Boris Johnson has vowed to take "very, very draconian action" against any future coronavirus variants entering Britain, as fears of further local lockdowns grow.
The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that he does not "see anything conclusive at the moment to say that we need to deviate" from England’s lockdown roadmap as cases of the Indian variant rise.
However, he said "we will know a lot more in a few days’ time" amid reports that ministers are considering a return to a local or regional tiered lockdown system, or delaying the end of restrictions on June 21.
Pressed by reporters on why the Government delayed closing the border with India last month, Mr Johnson stressed the Covid-hit country was added to the "red list" before B1.617.2 was classed as a variant of concern.
Hinting at the possibility of future crackdowns, he added: "We took prompt action and we will continue to take very, very draconian action in respect of all variants coming from wherever around the world."
Follow the latest updates below.
MP claims 'lack of vaccines' in Indian variant hotspot Bedford
An MP for an Indian variant hotspot has said a lack of vaccines for younger people in the area means not everyone who is eligible has been able to access a jab.
Labour politician for Bedford, Mohammad Yasin, said constituents aged 37 to 39 in his area have not been able to access vaccines without travelling "large distances".
Bedford has the second-highest rate of coronavirus in England, with 214 new cases recorded in the seven days to May 13.
Mr Yasin said: "We are pleased that the Government has increased surge testing but what we've asked for is surge vaccines for 16 to 40s and they're resisting that.
"So we are now in a situation where 37, 38 and 39-year-olds are eligible for vaccines but can't get them in Bedford, but can access them elsewhere if they are able and willing to travel large distances.
"It makes no sense that they aren't flooding high-risk areas with vaccines."
But Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire Richard Fuller has insisted "we have the tools we need in Bedfordshire" to continue tackling the virus.
Boris Johnson: UK 'most positive' country in world for vaccine uptake
The Prime Minister has said that the UK is the "most positive" country in the world in terms of uptake of the coronavirus vaccine.
Asked whether those who were hesitant to have the jab were partly to blame for the spread of the Indian variant, Boris Johnson said: "I want to thank everybody in this country who is coming forward to get vaccinated, that's the way I look at it.
"And this country is quite extraordinary, there was a poll I think done last night which showed that of all the countries in the world we are the most positive about vaccinations, the numbers are incredibly high.
"And I know that some people have been more vaccine-hesitant than others but actually across the whole of society the numbers continue to go up in every age group and that's very, very encouraging."
'Get the jab' as almost 70pc of adults get first dose
Here's a UK vaccine figures update:
'It's a lot more aggressive': Mozambique’s Covid crisis
As cases in South Africa began to surge, overwhelming the continent’s most advanced healthcare system, doctors in neighbouring countries like Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique could only look on in horror as the deadly variant spread across porous borders.
In Mozambique, doctors and healthcare workers in the capital Maputo told the Telegraph they were overwhelmed by the number and the severity of the cases they were seeing.
“There's a big difference between the first variant and this one,” says Olinda Mahumane, a young, softly-spoken doctor. “[This variant caused] severe cases that resulted in death quickly.
"It was highly transmissible and infected the healthcare workers and the rest of the community in general. It was a lot more aggressive."
At the height of the crisis, medical staff lacked sufficient ventilators, and there was also a serious oxygen shortage.
Neha Wadekar has more on this story in Maputo
MP in Indian variant hotspot: Local lockdown is 'last thing we need'
Another local leader has come out to oppose local lockdowns in hotspots of the Indian variant, as Downing Street again declined to rule out such a move if cases keep rising.
Mohammad Yasin, the Labour MP for Bedford, said "the last thing we need is a local lockdown. They've been proven not to work".
He added: "The Government can't argue we mustn't be treated differently with vaccines while beginning to suggest local lockdown are on the cards.
"If the dithering is really because we don't have enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to vaccinate the under 40s, the Government needs to come clean about that."
It comes after Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, earlier resisted any impending tier system (see 11.10am), saying: "Tiers did not work - they did not stop the spread of the virus".
What do you think?
US 'winning the war on the virus' as deaths and cases plummet
The United States is seeing its fewest number of deaths from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, new official data shows.
The seven-day moving average of deaths was 545 on May 16, the lowest since March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. New daily cases are down in all US states, with the current average of 30,211 the lowest since last June.
"We are winning the war on the virus, and we need you to help us finish the job," White House senior advisor for Covid response Andy Slavitt said, calling on remaining eligible Americans to get vaccinated.
About 60 percent of the US adult population has now received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and the country is moving to loosen restrictions.
Last the week the CDC amended its guidance to say that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks either outdoors or indoors for most activities, and the Pfizer vaccine first shots have been given to more than more than 600,000 12 to 15-year-olds.
The hotspots for the Indian variant in Britain
More than five million people in the UK now live in an area where the Indian variant may be the most common strain of Covid-19, data suggest.
Data shows prevalence of the variant is highest in the North West of England in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, while Bedford in the East of England and Sefton in Merseyside have emerged as two further hotspots.
Another blow for global vaccine rollout as India set to delay export ban
India is unlikely to resume major Covid vaccine exports until at least October, a delay that will have major ramifications for efforts to distribute jabs to the developing world.
