The traffic light system for travel is expected to be given a major shake-up on Friday ahead of the October half-term.
Many parents have resisted taking their families abroad amid the pandemic due to the tight quarantine policies affecting a number of holiday destinations.
The Government is now expected to axe the traffic light system, with the green and amber lists of countries simplified into a single category, as revealed last week by The Telegraph, guaranteeing quarantine-free travel there for double-jabbed Britons.
Ministers also plan to replace expensive PCR tests, which travellers have to take on day two of their arrival in the UK, with cheaper lateral flow tests, although there are fears this proposal could be derailed by last-minute objections by health chiefs.
Industry sources have said the the plans are expected to be finalised Thursday and Friday to ensure the changes are in place in time for the autumn half-term break at the end of October.
Follow the latest updates below.
UK faces 'social backlog' as well as longer waitling lists, warns Sajid Javid
The UK faces "two backlogs" after the coronavirus pandemic, the Health Secretary has said.
Sajid Javid told a think tank event in Blackpool on Thursday that the country would have to deal with a "social backlog in mental health and public health" as well as ballooning NHS waiting lists following the pandemic.
He said: "Passing the peak of the pandemic has been a bit like a receding tide, revealing the underlying health of our nation. It's revealed some fractures within and in many cases the pandemic has deepened those fractures."
Mr Javid pointed to disparities in Covid admissions between the most and least deprived parts of the country, and the difference in mortality rates between white people and people from black, Asian and ethnic minority groups.
He added: "These are symptoms of a different disease, the disease of disparity."
He also addressed mental health, saying "too many people" had experienced loneliness and isolation over the pandemic, while numbers waiting for routine mental health treatment have soared.
Meet the UAE's Covid-19 sniffer dogs
One year after completing one of the first studies into canine detection of Covid-19, the United Arab Emirates now has 38 sniffer dogs working at its airports that can identify infected persons at a 98.2 per cent success rate.
Dubai Police trained the cohort, which includes German Shepherds, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels and Border Collies, to recognise the scent of Covid-19 using samples of sweat from people with confirmed infections, collected by holding a swab in an armpit for a few minutes.
"A very small amount of that is then put into a jar - it has the scent of the patient - then we put the sample out for the dog to sniff ... When he gives us a sign, we give him a treat," said First Lieutenant Nasser al-Falasi of Dubai Police, supervisor of the programme at the K9 training centre in Dubai's Awir region.
In the centre's large training hall, police handlers walk the dogs along a row of metal boxes, of which only one contains a positive sample. The dogs sniff the samples and within seconds sit down to signal that they have found something.
Several other countries, including Finland, the United States and France have been running their own dog training and trials of canine detection of coronavirus.
United says about 90pc staff vaccinated ahead of company deadline
United Airlines said on Thursday 95pc of its management was fully vaccinated and about 90pc of all employees had uploaded proof of shots ahead of the company's September 27 deadline for staff vaccination.
United has taken a tough stance on employees who decline to get vaccinated and became the first US carrier in early August to announce it would mandate vaccines for employees.
Last week, United said employees who receive religious exemptions from the company for Covid-19 vaccinations will be placed on temporary, unpaid personal leave from October 2.
The Biden administration said earlier this week that most federal employees must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus no later than November 22, pushing large employers to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly.
First Covid-19 booster vaccines given in England
The first coronavirus booster vaccines have been administered in England as frontline health workers receive their doses in time for winter, Lizzie Roberts reports.
The rollout began on Thursday, just two days after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) approved the programme for all over-50s.
Around 4.5million people will be eligible for a third jab, which cannot be given before 6 months after their second dose.
Those who are eligible include:
those living in residential care homes for older adults
all adults aged 50 years or over
frontline health and social care workers
all those aged 16-to-49 with underlying health conditions
adult carers and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
West End star calls for action over care home residents 'dying of loneliness'
People in care homes are still "dying of loneliness", actress Ruthie Henshall has said, as she called for visiting restrictions to be lifted.
The West End star was one of dozens of campaigners who gathered outside Downing Street to hand in a petition calling for an end to the isolation of residents.
