June 21 reopening to be delayed by up to four weeks

·52-min read
Boris Johnson has been forced to postpone plans after a rise in cases - GETTY IMAGES
Boris Johnson has been forced to postpone plans after a rise in cases - GETTY IMAGES

11:53 PM

What happened today?

That's it from us tonight. Here are today's top stories:

  • June 21 will no longer herald a full return to normality after Boris Johnson resigned himself to a delay of up to four weeks in lifting the remaining Covid restrictions

  • Coronavirus daily case rates hit their highest levels since February 26, and the latest estimate of England's R rate - the reproduction number - shows it has risen from 1.0-1.2 to between 1.2-1.4, the highest since January

  • Public Health England analysis showed the Indian/Delta variant could be 60 per cent more transmissable, with infections up 240 per cent in a week - and doubling at a rate of between 4.5 and 11.5 days in English regions - but 5 per cent of Delta cases are in people who have been fully vaccinated

  • The Prime Minister urged fellow leaders at the G7 summit to "build back better" as the world recovers from the Covid pandemic, saying leading economies could "bounce back" if they learn from the mistakes of the 2008 financial crash

  • China has branded the theory that Covid-19 leaked from a lab in the city of Wuhan an "absurd story", amid mounting concern over the secretive origins of the pandemic

  • Members of the European Union agreed to ease rules over the summer to allow fully vaccinated tourists to travel restriction-free across borders – but excluded immunised British holidaymakers

  • Free weekly 5k parkrun events have got the green light to return in England from June 26, the organisation said after enough landowners gave permission - but the June 21 decision could threaten the plans

11:14 PM

Our return to freedom cannot be fudged

The Telegraph's view: While Boris Johnson's caution is understandable, the Prime Minister should stick to the plan and reopen on June 21.

"The public might well be anxious about June 21; recent elections indicate that the Government is quite popular. How tempting it must be to throw freedom to the wind and adopt caution, yet again – but while the consequences of losing freedom are far less visible than ill-health, they are there. They will be felt in time."

Read more: Telegraph View: Delay endangers everything that has made Britain a leading nation

Boris Johnson with Angela Merkel at the G7 summit in Cornwall on Friday - EPA
Boris Johnson with Angela Merkel at the G7 summit in Cornwall on Friday - EPA

10:47 PM

Labour: Public 'paying the price' for 'reckless border policy'

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has said the delay means the country is now paying the price for the refusal of ministers to heed the warnings of its own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

"Any delay in rolling back restrictions would be a huge blow for many families and businesses across the country. The fault for this lies squarely with Conservative ministers," Mr Thomas-Symonds said.

"Despite warnings from Labour, Sage and others, they continued with a reckless border policy that allowed the Delta variant to reach the UK and spread.

"Now the British people look set to have to pay the price."

10:41 PM

Delay is 'cruel', says Tory MP

A Tory MP has criticised ministers for being "cruel" after they briefed that weddings could be allowed to go ahead without guest limits from June 21 – only for plans to be shelved 48 hours later.

Mark Harper, the Conservative MP for the Forest of Dean and chair of the Covid Recovery Group, tweeted:

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10:17 PM

'How much more can we take?'

Third wave predictions proved to be false – yet the PM has bowed to pressure from the same voices who got it wrong before, says Gordon Rayner.

"For the past month, the British people have been softened up like butter under a rolling pin for bad news about June 21. Cautious Cabinet “doves” have been so successful that the only surprise Boris Johnson could spring next week would be to announce Covid curbs will be lifted after all. As we now know, that is not going to happen, and the debate is already moving on to whether the delay will last for four weeks - taking us to July 19 - or even longer."

Read more: Analysis: Freedom Day delay is inevitable, but when does it end?

09:55 PM

'What a farce'

The Telegraph's Allison Pearson says the decision is a 'farce' and questions why Britain is lagging behind other countries in reopening.

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Telegraph columnist Andrew Lilico wants Boris Johnson to explain the Government's threshold for hospitalisations.

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09:45 PM

Cases on the rise

Boris Johnson is expected to say on Monday that the planned reopening will on June 21 will be too risky. This is because cases have jumped in recent days due to the spread of the Indian variant.

On Friday, Britain recorded 8,125 new cases with the infections accelerating at an alarming rate:

Hospital admissions are also on the rise, though studies are increasingly suggesting that the link between cases and serious illness has been broken among the vaccinated, which in turn could allow the NHS to cope with extra patients despite rising infections overall.

This broken link may now be reflected in the North-West – though admissions are now clearly rising, they are doing so at a much slower rate than in the autumn:

Read more: Are we at the start of a third Covid wave? The data suggest a brighter picture

09:21 PM

Behind the decision to delay

After weeks of wrangling between ministers, scientists and business leaders, government sources confirmed on Friday that some restrictions would remain in place beyond June 21, with a four-week delay the most likely option.

The decision is expected to be reviewed two weeks into the extension.

A senior Whitehall source said: "A delay would allow for more first doses but also, critically, more second doses and more time for those doses to take effect. It would give protection to many, many millions of people who haven't had their second doses yet but may be vulnerable to coronavirus.

"The Prime Minister always said the reopening should be 'cautious but irreversible'. We don't want to do anything that risks going backwards."

Read more: Reopening set to be delayed as cases rise

05:44 PM

12 G7 police officers self-isolating after one tests positive for Covid

Twelve police officers at the G7 summit are self-isolating after one member of the force tested positive for Covid on the Falmouth accommodation cruise ship, police have said.

Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed the officer went through their testing regime early on Friday morning and received a positive lateral flow result.

The force said that he was supporting G7 policing and was accommodated on the ferry they rented for the duration of the summit, the MS Silja Europa.

The ferry is housing more than 1,000 police officers who have been brought in to provide security at the summit.

