‘Boris Johnson variant’ surge in UK down to PM’s border failures, Labour claims


Labour is attempting to pin the blame for rapidly rising coronavirus infections squarely on the prime minister today, dubbing the Delta strain of Covid-19 the “Boris Johnson variant”.

The government’s “unforgivable recklessness” at the border is the cause of the surge and the delay to the end of lockdown, accordng to Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary.

The claim came as NHS England announced that all over-18s in England would be able to book their first vaccine by the end of next week. Boosting inoculation rates is a key plank of Mr Johnson’s plan to reopen the economy on 19 July.

The PM said on Monday he was confident no further delay would be necessary but was unable to rule that out, warning of the possibility that an unforeseen and “far more dangerous” variant could emerge.

Scientists have warned more than 40,000 people could die this summer as the Delta variant sweeps through the UK, even after the decision to postpone the lifting of lockdown.

Key Points

  • Recklessness of government has led to surge of ‘Johnson variant,’ Labour says
  • Boris Johnson delays lifting lockdown restrictions
  • Summer death toll could hit 40,000
  • PM ‘would never risk UK’s health’ for trade deal photo-op with India, Michael Gove claims
  • All over-18s to be invited for vaccines by end of week, NHS boss says
  • Something ‘unprecedented’ would need to happen to delay 19 July lifting

Government responds on borders

18:30 , Jon Sharman

Following criticism by Labour for the UK’s border policy, the government’s vaccines minister has responded.

Nadhim Zahawi said the UK’s rules for arrivals in the country were “firm but fair”, telling MPs: “Red country arrivals must quarantine in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days and take tests on day two and day eight, amber country arrivals must self-isolate in their own accommodation and have a test booked for day two and day eight, green country arrivals no quarantine required but must have a test on or before day two arrival.

“All passengers from red, amber and green countries must have a negative pre-departure test.”

Mr Zahawi said the public was “advised against” leisure travel to amber countries, such as France or Spain, and red countries.

He added the Civil Aviation Authority has issued 630 fines since 1 February to airlines carrying passengers without the correct documentation.

Mr Zahawi said Border Force officials were working “tirelessly” to carry out its duties, adding: “We currently have the highest level of staffing since the 2012 Olympics.”

Huw Merriman, Conservative chairman of the Transport Select Committee, said he could not support Labour’s call for tighter border control was they would be “even more cautious” than the government’s approach and would “finish off” the international travel industry.

Additional reporting by PA

Health minister grilled on inconsistencies in Covid rules

18:11 , Jon Sharman

A health minister has admitted government Covid-19 rules are not consistent, when questioned in parliament.

Conservative frontbencher Lord Bethell acknowledged it was “entirely right to beat up the minister” about it.

Speaking in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, said: “Would the minister agree that the prolonging of the restrictions might be justified for certain reasons – I wouldn’t demur from that – but the prolonging of inconsistencies is a serious impediment to public adherence to the rules?”

He added: “For example, you can sing in a pub but you can’t sing in a church. This is what brings the rules into disrepute.”

Responding, Lord Bethell said: “It is enormously frustrating to those who have a passion for singing.”

However, pointing out coronavirus was an airborne aerosol disease, he added: “The decision that has been made has been made with huge regret and not without a huge amount of scientific analysis. But we have to fight this virus and we have to prevent people getting sick.”

Pushing further, another Tory peer, Lord Cormack, asked: “Why is he allowed to go down to his local pub and sing ‘Roll Out The Barrel’ but he can’t go into his local church and sing ‘Guide Me O My Great Redeemer’?”

Lord Bethell said: “I completely accept the challenge and these anomalies do exist and he is entirely right to beat up the minister for this kind of stuff.

“It is unbelievably difficult to write guidelines that touch so many different parts of life. I wouldn’t pretend for a moment that there is absolutely 100-per-cent consistency in everything that is done.

“These things are done in order to save lives and to protect people from infection.

“They are done with a heavy heart and they are done having looked at the scientific evidence and with an absolute sense of regret that we are I know letting down those who have a passion for singing and for religious worship.”

Additional reporting by PA

US passes 600,000 Covid-19 deaths

18:06 , Jon Sharman

More than 600,000 people have now died with Covid-19 in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The precise total posted on Tuesday was 600,012.

New York lifts Covid restrictions after reaching goal of 70% adults vaccinated

17:49 , Jon Sharman

New York will lift most of its Covid-19 restrictions after 70 per cent of all adult residents have been vaccinated with at least one dose of a vaccine, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday.





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New York lifts Covid restrictions after reaching goal of 70% adults vaccinated

NUJ lambasts police for failing to intervene when BBC journalist abused

17:30 , Jon Sharman

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said it was “genuinely shocking” to watch footage of police doing nothing as anti-lockdown protesters hounded a BBC reporter.