Ms Henshall said some care homes are "making up their own rules" instead of following the Government's visiting guidance, and that she "cannot bear" hearing the stories of suffering that are still going on.
She said: "It is still happening in care homes, that people are getting half-hour visits every couple of weeks, they're still dying of loneliness and isolation and I cannot have this, and this is just devastating to think that, you know, all of this time later, this is still going on.
"They have no voice, no voice, because they're behind the door."
Ms Henshall was an essential caregiver for her mother Gloria, a care home resident, who died in May.
Nearly 250,000 hospital admissions prevented by Covid vaccines, figures suggest
Covid-19 vaccinations are estimated to have directly averted about 230,800 hospital admissions in England, according to new figures.
Some 178,900 admissions have been prevented among those aged 65 years and over, with a further 51,900 among people aged 45 to 64.
The estimates, which have been calculated by Public Health England and Cambridge University, cover the period up to September 5.
A total of 89oc of all people aged 16 and over in England have now received one dose of vaccine, while 81pc are fully vaccinated.
Vaccine take-up continues to be lower among younger age groups, however.
Some 83pc of 30 to 39-year-olds in England have now had one jab, along with just 73pc of people aged 18 to 29.
Estimates for the number of deaths prevented by vaccinations in England are unchanged at 112,300.
Universities that keep lectures online may struggle to justify 'highest fees'
England has the highest undergraduate university tuition fees in the developed world, but institutions may struggle to sustain charging such costs to students if online provision remains, an education expert has warned.
Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said students go to university to meet people and "experience the social life of campus" and it will be a "real challenge" for universities if they keep learning online.
The largest rise over the past decade has been in England where fees have tripled, according to the OECD's latest education at a glance study.
The findings come as a number of universities across the country are planning to keep lectures online this term as they adopt a blended approach to learning, with a mix of in-person and online teaching.
Pictured: Booster jab campaign begins in the UK
UK faces 'two backlogs' after pandemic, says Sajid Javid
The UK faces "two backlogs" after the Covid pandemic, the Health Secretary has said.
Sajid Javid told an event in Blackpool that one backlog was the NHS waiting lists, which have risen to a record 5.5 million people, but the second is "a social backlog in mental health and public health".
He said: "Passing the peak of the pandemic has been a bit like a receding tide, revealing the underlying health of our nation."
Maternity support worker helps kick off NHS Covid booster campaign
A maternity support worker has spoken of her joy after becoming one of the first people in the UK to receive a Covid-19 booster jab.
Catherine Cargill, who works at Croydon University Hospital in south London, said the vaccination means she can carry on working, studying and spending time with her family.
The NHS in England officially launched its coronavirus booster campaign on Thursday, which will see millions of eligible people offered a Pfizer vaccine, or in some cases a half-dose of Moderna.
They include frontline NHS and social care staff, anyone aged 50 and over, and those under 50 with health conditions that put them at risk of severe Covid.
Ms Cargill said: "I've just had my booster vaccine, my Pfizer vaccine, and I have had it ahead of the winter season to make sure I am protected, to make sure I can carry on working, I can carry on spending time with my family, and so I can carry on with my studies.
"I would definitely want to encourage you to get your booster shot when you are invited to do that."
Nicola Sturgeon apologises for ambulance waiting times as military could be called in
Nicola Sturgeon has apologised "unreservedly" for long ambulance waiting times, announcing that the military could be brought in to help with the backlog.
The First Minister was questioned about the death of Gerald Brown, 65, from Glasgow, who died after waiting for 40 hours for an ambulance, the Herald reported on Thursday.
She offered her condolences to the family of Mr Brown, but said the issues in the service would continue "for a period" as pressure caused by the pandemic continues and the winter months draw closer.
Ms Sturgeon said the waiting times for some patients were "not acceptable", adding: "I apologise unreservedly to anyone that has suffered or is suffering unacceptably long waits.
"A range of actions have already been taken to address these challenges, for example additional funding to support new recruitment.
She said that additional help would include "seeking targeted military assistance to help deal with short-term pressure points".
