Boris Johnson has warned of a “rough winter” ahead as the UK saw a 37 per cent rise in the number of daily Covid cases compared to last week.
It comes after cabinet minister Kwasi Kwarteng said it is “unlikely” the remaining Covid restrictions could be lifted before 19 July. He highlighted that the government would “always err on the side of caution.”
Meanwhile, there are calls to scrap quarantine for those holidaying in amber list countries. Data from NHS Test and Trace revealed that only one in 200 people returning from so-called amber list countries had tested positive for Covid-19.
Health secretary Matt Hancock has said that he hopes self-isolation rules will be eventually scrapped and replaced with daily tests for those who have received two doses of a Covid vaccine.
- PM says ‘rough winter’ could be ahead and cannot exclude ‘new horrors’
- Hancock hopes double-jabbed people ‘won’t have to self-isolate’ after Covid contact
- ‘Unlikely’ restrictions will be lifted before 19 July, minister says
- Tokyo Olympics confirm cap on spectators for 2021 Games
- No 10 denies G7 caused spike in Covid cases in Cornwall
- Travel rules ‘about politics and control, not public health,’ claims Labour MP
Vaccine system outage
17:17 , Zoe Tidman
Clinicians have been forced to log people’s jabs with pen and paper following a system outage affecting vaccine centres.
Immediately after the jab is administered, a clinician usually registers it digitally but the system is thought to have gone down across England at around 1.30pm.
People attending for a Covid-19 vaccine can still go ahead and should notice no difference to the service.
PM spokesperson denies G7 Summit behind Cornwall spike
16:52 , Zoe Tidman
The government has denied that a rise in coronavirus infections in Cornwall is linked to the recent G7 summit.
Figures for the seven days to June 14 show that Cornwall and Isles of Scilly had the fourth biggest week-on-week rise in infections – with only North Tyneside, Liverpool and County Durham higher.
This has led some to blame the gathering of the world leaders in Carbis Bay from 11 June to 13 June as the cause of the spike.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “Attendees going to the G7 were tested before arriving and throughout the summit. We are not aware of any cases of transmission to local residents.
“We always said that, following the move to step three (of the government’s road map out of lockdown), we would see cases rising across the country. That is what we are seeing playing out.”
10,000 more Covid cases in UK
16:33 , Zoe Tidman
The government said as of 9am on Monday,there had been a further 10,633 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.
The government also said a further five people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 127,981.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 153,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
What is the UK’s Covid vaccine booster plan?
16:15 , Eleanor Sly
Health secretary Matt Hancock has said he will set out a plan for the government’s Covid vaccine ‘booster’ programme in the coming weeks.
But health leaders say planning must start now because it will be logistically difficult for the NHS to run the scheme while they deal with other challenges going into winter.
Matt Mathers reports:
Canada to begin easing border restrictions for fully vaccinated citizens
15:57 , Eleanor Sly
Canada will start to cautiously lift border restrictions for fully vaccinated citizens as well as other eligible people on 5 July. US and other foreign travellers will however still be excluded, the government said on Monday.
The relaxation of measures will begin from 11:59pm EDT on 5 July (03:59am GMT on 6 July), and will apply to those who have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine who will no longer have to spend time in quarantine.
“This is the first phase of our precautionary approach to easing Canada’s border measures. At this time we are not opening up our borders any further,” Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said in a statement.
Non-essential travel was first banned in Canada in March 2020 as a part of the effort to fight Covid-19, the measures have been extended on a monthly basis ever since.
The restrictions, which exclude trade in goods, are now due to expire on 21 July 2021.
The Canadian government said that it would “continue to consider further targeted measures at the borders and when to lift or adjust them” but did not give precise details.
Travel rules ‘about politics and control, not public health,’ claims Labour MP
15:40 , Eleanor Sly
A senior Labour MP has made a stinging attack on the government’s international travel restrictions after returning from a trip to Europe.
Ben Bradshaw, the former cabinet minister who represents Exeter, launched a Twitter tirade against Boris Johnson as well as the transport secretary, Grant Shapps and the health secretary, Matt Hancock.