Bumpy supply has plagued the global Covax vaccine initiative, which announced yesterday that it will hit 65 million deliveries in the coming days, 105 million fewer than initially expected.
The move by India will also impact the UK, which is still waiting for an outstanding order of roughly five million jabs from the country.
India pivoted towards a domestic rollout while a devastating new wave of Covid-19 took hold.
Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union’s vaccine delivery taskforce, told The Telegraph that the continued export ban is “very bad news” for low and middle income countries.
“Covax is on life support right now,” she added. “Sharing of doses by higher income countries will be critical to keep it alive.”
Ukraine's parliament fires health minister over Covid vaccine shortage
Ukraine's parliament has voted to fire the country's health minister, accusing him of failing to supply adequate vaccine doses to fight the pandemic.
Ukraine has lagged in its vaccination efforts, with only 948,330 received their first vaccine dose as of May 18 out of a population of around 41 million.
It prompted a vote to remove health minister Maksym Stepanov. The prime minister last week asked parliament to consider his removal.
"(So far) 2.3 million doses of vaccine have been delivered to Ukraine, which is hard to call the effective work of the health minister," Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said.
Mr Stepanov said he did everything possible to combat the epidemic.
What are the latest Covid rates in regions of England?
'Extraordinary steps' needed to boost global supply of Covid jabs
The Red Cross has stressed the need for "extraordinary steps" to increase access to Covid-19 vaccines around the world, including speeding up negotiations towards patent waivers.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement called for states and pharmaceutical companies to move much faster towards evening out glaring inequities in access to the jabs.
Among other things, countries should accelerate thorny negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) towards removing intellectual property protections for the Covid vaccines, and other barriers blocking a rapid scale-up of production of the jabs around the world, it said.
"In the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years, the intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines is a necessary political commitment to address inequities in access at the scale and speed we need," they said.
"Millions of lives depend on it and on the equally important transfer of technology and knowledge to increase manufacturing capacity worldwide."
Latest UK Covid figures are in
A further seven people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 127,691, Government figures show.
The Government also said that, as of 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 2,412 lab-confirmed cases in the UK. It brings the total to 4,450,392 after an adjustment in the way case numbers are calculated.
Government data up to May 17 shows that of the 57,357,857 jabs given in the UK so far, 36,811,405 were first doses - a rise of 106,733 on the previous day.
This means 69.9 per cent of the adult population have had a first jab.
Some 20,546,452 were second doses, an increase of 259,049.
Eurostar rescued after France bows to British demands
Emmanuel Macron has bowed to Boris Johnson by stumping up French taxpayer cash to lead a bailout for Eurostar.
The French government and Eurostar’s other shareholders will stump up £200m to rescue the Channel Tunnel rail operator, with Britain not paying a penny or providing any loan guarantees, The Telegraph can reveal.
Eurostar was on the brink of collapse earlier this year after passenger numbers slumped 95pc following travel restrictions introduced during the pandemic.
Deaths now 20 per cent below five-year average in England
Deaths in England are now running 20 per cent below the five year average according to official figures, as scientists say it has never been safer to be out and about, Sarah Knapton reports.
It is the ninth week in a row that deaths in England and Wales have been lower than usual – and if the current trend continues the substantial fall will soon wipe out the excess fatalities that occurred in the second wave of the Covid pandemic in January.
Data from the Continuous Mortality Monitor from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries shows cumulative mortality in England and Wales for 2021 is now just 1.1 per cent above the 2011-2020 average.
When compared to the 10-year average, deaths are now 31 per cent below normal, with 3,588 fewer deaths expected in the week ending May 7.
Our science editor has analysed the latest optimistic figures
Nurse who cared for Boris Johnson resigns, blaming 'lack of pay and respect'
A nurse who looked after Boris Johnson when he was in hospital with Covid has resigned, citing 'a lack of respect' for NHS workers.
Jenny McGee, a lead intensive care nurse, cared for the Prime Minister over two nights after he was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital with Covid-19 last April.
Mr Johnson publicly named and thanked Ms McGee and her colleague, nurse Luis Pitarma after he left the hospital.
But Ms McGee, from Invercargill, New Zealand, has criticised the Government over its proposed 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff following their efforts throughout the pandemic.
Jessica Carpani has more on this story
Queues at the border? Not on this trip
After gearing myself up for a six-hour queue at passport control, it took just four minutes from stepping off the plane to getting through the border at Heathrow, writes Gordon Rayner.
Flight BA501 from Lisbon disgorged its passengers into an empty arrivals hall after landing 15 minutes early at a stand that was as close to the passport desks as could be.
Journalists on the flight had been sharpening their pencils ready to describe scenes of passport Armageddon, only to find a queue-free vista awaiting them, with an abundance of manned desks.
If Carlsberg did passport control, to quote the old adverts, it would look like this. After a cursory glance at passenger locator forms and negative Covid test certificates, it was on to the electronic passport gates, where after a quick removal of face masks for the camera, the glass barriers slid aside and we were home and dry.