05:35 PM

Watch: Boris Johnson calls for 'feminine' pandemic recovery as he opens G7

Boris Johnson suggested the G7 should support a more "feminine" economic recovery as he opened the summit in Cornwall this afternoon.

The Prime Minister said the citizens of G7 nations "want us to be sure that we are beating the pandemic together and discussing how we will never have a repeat of what we have seen".

He added: "But also that we are building back better together and building back greener and building back fairer and building back more equal and... in a more gender neutral and perhaps a more feminine way."

05:22 PM

Joy for runners as parkrun gets June 26 green light

Parkrun events have got the green light to return in England from June 26, the organisation has said.

The free weekly 5k Saturday morning event was due to restart on June 5, but only about 250 of the 589 venues had been given permission by councils and landowners to return.

But now more than 500 events have "full landowner permission to return", parkrun said on Friday.

A statement read: "There is now a strong consensus from landowners and public health officials, right across the country, that the return of parkrun - a free-to-access public health initiative - is vital as we look to improve our physical and mental health in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic."

Chief operating officer Tom Williams said the organisation was "delighted", but cautioned that any delay to the June 21 unlocking of restrictions next week could affect the return plans.

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05:07 PM

PM: G7 must learn the lessons from Covid to 'bounce back better'

Boris Johnson said the G7 must learn from the mistakes of the pandemic as he predicted the leading economies would "bounce back" from the Covid-19 recession.

The Prime Minister said the group of leading democracies should also avoid the errors that followed the 2008 financial crash and ensure the recovery helped all parts of society.

G7 leaders will promise a billion doses of Covid vaccine to help poorer countries tackle the pandemic. They were met by Mr Johnson and Carrie Johnson as they arrived earlier at the summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, and posed for a "family photograph" ahead of their discussions.

It is the first face-to-face meeting for the group in almost two years as a result of what Mr Johnson called the "most wretched pandemic".

The Prime Minister said: "We need to make sure that we learn the lessons from the pandemic, we need to make sure that we don't repeat some of the errors that we doubtless made in the course of the last 18 months or so."

He said the G7 economies - the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy - had the potential to "bounce back very strongly" from the crisis.

Oxfam activists with 'Big Heads' caricatures of US President Joe Biden and France's President Emmanuel Macron pretend to fight over a Covid-19 vaccine at a protest in Cornwall - Peter Nicholls/Reuters 
Oxfam activists with 'Big Heads' caricatures of US President Joe Biden and France's President Emmanuel Macron pretend to fight over a Covid-19 vaccine at a protest in Cornwall - Peter Nicholls/Reuters

04:50 PM

Young children protected from Covid by strong immune response, study finds

Young children have relative protection from coronavirus because their bodies produce a strong immune response to it, according to a new study.

The University of Bristol and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children conducted research which found infants produce relatively high levels of antibodies and immune cells that protect against the virus compared with adults.

Researchers say the findings could help explain why younger children appear protected from the severe effects of Covid-19. The study was led by academics and paediatricians, published in Cell Reports Medicine.

The research team looked at the immune responses in four infants under three months old with confirmed Covid in March 2020 alongside their parents, and other adult patients who had recovered from the virus.

Dr Anu Goenka, of the University of Bristol, said the findings have "shown what protective immunity 'looks like', in terms of the make-up of specific antibodies and immune cells" to fight the virus.

He added: "This is very useful information for the design of future Covid-19 vaccines that could seek to induce and mimic the signature of this protective immunity."

Members of the touring Zippo Circus attend a vaccination clinic in Finchley, North London
Members of the touring Zippo Circus attend a vaccination clinic in Finchley, North London

04:39 PM

EU agrees plans to ease restrictions on travel – but excludes the UK

Members of the European Union have agreed to ease rules over the summer to allow fully vaccinated tourists to travel restriction-free across borders – but have excluded immunised British holidaymakers.

Ambassadors from the 27 states approved a modified proposal that will allow EU residents to avoid tests and quarantines if they have been fully vaccinated for 14 days or more.

Restrictions imposed on non-EU travellers will depend on the level of Covid-19 cases in each nation – currently the UK is excluded from all restriction-free plans due to concerns over the Delta variant.

The EU has introduced a certificate system that indicates immunity to Covid-19 through vaccination or previous infection, or shows evidence of a recent negative test result. The system is set to be ready by July 1 – this week it was reported that one million Europeans have obtained a digital certificate for travel.

Under the EU's new system, 'green' areas must now have fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people in 14 days, with below four per cent of tests coming back positive. That will rise to 50, or 75 if the positivity rate is less than 1 per cent. The limits for the, 'orange' level will also rise.

Here's a reminder of the UK's restrictions:

04:26 PM

BMA joins calls for Government to delay June 21 unlocking

The British Medical Association has urged the Government to delay the planned June 21 easing of England restrictions amid the rise in cases of the Delta variant first identified in India.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA Council, said in a statement: "The UK's vaccination programme has been a tremendous success and this, together with the hard work and sacrifices of so many, and measures such as social distancing and mask wearing, has helped us come a long way in our fight against this terrible virus.

"However, case numbers are now rising rapidly, and we know that those who are unvaccinated or have had only one dose of the vaccine remain vulnerable to getting the virus.

"The best protection is only achieved at about two weeks after the second dose, particularly with the Delta variant, and we will not have enough of the population properly protected by June 21.

He added "there is a huge risk that prematurely relaxing all restrictions will undo the excellent work of the vaccine programme and lead to a surge of infections".

Mobile vaccination centres are working flat out amid a rise in cases of the Indian/Delta variant
Mobile vaccination centres are working flat out amid a rise in cases of the Indian/Delta variant

04:14 PM

UK hits 70 million vaccines milestone

A new milestone has been hit in Britain's vaccine rollout with 70 million Covid-19 vaccines now administered to adults in the UK, the latest figures show.

Some 70,253,625 million doses have now been administered in total.

