in place until June.
CASE BY CASE
Indian variant cases have surged by 77 per cent with a rise of 1,000 infections in just three days, Matt Hancock revealed this afternoon.
On Friday the latest data showed 1,313 cases in the UK, and on Monday there were 2,323.
Covid-hit Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen have seen 483 cases of the Indian variant and 27 people hospitalised, with Bedford now on the watchlist as infections rise.
Mr Hancock said: “The next biggest case of concern is Bedford where we are surging testing – and I would urge everybody in Bedford to exercise caution and engage in testing where it is available.”
He said there are 86 local authorities with five or more cases of the mutation, but did not specify where they were.
MASKING FOR TROUBLE
Brits heading to Portugal for a long-awaited holiday must wear face masks on the beach or will be slapped with a £100 fine.
As foreign travel finally reopened for countries on the green list, it still remains a far cry from normality – as tourists were handed face masks, hand sanitiser and were asked for full details of their trip after stepping off the plane.
Holidaymakers were also warned to abide by the strict rules regarding wearing face masks in public places, including beaches, or will face £100 fines.
Although the country is officially “open for business”, visitors must provide proof of a negative Covid PCR test and show a completed locator form with details of their accommodation.
Portugal pledged to try “at all costs to avoid quarantines and additional Covid-19 tests” for travellers, tourism minister Rita Marques said recently.
CONTINUED – WHAT DID MATT HANCOCK SAY IN HIS ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY?
Mr Hancock gave an update on the Indian variant this afternoon, revealing there are now 2,323 confirmed cases of the new variant with cases doubling in the past week.
He said 483 of these cases have been in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen.
He also emphasised the importance of getting the vaccine, saying evidence shows the new variant is not affecting older, vaccinated groups.
He added that the majority of people in hospital with Covid in these areas “have chosen not to have the jab”.
Mr Hancock also announced that jabs will be open to 37-year-olds from tomorrow in a bid to keep the Indian variant at bay.
He said: “From tomorrow I can confirm that people aged 37 can come forward before expanding this at the end of the week.”
Addressing MPs he said vaccines would “help us all get out of the pandemic”.
WHAT DID MATT HANCOCK SAY IN HIS ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY?
The Health Secretary updated MPs on the Government’s battle plan to tackle the UK’s outbreak of the new strain and keep the PM’s roadmap on track.
Mr Hancock revealed there are now fewer than 1,000 people in hospital in the UK with coronavirus and on average there are nine deaths a day.
This means the country was able to take step 3 of its roadmap today by carefully easing restrictions. The Health Secretary warned though that we must be alert to new variants that could jeopardise the progress we’ve made.
He said this afternoon: “We have been in a race between the virus and the vaccine. As a nation, we’ve taken some huge strides forward and we can make careful progress today and we must remain vigilant. The vaccination programme can give us confident but we must be alert to new variants.”
ITALIAN CURFEW PUT BACK TO 11pm
Italy’s ruling parties on Monday agreed to put back a nationwide nightly curfew to 11 p.m. from 10 p.m. with immediate effect, government sources said.
Speaking after a meeting of medical advisers to Mario Draghi’s government and coalition representatives, the sources said the curfew will begin at midnight from June 7, and be abolished altogether from June 21.
Italy — which has the second-highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe after Britain — is gradually loosening curbs on business and people’s freedom of movement as daily deaths and cases decline, and more people are vaccinated.
SECOND DOSE OF VACCINE TO BE ADMINISTERED WITHIN EIGHT WEEKS
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told MPs the government will now be offering everyone over 50 the Covid-19 vaccine as a “priority” and the wait between jabs will be reduced from 12 weeks to 8.
It comes over concerns about the ‘Indian variant’ of Covid-19 which appears to be more transmissible.
NEARLY 500 CASES OF ‘INDIAN VARIANT’ IN BOLTON AND BLACKBURN WITH DARWEN
Speaking to the House of Commons, Matt Hancock says there have been 483 cases of the Indian variant of Covid-19 in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen – making the main variant in the area.
There are now 2,223 cases confirmed in the UK.
He said cases have doubled in the last week though hospital admissions have remained stable.
Hancock said there is evidence that the variant is more transmissible but does not seem to be spreading to the parts of the population which have already been vaccinated.
UPDATED COVID-19 DEATH TOLL
The Government said a further five people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 127,684.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have been 152,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
The Government also said that, as of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 1,979 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.
UK HOTELS REOPEN FROM TODAY
Hotels across England can finally open their doors from today, welcoming guests once again.
Not only that, but group holidays can also go ahead from today – meaning a trip with your friends and family.
The latest lockdown restrictions have been eased even further, which originally only allowed self-catered holidays for single households.
However, as England eases out of lockdown, more UK holidays can go ahead from today.
The new group holiday rules allow groups of six from different households or unlimited people from two households to now go away together, and can now socialise indoors at pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Hotels have already opened in Wales, although this was only if they had en-suite facilities and room service – all holiday accommodation can now reopen.