Bat coronaviruses may infect up to 400,000 people in China and southeast Asia every year
As many as 400,000 people are infected by coronaviruses carried by bats every year, according to an analysis mapping the risk of exposure across southern China and southeast Asia, report Sarah Newey and Paul Nuki.
The paper, published as a preprint this week, is the first to estimate how many people living in the region unknowingly contract a bat coronavirus similar to Sars-Cov-2 every year.
Its high profile authors include Prof Linfa Wang, who played a leading role in efforts to trace the origins of Sars, and Dr Peter Daszak, a member of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of Sars-Cov-2.
The paper’s findings, experts say, show the “clear and present danger” posed by bat viruses and the risk they could spark another pandemic.
81pc receive Covid test results within 24 hours in England
A total of 81pc of people who were tested for Covid-19 in England in the week ending September 8 at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit - a so-called "in-person" test - received their result within 24 hours.
This is up slightly from 80pc in the previous week.
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".
Nearly one in seven transferred to Test and Trace in week to Sept 8 not reached
Some 13.4pc of people - nearly one in seven - who were transferred to Test and Trace in England in the week to September 8 were not reached, meaning they were not able to provide details of recent close contacts.
This is up from 12.1pc in the previous week, and is the highest percentage since the week to July 21.
Anybody in England who tests positive for Covid-19, either through a rapid test or a PCR test processed in a laboratory, is transferred to Test and Trace so their contacts can be identified and alerted.
Gatwick Airport reduces costs of on-site travel testing
PCR tests at Gatwick Airport are being cut by £10 to £59 and the cost of 'fit to fly' lateral flow tests will be reduced by £2 to £33, according to Travel Weekly.
The airport will subsidise on-site Covid-19 testing centres, which are operated by ExpressTest.
The announcement comes amid widespread criticism of the high costs of travel PCR tests, which industry leaders say deter many families when it comes to booking holidays.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: "Gatwick airport recognises that the cost of PCR tests is prohibitive and acts as barrier preventing larger numbers from booking international travel.
"We are therefore pleased to be able to offer passengers a more cost-effective solution, conveniently located at the airport, to help people get away on a much-needed holiday, to visit loved ones abroad or travel for business."
Care homes 'will be forced to choose between breaking law or being understaffed'
Care homes will be forced to choose between dismissing unvaccinated staff and risking unsafe services, or breaking the law by keeping employees on, sector leaders have said, on the deadline for staff getting their first doses.
Providers and unions have warned of an exodus of staff due to the Government's requirement for them to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by November 11, meaning Thursday is their last opportunity for a first dose unless they are medically exempt.
With less than 24 hours before the deadline, the Government announced a temporary self-certification process for medical exemptions, which has been described as "hastily thought-out" and a "loophole".
It will allow staff and volunteers to self-certify that they meet the medical exemption criteria before the new NHS Covid pass system is introduced, with these exemptions expiring 12 weeks after its launch.
Those covered include people with a severe allergy to the vaccines, those who had adverse reactions to their first dose, people who are receiving end-of-life care and people with learning disabilities, autism or with a combination of impairments who find vaccination distressing because of their condition.
Pregnant care home workers and people with short-term medical conditions will also be able to apply for a "time-limited exemption".
United Nations says world likely to miss climate targets despite Covid pause in emissions
The pace of climate change has not been slowed by the global Covid-19 pandemic and the world remains behind in its battle to cut carbon emissions, the United Nations said on Thursday.
The virus-related economic downturn caused only a temporary downturn in CO2 emissions last year and it was not enough to reverse rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.
"There was some thinking that the lockdowns would have had a positive impact on the (…) atmosphere, which is not the case," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said at a news briefing.
The world in 2021 was missing the mark of building back sustainably from the Covid-19 crisis and "not going in the right direction," Taalas said.
In the picture below, a herd of wild goats had taken over a town centre in lockdown in March 2020 in northern Wales, making the most of their visit to eat hedges and flowers from gardens. Scenes of animals and nature recovering due to the lack of emissions and people during lockdowns became common.
