Coronavirus UK news – June 21 threat with Indian variant 'to trigger THIRD WAVE' as covid cases surge despite vaccines

INDIAN variant cases have now risen by 2,111 in the space of a week to 3,424 – as Britain accelerates its jab roll out in a race against the clock.

Cases are still largely affecting the North West of England – particularly Bolton – but clusters of cases are now being seen across the country, with infections having now risen from 2,323 on Monday, to 2,967.

It comes as experts warned Britain may be heading for a third Covid wave because home quarantines "are not working" as cases of the Indian variant continue to rise.

Professor Andrew Hayward, an infectious disease expert and Sage member, told BBC Breakfast yesterday how he remains “very concerned” about the spread of the B1.617.2 variant.

Asked if the UK is at the start of a third wave of Covid infections, he replied: “I think so.”

Read our coronavirus live blog below for the latest news and updates…

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    BACK TO THE BEACH

    Spain is allowing Brit holidaymakers to return from MONDAY despite the country still being on the UK's amber travel list.

    The Spanish government confirmed today that it would follow Portugal’s lead and allow UK tourists in.

    It announced the decision in an official state bulletin.

    Thousands of Brits are now expected to fly next week to Spain, traditionally the UK’s favourite foreign holiday destination, despite it being on the government's amber travel list.

    The move comes days after transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the full list of green destinations which mean UK travellers don't have to quarantine on their return.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    ON THE RISE

    London has seen an 80 per cent rise in cases of the Indian variant in one week.

    The numbers are relatively small, but it shows how quickly the virus has been able to spread between people.

    The variant B.1.617.2 has only been in the UK for a matter of weeks and is already becoming dominant in some areas – including Hounslow, London.

    Public Health England revealed yesterday that now 3,424 cases have been detected, up from 2,111 the previous week.

    A breakdown by region reveals there have been 720 in the capital alone, up from 400 last week, according to the Evening Standard.

    The B.1.617.2 cases in London are believed to be largely caused by people returning from India to the UK and then passing Covid onto their close contacts, the paper reports.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    'VERY CONCERNED'

    The fast-spreading Indian coronavirus variant could become a major issue in the roadmap out of lockdown, one expert has warned.

    Cases of the variant have doubled in a week with 3,424 infections now in UK.

    Some date back to mid-April when the strain first arrived in the UK before rapidly spreading.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously said lockdown restrictions would be lifted on June 21, with the latest round of measures having been lifted on Monday.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    CHINA SAYS TAIWAN USING COVID-19 FOR POLITICAL MANIPULATION

    China's foreign ministry said today that Taiwan was using COVID-19 as a tool for political manipulation after the Chinese-claimed island's health minister spoke with his U.S.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    UK RETAIL SALES SURGE IN APRIL AS STORES REOPEN

    British retail sales surged last month as non-essential stores reopened from virus lockdown, sparking a boom in clothing demand, data showed Friday.

    Sales by volume soared 9.2 percent in April from March as Britain's economy cranked back into action.

    "Retail sales volumes grew sharply … reflecting the effect of the easing of coronavirus restrictions," the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

    Demand for clothing rocketed by almost 70 per cent, aided by good weather as consumers splashed their cash on new outfits after one year of lockdowns.

    Easing travel restrictions prompted a similar spike in demand for motor fuel.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    NO STRAIN

    Only 15 people out of 58,000 tested positive for Covid after trials at large events such as the FA Cup final and the Brit Awards.

    The Government-run trials to test whether venues can safely reopen this summer saw nine different events with live crowds – including a post-lockdown rave at a Liverpool warehouse.

    Out of the 58,000 people who attended the events, such as the World Snooker Championship, just 15 positive Covid cases have so far been recorded, sources told the Telegraph.

    It's understood some tested positive before the event, meaning they couldn't attend, while some returned a positive test afterwards.

    And further positive tests could emerge from the most recent events – such as the FA Cup final last weekend.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    WAITING FOR THE CHAPEL

    Couples looking to get hitched may face another heartbreaking delay as the Indian Covid strain puts the UK's reopening date in doubt, say reports.

