Coronavirus UK news – Minister says no holidays for rest of the year as India variant now dominant in 23 areas

ALL foreign holidays are dangerous and Brits should avoid travelling abroad this year, a government minister has said.

Lord Bethell’s warning comes despite there now being a green list of countries that people can visit without having quarantine.

His comments come as it was revealed the India Covid variant is now dominant in 23 areas in England.

Tory frontbencher Lord Bethell indicated that people should not be going abroad anywhere, regardless of whether it is on the list.

He stressed that "travel is dangerous" due to difficulties over segregation during the journey, including at airports.

Speaking at Westminster, Lord Bethell told peers: "Travelling is dangerous. That is not news to us or to the people who get on those planes in the first place."

"We do ask people, particularly as we go into the summer, travelling is not for this year, please stay in this country."

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

  • Jon Rogers

    BOVINE STUPIDITY

    An MP in Covid-ravaged India has been blasted for her "disturbing" claim that drinking cow urine every day prevents her from catching the virus.

    Controversial politician Pragya Thakur hailed it a "life-saver" – despite doctors repeatedly telling people not to use cow excrement as a way to treat coronavirus as the country continues to be battered by a deadly second wave.

    The MP, who is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and represents Bhopal, claimed drinking cow pee protects her from Covid.

    She has been slammed for her remarks which outraged politicians say "invite more devastation" by "discouraging people from getting the jab".

    More on the story here.

  • Jon Rogers

    LOCKED OUT

    The chances of full lockdown being lifted on June 21 are “close to nil”, a government adviser has reportedly said.

    The final decision on whether to ease restrictions could be delayed until the full extent of the spread of the Indian Covid variant – and the effectiveness of vaccines against it – becomes known.

    A spike in cases of the variant has seen it spread rapidly to reach all parts of the UK within a matter of weeks.

    Downing Street has refused to say if Boris Johnson's promise to announce an update on post-June 21 plans by the end of the month will still go ahead as planned.

    Some ministers and scientist have insisted the full easing of lockdown restrictions that will allow indoor mixing, weddings and clubs to reopen, is still likely to go ahead.

  • Jon Rogers

    BORIS COULD DECIDE NEXT WEEK IF JUNE 21 UNLOCKING IS DELAYED

    BORIS Johnson could decide NEXT WEEK whether to delay the June 21 unlocking as hospital data is set to reveal the full impact of the Indian Covid variant.

    The PM's roadmap is in doubt as the B.1.617.2 strain is now in 40 per cent of local authorities in England, and is dominant in 23 areas.

    And decisions about whether to lift social distancing rules next month could be made as early as next week, The Times reports.

    Hospital data from variant hot spots such as Bolton will show whether the easing of restrictions is likely to be seriously disrupted.

    A key question is how well vaccines have broken the link between cases and deaths as the most vulnerable ages groups are protected.

    Read the full story here.

  • Jon Rogers

    MASKING FOR TROUBLE

    Brits heading to Portugal for a long-awaited holiday must wear face masks on the beach or will be slapped with a £100 fine.

    As foreign travel finally reopened for countries on the green list, it still remains a far cry from normality – as tourists were handed face masks, hand sanitiser and were asked for full details of their trip after stepping off the plane.

    Holidaymakers were also warned to abide by the strict rules regarding wearing face masks in public places, including beaches, or will face £100 fines.

    Although the country is officially “open for business”, visitors must provide proof of a negative Covid PCR test and show a completed locator form with details of their accommodation.

    Portugal pledged to try “at all costs to avoid quarantines and additional Covid-19 tests” for travellers, tourism minister Rita Marques said recently.

  • Jon Rogers

    JOHN SWINNEY TO TAKE CHARGE OF SCOTLAND’S COVID RECOVERY

    John Swinney said he is “honoured” to have been made Scotland’s Covid Recovery Secretary as Nicola Sturgeon announced the first move in her post-election cabinet reshuffle.

    The First Minister revealed Mr Swinney was being given the new role – which will see him moved from the job of Education Secretary.

    Ms Sturgeon, who confirmed Mr Swinney would remain as her Deputy First Minister, said making him Covid Recovery Secretary would be a “key step in getting Scotland’s recovery off to the right start”.

    Mr Swinney said on Twitter serving as Education Secretary for the past five years had been a “privilege”, as he wished his successor well.

    But it came after Labour had called for him to be sacked from his education brief for a “litany of failures”.

  • Jon Rogers

    WEMBLEY AND STAMFORD BRIDGE COULD BE USED AS COVID VACCINATION CENTRES

    Wembley Stadium and Chelsea FC's Stamford Bridge could be transformed into Covid jab centres in a bid to curb cases of the Indian variant.

