Coronavirus latest news: We don’t want to ‘yo-yo' in and out of measures, says Raab

·31-min read
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a G7 summit interview on June 11 2021 - Toby Melville/Reuters
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a G7 summit interview on June 11 2021 - Toby Melville/Reuters

Dominic Raab has suggested that remaining Covid-19 restrictions will only be lifted once all adults are double-vaccinated, set to be by the end of July, because the Government does not “want to yo-yo back in and out of measures".

Asked on The Andrew Marr Show if ministers could hold the Conservative Party together if the easing of restrictions were delayed from June 21, the Foreign Secretary said: "The key point is we want to move out of lockdown irreversibly. I think the vast majority of people in the country, but also parliament, will understand that.”

Mr Raab said: “The critical thing is to get as many of the adult population double-vaccinated as possible and we’ve always said we were aiming to do that by the end of July.

"At that point we can go irreversibly through the gears and open up in a way that we haven’t been able to do to date. The crucial overarching immediate objective is to get those second doses dispensed.”

It came as Boris Johnson said during a press conference in Cornwall that no “final decision” had been made about the lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England and that he would deliver a formal “package” tomorrow.

The Prime Minister is widely expected to delay stage four of the roadmap by four weeks, amid ongoing concerns about the surge in cases of the Delta variant.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

04:32 PM

Here’s a recap of today’s news:

04:18 PM

IMF welcomes G7 expansion of emergency reserves

The International Monetary Fund welcomed the G7's support for expanding the global lenders emergency reserves by $650 billion, and said it would work with members on ways to provide $100 billion to the world’s poorest countries.

The IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, said that the allocation of Special Drawing Rights would help boost global reserves and allow countries to fund much needed fiscal measures to exit the pandemic, Reuters reports.

She said she would work with IMF members in the coming months to decide how they could re-allocate some of their SDRs or use budget loans to reach the global target of raising $100 billion to help the most vulnerable countries deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This was a consequential summit. The renewed spirit of international cooperation was palpable, with the G7 stepping up its efforts to help the world exit this crisis. I can assure you that the IMF is playing its part,” she said.

04:10 PM

90 per cent of local areas in England see rise in Covid cases

Of the 315 local areas in England, 285 (90 per cent) have seen a rise in Covid-19 case rates, while 24 (8 per cent) have seen a fall, and six are unchanged.

Blackburn with Darwen continues to have the highest rate, with 927 new cases in the seven days to June 9 - the equivalent of 619.3 cases per 100,000 people.

The five areas with the largest week-on-week rises are: Ribble Valley (up from 197.1 to 448.4), Pendle (107.5 to 304.0), Hyndburn (245.5 to 410.9), Burnley (205.8 to 368.9) and South Ribble (177.8 to 327.7).

The figures, for the seven days to June 9, are based on the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in either a lab-reported or rapid lateral flow test, by specimen date. The rate is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people.

Data for the most recent four days (June 10-13) has been excluded, as it is incomplete and does not reflect the true number of cases.

03:47 PM

PM praises G7 commitment to 'vaccinating the world'

Boris Johnson said on Twitter on Sunday that the G7 is "building back better, greener and fairer from the pandemic".

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03:28 PM

UK records further 7,490 Covid cases and eight deaths

The UK has recorded another 7,490 daily Covid-19 cases and eight more deaths within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, official government data shows.

The 7,490 cases were down slightly from the 7,738 recorded the day before, and the eight deaths were down from the 12 recorded on Saturday.

The data also showed that 78.4 per cent of the adult population have had a first vaccine dose while 55.9 per cent have had a second.