Broken down, that is 41,088,485 million people across the UK now vaccinated with a first dose (78 per cent), while 29,165,140 million people have had both doses (55.4 per cent).

The Government said it remains on track to offer a first dose to all adults by the end of July, and NHS England extended the offer of a jab to over-25s this week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is jubilant:

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03:49 PM

China calls Wuhan lab leak theory 'absurd'

China has branded the theory that Covid-19 leaked from a lab in the city of Wuhan an "absurd story", amid mounting concern over the secretive origins of the pandemic.

Yang Jiechi, China's top diplomat, expressed serious concern on Friday that some people in the United States were spreading the "absurd story" about the lab leak theory, Chinese state media said.

In a call with Beijing, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the need for cooperation and transparency over the origins of Covid-19.

Yang said Beijing firmly opposed what he called "abominable actions" over the pandemic, which he said were being used to slander China, the Chinese TV channel CCTV said.

He added: "We urge the United States to respect facts and science, refrain from politicising the issue ... and focus on international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic."

The State Department said in a statement: "Addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, the Secretary stressed the importance of cooperation and transparency regarding the origin of the virus, including the need for WHO Phase 2 expert-led studies in China," referring to the World Health Organization.

The US and Downing Street have called for all theories to be considered about the origins of the virus.

03:35 PM

Italy halts AstraZeneca vaccine for under-60s after teenager dies

The Italian government announced on Friday it is restricting the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to people over the age of 60, after a teenager who had taken the shot died from an extremely rare blood clot.

Camilla Canepa died on Thursday aged 18 after being given the vaccine on May 25, triggering a storm of controversy in Italy over the Anglo-Swedish brand being given to adults of all ages.

A causal link between her death and the vaccination has not been established. Local media reported the initial investigation into the teenager’s death showed she had the pre-existing condition of low blood platelets.

"AstraZeneca will only be used for people over 60," the country's special Covid commissioner Francesco Figliuolo told reporters at a news conference.

Scientific and medical experts have repeatedly stressed that the overall benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks of extremely rare side effects.

03:15 PM

Latest daily UK Covid figures: 17 deaths and more than 8,000 cases

A further 17 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, bringing the UK total to 127,884.

Official figures also show that, as of 9am on Friday, there had been a further 8,125 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.

Government data up to June 10 shows that of the 70,253,625 jabs given in the UK so far, 41,088,485 were first doses - a rise of 201,607 on the previous day.

Some 29,165,140 were second doses, an increase of 308,038.

03:13 PM

German government facing cover-up claims over intensive care bed shortages

Angela Merkel’s government is facing accusations of a cover-up after it emerged German hospitals may have lied about intensive care bed shortages during the coronavirus pandemic, Justin Huggler reports in Berlin.

Several hospitals are believed to have exaggerated the pressure on their ICUs in order to secure emergency funds, according to a report by government auditors leaked to the German press.

Mrs Merkel is now facing questions over how much she knew about the alleged false occupancy figures when she held up the prospect of Germany running out of ICU beds as justification for new lockdown restrictions earlier this year.

“Intensive care doctors are calling out for our help one after another,” Mrs Merkel warned in April.

“If we were to wait until all intensive care beds are occupied, it would be too late. We must not allow that, and we must not ignore the calls for help from the doctors. "

A spokesman for the chancellor said Mrs Merkel had “no knowledge” of the alleged manipulation of hospital figures yesterday (FRI).

03:11 PM

India’s dead-end vaccination drive: why millions in rural villages are forgotten

Tucked in the forests of Jim Corbett, dirt roads, dotted with swamps, lead to a village where a few water hand-pumps have dried up; livestock are kept close to vast agricultural fields; children play swing on trees, barefoot; and life goes to sleep with the sun.

Half of the village fell sick simultaneously, in the last week of May 2021; they had classic Covid-19 symptoms: “a lot of weakness, energyless-ness, the pain was killing the body,” said Ramesh Chandra, a 42-year-old resident. “The village became lifeless.”

In the Jim Corbett National Park, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi famously went trekking with Bear Grylls after being re-elected in 2019, on Discovery channel, the nearest hospital, to tend Covid-19 patients, is 13 miles away, in Ram Nagar town.

People queue for their vaccinations near Siliguri in India - Diptendu DUTTA / AFP
People queue for their vaccinations near Siliguri in India - Diptendu DUTTA / AFP

Before boarding an ambulance, they need to walk two miles. If there is a time to vaccinate the villages, it is now, Mr Chandra told the Telegraph. Experts agree.

They say that when the ravaging second wave of the coronavirus dipped in Indian metropolitan cities, the cameras turned away while the contagion devastated India’s underfunded, ill-equipped, and fragile rural healthcare infrastructure.

But in Patrani, situated 211 miles away from New Delhi, the villagers can’t think of anyone who has been vaccinated for Covid-19 from the 2,500 population.

02:47 PM

G7 eyes allocating $100 bn from IMF funds to Covid-ravaged nations

G7 nations are considering reallocating $100 billion from the International Monetary Fund's war chest to help countries struggling most to cope with the Covid-19 crisis, the White House said.

"The United States and our G7 partners are actively considering a global effort to multiply the impact of the proposed Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocation to the countries most in need," President Biden's office said.

"At potentially up to $100 billion in size, the proposed effort would further support health needs – including vaccinations – and help enable greener, more robust economic recoveries in vulnerable countries, and promote a more balanced, sustained, and inclusive global recovery."

The US has targeted the SDR allocation to be distributed around the "late summer" and on Friday said: "We strongly support the effort to recycle SDRs to further support health needs."

SDRs are the IMF’s reserve asset, and are exchangeable for dollars, euros, sterling, yen and Chinese yuan or renminbi.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday called on the other G7 nations to find an agreement on reallocating $100 billion in SDRs to African states.

