Vaccines prevented 66,900 hospital admissions

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Covid vaccines are estimated to have directly averted nearly 67,000 hospital admissions - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Covid vaccines are estimated to have directly averted nearly 67,000 hospital admissions - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

05:57 PM

What happened today?

Good evening and thanks for following along. That's it for now, here's an evening Covid update:

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the transport secretary defended changes to the UK's traffic light travel system as up to 6,000 Britons faced a chaotic scramble home from red-listed Mexico

  • The number of pings sent out by the NHS Covid app nearly halved in a week amid a steep decline in people checking in to bars and restaurants

  • More than 66,900 hospital admissions are estimated to have been directly prevented by the coronavirus vaccine rollout, new Public Health England figures showed

  • Mayor Sadiq Khan wants the Government to allow London authorities to introduce a bye-law making failing to wear a face mask on the Tube and buses a criminal offence

  • France's top constitutional authority approved a Covid pass that limits access to cafes, restaurants and inter-city trains and planes to people who have been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus, following a third weekend of fierce mass protests

  • Seven US states with the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rates currently account for half of the country's new cases and hospitalisations, the White House warned

  • Authorities in Melbourne announced a sixth lockdown for the city and Sydney reported a record number of new coronavirus cases Thursday as Australia struggled to bring a delta outbreak under control.

05:50 PM

Failing to wear mask on Tube should be against the law, says Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan wants failing to wear a face mask on the London Underground to become a criminal offence.

The Mayor of London is lobbying the Government to allow Transport for London to introduce a new bye-law requiring face coverings to be worn across the city’s transport network.

This would reset the rules to before so-called Freedom Day on July 19, with police officers empowered to refuse travel and fine those who decline to wear masks but are not exempt.

“We are trying to lobby the Government to allow us to bring in a bye-law, so it will be the law again, so we can issue fixed penalty notices and we can use the police service and BTP to enforce this,” Mr Khan told the BBC Newscast podcast.

He insisted this would bolster confidence for commuters and visitors to London’s West End, and cited Imperial College London studies showing “not one example” of Covid on surfaces or airflows on the Tube.

The Government made masks a personal choice in England from July 19, but the London mayor has kept them as a condition of carriage on tubes and buses in the capital, a move backed by five other Labour regional mayors.

05:45 PM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

Health workers wear PPE as they prepare to perform Covid-19 screening at a railway station in Chennai, India - ARUN SANKAR/AFP
Health workers wear PPE as they prepare to perform Covid-19 screening at a railway station in Chennai, India - ARUN SANKAR/AFP
A teacher and student walk together on the first day back to in-person classes during the Covid-19 pandemic at a public school in Brasilia, Brazil - Eraldo Peres/AP
A teacher and student walk together on the first day back to in-person classes during the Covid-19 pandemic at a public school in Brasilia, Brazil - Eraldo Peres/AP
Health workers take swab samples from people to be tested for Covid-19 in a park in Beijing - NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images
Health workers take swab samples from people to be tested for Covid-19 in a park in Beijing - NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

05:40 PM

Ditch mandatory PCRs for international travel, says senior Tory MP

Two-thirds cheaper lateral flow tests should be used instead of PCR tests for international travel, the chair of the Commons transport select committee has said.

Conservative MP Huw Merriman told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "It's much cheaper, it's effective, and then if that tests positive for Covid - and very few do when they come from abroad back to this country - then have a PCR and then have that sequencing."

He added: "Over the last three-week period - in July - half a million people took the PCR test because they were required to do that. Only 7,000 tested positive for Covid, but only 5 per cent of those test for sequence.

"So 95 per cent we ask people to pay this much higher amount so that it can get sequenced, we can find variants of concern, but only 5 per cent of those were actually tested. What is the point therefore in asking people to shell out?... It just doesn't make sense."

05:29 PM

'We could really be in trouble' soon in the US, Fauci warns

Seven US states with the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rates currently account for half of the country's new cases and hospitalisations, the White House has warned.

Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi formed half of new infections and admissions in the last week, White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters on Thursday.

The US hit a six-month high for new Covid cases with over 100,000 infections reported on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally.

In the coming weeks, cases could double to 200,000 per day due to the highly contagious delta variant, the country's top infectious disease adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said.

"If another one comes along that has an equally high capability of transmitting but also is much more severe, then we could really be in trouble," Dr Fauci added.

05:11 PM

London mayor 'concerned' about post-lockdown violent crime surge

Sadiq Khan has warned of a summer of violence following the July 19 lifting of legal lockdown restrictions.

While out on patrol with Metropolitan Police, he said: "Both the police and I are concerned that as the school holidays begin and as the restrictions are eased we could see an increase in violent crime.

"We have seen across the globe some cities seeing a massive increase in violent crime as the restrictions are eased.

"We saw last year when the lockdown was eased, an increase in violent crime. We are determined this summer to do whatever we can to ensure we don't see an increase in violent crime as summer holidays begin and as restrictions are lifted."