03:13 PM

Global vaccine rollout, in pictures

Medical assistants vaccinate people with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at the Revolte Bar in Berlin, Germany on June 13 2021 - Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Medical assistants vaccinate people with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at the Revolte Bar in Berlin, Germany on June 13 2021 - Sean Gallup/Getty Images
People queue at a vaccination site to get a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, in Villa Elisa, Paraguay on June 13 2021 - Jorge Saenz/AP
People queue at a vaccination site to get a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, in Villa Elisa, Paraguay on June 13 2021 - Jorge Saenz/AP
People wait at an observation area after getting the second dose of the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine at a regional medical clinic in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 13 June 2021 - Chamila Karunarathne/Shutterstock
People wait at an observation area after getting the second dose of the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine at a regional medical clinic in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 13 June 2021 - Chamila Karunarathne/Shutterstock

02:56 PM

Biden: Vaccinating the world a 'gigantic, logistical effort'

Joe Biden said helping the world fight the Covid-19 pandemic would be a "constant project for a long time."

The US president spoke of a "clear consensus" among the other G7 leaders that commitments they had made to donate vaccines would not be the end.

Boris Johnson announced on Sunday, during the final day of the summit held in Cornwall, that G7 leaders had pledged over 1 billion vaccine doses for poorer nations.

Biden, and the US, are responsible for about half of that donation. He said the US may be able to contribute 1 billion more doses.

Mr Biden added that it is a "gigantic, logistical effort" to vaccinate people all over the world, and said the goal may not be achieved until 2023.

02:37 PM

Biden: China must be more transparent to allow Covid investigations

Joe Biden said China has to start being more responsible and transparent, as he has not yet "reached a conclusion" about the origins of Covid-19.

The US president said he will be frank with leaders who do not agree with democracy, adding that: "We're in a contest with autocrats around the world."

Speaking on the final day of the G7 summit in Cornwall, Mr Biden did not rule out if the virus came from a lab.

He said: "We haven't had access to the laboratories to determine whether or not... this was from the market place of a bat interfacing with animals and the environment that caused this Covid-19, or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a laboratory".

US President Joe Biden on the final day of the G7 summit, at Cornwall Airport Newquay, on June 13 2021 - Brendan Smialowski /AFP
US President Joe Biden on the final day of the G7 summit, at Cornwall Airport Newquay, on June 13 2021 - Brendan Smialowski /AFP

02:25 PM

Italy could reintroduce mandatory quarantine for English travellers

Italy’s Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, said his government could reintroduce mandatory quarantine for travellers from England if Covid-19 cases continue to rise.

His comments, made at the G7 summit in Cornwall, come amid ongoing concerns about a sharp rise of cases of the Delta variant in the UK.

02:16 PM

Over 500,000 more Covid jabs delivered in England

NHS England data shows a total of 59,965,740 Covid-19 vaccinations took place in England between December 8 and June 12, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 504,957 on the previous day.

NHS England said 34,727,273 were first doses, a rise of 228,144 on the previous day, while 25,238,467 were a second dose, an increase of 276,813.

01:58 PM

UK airports saw a passenger decline of 75 per cent last year, data shows

The number of passengers travelling through UK airports fell by 223 million last year, an annual decline of 75 per cent, as governments around the world imposed travel bans and restrictions because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Around 74 million people passed through UK airports in 2020, less than a quarter of the 297 million recorded in 2019, according to PA Media’s analysis of annual Civil Aviation Authority data.

The Airport Operators Association (AOA) said the figures showed the devastating impact of the pandemic on aviation.

Cardiff Airport suffered the largest drop in passenger numbers at 86.7 per cent, followed by Glasgow Prestwick at 85.8 per cent and Exeter at 85.5 per cent.

01:37 PM

Johnson: Understands 'impatience' but details of stage four will come tomorrow

Asked by Ben Riley-Smith, The Telegraph's Political Editor, whether he could confirm that any delay to stage four of the lockdown easing would last no longer than four weeks, Boris Johnson said: "I understand people's impatience, but the best thing is to get all this out in one package".

The Prime Minister is expected to formally announce a delay to stage four of the lockdown roadmap at a Downing Street press conference tomorrow, amid concerns about the Delta variant of Covid-19.

On dropping vaccine patents, Mr Johnson said it is important to build up manufacturing capacity around the world, particularly in Africa.

Mr Johnson said it is important to protect incentives for innovation at the same time as producing vaccines.

He said providing them at cost is very effective, which is why "we champion the Oxford AstraZeneca model".