Mr Bradshaw wrote: “Returned from a European country with Covid-19 rates one-fifth of ours on Monday. No new variants in that country. Am double-jabbed.”
Read more from Simon Calder here:
Period changes post-vaccine could be due to ‘chance’
15:37 , Eleanor Sly
Changes to some womens’ period patterns after they received a Covid-19 jab may be due to “chance,” said leading gynaecologists.
Experts at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said that a number of women will experience a temporary change to their periods in their lifetime, so for some women the change may by chance occur around the time that they receive a coronavirus vaccine.
However, RCOG said that anecdotally some women have reported heavier periods after receiving the vaccine. It said that it would support “more data collection in this area to understand why this might be the case.”
The news comes after data suggested that a total of almost 4,000 women had reported changes in their periods after they received a vaccine.
The Sunday Times reported that the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had recorded 2,734 reports after women had received the AstraZeneca vaccine, 1,158 related to the Pfizer jab, and 66 linked to the Moderna vaccine up to 17 May.
The most commonly reported issue was heavier-than-usual bleeding.
Dr Pat O’Brien, vice president for membership at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “It’s important to remember these side effects are mild and should not deter women from having the vaccine when they are called.
“Many women will experience a temporary change in their periods from time to time during their lives. And right now, many women in their 20s and 30s are having the Covid vaccine.
“So it seems inevitable that in some women these two events will coincide by chance.
“If, however, these changes persist, or you have any new vaginal bleeding after the menopause, you should see your doctor.
“We also want to stress that these perceived changes in menstrual cycle after having the Covid-19 vaccine should not be confused with an impact on fertility and the ability to have children. There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility.”
Covid dampens India’s annual Yoga Day celebrations
15:24 , Eleanor Sly
India’s border police personnel performed yoga at an altitude of 15,000 feet as part of the seventh international Yoga Day celebrations dampened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation, saying “today when the whole world is battling the coronavirus pandemic, yoga remains a ray of hope.”
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) were seen practicing yoga by the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh. Its personnel from the Arunachal Pradesh Animal Training School in Lohitpur also performed yoga with horses, according to reports.
Akshita Jain reports:
Portugal speeds up vaccination program as Delta variant spreads
15:20 , Eleanor Sly
Portuguese authorities have said they will accelerate Covid vaccinations and increase testing as the Delta Covid variant continues to spread in the country.
Only just over 25 per cent of Portugal’s population has been fully vaccinated, the majority of whom are the older and more vulnerable.
A recent spike in cases around the Lisbon area has led authorities to speed up the vaccination campaign, especially for young people.
Those aged 35-39 can start booking their vaccination appointment on Monday. Next month, those aged 20-29 will be able to schedule their appointment. An additional vaccination centre will also be opened in Lisbon to help cope with demand.
The number of people who are testing positive for Covid every 24 hours has returned to levels last seen in late February, when the country was still under lockdown. Now however, much of the country is back to normal life with many restrictions lifted.
The Delta variant now represents over 60 per cent of cases in the Lisbon area. However, it is still only responsible for less than 15 per cent of cases in the northern half of Portugal, the country’s health institute said on Sunday.
A weekend travel plan was put in place around Lisbon’s metropolitan area last Friday, in an attempt to prevent people from leaving or entering the region, but the Portuguese Society for Health Management (SPGS) said more measures were urgently needed.
“The control of Lisbon’s metropolitan area must be more restricted and prolonged to try to avoid the spread of the virus as much as possible,” it said.
Let the vaccinated travel, says UK aviation industry
14:55 , Eleanor Sly
The UK air travel industry on Monday called for the UK to remove Covid testing and isolation for fully vaccinated travellers as has been happening in the European Union.
Airlines UK said in a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that travellers who have had both vaccines and are coming from from “amber” destinations should be exempt from the 10-day isolation requirement. They added that those coming from both “amber” and “green” countries should be exempt from costly PCR tests.
