Health

Coronavirus UK news LIVE – PM warns Brits to enjoy freedoms ‘cautiously’ due to Indian variant as lockdown lifts TODAY


BORIS Johnson has warned Brits to be “cautious” as they enjoy hugs, indoor meals and holidays for the first time this year TODAY.

In a major milestone on the road to normality, hugs are allowed again and pubs and restaurants can reopen indoors – but all Brits “must play their part” and be responsible.

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.”

Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancocks aid that, from tomorrow, over 35s will start to be invited for their first vaccine dose – but experts warn the easing of restrictions Monday may see the mutant strain spread further.

Mr Hancock also said there are now more than 1,300 cases of the Indian variant in the UK, warning it is now “the dominant strain” in areas including Bolton and Blackburn.

And he said the country faces a “race between the vaccination programme and the virus” amid fears it will spread elsewhere – with the Indian variant having “given the virus some extra legs in that race”.

Meanwhile, the government plans to vaccinate one million people a day as ‘Covid hit squads’ target India variant hotspots across the country. By using a stockpile of 3.2 million vaccines, daily doses will be ramped up from 500,000 to 800,000 within a fortnight, according to the Telegraph.

Reading our coronavirus live blog below for up to the minute updates…

  • MAPPED: ENGLAND HOTSPOTS WHERE INDIAN VARIANT IS DOMINANT

  • BRITS MUST WAIT UNTIL JUNE 14 TO LEARN IF COVID RESTRICTIONS WILL BE FULLY LIFTED ON JUNE 21, MATT HANCOCK CONFIRMS

    Brits must wait until June 14 to learn if Covid restrictions will be fully lifted on June 21, Matt Hancock confirms
  • MEXICO RECORDS 1,233 NEW COVID CASES AND 53 FURTHER FATALITIES

    Mexico reported 1,233 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 today plus a further 53 virus-related fatalities.

    Sunday’s figures bring Mexico’s total infections to 2,381,923, while the death toll has now reached 220,437.

    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

  • LONDON HOTELS DECLARE THEMSELVES OPEN FOR BUSINESS

    Using room lights on different floors, this is the moment London hotels officially declared themselves ‘OPEN’ for all guests again.

    As the capital – and the country – begins to get back to normal life, Crowne Plaza London – Docklands and Holiday Inn Kensington Forum celebrated being open for non-essential guests again from Monday.

    The four-letter word was created using lights in 80 different rooms across the two hotels.

    They were joined by other IHG hotels across the country as the group’s hotels reopen.

    The display is part of a countrywide celebration as restrictions are slowly easing and people can rediscover travel again and enjoy the comforts of a hotel nationwide.

  • CONTINUED…

    But offering good news over plans to ease restrictions without unleashing a fresh wave of infections and deaths, Mr Hancock said there is “new very early data” from Oxford University giving confidence that existing vaccines work against the variant.

    “That means that we can stay on course with our strategy of using the vaccine to deal with the pandemic and opening up carefully and cautiously but we do need to be really very vigilant to the spread of the disease,” the Health Secretary told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday. “We have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome.”

    Oxford University said the data is preliminary and it is unable to share the research because it is not yet written up in a manuscript.

    But Sir John Bell, the regius professor of medicine at the university, said the result of lab experiments investigating whether the vaccine neutralises the variant “looks okay”.

    “It’s not perfect, but it’s not catastrophically bad,” he told Times Radio. “There’s a slight reduction in the ability to neutralise the virus but it’s not very great and certainly not as great as you see with the South African variant… It’s rather close to the Brazilian version where the vaccine serum seems to be very effective in neutralising the virus.”

  • ‘HIGH DEGREE OF CONFIDENCE’ VACCINES WORK AGAINST INDIAN VARIANT, SAYS HANCOCK

    New evidence gives a “high degree of confidence” that coronavirus vaccines work against the Indian variant, Matt Hancock said as he urged people to get jabbed to prevent the new strain spreading “like wildfire”.

    The Health Secretary said on Sunday it is “appropriate” to push on with the major easing of restrictions in England on Monday despite concerns from scientists that it could be 50% more transmissible than the Kent strain.

    He did not rule out the possibility of imposing local lockdowns in areas such as Bolton to stem the spread of the variant, although he said it is “relatively widespread in small numbers” elsewhere.

