Everyone aged 18 and over can now book their Covid-19 vaccine in England.

The NHS hailed the "watershed moment" as it was announced that the final cohort of people would be called forward for the jab today (June 18).

The NHS will start to send around 1.5 million texts to people aged 18 to 20 from this morning.

The health service says it is braced for high demand after the first group of people in their 20s to be offered vaccines booked more than one million appointments in a single day.

More than 42.2 million first doses have now been delivered since the vaccination rollout began more than six months ago.

The Department of Health and Social Care said 42,216,654 people across the UK have now been vaccinated with a first dose (80 per cent), while 30,675,207 people have had both doses (58 per cent).

About nine in 10 people in England aged 50 and over are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, new figures suggest.

An estimated 90.3 per cent of people in this age group had received two doses of a vaccine by June 13.

The government has set a target to offer both jabs to everyone aged 50 and over by June 21.

In Northern Ireland and Wales, the Covid-19 vaccination programme is already open to those aged 18 and over.

In Scotland, all 18 to 39-year-olds are being invited, with older age groups first, in the specific areas of Glasgow affected by the current outbreak.

It comes as the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England (PHE) shows that Covid-19 case rates in all regions of England are continuing to increase.

PHE said case rates in England among all age groups are continuing to rise and the highest rate is among 20 to 29-year-olds, with 195.9 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to June 13, up week-on-week from 123.6.

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'Delta variant is in every part of Wales and numbers are rising' - Drakeford

Mr Drakeford described the spread of the Delta variant, which accounts for more than four out of five new cases in Wales, as “concerning”.

He told Sky News:

“We now believe the new Delta variant is in every part of Wales and numbers are rising in the community, not just in specific settings.

“All of that means that we need to pause, to collect more data on the extent to which the new variant will lead to hospitalisations in Wales and to give us the opportunity to vaccinate over half a million more people in Wales, particularly with second doses, and that will rise the level of defence we have against this latest coronavirus threat.”

Pause needed to assess whether Delta variant will put NHS under 'unsustainable pressure' - Drakeford

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the delay of the further easing of coronavirus restrictions in Wales would allow it to gather data on whether the spread of the Delta variant risked putting “unsustainable pressure” on the health service.

Asked why the decision had been made by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said:

“Because the Delta variant is now in every part of Wales and because it is being transmitted at a community level, we need to pause the changes we had hoped to make in order for us to get better data on whether the number of people falling ill, and we know that number’s going to go up in Wales, does that translate into additional and unsustainable pressure on the health service?”

He added:

“Our scientists tell us another couple of weeks will give us that data and in the meantime we will be pressing ahead, vaccinating over half a million more people in these four weeks, building up our defences in that way.”

Mr Drakeford was asked if he could commit to easing restrictions completely after July 15.

He replied:

“I can’t say that because I do not know and nobody else knows what the impact of the Delta variant will be by then.”

Mr Drakeford said people in Wales are “absolutely not in lockdown” and “the vast bulk of freedoms are already restored”.

Consultation on more flexible working 'later on this year' - minister

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the government did not have any intention to make it compulsory to return to the office, while there will be a consultation on more flexible working going forward.

“This is a situation for employers and employees to discuss and negotiate themselves,” he told Sky News.

“I know there has been some media about this over the last two or three days, we don’t have any intention to make it compulsory to return to the office.

“Our manifesto at the last election did contain a pledge to consult on more flexible working to allow people to work from home should they wish to, and we will be doing that later on this year.”

Call to suspend daily Covid-19 testing trials in schools

Academics have called for the suspension of daily Covid-19 testing trials in schools amid a range of concerns including their effectiveness in picking up the virus.

In an open letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson they criticised the approach, branding it “deeply concerning” that daily testing trials are “being presented as a solution for educational disruption”.

Currently, around 200 schools and colleges across England are participating in a trial, with one group following the national guidance of quarantining contacts of positive cases, and the other allowing daily testing of contacts for a week instead of isolation.