“Given the incredible efficacy of vaccines and their critical role in easing domestic restrictions, we believe that the framework can safely be adjusted to provide a pathway for vaccinated people to travel without restriction, alongside steps to reduce restrictions for green and amber categories, making them more proportionate for travellers,” the group said.
The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Monday that holidaymakers would face hassle and delays this year if they decided to take a trip abroad. He also highlighted how the priority would be to keep the country safe from coronavirus.
The letter cited how vaccines have been confirmed to be more than 90 per cent effective against hospitalisation from the fast-growing Delta variant of Covid. The group suggested that this should be taken into account when Britain’s traffic light system for travel is reviewed, on 28 June.
“This effectiveness has been recognised by Europe, which is now opening its travel and leisure markets by introducing waivers from testing and isolation requirements for fully vaccinated persons, including arrivals from major markets such as the United States,” it said.
“Today 32 countries exempt travellers from quarantine and 27 from testing if fully vaccinated. The failure to adopt a similar approach risks the UK falling further behind the EU’s reopening of international travel, including the critical trans-Atlantic market.”
Boris Johnson fails to deny plans to cut back on pensions
14:46 , Eleanor Sly
Boris Johnson has failed to deny that the government is considering dropping the pensions triple-lock to help pay for the recovery from Covid.
The prime minister was speaking after reports that chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering suspending the measure – under which state pensions rise in line with the highest of prices, average wages or 2.5 per cent – for a year in order to avoid a bumper hike as pay soars in the wake of the pandemic.
And reports today suggested the Treasury are considering cutting the pensions lifetime allowance or tax reliefs or introducing new taxation on employer contributions to bring down the ever-mounting bill.
Andrew Woodcock has more below:
Scotland records no new Covid deaths but 1,250 new cases
14:36 , Sam Hancock
Scotland has recorded no new coronavirus deaths and 1,250 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest government data, meaning the country’s official death toll remains at 7,692.
The daily test positivity rate was 7.2 per cent, up from 5.8 per cent the previous day, according to figures published by the Scottish government on Monday.
Public Health Scotland said it is aware of a data flow issue in NHS Grampian between 18 and 21 June, resulting in a lower number of cases reported than otherwise expected, however these are expected to be included in Tuesday’s figures.
There were 158 people in hospital on Sunday with recently confirmed Covid-19, and 14 people in intensive care, the data showed.
So far 3,647,437 Scots have received the first dose of a Covid vaccination, while 2,586,970 have received their second.
First investiture to take place at St James’s Palace since Covid began
14:25 , Sam Hancock
The first major investiture ceremony since the pandemic began will go ahead at St James’s Palace on Wednesday, with numbers scaled back to comply with Covid guidelines.
The Prince of Wales will greet 32 recipients at the event, compared with the 100 recipients usually awarded their honours, from knighthoods to MBEs, at these events.
Investitures are usually a key part of the royal calendar, but there have been no major ones for 15 months, since before the start of England’s first national lockdown.
In March 2020, the Queen was pictured wearing gloves for the first time at a palace investiture, when the total number of people diagnosed with Covid-19 in the UK was 51.
UK airports prepare legal action over traffic light system
14:13 , Sam Hancock
Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group, which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports, are preparing legal action calling for more transparency over how Whitehall decides which countries are on current travel lists, PA new agency reports.
The first “checkpoint” review since the traffic light system was introduced is due to take place on 28 June. But Paul Charles, chief executive at travel consultancy The PC Agency, said he does not anticipate any major changes.
“I think caution is going to continue from the government,” he said. “I think there may well be very few changes. You may see maybe somewhere like Turkey move from red to amber, you may see a couple of greens added.
Explaining how ministers had to “re-instil confidence in people about the traffic light system”, Mr Charles described the system as being “shot to pieces” referencing the “way that they treated Portugal two weeks ago”.
“They’ve either got to reinvigorate the traffic light system, or they’ve got to outline how they’re going to enable fully jabbed citizens to travel with more freedom and not have to quarantine when they return from an amber country,” he said, adding: “I’m not sure they’re going to open things up very much at all until August.”