    Ministers are hoping surge testing and the acceleration of second vaccine doses can allow a safe opening up of the nation, with jabs due to be extended to the over-35s this week.

    Mr Hancock said there are now more than 1,300 cases of the Indian variant in total and it is becoming “the dominant strain” in areas including Bolton and Blackburn in the North West.

  • GRAPH: UK COVID VCCINATIONS IN THE UK

  • WORKERS’ SAFETY PARAMOUNT AS LOCKDOWN EASES – UNIONS

    Unions are pressing for workers to be kept safe as the national lockdown is eased on Monday, leading to the reopening of more indoor hospitality and increases in people travelling.

    The TUC said good ventilation in workplaces is “vital”, adding that tasks which can be completed outside should be.

    General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “If workplaces aren’t Covid-secure, coronavirus cases could rebound again. High vaccination rates are no excuse for employers to slack on safety at work.

    “The Government should ensure everyone can afford to self-isolate if they need to. That means making sure everyone can get statutory sick pay, and raising it to the level of the real Living Wage.”

    The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has called for zero-tolerance of any breach of transport safety measures or abuse of staff

  • TRAVEL INSURANCE CONFUSION COULD LEAVE HOLIDAYMAKERS OUT OF POCKET, WARNS WHICH?

    Holidaymakers risk losing out due to confusion over the extent to which coronavirus-related disruption is included in travel insurance policies, Which? is warning.

    Its research suggests many travel insurance customers are being left with a false impression about their level of protection if the pandemic affected their holiday plans.

    Which? believes some of this is down to poor communication by travel insurance providers and the use of blanket terms such as “Covid cover” or “enhanced Covid cover” on insurers’ websites.

    A Which? survey of more than 2,800 travel insurance customers between February and March found three in 10 (29%) have committed to bookings or arrangements for international trips this year.

    More than one in 10 (12%) said while they have not booked or arranged travel, they do have specific plans.

  • THOUSANDS JET OFF ON HOLIDAY AS FOREIGN LEISURE TRAVEL BAN LIFTED

    Holidaymakers are jetting out of the country as a ban on overseas leisure travel is lifted.

    Thousands of people are expected to take to the skies as travel restrictions are eased in England and Wales on Monday.

    The relaxation of the rules was described as a “symbolic moment after the most difficult year in our history”, by one airports chief.

    Travel firms have reported a surge in demand for trips to Portugal, after the Government put the country on its green list for travel meaning travellers will not need to self-isolate on their return, and are only required to take one post-arrival test.

    EasyJet has added 105,000 extra seats to its flights serving green-tier destinations, while Tui will use aircraft which normally operate long-haul routes to accommodate the surge of people booked to fly to Portugal.

  • HOLIDAY CHAOS AS MATT HANCOCK URGES BRITS TO STAY AWAY FROM ‘AMBER LIST’ SPAIN, GREECE & ITALY DESPITE END OF TRAVEL BAN

    BRITS’ holiday plans have been thrown into chaos as they’ve been urged to stay away from “amber list” countries despite the Government ban on travel outside of the UK coming to an end.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that people should not travel to amber countries except for essential reasons and “certainly not” to countries such as Italy, France, Greece and Spain.

    Brits can travel abroad for the first time this year from today – but just twelve countries made it onto the “green list” which does not require quarantine on return. 

    Mr Hancock dashed hopes of a Spring break in the sun this morning, saying Brits should only travel to tourist hotspots such as Spain or Greece if “absolutely necessary”. 

    “People should not travel to amber or red list countries unless it’s absolutely necessary, and certainly not for holiday purposes,” he told Times Radio. “Our borders, testing [and] surveillance is the best in the world and it means that we can spot problems in other countries sometimes before they know they’ve got a problem themselves. So the green list is here for exactly this reason to provide for a safe way where we know that it’s okay and safe to go abroad.”

     

  • INDIAN POLICE BEAT COVID RULE BREAKERS WITH STICKS AS HUNDREDS OF CORPSES WASH INTO THE GANGES FROM SHALLOW GRAVES

    COPS are beating lockdown rule breakers with batons in an Indian state as the country battles a crippling second wave of Covid cases and deaths.