01:32 PM

Johnson: It is 'sensible' to keep an open mind about Covid origins

Boris Johnson said "anybody sensible would like to keep an open mind about that" when asked about the origins of the coronavirus.

In response to The Sun's Harry Cole, who asked about pangolins and Covid-19, the Prime Minister said there is an issue with zoonotic diseases, which can be linked to the practice of farming wild animals in some countries.

Mr Johnson added that the G7 had established a treaty to be prepared for future pandemics, and said they want to "strengthen the World Health Organisation" to have the same powers as groups like the OPCW, so inspectors "can go on the scene and try to determine as independently as possible what is going on, so people can have confidence about the aetiology of these diseases."

01:18 PM

Johnson: No 'final decision' has been made on June 21

Boris Johnson said no "final decision" had been made regarding whether stage four of lockdown easing would proceed on June 21.

The Prime Minister told Sky's Beth Rigby during a press conference that the Government is "continuing to look at the data" regarding what percentage of the population would need to be double-vaccinated before all restrictions could be lifted.

01:05 PM

Ireland to consider additional restrictions on travel from Britain

The Irish government is considering increasing quarantine requirements for unvaccinated travellers from Britain, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Sunday, citing concern over the Delta variant of Covid-19.

Currently, travellers from Britain must self-quarantine but can move freely once they obtain a negative Covid-19 test no less than five days after arrival.

Asked in an interview with RTE radio whether the measures to be considered by the government in the coming days would include a longer quarantine for British travellers, Coveney said: "Potentially, yes, particularly for people who aren’t vaccinated."

12:49 PM

Key workers ready to cheer on Three Lions at London fanzone

The Trafalgar Square fanzone has officially opened for key workers excited to cheer on England, for the team's first Euros 2020 game against Croatia. The game will start at 2pm.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was also in attendance, and said the excitement of the Euros was needed after the "darkness and trauma" of the pandemic.

Khan praised the “heroic” key workers, hundreds of whom have been invited to watch the game in the specially-created fanzone.

Key workers await the start of England's opening game against Croatia in a fanzone in Trafalgar Square on June 13, 2021 - Rob Pinney/Getty Images
Key workers await the start of England's opening game against Croatia in a fanzone in Trafalgar Square on June 13, 2021 - Rob Pinney/Getty Images

12:40 PM

Three arrested in Paris as partygoers defy restrictions

Paris police said on Sunday that three people had been detained after officers used tear gas to disperse hundreds of young people gathered for a street party in defiance of Covid-19 social distancing limits and an 11:00 pm curfew.

The so-called Project X gathering - a reference to the 2012 American film depicting a wild house party - took place on Saturday on the vast lawns in front of the Invalides war museum, and was the third party at the site since Thursday.

Videos on social media showed largely maskless young people surrounding a car and then climbing and jumping on its roof, while others threw bottles at police vans.

Throughout the night, other large gatherings were broken up across the city, including one in the Tuileries gardens, near the Louvre, and on the banks of the Seine river, said police.

Marlene Schiappa, the minister in charge of citizenship, said: "I understand and obviously I share the desire of these youths and other people to get together again and have a good time.

“But the virus is still here, the pandemic still exists, and we need to respect the health rules."

People stand on the banks of the Seine River past the 11pm Covid-19 curfew, early on June 12, 2021, after people gathered nearby at Les Invalides for an unauthorized outdoor party. - Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP
People stand on the banks of the Seine River past the 11pm Covid-19 curfew, early on June 12, 2021, after people gathered nearby at Les Invalides for an unauthorized outdoor party. - Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP

12:21 PM

Congo president says Kinshasa hospitals 'overwhelmed' by Covid

Hospitals in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital city Kinshasa are "overwhelmed" by a rise in Covid-19 infections, President Felix Tshisekedi said on Saturday, as the country battles through a third wave of the virus.

"I am going to take drastic measures to deal with this upsurge of the disease. We're talking about the Indian variant in particular," Tshisekedi told reporters, referring to the Delta variant.

Like many African countries, Congo has a small number of officially registered cases. However, the virus has killed a number of prominent politicians, and low vaccination rates have rendered the country vulnerable to more transmissible variants.