Almost nine in 10 young adults in UK likely to have Covid-19 antibodies
Nearly nine in 10 young adults in the UK are now likely to have Covid-19 antibodies, new figures suggest.
The estimates, which are for people aged 16 to 24, range from 86.9pc in Wales to 88.7pc in England and Scotland, with 87.2pc in Northern Ireland.
The presence of coronavirus antibodies suggests someone has had the infection in the past or has been vaccinated.
It takes between two and three weeks after infection or vaccination for the body to make enough antibodies to fight the virus.
They then remain in the blood at low levels, although these can decline over time to the point that tests can no longer detect them.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics are based on a sample of blood test results for the week beginning August 23.
France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers
Around 3,000 health workers who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 have been suspended in France, the health minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday, a day after the country made vaccination mandatory for all healthcare and care home workers.
President Emmanuel Macron's government imposed the rule to boost vaccination uptake and help prevent a new wave of infections in the autumn that might jeopardise France's economic recovery.
"Most of the suspensions are only temporary... many of them have decided to get vaccinated as they see that the vaccination mandate is a reality," Veran told French RTL radio.
Nearly 450 health workers have been suspended in a hospital in the city of Nice, in southern France, according to the local daily Nice Matin.
China hits 1bn double-jabbed
China has fully vaccinated more than one billion people against the coronavirus - 71 per cent of its population - official figures showed today.
The country had mostly curbed the virus within its borders but is racing to get the vast majority of its population vaccinated as a new outbreak takes hold in the south-east.
"As of September 15, 2.16 billion vaccine doses have been administered nationwide," said National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng at a press briefing.
Chinese health authorities said late last month that 890million people in China had been fully vaccinated and two billion doses administered.
The government has not publicly announced a target for vaccination coverage, but top virologist Zhong Nanshan said last month that the country is likely to have 80 per cent of its population inoculated by the end of the year.
Pets at Home becomes latest retailer to close on Boxing Day
Pets at Home has become the latest retailer to agree to close all stores on Boxing Day this year.
Bosses said sites will shut on December 26 as a thank you to staff for their hard work during the year, which saw stores remain open throughout the pandemic due to its "essential" retailer status.
The company pointed out that stores were also closed on Boxing Day last year.
This year's holiday falls on a Sunday, with stores in England only allowed to trade for six hours.
Other retailers to make similar announcements include Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Poundland and Home Bargains.
Care homes could be forced to shut over due to refuseniks
Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said care homes may be forced to shut because of staff shortages as the deadline for care workers to get vaccinated looms on Thursday.
Mr Green told Radio 4's Today programme: "There's a real crisis around recruitment in the social care sector which has, in the pandemic, gotten a lot worse.
"Lots of things the Government has done, including the mandatory vaccination process, hasn't helped.
"We are also going to see millions of pounds going out of the sector because of the national insurance contributions rising and we won't see that extra money coming in until about 2023."
He added: "We all accept we want as many people as possible to be vaccinated. But I do feel the Government has gone forward with the social care compulsion without understanding the implications. Without having a thought-out plan on how they are going to deal with staff shortages.
"Care homes are now in a difficult position, facing the reality of do they have enough staff to maintain safety and quality of care?
"They are in the position of either having to transgress the law or expose people they support to levels of staffing that are not going to deliver the safety you're required to.
"There's the inevitability that in some areas, if you can't get the staff, then there will be care homes that close."
Dozens of Putin's entourage fall ill with Covid
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he would have to spend "a few days" in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill with Covid-19, the TASS news agency reported.
Putin was speaking through a video link at a summit of a Russia-led security bloc which was held in Tajikistan. He had planned to attend in person before the news of the virus outbreak in his inner circle this week.
It was previously unclear how big the outbreak was and how long Putin would remain isolated.
"This is not just one person or two people, there are dozens of people," he said.
"And now I have to remain in self-isolation for a few days."
Putin, 68, who has had two shots of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, said this week he was now personally testing its efficiency while the Kremlin said the president himself was healthy.
