Great Britain

Coronavirus UK update – Over 35s get vaccine invites THIS WEEK as Indian variant pushes cases ahead of lockdown lift

MATT Hancock today warned the Indian variant can “spread like wildfire” - but England will accelerate its jab rollout next week.

The health secretary said that, from tomorrow, over 35s will start to be invited for their first vaccine dose - but experts warn the easing of restrictions Monday may see the mutant strain spread further.

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

And he said the country faces a “race between the vaccination programme and the virus” amid fears it will spread elsewhere – with the Indian variant having “given the virus some extra legs in that race”.

Meanwhile, the government plans to vaccinate one million people a day as 'Covid hit squads' target India variant hotspots across the country.

By using a stockpile of 3.2 million vaccines, daily doses will be ramped up from 500,000 to 800,000 within a fortnight, according to the Telegraph.

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

  • '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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • GRAPH: UK COVID-19 CASES AND DEATHS PER DAY

  • EXPLAINED: WHAT AREAS OF THE COUNTRY HAVE THE INDIAN VARIANT?

    The highest number of cases have been in hotspots Bolton and Blackburn where the majority of those infected haven't had the vaccine, Matt Hancock said. Experts have warned the Covid strain could cause 1,000 deaths a day.

    Bolton has turned into a "ghost town" as locals are ruled by "total fear," fighting a spike in infections almost ten times higher than the UK average.

    The army has been deployed to the streets - and worries that the town may be plunged back into the toughest of restrictions are growing.

    Bolton currently has the highest rate of coronavirus infections in the country, with 657 new cases in the seven days to May 10 - the equivalent of 228.5 cases per 100,000 people.

  • PLANS FOR CROWDS AT EURO 2020 GAMES IN UK IN JEOPARDY (CONTINUED...)

    “We couldn’t have done it had we not felt comfortable with the roadmap, had the vaccination programme not gone well and other test events had gone well," continued sports minister Nigel Huddleston.

    "So that in itself must be seen as a success. But variants are called variants of concern for a reason - they are of concern.

    "There’s no doubt we are worried about them but we always would be. We want to get as many fans as possible into stadiums again. I’m hoping we get there, I’m hoping we’ll get to capacity crowds soon but it depends entirely on the variants of concern but it’s a goal and has been all along.

    “From Monday, there’s a lot opening up and crowds and that will make such a difference. But opening up is one thing and opening up profitably is another. We’ve got to get the crowds up from an economic sense and we recognise that.

    “The cup final is a really important signal and we wouldn’t have done this if we weren’t making progress.”

  • PLANS FOR CROWDS AT EURO 2020 GAMES IN UK IN JEOPARDY OVER INDIAN CORONAVIRUS VARIANT WITH GOVERNMENT ‘CONCERNED’

    SPORTS MINISTER Nigel Huddleston admits the Indian Covid variant is a threat to getting fans back into stadiums.

    He hailed the success of Saturday's FA Cup Final which saw 21,000 spectators at Wembley as Leicester beat Chelsea 1-0.

    Premier League grounds hope to have around 10,000 for the final two rounds of matches next week.

    But the new strain of coronavirus puts plans to have fans at Euro 2020 games in the UK next month in jeopardy.

    Huddleston said: “This was the biggest sporting event - in fact, this is the biggest event - in the UK for 14 months. The biggest gathering of over 20,000 for 14 months and that’s quite a milestone really. The fact we’ve got to this point is quite remarkable."

  • 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
  • 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".

  • EXPLAINED: DOES THE COVID VACCINE PROTECT AGAINST THE INDIAN VARIANT?

    Vaccinated Brits are protected against the Indian Covid variant, early findings have shown.

    The vaccinations offer positive signs of resistance to the spreading mutant strain, it has emerged.

    Officials in Whitehall who have seen the limited data available are said to be optimistic about combating the variant, an insider revealed.

    The source said: “There’s confidence with the early data”, adding they were “optimistic” about the initial findings.

  • WILL THE INDIAN VARIANT CAUSE ANOTHER LOCKDOWN?

    Earlier this week Boris Johnson hinted he could delay lockdown lifting to battle the spread of the highly infectious Indian Covid variant.

    He said he was optimistic he could ease restrictions on Monday as planned, and hoped to be able to continue with the June 21 freedoms. But he also refused to close down speculation that local lockdowns could return in virus hotbeds such as Bolton.   