At the start of July, 21 teenagers had died in homicides in London in 2021. Across the whole of last year, 17 teens were killed in violent attacks in the capital.

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04:50 PM

PM defends travel rules again, warns of new variants

Boris Johnson defended the Government's approach to international travel.

Speaking to reporters on a visit in Scotland, the Prime Minister said he "understands how important people's holidays are", but had "always stressed that it was going to be not the same as any other summer, unfortunately, because of the pandemic".

"I've asked people to understand that they have to be a little bit patient this year. You have got to balance our very strong desire to get people travelling with the need to protect us against new variants," he said.

The Prime Minister also dodged a question about whether he would book a holiday to Spain at the moment.

Mr Johnson told reporters: "I think that people should, obviously, look at the guidance. We are trying to make it as simple as we can, we've lengthened the interval between the changes to the guidance."

"Obviously this year is going to be a bit trickier" with travel, he added.

Boris Johnson onboard the Esvagt Alba during a visit to the Moray Offshore Windfarm East, off the Aberdeenshire coast - Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Boris Johnson onboard the Esvagt Alba during a visit to the Moray Offshore Windfarm East, off the Aberdeenshire coast - Jane Barlow/PA Wire

04:32 PM

Holidaymakers flock to booking sites after latest travel list changes

Travel firms have seen a surge in demand following the announcement that restrictions on people returning from foreign trips are being eased or limited.

Train operator Eurostar said bookings on its London-Paris route doubled after it was confirmed that fully vaccinated arrivals from France will no longer need to self-isolate.

Online travel agency Skyscanner recorded a 45 per cent increase in visits to its website after the announcement was made at 10pm on Wednesday, compared with an hour earlier.

Airline Emirates said it has received a "huge surge in queries" due to the decision to remove the United Arab Emirates from the red list.

The changes to the travel rules come into effect at 4am on Sunday, and apply to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

04:16 PM

Coronavirus in the UK, in graphics

04:01 PM

Migrants in taxpayer-funded hotels not having quarantine enforced

Migrants in hotels paid for by the taxpayer are not having their quarantine enforced, it has emerged.

Ministers have been urged to investigate allegations that Channel migrants from France are escaping quarantine, even though returning holidaymakers are having to self-isolate for 10 days, enforced by daily calls and police checks.

Migrants told The Telegraph that they had been allowed to leave their hotels and could even go shopping while they were supposed to be confined to quarantine in their rooms.

Security guards posted outside the hotels to supervise migrants’ movements in and out of the buildings admitted they were unable to police quarantine because they did not know who was self-isolating and who was not.

03:41 PM

Anti-mask Briton remanded in mental health facility in Singapore

A British man arrested for refusing to wear a facemask on Singapore’s subway has been detained in a mental hospital after branding legal action against him “disgusting”.

As his trial kicked off on Thursday 39-year-old Benjamin Glynn said he would “never plead guilty or not guilty” to the charges against him.

“I refuse to be a slave,” he added as anti-mask wearing supporters backed him from the public gallery. "I think it's insane that I am facing a trial at all, just for not wearing a mask.”

Yorkshire man Mr Glynn had his £2,700 bail revoked on July 19 after originally being arrested for his refusal to wear a mask on May 7. He faces additional charges for failing to wear his mask at a court appearance in July.

Benjamin Glynn, 39, allegedly believes masks are pointless and don't protect people from contracting Covid-19  - SWNS
Benjamin Glynn, 39, allegedly believes masks are pointless and don't protect people from contracting Covid-19 - SWNS

03:32 PM

Latest UK daily Covid figures are in

A further 86 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Thursday, bringing the UK total to 130,086.

Another 30,215 lab-confirmed Covid-19 infections were recorded in the UK in the latest 24 hour period, Government figures show.

Some 73.5 per cent of UK adults are now fully vaccinated, and 88.7 per cent have had a first dose.

03:06 PM

Travel chaos as 6,000 Britons race home from red-listed Mexico

Up to 6,000 Britons face a race to return home from red-listed Mexico in a bid to avoid hotel quarantine that kicks in on Sunday.

They have just three days to arrange flights and Covid tests before 4am on Sunday 4am, anyone returning from Mexico will have to pay up to £1,750 per person to quarantine in a government-approved hotel.

Some British travellers only found out after boarding their flights or shortly after arriving in Mexico. One of them, Joe Coward, 29, had to quickly book a return flight to London to avoid the cost.

"Basically we touched down to find that our two-week honeymoon, which had already been rearranged several times, was going to be a two-day visit,” he said. "We've arranged a flight for tomorrow and will be spending today getting ready to turn right around and go home.

He said he was "extremely angry at the Government's incompetent handling of international travel rules".

02:49 PM

Fifth of Covid admissions are currently under-35s, warns NHS chief

The new head of the NHS in England has urged young people to get a coronavirus vaccination, warning that more than a fifth of those admitted to hospital with Covid-19 are aged between 18 and 34.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said there is "no doubt" that the jabs rollout is having a "major impact" in keeping people out of hospital and saving lives.