    Plans reportedly being discussed by the NHS may see football grounds in London used as mass vaccination sites for over-18s to fight spiralling numbers of the mutant strain in hotspots.

    Health officials in north-west London, an area heavily affected by the variant, are said to be in talks about how best to expand the vaccine rollout – including reaching younger age groups.

    One of the options believed to be tabled includes using football stadiums to speed up the process, reports the Telegraph.

    It is hoped using the sites as mass vaccination centres could help stop the spread of the Indian variant across the capital.

    Read the full story here.

  • Jon Rogers

    COUNCILS: GOVERNMENT MUST 'RETREAT CAREFULLY' WHEN EASING COVID SUPPORT MEASURES

    The Government must "retreat carefully" when it removes measures introduced to support struggling families during the coronavirus pandemic, councils have warned.

    The District Councils' Network (DCN) said removing support too quickly risks derailing the national recovery and a surge in households unable to pay their bills or rent.

    Its report, Building Back Better – Leaving No One Behind, is calling for the Government to keep in place some protections as it eases others "cautiously".

    This includes making permanent the increase in local housing allowance and £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit (UC) payments.

    It also wants to see the job retention scheme gradually phased out, with those in the hardest-hit sectors helped for longer.

    And it is calling for the ban on bailiff-enforced rental sector evictions, which is due to end on May 31, to be extended.

  • Jon Rogers

    'GREAT TO HAVE YOU BACK' – FOOTIE MANAGERS WELCOME RETURN OF FANS AS RESTRICTIONS EASE

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer welcomed Manchester United fans back to Old Trafford as Premier League clubs opened their doors to supporters again.

    A pre-match protest failed to materialise as United supporters attended a game at Old Trafford for the first time in over a year on Tuesday.

    Fans were also back at Brighton, Chelsea and Southampton in the first Premier League games played since Covid-19 restrictions were eased in step three of the Government's road map out of lockdown in England.

    "It's great to have you back in supporting the team," Solskjaer said, addressing the 10,000 fans present for the 1-1 draw with relegated Fulham.

    "We know it has been a long, long year for everyone but I'm so grateful to see you back here supporting everyone.

    "I know we're not where we want to be in the league but hopefully we can bring a trophy back in about 10 days' time.

    "So do whatever we can and hopefully next year we can see everyone in their seats again, so all the best, support the team and safe trip back home."

  • Jon Rogers

    ARGENTINA RECORDS RECORD ONE-DAY COVID DEATH TOLL

    Argentina reported a record one-day coronavirus death toll of 745 on Tuesday as the South American country gets hit by a second wave of infections that brought the number of positive tests recorded in a 24-hour period to 35,543.

    Since the pandemic began in the first quarter of 2020, Argentina has confirmed a total 3.371 million infections and 71,771 deaths.

    According to data compiled by Reuters, the daily average of infections and deaths reported by Argentina places the country among the worst five countries in the world.

    "This greater number of cases is a consequence of people behaving as if nothing was happening," President Alberto Fernandez told local radio, calling for people to step up protective measures like mask wearing and social distancing.

    The president signed a decree a few weeks ago mandating new restrictions on leaving home and the suspension of face-to-face school classes in the areas with the highest number of infections. The measures are set to expire on Friday, but the government may decide to extend current lockdown rules.

  • Jon Rogers

    BRAZIL RECORDS 75,000 NEW COVID CASES

    Brazil recorded 75,445 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 2,513 new deaths from Covid-19, Health Ministry figures showed on Tuesday.

    Brazil has now registered 15.73million cases since the pandemic began, and the official death toll stands at 439,050, according to ministry data.

  • Jon Rogers

    ALL FOREIGN HOLIDAYS ARE 'DANGEROUS' – MINISTER

    ALL foreign holidays are dangerous and Brits should avoid travelling abroad this year, a government minister has said.

    Lord Bethell’s warning comes despite there now being a green list of countries that people can visit without having quarantine.

    Speaking at Westminster, Lord Bethell told peers: "Travelling is dangerous. That is not news to us or to the people who get on those planes in the first place."

    "We do ask people, particularly as we go into the summer, travelling is not for this year, please stay in this country."

    Read the full story here.

     

  • Jon Rogers

    MORGAN LABELS LOCKDOWN MOANERS WHO WON'T GET JAB AS 'STUPID, SELFISH PR***S'

    Piers Morgan today launched into a furious broadside against Brits who are refusing to get the Covid jab.

    The 56-year-old TV star had some very tough words for people who complain about lockdown but won't accept the vaccine.

    He tweeted: "People who refuse to get jabbed but whine about lockdowns really are a special breed of stupid selfish p***ks."

    Piers has long banged the drums for vaccinations saying from the start that he would be happy to get the jab on Good Morning Britain, she show he dramatically quit in March.