    The PM said: "It is a variant of concern, we are anxious about it. At the moment there is a very wide range of scientific opinion about what could happen.

    "We want to make sure we take all the prudential, cautious steps now that we could take, so there are meetings going on today to consider exactly what we need to do.

    "There is a range of things we could do, we are ruling nothing out."


  • 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

  • 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.

  • SCIENTISTS URGE PUBLIC TO SOCIALISE OUTSIDE

    Scientists are concerned that the Indian variant of Covid-19 could be 50% more transmissible than the Kent strain.

    Sir Mark told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday vulnerable people who have not been vaccinated “really need to get vaccinated”, adding: “Because if you haven’t had a vaccine you really must have one actually. There’s no good reasons for not.

    “So that’s the important thing. But then it is I think a question of people making judgments and you know my personal judgment is that I will do things outside as far as possible.”

    Asked if he would avoid indoor pub tables, he said: “For the moment, yes.”

  • MORE THAN 20M BRITS FULLY VACCINATED

    More than 20million Brits have now had both Covid jabs in a mega milestone for the UK’s vaccination programme.

    Official figures from NHS England reveal a further 353,764 second doses have been administered in the past 24 hours.

    And across the country, 19,698,121 second jabs have been dished out – meaning almost two in five are now fully vaccinated.

  • 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.

  • COVAXIN COVID JAB ‘EFFECTIVE AGAINST INDIAN VARIANT’

    The Covaxin Covid jab is effective against Covid strains found in India, a study has found.

    Makers Bharat Biotech said today its coronavirus jab has been found protect against the strains identified in India and UK.

    Announcing the findings, Bharat Biotech joint managing director said on Twitter: “Covaxin gets international recognition yet again, by scientific research data published demonstrating protection against the new variants.

    “Our efforts speak volumes of our strong vision & mission enabling global public health. prevent Covid, protect India.”

    Covaxin is one of the three Covid-19 vaccines currently available in India.

  • BRITS TO TAKE ANOTHER HUGE STEP TOWARDS FREEDOM TOMORROW

    The UK will take a huge step towards freedom tomorrow, with hugs, hols abroad and even casual sex making a very welcome return.

    Under the new rules, Brits will be able to meet inside – still following the rule of six or two household restriction.

    Hotels and B&Bs will reopen, and would-be holidaymakers dreaming of a sunshine break will finally be able to take overseas trips.

    Indoor entertainment and attractions are also set to open up – and groups can head to the pub and sit inside. Indoor exercise classes will reopen, and those less active can finally head to cinemas and museums.

    Theatre and concert performances – along with sports events – will also start to allow 1,000 people, or 50 per cent of the venue’s capacity – whichever is lower – to start again.

  • UK DAILY COVID DEATHS AND CASES

    The latest Covid figures show a further 1,926 people have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 4,450,777.

    And four new deaths were recorded, meaning the UK’s coronavirus death toll now stands at 127,679.

    Last Sunday, 1,770 new infections and two deaths were reported.

  • MORE THAN 20M BRITS FULLY VACCINATED

    More than 20million Brits have now had both Covid jabs in a mega milestone for the UK’s vaccination programme.

    Official figures from NHS England reveal a further 353,764 second doses have been administered in the past 24 hours.

    And across the country, 19,698,121 second jabs have been dished out – meaning almost two in five are now fully vaccinated.

  • WATCH: 'VAST MAJORITY' OF INDIAN VARIANT PATIENTS IN HOSPITAL IN BOLTON HADN'T TAKEN UP COVID VACCINE, MATT HANCOCK REVEALS

    'Vast majority' of Indian variant patients in hospital in Bolton hadn't taken up Covid vaccine, Matt Hancock reveals
  • FEARS 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.

  • STARBUCKS & DISNEY WORLD TO ALLOW CUSTOMERS TO ENTER MASK FREE

    Starbucks has joined Disney World as the latest company to allow fully vaccinated customers to ditch masks in some states.

    In a statement, the company announced that “facial coverings will be optional for vaccinated customers” as of Monday, May 17, as long as local regulations allow it.

    Disney World in Florida announced that Covid-19 vaccinated customers would no longer be required to wear face masks while outdoors as of this weekend. Masks were still required while indoors at the parks.

    Disneyland in California is still requiring masks both indoors and outdoors because of state mandates.

    Neither Starbucks or Disney have indicated that they will require proof of vaccination from customers who show up maskless.

  • 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.

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