Coronavirus latest news: England’s Covid cases rise by three-quarters in a week, ONS figures show

Ewan Somerville India McTaggart Poppie Platt 4 June 2021. Putin primes Russia for ‘vaccine tourism’ Vladimir Putin has told officials to prepare to open Russia for ‘vaccine tourism’, where foreigners can pay for the Sputnik V jab to protect against Covid-19. The president also claimed that some countries were avoiding the Russian-made jabs for “political reasons.”

Speaking at the annual economic conference in St Petersburg, Putin said: “Taking into account the efficiency of our vaccines, I know that [foreign] demand is pretty high.”

Kirill Dmitriyev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) which finances the vaccine, said at the forum that Russia could become open for ‘vaccine tourism’ from July.

China confirms new Covid cases

Mainland China has confirmed nine new symptomatic cases of Covid-19 in southern Guangdong. This is the only area where the country currently has an outbreak, with 113 people in hospital.

Currently, communities in two cities have local lockdown measures in place: Guangzhou and Foshan.

In the last 24 hours, national media have reported that mutant virus strains of the virus have been identified in Guangzhou. An extra 140,000 people have been ordered into lockdown, and a mass testing drive will take place in parts of the city between now and Sunday.

Demand for staff soars – but companies are struggling to fill positions, says study

A lack of trained workers could slow down the UK’s recovery from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, recruitment experts have warned.

Companies are struggling to fill positions, after demand for new workers soared in May at its fastest rate since January 1998, as large parts of the economy started to reopen after months spent in lockdown.

New figures from KPMG and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) showed that employers are looking for both permanent and temporary staff, but many are struggling to find enough people.

“With demand spiking, the skills and labour shortages that already existed in the UK have come into sharper focus – and Covid has only made them worse,” said REC deputy chief executive Kate Shoesmith.

“This is the most pressing issue in the jobs market right now, and has the potential to slow down the recovery.”

June 21 unlocking could be in jeopardy, says academic

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) Government advisory panel, said the scrapping of all restrictions on June 21 could be in jeopardy if ministers become “concerned” about rising hospital admissions and deaths as a result of the Indian variant.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, the University of Warwick academic said: “We do need probably a little bit more time to fully establish how we think the virus is growing, but certainly the number of cases are growing, I think that is very clear.

“And of course that does raise certain concerns regarding what might happen in the coming weeks, particularly if we are looking forward to further relaxation measures in a couple of weeks’ time.”

Asked for his own view on what the current data meant for unlocking in little over a fortnight, Dr Tildesley said: “I think the data is certainly pointing towards the fact we are going to see cases rise over the coming weeks.

“I think we may well see hospital admissions and deaths also rise over the coming weeks, but I think where the bigger uncertainty is, and this is really where the key decision is for the Government, is how much those hospital admissions and deaths may rise.

“I don’t believe they will rise to the same scale they did in January, but what are the Government going to consider is a rise they are then concerned about and that may then jeopardise the reopening on June 21?”

Inside India’s ‘black fungus’ wards

The ‘black fungus’ killing hundreds across India could be related to the country’s highly infectious coronavirus variant, rather than overuse of steroids, Indian specialists believe.
Patients in the Mucormycosis Ward at Mumbai’s JJ Hospital Credit: Simon Townsley/Simon Townsley

It is thought that the new strain, known as “Delta” or B.1.617, is causing unprecedented damage to the pancreas of otherwise healthy people, triggering sudden onset diabetes and soaring blood glucose levels. This allows the deadly flesh eating fungus to thrive.

Over the last week, the Telegraph visited ten hospitals across the western Indian state of Maharashtra, where doctors are treating thousands of patients struck down by the devastating “black fungus”.

Called mucormycosis, the condition is a fast-moving, aggressive infection that attacks a person’s sinuses, lungs and brain and is deadly if not treated.

Read the exclusive report from Joe Wallen and Simon Townsley here: Inside India’s ‘black fungus’ wards: Delta variant linked to hundreds of deaths from mucormycosis

Covid memorial trees planted in Oxford

Health ministers from around the world came together for a tree-planting ceremony to remember those who have tragically lost their lives to Covid-19, marking the conclusion of the G7 Health Ministers’ Meeting in Oxford today.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock, alongside other health leaders and a local Chief Nurse, planted ten Japanese cherry (Sakura) blossom trees – one for each representative of the G7, as well as for the World Health Organisation and global healthcare staff – at the Oxford Botanic Gardens this afternoon.

“As I work with my G7 colleagues to better prepare us all for future health threats, we must never forget the sorrow and heartbreak felt across the UK and around the world as a result of Covid-19.

“Oxford has played a central role in showing us the road out of the pandemic and their Botanic Gardens now have a fitting tribute for people to be able to reflect and remember those that have been lost,” said Mr Hancock.

Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who administered the first Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to a patient on January 4, said: “It is a great honour to be asked to plant a tree to remember all the dedicated nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals who have cared for people with Covid-19 – including those who have lost their lives during the pandemic.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock plants a tree during a memorial tree planting ceremony at Oxford Botanic Gardens, following the G7 Health Ministers Meeting on June 4 2021 Credit: Steve Parsons/AFP

UK will give to Covax scheme when ‘excess doses’ are available, says Hancock

Asked if the UK was likely to pledge to give vaccine doses to the Covax scheme, which is distributing jabs to low and middle income countries, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told reporters he would do so when “excess doses” were available.

“When we have excess doses that we don’t need here in this country, then absolutely, we’ll be looking to how they can be best deployed around the world,” the Cabinet minister said.

“But as I said, at the moment we don’t have any excess doses, we’re just getting them into arms as quickly as possible.”

Social distancing, home working and masks could remain past June 21

Social distancing in hospitality venues, working from home and masks on public transport could all remain in place after June 21, under plans being considered to revise the roadmap out of lockdown.

According to senior Government advisers, the current thinking in No 10 is that many restrictions will have to remain in place after the so-called “Freedom Day” to avoid another full lockdown in autumn. It means the full lifting of lockdown restrictions are likely to be delayed for “a few weeks” due to concerns over new variants of Covid-19 and increased pressure on the NHS.

A Government source told the i newspaper: “The current thinking is it would be irresponsible to risk another full lockdown in the autumn by opening up too fast on 21 June.

“While many businesses would have been hoping to operate at full capacity in a few weeks’ time it is better that they can operate at reduced capacity rather than being shut down completely again if we hit another peak,” they added.

Scotland’s longest Covid ICU patient discharged
Neil McLaughlin with medical staff at University Hospital Hairmyres, East Kilbride, after being discharged from hospital having recovered from Covid-19 Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

Neil McLaughlin was admitted to University Hospital Hairmyres, East Kilbride, on November 21 2020, after contracting Covid-19.

Mr McLaughlin spent a total of 167 days in ICU before eventually being discharged to the medical wards, and was finally released from hospital today.

‘Tough’ international travel rules were needed to protect vaccine rollout success, says Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “tough” rules were needed on international travel in order to protect the progress made by the vaccine programme.

Mr Hancock, asked by reporters on Friday whether Britons were being asked to sacrifice a holiday abroad in exchange for greater freedoms at home, said: “Ultimately we are very cautious on international travel because we want to protect the success and the progress that we’ve made.

“We’ve opened up domestically and been able to do that without seeing an increase in the number of hospitalisations.

“And that is partly because we are tough on international travel.

“We have the green list there for countries where it is safe to go to but we’ve always said that we’re willing to act to take countries off that green list if we need to.

“It doesn’t give me any pleasure that we’ve had to do that with Portugal but it is so important for protecting the vaccine rollout here at home.”

Government ‘always expected cases to rise’ as lockdown eased, says Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government “always expected cases to rise” as lockdown was eased, and told reporters that the data being watched “very carefully” is the number of people being admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms.

Asked whether data in relation to the Indian mutation, also known as the Delta variant, was “going in the wrong direction”, Mr Hancock said: “We publish all the information we have about the new variants, including the Delta variant, and we take this approach of full transparency.

“The data on the impact on hospitalisations are very early data, so we can’t yet conclude with any confidence that there’s an impact on your risk of hospitalisation.

“But of course, we publish the early data and we watch it very carefully.

“Now, we always expected cases to rise as the country was opened up, the critical thing is the impact on the number of people who end up in hospital for any given number of cases.

“That link has been broken by the vaccine, but it hasn’t been completely severed yet.

“That’s one of the things that we’re watching very carefully, and it’s too early to say what the decision will be ahead of June 21, but we’ll make sure people know in good time.”

Vaccines should be rolled out to hotspot teens as soon as possible, says health boss

Covid-19 vaccines need to be rolled out to teenagers in areas with high transmission rates as soon as possible, the director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen has said.

Use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in children aged 12-15 was approved for the UK on Friday, having already been given the green light for people aged 16 and over.

Dominic Harrison, the director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen, which currently has the highest case rate in England, said the announcement was “great news”.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “We need to mobilise roll out of this to areas of high variant surges and high and enduring transmission ASAP. This will reduce UK’s rising risk from the Delta variant.”

“What we need now is to accelerate first and second dose vaccine coverage across Pennine Lancashire to 90% coverage as fast as possible, and to vaccinate 12 to 18-year-olds as soon as it is judged safe and effective.”

Lioness dies from Covid at Indian zoo

A nine-year old Asiatic lion has died from Covid-19 in a state-run zoo on the outskirts of the south Indian city of Chennai, Reuters reports.