02:39 PM

Russia records highest daily Covid cases since February

Russia reported 12,505 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours on Friday, its highest number of daily infections since late February, taking the national tally to 5,180,454 since the pandemic began.

Moscow expects to see a peak of infections in June or July, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on state TV. Sobyanin added that around half of Moscow's residents had developed immunity.

"We thought the spring peak of the pandemic would come in April-May, as last year, but in fact it has shifted to June-July and is pretty high," the RIA news agency quoted him as saying. He added that current restrictions in the city would not be intensified.

The government's coronavirus task force said 396 more people had died, pushing the national death toll to 125,674.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate toll and has said that Russia recorded around 270,000 deaths related to Covid-19 between April 2020 and April 2021.

02:17 PM

MHRA looking at capillary leak syndrome precaution for AstraZeneca jab

Britain's MHRA medicine regulator is considering precautionary advice for people with a history of capillary leak syndrome, but does not see a causal link with AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine after the EU said it was a rare side effect of the shot.

MHRA Chief Executive June Raine said that two of eight reports of capillary leak syndrome following AstraZeneca vaccination were in people with a history of the condition, and 40 million doses of the vaccine had been given.

"The incidence of these reports is lower than the number of cases expected to occur by chance in the absence of vaccination of this extremely rare condition and the current evidence does not suggest that capillary leak syndrome is caused by the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca," Ms Raine said.

"Whether or not a precautionary advice is warranted for patients who have previously experienced capillary leak syndrome is currently being carefully considered by the MHRA as well as the independent Commission on Human Medicines’ Covid-19 Benefit/Risk Expert Working Group."

01:48 PM

Fully vaccinated people account for only 5% of Delta variant infections

Just five per cent of Indian variant infections are in people who have been fully vaccinated, latest figures show.

A Public Health England (PHE) briefing on the new variant that has been sweeping Britain, also known as the Delta variant, shows that the disease is predominantly affecting people who have yet to receive the jab.

Out of 33,206 cases sequenced since February 1, just 1,785 were in people who had been fully vaccinated and only 62 ended up being admitted to hospital compared with 397 of unvaccinated individuals.

The new data also show that the death rate is still very low with just 0.1 per cent of people catching the variant going on to die - 1 in 1,000 - although this may increase in the coming weeks because of the lag between cases, admissions and deaths.

In comparison, the death rate for people catching the Kent (or Alpha) variant is 1.7 per cent - 17 in 1,000.

01:39 PM

Wizz Air expects its summer flying to beat pre-pandemic levels

Wizz Air is likely to fly more this summer than it did pre-pandemic, said its chief executive, as European Covid-19 travel restrictions loosen with vaccine passports being used within the bloc.

"We are ramping up. We are seeing a less constrained environment going into peak summer and quite likely we're going to be above our 2019 capacity in a month or two from now," chief executive Jozsef Varadi told an online airlines event on Wednesday.

He said Wizz was already operating about 60-65 per cent of its pre-pandemic 2019 capacity.

That puts Hungary-based Wizz, which has an eastern European focus, ahead of many other European airlines which are operating less than half their pre-pandemic capacity.

01:23 PM

When is Boris Johnson's next announcement on Covid lockdown?

Rising numbers of coronavirus cases and the emergence of the new, more transmissible variant first identified in India have put the final stage of England's lockdown easing in jeopardy.

Boris Johnson will announce on Monday whether Covid restrictions will be lifted.

As cases increase, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said he is willing to accept a short delay to Step 4 of the roadmap to ending the lockdown, The Telegraph understands.

A Whitehall source pointed towards the Treasury having gone "long" on emergency coronavirus support packages in the Budget to cover the possibility of a delay to the plans.

12:58 PM

Italy takes a step closer to herd immunity after devastating first wave

Parts of Italy are expected to reach herd immunity next month, offering the hope of respite for a country that suffered severely in the first wave of the pandemic, writes Erica Di Blasi in Turin.

The predictions come as the nation's vaccination programme picks up speed: more than a million doses were administered last weekend.

The first of Italy's 20 regions to achieve herd immunity is expected to be Campania in the south of the country in July, followed in August by five others and by all the remaining regions except Trento in the north in September.

Across the country as a whole the herd immunity threshold of 75 per cent is expected to be reached in September. "The month of July will be the turning point," said Pierpaolo Sileri, Italy's undersecretary of health.

"We will have exceeded half of the population with at least one dose of vaccine and by September-October we expect to achieve community protection."

The regional predictions were made by Il Sole 24 Ore, an Italian newspaper.

12:46 PM

England's R number rises to between 1.2 and 1.4

The estimated Covid-19 reproduction "R" number in England has risen to between 1.2 and 1.4 with the daily growth rate of infections also up compared to last week, Britain's health ministry said on Friday.

An R value between 1.2 and 1.4 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 12 and 14 other people. It is up from 1.0 to 1.2 last week.

Experts have warned that the R number is a less reliable marker of the current state of the epidemic when case rates are low, and should be viewed alongside infection rates, very low hospitalisation levels and the fast pace of the vaccine rollout.

The daily growth rate of infections was estimated between 3 per cent and 6 per cent, up from 0 per cent to 3 per cent last week.

12:37 PM

We've done everything possible to protect care homes during Covid, says No 10

Asked why the Government did not have a list of all care homes at the beginning of the pandemic, as admitted by Matt Hancock on Thursday, Downing Street said it had done "everything possible" to protect residents and staff.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the Health Secretary had addressed the issue but added: "From the start of the pandemic we've done everything possible to protect care home residents and staff and we were always guided by the latest advice at the time."

Asked whether it would be prudent for the care minister to now keep a record of all of the country's care homes, he said: "Again, I think the Health Secretary said in front of the committee yesterday that the DH (the Department of Health and Social Care) and the department now has much better systems in place in terms of what you reference."

