The NHS' backlog of Covid patients could take 'up to FIVE YEARS' to clear as ministers called for an urgent analysis of a new strain from India.
Health chiefs at NHS Providers - which represents every NHS hospital, and mental health, community and ambulance service in England - said tackling the problem in the worst affected areas could take three to five years.
Meanwhile a Government minister said is "too early to say" whether all hospitality businesses can reopen on May 17, a minister has said.
Speaking to Andrew Marr on Sunday, environment minister George Eustice said: "Well, it is too early to say. But I think we are on track in the sense that we are on track with the rollout of the vaccination programme.
“We have now vaccinated everybody over the age of 50 and this week they are offering vaccinations as well to those under the age of 50, starting with the 45 to 59-year-olds - so that bit is on track.”
Meanwhile, the global death toll from Covid-19 has topped three million as cases continue to spiral in countries across the world.
The number of lives lost - as compiled by Johns Hopkins University - is almost equal to the population of Kyiv, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; or metropolitan Lisbon, Portugal.
It is bigger than Chicago (2.7million) and equivalent to Philadelphia and Dallas combined.
Read our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic...
ISRAEL DITCHES MASKS
ISRAEL has ditched its mask mandate after 81 per cent of adults have received both coronavirus jabs.
The country has become the envy of the world thanks to its trail-blazing Pfizer-BioNTech powered vaccine rollout.
Approximately 81 per cent of over 16's have received both vaccine doses, which has brought a sharp decrease in hospitalisations and outbreaks.
The results offer a boost to Brits as the UK enjoys similar success with the vaccine rollout.
In Britain, almost 10 million second doses have been administered.
MATT Hancock will make a Commons statement around 3.30pm to update MPs on the latest developments in the battle with Covid.
The Health Secretary will speak a week after Britain's lockdown regulations were eased.
Another 10 deaths were reported yesterday, although the figure is lower at the weekend.
There were another 1,882 cases, bringing the total number to 4,387,820.
BRITS IN £3BN SPLURGE
PUBS and high streets toasted a £3billion Wild Weekend which saw the nation’s biggest parties for six months — as footie fans returned to Wembley.
But as photos showed revellers and shoppers ignoring social distancing, Brits were warned that rules to stop the spread of Covid are not over.
Britain is set to hit ten million second vaccine doses today, with more than 42million doses in total.
The four million pints a day we guzzled over the past week will soar to six million this week — as better weather and growing confidence in bars being Covid-safe encourages more people to go out.
Read the full story here.
PATIENT BACKLOG WILL TAKE FIVE YEARS
THE patient backlog built up because of Covid-19 will take five years to clear with nearly five million people currently waiting for treatment, NHS chiefs have warned.
NHS Providers, which represents every NHS hospital, and mental health, community and ambulance service in England, said tackling the problem in the worst affected areas could take three to five years.
According to recent data from NHS England, 4.7million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of February - the highest figure since records began in August 2007.
The number waiting more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment was 387,885 - the highest for any calendar month since December 2007.
In February last year, the number having to wait more than 52 weeks was 1,613.
INDIAN VARIANT 'UNKNOWN THREAT'
A COVID Indian variant carries an "unknown level of threat" to the UK, a Government adviser has warned.
Professor Andrew Hayward of University College London urged ministers to act "sooner rather than later".
There have been calls for India to be added to the Government's travel 'red list' to try and stop the virus entering the UK.
So far, there have been 77 confirmed cases in Britain.
Prof Hayward said: "What we have is an unknown level of risk, my own preference in all of this is to err on the side of caution and to act sooner rather than later. But ultimately, that's going to be a political decision."
COVID STRAINS SEEN IN VACCINATED PATIENTS
CASES of South African and Kent Covid variants have been seen in already vaccinated patients, an NHS expert has warned.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for Test and Trace, confirmed people had caught the mutated bugs despite being jabbed - but said the vaccines would still be effective.
She told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "We have seen some people who have had their first dose of the vaccine who have had the South African variant and the variant that arose in Kent.
"That’s to be expected, we know that these vaccines aren’t 100 per cent protecting you against infection and that’s why we ask people to take caution."
Read the full story here.
POLICE STRUGGLE WITH CROWDS
police figures have said officers struggled with crowds flocking to pubs this weekend after Covid restrictions were relaxed.
Thousands of lockdown-weary Brits lapped up the sunshine in al fresco drinking areas on the first weekend pubs reopened.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation said: "We are facing a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation still, and Soho is a prime example. How on earth are we supposed to police that? .
“The local councils have made it easy for people to do pretty much what they want. The council is carrying out regular patrols and are calling the police if there are any major problems but in terms of making sure people stick to social distancing it is extremely difficult.”
John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation, said: "It is clear that alcohol and social distancing do not mix."
FRANCE 'TO REOPEN TO TRAVELLERS'
EMMANUEL Macron has hinted France could open to vaccinated visitors from America and Europe this summer - but Brits could still be ordered to stay away.
The French president said at least some tourists will be able to return to Paris this summer if they've been jabbed or have proof of a negative Covid test.
And his government are currently working on a certificate for travel between European countries.
But although holiday-makers from the UK are likely to be welcomed under the scheme, the British Government could well advise against all but essential travel to France.
Read the full story here.
A NEW study will expose young volunteers to Covid for a second time to see how their body reacts.
Researchers at the University of Oxford have launched the "human challenge" trial to look at what happens when someone who has recovered from Covid-19 infection is then re-exposed to the virus.
They will aim to determine what dose of virus is needed to re-infect after natural infection, how the immune system responds, and what this may mean for developing protective immunity against the disease.
The study, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust, is expected to start this month after receiving ethics approval.