Health officials recorded 254 confirmed Covid-19 cases on Friday, one of the highest daily totals since the pandemic began. In all, Congo has registered 35,000 cases and 830 deaths.

After delaying its vaccination programme by over a month because of concerns about rare side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine, the country has administered fewer than 30,000 doses.

12:08 PM

In case you missed it:

Dominic Raab said the Chinese lab-leak theory was unlikely based on available information.

Speaking to Sky, the Foreign Secretary said: “But we don’t have all the answers. That’s why internationally, we wanted the review to be able to go into China, to get all the answers and to have all the cooperation so we have the full picture, rather than these possible potential plausible options. But on balance, we do not believe that it came from a laboratory. We think it’s much more likely to have been a jump from animals to humans.”

11:44 AM

Sir David Attenborough urges G7 to use 'global will' for climate change

Sir David Attenborough has told G7 leaders in Cornwall that they must demonstrate "global will" to tackle climate change, in much of the same way they have done to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

The favoured naturalist said the scientific response to the pandemic has shown what is possible when there is a "clear and urgent" goal.

But the fight against climate change is as much a "political and communications" challenge as a scientific one, he said in a video address.

Sir David said: "The scientific collaboration on Covid treatment and vaccines showed just how much we can achieve together when the goal is clear and urgent.

"We know in detail what is happening to our planet. And we know all of the things we need to do during this decade."

11:28 AM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

Officials distribute food items and money to relatives of Covid-19 patients in Amritsar, India on June 13 2021 - Narinder Nanu/AFP
Officials distribute food items and money to relatives of Covid-19 patients in Amritsar, India on June 13 2021 - Narinder Nanu/AFP
People queue at a ballot station in Basel, Switzerland, as the country votes on topics including Covid-19 laws, on June 13 2021 - Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
People queue at a ballot station in Basel, Switzerland, as the country votes on topics including Covid-19 laws, on June 13 2021 - Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
People clean the compound of a mosque in preparation for reopening, in Narathiwat, Thailand on June 13 2021 - Madaree Tohlala/AFP
People clean the compound of a mosque in preparation for reopening, in Narathiwat, Thailand on June 13 2021 - Madaree Tohlala/AFP

11:00 AM

No 10 insists G7 beach barbecue was 'Covid-secure'

Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and other G7 leaders behaved in a Covid-secure way at a beach barbecue and RAF Red Arrows flypast on Saturday night, Downing Street has said.

No 10 said there were fewer than 30 guests, the event was outside and all participants in the summit take part in a daily testing regime.

"The event last night was done in an entirely Covid-secure way within the existing rules," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

"This was an informal gathering of the G7 leaders and rightly it is held in private ... but you can see it was a relaxed atmosphere and gave the leaders a chance to discuss outside of a formal setting."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders watch the Red Arrows flying display in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 12 2021 - Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders watch the Red Arrows flying display in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 12 2021 - Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street

10:39 AM

In Moscow? Get a vaccine, win a car

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin is offering residents the chance to a win a car in a bid to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“From June 14 until July 11, 2021, citizens who get their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine will become participants in a car lottery,” Sobyanin announced on his website.

Every week five cars will be raffled out, each worth around 1 million rubles (£9,850).

“But of course the main gain for those who get vaccinated cannot be compared to any car - it is their own health and peace of mind,” Sobyanin said.

Russia started its vaccination campaign in December, with the homegrown Sputnik V vaccine, but has struggled to boost uptake numbers. So far, only 12 per of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, with polls showing that a majority of Russians do not plan to get vaccinated.

10:32 AM

British scientists develop new Covid detector

British scientists say they have developed a ceiling-mounted Covid "alarm" that can detect anyone infected in as little as 15 minutes.

The Sunday Times reports that the highly-accurate device, slightly larger than a smoke alarm, is being hailed as a potential aid for screening in aircraft cabins, classrooms, care homes and offices.

Early studies by scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University have shown the device has an accuracy of 98-100 per cent, making it as reliable as gold-standard PCR lab-based Covid-19 tests and considerably more so than speedy lateral flow tests.