This might, of course, have had something to do with the fact that we were arriving on a Tuesday afternoon the day after the green list went live; the monster queues could still materialise in a week’s time when the first holidaymakers start coming back.
For now, though, the system seems to be working.
'Everyone's quite positive, everyone wants to get out of the pandemic'
Here's the latest from Bolton, an Indian variant hotspot, where residents are coming forward for vaccines in their droves.
Doctors call for postponed Tokyo 2020 Games to be axed
A Japanese doctors' group has urged the cancellation of the Olympics, even as games organisers reported a surplus of applications from medics to volunteer at the virus-postponed event.
With less than 10 weeks until the Tokyo Games begin and as Japan battles a surge in infections, public opinion remains strongly opposed to the event going ahead this summer.
But Olympic officials say it can be safely held with Covid-19 control measures and point to successful test events, including some featuring overseas athletes.
An association of around 6,000 doctors working in Tokyo said on Monday: "Cancelling an event that has the potential to increase the number of infections and deaths is the right choice." A separate union of Japanese hospital doctors warned last week that holding the 2020 Games safely was "impossible".
Japan's virus outbreak has been relatively small, with around 11,500 deaths, but its vaccine rollout is moving slowly.
Holidays to Europe with Covid vaccine passports get green light
British holidaymakers are on Wednesday set to be given the green light by the EU to use "vaccine passports" to enter Europe.
EU ambassadors are expected to sign off a plan allowing fully-vaccinated Britons to fly to Europe without having to have a Covid test or quarantine.
It came as the bosses of BA and Heathrow issued a joint plea to the Government to publish an advance list of its "green" countries for the summer to enable families to plan holidays.
Currently, all European countries bar green-listed Portugal and Gibraltar are rated "amber" by the Government, requiring travellers to quarantine and take two PCR tests on their return.
Charles Hymas has more on this promising EU plan
Covid rules set to be binned in Denmark
Denmark is set for an almost complete reopening on Friday, as it aims to be among the first to return to pre-Covid rules.
However, while Danish political parties on Tuesday agreed everything from zoos to saunas will reopen, nightclubs are expected to remain closed.
The country also aims to scrap its use of a domestic Covid passport and face masks later in the summer. The passport scheme was crucial in early stages of the country easing restrictions and will be phased out from June for everything except foreign travel.
Face masks are expected to be gone by August. Magnus Heunicke, the country's health minister, said Denmark was “in a very favourable place” in the pandemic.
Dominic Cummings claims 'pseudo lockdowns' are 'hopeless'
Dominic Cummings has claimed that “pseudo lockdowns” without “serious enforcement are hopeless” as the Government considers local restrictions to contain the spread of the Indian variant.
Threatening another major row with Boris Johnson, the former senior Number 10 adviser has launched a wide-ranging attack on the handling of the pandemic, describing the UK’s border policy as a “joke”.
He also accused the Government of a lack of transparency during the pandemic, adding that secrecy over its response had “contributed greatly to the catastrophe” seen during the first wave last year.
Mr Cummings added that, while the plan for tackling Covid-19 was hailed as “world class” by the Prime Minister and others in Government, it had in fact “turned out to be part disaster, part non-existent”.
Harry Yorke reports this fresh attack on No 10's Covid response
Taiwan to close borders and schools to curb Covid spread
Taiwan will temporarily ban foreign nationals from entering the country as of tomorrow, the country's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has announced.
It comes as the government closes all schools until the end of the week, shifting classes online while the island tackles a spike in Covid-19 cases, even as the rate of increase slowed slightly.
Taiwan has reported almost 1,000 new domestic infections during the past week, leading to new curbs in the capital, Taipei, and shocking a population that had become accustomed to life carrying on almost normally, with the pandemic well under control.
'Covid-19 could be the last pandemic – if we invest in testing now'
Investing in diagnostics across the globe must be a priority to prepare for the future and tackle existing health threats, write FIND CEO Sergio Carmona and Aminata Touré, former Prime Minister of Senegal.
India is the latest country overwhelmed by the scale of the emergency, but it was not the first and it may not be the last. The pandemic has devastated families, shut down societies and gutted economies. Can life ever be the same again? A return to the pre-Covid status quo would send us back to a world without early warning systems or effective response mechanisms; a world exposed.
Airport queues could be 'super-spreading risk', MP warns
Long queues at airports after the reopening of international travel could be a "super spreading risk" if safety measures are not put in place, the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee has said.
It follows reports of long queues at airports and the mixing of passengers from red and green list countries.
Yvette Cooper told BBC Radio 4: "It's irresponsible, frankly, not to sort this out because if you have people waiting for long periods of time in a not brilliantly ventilated arrivals hall, often standing very close to each other, well that's a super spreading risk if you continue to do that and don't have the proper systems in place, especially if you have people arriving from red list countries alongside people arriving from green list countries.
If measures are not taken to boost controls at the border urgently, "there's a real risk that we'll end up just going backwards again", the Labour MP said.
"And this is against a long history of errors and mistakes in the policies at the border."
Dominic Cummings hits out at government over coronavirus 'catastrophe'
Dominic Cummings has blamed the Government's secrecy over the coronavirus response for the "catastrophe" in spring 2020.