Hong Kong to relax quarantine rules for arrivals
14:04 , Sam Hancock
Authorities in Hong Kong have said quarantine requirements will soon be relaxed for travellers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and are arriving from certain lower-risk countries.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam added the relaxation of quarantine measures will first be open to Hong Kong residents returning to the city. They must have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days, must undergo a serology test to prove they have the antibodies, and must test negative for the coronavirus upon arrival in Hong Kong.
The announcement comes amid a shortage of quarantine hotel rooms in the city. Current quarantine restrictions can require arrivals from various countries to serve between seven to 21 days of quarantine at designated hotels, with many of the city’s hotels are booked through August.
Officials said the arrangement could begin on 30 June and that it is looking to open a similar arrangement for non-residents later.
Data from Covid booster vaccine trial unlikely to be ready ‘until late August’
13:59 , Sam Hancock
Professor Saul Faust, lead investigator of a Covid booster vaccine trial, has said his team will only be able to provide data to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) by the “end of August” on the impact of a top-up shot.
Asked whether autumn booster jabs were likely to go ahead, the University of Southampton academic told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “I’m not the right person to say definitely, but it sounded very much like the Secretary of State (Matt Hancock) is expecting to announce a booster programme.
“From the trial point of view, we’ve got very tight timelines. The results of the trial, both in terms of the side effects and the blood test data which shows immunology and how the vaccines are working against all the current circulating variants, those data will be available to JCVI by the end of August.
“That is incredibly quick in terms of the fact we are still recruiting – the recruitment for this trial, giving people their third dose, is happening right now in June.”
Asked whether his statement meant the trial was unlikely to know until late August whether and how to go about a booster, Prof Faust said: “That’s right, but that is all being planned for.”
No 10 denies G7 caused spike in Covid cases in Cornwall
13:53 , Sam Hancock
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman has denied the G7 summit in Cornwall was responsible for an increase in coronavirus cases in the area. He instead argued it had always been expected that cases across the country would rise following the last easing of lockdown restrictions in England in May.
“Attendees going to the G7 were tested before arriving and throughout the summit. We are not aware of any cases of transmission to local residents,” the PM’s spokesman told reporters today. “We always said that, following the move to step three [of the roadmap out of lockdown], we would see cases rising across the country. That is what we are seeing playing out.”
It comes after the area around Carbis Bay, where the summit took place, and Falmouth, where the world’s media were based, began seeing some of the highest rates of infection in England.
The rate of Covid infections in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly during the week to, and including, 13 June has risen from 2.8 per 100,000 people on the Sunday before G7 began to 81.7 per 100,000.
Focusing on the areas most closely linked to G7 events, cases in St Ives and Halsetown rose to 733.2 per 100,000 people in the seven days to 13 June, when the summit came to an end. In the council ward of St Ives East, Lelant & Carbis Bay, the rate rose to 294.9 per 100,000 people in the same period.
In a number of Falmouth council wards the rates are now more than 500 per 100,000, with Falmouth East hit by a 2,000 per cent rise in infections to 600 per 100,000.
India vaccinates a record 5 million
13:27 , Eleanor Sly
India administered a record five million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, under a campaign to inoculate all adults for free.
The news comes following weeks of criticism that the country’s disorganised rollout had worsened their second wave that killed hundreds of thousands.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the government would buy 75 per cent of all vaccines from drug makers and distribute them for free.
“It marks the beginning of the end of adversities related to Covid-19 in the country,” said Giridhara Babu, a member of the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Since last month, many people have been paying for their vaccinations from private hospitals, increasing the divide between those living in rural and urban areas and drawing criticism.
Experts have warned that there could be a third wave in the country as only about 5 per cent of the 950 million eligible people are fully inoculated with two doses.
Fourth lockdown: Is UK likely to face new restrictions?
13:10 , Eleanor Sly
The government should not rule out a fourth coronavirus lockdown in winter, a Public Health England adviser has said, amid warnings of a possible rise in Covid-19 cases towards the end of the year.