There have been various coronavirus cases in animals, including two white tiger cubs thought to have died of Covid-19 in neighbouring Pakistan and lions also testing positive in Spain and two other cities in India.

“A 9-year old lioness Neela succumbed to the disease on the evening of 3rd June,” said the Arignar Anna zoological park.

The outbreak was first observed on Thursday, with most of the lions being asymptomatic. They were quarantined and given antibiotics.

Schools in ‘precarious situation’ over Indian variant, unions warn

The Government has been warned not to “sleepwalk” into further disruption at schools, with the rise in closures caused by the Indian variant prompting school leaders’ unions to warn of a “precarious” situation.

The highest rate of new infections is among 10 to 19-year-olds with 72.3 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to May 30, up week-on-week from 55.1, Public Health England figures show. There have been 97 confirmed Covid-19 outbreaks in schools in the last four weeks.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We have been hearing from our members that more and more schools are having to close multiple classes or ‘bubbles’, particularly in areas with higher case numbers… We must not sleepwalk into further widespread disruption to education.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), added: “The situation clearly continues to be precarious, and will need to be monitored very carefully after the half-term holiday.”

The global vaccine rollout, in pictures
A Tunisian tourism industry worker receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Tunis on June 4 2021 Credit: Mohamed Messara/Shutterstock
Students of the State University of Management fill in documents ahead of receiving Covid-19 vaccines in Moscow Credit: Dmitry Serebryakov/TASS
People queue to receive their first shot of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 4 2021 Credit: Fareed Khan/AP

Protecting the UK is vaccination priority, says Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday that vaccinating children in the UK against Covid-19 would take priority over donating vaccine doses to other countries around the world.

“My first duty as health secretary for the UK is to make sure that the UK is protected and safe, and whilst thankfully children are very rarely badly affected by Covid themselves, they can still pass on the disease,” Hancock said.

“Alongside that I’m working with my international colleagues to make sure that people can get access to the vaccine around the world, and in particular of course the Oxford vaccine.”

Hancock was speaking after health ministers from the G7 countries met at the University of Oxford.

Almost 200,000 more people get first vaccine dose in UK

Government data up to June 3 shows that of the 66,749,638 jabs given in the UK so far, 39,949,694 were first doses – a rise of 191,266 on the previous day.

Some 26,799,944 were second doses, an increase of 377,641.

UK Covid cases rise by 6,238

The UK has reported a rise of 6,238 cases of Covid-19, along with 11 more deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, according to the latest government figures.

Yesterday, 5,274 cases and 18 deaths were reported.

France to lift self-isolation rule for fully-vaccinated Brits

France will lift its self-isolation rule for fully-vaccinated Britons who arrive in the country from next Wednesday.

UK travellers who have not received both jabs will still be required to self-isolate for seven days after arriving in France and will need to provide reasons for travelling there, as well as showing evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result.

France announced changes to its border rules on Friday, which include waiving the test requirement for vaccinated EU residents. Vaccinated visitors from most of the rest of the world will see quarantine requirements removed, but will still need to show proof of a negative test result. The new measures come into force on June 9.

France remains on the UK’s amber list of destinations to which the Government advises against travel.

Singapore Grand Prix cancelled

The Singapore Grand Prix has been called off this year, with Formula 1 now assessing its options to replace the race.

Formula 1 and the Singapore authorities agreed it will not be possible to hold the event, which had been scheduled for the weekend of 1-3 October, in the context of immigration restrictions in the city state.

Turkey, China and a second race at Austin in the US are all being considered as replacements.

G7 countries to work together on vaccine passports

Health ministers from the G7 countries have agreed to work together to develop “mutual recognition of testing and vaccination certificates across countries”.

Agreement was reached on vaccine passports following a meeting in Oxford during the G7 conference.

Documents released after the meeting said: “We are committed to work as G7 countries towards a process of mutual acceptance of Covid-19 certificates.”

It comes after the NHS app was updated to allow members of the public to view their vaccination status, but also amid reports that vaccine passport plans for large events and gatherings in the UK are being scrapped.

WHO warns of June-July Covax doses shortfall

The World Health Organisation said on Friday that a shortfall in Covid-19 vaccine doses going through the Covax programme in June and July could undermine the efficiency of the roll-out.

Covax was created to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, particularly to low-income countries, and has already delivered more than 80 million doses to 129 territories.

However, that is “about 200 million doses behind where we want to be” said Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s Covax frontman.

While the pledges from rich countries to donate 150 million doses through Covax was a “great start”, Aylward said there were “two big problems”.

“Number one, very little is committed to the June-July period, which means we’re going to still have this gap,” Aylward said.

“The other problem is just the volume. If we are going to get on track to get at least 30-40 per cent of the world population vaccinated this year we got to get another 250 million people vaccinated between now and the end of September.

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