The researchers have stressed their results are at an early stage, with their work published in a paper that is yet to be peer-reviewed.

The sensor, made by Cambridgeshire firm Roboscientific, works by detecting chemicals produced by the skin or present in the breath of those infected with coronavirus. It takes around 15 to 30 minutes for the machines to sample the air in a large room, and at present would cost around £5,000 each.

10:13 AM

South Korea to exempt some vaccinated travellers from quarantine

South Korea will exempt some travellers who have received their Covid-19 vaccines in other countries from its mandatory two-week quarantine, health authorities have announced.

As of May 5, the quarantine exemption only applied to people fully vaccinated in South Korea.

The new policy, which will be introduced on 1 July, will apply only to certain people, such as citizens and foreign residents, as well as those travelling to visit family, or for the purposes of business, academics or public interest, said Son Young-rae, an official with the Central Disaster Management Headquarters.

Exempt travellers will need to fill out an application, and will still need to be tested before and after arriving in South Korea. Some travellers from countries with major outbreaks or variants will not be allowed to skip the quarantine, he added.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in before a meeting at the G7 summit in Cornwall on June 13 2021 - Stefan Rousseau/AFP
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in before a meeting at the G7 summit in Cornwall on June 13 2021 - Stefan Rousseau/AFP

09:57 AM

'We have to learn to live with this virus', says MP Harper

Mark Harper, Conservative MP for the Forest of Dean and chair of the Covid Recovery Group, said in a Twitter thread on Sunday that "We have to learn to live with this virus" after scientists suggested it would be with us 'forever'.

He added that: "If our very effective vaccines cannot deliver us freedom from restrictions, then nothing ever will."

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09:36 AM

Raab: We don't want to 'yo-yo' in and out of measures

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has suggested that remaining Covid-19 restrictions will only be lifted when all of the adult population has been offered a vaccine, due to be by the end of July.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, he said: “The critical thing is to get as many of the adult population double-vaccinated as possible and we’ve always said we were aiming to do that by the end of July.

"At that point we can go irreversibly through the gears and open up in a way that we haven’t been able to do to date. The crucial overarching immediate objective is to get those second doses dispensed.”

Mr Raab added: "We know we’ve made great progress in weakening the link between transmission and hospitalisation. The question is whether we’ve severed and broken it. We’re looking at the data in real time and the PM will set out the positions tomorrow."

Asked if ministers could hold the Conservative Party together if the easing of restrictions was delayed, Raab said: "The key point is we want to move out of lockdown irreversibly. I think the vast majority of people in the country, but also parliament, will understand that. We don’t want to yo-yo back in and out of measures."

09:16 AM

EMA chief says AstraZeneca jab should be halted for over-60s

The head of the EU drug regulator's Covid-19 taskforce was quoted on Sunday saying that countries should also avoid giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 60, due to concerns over rare blood clotting, as more vaccines become readily available.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) considers the AstraZeneca shot safe for all age groups. However, several European Union member states have stopped administering it to people below a certain age, usually ranging from 50 to 65, restricting its use to the older population, due to the rare cases of blood clotting.

Marco Cavaleri, chief of the EMA Covid-19 task force, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that: "In a pandemic context, our position was and is that the risk-benefit ratio remains favourable for all age groups."

When asked whether health authorities should avoid giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged over 60, Cavaleri said: "Yes, and many countries, such as France and Germany, are considering it in the light of greater availability of mRNA vaccines."

09:00 AM

G7 pledges more than 1 billion vaccines

G7 nations will provide 1 billion vaccine doses over the next year and work with the private sector, the G20 and other countries to increase the contribution over months to come, according to an almost finalised draft of the notion seen by Reuters.

The draft said:

The commitments since we last met in February 2021 including here in Carbis Bay provide for 1 billion doses over the next year.

We will work together with the private sector, the G20 and other countries to increase this contribution over the months to come.