Rise in stillbirths linked to lack of face-to-face appointments
A lack of face-to-face appointments during the coronavirus pandemic may have contributed to stillbirths in the first wave, investigators have found.
The study by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) into 37 cases found that remote consultations may have driven down the ability to carry out key pregnancy checks, with some doctors unable to access medical records.
The review was prompted by an increase in stillbirths after the onset of labour referred to the HSIB between April and June 2020 – 45 compared with 24 in the same period in 2019.
None of the women were recorded as having Covid, but the report found the pressures and changes as a result of the pandemic may have affected the care they received.
Care home boss considering defying rules on unvaccinated staff
A care home boss in Scarborough has admitted he has considered keeping hold of unvaccinated staff and "just see what happens" due to a chronic shortage of carers.
Thursday is the final day for care home staff to get their first vaccinated in time to be fully jabbed in line with Government policy for the sector.
Under the compulsory vaccination policy, they will lose their jobs if they do not get jabbed - like four carers at St Cecilia's in Scarborough who are afraid of the side effects.
Asked if he would defy the Government and keep them on, their boss Mike Padgham told the BBC's Today programme: "I'm considering what I might do in the future because to my mind there's a risk of not having sufficient staff. But I'm not saying I'm going to do it - it's just in my thought process at the moment."
The care group held an open day in a desperate attempt to fill gaps, offering new starters a £500 cash bonus and a meal for two at a local restaurant.
White House offers call to Nicki Minaj about Covid vaccine
The White House is willing to set up a call for American rapper Nicki Minaj about the safety and effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccine after she said she wanted to do more research on vaccines before getting one.
"As we have with others, we offered a call with Nicki Minaj and one of our doctors to answer questions she has about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine," said a White House official.
Minaj had said in a tweet that she had not been able to complete enough research of her own on the COVID-19 vaccines to get one in time for the Met Gala, a star-studded fundraiser for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Later, Minaj added that she will get vaccinated to be able to tour.
Today's front page
Here is your Daily Telegraph on Thursday, Sep 16.
Australia Covid-19 cases rise but vaccination surge gives hope
The state of Victoria has reported its biggest daily rise in Covid-19 cases of the year.
Victoria, home to the city of Melbourne, detected 514 new infections on Thursday, exceeding the year's previous daily high of 473 on Monday.
Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's largest cities, have ramped up their immunisation drives as the country struggles to contain a third wave of infections fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant, putting nearly half of the 25 million population under strict stay-at-home orders.
Los Angeles bars to require Covid vaccines
Drinkers in Los Angeles will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 starting next month, authorities said on Wednesday, as mandates spread across the United States.
Bars and nightclubs in Los Angeles county will be required to check that patrons have had the shot, the health department said, in the same way they demand proof of age.
The county, home to around 10 million people, joins New York City in making jabs compulsory for swathes of the entertainment industry, in a country that has not yet fully embraced the life-saving vaccines.
Full-time return to office work unlikely, poll suggests
Seven in ten Britons do not feel a return to full-time office working is on the cards post-pandemic, a survey suggests.
The majority of those questioned by YouGov said they would favour to either work from home full-time, or have a hybrid arrangement.
But the poll, commissioned by the BBC, also found concern from senior leaders that creativity and collaboration could suffer if employees were staying at home.
Today's top stories
Ministers were on Wednesday night urged to ditch pre-departure tests for double-jabbed holidaymakers amid fears the plans could be derailed by last-minute objections by health chiefs.
Headteachers have been told to call the police if anti-vaxxers plan protests outside the school gates, as the NHS said all children aged 12 to 15 years old should receive their Covid-19 jab by half term.
Nadhim Zahawi, the new Education Secretary, is reaping the political reward of organising a triumphant vaccine rollout. But his promotion will see him propelled from one highly sensitive Covid battleground to another.
The next travel update from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected this week, and there’s hope that the traffic light system for travel could be scrapped, under plans to simplify holidays.
As many as 400,000 people are infected by coronaviruses carried by bats every year, according to an analysis mapping the risk of exposure across southern China and southeast Asia.