NHS England said patients aged 18-34 made up more than 20 per cent of those admitted to hospital last month, up from close to one in 20 - 5.4 per cent - at the peak of the winter wave in January.

Ms Pritchard, who took up her new role this week, paid tribute to the work of health service staff as she visited a vaccination clinic in Reigate, Surrey, on Wednesday.

She said: "There is no doubt that the NHS vaccination programme is having a major impact, keeping around 52,000 people out of hospital and saving an estimated 60,000 lives. However, we must not forget that there are more than 5,000 people who are seriously ill in hospital with Covid, and more than a fifth of those admitted are young people."

02:36 PM

Embattled Covid vaccine passport gets the nod in France, despite outcry

France's top constitutional authority on Thursday approved a Covid pass that limits access to cafes, restaurants and inter-city trains and planes to people who have been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus.

The controversial pass has sparked mass protests, with critics accusing President Emmanuel Macron of running a "health dictatorship".

In a third weekend of demonstrations last week, some 200,000 people turned out to voice outcry amid fierce clashes with police.

But France's constitutional court ruled on Thursday that the new law, coming into force by mid-September, largely complied with the republic's founding charter.

The Constitutional Council however deemed it was unconstitutional to sack a health worker on a short-term contract who refused the mandatory vaccine, and to enforce a mandatory quarantine with checks on anyone testing positive.

Protesters railing against Covid passports gathered outside the French Constitutional Council earlier, such as this one displaying 'liberty' on her jacket -  IAN LANGSDON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Protesters railing against Covid passports gathered outside the French Constitutional Council earlier, such as this one displaying 'liberty' on her jacket - IAN LANGSDON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

02:19 PM

WHO's plea for delay to vaccine boosters falls on deaf ears

Germany, France and Israel are pressing ahead with plans to administer Covid-19 vaccine boosters.

This is despite an appeal from the World Health Organisation on Wednesday for richer countries to impose a moratorium on booster programmes until at least the end of September, to allow the poorest countries to protect 10 per cent of their populations.

Some wealthy nations are planning to roll out third jabs, despite there being swathes of the globe still yet to be offered a first.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France was working on rolling out third doses to the elderly and vulnerable from September. Germany intends to give boosters to high-risk groups from September, the health ministry said.

And Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged older citizens to get a third shot after the government last month kicked off a campaign to give booster doses.

This morning Grant Shapps, the UK's Transport Secretary, said booster jabs were "the likely plan come the autumn, but we will wait for the scientists" to approve it.

02:01 PM

Infections plummet across all regions and all age groups

Covid-19 case rates in all regions of England and all age groups are continuing to fall, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England.

Yorkshire and the Humber has the highest rate, with 354.7 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to August 1, down week-on-week from 422.5.

North-east England has the second highest rate: 320.6, down sharply from 527.8. South-east England has the lowest rate: 229.5, down from 289.6.

Infections are also declining in all age groups. The highest rate is among 20 to 29-year-olds, with 611 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to August 1, down slightly week-on-week from 629.3.

The second highest rate is among 10 to 19-year-olds, down from 669.1 to 512.4. The lowest rate is among people aged 80 and over at 62.3, down from 69.1.

01:55 PM

Nearly 67,000 hospital admissions prevented by vaccine rollout, says PHE

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout in England is estimated to have directly averted more than 66,900 hospital admissions, according to new figures from Public Health England.

Previous estimates had put the figure at more than 52,600 admissions.

Estimates of how many infections in England have been prevented by the vaccine (between 21.3 and 22.9 million) and also the number of deaths (between 57,500 and 62,700) are unchanged.

01:36 PM

Africa public health chief reveals 'unbearable' Covid experience

A look at Africa now, where coronavirus-linked deaths reached a peak in the week that ended on August 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

Over 6,400 deaths were recorded, with South Africa and Tunisia accounting for more than 55 per cent of the fatalities, the WHO said, adding that death trends are on the rise in 15 countries.

It comes as the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says he came down with Covid-19 last week and if he had not been vaccinated earlier, "I would not be here by now."

John Nkengasong told reporters that despite his vaccination in April, "the severity of the attack is unbearable."

The African Union says the first of 400 million single-shot Johnson & Johnson doses started arriving this week and should be distributed by September 2022, saying these "bring Africa halfway towards its continental goal of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of the population".

Just 1.5 per cent of Africa's population has been fully vaccinated.

01:25 PM

Covid passports for nightclubs 'not a bluff', says Grant Shapps

Talk of Covid passports for nightclubs and other venues is "not a bluff", Grant Shapps has insisted.

Rumours are rife that Boris Johnson and co have been touting the unpopular idea as a stick to encourage vaccine uptake among younger adults.

But asked if it was an empty threat, the Transport Secretary told LBC: "It’s not a bluff, no. And it’s important to understand that there are simply going to be things that you will not be able to do unless you’re double vaccinated or have a medical reason not to be, including going abroad.