    It comes as masses of dead bodies buried in shallow sand graves washed up on the banks of the river Ganges with cremation costs tripling as India grapples with widespread devastation caused by coronavirus.

    Police were forced to urge people in Uttar Pradesh – the country’s most populous state – not to dispose of the bodies of their relatives in the water as thousands continue to die every day in the country.

    Torrential rainfall exposed countless bodies wrapped in orange, yellow and red cloths on a wide, flat riverbank in Prayagraj – leading to speculation that they are the remains of Covid-19 victims.

    Authorities reportedly had to step up their response after dogs and eagles were seen lurking around corpses.

    Read more here.

  • PM CALLS FOR ‘HEAVY DOSE OF CAUTION’ AS LOCKDOWN EASES BUT VARIANT SPREADS

    Boris Johnson has called for a “heavy dose of caution” as indoor socialising and physical contact resumed against the backdrop of concerns over the Indian coronavirus variant.

    The Prime Minister said “now everyone must play their part” as England pushed ahead with the third stage of the road map out of lockdown on Monday.

    Pubs and restaurants will be able to welcome customers back indoors, visits to the homes of friends and family can resume and the foreign holiday ban has ended.

    Hugs and other physical contact between households are also permitted for the first time since restrictions began more than a year ago.

    But the measures were eased as top scientists called for caution and warned of a “perilous moment”, with the Indian variant feared to be as much as 50% more transmissible than the Kent strain.

  • CONTINUED: PM ISSUES ‘HEAVY DOSE OF CAUTION’ AS HUGS AND HOLIDAYS RESUME

    Mr Johnson said in a statement: “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.”

    He said the “current data does not indicate unsustainable pressure on the NHS”, and that second vaccine doses are being accelerated to give the greatest protection to the most vulnerable.

    “But now everyone must play their part – by getting tested twice a week, coming forward for your vaccine when called and remembering hands, face, space and fresh air,” he added.

    “I urge everyone to be cautious and take responsibility when enjoying new freedoms today in order to keep the virus at bay.”

  • PM ISSUES ‘HEAVY DOSE OF CAUTION’ AS HUGS AND HOLIDAYS RESUME

    Boris Johnson has called for a “heavy dose of caution” as indoor socialising and physical contact resumes against the backdrop of concerns over the Indian coronavirus variant.

    The Prime Minister said “now everyone must play their part”, as England pushes ahead with the third stage of the road map out of lockdown on Monday.

    Pubs and restaurants will be able to welcome customers back indoors, household visits will resume and the foreign holiday ban will end.

    Hugs and other physical contact between households will be permitted for the first time since restrictions began more than a year ago.

    But the measures are being eased as top scientists warn of a “perilous moment”, with the Indian variant feared to be as much as 50% more transmissible than the Kent strain.

  • JONATHAN VAN-TAM SAYS ‘YOUNGER ADULTS WILL SOON BE OFFERED THEIR VACCINES’ AS HE ENCOURAGES TAKEUP

    Vaccines are currently available to those aged 38 and over in England but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that the rollout would be opened up to people aged 35 and over this week.

    The Government has set a target of offering a first dose to every UK adult by the end of July.

    England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: “Younger adults will soon be offered their vaccines and I encourage everyone to get their jab when eligible so we can stay on top of this virus, protect those most at risk, and get back to a normal life including travelling and being with your friends.”

    YouTube UK managing director Ben McOwen Wilson said: “We hope that this light-hearted campaign helps remind everyone that there is one more critical contribution we can all make: by ensuring we have the best information on Covid vaccines, and doing our part when our time comes.”

  • MAPPED: ENGLAND HOTSPOTS WHERE INDIAN VARIANT IS DOMINANT

  • PORTUGAL TO OPEN TO BRIT TOURISTS FROM TOMORROW

    Portugal will open to tourists from nearly all European countries from Monday, says the interior ministry.

    Travellers from most EU countries, the 26-nation Schengen Area and the UK can make “all types of visits to Portugal, including even non-essential visits”.

  • YOUTUBE TEAMS UP WITH NHS TO ENCOURAGE YOUNG PEOPLE TO GET COVID JAB

    A campaign to encourage young people to get their Covid jab when they become eligible has been launched by YouTube in collaboration with the NHS.