    The star had the jab days before his departure, posting a video of him getting it online joking that it wasn't as "painful" as working with Susanna Reid.

    Read the full story here.

  • Jon Rogers

    MILLION MORE BRITS ELIGIBLE FOR COVID JAB

    Coronavirus jabs will be open to 37-year-olds from today in a bid to keep the Indian variant at bay, the Health Secretary has announced.

    Matt Hancock stated that 37 year-olds will be next in line to have a dose before 36-year-olds are invited on Wednesday.

    Speaking yesterday afternoon Mr Hancock said jabs had been quadrupled in hotspot areas over the weekend such as Blackburn and Bolton, where cases of the Indian variant are dominant.

    He thanked the people of Bolton and Blackburn for their "community spirit" when it comes to the jab rollout and urged people to come forward for their jab when they are offered it.

    Read the full story here.

  • Jon Rogers

    BAHRAIN TO GIVE 12-17-YEAR-OLDS PFIZER JAB

    Bahrain will vaccinate adolescents aged 12-17 with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, state news agency BNA said, citing the country's National Medical Task Force for Combatting the Coronavirus on Tuesday.

    The decision by the health ministry's vaccination committee followed recommendations by the World Health Organization's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization and the United States' Center for Disease Control, BNA added.

    A guardian must grant approval and be present during the vaccination, BNA reported.

    Bahrain had authorised six types of vaccines, by China's Sinopharm, Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE , AstraZeneca Plc, Johnson & Johnson, and Russia's Sputnik and Sputnik-Light.

  • Jon Rogers

    COVID DEATHS DROP BY 98% IN OVER 60S SINCE JAB ROLLOUT

    Deaths caused by Covid-19 have dropped by at least 98 per cent in the over 60s, new data has revealed.

    Lockdown restrictions and the vaccine rollout have helped drive down infections and hospitalisations and ministers have urged Brits to continue to get their jabs to fight new variants.

    Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today revealed that deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales have fallen 99 per cent from the peak of the second wave of the virus in January.

    Looking specifically at different age groups and those in the age groups 75-79 and 80 and over have both recorded drops of 99 per cent.

    For people aged 60-64, 65-69 and 70-74 the fall is 98 per cent.

    Read the full story here.

  • Jon Rogers

    TEXAS GOVERNOR ORDERS MASK MANDATES TO BE LIFTED

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered all government entities in the state, including school districts, to lift mask mandates by week's end, though existing guidelines for face-coverings in schools may remain in effect through June 4.

  • Jon Rogers

    COVID SURGE TESTING IN MANCHESTER COLLEGE CAMPUS

    Surge testing has been rolled out at a Manchester college campus.

    It comes after 17 students in one class tested positive for Covid – with the results sent to confirm if they match the Indian variant.

    About 1,300 students and 80 staff at The Manchester College's Nicholls Campus in Ardwick are being encouraged to get a Covid-19 PCR test at two mobile testing units on site.

    This will track down any more asymptomatic cases and prevent any further spread within the college and wider community.

  • Jon Rogers

    PANDEMIC IMPACT ON SINGLE PARENTS' JOB PROSPECTS 'A BLEAK PICTURE'

    Single parents have struggled with work and childcare during the coronavirus crisis and the full impact of the pandemic on their jobs has yet to be seen, according to a new report.

    Charity Gingerbread and the Institute for Employment Studies said their research painted a "bleak picture" for the UK's two million single parents.

    Their study suggested that single parents are more likely to have been furloughed and a far greater proportion worked in hard-hit sectors like hospitality and retail.

    When furlough ends in the autumn even more single parents may face unemployment, the report warned.

    The research highlighted that before the pandemic, single mothers earned half of the salary of couple mothers and it is unlikely this salary gap will have closed during the pandemic.

  • Jon Rogers

    MINISTERS URGED TO SLASH BUS AND TRAIN FARES TO GET PASSENGERS BACK

    Ministers are being urged to subsidise discounted public transport fares to avoid a "car-led recovery" from the coronavirus pandemic.

    Pressure group Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) claimed boosting passenger numbers on buses, trains, coaches and trams is "crucial" to escape increased congestion and air pollution as restrictions are eased.

    Latest Department for Transport figures show that weekday car use in Britain has already returned to around 88 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

    This is far higher than demand for buses outside London and mainline rail services, which is lagging behind at 61 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.

    CBT chief executive Paul Tuohy said fears about being infected by coronavirus while using public transport have made people "less confident" about using services.

  • Jon Rogers

    CONFUSION GROWS AS MINISTER URGES BRITONS TO AVOID 'DANGEROUS' TRIPS ABROAD

    A Government minister appeared to sow further confusion over international travel after he branded foreign jaunts "dangerous" and encouraged Britons to stay home this summer.

