Coronavirus UK news – India variant fears 'mean Brits should ignore lockdown lift and NOT sit inside pubs or hug family'

MILLIONS of lockdown-weary Brits have been told to ignore measures easing today and not sit inside pubs or hug relatives.

With fears growing over the threat the surging Indian variant poses to June 21's total unlocking, experts are sounding warnings over how cautious we should continue to be today.

Although new rules in force today mean we can sit inside pubs for the first time since 2020 and guidance on hugging relatives has changed, a former government chief scientific adviser, a leading public health specialist and the union representing Britain’s doctors urged the public to think twice.

Prof Sir Mark Walport, a former director of the Wellcome Trust and a chief scientific adviser until 2017, told Sky's Sophy Ridge “My personal judgement is that I will do things outside as far as possible… My advice is that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.”

Asked if that meant he would avoid going inside a pub, he replied: “For the moment, yes.”

Meanwhile Boris Johnson also warned Brits to be "cautious" as they enjoy hugs, indoor meals and holidays for the first time this year TODAY.

The PMsaid: “Together we have reached another milestone in our roadmap out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution. We are keeping the spread of the variant first identified in India under close observation and taking swift action where infection rates are rising.”

Reading our coronavirus live blog below for up to the minute updates…

  • Caroline Mortimer

    EASYJET SAYS FLIGHT PRICES WILL NOT RISE

    EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren suggested prices of flights to green list countries will not be raised in the coming months.

    Speaking at Gatwick Airport near London on the first day that people in England and Wales have been allowed to go on holiday abroad, he said: "We have prices that start from £28.99 so you're always going to find flights that are exceptionally affordable and provide a lot of value for money.

    "So the pricing is very dynamic as well, and we would like to ensure that we can get as much capacity out there to support the demand that we know is there.

    "Travel comes out as the number one thing that people want to do most in the pandemic and in lockdown, so it's not about a lack of demand.

    "It all comes down to restrictions and to make sure that those can be (unwound) so that we can start travelling at a larger scale."

  • Caroline Mortimer

    YOUNGER PEOPLE SHOULD GET COVID VACCINE IN PLACES WHERE INDIAN VARIANT IS RIFE, SAYS SADIQ KHAN

    A coronavirus vaccine should be given to younger people in those parts of the country where the Indian variant is causing concern, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said.

    He said he has asked Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi for the "flexibility to give younger people the vaccine in those parts of London concerned about this strain".

    Mr Khan told Sky News that "what we are saying is be nimble in those pockets where we know there is an issue, let's use the vaccine sensibly".

    He added there should be a "hyper-local approach" in affected boroughs which should include "those who are younger, who would have to wait a few weeks, to have this vaccine now to avoid the strain spreading".

  • Caroline Mortimer

    POST-PANDEMIC JOBS BOOST

    Optimism among UK employers is at an eight-year high – with all sectors expecting a post-pandemic jobs recovery, according to a new survey.

    Jobs in the public, private and voluntary sector are all set to increase and pay prospects have also improved, the latest labour market outlook report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and recruiter Adecco.

    The quarterly report's net employment intentions balance, which measures the difference between employers expecting to add jobs and those planning to cut them, hit a score of 27 for the second quarter of 2021, compared with 11 in the first quarter of the year.

    Employer optimism found the private and voluntary sectors record scores of 28, with the public sector coming in at 22 – bringing a score stronger than at any time since the survey began in February 2013.

  • Caroline Mortimer

    TOP SCIENTIST WARNS AGAINST SOCIALISING INDOORS

    Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said that he would not meet indoors "at the moment".

    He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think it is reasonable to just be sensible about knowing where transmission is occurring, mostly indoors, mostly in larger gatherings indoors with lots of different people, different families, different communities, and I would just restrict that at the moment personally."

    But he added: "I don't think it's unreasonable to lift the restrictions – we do need to lift the restrictions at some point, we've been in restrictions now for a very long time."

  • Caroline Mortimer

    UK HOTELS REOPEN FROM TODAY

    Hotels across England can finally open their doors from today, welcoming guests once again.

    Not only that, but group holidays can also go ahead from today – meaning a trip with your friends and family.