Nicholas Watt, Newsnight’s political editor, suffered verbal abuse and jostling as he covered the event, footage shows, with at least one person shouting, “Traitor!”, several times.

Video of the incident shows police officers did nothing to prevent the threatening behaviour.

The NUJ said: “It is genuinely shocking that a man escaping a mob screaming at him, shouting traitor and calling him scum, didn’t result in the police immediately intervening.”

Here’s our story:



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BBC Newsnight political editor chased through street by anti-lockdown protesters

Beef up border measures, say Labour

17:20 , Jon Sharman

Labour has called on ministers to “put in place proper Covid protections at the border and end the culture of failure”.

Nick Thomas-Symonds urged the government to scrap the amber list category of the government’s traffic light system for travel, moving it onto the red list “with a proper hotel quarantine system”.

Speaking during Labour’s opposition day Commons debate on Covid-19 secure borders, the shadow home secretary said: “Continue to have that green list that can grow safely over time.

“Work with our international partners to introduce a universal worldwide standardised international vaccine passport and introduce the long-awaited sector support deal for the aviation sector.”

Ministers, he said, needed to “act to secure our borders against the threat of new variants of Covid”, adding the delay to the reopening on June 21 was a “hammer blow to people across the country”.

He said: “The impact of what the prime minister announced last night is devastating but it was not inevitable. The Delta variant is here in such force because of lax Conservative border policy and the fallout from that chain of events is enormous.

“The responsibility for breaking the promise of freedom day lies squarely with this Conservative government.”

PA

Footage shows police ignoring abuse of BBC reporter at anti-lockdown protest

17:01 , Jon Sharman

#icymi

A BBC journalist was shouted at and chased down the street by anti-lockdown protesters in Westminster.

Footage showed Nicholas Watt, Newsnight’s political editor, being accosted by several people during a demonstration outside Downing Street on Monday.

In the clip, apparently filmed on a mobile phone, a woman is seen shouting in Mr Watt’s face about the BBC’s reporting.



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BBC Newsnight political editor chased through street by anti-lockdown protesters

Hundreds of New Yorkers have been told their covid shots were defective

16:42 , Jon Sharman

Nearly 900 New York City residents have been informed that they were jabbed with a “defective” Covid-19 vaccine and therefore would need an additional dose

The “expired” vaccinations were given out between 5 June to 10 June at a the vaccination clinic at the NFL Experience in Manhattan’s Times Square. The location is able to perform 1,500 jabs when at maximum capacity for over 12 hours a day, between 7.30am and 7.30pm.

However, the company behind the site, ATC Vaccination Services, told 8,999 people that they were required to have another shot before they could be considered fully vaccinated as the shots they got were believed to be ineffective due to improper storing.



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Hundreds of New Yorkers told covid shots were defective

Opinion: Is Labour right to blame the delay in lifting lockdown on Boris Johnson?

16:32 , Jon Sharman

Keir Starmer says Boris Johnson is to blame for the delay to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, because he failed to put India on the red travel list until too late. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, told the House of Commons last night that the government could not have been expected to act on evidence that wasn’t available at the time. Who is right?

Inevitably, they both are, writes John Rentoul. Nick Thomas-Symonds, the underrated shadow home secretary, called in January for all international arrivals to be required to quarantine in a hotel. If that had happened, or if it had applied to all countries on the amber list, including India, then fewer cases of the Delta variant would have arrived in the UK.

The spread of the variant would not have been prevented, but it would probably have been delayed by a few weeks, enough to allow many millions more vaccinations.



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Opinion: Is Labour right to blame the delay in lifting lockdown on Boris Johnson?

UK cases top 7,000 for another day

16:17 , Jon Sharman

The UK’s coronavirus caseload has rocketed by more than 7,000 for another day, according to Public Health England.

PHE said 7,673 new infections had been logged in the last 24 hours. Ten more people have died.

Experts call for more sequencing after new ‘Delta plus’ variant identified

16:13 , Jon Sharman

India’s leading virologists have called for better genome sequencing after it was confirmed that a further mutation has been detected in the already “more transmissible” Delta variant, writes Shweta Sharma.

The Delta variant, or B.1.617.2, was first identified in India and responsible for the surge in cases and deaths during the country’s second wave. It is now also the dominant strain in the UK with up to 91 per cent of new infections, and experts say it is rising in prominence in the US too.



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Experts call for more sequencing after new ‘Delta plus’ variant identified

Slovenia ends Covid-19 state of emergency

16:04 , Jon Sharman

Slovenia will allow its coronavirus state of emergency to expire on Tuesday and lift most remaining restrictions, its health ministry has said.