    Boris Johnson suggested he would need to give four weeks notice ahead of June 21 – the date which he has said he wants to relax all rules and restrictions if virus stats are looking good.

    The PM wants to give a heads up on changes to wedding rules so loved-up couples can have their banns read out in time ahead of their big day.

    He had earlier told the House of Commons he would be making an announcement within 28 days of June 21 – meaning a statement is expected around May 24.

    However, government sources have now told the Telegraph it is "very unlikely" that announcements would be made then because of the worrying surge in the Indian variant.

  • Joseph Gamp

    WATCH: JVT SAYS UK IN ‘STRAIGHT RACE BETWEEN VACCINES AND INDIAN VARIANT’

    UK in ‘straight race between vaccines and Indian variant’ – as jabs open up to under 35s

  • Joseph Gamp

    TRIAL OF COMPREHENSIVE TESTING SYSTEM FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL (CONTINUED…)

    In a joint statement on the findings, American Airlines, British Airways and oneworld said: "The trial findings underline the important role that testing can play in the safe reopening of international travel, including hugely significant routes between the US and UK."

    The airlines said they would be ready to partner with governments to offer affordable testing options, adding the study "further reinforces that customers are willing to undergo testing as an alternative to quarantine".

    Some 99.7% of travellers said they were happy to adhere to testing requirements as an alternative to quarantine after international travel and 80% were prepared to pay for affordable testing.

    The majority were prepared to pay £35 or less for each test, and 15% said they would pay more than £70.

    Findings of the Oxford study will be shared with governments and stakeholders.

  • Joseph Gamp

    COMPREHENSIVE TESTING SYSTEM KEY TO RESUMING INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL – TRIAL

    A comprehensive testing system is key to resuming international travel, according to the results of a University of Oxford trial.

    The experiment, which involved data from almost 600 travellers on flights from the US to Heathrow, also showed passengers would be happy to pay for their own tests.

    Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) used flights operated by British Airways and American Airlines for the trial, which took place between November 2020 and March 2021.

    Travellers took a PCR test 72 hours before departure, a LAMP test upon arrival at Heathrow – a type which returns results more quickly than the PCR – and a third PCR taken three to five days after returning.

    According to the researchers, just one per cent of travellers who took the first PCR tested positive and so did not travel, and none of those who touched down in the US tested positive, suggesting the first test was effective.

    Of the travellers who took the third test after arriving in the UK, 0.4% of travellers tested positive.

  • Joseph Gamp

    MAPPED: SURGE TESTING IN THE UK

  • Joseph Gamp

    SCOTTISH AIRPORT PASSENGERS FACE HIGHER COVID TEST COSTS, INDUSTRY WARNS

    Travellers arriving at Scottish airports face being "heavily penalised" compared to visitors to England due to the cost of coronavirus testing, aviation groups have warned.

    Passengers arriving into the UK from permitted "amber" and "green" countries are required to be tested for Covid-19.

    Those entering England are allowed to use test kits from private suppliers, but the Scottish Government's rules require specific, fixed-price packages that industry bodies claim are much higher than other alternatives.

    Under the four-nation traffic light system, travel to and from red list countries is banned but for a few specific exemptions, while travelling to amber countries is permitted but not encouraged and requires 10 days of self-isolation at home and two coronavirus tests.

    Travellers returning from a country or territory on the green list will not need to quarantine, and will only be required to take one post-arrival coronavirus test. The cost of the Government-approved testing in Scotland is £170 per person for amber-list and £88 per person for green-list countries.

  • Joseph Gamp

    MEXICO REPORTS 2,628 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES, 230 MORE DEATHS

    Mexico registered 2,628 additional coronavirus cases and 230 more fatalities on Thursday.

    The total number of cases is not at 2,390,140 while the nation's death toll has reached 221,080.