"So actually there are good reasons if you’re perhaps in your twenties and you feel like ‘oh, this doesn’t really affect me’, well it is going to because you won’t be able to leave the country.

Separately, Mr Shapps said he would still isolate for 10 days after being pinged by the NHS app, despite being fully vaccinated, because he doesn't "want to kill my loved ones".

He also discussed restrictions on travel to France easing, watch that below:

01:06 PM

Man uses giant skeleton to send a message to vaccine refuseniks

A homeowner in the US state of North Carolina has erected a giant skeleton in his garden in a plea to vaccine sceptics.

Jesse Jones put up the 13-foot structure in the town of Raleigh, alongside mock-up gravestones with regretful messages such as "It wasn't a hoax", after his mother-in-law died with Covid-19.

"The fact (is) that we didn't take this seriously," he told ABC. "My wife lost her mom due to Covid and she was a woman who spent her entire life looking after people - and she died completely alone in a hospital without being able to see one relative for 14 days.

"It was a nightmare. No one should go through what my wife went through watching her mum die like that."

Vaccine hesitancy is widespread in the US, where only around half of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

A 13-foot skeleton telling people to vaccinate or die along with mocking tombstones are on display at the home of Jesse Jones in North Carolina, US,  - Bob Karp/Zuma Press / eyevine
A 13-foot skeleton telling people to vaccinate or die along with mocking tombstones are on display at the home of Jesse Jones in North Carolina, US, - Bob Karp/Zuma Press / eyevine

12:43 PM

'If we’re not careful, booster vaccines could end up giving the coronavirus a boost'

The sooner we start using booster jabs, the more likely it is that we will need them, argues Seth Berkley, CEO of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

In the eight months since Covid-19 vaccines first became available, nearly four billion doses have been administered, and yet the number of cases and deaths continues to rise. Why? For the simple reason that we are not making the most efficient global use of the doses available. Now, as evidence is emerging about the potential benefits of booster shots in the face of the continued spread of Delta variant, offering fully vaccinated people a third dose before it is absolutely necessary is in danger of becoming the latest example of this.

12:24 PM

'Huge mistake' to lift all curbs on July 19, Starmer says

Boris Johnson made a "huge mistake" in lifting England's last remaining coronavirus restrictions all at once, Sir Keir Starmer has claimed, despite low infection, death and hospitalisation rates, and Britain's successful vaccination campaign.

While the Labour leader accepted "everybody wants to see the lifting of restrictions", he stressed this should be done in a "cautious, careful way", and appeared to favour Nicola Sturgeon's more gradual approach in Scotland.

Speaking during a visit to Scotland on Thursday, he said: "I think that Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, made a huge mistake in just lifting everything in one go.

"We were strongly arguing we should have mandatory face masks, particularly on public transport and in enclosed spaces, and ventilation, and continuing some of the working at home, so there would be a gradual easing, because none of us want to go back into another lockdown."

Sir Keir Starmer made the remarks on a visit to Scotland - Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Sir Keir Starmer made the remarks on a visit to Scotland - Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

12:05 PM

Moderna Covid jab still 93pc effective six months after second dose

Moderna Inc said on Thursday its Covid-19 shot was about 93 per cent effective through six months after the second dose, showing hardly any change from the 94 per cent efficacy reported in its original clinical trial.

That compares favorably to data from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE last week in which they said its vaccine's efficacy waned around 6 per cent every two months, declining to around 84 per cent six months after the second shot.

"Our Covid-19 vaccine is showing durable efficacy of 93 per cent through six months, but recognize that the Delta variant is a significant new threat so we must remain vigilant," Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said.

However, a booster dose will be necessary prior to the winter season as antibody levels are likely to wane, Moderna said. The World Health Organisation on Wednesday called for a moratorium on booster doses until at least the end of September to improve vaccine coverage in poorer countries.

11:44 AM

14pc of Covid cases sent to NHS Test and Trace going unchecked

Positive Covid cases slipping through the net of NHS Test and Trace have reached their second highest level for ten months.

A total of 189,232 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to July 28, down 39 per cent on the previous week, the latest figures show. It was the first week-on-week fall since the week to May 5.

But of the 184,630 people transferred to Test and Trace in that week, 13.9 per cent were not reached and therefore could not be asked to provide details of recent close contacts.

This was down slightly from 14.4 per cent in the previous week, but is the second highest proportion of people not reached since October 2020.

Some 85.9 per cent were reached, while 0.2 per cent did not provide any communication details.

Passengers enter the Covid-19 testing centre at London Luton Airport on August 4  - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Passengers enter the Covid-19 testing centre at London Luton Airport on August 4 - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

11:37 AM

People still not receiving test results within 24 hours despite PM's target

More than 10 per cent of people who received a Covid-19 test at an in-person site in England are not receiving their result within 24 hours.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged that, by the end of June 2020, the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.

He told the House of Commons on June 3 2020 he would get "all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June, except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that".