The rule has been in force for eight months.

Cultural and sports events will be able to reopen at 75 per cent capacity for people who can demonstrate they have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from a previous infection.

Some protection measures will remain in force, such as the requirement to wear face masks indoors in public and maintain a safe distance from others, said the state secretary in the health ministry, Franc Vindisar.

On Tuesday Slovenia reported 112 new cases of Covid-19 and two deaths.

About 45 per cent of Slovenia’s adult population has received one dose of a vaccine, while 32 per cent has had two.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Covid was circulating in five US states as early as December 2019, new research suggests

15:54 , Jon Sharman

The Covid-19 virus was circulating in the United States in multiple states as early as December 2019, weeks ahead of the first reported case, according to a new research study by the National Institutes of Health.

Scientists analysing blood samples from the NIH’s “All of Us” research program, which was developed to advance “precision medicine” by gathering health data of a diverse group of people, discovered nine people who tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, writes Danielle Zoellner.

Seven of the recorded people gave blood in five states – Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – prior to the first recorded Covid-19 case.



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Covid was circulating in five US states as early as December 2019, study suggests

France starts giving Covid jabs to 12-year-olds

15:44 , Jon Sharman

Perceval Gete, a 12-year-old French boy, is one of the youngest people in Europe to receive a Covid-19 vaccination, and to accommodate his young age, the nurse administering the jab had to use a special child-size needle.

His mother brought Perceval to a vaccination centre near Paris on Tuesday, the first day the age of eligibility in France was lowered to 12, because, she said, the more people get inoculated, the sooner pandemic restrictions can be lifted.

“I wanted it to be done as soon as possible,” his mother, Melanie Gete, said at the vaccination centre in the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine after Perceval had the jab.



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France starts giving Covid jabs to 12-year-olds

Special report: The deadly Covid cocktail that pushed an opioid crisis into overdrive

15:35 , Jon Sharman

This reporting was made possible by our supporter programme

Natasha Robinson vividly remembers the day her first stimulus cheque came through. She was homeless and in the depths of a heroin addiction at the time. Most of her days were spent scrambling to find enough money to get a fix. This day was different, writes Richard Hall.

“The first thing I did is I went to the ATM down here. The second thing I did is I went to my dealer’s house, and it wasn’t not even 10 minutes after that my husband was dead on the floor,” the 26-year-old says, pointing to the spot where he overdosed in the back room of this small church building in West Virginia.

“That first cheque was gone in two days. It was just bad. So many people that I know overdosed, some people died. It was probably about the worst thing for people in addiction.”



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The deadly Covid cocktail that pushed an opioid crisis into overdrive

More than 1,000 Covid patients in hospital, highest figure since start of May

15:16 , Jon Sharman

The latest internal NHS England data, shared with The Independent, shows there are now more than 1,000 Covid patients in England for the first time since the start of May.

In total the NHS England data shows there are approximately 1,030 patients in hospital who have tested positive for the virus with a total of 216 patients in intensive care, writes Shaun Lintern.

The numbers are up by almost 40 in the past 24 hours, despite 154 discharges over the same period with 75 new admissions of patients with Covid-19 as well as 118 existing patients testing positive since Monday.

The northwest region remains the worst hit with almost 350 Covid patients – similar levels to that last seen in April.

The Royal Blackburn Hospital has now overtaken Bolton Hospital has the epicentre of hospitalisations with 56 Covid patients on its wards with 19 patients in intensive care – the highest level of Covid patients since early March.

Bolton Hospital recorded 42 Covid patients in beds with 12 patients in intensive care. Levels last seen in mid-March.

30 million second vaccine doses delivered, Hancock says

15:07 , Jon Sharman

Some 30 million people have now had a second dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Matt Hancock says.

Delays after 19 July only if something ‘unprecedented and remarkable’ happens, claims Gove

14:57 , Jon Sharman

Something “unprecedented and remarkable” would need to happen for the 19 July “terminus date” for lifting Covid restrictions to be pushed back, Michael Gove has said.

The Cabinet Office minister said he shared Boris Johnson’s confidence that 19 July would see the final easing of lockdown measures, with the four-week delay announced on Monday buying more time for people to receive vaccinations.

Scientists had warned that the rapidly spreading Delta variant, which was first identified in India, would lead to a significant rise in hospital admissions if stage four of England’s road map went ahead as planned on 21 June.

Some Tory MPs have reacted with fury to the delay, and the news was described as a “devastating blow” for the night-time industry.

Asked about the circumstances in which the 19 July date could be extended further, Mr Gove appeared to tempt fate. He told Sky News: “It would require an unprecedented and remarkable alteration in the progress of the disease.”

He told BBC Breakfast the future could not be predicted with “perfect” confidence.