  • Joseph Gamp

    CASES OF INDIAN VARIANT UP BY MORE THAN 2,000 IN A WEEK

    Cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus in the UK have risen by more than 2,000 in the space of a week, according to official figures.

    Public Health England (PHE) said the latest weekly data showed there were 3,424 cases of the B1617.2 mutation – an increase of 2,111 on the previous week.

    While most cases were concentrated in the North West – particularly Bolton – and London, PHE said it was seeing "clusters of cases" across the country.

    Dr Meera Chand, the Covid-19 incident director at PHE, said it was essential people in the worst-affected areas who had yet to receive their second dose of the vaccine came forward as soon as it was offered.

    "This is vitally important in the light of our current assessment that (B1617.2) has grown rapidly in England and may be highly transmissible," she said. "PHE will continue to monitor all variants closely, paying particular attention to the impact on hospitalisations and deaths which will help us to understand the protective effects of the vaccine."

  • Joseph Gamp

    BORIS BACKS GLOBAL PANDEMIC RADAR (CONTINUED…)

    Speaking ahead of a global health summit hosted by Italy and the EU on Friday, Mr Johnson said ensuring the world was better prepared for future health threats was an "absolute priority" for the UK's G7 presidency.

    "The world must never be caught unawares again by a virus spreading among us unchecked," he said.

    "We need to build a system of disease surveillance fit for the 21st century, with real-time data-sharing and rapid genomic sequencing and response.

    "A global pandemic radar will ensure that we are vigilant to new variants and emerging pathogens, and can rapidly develop the vaccines and treatments needed to stop them in their tracks."

  • Joseph Gamp

    BORIS JOHNSON BACKS GLOBAL PANDEMIC 'RADAR' TO TRACK NEW DISEASE OUTBREAKS

    Boris Johnson has pledged Britain's support for a new global surveillance network to spot emerging diseases before they can cause fresh pandemics.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) is leading work to develop the "global pandemic radar" to monitor and track new infections and variants.

    The UK and the British-based Wellcome Trust are among the nations and other organisations supporting the initiative.

    Downing Street said it would build on British health security expertise to create a network of surveillance hubs, expected to be up and running before the end of the year.

  • Joseph Gamp

    CONTINUED…

    Seema Malhotra, shadow minister for business and consumers, said: "Businesses and workers have done the right thing during this crisis in the most difficult of circumstances, and these figures suggest those working in the tourism industry have been hit particularly hard.

    "While the vaccine rollout and road map to reopening is good news for businesses, it's clear that ministers should not expect businesses saddled with debt taken on to survive the crisis to simply bounce back.

    "The Government must provide businesses with a fair repayment scheme based on the amount they're making, or risk more people falling out of work and further damage to local economies reliant on trade from tourists."

  • Joseph Gamp

    CORONAVIRUS CRISIS HAVING STARK ECONOMIC IMPACT ON TOURISM INDUSTRY – LABOUR

    Some of the biggest increases in people claiming out of work benefits during the pandemic have been in areas which rely on tourism for jobs, according to a new study.

    Labour said its research suggested that the coronavirus crisis was having a "stark" impact on the tourism industry.

    Areas including Aviemore, Whitby, Minehead, Porthmadog, Tenby and Penzance are among those hit by a big increase in the number of people claiming out of work benefits, said Labour.

    The party added that accommodation and food service businesses are now in more than £6 billion of debt.

    Arts, entertainment and businesses including tourist attractions such as zoos and theme parks are facing a bill of almost £1.5 billion, said Labour.

  • Joseph Gamp

    PFIZER COVID-19 VACCINE CAN BE STORED IN FRIDGE FOR A MONTH, REGULATOR SAYS

    The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine can be stored in a fridge for up to a month, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has ruled.

    Previous advice was that the vaccine needed to be used within five days of being removed from ultra-low temperature freezers.

    It is hoped the change will make storage easier and possible for a wider range of health facilities.

    MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: "Up until now, the Pfizer vaccine had to be administered within five days of being removed from ultra-low temperature freezers.