    The online platform said it can help the health service reach this audience, with 98% of 18-34 year olds in the UK using YouTube each month.

    The campaign, with the tagline Let’s Not Go Back, will run on the video platform as well as in the national press, on billboards, bus stop advertising, and on social media.

    Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for NHS England, welcomed the support of such platforms to spread the message that coronavirus vaccines are safe.

    She said: “We want to make sure that everyone, including in younger generations, have any barriers removed that may stop them from taking the vaccine when offered, so it is great to have support from platforms such as YouTube, to reassure people that the vaccine is safe, simple and effective. NHS staff have pulled out all the stops to deliver the success of the vaccine programme so far, and I urge everyone to book in for a vaccine when you are eligible.”

  • ‘HIGH DEGREE OF CONFIDENCE’ VACCINES WORK AGAINST INDIAN VARIANT, SAYS HANCOCK

    New evidence gives a “high degree of confidence” that coronavirus vaccines work against the Indian variant, Matt Hancock said as he urged people to get jabbed to prevent the new strain spreading “like wildfire”.

    The Health Secretary said on Sunday it is “appropriate” to push on with the major easing of restrictions in England on Monday despite concerns from scientists that it could be 50% more transmissible than the Kent strain.

    He did not rule out the possibility of imposing local lockdowns in areas such as Bolton to stem the spread of the variant, although he said it is “relatively widespread in small numbers” elsewhere.

    Ministers are hoping surge testing and the acceleration of second vaccine doses can allow a safe opening up of the nation, with jabs due to be extended to the over-35s this week.

    Mr Hancock said there are now more than 1,300 cases of the Indian variant in total and it is becoming “the dominant strain” in areas including Bolton and Blackburn in the North West.

  • BRAZIL’S COVID-19 DEATH TOLL PASSES 435,000

    Brazil recorded 40,941 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours.

    The health minister also said Sunday that there were a further 1,036 deaths from the virus in the same period.

    Brazil has now registered 15.63 million cases since the pandemic began, while the South American nation’s official death toll stands at 435,751.

  • GROWING FEARS THAT INDIAN VARIANT ‘MAY BECOME DOMINANT’

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there are now more than 1,300 cases of the Indian variant in the UK.

    He said it is becoming “the dominant strain” in areas including Bolton and Blackburn in the North West, amid fears it will spread elsewhere and halt lockdown lifting.

    But he did offer hope by reassuring Brits that Covid vaccinations should protect against the variant.

    “We have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome,” he said on Sky News.

  • GRAPH: UK COVID-19 CASES AND DEATHS PER DAY

  • EXPLAINED: WHAT AREAS OF THE COUNTRY HAVE THE INDIAN VARIANT?

    Cases of the Indian variant B.1.617.2 have grown rapidly within just a few weeks.

    The highest number of cases have been in hotspots Bolton and Blackburn where the majority of those infected haven’t had the vaccine, Matt Hancock said. Experts have warned the Covid strain could cause 1,000 deaths a day.

    Bolton has turned into a “ghost town” as locals are ruled by “total fear,” fighting a spike in infections almost ten times higher than the UK average.

    The army has been deployed to the streets – and worries that the town may be plunged back into the toughest of restrictions are growing.

    Bolton currently has the highest rate of coronavirus infections in the country, with 657 new cases in the seven days to May 10 – the equivalent of 228.5 cases per 100,000 people.

  • PLANS FOR CROWDS AT EURO 2020 GAMES IN UK IN JEOPARDY (CONTINUED…)

    “We couldn’t have done it had we not felt comfortable with the roadmap, had the vaccination programme not gone well and other test events had gone well,” continued sports minister Nigel Huddleston.

    “So that in itself must be seen as a success. But variants are called variants of concern for a reason – they are of concern.

    “There’s no doubt we are worried about them but we always would be. We want to get as many fans as possible into stadiums again. I’m hoping we get there, I’m hoping we’ll get to capacity crowds soon but it depends entirely on the variants of concern but it’s a goal and has been all along.

    “From Monday, there’s a lot opening up and crowds and that will make such a difference. But opening up is one thing and opening up profitably is another. We’ve got to get the crowds up from an economic sense and we recognise that.

    “The cup final is a really important signal and we wouldn’t have done this if we weren’t making progress.”

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