“But, insofar as we can be confident about anything in this complex world, we can be confident that the increased level of vaccination that we will have by 19 July should allow us to further relax restrictions,” he said.

Mr Gove also said he wants “as few restrictions as possible” after 19 July, but added that he will be “guided by clinical advice from doctors and scientists”.

Additional reporting by PA

Sturgeon to postpone Scotland lockdown easing

14:42 , Jon Sharman

Scotland is “unlikely” to move to Level 0 restrictions from 28 June, Nicola Sturgeon has said. Instead, the country is expected to follow the lead of London and delay its lockdown easing until July.

Speaking in Holyrood, the Ms Sturgeon did not rule out the further easing of restrictions but said the Scottish government needed to “buy ourselves sufficient time” to allow the vaccination programme to continue its work.

She said: “Given the current situation – and the need to get more people fully vaccinated before we ease up further – it is reasonable to indicate now that I think it unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level from 28 June.

“Instead, it is likely that we will opt to maintain restrictions for a further three weeks from June 28 and use that time to vaccinate – with both doses – as many more people as possible.

“Doing that will give us the best chance, later in July, of getting back on track and restoring the much greater normality that we all crave.”

Read more below:



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Sturgeon says Scotland ‘unlikely’ to move out of lockdown as scheduled

Additional reporting by PA

Average age of hospital patients falling, says Sturgeon

14:38 , Jon Sharman

The average age of people in hospital with Covid-19 in Scotland is falling, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The first minister said the highest number of new admissions was in people aged in their 30s and 40s.

Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: “The fact that more of the recent hospital admissions are in younger age groups may mean that fewer of the people being admitted are becoming seriously ill or requiring intensive care. It made also help to explain my next point.

“Hospital occupancy – the total number of people with Covid in hospital at any given time – is not rising at the same rate as hospital admissions or cases.

“Indeed, while there has been an approximate five-fold increase in cases since the start of May, hospital occupancy is around double what it was at the start of May.

“That suggests that people are being discharged more quickly and spending, on average, less time in hospital than patients in earlier phases of the pandemic. Again, though, while that is encouraging, further analysis is needed to confirm this.”

PA

India confirms first death directly linked to adverse reaction after Covid vaccine

14:28 , Leonie Chao-Fong

An Indian government panel studying the side-effects of Covid-19 vaccines has said that a 68-year-old man died due to anaphylaxis after inoculation.

It is the first confirmed death in the country directly linked to a reaction to vaccination, writes Akshita Jain.

A report by the National Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) panel, which is part of India’s health ministry, said the man was vaccinated with Covishield — the local branding for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, produced here by the Serum Institute of India — on 8 March and labelled the case as a “vaccine product-related reaction.”

Dr NK Arora, chairperson of the AEFI committee, told India Today it “is the first death that we have seen in which the reason of death after an investigation was found to be anaphylaxis after vaccination.”



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India confirms first death due to adverse reaction after Covid vaccine

Jon Stewart called out for peddling ‘harmful’ lab leak coronavirus theory

14:15 , Leonie Chao-Fong

Jon Stewart appeared on The Late Show on Monday and promoted a right-wing conspiracy theory about the origins of Covid-19, leading to a backlash on Twitter.

The comedian raised the theory when host Stephen Colbert asked him how he was feeling about the state of the scientific response to the pandemic, writes Ellie Harrison.

Many viewers condemned Stewart for his comments, with some calling him a “conspiracy nut” and “dangerously misinformed”.

The idea that Covid-19 could have escaped from a lab has long been dismissed by members of the scientific community, while others have derided such theories due to their connection with former President Donald Trump.

However, calls from his successor Joe Biden for a transparent investigation into the origins of Covid-19 have recently brought the theory back under the spotlight.



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The Late Show viewers call out Jon Stewart for peddling ‘harmful’ lab leak coronavirus theory

PM to meet Commons speaker after Covid announcement row

14:07 , Jon Sharman

Boris Johnson will hold talks with Lindsay Hoyle, after the Commons Speaker gave him a tongue-lashing for announcing the delay to lifting Covid restrictions at a press conference – rather than in the Commons – but it may not be straight away, writes Rob Merrick.

“The prime minister is going to be meeting with the Speaker to discuss this,” his spokesperson said. However, asked when, he replied: “In due course.”

Mr Johnson has watched the footage of Nick Watt, the BBC political reporter being abused by anti-lockdown mob and was as appalled as everybody else.

“This footage is deeply disturbing. Journalists should never face that kind of behaviour,” his spokesman said, adding: “Violence, threats and intimidation like this is never acceptable.”

