SUMMER holidays in Europe are back on the cards for Brits due to the success of the vaccine rollout, reports have claimed.
Countries with a strong jabs rollout are set to be exempt from the EU’s blanket entry ban – bringing hope to millions of Brit sunseekers this summer.
A senior EU official said the UK will “certainly” be one of the first foreign nations allowed back in under its vaccine passport scheme, possibly from June.
Boris Johnson is poised to lift the ban on people leaving the country for hols from May 17 – but there are fears they could still be barred from the continent.
Meanwhile, an expert has warned that a surge in coronavirus cases could delay Boris Johnson’s road map out of lockdown.
Professor Adam Finn, from the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation), today warned that as lockdown is relaxed, cases would naturally rise.
His comments come after Mr Johnson last night addressed the nation at a Downing Street press conference.
He warned that it was likely the UK would experience a third wave, possibly in the winter months.
Prof Finn agreed with the PM’s point regarding a third wave in the UK and said the models point to a “summer surge in cases”.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning he said: “The models that we’ve seen on JCVI clearly point to a summer surge in cases as the lockdown is relaxed, because there are still many people in the adult population who’ve not been immunised and who will therefore start to transmit the infection between each other.”
It comes as:
Read our coronavirus live blog below for the latest news and updates…
COVID PASSPORTS ‘AVAILABLE FROM NEXT MONTH’
Covid passports will be available from next month giving Brits the chance to head off for their summer holidays, it has been reported.
The Government is said to want the passports up and running by May 17, when foreign travel resumes, and they will allow holidaymakers to avoid quarantine.
The Telegraph reports the plans were discussed in a call between government officials and travel industry figures on Wednesday.
A government official on the call is understood to have said: “We aim to give people the ability to prove their vaccine status by the time international travel restarts where other countries require it. The earliest that will restart is May 17.”
COVID NOT LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN MARCH
Coronavirus was not the leading cause of death in England and Wales in March for the first time since October, new figures show.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in both countries that month, accounting for 9.2% of all fatalities registered in England and 6.3% in Wales.
The virus was the leading cause of death each month from November to February.
The leading cause of death in March was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in England, accounting for 10.1% of all deaths registered that month.
In Wales, ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of death in March, accounting for 11.8% of all fatalities.
US ADDS UK TO ‘DO NOT TRAVEL’ LIST
The US has added the UK to it’s ‘Do Not Travel’ list, putting it at the highest risk level.
Britain is now at Level Four, which is the highest rating due to “very high levels of Covid”.
The US added 130 countries to their ‘do not travel’ list earlier this week, and has now reclassified 116 countries to increase the warning.
Also at Level Four is France, Germany and Canada, as well as Israel – despite the country having the highest vaccine rates in the world. Meanwhile, while New Zealand, China and Japan are on the “reconsider travel” list.
According to the Telegraph, the reclassification is not due to a change in the health situation in each country but “to rely more on CDC’s existing epidemiological assessments”.
CAT KILLED BY COVID
A cat has died after catching Covid-19… from its British owner.
The four month-old kitten developed severe shortness of breath and had to be put down after her condition deteriorated, say scientists.
A post-mortem found SARS-CoV-2 – the virus which causes Covid-19 – in its lungs which may have triggered the pneumonia that killed her, say the Scots-led team.
Lead author Professor Margaret Hosie said: “It is tempting to speculate the pneumonia was associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection – especially as the kitten was so young. But it is only speculation.”
She advised people with Covid-19 not to cuddle or sleep with their cats as they could act as a new “viral reservoir”.
INDIA FACING EXTREME SHORTAGE IN OXYGEN
An extreme shortage in oxygen in India has led the Health Ministry to urge hospitals to implement rationing.
Tanks of oxygen are being shuttled across the country to hotspots to keep up with the demand – but local officials have alleged that many have been intercepted by other states en route to be used to meet local needs.
Experts say the second wave surge is the result of India letting its guard down when cases fell in January and large gatherings, including religious events and political rallies, were permitted allowing the virus to spread like wild fire.
Doctors are now admitting that the healthcare system “has collapsed”, with Dr Jalil Parkar, of Lilavati hospital in Mumbai saying: “The whole healthcare system has collapsed and doctors are exhausted.
“There is a shortage of beds, shortage of oxygen, shortage of drugs, shortage of vaccines, shorting of testing.”
DR HILARY SAYS COVID JAB SUCCESS IS ‘BEYOND OUR WILDEST DREAMS’
Coronavirus vaccine data on hospitalisations is beyond scientists wildest expectations, Dr Hilary Jones has said today.
Real-world data suggests that a single Covid jab slashes hospitalisation risk in elderly Brits by as much as 98 per cent and analysis of NHS pandemic admissions shows vaccinations may be more effective at preventing serious illness than previously thought.
Public Health England (PHE) had previously revealed that the risk of hospital admission dropped by at least 80 per cent for the over-80s, three weeks after their first shot. Experts have said the new data is “very good news”.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain this morning, Dr Hilary explained what the new data set means, saying: “Scientists are saying that according to this latest study – it’s beyond their wildest expectations for this vaccine in terms of success.