Boris Johnson's former aide said the Covid plan was supposed to be "world class" but turned out to be "part disaster, part non-existent".
He said public scrutiny was now essential to examine how the Government will respond to a variant of the virus which can escape vaccines.
Mr Cummings, who left Downing Street in November after a behind-the-scenes power struggle, is due to give evidence to MPs on the coronavirus response on May 26.
Ahead of his appearance, Mr Cummings highlighted his concerns with the approach adopted in the early stages of the pandemic last year:
Covid outbreak on Manchester college campus sees 17 students test positive
Surge testing will take place at a college campus in Manchester following a "small and limited" Covid-19 outbreak.
A total of 17 students in a single teaching group at The Manchester College's Nicholls Campus in Ardwick have tested positive, with the cases being treated as possible variants of concern.
The results have been sent for genomic sequencing to confirm if they are the Indian variant but no link has been established to cases of the strain in Bolton, said Manchester City Council.
About 1,300 students and 80 staff are being encouraged to get a Covid-19 PCR test at two mobile testing units on site at the Nicholls Campus.
Confusion persists over 'amber list' as PM warns holidaymakers not to go
People should not be going on holiday to countries placed on the amber list of travel restrictions, Boris Johnson has said.
The Prime Minister said it was "very important for people to grasp" that places on the list should not be considered holiday destinations, despite Cabinet minister George Eustice earlier suggesting people could visit family or friends in places on the list.
Mr Johnson said: "It is not somewhere you should be going on holiday, let me be very clear about that."
He warned: "If people do go to an amber list country - if they absolutely have to for some pressing family or urgent business reason - if they have to go to an amber list country, then please bear in mind that you will have to self-isolate, you will have to take tests and do a passenger locator form and all the rest of it but you'll also have to self-isolate for 10 days when you get back and that period of self-isolation, that period of quarantine, will be enforced with fines of up to £10,000.
"So I think it's important for people to understand what an amber list country is."
PM tells Cabinet it is still full steam ahead with lockdown roadmap
Boris Johnson has told senior ministers that he still wants to work through the road map for lifting coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England.
The Prime Minister's spokesman said that he told a Cabinet meeting this morning that officials would need to monitor the data closely.
"The Prime Minister set out the Government's desire to continue to work through the road map following the move to step three yesterday," the spokesman said.
"He concluded Cabinet by re-stating the important need to closely watch the data in the coming days ahead of making decisions on step four."
The spokesman said that Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the meeting that "comprehensive work" to provide more vaccines and "surge" testing in outbreak areas was continuing.
PM: Nothing 'conclusive' to say we need to deviate from roadmap
Boris Johnson said this lunchtime "we are keeping everything under very close observation" following the emergence of the Indian coronavirus variant of concern.
Speaking at a vaccination centre in London, the Prime Minister told reporters: "We are looking at the epidemiology the whole time as it comes in and, at the moment, partly because we have built up such a wall of defences with the vaccination programme, I don't see anything conclusive at the moment to say that we need to deviate from the road map.
"But we've got to be cautious and we are keeping everything under very close observation. We'll know a lot more in a few days' time."
Here's the latest pictures as Britain tentatively reopens
Businessman 'trapped in India' amid Australia travel ban dies of Covid
A leading solar industry businessman has died of Covid in Delhi while apparently trapped after Australia banned citizens in India from returning home.
Govind Kant, from Sydney, died on Sunday, and is believed to be the second Australian to have died amid a temporary travel ban imposed during India's fierce second wave of coronavirus infections.
The three-week ban on Indian arrivals ended on Saturday after outcry that Australia had abandoned its citizens. However more than 9,000 Australians remain stuck in the country.
Mr Kant's sister told reporters that he had booked a flight for 24 April, after failing to get a flight out in mid-April. But he contracted the virus before his plane was due to leave and was admitted to hospital.
She told Nine News that he had kept saying "get me out of here" even as she tried to keep his morale up.
Meanwhile, other Australians who had waited months to escape India have claimed they lost places on a government repatriation flight because of faulty testing.
Mixing AstraZeneca and Pfizer doses safe and effective, says study
A Spanish study on mixing Covid-19 vaccines has found that giving a dose of Pfizer's drug to people who already received a first shot of AstraZeneca vaccine is highly safe and effective, the researchers said on Tuesday.
The so-called Combivacs study, run by Spain's state-backed Carlos III Health Institute, found the immune response in people who received a Pfizer shot was between 30 and 40 times greater than in a control group who only had AstraZeneca dose.
Few serious side effects were reported among the 600 participants, the authors said.
Covid hospital patients hit eight-month low
The number of patients in hospital in England with Covid-19 has dropped to its lowest level for eight months, figures show.
A total of 798 patients were in hospital at 8am on May 17, NHS England said. This is the lowest number since 691 on September 13 2020, according to analysis.
It is also down 98 per cent from a record 34,336 hospital patients on January 18.
During the first wave of the virus, patient numbers peaked at 18,974 on April 12 2020. Ahead of the second wave, the number dropped as low as 451 on September 2.