    It comes after Downing Street had to clarify its so-called traffic light system – designed to open up international travel following months of lockdown – after a senior minister suggested people could travel to visit family or friends on the Government's "amber list".

    Both the Prime Minister and No 10 officials later warned no-one should be holidaying in such places.

    A health minister appeared to go a step further during an appearance in the House of Lords, urging Britons to scrap plans for holidays abroad this year despite some countries being classified as safe by being placed on the short "green list" of approved nations.

    Lord Bethell told peers on Tuesday: "Travelling is dangerous. That is not news to us or to the people who get on those planes in the first place.

    "We do ask people, particularly as we go into the summer, travelling is not for this year, please stay in this country."

  • Jon Rogers

    ONE SECOND COVID SPIT TEST COULD SLASH WAITING TIMES

    A Covid test which gives results in just one second could help the world reopen post-pandemic, scientists hope.

    A pocket-size gadget which can detect the virus – and even how strong it is – has been developed by experts, which can give results almost immediately from a tiny amount of saliva or blood.

    Researcher Minghan Xian, of the University of Florida said the new test could alleviate slow Covid-19 testing turnaround time issues.

    He added: “Our testing strips are similar to commercially available glucose test strips used by diabetics.

    “Electrodes are exposed to blood or saliva. One is coated with gold and Covid antibodies. Our sensor system uses a transistor to amplify the electrical signal, which then gets converted into a number on the screen.

    “The magnitude of this number depends on the concentration of antigen, the viral protein, present within our test solution.”

    Read the full story here.

    A pocket-size gadget which can detect the virus – and even how strong it is has been developed by experts (file photo of Covid test)Credit: Alamy
  • Jon Rogers

    JOHN SWINNEY TO TAKE CHARGE OF SCOTLAND'S COVID RECOVERY

    John Swinney said he is "honoured" to have been made Scotland's Covid Recovery Secretary as Nicola Sturgeon announced the first move in her post-election cabinet reshuffle.

    The First Minister revealed Mr Swinney was being given the new role – which will see him moved from the job of Education Secretary.

    Ms Sturgeon, who confirmed Mr Swinney would remain as her Deputy First Minister, said making him Covid Recovery Secretary would be a "key step in getting Scotland's recovery off to the right start".

    Mr Swinney said on Twitter serving as Education Secretary for the past five years had been a "privilege", as he wished his successor well.

    But it came after Labour had called for him to be sacked from his education brief for a "litany of failures".

  • Jon Rogers

    'MOMENTOUS DAY' AS ONE MILLION VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19 IN NORTHERN IRELAND

    Northern Ireland has reached the milestone of more than one million people having received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

    On Tuesday it was confirmed that 1,000,928 people in the region had received at least one jab.

    First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said it was a "momentous day".

    "Today is a hugely significant milestone in our fightback against Covid," Mrs Foster said.

    "The vaccination is not only a life-saver; it is key to unlocking more freedoms, opening up our economy, and allowing us to do the things we have missed so dearly.

    "Over the last year, our society has faced a challenge unlike any other, and these have been the most difficult of times for everyone. I am so proud of how far we have come, together. Today, in marking one million people vaccinated, we can all look forward to a better future."

  • Jon Rogers

    MORE THAN 40% OF IRISH ADULTS HAVE RECEIVED FIRST COVID-19 VACCINE DOSE

    More than 40% of adults have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the health minister has said.

    Stephen Donnelly said on Wednesday that in excess of 2.1 million vaccine doses have been administered in Ireland so far.

    It comes as registration for the vaccine rollout opens to people aged between 45 and 49 this week.

    Minister Donnelly told Virgin Media News: "I can confirm that over the last two or three days we have now got in excess of 40% of the entire adult population who have had at least a first dose.

    "That's two out of every five adults in the country. It's good news, particularly when we're dealing with such awful stuff in terms of this criminal activity.

    "It's fantastic to see a vaccine programme that's going from strength to strength."

  • Jon Rogers

    US AND MEXICO DISCUSS EASING COVID BORDER RESTRICTIONS

    Mexico and the United States are discussing relaxing curbs on non-essential land border crossings from June 22, depending on the spread of Covid-19 and how many people in both countries have been vaccinated, Mexico's foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

    The two neighbours have agreed to extend for another month restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared border until just before midnight on June 21, the ministry said in statement on Twitter.

    Mexico has also decided to extend curbs on non-essential travel on its southern border with Guatemala over the same period, it added.

    "Mexico and the United States are in discussions to relax from June 22 the restrictions on border crossings on the basis of indices on the spread of Covid-19 and the number of vaccines applied on both sides of the border," the ministry said.

    Mexico, which has a population of 126 million, has so far administered nearly 24 million vaccine doses against Covid-19, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

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