He said the Government stood by everything said by Mr Hancock in front of MPs on Thursday.

12:30 PM

No 10 insists vaccine rollout timetable is correct as local leaders demand faster jabs

Downing Street has insisted there are "targeted regional measures in place", following criticism from local leaders in Indian/Delta variant hotspots that surge vaccines are not being rolled out quickly enough.

Greater Manchester leader Andy Burnham has led the calls for all over-18s to be allowed to get vaccinated, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday he was "working on what more we can do" to speed up the rollout in the north-west.

But the Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters this lunchtime: "We are continuing to follow the JCVI advice, as you know we are counting down through the age groups, anybody over the age of 25 can now come forward to receive a vaccination, and we will continue to roll it down to those over 18 as soon as we possibly can."

No 10 was not aware whether the the JCVI had been asked to reconsider its timetable, but added: "I would point to the public pledge that we set out some time ago which is to offer all adults a first dose of the vaccine by the end of July and that remains our target and we're on track to meet that target.

"Again I would point you back to the stats that are published each day which shows the vast number of people who receive either their first dose or their second dose, and that will continue."

Zippos circus performers await their Covid vaccinations in Finchley, north London, under the Vaxi Taxi project to get jabs to those who may fall through the cracks of the regular rollout - Matt Crossick/Empics
Zippos circus performers await their Covid vaccinations in Finchley, north London, under the Vaxi Taxi project to get jabs to those who may fall through the cracks of the regular rollout - Matt Crossick/Empics

12:15 PM

No 10 defends Indian variant border policy after claims it acted too late

Downing Street has defended its borders policy in relation to the Delta variant of coronavirus, which was first identified in India.

Asked whether Boris Johnson regretted not putting India on the red list of travel restrictions sooner, now that 91 per cent of new cases are of the Delta variant, the Prime Minister's spokesman said: "Well I think you've heard both the Prime Minister and Health Secretary answer questions on that.

"Specifically, I would point to the tough border measures that we've had in place for a fair amount of time now, that we've ensured that anybody arriving from India needed to quarantine at home, and then later as you said they were put on the red list which means that people have to quarantine in a hotel if they arrive in the UK from India."

He added: "I'd also point to the fact that throughout that period we were also encouraging people not to travel outside the UK, in fact it was - before the relaxations - it was illegal to travel outside the UK other than for reasons, exceptional reasons, that we set out."

12:03 PM

No calls for you: mobile phone blockade for Pakistan's vaccine refuseniks

The Pakistani province of Sindh said on Friday that it will block the mobile phones of people refusing to get Covid-19 jabs.

It comes after Sindh said civil servants who refuse to be vaccinated will not be paid from July, amid high levels of vaccine hesitancy.

A third wave of infections has begun to stabilise after weeks of tough restrictions, and in Punjab – the country's most populous province which includes the megacity of Lahore – demand for jabs has slowed.

"At first this was only a proposal, but people have been very hesitant in getting vaccinated so the decision was made," said Hammad Raza, spokesman for the Punjab Primary Health department.

He said the state telecoms agency will decide how to implement the measure.

Pakistan's nationwide rollout has picked up in recent weeks with more than 200,000 doses administered most days, but it adds up to only a fraction of the 220 million population.

11:55 AM

Poll: Face masks forever?

Face masks and social distancing measures should continue “forever”, a senior scientist on the Sage committee that advises the Government has said.

Professor Susan Michie, of UCL, on Thursday suggested the measures introduced to tackle the coronavirus pandemic should be retained to help suppress other viruses and boost public health.

She said that alongside vaccines, NHS test and trace, and border controls, “people’s behaviour” was a key factor towards controlling the pandemic.

But what do you think? Take our poll below.

11:41 AM

EU advises against AstraZeneca vaccine in people with rare blood condition

Europe's drug regulator has advised against using AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine in people with a history of a rare bleeding condition.

The European Medicines Agency's (EMA) safety committee said in its evaluation that capillary leak syndrome must be added as a new side effect to labelling on the AZ jab.

It is a condition in which blood leaks from the smallest of vessels into muscles and body cavities and is characterised by swelling and a drop in blood pressure.

The regulator first began looking into these cases in April. It also said it was looking into heart inflammation cases after inoculation with all coronavirus shots.

Last month, the EMA had advised against using the second AstraZeneca shot for people with blood clotting conditions amid concerns of extremely rare side effects.

11:33 AM

Latest Covid case rates across the UK

Around one in 560 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to June 5 - up from one in 640 in the previous week, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is the highest level since the week to April 10, as Public Health England warns that the Indian/Delta variant is up to 60 per cent more transmissable than the Kent/Alpha variant and now comprises 91 per cent of all new cases.

While the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus in England has continued to increase, the trend is "uncertain" in the rest of the UK, the ONS said.

In Wales, around one in 1,300 people are estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to June 5 - down slightly from one in 1,050 in the previous week, but higher than one in 3,850 two weeks earlier.

In Northern Ireland the latest estimate is one in 700 people, up slightly from one in 800 in the previous week, while for Scotland the estimate is one in 540, up from one in 680.

All figures are for people in private households.

11:15 AM

Only teens with pre-existing conditions should have Pfizer jab, says German panel

Germany’s vaccine advisory committee has recommended that only children and adolescents with pre-existing conditions should be given the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.

The STIKO committee said in a statement that it recommends a vaccination only for those youngsters with an illness that raises their risk of a serious case of coronavirus.

It said it was not currently recommending the use of the vaccine for those aged 12-17 without pre-existing conditions, though it noted that doctors were allowed to give the shot if the individual accepts the risk.

Germany had said it plans to offer shots to children as young as 12 from June after the European health regulator authorised the vaccine for use in adolescents last month.

STIKO committee member Ruediger von Kriess, a paediatrics professor, said previously it might be preferable to endorse the vaccine for use in children only if they have risk factors given the lack of data on long-term effects.