A regional breakdown of the figures does not show any clear signs of an overall increase in hospitalisations caused by the Indian variant of coronavirus.
'Morally wrong' to vaccinate children in rich countries before elderly in poor nations
The director of the Oxford Vaccine Group says it feels "morally wrong" that children in some richer countries with "near zero" risk of severe illness or death are being offered a Covid-19 jab before high-risk people in poorer countries.
"When you look at the overall aim of a global vaccination programme in a pandemic, it's to stop people dying," Prof Andrew Pollard told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus.
"And we know who those people are - that's the over-50s, it's those who've got health conditions and to some extent also healthcare workers and so those are the priority groups.
"We are in a situation at the moment where there are many unvaccinated people in the world but not enough doses for everyone yet."
He added: "And it feels completely wrong to be in a situation morally where we were allowing that to happen whilst in many countries vaccines are being rolled out to younger and younger populations at very very low risk."
If we have better distribution of vaccines, there is some downward pressure on variants of concern, he added.
India engulfed with a Covid crisis, and now battered by a cyclone
More than 90 people are missing after a commercial vessel that became unanchored during the strongest cyclone on India’s western coast in 20 years sank off the coast of Mumbai on Tuesday morning.
There are fears that the fierce storm could further inflame India's coronavirus crisis, forcing people to shelter in small spaces and disrupting medical supplies.
A search and rescue operation had been launched by the Indian Navy on Monday night for the 273 crew members of the “Barge 305” ship, after wind speeds of 100 miles per hour.
But the extreme weather conditions caused by Cyclone Tauktae hampered the rescue operation and only 177 of the crew were rescued before the boat sank.
Our India correspondent Joe Wallen has more on the story
Hospital admissions for obesity soar in the year before pandemic
Obesity saw more than 1 million people admitted to hospital in a year just before the pandemic - with figures doubling in five years, health editor Laura Donnelly writes.
The number of hospital admissions linked to excess weight rose by 17 per cent in a year, with two thirds of cases involving women, with health officials calling it a “wake up call”.
Two in three adults are overweight or obese, with rates of obesity doubling since the 1990s. Obesity is a known Covid risk factor.
The figures from NHS Digital show that in total, 1.022m people were admitted to NHS hospitals with a primary or secondary diagnosis of obesity in 2019/20 - up from 440,288 in 2014/15.
They also show a doubling in the number of children being admitted to hospital in such circumstances, with 7,799 such cases in 2019/20, up from 3,357 in 2014/15.
Analysis: Every time our life nears normal, along comes another variant
These variants are handy, aren't they? Each time the Government needs to scare the public into submission, a new mutation pops up and chastens anyone considering reclaiming their pre-lockdown life, Sarah Knapton writes.
Last week, Boris Johnson warned that the Indian variant could mean some "hard choices" which might see the full release of lockdown pushed back beyond June 21.
Undoubtedly, cases of this latest mutated virus are on the rise. It is now the dominant strain in some areas. Yet there is currently no evidence to suggest any of the variants will evade the vaccine programme, or that a new rise in cases will lead to an increase in hospital admissions or deaths.
This pattern has now been playing out for several months.
To lock, or unlock?
According to a member of Independent Sage, the breakaway group of scientists who scrutinise the official advice the Government receives, the May 17 easing of restrictions should have been delayed.
As millions of Britons enjoy their restored freedoms again today, what do you think?
Registered deaths with Covid-19 down 98pc in older age groups
Deaths involving Covid-19 among people in all age groups 60 and over have fallen by at least 98 per cent since the second-wave peak, the latest Office for National Statistics figures suggest.
A total of 61 Covid-linked deaths in the over-80s age group occurred in England and Wales in the week ending April 30, down from 5,373 deaths in the week ending January 22 - a drop of 99 per cent.
Deaths for those aged 75-79 also fell 99 per cent in the same period, with drops of 98 per cent for those aged 70-74, 65-69 and 60-64.
Deaths that occurred in the most recent week of reporting - the week to May 7 - are still being registered.
Most age groups are now seeing the lowest number of deaths for nearly eight months
Here's how it's looking in the Indian variant hotspots
Local lockdowns face strong opposition up north
Any return of local lockdowns - a prospect not ruled out by ministers - would be fiercely resisted in the North West of England, where restrictions were in place for much of last year.
Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, said: "Last year, tiers did not work - they did not stop the spread of the virus.
"It would be hard for me to put out a message of caution in Greater Manchester when nationally the messaging is very different, that the road map is proceeding.
"We struggled with that mixed messaging all of last year. Government should listen to its own MPs, to what I am saying, and allow the vaccination programme to proceed much more quickly in Bolton, Blackburn and other places that have the spread of this variant.
"That is the solution, and it is right in front of us."
Minister defends India travel ban timing
George Eustice defended the timing of the Government's decision to effectively ban travel from India by adding it to the red list from April 23.
In response to suggestions the decision was taken too late, Environment Secretary Mr Eustice told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "What we did is put India on the red list a full six days before that variant was even under investigation and a full two weeks before it was declared a variant of concern.
"We did put India on the list as soon as we saw an uptick in prevalence and well before the Indian variant was declared a variant of concern."