Samuel Osborne reports:
Sturgeon receives second vaccine dose
12:50 , Eleanor Sly
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has received her second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
On Monday, Ms Sturgeon became one of the more than two million Scots who have received two doses of the vaccine.
She tweeted: “Double vaccinated! Thank you NHSLouisaJordan.
“Please roll up your sleeve for both doses as soon as you are invited for an appointment – every single one of us who gets fully vaccinated is a step back to normality for all of us.”
Thank you @NHSLouisaJordan.
Please roll up your sleeve for both doses as soon as you are invited for appointment – every single one of us who gets fully vaccinated is a step back to normality for all of us. #Covid #vaccines pic.twitter.com/8UJQORlzqF
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) June 21, 2021
Boris Johnson says ‘rough winter’ could be ahead and cannot exclude ‘new horrors’
12:39 , Eleanor Sly
Boris Johnson has warned of a “rough winter” with pressures on the NHS “for all sorts of reasons”, amid warnings from scientific advisers the UK could see another surge of Covid.
The prime minister, however, insisted “it’s looking good” for the government’s plan to end all remaining legal restrictions in England on 19 July — something Mr Johnson has referred to as the “terminus point”.
Last week chief medical officer, professor Chris Whitty, urged the health service to brace itself for a difficult winter, adding it was his expectation “we will get a further winter surge” of coronavirus, or a spike in cases of flu virus.
UK should expect travel hassle and delays, says Boris Johnson
12:23 , Eleanor Sly
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that travellers will face hassle and delays this year should they decide to holiday abroad. He said that this would be due to the priority being to keep the UK safe from the coronavirus.
He said: “I want to stress that this is going to be, whatever happens, a difficult year for travel: there will be hassle, there will be delays, I’m afraid, because the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and to stop the virus coming back in.”
When asked whether or not the government were thinking of easing the rules for those who have had both vaccines, Mr Johnson said: “We’re looking at it but I want to stress that the emphasis is going to be on making sure that we can protect the country from the virus coming back in.”
What is the UK’s Covid vaccine booster plan?
12:14 , Eleanor Sly
Health secretary Matt Hancock has said he will set out a plan for the government’s Covid vaccine ‘booster’ programme in the coming weeks.
But health leaders say planning must start now because it will be logistically difficult for the NHS to run the scheme while they deal with other challenges going into winter.
Matt Mathers reports:
Rise in long-term unemployment risks blighting young people’s lives, experts warn
12:05 , Eleanor Sly
The futures of thousands of young people risk being permanently damaged by the pandemic unless the government does more to tackle an alarming rise in long-term unemployment, experts have warned.
While a mass unemployment crisis has been averted thanks largely to the furlough scheme, the number of young people out of work for six months or more has surged to a 10-year high.
Youth workers have cautioned that placing too heavy a focus on the headline jobless rate, which has remained lower than many predicted earlier in the pandemic, means that some of the most vulnerable groups are being ignored.
Ben Chapman reports:
Government to set out plans for autumn vaccine booster campaign, says Matt Hancock
11:43 , Eleanor Sly
Data will be released in the coming weeks on whether or not mixing Covid-19 vaccinations could be appropriate for an autumn vaccine booster campaign, the Health Secretary has said.
Matt Hancock explained that although second doses of the current vaccines offered very strong protection, “there is more protection still that we think that you can get from a booster jab,”
He added that it would be necessary to “get the logistics right” for any future vaccine campaign. The news comes following GPs and NHS leaders expressing their concerns over how a campaign of this kind would be staffed.
Currently, seven vaccines are being tested in the Cov-Boost trial to see which could be used in any upcoming autumn vaccination programme.
Experts believe that all of the seven vaccines should boost immunity, with lab studies checking their response to variants circulating in the UK, including the Indian, Kent and South African strains.
The £19.3 million UK clinical trial is in the process of testing the Pfizer jab alongside those from AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax, Janssen from Johnson & Johnson, Valneva and CureVac.
“When we know the results of that (trial), then we will set out the full plans for the booster programme over the autumn,” Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast on Monday.