    The latest lockdown restrictions have been eased even further, which originally only allowed self-catered holidays for single households.

    However, as England eases out of lockdown, more UK holidays can go ahead from today.

    The new group holiday rules allow groups of six from different households or unlimited people from two households to now go away together, and can now socialise indoors at pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues.

    Hotels have already opened in Wales, although this was only if they had en-suite facilities and room service – all holiday accommodation can now reopen.

  • Caroline Mortimer
  • Caroline Mortimer

    COVID RESTRICTIONS EASE IN SCOTLAND

    Coronavirus restrictions have relaxed in Scotland, with most mainland areas moving to Level 2 as the country progresses out of lockdown.

    It means people will be able to hug loved ones again and socialise indoors, subject to restrictions.

    Up to six people from three households can socialise indoors in a private home or garden without physical distancing. The government advises people to use their best judgment around physical contact.

    Six people can also meet in a hospitality venue and eight people from eight houses can meet outdoors.

    Glasgow and Moray will remain in Level 3 due to virus outbreaks. Meanwhile many of the islands are now in Level 1.

     

  • Caroline Mortimer

    BUSINESS SECRETARY SAYS IT IS "VERY LIKELY" RESTRICTIONS WILL EASE ON 21 JUNE

    Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he thinks it "very likely" that all coronavirus restrictions will be scrapped on 21 June, despite the threat of the Indian variant.

    Defending the decision to ease the lockdown, the Cabinet minister told Sky News: "Yes, things are opening up but people should have common sense, they should use judgment and I think if we act in a reasonable way, there is no reason to suppose that we can't reopen the economy entirely on June 21.

    "I think there has to be a degree of common sense, a bit of caution and people shouldn't be running away being too exuberant, I suppose.

    "I think we just need to be measured and cautious."

  • Caroline Mortimer

    HOLIDAY CHAOS AS MATT HANCOCK URGES BRITS TO STAY AWAY FROM ‘AMBER LIST’ SPAIN, GREECE & ITALY DESPITE END OF TRAVEL BAN

    BRITS’ holiday plans have been thrown into chaos as they've been urged to stay away from “amber list” countries despite the Government ban on travel outside of the UK coming to an end.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that people should not travel to amber countries except for essential reasons and “certainly not” to countries such as Italy, France, Greece and Spain.

    Brits can travel abroad for the first time this year from today – but just twelve countries made it onto the “green list” which does not require quarantine on return. 

    Mr Hancock dashed hopes of a Spring break in the sun this morning, saying Brits should only travel to tourist hotspots such as Spain or Greece if “absolutely necessary”. 

    "People should not travel to amber or red list countries unless it’s absolutely necessary, and certainly not for holiday purposes," he told Times Radio. "Our borders, testing [and] surveillance is the best in the world and it means that we can spot problems in other countries sometimes before they know they’ve got a problem themselves. So the green list is here for exactly this reason to provide for a safe way where we know that it’s okay and safe to go abroad.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    GROWING FEARS THAT INDIAN VARIANT ‘MAY BECOME DOMINANT’

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there are now more than 1,300 cases of the Indian variant in the UK.

    He said it is becoming “the dominant strain” in areas including Bolton and Blackburn in the North West, amid fears it will spread elsewhere and halt lockdown lifting.

    But he did offer hope by reassuring Brits that Covid vaccinations should protect against the variant.

    “We have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome,” he said on Sky News.

  • Joseph Gamp

    GRAPH: UK COVID-19 CASES AND DEATHS PER DAY

  • Joseph Gamp

    BRAZIL’S COVID-19 DEATH TOLL PASSES 435,000

    Brazil recorded 40,941 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours.

    The health minister also said Sunday that there were a further 1,036 deaths from the virus in the same period.

    Brazil has now registered 15.63 million cases since the pandemic began, while the South American nation’s official death toll stands at 435,751.

  • Joseph Gamp

    ‘HIGH DEGREE OF CONFIDENCE’ VACCINES WORK AGAINST INDIAN VARIANT, SAYS HANCOCK

    New evidence gives a “high degree of confidence” that coronavirus vaccines work against the Indian variant, Matt Hancock said as he urged people to get jabbed to prevent the new strain spreading “like wildfire”.