But the latest figures show that 89.3 per cent of people who were tested for Covid-19 in England in the week ending July 28 at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit - a so-called "in-person" test - received their result within 24 hours.

This was, however, up sharply from 63.7 per cent in the previous week.

11:14 AM

Country endures 'wall of chaos' before ministers act, claims Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has attacked the Government for having to go through a "wall of chaos" before resolving issues over travel.

Would-be holidaymakers will "have their head in their hands because almost on a daily basis we have a changing system," the Labour leader said.

Speaking to reporters from Scotland, he said: "We have been saying since the start of summer we should be having a simplified system. We may be edging towards it but why on earth have we had to go through chaos to get here?"

He noted that "last summer we had the chaos of exams, at Christmas we had the chaos of Christmas mixing".

Wherever there are "predictable problems, you have to get through a wall of chaos before they sort it out," he added.

10:57 AM

'The policy response to this illness has caused more harm than the illness itself'

Meet the doctor battling to draw attention to the number of excess non-covid deaths at home on the latest Planet Normal podcast.

Dr Charles Levinson left the NHS in 1989 to found Doctor Call, the first private visiting service in London offering home visits. During the pandemic, he's noticed a chilling effect on the patients his service service - and it's not simply the virus.

"We're seeing people sometimes who have not seen a doctor when they should have done, and have much more advanced illness than we're used to seeing," he said.

Speaking to Telegraph columnists Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan on this week's episode, which you can listen to below or here, Dr Levinson says he feels the need to highlight what he calls "collateral damage" of the public policy on coronavirus.

10:54 AM

Pings to self-isolate down by 43pc

The number of people being told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app has fallen dramatically.

A total of 395,971 alerts were sent in the week to July 28 telling people in England and Wales that they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.

This is down 43 per cent on the previous week, when 690,129 alerts were sent on the app, Government figures show.

There has also been a big decrease in the number of check-ins to venues using the app, with 2.4 million check-ins in the week to July 28 in England and Wales - down 65 per cent on the previous week.

On Monday, it was announced that the app was being updated so fewer contacts will be instructed to isolate after the "pingdemic" of rife alerts from the app left industries struggling for staff.

10:29 AM

Latest Zoe app figures show UK cases continuing to fall

The ZOE Covid Study has estimated that there are 46,905 new daily symptomatic cases of Covid-19 in the UK on average, based on PCR and LFT test data from up to five days ago, or one in 87 people in the UK.

This is a fall from 60,271 new cases from last week, suggesting that we are now past the peak of the third wave and mirroring the fall in official statistics.

When divided by vaccination status it is estimated that among unvaccinated people in the UK there are currently 29,620 new daily symptomatic cases of Covid on average, this is a drop of 17 per cent compared to last week (36,000).

Comparatively there are currently 6,534 new daily symptomatic cases in people who have had one vaccine dose and 10,751 new daily symptomatic cases in fully vaccinated people, according to the Zoe app.

This is because there are now significantly more people in the population who are fully vaccinated compared to those who are not vaccinated or partially vaccinated, scientists behind the app said.

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10:16 AM

Which countries are open to UK travellers?

Booking a holiday abroad has never been more vexatious, perplexing or downright risky. But stuff it, you’re taking the plunge anyway – carpe diem, you deserve it, Annabel Fenwick Elliott writes.

Once you’ve cleared the necessary hurdles regarding your return (testing and quarantine requirements depending on your vaccination status) it’s time to pick a destination. This would in normal times be the fun part. Not anymore.

Of the 175+ countries on England’s green list and amber lists, the majority aren’t even open to British travellers (the US, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Asia among them), and many aren’t viable holiday destinations anyway (Yemen, North Korea, the South Sandwich Islands, to name a few).

Of the countries that are left, a good number of them are only open to fully vaccinated travellers and plenty of them require visitors to quarantine upon arrival.

09:49 AM

Business leaders call for plan to resume international travel

The Confederation of British Industry called on ministers to develop a plan for a "more comprehensive resumption" of international travel.

Matthew Fell, the CBI's chief UK policy director, said: "Today's green-list extension will offer some relief to the international travel sector, which has suffered more than most during the pandemic and still faces a long road to full recovery.

"Restoring freedom of travel to these countries will enable firms to salvage a limited summer season.

"However, defining a strategy for a more comprehensive resumption of travel that is safe, simple and certain remains an urgent priority.

"Vaccine rollout has created an opportunity for the UK to move beyond Covid travel restrictions to new travel norms which restore passenger confidence and protect jobs and skills.

"This will be vital to ensure the UK's travel industry remains robust to fulfil its unique role in the country's economic recovery."

09:33 AM

Beijing reviving tactics that shut down China

The delta variant is challenging China's costly strategy of isolating cities, prompting warnings that Chinese leaders who were confident they could keep the coronavirus out of the country need a less disruptive approach.

The ruling Communist Party is reviving tactics that shut down China. Access to a city of 1.5 million people has been cut off, flights canceled and mass testing ordered in some areas.