It will recruit people aged 18-30 who have previously been naturally infected with Covid-19.
INDIA RED LIST WARNING
A HEALTH expert has warned India could be placed on the Government's travel "red list".
Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said he expects travellers from India may need to stay in hotel quarantine when they return.
Prof Altmann told Good Morning Britain: "At the moment, this particular variant (from India) is called a variant under investigation, not a variant of concern because it hasn't been escalated to that level yet.
"My assumption from everything I've seen is that it will become a variant of concern.
"When it becomes a variant of concern, I'd be quite surprised if India wasn't on the red list."
COVID KILLS MORE THAN 3M WORLDWIDE
Coronavirus has killed at least 3,011,975 people since the outbreak emerged in China. according to a tally from official sources compiled by news agency AFP.
At least 140,614,340 cases of coronavirus have been registered.
The United States is the worst-affected country with 566,904 deaths from 31,628,017 cases.
After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 371,678 deaths from 13,900,091 cases, Mexico with 212,228 deaths from 2,304,096 cases, India with 177,150 deaths from 14,788,109 cases, and Britain with 127,260 deaths from 4,385,938 cases.
'DON'T THROW IT AWAY NOW'
Dr Hilary warned Brits to take care - as pub gardens reopened last week.
He said many "think it's all over" - and argued "a lot of people were taking liberties in terms of taking risks" this weekend.
"I don't want to be a killjoy but we still have people dying, cases rising in some areas and new variants," he said.
"We've got so far compared to countries like India and Brazil.
"Why would we want to throw it all away by abandoning very strict scientific guidance?"
DEATH TOLL DROPS AS RESTRICTIONS EASE
The UK yesterday recorded ten more Covid deaths - the second lowest daily toll since September.
HALF OF ALL US ADULTS GET JAB
Good news from America, where half of all adults have now had at least one vaccine dose.
From today, all over-18s will be eligible to get their shot.
The US has been worst-hit globally by the pandemic.
But other countries are struggling as cases soar.
In India, authorities are scrambling to free up hospital beds and secure additional supplies of oxygen and treatment drugs as the vast nation reported a record daily caseload.
COVID TESTS FOR HOLIDAYMAKERS (CONTINUED...)
While holidays are yet to be given the go-ahead by the government, it is hoped that overseas travel will resume from May 17 through a traffic light system.
Countries will be placed on green, amber or red lists depending on how high or low risk their Covid situation.
However, even "green" countries, which will be able to skip quarantine, will require two tests when returning to the country.
Last week testing firm Randox confirmed that they would be working with major UK airlines to allow travellers to pay just £60 per test instead of £120.
They have already partnered with easyJet to offer the £60 PCR rests, while previously working with Thomas Cook to offer discounted tests for £85.
COVID TESTS FOR BRIT HOLIDAYMAKERS COULD FALL BELOW £50 IN NEW TREASURY PLANS
Covid tests for British holidaymakers could fall below £50 in new plans considered by the Treasury, it has been revealed.
The HMRC is looking to exempt private tests for summer holidaymakers from VAT - saving families hundreds of pounds.
Gold standard PCR tests administered or overseen by a registered nurse will be exempt from VAT, the Telegraph reported.
Senior sources told the media outlet that the Treasury could go further and full exempt the tests from the tax which can add 20 percent to the price which ranges from £60 to £300 per test.
This means that holidaymakers could save roughly £40 and £240 for a family of four for a single test each.
Read more here.
IRELAND CONFIRMS ONE COVID DEATH AND 269 NEW CASES ON SUNDAY
One more death linked to Covid-19 was recorded in Ireland, the Department of Health said.
Another 269 cases of the virus were confirmed on Sunday.
Of the cases notified on Sunday 70% were in people under the age of 45.
On Sunday morning there were 181 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including 47 in intensive care.
There were six additional hospital admissions in the past 24 hours.
BEN SHEPHARD SAYS 'SUN SEEMS BRIGHTER' AS HE GETS COVID-19 JAB
Ben Shephard has said the "sun seems a bit brighter" after he got his Covid-19 jab.
The Good Morning Britain star, 46, revealed he got his first vaccination at the stadium of the Harlequins rugby club.
He shared a photo on Instagram of himself getting the jab, and another of himself and his wife Annie wearing their stickers in the stadium.
He wrote: "#JabbyMcjabface First one done! thanks to all the team @harlequins wonderfully efficient friendly staff, and a cracking setting too.
"I'd say the sun seems a bit brighter today! #grateful."
US: HALF OF ALL ADULTS HAVE HAD AT LEAST ONE COVID VACCINE
Half of all adults in the US have received at least one Covid-19 jab, the government announced Sunday.
Almost 130 million people 18 or older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, or 50.4% of the total adult population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Almost 84 million adults, or about 32.5% of the population, have been fully vaccinated.
The US reached the halfway mark just a day after the reported global death toll from the coronavirus topped a staggering three million, according to data released by Johns Hopkins University.
However, the actual number is believed to be significantly higher.
MEXICO REPORTS 1,506 NEW CASES OF COVID-19 AND 111 MORE DEATHS
Mexico's health ministry on Sunday reported 1,506 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 111 more fatalities.
The new data brings Mexico's total to 2,305,602 infections and 212,339 deaths.
The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher.
Separate data published recently suggested the actual death toll is at least 60% above the confirmed figure.
BRAZIL REPORTS 42,980 NEW COVID CASES AND 1,657 DEATHS IN 24 HOURS
Brazil recorded 42,980 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours.
The South American nation also confirmed a further 1,657 Covid deaths, the Health Ministry said today.
Brazil has registered more than 13.9 million cases since the pandemic began.
The country's official death toll has risen to 373,335.