The prime minister is also throwing his weight behind Cressida Dick, despite criticism of her in the Daniel Morgan report. Asked if the Metropolitan Police commissioner had his full support, his spokesperson replied: “Yes.”

Downing Street also made clear the fill removal of all Covid rules will only go ahead on 19 July if the four existing tests are met, meaning the policy is still “data not dates” – despite Mr Johnson calling it “a terminus date”.

Ireland to lengthen quarantine for partially vaccinated Britains

13:58 , Leonie Chao-Fong

People arriving from Britain into Ireland will be required to quarantine for 10 days if they are only partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, the Irish government has said.

The doubling of the quarantine period for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated arrivals is in response to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Britain.

But plans are still underway to enable people to travel more freely between the two countries from mid-July, an Irish minister insisted.

Ireland’s transport minister, Eamon Ryan, told reporters on Tuesday: “It is just to reflect concern about the Delta variant and to try and hold back the development of that variant here as much as we can and give us time to get vaccines out to give us cover against it.”

Israel scraps indoor mask order as Covid infections wane

13:46 , Leonie Chao-Fong

Israel has ended one of its final remaining Covid-19 restrictions by no longer requiring people to wear masks indoors, writes Joe Middleton.

From Tuesday, only staff in medical facilities, unvaccinated people visiting care homes, people en route to quarantine, and passengers on commercial flights will be required to wear face masks.

Israel has this month logged either zero or one daily Covid-19 deaths, health ministry data shows.

New infections have been in a steady but gentle decline after a steep drop-off in February and March.



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Israel scraps indoor mask order as Covid infections wane

The coronavirus pandemic continues to redraw traditional transport links: Stena Line has announced the first ferry connection between Wales and Northern Ireland

13:32 , Jon Sharman

The dramatic re-drawing of transport routes due to Covid is continuing – with a new ferry link between Holyhead in northwest Wales and Belfast, writes Simon Calder.

It is the first time the ports have been connected by a scheduled ferry service.

From 25 June to 18 July, Stena Line will sail at weekends between the two ports. In normal times, Holyhead has only one route, to Dublin.



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Wales and Northern Ireland to be linked by ‘temporary’ ferry route

Opinion: When the PM confirmed the great reopening on 19 July, he should have announced a relaxation of the borders

13:13 , Jon Sharman

Immigrants living in Britain haven’t had the best time recently. Granted, few people have had a pleasant time over the past year and a half; still, we have arguably had it worse. First there were the Brexit years, in which politicians tripped over themselves to tell voters how little they liked us.

Then, as things were starting to – finally, cautiously – calm down, the pandemic hit, writes Marie le Conte. Suddenly, we got stuck in this country, with no way of seeing our friends or families. Your violin may be small: after all, we chose to make this place our home, and no one forced us to move.



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When Britain reopens on 19 July, we need to relax our borders | Marie Le Conte

Blackburn infection surge has peaked, data suggests

12:54 , Jon Sharman

The surge in Covid-19 cases in Blackburn with Darwen looks to have peaked, with case rates stabilising for the first time in over a month, new figures suggest.

A total of 897 coronavirus cases were recorded in the local authority in the seven days to 10 June- the equivalent of 599.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Although this is up week-on-week from 548.4, it is below the figure of 666.7 recorded for the seven days to 7 June, which was the highest for the area since the middle of January.

Since 7 June, the seven-day rate of new cases has dropped on each successive day.

The figures have been calculated by the PA news agency from Public Health England data.

Blackburn with Darwen has been battling a sharp rise in cases since early May, driven by the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 that originated in India.

PA

Unforgivable recklessness of government has led to surge of ‘Johnson variant,’ Labour says

12:35 , Jon Sharman

The government’s “unforgivable recklessness” with its approach to Britain’s borders during the pandemic is responsible for the surge in the variant first identified in India and the delay in lifting Covid restrictions, Labour has said.

Dubbing the Delta variant as “the Johnson variant”, the shadow home secretary said Boris Johnson’s “negligence and incompetence” had left the country facing “weeks more of restrictions — and yet more uncertainty” at a speech on Tuesday, writes Ashley Cowburn.

The remarks from Nick Thomas-Symonds came after the prime minister announced his decision to postpone Stage four of the roadmap out of lockdown until 19 July after a recent surge in infections and concern of the transmissibility of the Delta variant.



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Unforgivable recklessness of government has led to surge of ‘Johnson variant,’ Labour says

AstraZeneca says its antibody treatment for people exposed to coronavirus is not effective

12:19 , Jon Sharman

AstraZeneca says its antibody treatment for Covid-19 does not prevent symptoms in people who have been exposed to the virus.

The drug maker announced on Tuesday its treatment, called AZD7442, reduced the risk of developing symptomatic Covid by 33 per cent, compared to the placebo, but that this was not statistically significant.