Call for Scots who missed vaccine appointments to come forward
Scotland's national clinical director has stressed the importance of finding those in Glasgow who missed their first vaccine appointment amid a coronavirus outbreak in the city.
Professor Jason Leitch said that even though this was only around 10% to 15% of the population, it was still a "significant number of people".
On the BBC's Good Morning Scotland radio programme, he was also asked about the situations in East Renfrewshire and Midlothian, where cases are rising. Glasgow and Moray remain in Level 3 restrictions despite the rest of mainland Scotland moving to Level 2 on Monday.
Discussing the vaccination efforts in Glasgow, Prof Leitch said: "The ones most likely to get seriously unwell are the percentage difference between 100 and those we managed to vaccinate in that older age group.
"It's somewhere between 10-15%. In some places it's only 5%. But 5% of a big number is a big number. So it's still a significant number of people that we really want to get vaccinated."
He urged people who had missed either a first or second dose to come forward, saying "we'd love to give you that full protection".
India unlikely to resume major vaccine exports until October
India is unlikely to resume major exports of Covid-19 vaccines until at least October as it diverts shots for domestic use, three government sources said, a longer-than-expected delay set to worsen supply shortages from the global Covax initiative.
Battling the world's biggest jump in coronavirus infections, India halted vaccine exports a month ago after donating or selling more than 66 million doses.
The move has left countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and many in Africa scrambling for alternate supplies.
The World Health Organization, which co-leads Covax, on Monday called on vaccine makers outside India to advance supplies to the programme given the shortfall from the South Asian country.
The sources, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to talk to media on the subject, said India's vaccination drive will now take priority as its tally of coronavirus infections crosses 25 million and daily death toll hits a record high.
"We don't have to officially convey to all countries as we are not obligated to do," one of the sources said about the decision to hold back exports. "It was internally discussed and some countries were asked not to expect export commitments given the current Indian situation." The source did not name the countries told about the delay.
'If we give them the vaccine now, it means that we build their resilience'
People need to be encouraged to get vaccinated now as it will help them in the coming weeks, the London regional director for Public Health England has said.
Professor Kevin Fenton told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Vaccination won't help in the immediate term, but it will help build Covid resilience over the next two to three weeks as the vaccines settle in and build your immunity.
"In the immediate term we need to test, surge test, contact (trace) and support people to isolate. If we give them the vaccine now, it means that we build their resilience over the next two to three weeks."
He said that health officials in London are "concerned" that vigilance is maintained as the city reopens and people mix, and added that more testing and contact tracing along with appropriate vaccination is needed to help to contain variants "at this time".
Regarding vaccine hesitancy, Prof Fenton told the programme: "We must not lay the blame of low uptake at the feet of any particular community.
"The reasons why people do not get vaccinated vary. It has to do with trust. It may be to do with access, it may be the times at which the vaccine centres are open which don't facilitate access, for example, to key workers."
Pop-up vaccination sites and buses, plus knocking on doors to give the vaccination to multi-generational homes are among the schemes in London which are being used to help people get the jab in their communities.
36 and 37-year-old can now book a vacccine
The Health Secretary has made the announcement this morning.
'It seems we're like a one-trick pony... only thing we know is shutting things down'
Asked if he would support local lockdowns, Prof Gabriel Scally told Sky News: "Well I think certainly local restrictions to get it under control, but hopefully we will be doing much more than just putting on restrictions.
"Sometimes it seems we're like a one-trick pony, the only thing we know is shutting things down, and that's bad for people's health, it's bad for the economy, and it's a bad way to tackle an infectious disease.
"We do need outbreak control, and that's a whole range of measures, and that includes simple things like improving the ventilation, actually putting some resources into paying for better ventilation in our schools, in our workplaces, ensuring people have fresh air and can stay safe."
Prof Scally added: "I have great concerns about this particular variant because of its much more transmissible characteristics.
"It hasn't really taken off in Europe yet, and if it takes off in Europe I think we're in for a very rocky time because of course vaccination levels are not at the same high level as they are in the UK, in much of Europe.
"And at the same time, we're reducing travel restrictions, and many more people are disappearing off on holidays and will come back and not necessarily have any really managed quarantine, and we know self-isolation doesn't work, and I'm really worried about a big wave in Europe... A good quarantine system on our borders is absolutely essential."
We should 'throw kitchen sink' at Indian variant, says scientist
Professor Gabriel Scally, a member of Independent Sage and a leading public health expert, told Sky News "we should be throwing the kitchen sink at this" in places like Bolton and Blackburn to reduce infection.
He said vaccinating younger age groups, thorough contact tracing and support for people to self-isolate was needed.
"As well as that, we do need a lot of vigilance and a lot of information to the public so that they understand that the virus hasn't gone away, it's still there and it may be much, much more infectious," he said.
"We also need to stop the importation of it and that means better border controls, a proper quarantine system.
"We've been let down badly by the large number of cases that the UK has imported of this dangerous variant that was first identified in India."
He said local directors of public health had not been "given the power" to do their jobs and should be empowered to make decisions, including vaccinating younger age groups.