    The Health Secretary said on Sunday it is “appropriate” to push on with the major easing of restrictions in England on Monday despite concerns from scientists that it could be 50% more transmissible than the Kent strain.

    He did not rule out the possibility of imposing local lockdowns in areas such as Bolton to stem the spread of the variant, although he said it is “relatively widespread in small numbers” elsewhere.

    Ministers are hoping surge testing and the acceleration of second vaccine doses can allow a safe opening up of the nation, with jabs due to be extended to the over-35s this week.

    Mr Hancock said there are now more than 1,300 cases of the Indian variant in total and it is becoming “the dominant strain” in areas including Bolton and Blackburn in the North West.

  • Joseph Gamp

    PORTUGAL TO OPEN TO BRIT TOURISTS FROM TOMORROW

    Portugal will open to tourists from nearly all European countries from Monday, says the interior ministry.

    Travellers from most EU countries, the 26-nation Schengen Area and the UK can make “all types of visits to Portugal, including even non-essential visits”.

  • Joseph Gamp

    MAPPED: ENGLAND HOTSPOTS WHERE INDIAN VARIANT IS DOMINANT

  • Joseph Gamp

    BRITS MUST WAIT UNTIL JUNE 14 TO LEARN IF COVID RESTRICTIONS WILL BE FULLY LIFTED ON JUNE 21, MATT HANCOCK CONFIRMS

    Brits must wait until June 14 to learn if Covid restrictions will be fully lifted on June 21, Matt Hancock confirms

  • Joseph Gamp

    MEXICO RECORDS 1,233 NEW COVID CASES AND 53 FURTHER FATALITIES

    Mexico reported 1,233 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 today plus a further 53 virus-related fatalities.

    Sunday’s figures bring Mexico’s total infections to 2,381,923, while the death toll has now reached 220,437.

    The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently suggested the actual death toll is at least 60% above the confirmed figure

  • Joseph Gamp

    LONDON HOTELS DECLARE THEMSELVES OPEN FOR BUSINESS

    Using room lights on different floors, this is the moment London hotels officially declared themselves ‘OPEN’ for all guests again.

    As the capital – and the country – begins to get back to normal life, Crowne Plaza London – Docklands and Holiday Inn Kensington Forum celebrated being open for non-essential guests again from Monday.

    The four-letter word was created using lights in 80 different rooms across the two hotels.

    They were joined by other IHG hotels across the country as the group’s hotels reopen.

    The display is part of a countrywide celebration as restrictions are slowly easing and people can rediscover travel again and enjoy the comforts of a hotel nationwide.

  • Joseph Gamp

    CONTINUED…

    But offering good news over plans to ease restrictions without unleashing a fresh wave of infections and deaths, Mr Hancock said there is "new very early data" from Oxford University giving confidence that existing vaccines work against the variant.

    "That means that we can stay on course with our strategy of using the vaccine to deal with the pandemic and opening up carefully and cautiously but we do need to be really very vigilant to the spread of the disease," the Health Secretary told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday. "We have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome."

    Oxford University said the data is preliminary and it is unable to share the research because it is not yet written up in a manuscript.

    But Sir John Bell, the regius professor of medicine at the university, said the result of lab experiments investigating whether the vaccine neutralises the variant "looks okay".

    "It's not perfect, but it's not catastrophically bad," he told Times Radio. "There's a slight reduction in the ability to neutralise the virus but it's not very great and certainly not as great as you see with the South African variant… It's rather close to the Brazilian version where the vaccine serum seems to be very effective in neutralising the virus."

  • Joseph Gamp

    'HIGH DEGREE OF CONFIDENCE' VACCINES WORK AGAINST INDIAN VARIANT, SAYS HANCOCK

    New evidence gives a "high degree of confidence" that coronavirus vaccines work against the Indian variant, Matt Hancock said as he urged people to get jabbed to prevent the new strain spreading "like wildfire".

    The Health Secretary said on Sunday it is "appropriate" to push on with the major easing of restrictions in England on Monday despite concerns from scientists that it could be 50% more transmissible than the Kent strain.