Trial participants were adults over the age of 18 with confirmed exposure to a person who had coronavirus within the past eight days.



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AstraZeneca says its antibody treatment for people exposed to coronavirus is not effective

Wales should not be ‘taking risks’ by lifting restrictions as cases rise, says first minister

12:00 , Chiara Giordano

First minister Mark Drakeford has said Wales should not be “taking risks” by scrapping coronavirus restrictions while the number of people falling ill from the virus continues to rise.

Asked if Wales would be far behind England’s 19 July date for the lifting of Covid-19 rules, Mr Drakeford told PA: “We expect to see the number of people falling ill from coronavirus in Wales rise over the weeks ahead because of the Delta variant.

“We are at least in the fortunate position in Wales that our vaccination programme has already gone considerably further than the programmes in England or Scotland.

“We’re in a very different position than we would have been only a matter of months ago, and we need to protect the ground we’ve already gained by not taking risks that might undermine everything we’ve achieved together.”

BBC Newsnight political editor chased through street by anti-lockdown protesters

11:46 , Chiara Giordano

A BBC journalist was shouted at and chased down the street by anti-lockdown protesters in Westminster.

Footage showed Nicholas Watt, Newsnight’s political editor, being accosted by several people during a demonstration outside Downing Street on Monday.

Our reporter Tom Batchelor has more details:



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BBC Newsnight political editor chased through street by anti-lockdown protesters

Covid may lead to emergence of ‘superfungus’ in Brazil, say scientists

11:28 , Chiara Giordano

Scientists have warned overcrowded hospitals, exhausted health care workers, and other factors are creating “ideal conditions” for the emergence of a “superfungus” with the ability to resist drug treatment.

The first two cases of infection with the fungus Candida auris in Covid patients, described in the Journal of Fungi, was reported in a hospital in Salvador in the state of Bahia, Brazil.

My colleague Vishwam Sankaran explains more in the article below:



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Covid may lead to emergence of ‘superfungus’ in Brazil, say scientists

People scramble to move second jab forward amid Delta variant surge

11:07 , Chiara Giordano

People eager to get their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine have been scrambling to move appointments forward amid a surge in the Delta coronavirus variant, after finding they can rebook for a closer time.

Some have said they have been able to cancel existing appointments for their second jab and sign up for another one several weeks earlier than originally planned.

My colleague Zoe Tidman has more details:



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People scramble to move second Covid vaccine forward amid Delta variant surge

Just 1% of hospital beds in England occupied by Covid patients

10:55 , Chiara Giordano

Just one per cent of hospital beds in England are occupied by patients with Covid-19, according to the head of the NHS in England.

Sir Simon Stevens told the NHS Confederation annual conference: “At the moment about one per cent of hospital beds in England are occupied by patients with a Covid diagnosis and the age distribution has really flipped as a result of vaccination.

“Back in January, it was 60/40 – 60 per cent of beds occupied by people over 65, 40 per cent (occupied by people) under 65.

“Now it’s flipped to 30/70, so it’s about 30 per cent occupied by people aged 65 and over 70 per cent by younger people whose prospects are much greater.”

Covid mentioned on 153,493 UK death certificates

10:44 , Chiara Giordano

A total of 153,493 deaths have now occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The highest number of deaths to occur on a single day was 1,480 on January 19.

During the first wave of the virus, the daily death toll peaked at 1,461 deaths on April 8 2020.

Lifting lockdown would have caused big surge in cases, says former chief scientific adviser

10:33 , Chiara Giordano

The government’s former chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport, has told LBC radio that if nothing had been done, the doubling of cases would have seen a big surge.

He said: “It’s fairly obvious that, if you increase people’s social contacts at the moment, then the rate of transmission will rise further.”

He later told Sky News that “another month will enable many more people to be jabbed and for the effects of those first and second jabs to actually kick in”.

He said a further four weeks of data will also show the extent to which the link between infection and hospital admission is weakened, and politicians will be able to make “a more confident decision”.

‘Common sense’ approach to enforcing rules around dancing at weddings, says Gove

10:25 , Chiara Giordano

Michael Gove said there will be a “common sense” approach to the enforcement of rules around dancing at weddings.

Asked if the police will be sent in, he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I think we’ll use common sense. It is the case that the bride and groom are expected, allowed, encouraged to have a first dance, but it’s also the case that we’re not opening dance floors for weddings because we’re not opening them elsewhere as well.

“It’s four weeks. After this four-week period then I hope that we can get things back to normal. In the meantime, there are restrictions, but overall, I think, you know, common sense is the answer.”

All over-18s to be invited for vaccines by end of week, NHS boss says

10:15 , Chiara Giordano

All adults aged over 18 will be able to book a Covid vaccine by the end of this week, the head of the NHS in England has said.