Younger people need to be as enthusiastic about vaccines as their elders
Cabinet minister George Eustice told LBC Radio: "We will only be able to exit this pandemic when the vast majority of people have had the vaccine."
He also suggested younger people needed to be as enthusiastic about the jabs as their older counterparts.
"We know that the uptake of the vaccine was very high in those older cohorts, those are the ones who were most at risk of hospitalisation and death.
"So having got the vaccine out to people over the age of 60 and having good uptake there I think we are in a good position to prevent the resurgence of new variants because it's now clear the vaccine can dampen the transmission of the virus too.
"We just need all those other, younger cohorts to also embrace the vaccine."
'Really worried' about Indian variant, says public health director
Bedford's director of public health said she was "really worried" about the spread of the Indian Covid-19 variant in the area.
Vicky Head told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday there had been 80 confirmed cases of the variant in Bedford.
She said: "What we know is what we've been seeing locally, which is a really massive rise in cases.
"About three or four weeks ago we were having three or four cases a day. We are now up to 10 times that."
She added: "What we think now is that pretty much all of our cases are likely to be the variant from India."
Ms Head said: "That's one of the really striking things about the variant, is just how transmissible it is. If someone goes to school and tests positive, we are then seeing their whole family test positive."
Asked if she was worried about the rise in cases, she said: "I am really worried about it. Everyone needs to understand just how transmissible this variant is."
How you'll need to prove you're safe to return to UK
The Telegraph’s Gordon Rayner is heading back to London from Lisbon after flying out yesterday with the first Britons to travel to a green list country.
He writes: “Before any of the tourists in Portugal can return home, they must take a Covid test to show they are negative.
“In my case I had booked a video test, meaning I took a test kit out with me and tested myself under observation by a medical professional, dialling in on a video call.
“The very patient Alex, from testing firm Qured, talked me through the process over a dodgy WiFi connection and, crucially, watched me do the test to confirm all was present and correct.
“Once the requisite 15 minutes had elapsed, I sent a photo of the lateral flow device to Qured, who emailed me the certificate I will need to be allowed home.
“The cost of a Qured supervised test is £33.
“You can also arrange to have someone local turn up in person to do your test, but the virtual medic system worked brilliantly well.”
Vaccine decisions today will directly impact June 21
Decisions made today by people on whether to take a vaccine will help them two or three weeks from now, a scientist has said.
Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If people decide this week to get a vaccine their antibodies are going to grow pretty strongly over the next two or three weeks and that would be the same period of time, if there is an increase in the number of infections, that their risk increases.
"If you look two or three weeks down the road, the decisions that people make today about choosing to have a vaccine will directly affect them."
We would've had infection surge now anyway, says scientist
The fast-spreading Indian variant has arrived as restrictions are being eased, and when the number of infections may have increased anyway, a scientist has said.
Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The timing of the variant is bad in some ways because it is happening as we are trying to open up and taking a significant step in relaxation.
"It is good in other ways because we are at very low levels of infections, cases and hospitalisations.
"This is the point in the road map where we would have expected perhaps an increase in infections anyway. I think that most people would be expecting an increase, it is just the degree of the increase."
Prof Riley said people need to get vaccinated in case there is another wave of infection and that "so far" the evidence is that the vaccine is still effective against this strain of the virus.
Laboratory studies are under way that will give more information and time is needed to observe the virus in the population, he added.
Ministers consider local lockdowns to tackle rising Indian variant cases
Local lockdowns are being considered by ministers as part of contingency plans to tackle rising cases of the Indian coronavirus variant.
Restrictions similar to Tier 4, which were introduced last autumn, are being reviewed, The Times reported on Monday night.
Non-essential shops, and pubs and restaurants would have to close under the measures, and people would be advised to remain at home, the newspaper said. Any businesses subjected to these restrictions would be able to apply for an £18,000 grant.
It comes as 86 local authorities now have five or more cases of the Indian variant and a total of 2,323 cases of the variant have been detected in the UK.
Vaccine refuseniks 'coming forward in their droves'
Vaccine refuseniks have been coming forward "in their droves" in Bolton, a Government source has told Politico.
The website's Playbook reported there had been "encouraging signs" over the past three days in the Lancashire town.
GPs have been inundated by calls from people trying to book a vaccine in Bolton, according to Manchester Evening News.
Boost needed in communities hesitant about vaccine, minister concedes
Cabinet minister George Eustice acknowledged the need to boost vaccine uptake in communities that were hesitant about receiving a jab.
The Environment Secretary told Sky News: "We've been doing a lot in recent months to get those communities who are a bit more hesitant to engage with this programme to have the vaccine.
"I think maybe in those areas when they see the resurgence of the virus, it may prompt them to think 'actually, this is serious, the vaccine is effective, it is preventing the spread of this in other areas so now let's get it'.
"We just need to keep redoubling our efforts in some of those hard-to-reach communities to get to see that having the vaccine for all of us is the best way out of this terrible pandemic."
He added that in "pockets where uptake is low" efforts were being made with "community leaders, faith leaders in some of those BAME (black and minority ethnic) communities to really encourage people to come forward and have the vaccine".