    "Now that the jab can be stored at normal fridge temperatures for up to 31 days, it can be used in a wider range of healthcare settings, giving patients greater access to the Pfizer vaccine."

  • Joseph Gamp

    SPAIN WANTS BRIT TOURISTS WITHIN WEEKS

    A senior Spanish government official says he expects British and other vacationers to return to Spain within weeks as the country races to revive its tourism industry amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Deputy Minister for Tourism Fernando Valdes told The Associated Press on Wednesday that falling coronavirus incidence rates and accelerating vaccine rollouts in some countries will enable Spain to drop travel restrictions early next month.

    Some people from countries outside the European Union will be able to come for example, from the United Kingdom, which is in a good epidemiological situation without any restrictions, Valdes said in an interview.

    And we are going to begin to accept citizens that can present a vaccine certificate, he said.

    In 2019, Britain sent 18 million people to Spain, the most of any country. Spain is one of the world’s top tourism destinations.

  • Joseph Gamp

    'GET BUMS BACK ON SEATS'

    A total 21,000 supporters were able to attend the FA Cup final last weekend – albeit with a number of key differences to a normal matchday.

    Fans had to take a Covid test two or three days prior to the match, then another lateral flow test on the day of the match.

    Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Our sports stars and great performers need us to find ways to get bums back on seats safely.

    "This science-led pilot programme will be the springboard in getting the buzz back of live performance. 

    "We’ve supported the sports and arts with unprecedented sums, but it’s now time to make that Great British Summer of live events a reality."

  • Joseph Gamp

    JUST 15 OUT OF 58,000 PEOPLE TESTED POSITIVE AFTER ATTENDING COVID VACCINE PASSPORT TRIAL EVENTS (CONTINUED…)

    But the low rate of infection during the Events Research Programme has boosted hopes that large-scale events can be given the green light.

    A final report making recommendations is set to be handed to Boris Johnson within days.

    The main finding will be that large events can take place safely if mitigation measures, such as testing and improved ventilation, are used, according to the Telegraph.

    A source told the newspaper that the study was "the most authoritative in the world" about how large events can safely be reopened.

  • Joseph Gamp

    ONLY 15 PEOPLE OUT OF 58,000 TESTED COVID POSITIVE AFTER PASSPORT TRIALS SUCH AS FA CUP

    ONLY 15 people out of 58,000 tested positive for Covid after trials at large events such as the FA Cup final and the Brit Awards.

    The Government-run trials to test whether venues can safely reopen this summer saw nine different events with live crowds – including a post-lockdown rave at a Liverpool warehouse.

    Out of the 58,000 people who attended the events, such as the World Snooker Championship, just 15 positive Covid cases have so far been recorded, sources told the Telegraph.

    It's understood some tested positive before the event, meaning they couldn't attend, while some returned a positive test afterwards.

    And further positive tests could emerge from the most recent events – such as the FA Cup final last weekend.

  • Joseph Gamp

    WATCH: UK IN ‘STRAIGHT RACE BETWEEN VACCINES AND INDIAN VARIANT’ – AS JABS OPEN UP TO UNDER 35S

    UK in ‘straight race between vaccines and Indian variant’ – as jabs open up to under 35s

  • Joseph Gamp

    NEARLY 90 PER CENT OF ENGLAND & WALES AREAS SAW NO COVID DEATHS IN APRIL

    NEARLY 90 per cent of 7,000 areas in England and Wales saw NO Covid deaths in April, new figures show.

    The virus is now the ninth cause of death in England – with more people dying of old age last month, Office for National Statistics (ONS) data revealed.

    An interactive map shows how deaths attributed to Covid have fizzled out, with only a handful of places seeing fatalities in April.

    It also marked the first month since August 2020 where deaths have been below the five year average, and comes as the Indian variant continues to spread across the country.

    The ONS data shows that there were a handful of areas that recorded three deaths each. These included areas such as Hounslow in London – where the Indian variant has also been found.

    Read more here.

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