08:48 AM

G7 will go down as 'unforgivable moral failure' over vaccine doses, says Gordon Brown

Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown has said that the G7 summit "will go down as a missed opportunity" due to the lack of a plan to deliver 11 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses around the world.

Speaking to Sky's Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme, Mr Brown said: "When we needed 11 billion vaccines, we've only got offered a plan for one billion.

"I think this summit will also go down as an unforgivable moral failure, when the richest countries are sitting around the table with the power to do something about it."

Mr Brown added: "We will have a huge problem of a division between the richest countries that are safe and the poorest countries that are not safe.

"But then the problem will come back to haunt the richest countries because we will have contagion spreading that will hurt even the people who are vaccinated because of mutations and variants."

08:42 AM

Raab: Government will proceed 'carefully and cautiously'

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the Government will proceed "carefully and cautiously" when it comes to lifting lockdown restrictions in England.

Boris Johnson is expected to announce that the final easing of restrictions, slated for June 21, will be delayed for up to four weeks amid concern about the spread of the Delta variant.

Mr Raab told Sky's Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme: "We are in a race to roll out the second dose of the vaccine against the variants.

"We need to sift the data very carefully. We have done a great job with the vaccine rollout but, as the PM said, we want to proceed irreversibly. That means we need to do it carefully and cautiously."

08:38 AM

Opening up more would 'fan the flames' of infections, says scientist

Professor Andrew Hayward, from University College London, told Andrew Marr that a "substantial third wave of infections" is now looking "very clear" and that the Government should exercise caution with the lifting of any restrictions.

"If we were to open up more, that will just really fan the flames and lead to this [infections] increasing even faster," Prof Hayward said.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Prof Hayward said: "The fact that we've got 55 per cent of the adult population double-vaccinated means that this will be substantially less bad than it could have been, but we still don't know exactly how bad it could be.

"The fact that the level of hospitalisations from this infection appear to be maybe up to double those from the previous infection is of course also extremely concerning, even in the context of people having had a single dose of vaccine.

"One of the key problems is the first dose of the vaccine really only reduces the risk of infection by about one third, so we really need both doses before we get to a good level of protection."

08:10 AM

UK should be wary of 'going backwards' with easing of restrictions, says professor

Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) which advises the Government, said the UK should be wary of "going backwards" and there is "still a lot of damage that can be done".

Asked on Times Radio what he expected the Government to announce on Monday, regarding the final stage of the lockdown easing, he said: "I think we'll hear a delay, because all the data now points that way.

"In a situation where things are getting worse we don't know how much worse they're going to get. We don't know how many people are going to get seriously ill.

"There's still a lot of damage that can be done, therefore it makes good sense to pause.

"The real issue now isn't should we go forwards ... it's how do we stop ourselves going backwards?"

07:03 AM

Epidemiologist backs calls to postpone Freedom Day

A prominent academic has joined calls for the Government to postpone its planned lifting of coronavirus restrictions on June 21 to preserve the progress the country has made in battling the pandemic.

Epidemiologist Sian Griffiths also says an envisaged "all-or-nothing Freedom Day" could be a bad idea in itself, promoting instead the more gradual lifting of measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

It comes with Boris Johnson indicating he is set to announce a four-week delay for lifting restrictions, with the Prime Minister on Saturday calling the spread of the Indian variant a matter of "serious, serious concern".

Prof Griffiths, an associate director of Public Health England, said the recent rise in Covid cases in the UK had changed the landscape on reopening.

"The public health advice would be to take it slowly and in a sustained way so we can keep up the progress we've been making," she told BBC TV.

Prof Griffiths said: "It does depend on the balance. It's a political decision at the end of the day, what happens on the 21st of June, but from a public health point of view we're seeing the cases increase, we're seeing a slight increase in hospitalisation in areas where there are a lot of cases, and the vaccination does work but we need to get second doses into everybody over 50, and expand the vaccination programme to keep everybody safe.

"I think waiting a little bit longer to sustain the progress is necessary but it may not be an all-or-nothing Freedom Day.

"I have a problem with the concept of Freedom Day. I think this could be done more gradually, but obviously these are decisions that are having to be made during the course of discussions today. There are so many things that need to be taken into account."