“We’ve got to make sure we get the logistics right; for instance, GPs have been so heavily involved in this vaccination effort, but GPs have also got to do their day job, so that’s something we’re working hard on now and, in the next few weeks, when we get the clinical data through on what’s the most effective combinations to have… then we’ll set out all the details of the booster programme for the autumn.”
Calls to relax holiday rules as only one in 200 travellers from amber list countries tests positive for Covid
11:23 , Eleanor Sly
Fewer than one in 200 people returning to the UK from “amber list” countries are testing positive for Covid-19.
Data from NHS Test and Trace also revealed that no virus variants of concern were found in any of the travellers entering the country from the 167 destinations currently graded “amber” by the British government.
Between 20 May and 9 June, just 89 of the 23,465 passengers arriving from amber countries tested positive for the virus.
‘Please do have the jab,’ says first in world to receive vaccine
10:56 , Eleanor Sly
Margaret Keenan, who was the first person in the world to receive the Covid vaccine outside of trial conditions, is urging people to get the jab.
The 91-year-old received a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at Coventry’s University Hospital on 8 December 2020.
She told BBC Breakfast: “Whatever you thought before, please do have the jab.
“There is nothing to it. Don’t be afraid of a needle. It is just to save your life and to save other lives.”
She added that it “did feel very important to have it done” and said that she had been hopeful at the time that it would get “the ball rolling.”
Mrs Keenan said she had wanted to take the jab not just for herself but for “everybody and the NHS.”
She added: “The success of the vaccination is testament to what everyone can achieve if they put their minds together.
“I do not have any worries about the booster programme because we have already done it. We have done the first one and been successful in the rollout.”
French nightclubs will be allowed to re-open from 9 July
10:46 , Eleanor Sly
Nightclubs in France will be allowed to re-open from 9 July, said government minister Alain Griset.
This will be the first time since the initial Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 that the industry has been allowed to operate.
France eased its third national lockdown last month with the reopening of terraces on 19 May. Earlier in June, for the first time in seven months, restaurants, bars and cafes were allowed to reopen for indoor service.
Over 100 of France’s 1,600 nightclubs have been forced to shut permanently because of the pandemic crisis, according to hospitality trade union UMIH.
Tokyo Olympics will allow up to 10,000 spectators at events
10:27 , Eleanor Sly
Olympic organisers have said that domestic spectators will be allowed at the summer’s Tokyo Games.
Attendance will however be capped at 10,000 people or 50 per cent of the venue’s capacity, whichever is the smaller number.
The news comes amid concerns that this could change again, should Japan’s Covid situation worsen before the Olympic Games begin on 23 July.
Tickets for an average of 42 percent of venue capacity have apparently been sold, although this will be distributed unevenly among the venues. Currently it is not clear how access will be allocated.
Matt Hancock hopes double-jabbed people won’t have to self-isolate after Covid contact
10:15 , Eleanor Sly
Matt Hancock has said he wants self-isolation rules to be eventually scrapped and replaced with daily tests for individuals who have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The change in guidance — if signed off by Boris Johnson — would mean those who have received both jabs may soon be spared 10 days of self-isolation if they come into contact with someone infected with the virus.
According to reports over the weekend, the health secretary is pushing to replace the mandatory self-isolation in favour of daily lateral flow tests, but a government decision is not expected until later in the summer.
Hong Kong to shorten hotel quarantine
09:59 , Eleanor Sly
Hong Kong has announced that it will shorten its hotel quarantine from 21 to seven days for arrivals from the end of the month.
The Chinese-rules city currently has one of the world’s longest quarantine periods but this is set to change. Chief executive Carrie Lam said that it was time to “appropriately reopen” borders to places with a similar Covid situation to Hong Kong.
The new measures will only be applicable to people 14 days after their second vaccination dose. In addition to this, they must obtain a negative test on departurn and a positive antibody test on arrival.
Anyone arriving from countries deemed “very high risk” however, will still have to quarantine for 21 days.