Local lockdowns not ruled out by minister
Cabinet minister George Eustice did not rule out the prospect of local lockdowns being imposed in response to the Indian variant.
Mr Eustice told Sky News the Government could not rule out some areas being held back as restrictions are eased elsewhere.
The Environment Secretary said ministers still wanted the planned lifting of restrictions in England on June 21 to go ahead but "we can never rule out that there may have to be a delay".
Asked whether it was possible for parts of the country to move ahead on June 21 while others are kept under restrictions, Mr Eustice said: "That would be an option and we cannot rule anything out, obviously, at this stage.
"But our preferred outcome is that we really double down and get the vaccination rates up in those areas that are seeing these problems so that we can give them the immunity that they need to this virus and then we won't have to have any such local lockdowns."
Pfizer can be stored in fridge for a month
The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine can be stored at fridge temperature for much longer than previously recommended, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Previous advice was the vaccine needs to be kept at an ultra-low temperature, between minus 70C and minus 80C, until a few days before use when it can be transferred to a standard medical fridge.
The EMA said in a statement it had extended the approved storage period for an unopened thawed vial when kept in a fridge between 2C and 8C from five days to one month.
"The change was approved following assessment of additional stability study data submitted to EMA by the marketing authorisation holder," the agency said.
It added increased flexibility in the storage and handling of the vaccine is expected to have a "significant impact" on the planning and logistics of vaccine roll-out in EU member states.
Legal challenge over Government's PPE contracts to be heard at High Court
A legal challenge over the Government's decision to award more than £650 million in contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) will be heard at the High Court.
The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor claim contracts awarded to PestFix, Clandeboye and Ayanda Capital were given unlawfully at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in April and May 2020.
PestFix was awarded six contracts, including one worth more than £32 million for isolation suits, which the campaign groups claim involved "substantial pre-payments" and a lack of proper vetting.
The two groups claim the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has failed to provide evidence it conducted any negotiations which applied equally between prospective suppliers.
They also claim DHSC has failed to provide proper reasons for why PestFix got the contracts.
Today's front page
Here is your Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, May 18.
Genexine signs vaccine manufacturing deal
Genexine has signed a manufacturing deal for its Covid vaccine candidate with Hanmi Pharm as it prepares to seek emergency use approval of the shot in South Korea and Indonesia, Genexine said today.
Hanmi will begin producing 10 million doses of Genexine's experimental vaccine in its biotech plant in Pyeongtaek, with an aim to gradually ramp up production capacity to millions of doses by 2022.
Hanmi said the contract was worth 24.5 billion won (£15.3 million) and will be followed by additional supply deals.
Genexine is running a Phase 2a clinical trial of the experimental vaccine in South Korea on 150 healthy participants and plans global trials starting in Indonesia.
The company said its GX-19N Covid vaccine candidate is DNA-based and shows no severe side effects.
In April, the vaccine developer signed a deal to supply 10 million doses of its vaccine to private Indonesian pharmaceutical firm Kalbe Farma.
Taiwan searches for more vaccines
Taiwan is mobilising its diplomatic corps to hunt for speedier delivery of coronavirus vaccines - a quest that has become more urgent since a sudden rise in domestic cases on an island that has vaccinated less than one per cent of its population.
The country has reported more than 700 new domestic infections during the past week, leading to new curbs in the capital, Taipei, and shocking a population that has become accustomed to life carrying on almost normally with the pandemic well under control.
Taiwan, a major semiconductor manufacturing hub, has received only about 300,000 shots for its more than 23 million people - all AstraZeneca - and those are rapidly running out.
President boosts world vaccine sharing commitment
President Joe Biden said on Monday that the US will share an additional 20 million doses of Covid vaccines with the world in the coming six weeks as domestic demand for shots drops and global disparities in distribution have grown more evident.
The doses will come from the existing production of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks, marking the first time that US-controlled doses of vaccines authorised for use in the country will be shared overseas.
It will boost the global vaccine sharing commitment from the US to 80 million.
"We know America will never be fully safe until the pandemic that's raging globally is under control," Mr Biden said at the White House.
Today's top stories
British holidaymakers are on Wednesday set to be given the green light by the EU to use "vaccine passports" to enter Europe.
The Indian variant of Covid now makes up 20 per cent of cases in England – up from two per cent in just two weeks.
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has said those who refuse to have a coronavirus vaccination are "selfish", as government fears emerged that social cohesion could be undermined if those reluctant to get jabs are scapegoated.
Some post-menopausal women are suffering unexpected periods after receiving a dose of the coronavirus vaccine, scientists say.
Britain has bought enough Pfizer vaccines to inoculate all children over the age of 12, Matt Hancock has announced.
The Government has already U-turned on ending face masks in the classroom, it has emerged, with councils in areas hit by the Indian variant told to continue with coverings.
Scottish boarding schools including Gordonstoun, where Prince Philip and Prince Charles were taught, are reporting a "remarkable" surge in interest from parents wanting their children to be educated outside large English cities.
Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to speed up Scotland’s vaccine rollout in Covid hotspots, after her deputy warned that areas with rising virus rates could soon see lockdown restrictions reimposed.