“What they did is they looked at 74,000 people who had been admitted to hospital between September and March.”
LOCKDOWN SEES RISE IN UNHEALTHY EATING
The pandemic has led to a shocking decline in healthy eating with a quarter of Brits now going days on end without a single piece of fruit or veg – and some men not eating any for over a week.
Meanwhile, six in ten under 35s say they now spend more on takeaway food than their main weekly food shop.
Making matters worse, nearly half of Brits never do any exercise at all.
The new research, by healthy food brand Innocent, also found snacking is on the rise with over a third of Brits (35 per cent) saying they have eaten more unhealthy snacks than normal each day during lockdown.
Most put this down to boredom (54 per cent), whilst 38 per cent say they have lost self-discipline and 34 per cent blame the fact that they’re more readily available while stuck at home.
“So I thought it was amazing on so many levels because he recognised it (and) he realised and remembered that I need a lot of flattery, so there was some emotional connection there!
“It was just a little moment and then, of course, there was nothing.”
She told her co-hosts it was unclear whether the “positives” were because being at home was “genuinely helping his cognition” or “because I’m there to see the little things”.
Mr Draper has been taken off all machines and breathing apparatus but receives care at home, which Garraway adapted in his absence to make it more accessible.
KATE GARRAWAY REVEALS ‘LITTLE POSITIVES’ OF HAVING HUSBAND DEREK HOME
Kate Garraway has revealed her husband’s “moments of reaction” since returning home from hospital.
Derek Draper, 53, was in hospital for a year after being admitted with coronavirus symptoms and being placed in a coma.
Garraway said of the former political adviser’s return to the family this month: “It’s been wonderful having Derek home and there are lots of little positives.
“There are little moments of reaction and he actually said something the other day,” she explained on Good Morning Britain.
“I walked in the other morning… and he said, ‘New dress?’, which was just amazing. And it was, actually!”
SPAIN ‘DESPERATE TO WELCOME UK VISITORS THIS SUMMER’
Spain’s tourism minister has said the country is “desperate to welcome” UK visitors this summer.
Fernando Valdes told Sky News: “I think we will be ready here in Spain. We also think that the vaccination scheme in the UK is going pretty well, so hopefully we’ll be seeing this summer the restart of holidays.”
He added that certificates enabling holidaymakers to prove they have either been vaccinated or recently tested are “going to help us”.
DRIVING TESTS RESTART TODAY
Driving tests restart in England and Wales today after months of being on hold.
But learner drivers face extra pressure to pass as lockdown has caused a 17-week backlog, the MailOnline reports.
Since January, more than 450,000 non-emergency tests have been cancelled.
But the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has said it is offering an additional 2,500 car test slots per month by utilising weekends and bank holidays.
SMALL BUSINESSES ‘NEED HELP TO RECOVER’
Small firms are at a “critical moment” and need help from politicians to boost their recovery from the coronavirus crisis, a business group has said.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called on candidates in next month’s local and mayoral elections to help small companies and the self-employed after an “incredibly hard” year.
Politicians were asked to commit to plans including speeding up grants, encouraging shoppers back to high streets and tackling late payments of bills, which the FSB said had got worse during the pandemic.
Ian O’Donnell of the FSB said: “After an incredibly hard year we are at a critical moment. The Government’s road map has provided small firms with some certainty and confidence moving forward, but to ensure reopening is successful, it must be powered by collaboration and innovation.
“That is why we are calling on all major parties and candidates at all levels across England, to commit to our three-point plan to back small business.”
SINGLE COVID JAB SLASHES RISK
A single Covid jab slashes hospitalisation risk in elderly Brits by as much as 98 per cent, real-world data suggests.
Analysis of NHS pandemic admissions shows vaccinations may be more effective at preventing serious illness than previously thought.
Public Health England last month revealed the risk of hospital admission dropped by at least 80 per cent for the over-80s, three weeks after their first shot.
But Government scientific adviser Professor Calum Semple said the real-world data shows vaccines are even better.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies member said the early findings were “very good news”.
SURGE TESTING IN BIRMINGHAM
Covid surge testing is to begin in Birmingham to try to stop the spread of the South African variant.
The testing will be targeted at households in the city’s Alum Rock, Glebe Farm and Tile Cross areas of the city.
The Department of Health and Social Care said a confirmed case had “self-isolated and their contacts have been identified”.
Health officials said: “Initial investigations indicate that this case is not linked to a case previously identified in the Birmingham and Sandwell areas.”
The DHSC said that everybody aged 16 years and over who is contacted from the new areas would be “strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 PCR test”, whether or not they are symptomatic.
MATT HANCOCK SAYS ‘WE’RE MAKING GREAT STRIDES’
Matt Hancock has thanked everybody who has had a Covid vaccine for helping to keep the country safe.
The Health Secretary tweeted this morning: “A huge thank you to everyone playing their part in protecting our country from this virus.
- Over 43 million vaccines have been administered across the UK
- There are under 2,000 Covid patients for the first time since September
“We’re making great strides.”