That "zero tolerance" strategy of quarantining every case and trying to block new infections from abroad helped to contain last year's outbreak and has kept China largely virus-free. But its impact on work and life for millions of people is prompting warnings that China needs to learn to control the virus without repeatedly shutting down the economy and society.

A child reacts to a throat swab during mass testing for COVID-19 in Wuhan - China Topix/AP
A child reacts to a throat swab during mass testing for COVID-19 in Wuhan - China Topix/AP

Zhang Wenhong, a Shanghai doctor who became prominent during the Wuhan outbreak, suggested in a social media post that China's strategy could change. "We will definitely learn more" from the ongoing outbreak, he said, calling it a stress test for the nation.

"The world needs to learn how to coexist with this virus," wrote Zhang, who has 3 million followers on the widely used Sina Weibo platform.

09:05 AM

Poll | Are you going on holiday this year?

08:58 AM

Travel traffic light system defended as 'simplified system'

The Transport Secretary has defended the Government's traffic light system for travel as a "simplified system" which will allow people to "enjoy their holidays".

Grant Shapps told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have certainly lived with coronavirus long enough to know that it can be unpredictable; however, we have also lived with it long enough to get the majority of the population vaccinated, other countries are doing the same thing.

"That does mean that this summer we are able to set out a three-week programme rather than a one-week programme which was the situation last year.

"I hope people will be able to go away under this simplified system, enjoy their breaks and not be looking over their shoulders the whole time, and as long as they follow the processes then they can have a great time and I hope they are able to enjoy their holidays."

08:44 AM

NHS Covid app 'incredibly useful', insists Spi-M member

Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M) advising ministers, described the NHS Covid-19 app as "incredibly useful", despite large numbers of people being asked to isolate.

Dr Tildesley told Sky News: "I know there have been some challenges in terms of particularly at the moment the so-called 'pingdemic', but in terms of being able to detect contact, it has been extremely valuable.

"Obviously the challenge with that is that a lot of people are going into isolation and over the last few days the app has been made less sensitive."

Dr Tildesley said there is a worry that if too many people are pinged, less people may be willing to comply.

However, he added: "The reduction is sensitivity will hopefully guarantee higher levels of compliance."

08:31 AM

Minister responds to sexual harassment and rat complaints in quarantine hotels

Grant Shapps has said reports of sexual harassment and rats in quarantine hotels are "certainly unacceptable".

The Transport Secretary told Times Radio: "In terms of the quality of accommodation, this is not Government barracks, these are hotels, and first of all any accusations of crimes need to go straight to the police, and I know that they will have done in those cases."

He added: "The Department for Health actually operates this quarantine system, I know my colleagues there would be very concerned to read any reports and they will certainly be fully investigated because that would be completely unacceptable for the tourists who usually use them, it is certainly unacceptable if they are being used temporarily for Government quarantine."

Mr Shapps also defended the decision to raise the price of using a quarantine hotel from £1,750 to £2,285 for a solo traveller.

He said: "It is necessary to cover the costs of the quarantine hotels and at the moment the system hasn't been doing that and it has cost about £75 million, so we are keen to ensure people using them are covering the full cost of this service."

08:16 AM

Covid around the world, in pictures

A woman uses a nasal swab to provide a sample as cases surge across New Orleans in the US - Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters
A woman uses a nasal swab to provide a sample as cases surge across New Orleans in the US - Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters
Medical workers in protective suits test nucleic acid samples inside a Huo-Yan (Fire Eye) laboratory of BGI, following new cases in Wuhan, Hubei province, China  - China Daily/Reuters
Medical workers in protective suits test nucleic acid samples inside a Huo-Yan (Fire Eye) laboratory of BGI, following new cases in Wuhan, Hubei province, China - China Daily/Reuters
The audience at the August Wilson Theatre in New York City gives a standing ovation after watching the opening night of previews for "Pass Over," following the 17-month shutdown of Broadway due to the pandemic - Caitlin Ochs/Reuters
The audience at the August Wilson Theatre in New York City gives a standing ovation after watching the opening night of previews for "Pass Over," following the 17-month shutdown of Broadway due to the pandemic - Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

07:55 AM

Melbourne announces sixth lockdown

Rueful authorities in Melbourne announced a sixth lockdown for the city and Sydney reported a record number of new coronavirus cases Thursday as Australia faltered in efforts to bring a virulent delta outbreak to heel, writes Verity Bowman.

Victoria premier Dan Andrews said he had "no choice" but to make the "very difficult announcement" to lock down Melbourne and the rest of the virus-weary state little more than a week after the last lockdown ended.

"None of us are happy to be here, none of us," he said, citing the danger posed by eight "mystery" cases that have yet to be traced.

"There is no alternative to lockdown" he added. "The alternative is we let this run that gets away from us, and our hospitals will be absolutely overwhelmed. Not hundreds of patients but thousands."

When the Victoria lockdown begins at 8 pm (1000 GMT), more than half of Australia's 25 million population will again be in lockdown.