07:01 AM

G7 leaders discuss Wuhan Covid lab leak theory

The theory that Covid-19 originated from a Wuhan laboratory leak was discussed by G7 world leaders on Saturday, in a sign that the hypothesis is increasingly being taken seriously.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), confirmed that the theory was raised during a formal session at the G7 summit in Cornwall dedicated to health matters.

He told reporters that identifying the source of the pandemic was a core part of showing respect to the millions of people around the globe who have died from the virus.

Read the full story here.

05:00 AM

Indian variant a 'serious concern', warns Johnson

A downbeat Boris Johnson has acknowledged that the rise of the Indian variant is a matter of "serious, serious concern".

With infections and hospital admissions rising, the Prime Minister said that it was not yet clear to what extent that would feed through into more deaths.

In order to ensure the final lockdown lifting was "irreversible", it might be necessary to give the vaccines "extra legs" in the race against the virus, Mr Johnson said. It was his clearest signal yet that he plans to delay a full return to normality for another month.

The Telegraph has reported that ministers fear Britain will have a six-week window to open up in summer or risk keeping restrictions in place until spring.

READ MORE: Fears that restrictions could be in place until spring

04:42 AM

Search for animal origin of virus is 'getting warmer'

Scientists say the world is “getting warmer” in terms of finding the natural origins of the coronavirus pandemic, after a host of studies suggested coronavirus did not escape from a lab but jumped from animals to humans.

Papers published in the past few weeks have provided what experts described as “many smoking guns” for the theory that the Sars-CoV-2 virus spilled over from bats to humans via an as-yet-unidentified animal.

Researchers are also believed to be heading back to caves where similar viruses have been found previously, as well as combing through old viral samples, to find any connections with the virus that causes Covid-19.

READ MORE: Series of studies point towards natural coronavirus spillover event, scientists suggest

04:03 AM

Maskless Brazilian president fined after motorbike event

Jair Bolsonaro, front centre, during a motorcycle tour with his followers in Sao Paulo - Alan Santos/Presidency of Brazil/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Jair Bolsonaro, front centre, during a motorcycle tour with his followers in Sao Paulo - Alan Santos/Presidency of Brazil/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro led thousands of motorcyclist supporters through the streets of Sao Paulo on Saturday - and got hit with a fine for failing to wear a mask in violation of local pandemic restrictions.

The conservative president waved to the crowd from his motorcycle and later from atop a sound truck, where backers with helmets but largely no masks cheered and chanted as he insisted that masks were useless for those already vaccinated - an assertion disputed by most public health experts.

Jair Bolsonaro, front, during a motorcycle tour with his followers in Sao Paulo - Alan Santos/Presidency of Brazil/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Jair Bolsonaro, front, during a motorcycle tour with his followers in Sao Paulo - Alan Santos/Presidency of Brazil/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Sao Paulo's state government press office said a fine would be imposed for violation of a rule that has required masks in public places since May 2020.

According to a survey by local authorities, 12,000 motorcycles were involved in the pro-Bolsonaro event.

The motorcade led by Jair Bolsonaro - MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/AFP
The motorcade led by Jair Bolsonaro - MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/AFP

03:23 AM

China's confirmed cases approach 100,000

Temporary laboratories for nucleic acid testing are set up at Guangzhou Gymnasium in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province - Chen Jimin/China News Service
Temporary laboratories for nucleic acid testing are set up at Guangzhou Gymnasium in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province - Chen Jimin/China News Service

Mainland China has reported 34 new Covid-19 cases, six of which were local transmissions, the country's national health authority said. All of the local cases were in southern Guangdong province.

Local residents line up for nucleic acid testing at a temporary Covid testing centre in Liwan district, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China - Chen Jimin/China News Service
Local residents line up for nucleic acid testing at a temporary Covid testing centre in Liwan district, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China - Chen Jimin/China News Service

China also reported 18 new asymptomatic infections - China does not classify symptomless infections as confirmed cases.

The total number of confirmed cases in China now stands at 91,428, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,636.

02:23 AM

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