DOMINO’S DISHES UP SALES SURGE AS LOCKDOWN BOOSTS DEMAND
Domino’s Pizza has seen sales surge by nearly a fifth over its first quarter as demand for takeaways jumped during lockdown.
The takeaway chain reported an 18.5% hike in UK and Ireland like-for-like sales – excluding stores opened near another outlet in so-called split territories – for the three months to March 28.
Domino’s, which is holding its annual general meeting for shareholders on Thursday, said overall UK and Ireland system sales were 18.7% higher at £371.3 million.
It hailed the success of its delivery service, with orders rising 6.8%, which helped offset a hit to collection business amid the lockdown.
The group said collections were seeing some recovery, now trading at around 65% of pre-pandemic levels.
COVID OUTBREAK AT CUPCAKE FACTORY
More than 40 workers at a cupcake factory in Wales have tested positive for Covid-19.
Health officials said 42 members of staff at the Cake Crew production facility in Bala, Gwynedd, which employs 330 people, were affected, WalesOnline reports.
Those identified and their contacts are in self-isolation, they added.
‘DETRIMENTAL IMPACT’ OF LOCKDOWN ON GRADUATES
Research released today has revealed the continued detrimental impact the pandemic is having on the prospects of the younger generation.
In the past year, a third of graduates have seen jobs and applications withdrawn due to the pandemic impact on the economy.
The study, from Bright Network of 15,000 graduates, also highlighted a worrying inequality gap rising, with a 5% decrease in expected starting salary amongst state-educated graduates this year and a 1% decline amongst privately educated graduates.
The data also showed more than two thirds of university graduates educated at state schools do not feel confident about securing a graduate role after leaving their studies.
33-YEAR HIGH GROWTH PREDICTED AFTER LOCKDOWN
The UK could be set for its fastest growth spurt for 33 years as the easing of Covid restrictions encourages consumers to start spending.
The expected bounceback — which would be a huge boost for Chancellor
Rishi Sunak — comes from a Treasury monthly poll of economists.
They upgraded gross domestic product projections for the year amid signs households want to spend the “accidental” £180billion savings built up during lockdown.
The average of 2021 forecasts collected this month by the Treasury from 19 independent economists is 5.7 per cent, a leap from the 4.7 per cent in March.
If correct, it will be the fastest growth since 1988.
INDIA SETS GLOBAL RECORD FOR CASES
India has set a new global record for the number of new Covid cases reported in 24 hours.
The country recorded 314,835 new infections in the last day – the highest one day tally recorded anywhere in the world.
There were also 2,104 new deaths in the same period – the worst the country has seen since the pandemic began.
It brings the country’s total confirmed cases to almost 16 million.
VACCINES FULL STEAM AHEAD
The UK’s world-class vaccination programme continues full steam ahead – with more than 33 million Brits now jabbed against the virus.
And one in five UK adults are now fully vaccinated against Covid, with more than two-and-a-half million second doses delivered in the past seven days, latest figures show.
A total of 10.8 million people have now received both jabs – the equivalent of 20.5 per cent of the adult population.
The Government’s target to get all adults inoculated by July is still expected to be met.
The big news today is that Covid passports will be available from next month – and that’ll give Brits the chance to head away on summer breaks.
The Government is said to want the passports up and running by May 17, when foreign travel resumes.
The documents will allow tourists to avoid quarantines.
‘VACCINATIONS ARE WORKING – AND THEY’RE PHENOMENAL’
Good Morning Britain medic Dr Hilary has discussed a new study on vaccines which showed that just 32 Brits who had been given a jab at least three weeks before were hospitalised with Covid between September and March.
That’s out of a total of almost 75,000 people admitted to a ward with the deadly bug.
Dr Hilary said it’s “beyond the wildest expectations” of scientists.
“Nearly 2,000 people were admitted who had been vaccinated, but the vast majority of those people had only just been vaccinated,” he said.
“Of those vaccinated at least three weeks before, only 32 out of that 2,000 were [admitted].
“It’s reduced hospitalisations by 98 per cent, which is phenomenal.”
EU LEADERS SET TO TAKE ACTION OVER MISSING DOSES
More on that last post.
Politico reports that the point of the legal proceedings is to make it mandatory for AZ to provide the doses set out in its EU contract.
But there’s apparently a deadline later this week – and after that, the bloc could well sign off on getting legal action under way.
There was fury in the EU earlier this year when AstraZeneca said it wouldn’t be able to offer the number of doses initially anticipated.
By the end of the first quarter, the company delivered 30m doses to EU countries – rather than the 100m pledged in its contract.
And 70m doses will be delivered by the end of the second quarter – rather than the entire 300m doses secured in the EU’s contract.
EU ‘TO LAUNCH LEGAL BID AGAINST ASTRAZENECA’
The European Commission is getting ready to launch legal proceedings against vaccine producer AstraZeneca, five EU diplomats told Politico.
The Commission raised the matter at a meeting of ambassadors yesterday.
And the majority of EU countries said they would support suing the company over complaints it massively failed to deliver pledged doses to the bloc.
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