11:01 AM

Holiday prices slashed in amber destinations

Holidaymakers can make huge savings if they choose a destination on the Government's amber list, new figures show.

Average prices for breaks in Portugal in July or August fell by 64 per cent in the week after it was moved off the green list, compared with the previous seven days, price comparison website TravelSupermarket said.

Seven-night family package breaks during the school holidays are available from as little as £180 per person, according to the firm.

People returning to the UK from amber destinations must self-isolate at home for 10 days. There are no viable major summer hotspots on the quarantine-free green list.

The biggest savings compared with 2019 prices are on Gran Canaria (25 per cent cheaper), but prices are also reduced on Tenerife (23 per cent), Lanzarote (15 per cent) and Fuerteventura (12 per cent).

Prices for trips to another amber destination, the Greek island of Corfu, are down 20 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

There are now no major holiday destinations left on the quarantine-free green list - Hannah McKay/Reuters
There are now no major holiday destinations left on the quarantine-free green list - Hannah McKay/Reuters

10:39 AM

One in eight adults planning trip abroad this summer - ONS

Around one in eight British adults are planning a trip abroad this summer, figures suggest.

Some 12 per cent of adults said they plan to go on a trip abroad before September, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Of these, 71 per cent said this would be for a holiday.

Younger groups were more likely to be planning a trip: 16 per cent of 30- to 34-year-olds compared to 8 per cent of adults aged 70 and over.

A traffic light risk-based system with red, amber and green ratings for countries around the world determines the quarantine and Covid testing rules travellers face when returning to the UK.

The ONS collected responses from 4,153 people between June 2 and 6, when it was announced Portugal was being downgraded from the quarantine-free green list to the amber list.

10:24 AM

Pictured: Protest at a beach near G7 summit showing leaders fighting over a vaccine

Oxfam activists with 'Big Heads' caricatures of Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron pretend to fight over a Covid-19 vaccine with Yoshihide Suga, Mario Draghi, Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson - PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS
Oxfam activists with 'Big Heads' caricatures of Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron pretend to fight over a Covid-19 vaccine with Yoshihide Suga, Mario Draghi, Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson - PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS
Oxfam activists with 'Big Heads' caricatures of U.S. President Joe Biden and France's President Emmanuel Macron pretend to fight over a Covid-19 vaccine with other G7 leaders - PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS
Oxfam activists with 'Big Heads' caricatures of U.S. President Joe Biden and France's President Emmanuel Macron pretend to fight over a Covid-19 vaccine with other G7 leaders - PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS

10:06 AM

Indian variant is a major concern for majority of UK businesses

Over half of UK businesses are concerned about the potential impact of the Indian variant on their post-coronavirus recoveries, according to new research from One World Express.

The research revealed that over half, 53pc, of respondents are more confident about the future prospect of their business compared to 12 months ago.

A similar number, 56pc, have also seen an improvement in their businesses’ performance since the easing of lockdown restrictions throughout March, April and May.

However, 51pc of respondents were concerned about the potential impact of the Delta variant on their post-pandemic recoveries.

An independent survey of more than 400 decision makers within UK businesses was commissioned by the global logistics firm.

This comes amid warnings to Boris Johnson from public health experts to delay the June 21 unlocking "for a few more weeks" due to the rise in Delta variant cases in the UK.

10:01 AM

Cases of the Delta variant have risen by 240pc in a week, new PHE figures show

Nearly 30,000 more cases of the Indian coronavirus variant have been confirmed in the UK in the last week, new data shows.

The new Public Health England figures are showing that cases of the Delta variant have risen by 240pc in a week.

The figures also show that the Delta variant is estimated to be 60pc more transmissible than the Alpha variant, with regional estimates for doubling time ranging from 4.5 days to 11.5 days.

Layla Moran, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said: "These figures should set alarm bells ringing in government as we approach the 21st of June.

"It is particularly concernign that the increased transmissibility of the Delta varaint is above the worst-case scenario modelled by Sage."

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: "With data showing that Delta is significantly more transmissible than Alpha, it is just as important as ever to follow public health advice, which has not changed."

09:43 AM

Watch: Lockdown easing has to be 'careful', says vaccines minister

09:42 AM

New Covid Delta variant figures from PHE

As of June 7, there have been 42 deaths in England of people who were confirmed as having the Delta variant of Covid-19 and who died within 28 days of a positive test, according to Public Health England.

Of this number, 23 were unvaccinated, seven were more than 21 days after their first dose of vaccine and 12 were more than 14 days after their second dose.

09:30 AM

Vaccine minister urges against 'squander(ing) those hard fought gains' in unlocking on June 21

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi stressed the importance of being "really careful" in lifting coronavirus restrictions following reports there could be a four-week delay to the planned easing of all restrictions on June 21.

He urged against "squander(ing) those hard fought gains" made by the vaccination programme amid concerns over the rise of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India.

It comes as The Times reported ministers are considering a four-week delay to what some are calling "freedom day", in order to give businesses certainty and allow more time for people to receive both vaccine doses.

Boris Johnson is due to make a decision shortly on whether England can go ahead with full reopening on June 21, with an announcement expected on Monday.

The Prime Minister is being urged to err on the side of caution and delay the next stage of his road map as new figures show case rates have increased in every region in England.

08:59 AM

PHE: More than 90pc of new Covid cases are now the Delta variant

More than 90pc of new Covid-19 cases are now the Delta variant, which continues to show a significantly higher rate of growth compared to the Alpha (or Kent) variant, Public Health England said.

New research suggests the Delta variant is associated with an approximately 60pc increased risk of household transmission compared with the Alpha variant.

Growth rates for Delta cases are high across all parts of the country, with regional estimates for doubling time ranging from 4.5 days to 11.5 days.