The news comes as the government is attempting to incentivise more of its population to get vaccinated.
So far only around 17 per cent of residents in Hong Kong have been fully vaccinated since vaccinations opened in February.
Tokyo Olympics confirm cap on spectators for 2021 Games
09:39 , Eleanor Sly
Organisers of the Tokyo Olympic Games have fixed spectator limits for the event at 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000.
The decision was taken following a meeting on Monday morning involving local organisers, the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees, the Tokyo metropolitan government and the national government.
Japan’s top coronavirus advisor had told organisers on Friday that the best way to limit the risk of spread was to hold the events behind closed doors, but organisers have opted to follow the existing government limits for sports events in the country.
Hospital admissions ‘slowly rising’ but nowhere near levels of previous waves
09:29 , Eleanor Sly
Although hospital admissions are “slowly rising,” they are nothing like the rates seen during previous waves, said Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers.
“Two weeks ago, on 4 June, we had 800 Covid-19 patients in hospital; as of Friday it was 1,170.” he told Times Radio.
“In November there were 14,700 and [in the] January/February peak, there were 34,000 people in hospitals with Covid-19.
“It’s rising relatively slowly but it’s nowhere near anything like the kind of numbers we’ve had in previous waves.
“In terms of who is coming into hospital, it tends to be younger people, people who haven’t been vaccinated, and it’s very, very few people who’ve had double vaccinations and the chance to have that two- to three-week protection build-up.
“So that’s why we’re continuing to say with increasing optimism that the vaccines have broken the chain between the community infections with Covid-19, and the very high level of hospitalisations that we’ve seen in previous waves, but for this set of variants; we don’t know what variants are going to come in future.”
Vaccine booster campaign should be made ‘business as usual’
09:08 , Eleanor Sly
The health service needs to plan for potential future Covid-19 vaccine booster campaigns, making them “business as usual” instead of “emergency response,” said Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers.
“There are a bunch of questions that really do need to be answered in terms of looking forward to the next phase,” he told Times Radio.
These questions include: how long protection lasts, whether people can “mix and match” vaccines, how new vaccines will be incorporated into the vaccine roster, what the level of protection is against new variants and whether vaccines need “tweaking”, what the plan is for children, and whether the vaccine can be given at the same time as the flu jab.
Mr Hopson added: “Flu jabs start in September, so if we’re going to do one jab in one arm, one jab in the other, we really do need to know quite quickly.
“And that’s why we’ve called today for the government to do all it can to get us the answers to those questions. We need those answers really pretty quickly if we’re to carry on our fantastic success.”
He added: “To be frank, we’re probably going to need to do these vaccinations, probably on an annual basis for, I don’t know, at least five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years.”
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Australian PM promises more vaccine doses to states as covid cluster grows
08:50 , Eleanor Sly
Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has said that states and territories will get more doses of Covid-19 vaccines soon, as the outbreak in New South Wales reached 11 cases in five days.
Australian states have been asking for increased vaccine supplies of vaccines after a policy shift recommended that AstraZeneca shots be used only for those over 60, due to blood clot worries, turning the rollout upside down.
“They are all getting additional doses … it scales up again in July when the additional Pfizer doses go out,” Mr Morrison told radio station 2GB.
Meanwhile health authorities said that the Pfizer vaccine rollout is expected to speed up from August as it is currently “operating in a resource-constrained environment.”
“As we get into that third-quarter, fourth-quarter, we will have far freer flows of Pfizer and start to be able to allocate that more freely,” Lieutenant General John Frewen, the head of Australia’s vaccine taskforce, told reporters in Canberra.
New lockdown rules: All the coronavirus restrictions eased from today, from weddings to wakes
08:21 , Eleanor Sly
Monday should have seen the final lifting of lockdown restrictions across England, but because of rising coronavirus infection rates due to the now-dominant Delta variant, “Freedom Day” has been delayed until 19 July.
This means that the rule-of-six and social distancing measures remain in place. But, a number of other restrictions — including those around weddings, wakes, and care homes — have been lifted as of today.