Six weeks ago, Sydney residents were ordered to stay home. But the measures have had mixed success in curbing the spread of the virus among a largely unvaccinated population.

07:45 AM

Shapps on Spain: 'We will simply follow the scientific advice'

Grant Shapps has denied that Spain has not been placed on the travel red list because the UK would not have the capacity to quarantine all returning travellers.

The Transport Secretary was asked by Times Radio if this was the "real reason" Spain had not been placed on the red list.

Mr Shapps replied: "We will always do whatever is required, and you have seen us do this so far with the red list to make sure that countries, even from destinations where there are a lot of people, would go on that red list if that is what is required.

"But we will simply follow the scientific advice."

He also explained why the Government is recommending travellers from Spain take a PCR test before they leave, saying scientists are "particularly interested in one of the new variants which is B.1.162", currently prevalent there.

07:41 AM

Up to 60pc of 16 and 17-year-olds could have immunity already, says JCVI member

Robert Read, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Southampton and a member of the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said up to 60% of 16 and 17-year-olds could have immunity through infection.

He told LBC: "It varies from one part of the country to another and different series that have been published as well. It's probably in the region between 40 and 60%.

"We're offering the first dose to 16 and 17-year-olds and this would ultimately be equivalent to vaccinating people with a second dose in those 16 to 17-year-olds who have already seen a wild virus.

"In the current situation, one jab is germane whilst we collect further data from around the world and from the UK on the safety of the vaccine over the next few months."

The JCVI will continue monitoring the use of vaccines in children across Europe and in America, Prof Read said, adding the advisers would like to see more evidence on the safety of the Pfizer vaccine in 12 to 15-year-olds, as well as more evidence relating to myocarditis, a heart inflammation reported in some people following the vaccine.

Prof Read said heart inflammation after the vaccine is extremely rare but he wants to know "how extremely rare it is in 12 to 15-year-olds and what the consequences might be."

07:34 AM

Dubai not off red list so it can be 'transport hub', insists minister

Grant Shapps has denied claims Dubai was taken off the travel red list so it could more easily act as an international "transport hub".

The Transport Secretary was asked by Sky News if the Middle East city had been moved to the amber list to act as a go-between for further destinations.

Mr Shapps said: "With all these changes I often see a whole load of theories behind why a particular country has been opened and another one hasn't, but with all these changes what we do is ask the experts, that's the Joint Biosecurity Centre, the JBC in this case, to give us their overview of every country and their recommendation about where a country should sit.

"This time they have come back and said Dubai, and Qatar, the UAE and in fact India - which will surprise some people - are all fit to come from the red list and come onto the amber list."

He said factors for moving countries off the red list included the number of people who had a jab there, the reliability of local Covid data, and the level of prevalence of the virus.

07:01 AM

NHS staff who refuse jab 'should not see patients’

Frontline health workers have a “moral obligation” to be vaccinated against Covid and should be removed from patient-facing roles immediately if they refuse, a government adviser has said.

Michael Parker, professor of bioethics at the University of Oxford, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said vaccination should be mandatory because those who declined the jab posed a risk to patients.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Prof Parker said: “Patient safety is ultimately the responsibility of health and social care institutions.

“With regard to employment practice, these institutions have a duty to employ only workers whose presence would not place patients at unnecessary risk. Frontline care roles should not be offered to people unwilling to be vaccinated against high-risk infections.”

06:35 AM

Minister would 'absolutely' encourage his teenagers to get vaccine

Grant Shapps said he would "absolutely" encourage his teenage children to get a coronavirus vaccine.

The Transport Secretary was asked by Sky News if he would be happy for his teenage twins to have the jab.

He replied: "Yes, absolutely. They are very keen to be vaccinated as well. They are in that age group, the 16 to 17 age group, and it is amazing, particularly towards the end of term, how many of their friends had coronavirus and how much time they had to spend off school."

He added: "So they understand the disruption, the amount of their own lives, their own schooling, that has been affected by this and they are very, very keen."

On whether 12 to 15-year-olds will be offered a coronavirus vaccine, Mr Shapps said: "We will wait for the experts from the JCVI to tell us when it is safe."

06:33 AM

Transport Secretary can't rule out Spain returning to red list

The Transport Secretary said he "can never say there is a zero chance" travellers from Spain and other popular holiday destinations will not have to quarantine again in future.

Grant Shapps was asked by Sky News whether Spain could return to the red list for travel destinations in future.

He replied: "With coronavirus you can never say there is zero chance.

"But having said that, the levels of vaccination and what we now know about the virus and what our scientists have been able to work out in the last year means that people should be able to go away, enjoy their holidays without looking over their shoulders the whole time and as I say, the next set of changes are not for another three weeks."

06:30 AM

Today's front page

Here is your front page on Thursday, Aug 5.

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05:53 AM

Thailand reports record 20,920 cases in a day

Thailand reported on Thursday a record 20,920 coronavirus cases, bringing total cases in the Southeast Asian nation to 693,305 since the pandemic began last year.