TOP SCIENTIST WARNS AGAINST SOCIALISING INDOORS
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said that he would not meet indoors “at the moment”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it is reasonable to just be sensible about knowing where transmission is occurring, mostly indoors, mostly in larger gatherings indoors with lots of different people, different families, different communities, and I would just restrict that at the moment personally.”
But he added: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to lift the restrictions – we do need to lift the restrictions at some point, we’ve been in restrictions now for a very long time.”
THE NETHERLANDS TO EASE COVID RESTRICTIONS
The Netherlands will ease its coronavirus lockdown measures slightly this week as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations has eased pressure on hospitals, health minister Hugo de Jonge said.
Amusement parks and zoos will be allowed to reopen as of Wednesday, while outdoor service at bars and restaurants will be extended by two hours until 8 PM.
The Netherlands is currently on the government travel ‘amber list’ meaning people must self-isolate for 10 days on entering the UK.
HEALTH SECRETARY MATT HANCOCK TO ADDRESS HOUSE OF COMMONS
Health Secretary Matt Hancock will address the House of Commons at 4.15pm on Covid-19 as the restrictions are eased across the UK.
From today, people are allowed to socialise indoors and travel to a ‘green list’ of countries
WHAT ARE THE NEW PLANE RULES?
No 10 TELLS NHS TO MAINTAIN PRIORITY LIST DESPITE CALLS FOR YOUNGER PEOPLE TO GET THE VACCINE TO COMBAT ‘INDIAN VARIANT’
Downing Street has urged health officials not to extend the coronavirus vaccine rollout to younger people and to stick to the priority list advised by experts.
There have been calls for those in areas where there are higher rates of the Indian variant of Covid-19 to be offered the jab regardless of their age in a bid to stem the spread of the strain, which is understood to be more transmissible.
Bolton Council has been pushing for those aged 18 and over to be vaccinated, and a councillor deleted a tweet on Saturday in which he claimed “anyone” with a Bolton postcode and registered with a Bolton GP could visit a vaccine bus and get jabbed.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has asked Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi for the “flexibility to give younger people the vaccine in those parts of London concerned about this strain”.
CRUISE LINERS ARE READY TO SAIL AGAIN
Major cruises will resume this week with the maiden voyage of a vessel around the coast of the UK.
MSC cruise line’s Virtuosa will leave Southampton on Thursday for a four-night cruise, followed by three and four-night mini-cruises.
From June 12, the 19-deck ship will start to operate longer seven-night sailings through to mid-September, offering guests additional embarkation ports in Liverpool and Greenock as well as calls at Portland in Dorset and Belfast in Northern Ireland.
Antonio Paradiso, managing director of MSC Cruises UK & Ireland, said: “MSC Virtuosa is the latest, most-innovative and environmentally advanced to join the MSC Cruises fleet and we couldn’t be more delighted to offer UK holidaymakers and their families the chance to discover her world class facilities.
“We have all been waiting for something exciting to look forward to and this ship has lots of new features for our guests to experience including new speciality restaurants and a brand-new immersive entertainment lounge with a humanoid robotic bartender and much more.”
WHICH COUNTRIES ARE ON THE SAFE-TRAVEL ‘GREEN LIST’?
South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
*Closed to foreign visitors
“LESS THAN 50% CHANCE” JUNE LIFTING OF LOCKDOWN WILL BE DELAYED
There is less than a 50% chance that the June 21 plan for lifting all legal limits on social contact will be delayed, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said.
Professor Graham Medley, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, offered a degree of optimism about the summer though he stressed the Indian variant meant things were still uncertain.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also insisted that the June 21 date for the ending of restrictions in England was likely to be met.
He told Sky News that “people should have common sense, they should use judgment and I think if we act in a reasonable way, there is no reason to suppose that we can’t reopen the economy entirely on June 21”.
INDONESIA AT RISK OF COVID-19 ‘TIMEBOMB’ AFTER EID
Indonesia set up roadblocks on Monday to screen for COVID-19 among travellers returning from Muslim holidays, as fears rose that mass gatherings and virus variants could trigger a surge of new cases in the world’s fourth most populous nation.
Each year millions of Indonesians fan out across the sprawling archipelago after Ramadan to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and visit extended families, in a tradition known as “mudik”.
To try and avoid mass transmission of the virus, the authorities banned travel between May 6 and 17, during the Eid period, but government data suggests that at least 1.5 million people left their homes ahead of the ban.
On Monday, police were stopping cars at checkpoints around Jakarta in an attempt to identify and isolate positive cases. They were asking people about their travels, requesting to see test results and instructing some people to undergo tests.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world.
STUDENTS WORRIED ABOUT THE FINANCIAL IMPACT OF COVID, NUS SAYS
A majority of Scottish students have concerns about how they will cope financially because of the impact of coronavirus, a new survey has found.
The National Union of Students Scotland study suggests 78% are worried about the effect of the pandemic, with almost a quarter (24%) stating they were either “extremely” or “very” concerned.
The poll of 549 Scottish students carried out in March revealed 31% were left unable to pay bills during the previous three months, including 24% who could not pay their full rent.
One in 10 students who sought support during the pandemic received help from a food bank, according to the survey.
There were also 22% who relied on credit cards, 8% on bank loans and 16% on credit schemes to make ends meet.