08:45 AM

PHE confirms total of 42,323 cases of Delta variant in UK

A total of 42,323 cases of the Delta variant of coronavirus that originated in India have now been confirmed in the UK, up by 29,892 from last week, Public Health England said.

08:10 AM

Still on track to meet target of all over 50s being offered their second jab by June 21, says vaccines minister

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that ministers were on track to meet a target of all over 50s being offered their second jab by June 21, as he appealed as those who had not had a first dose to come forward to be vaccinated.

"We are on track for offering all over 50s who have had the first jab their second jab by June 21," he told BBC Breakfast.

"We have got very high levels of uptake, in the 90%, but we have got to make sure they get their second jab.

"Anyone who hasn't had the jab, in that 5 or 6% who didn't have their jab, please come forward and have your first jab.

"75pc of the 12,500 people who were infected with the Delta variant, 75pc, three quarters, hadn't had a jab, so it's really important."

08:01 AM

Boris Johnson urges G7 leaders to make similar vaccine pledges globally

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Meanwhile, the vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed that the British public would not have to wait longer for a coronavirus vaccine as a result of the UK's contribution to vaccine programmes around the world.

"Our priority is to make sure that the British public are protected, so our deployment programme will not be impacted at all by our donation of 100 million doses," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We have got over 500 million doses on order."

07:51 AM

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Here is your Daily Telegraph on Friday, June 11.

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07:47 AM

Pfizer supply is 'stable', insists vaccines minister

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi admitted that supply of the Pfizer vaccine will be tight over the next few weeks but insisted that it was "stable".

It comes after Scotland's Health Secretary Humza Yousaf warned supply of the Pfizer vaccine will be "particularly tight" over the next few weeks.

Mr Zahawi told LBC: "I am absolutely confident, and I'll speak to Humza on this, that we will be able to deliver the Pfizer vaccines that Scotland needs to be able to meet its targets for end of July, as the United Kingdom target."

Asked if it is going to be "tight" in the next few weeks, he said: "It will be, there is no doubt. Every time I've come on your show I've said that the determining factor in terms of vaccine in arms is supply.

"And supply remains finite, but it is stable, and Pfizer have done a great job in being consistent on their delivery schedule."

07:30 AM

'Highly unlikely' full relaxation of restrictions will go ahead this month, says Labour

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said it was "highly unlikely" the full relaxation of coronavirus restrictions will go ahead later this month.

When asked on BBC Breakfast on Friday if "caution and temperance" was needed when opening up she added: "I do, I am desperate to unlock, I think like everybody else, to try to get back to normal."

She said: "But I think if we proceed too fast, if the Government can't get control of the new variant that has emerged which is more transmissible than previous variants, then we could end up in another lockdown and this has got to be the last lockdown."

When asked if she supported a delay she said: "I think it's highly unlikely they are going to go ahead with full unlocking on the 21st [of June]."

07:15 AM

'Fiendishly difficult decision' to further lift restrictions in England on June 21

Jim McManus, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, acknowledged it was a "fiendishly difficult decision" on whether to further lift coronavirus restrictions in England on June 21.

Asked about reports in the Times that the Government is considering a four-week delay to Step 4 of the road map, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think if they are considering that, that is really welcome.

"I think we should strongly welcome the fact that they have given a very strong indication they will be driven by the data.

"This is a fiendishly difficult decision for anybody, nobody wants lockdown.

"But actually if that is what they are doing - and of course we are speculating - then good on them for actually really thinking closely about how we keep the progress we have made."

07:07 AM

Global Britain is 'shut for business', warns Theresa May

Britain is "shut for business" because of travel restrictions that are "incomprehensible" in one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, Theresa May has warned.

In a forthright attack on the Government's Covid policy, the former prime minister said that if ministers blocked travel every time there was a new variant, "we will never be able to travel abroad ever again".

She said Britain was "falling behind" the EU in reopening travel, despite being way ahead on vaccinations, and called on Boris Johnson to be "up front" with the British people about the fact that Covid deaths would continue, in the same way that 10,000 to 20,000 people die from flu each year.

06:55 AM

We need to be 'really careful' when deciding whether to reopen, says vaccines minister

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi stressed the importance of being "really careful" when asked about the possibility of a delay to the June 21 lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England.

"There has been some really hard won battles against this virus and we don't want to squander those hard fought gains that we have made through the vaccination programme," he told Times Radio Breakfast.

"In saying that, the virus hasn't gone away, the virus will continue to attempt to mutate, to escape, to try and survive, and I think it's really important that we are really careful."

06:52 AM

Pushing back June 21 reopening would 'stop us going backwards'

Jim McManus, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said that pushing back the June 21 reopening would "stop us going backwards".

"Businesses and organisations have done so well in reopening that if we just keep that going for a few more weeks, and invest that little bit of time to keep us going forwards, it will stop us going backwards," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"If you get enough people infected, you will get a rise in hospitalisations. You will also get a significant rise in long Covid, which is something we want to avoid too.

"The second thing is that the more people infected, the more variants will develop, and the more risk we have that a variant will develop that evades the vaccine completely.

"So actually, investing a bit of time is really important to enable the vaccine programme to finish and do its job."

06:49 AM

Heathrow passenger numbers 90pc below pre-pandemic levels

Heathrow lost more than six million passengers in May compared with the same month in 2019.

Just 675,000 people travelled through the London airport last month, a 90pc reduction on the total for May 2019.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: "With the G7 starting today, ministers have a chance to kickstart the green global recovery by agreeing how to resume international travel safely and setting a mandate for sustainable aviation fuels that will decarbonise aviation.

"This is the time for them to show global leadership."