Celine Wadhera has more:
New Zealand to offer Pfizer vaccine to 12-15 year olds
08:07 , Eleanor Sly
New Zealand is approving the Pfizer vaccine for those aged between 12 and 15 years old, said prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
The move comes following Canada, the US, Japan and Europe, who have all said that they will vaccinate 12-15 year-olds with the Pfizer jab.
Ms Ardern explained that although children were less likely to suffer serious illness as a result of Covid-19, they could still spread the virus.
She said: “Put simply – when our children are vaccinated, their teachers, friends, siblings, parents and grandparents are more protected from the virus too. So it’s in all of our interests for this group to get the vaccine.”
New Zealand has currently vaccinated about 7.7 per cent of the adult population.
So far, only specific vulnerable groups have been vaccinated, but the rollout is due to move to the general adult population in July, with hopes that those under 35 will be reached in October.
MPs tell government to upgrade e-passport gates to read Covid tests
07:53 , Eleanor Sly
A cross-party group of MPs have called on the government to upgrade e-passport gates at airports to read Covid tests in time for the return of mass foreign travel.
The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on coronavirus said the measure will help reduce queueing and crowding at airport arrival halls.
In a report released on Sunday night the MPs also say Covid “green passes” for international travel should include test results to reduce the need for paper documentation.
Jon Stone reports:
‘Unlikely’ Covid restrictions will be lifted before 19 July, cabinet minister says
07:45 , Eleanor Sly
Cabinet minister Kwasi Kwarteng has suggested it is “unlikely” the remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted before 19 July, stressing the government would “always err on the side of caution”.
Announcing a delay to the final stage of lifting England’s Covid measures last week due to a surge in cases linked to the Delta variant, Boris Johnson also told the public there would be a review after two weeks.
Pressed on the date, the business secretary, who said he hoped for “some type of normality” on 19 July, told Sky News: “I think between you and me, I would always err on the side of caution and I would look to 19 July.
Ashley Cowburn has more:
At least 15 cases of new ‘Delta plus’ variant found in India
07:05 , Akshita Jain
Experts have confirmed that at least 15 cases of the new Delta plus variant — a further mutation in the already “more transmissible” Delta variant — have been identified in India.
Dr Sujeet Singh of India’s National Centre for Disease Control told The Times of India newspaper that 15-20 cases of Delta-plus variant have been found from different states across the country.
While the Indian government has said Delta plus is not a variant of concern at this point, AIIMS chief Dr Guleria has warned that it could become a variant of concern if not checked.
Doctors in India warn of a third wave of Covid-19 in 6-8 weeks
06:32 , Akshita Jain
As the second wave abates, doctors and public health experts in India have now started to warn of a third wave of Covid-19 infections as states start to ease restrictions and allow more movement.
Neeraj Nischal, a professor at one of India’s state-run top medical institutes, told the media that while the mutation of the virus cannot be controlled, people can prevent a third wave by following Covid appropriate behaviour.
All India Institute Of Medical Science (AIIMS) chief Dr Randeep Guleria has said that a third Covid wave is “inevitable” and it could hit in the next six to eight weeks
Speed up vaccination, use public health measures to prevent surge, says WHO
06:01 , Akshita Jain
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called upon countries in the South-East Asian region to speed up Covid-19 vaccination and implement public health measures to prevent another surge in coronavirus cases.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO South-East Asia, said that combinations of public health and social measures must be implemented until “globally there is high Covid-19 vaccine coverage among health workers, and high-risk and vulnerable groups.”
The measures include disinfection, ventilation and physical distancing, among others, the UN health body said.
Fake black fungus vaccines found in doctor’s home
05:35 , Akshita Jain
A doctor in India is under cloud after police recover 3,293 vials of fake Amphotericin B injections — a medicine used in the treatment of mucormycosis or black fungus — from his house in India’s national capital Delhi.
Police are cracking down on the black marketing of the anti fungal drug amid a severe shortage as the number of mucormycosis cases continues to rise across the country.
Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for Monday 21 June, 2021.