As part of the trial rapid lateral flow tests are to be used each day, with participants also offered a PCR test – which involves sending results to a lab – on day two and seven.

But the letter, backed by 14 experts, lists ethical and scientific concerns, worries about the risks due to missed infections, and what they describe as a lack of robust mitigations in schools.

They voiced their concern that results from the trial in schools would be used as a basis for public health policy “given the assessment of risk of increased transmission arising from these trials is inadequate”.

Those putting their name to the letter include Professor Stephen Reicher and Professor Susan Michie, who are members of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) as well as the Independent Sage group.

“We ask the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to suspend these trials immediately, pending adoption of comprehensive mitigations and to allow time to prepare and provide vital clarity to students, families, teachers, the wider public and the scientific community about the scientific justification and ethical considerations for these trials.

“We would be very concerned about results from these trials being used as the basis for any public health policy, given the assessment of risk of increased transmission arising from these trials is inadequate.”

A government spokesperson said:

“A small percentage of secondary schools and colleges are participating in an independently-monitored, voluntary trial of Daily Contact Testing as a replacement for self-isolation, which has been given approval by Public Health England’s Research and Ethics Governance Group.

“The trial concludes at the end of June, at which point the findings will be considered to inform any future use of Daily Contact Testing in schools.”

Four-week delay to lockdown easing in Wales

Wales is delaying further easing of coronavirus restrictions for four weeks after seeing a spike in cases of the Delta variant of coronavirus first identified in India.

First Minister for Wales Mark Drakeford will make the announcement on Friday and is expected to encourage people to go for their second doses of the vaccine.

The change comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that the final stage of England’s lockdown road map – which would have seen all restrictions lift and international travel resume on June 21 – would be delayed until July 19 due to a spike in cases.

Latest figures show there are nearly 490 cases of the Delta variant in Wales, while more than four out five new Covid-19 cases are the Delta variant, according to the Welsh Government.

Two-thirds of these are not linked to travel or contact with another case, it added.

Mr Drakeford said:

“In the space of just a few short weeks, the Delta variant has entered Wales and quickly spread throughout the country. There is sustained and accelerating transmission, not just in north and south-east Wales but in all parts of Wales.

“It is now the most dominant variant in new cases in Wales. We are once again facing a serious public health situation.

“We have the lowest coronavirus rates in the UK and the highest vaccination rates for first doses. A four-week delay in relaxing restrictions could help to reduce the peak number of daily hospital admissions by up to half, at a time when the NHS is very busy supporting all our healthcare needs – not just treating coronavirus.”

Rules in Wales were last relaxed on June 7 and said outdoor events with up to 10,000 people were allowed to resume and other events, such as concerts, football matches and sporting activities, could recommence for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people sitting.

The regulations will be reviewed again on July 15 after being reviewed earlier this week.

Nine in 10 people in England aged 50 and over now fully vaccinated - latest estimates

About nine in 10 people in England aged 50 and over are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, new figures suggest.

An estimated 90.3 per cent of people in this age group had received two doses of a vaccine by June 13.

The government has set a target to offer both jabs to everyone aged 50 and over by June 21.

Within this age group, 91.8 per cent of people aged 80 and over are now estimated to have received both doses – meaning 8.2 per cent, or about one in 12, are still not fully vaccinated.

The estimates are higher for people aged 70 to 79 (97.6 per cent) and 60 to 69 (93.0 per cent).

Some 83.0 per cent of 50 to 59-year-olds are estimated to have received both doses.

Responding to the figures, NHS England lead for the Covid vaccination programme, Dr Emily Lawson, said:

“The extraordinary success of the NHS Covid vaccination programme is down to the dedication of thousands of hardworking NHS staff and volunteers, and the exceptional planning and delivery of the rollout has meant that around nine in 10 over-50s are now fully vaccinated.

“Getting the vaccine is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities against Covid-19 and it’s so important to keep up this momentum. I would urge everyone to go to book your jabs now and join the tens of millions who have already been protected.”

The figures for vaccinations were published by NHS England, and have been combined with population estimates from the Office for National Statistics.