Passengers wait at the Terminal 5 departures area at Heathrow Airport in London amid coronavirus restrictions - HANNAH MCKAY/REUTERS
Passengers wait at the Terminal 5 departures area at Heathrow Airport in London amid coronavirus restrictions - HANNAH MCKAY/REUTERS

06:44 AM

UK economy grew in April at fatest level since July 2020

The easing of coronavirus restrictions saw the UK economy grow in April at the fastest level since July 2020 but it still remains below pre-pandemic levels, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Gross domestic product (GDP) - a measure of the size of the economy - rose 2.3pc driven by a 3.4pc rise in the services sector as restaurants, pubs and non-essential retailers welcomed customers back. It was tempered by a fall in construction, the ONS added.

Commenting on the latest GDP figures for April, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "Today's figures are a promising sign that our economy is beginning to recover.

"With more than a million people coming off furlough across March and April and the number of employees in work rising, it is clear that our Plan for Jobs is working.

"But I know there are people who still need our support, which is why the furlough scheme is in place until September to protect as many jobs as possible, and schemes like Kickstart will continue to create jobs for young people, as we look to build the economy of the future."

06:36 AM

UK to give 100m vaccines to other countries as part of G7 push

An extra 100 million Covid-19 jabs will be given to the world by the UK, Boris Johnson has announced as part of a drive to vaccinate the globe by the end of 2022.

The 100 million doses will be distributed over the next year, with five million issued by October and 25 million sent out by the end of 2021.

It is part of a new push by the G7 world leaders at their summit in Cornwall to collectively give away a billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to other countries.

America alone is giving 500 million. Leaders from the other nations present - Italy, Canada, France, Germany and Japan - are expected to announce their own new commitments.

Currently, developing countries are lagging far behind the richest nations in the proportion of their populations getting jabbed, leading to calls for more vaccine charity.

05:51 AM

Australia's Victoria reports zero cases as lockdown ends

Australia's Victoria state reported zero locally acquired cases of Covid-19 for the first time in nearly three weeks on Friday as state capital Melbourne came out of a snap two-week lockdown after an outbreak that has seen about 90 cases since May 24.

Melbourne exited the lockdown on Thursday night but some restrictions on travel and gathering will remain, including a rule that would force the city's five million residents to stay within 25 km (15 miles) of their homes.

Neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) state and Queensland, meanwhile, are on virus alert after an infected woman and her husband travelled from Victoria through several country towns in both states.

Read more: The so-called traffic light travel system is the Australia zero Covid policy in disguise

05:18 AM

British Airways puts thousands of staff back on furlough

British Airways has furloughed thousands of its staff, citing delays to travel as the reason behind its decision.

The airline confirmed on Thursday that a large number of its workers - including management staff - have been put back onto the scheme.

Workers were being brought off furlough ahead of the summer holiday period after the Government set May 17 as the date for the restart of international travel.

Read the full story

03:40 AM

China invites Taiwanese to come to get vaccinated

China's government said on Friday that it welcomed Taiwanese to come and get vaccinated against Covid-19 and called on Taiwan to remove obstacles and allow its people to receive the "highly effective" Chinese shots.

China claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory and has repeatedly offered to send vaccines to the island, which is battling a spike in domestic infections but has expressed concern about the safety of Chinese shots and has not cleared them for use.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement two Chinese-made vaccines had been granted emergency use authorisation by the World Health Organisation and its shots were in use or approved by more than 90 countries, showing their safety and efficacy.

Taiwan people can come to China to get vaccinated against Covid-19, provided they strictly comply with China's pandemic control measures, the office said.

It urged Taiwan's government to "quickly remove artificial obstacles for mainland vaccines being sent to Taiwan and allow the broad mass of Taiwan compatriots to receive the safe and highly effective mainland vaccines".

Staff disinfects a Covid-19 testing site at the Hsinchu science park, following an increasing number of locally transmitted cases in Taiwan - Reuters
Staff disinfects a Covid-19 testing site at the Hsinchu science park, following an increasing number of locally transmitted cases in Taiwan - Reuters

02:38 AM

Brazil plans to allow vaccinated people to not wear face masks

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that the health minister was preparing a measure to no longer require face masks for people who have been vaccinated for the coronavirus or previously infected.

Mr Bolsonaro, who has opposed lockdowns and social distancing despite his country having the second-deadliest outbreak, said in a speech that quarantines should be only for infected people.

"They are useful for people who are infected," he said, adding: "Quarantines are for those who are infected."

Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said Mr Bolsonaro has asked him for a study on the use of masks in Brazil.

The minister, however, testified this week before a Senate commission of inquiry that masks should be used to prevent transmission.

Read more: Face masks should continue forever, says Sage scientist

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro holds his protective face mask  - Reuters
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro holds his protective face mask - Reuters

12:01 AM

Passengers on cruise ship test positive

Two guests on one of the first cruise ships to sail out of North America since Covid hit tested positive on Thursday, the cruise company said, adding all passengers and crew had been vaccinated.

"Two guests sharing a stateroom onboard Celebrity Millennium tested positive for Covid-19," Royal Caribbean said in a statement. "The individuals are asymptomatic and currently in isolation."

Read more: Cornwall hotel shuts amid Covid outbreak ahead of G7 summit

11:28 PM

World's first organ transplant from Covid-positive to negative patient

The world's first organ transplant from a Covid-positive patient to a Covid-negative one has taken place in the Italian city of Bologna, writes Erica Di Blasi in Turin.

The operation took place in late April but news emerged only on Thursday. Normally transplants from Covid sufferers are banned by the Italian health authorities but this operation "was necessary to save the life of the recipient", said the Sant'Orsola hospital in Bologna, where the surgery took place. The patient was discharged in good health on June 1.

A second heart transplant from a Covid sufferer was made to a 15-year-old boy at the Child Jesus hospital of Rome. He had been on the waiting list for a heart since September last year. A compatible organ was identified last month but it was from a donor who had the virus. Again, special authorisation from Italy's National Transplant Centre and the Italian Medicines Agency was needed.

The boy has been treated with monoclonal antibodies to minimise the risk of developing Covid.

11:02 PM

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