Speaking at a virtual annual conference of health leaders organised by the NHS Confederation, Sir Simon Stevens, who is stepping down from his role next month said: “I expect that by the end of this week, we’ll be able to open up the national booking service to all adults aged 18 and above.”

Our health correspondent Shaun Lintern has more details below:



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All adults over 18 to be invited for Covid vaccines by end of week, NHS boss says

Latest Covid death figures for England and Wales

10:06 , Chiara Giordano

A total of 98 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 4 June mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is up three per cent on the previous week, but the ONS said the number of deaths registered was affected by the bank holiday on 31 May and that differences between the figures should be treated with caution.

Around one in 77 deaths registered in the week to 4 June (1.3 per cent) mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

Government ‘as confident as confident can be’ about restrictions ending on 19 July, says Gove

09:56 , Chiara Giordano

Michael Gove has said the government is “as confident as confident can be” about 19 July being the date for the end of England’s coronavirus restrictions.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The data shows that we should be in a position to have vaccinated so many people by that date in July that we will be able to lift restrictions.

“Now, you know, none of us can predict the future with 100 per cent certainty – there could be something bizarre and unprecedented that occurs.

“But, on the basis of all the information that we have, then we will have successfully protected such a large section of population, and of course children will be facing summer holidays and that brings the infection rate down. So we’re as confident as confident can be about that date.”

PM ‘would never risk UK’s health’ for trade deal photo-op with India, Michael Gove claims

09:38 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson would “never put the health of the country at risk” for a trade deal photo opportunity with India, Michael Gove has claimed.

The Cabinet minister’s defence of the prime minister comes after Labour accused the PM of delaying action to stop travel from the country for fear of disrupting trade talks and ruining a planned photo-op.

Our policy correspondent Jon Stone has the full story:



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Boris Johnson ‘would never risk UK’s health’ for a Brexit trade deal photo-op with India, Michael Gove claims

EasyJet shifts Spanish flights from UK to Germany

09:23 , Chiara Giordano

Britain’s biggest budget airline is moving capacity for Spanish flights from the UK to Germany.

In response to the continuing severe restrictions on international travel from the UK, easyJet has switched flights to continental Europe. Some aircraft that were expected to connect British airports with Palma in Mallorca have been switched to to Berlin.

Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has more details:



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EasyJet shifts Spanish flights from UK to Germany

‘Puny weak’ border policy to blame for delay to lockdown lifting, claims shadow health secretary

09:10 , Chiara Giordano

Labour’s shadow health secretary has claimed the reason the nation is in the current situation is because the government did not impose travel restrictions sooner.

Jonathan Ashworth Radio 4’s Today programme: “Rather than red listing this variant, we essentially gave it the red carpet treatment as 20,000 people were allowed to arrive from India over a number of weeks in April, even though the warning signs were there.

“That essentially seeded this Delta variant across the country.

“Nobody wanted to be in this place and we could have avoided this if it was not for the Delta variant, and I’m afraid this is on Boris Johnson for his puny weak border policy, which was secure as a sieve.”

Future restrictions are a ‘possibility’, says expert

08:55 , Chiara Giordano

A member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) advising the government has said future restrictions are a “possibility”.

Professor Graham Medley told the Today programme: “It really depends upon what the prospects look like in terms of the way this virus reacts with the vaccine, and that has actually turned out to be good news and uncertainty is solidified in terms of being good news.

“There is that possibility though; I think that depending on what the government wants to achieve, they may well have to make decisions that are against what they would much prefer not to do which is to make the changes that we’ve got irreversible.

“It is possible we could end up with a situation whereby the numbers of people going to hospital, really mean that the government have to take some kind of action that they don’t want to, but I think that’s always been the case – government has always taken action to that it didn’t want to, it never wanted to lockdown.

“And it’s always going to be the case in the sense that there is this pandemic ongoing but the next pandemic will happen at some point unknown, and then having used lockdowns once it’s quite possible that the government would choose to use them again.”

Something ‘unprecedented’ would have to happen for 19 July lifting to be delayed

08:40 , Chiara Giordano

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said something “unprecedented and remarkable” would have to happen for the 19 July date to be extended further.

He told Sky News: “It would require an unprecedented and remarkable alteration in the progress of the disease.”

Delay to lockdown lifting ‘regrettable’, says Michael Gove

08:30 , Chiara Giordano

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said it was “regrettable” that ministers had to order a delay of up to a month to the final phase of the road map.

Asked if restrictions would ease on 19 July or whether there could be another delay, he told Sky News: “That will be the terminus date.