    He did not rule out the possibility of imposing local lockdowns in areas such as Bolton to stem the spread of the variant, although he said it is "relatively widespread in small numbers" elsewhere.

    Ministers are hoping surge testing and the acceleration of second vaccine doses can allow a safe opening up of the nation, with jabs due to be extended to the over-35s this week.

    Mr Hancock said there are now more than 1,300 cases of the Indian variant in total and it is becoming "the dominant strain" in areas including Bolton and Blackburn in the North West.

  • Joseph Gamp

    GRAPH: UK COVID VCCINATIONS IN THE UK

  • Joseph Gamp

    WORKERS' SAFETY PARAMOUNT AS LOCKDOWN EASES – UNIONS

    Unions are pressing for workers to be kept safe as the national lockdown is eased on Monday, leading to the reopening of more indoor hospitality and increases in people travelling.

    The TUC said good ventilation in workplaces is "vital", adding that tasks which can be completed outside should be.

    General secretary Frances O'Grady said: "If workplaces aren't Covid-secure, coronavirus cases could rebound again. High vaccination rates are no excuse for employers to slack on safety at work.

    "The Government should ensure everyone can afford to self-isolate if they need to. That means making sure everyone can get statutory sick pay, and raising it to the level of the real Living Wage."

    The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has called for zero-tolerance of any breach of transport safety measures or abuse of staff

  • Joseph Gamp

    TRAVEL INSURANCE CONFUSION COULD LEAVE HOLIDAYMAKERS OUT OF POCKET, WARNS WHICH?

    Holidaymakers risk losing out due to confusion over the extent to which coronavirus-related disruption is included in travel insurance policies, Which? is warning.

    Its research suggests many travel insurance customers are being left with a false impression about their level of protection if the pandemic affected their holiday plans.

    Which? believes some of this is down to poor communication by travel insurance providers and the use of blanket terms such as "Covid cover" or "enhanced Covid cover" on insurers' websites.

    A Which? survey of more than 2,800 travel insurance customers between February and March found three in 10 (29%) have committed to bookings or arrangements for international trips this year.

    More than one in 10 (12%) said while they have not booked or arranged travel, they do have specific plans.

  • Joseph Gamp

    THOUSANDS JET OFF ON HOLIDAY AS FOREIGN LEISURE TRAVEL BAN LIFTED

    Holidaymakers are jetting out of the country as a ban on overseas leisure travel is lifted.

    Thousands of people are expected to take to the skies as travel restrictions are eased in England and Wales on Monday.

    The relaxation of the rules was described as a "symbolic moment after the most difficult year in our history", by one airports chief.

    Travel firms have reported a surge in demand for trips to Portugal, after the Government put the country on its green list for travel meaning travellers will not need to self-isolate on their return, and are only required to take one post-arrival test.

    EasyJet has added 105,000 extra seats to its flights serving green-tier destinations, while Tui will use aircraft which normally operate long-haul routes to accommodate the surge of people booked to fly to Portugal.

  • Joseph Gamp

    HOLIDAY CHAOS AS MATT HANCOCK URGES BRITS TO STAY AWAY FROM ‘AMBER LIST’ SPAIN, GREECE & ITALY DESPITE END OF TRAVEL BAN

    BRITS’ holiday plans have been thrown into chaos as they've been urged to stay away from “amber list” countries despite the Government ban on travel outside of the UK coming to an end.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that people should not travel to amber countries except for essential reasons and “certainly not” to countries such as Italy, France, Greece and Spain.

    Brits can travel abroad for the first time this year from today – but just twelve countries made it onto the “green list” which does not require quarantine on return. 

    Mr Hancock dashed hopes of a Spring break in the sun this morning, saying Brits should only travel to tourist hotspots such as Spain or Greece if “absolutely necessary”. 

    "People should not travel to amber or red list countries unless it’s absolutely necessary, and certainly not for holiday purposes," he told Times Radio. "Our borders, testing [and] surveillance is the best in the world and it means that we can spot problems in other countries sometimes before they know they’ve got a problem themselves. So the green list is here for exactly this reason to provide for a safe way where we know that it’s okay and safe to go abroad.”

     

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