It also reported 160 additional fatalities, bringing total deaths to 5,663, the health ministry's website showed.

05:36 AM

Schools faced ‘avalanche’ of confusing Covid advice

Schools were issued with more than 200 pieces of official guidance in three months in an “avalanche” of confusing government advice, a study has found.

Headteachers often received phone calls from parents demanding to know about policies in schools before the head had even read the new guidance online, according to researchers.

Academics from the University of Cambridge and University College London asked 300 teachers in England about their experiences of government communications during the first lockdown.

Read the full story

05:09 AM

Delta variant challenges China's costly lockdown strategy

The delta variant is challenging China's costly strategy of isolating cities, prompting warnings that Chinese leaders who were confident they could keep the coronavirus out of the country need a less disruptive approach.

As the highly contagious variant pushes leaders in the US, Australia and elsewhere to renew restrictions, President Xi Jinping's government is fighting the most serious outbreak since last year's peak in Wuhan. The ruling Communist Party is reviving tactics that shut down China: Access to a city of 1.5 million people has been cut off, flights cancelled and mass testing ordered in some areas.

A child reacts to a throat swab during mass testing for COVID-19 in Wuhan - CHINATOPIX
A child reacts to a throat swab during mass testing for COVID-19 in Wuhan - CHINATOPIX

That "zero tolerance" strategy of quarantining every case and trying to block new infections from abroad helped to contain last year's outbreak and has kept China largely virus-free. But its impact on work and life for millions of people is prompting warnings that China needs to learn to control the virus without repeatedly shutting down the economy and society.

Zhang Wenhong, a Shanghai doctor who became prominent during the Wuhan outbreak said in a social media post that the latest outbreak suggests China's strategy may change since the virus isn't going away.

"The world needs to learn how to coexist with this virus," wrote Zhang, who has 3 million followers on the widely used Weibo platform.

03:57 AM

First Broadway play opens in NY since lengthy pandemic shutdown

The first Broadway play since the pandemic shut down theatres in New York City in 2020 opened on Wednesday, with vaccinations and masks required for audiences.

"Pass Over", a modern twist on "Waiting for Godot", was sold out for its first preview at the August Wilson Theatre in Manhattan.

Under rules announced by Broadway theatres last week, audiences, actors, stage crew and theatre staff must be fully vaccinated and masks must be worn for shows, which will be allowed to play to 100 per cent capacity audiences.

"The vibe is amazing, it's electric," said director Danya Taymor. "We got to have a dress rehearsal last night, so we got to have like 500 people in here. And just the palpable joy and gratitude of the audience made me weep.”

The audience gives a standing ovation after watching the opening night of previews for "Pass Over" - Reuters
The audience gives a standing ovation after watching the opening night of previews for "Pass Over" - Reuters

02:15 AM

Sydney suffers worst pandemic day as lockdown nears six weeks

Sydney reported its worst day of the pandemic on Thursday with five deaths and a record rise in locally acquired infections as a weeks-long hard lockdown is struggling to contain the delta strain of the coronavirus.

Four of the five people that died were unvaccinated while one had at least one dose, New South Wales state health authorities said, as they implored residents to get inoculated as early as possible.

"Please now is the time to strongly consider getting vaccinated ... and for the elderly who have not been vaccinated, again, I put out a plea to you - make an appointment," New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant told reporters in Sydney, the state capital and Australia's largest city.

There were 259 new cases in Sydney, out of 262 in all of New South Wales, health authorities said, daily records for the city and the state, which reported a previous high of 239 on Sunday.

12:48 AM

Japan proposes expanding emergency curbs as cases surge

Japan proposed on Thursday expanding emergency restrictions to eight more prefectures to fight a surge in cases, a cabinet minister said, as worries grow about strains on the nation's medical system in Olympics host Tokyo and elsewhere.

Officials have warned that coronavirus infections were surging at an unprecedented pace as new cases hit record highs in Tokyo, overshadowing the Olympics and adding to doubts over the government's handling of the pandemic.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading Japan's pandemic response, made the proposal at a meeting of experts, who were expected to sign off.

Six prefectures including Olympic host city Tokyo are already under full states of emergency to last through Aug. 31 while another five are under less strict "quasi-emergency" directives.

11:15 PM

US working on plan to reopen to fully-vaccinated foreigners

The United States, which closed its borders to much of the world as the pandemic took hold, plans eventually to begin allowing fully vaccinated foreigners back in, a White House official said on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden's administration, recognising the importance of international travel, wants to reopen to visitors from abroad in a "safe and sustainable manner", the official said.

It is developing "a phased approach that over time will mean, with limited exceptions, that foreign nationals travelling to the United States - from all countries - need to be fully vaccinated," the official added, without specifying a timeframe.

The plan marks a tentative but significant evolution in the US approach to stemming the outbreak, with Washington stating as recently as July 26 that it would maintain restrictions on international arrivals, sidestepping European pressure.

Read more: Obama cancels huge 60th birthday bash over surging delta variant

11:11 PM

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