“What we said is that we won’t lift those restrictions before 21 June, in the road map it says not before, and the whole point about the road map was to build in an element of flexibility and caution.

“It is regrettable that we do have this pause before moving to Step 4, but what we want to do is to make sure that when we do make that move, that we don’t go back.

“Because the worst thing for business, worst thing for any of us, would be to open up again and then to very quickly find that we have to reimpose restrictions.”

200,000 more people in work during May as economic recovery strengthens

08:11 , Chiara Giordano

UK employers added 200,000 people to payrolls in May as more people returned to work and the unemployment rate fell as the economic recovery from the pandemic strengthened.

The number of people in payrolled employment rose 197,000 between April and May but remains 553,000 below the level reached before the pandemic began, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported.

Our business correspondent Ben Chapman has more details:



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200,000 more people in work during May as economic recovery strengthens

Summer death toll could hit 40,000

08:00 , Chiara Giordano

Scientists have warned more than 40,000 people could die this summer as the Delta variant of coronavirus sweeps through the UK, even after Boris Johnson’s decision to delay the lifting of lockdown restrictions by four weeks.

A paper submitted to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) said a summer wave of infections, hospitalisations and deaths was “likely” whether or not restrictions were lifted because of the highly virulent nature of the variant.

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock and health correspondent Shaun Lintern have the full story:



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Scientists warn of 40,000 ‘summer wave’ Covid deaths as lockdown lifting delayed by four weeks

Boris Johnson delays lifting lockdown restrictions

07:54 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson has set a new “terminus date” of 19 July for the end of England’s coronavirus restrictions after being warned easing measures as planned could lead to thousands of deaths.

The prime minister ordered a delay of up to a month to the final phase of his roadmap out of lockdown due to concerns over the rapidly spreading Delta variant first identified in India.

Experts feared going ahead with Step 4 on 21 June as anticipated could lead to hospital admissions on the scale of the first wave of Covid-19, heaping unsustainable pressure on the health service.

To avoid this, Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference it was “sensible to wait just a little longer” as he put back the end of all legal limits on social contact by a month.

No new Covid-19 cases in Indian slum for first time during second wave

07:24 , Akshita Jain

The densely populated slum area of Dharavi in India’s Mumbai city reported zero Covid-19 cases on Monday, the first time since the second wave of the pandemic hit the country.

Dharavi, one of Asia’s biggest slums, has reported 6,861 cases of coronavirus till date, and out of these, 2,900 infections were reported in the second wave, according to The Indian Express analysis.

73% elderly in India experienced increased abuse during lockdown

07:03 , Akshita Jain

Nearly 73 per cent of the elderly population in India suffered increased abuse during the lockdown imposed to contain the deadly second wave of Covid-19, according to a new report.

The Agewell Foundation, a Delhi-based not-for-profit, said 61 per cent of those claimed that interpersonal relationships was the main reason for the increasing incidences of elder abuse, according to news agency PTI.

Crowds outside metro stations as Delhi reopens

06:39 , Akshita Jain

As India’s national capital Delhi eased restrictions on Monday, long queues could be seen outside metro stations and people had to wait for more than 50 minutes to board a train.

Some stations had to be temporarily shut to manage crowds.

The transport system resumed operations last week at 50 per cent seating capacity, but people flocked to metro stations after the national capital allowed malls, markets and private offices to open on all days from Monday.

‘Delta likely to become dominant variant in the US’

06:22 , Akshita Jain

The Delta variant of Covid-19 — identified first in India — is likely to become the dominant source of new infections in the US, said Dr Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration

Dr Gottlieb told CBS: “Right now, in the United States, it’s about 10 per cent of infections. It’s doubling every two weeks.”

He said that while this does not mean there will be a sharp spike, it does mean that this is going to take over.

India to get Novavax Covid-19 vaccine soon

05:57 , Akshita Jain

The US’s Novavax vaccine will likely be available in India soon, as the company said it has begun regulatory filing with the Serum Institute of India.

Novavax has said its vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective in protecting against moderate and severe Covid.

The vaccine maker has an agreement with the Serum Institute of India for the development and commercialisation of the vaccine in low and middle income countries, including India.

Delta variant doubles risk of hospitalisation, says study

05:39 , Akshita Jain

A Scottish study has found that the Delta variant of Covid-19 — first detected in India — doubles the risk of hospitalisation compared with the Alpha variant — first identified in Kent.

But scientists said that two doses of vaccine still provide a strong protection against the Delta variant.

Chris Robertson, professor at University of Strathclyde, was quoted as saying by Reuters that if a person tests positive for Covid-19, two doses of the vaccine or one dose for 28 days reduces risk of hospitalisation by 70 per cent.

05:14 , Akshita Jain

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for Tuesday 15 June, 2021.





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