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Civil weddings to be allowed outdoors for first time from July
How the world can stop future pandemics in their tracks
‘Risk-averse’ NHS 111 algorithm puts pressure on ambulances
Civil wedding and partnership ceremonies will be able to take place outdoors for the first time in England and Wales from July 1 – a boost for the wedding industry after the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic.
The change is expected to benefit almost 75pc of weddings that are non-religious and take place on approved premises.
The law change will be introduced through a statutory instrument, meaning a vote will not need to take place.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “A couple’s wedding day is one of the most special times in their lives and this change will allow them to celebrate it the way that they want.”
A minor relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England will see the 30-person cap for weddings lifted from Monday.
Venues must limit numbers based on space and enforce social distancing measures, including masks indoors.
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Over 700,000 vaccines booked as jab now offered to over 18s
More than 700,000 Covid-19 jabs were booked on the day the NHS vaccination programme was opened up to people aged 18 to 20.
People in England made 721,469 appointments through the national booking service on Friday, more than 30,000 an hour or more than eight every second.
NHS England said this does not include appointments made through local GP-led vaccination services, or people getting jabbed at walk-in centres.
Everyone aged 18 and over is being urged to arrange a jab if they have not yet had one, as the health service enters the final push to protect the country against the virus.
Public Health England said there has been a 79 per cent rise in one week in cases of the Delta variant, first identified in India, with the increase being driven by younger age groups.
Masked French voters to bring their own pens
Marine Le Pen’s far right party is riding high on her tough-on-security, stop-immigration message as French voters start choosing regional leaders today in an election that’s seen as a dress rehearsal for next year’s presidential vote.
President Emmanuel Macron’s young centrist party is expected to fare poorly, lacking a strong local political base and suffering from frustration at his government’s handling of the pandemic.
Turnout in today’s first round could hit a record low. Those who do show up to vote must stay masked and socially distanced and carry their own pens to sign voting registries.
The elections for leadership councils of France’s 13 regions, from Brittany to Burgundy to the French Riviera, are primarily about local issues like transportation, schools and infrastructure. But leading politicians are using them as a platform to test ideas and win followers ahead of the April presidential election. Ms Le Pen and Mr Macron are expected to dominate that race.
Western Australia to have ‘lightest restrictions in the world’
Western Australia “will continue to lead the way in having some of the lightest [coronavirus] restrictions in the world”, the state’s Premier has just announced.
Mark McGowan took to social media to share the “big news” for the state’s businesses and residents – from Wednesday WA will move to Phase 5 of eased restrictions, and remove all Covid-related capacity limits.
It comes amid concern over the rise in local infections on the country’s east coast.
The changes mean all venues will be allowed to return to 100pc of their capacity, and “all major events will be able to occur with no limit on size or crowds”.
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Brazil records half a million Covid deaths
Brazil has crossed the grim threshold of 500,000 coronavirus deaths, trailing only the United States in the number of lives lost.
Experts say government figures underestimate the real toll from the health crisis.
More than 60pc of Brazil’s fatalities have come since the start of 2021.
Brazil now appears to be grappling with a third wave in its outbreak, with infections and deaths spiking.
According to the latest weekly report from the Fiocruz medical research foundation, the country is in a “critical” situation with a high number of deaths and the possibility of things worsening in coming weeks.
Experts are concerned about the slow rollout of the country’s vaccination campaign, the spread of more aggressive virus variants and President Jair Bolsonaro’s hostility toward preventative measures like masks and lockdowns.
Local Covid cases kick off again Down Under
The Australian state of Queensland recorded one locally acquired coronavirus infection on Sunday, the latest streak of small outbreaks that have been plaguing the country in recent months.
The Queensland case comes as a cluster of the highly infectious Indian variant grew to nine in New South Wales, prompting health officials to expand mask rules.
Australia has been highly successful in managing the spread of coronavirus through swift border closures, social distancing and a high community compliance – reporting just over 30,300 cases and 910 deaths.
But the country has struggled with the vaccination rollout, and states have been plagued in recent months by small outbreaks, kept from spreading out of control through speedy contact tracing, isolation of thousands of people at a time, or snap hard lockdowns.
India’s infection numbers drop to 58,419
India reported 58,419 new Covid infections over the past 24 hours, the lowest daily number in nearly three months, data from the health ministry shows.
The total number of cases in India has risen to 29.9 million, with 386,713 deaths.
More than 1,570 people died overnight.
Delhi’s shopping centres buzzing again
A few weeks ago, New Delhi’s crematoriums were operating around the clock dealing with coronavirus victims. Now the Indian capital’s shopping malls and markets are buzzing again.
But doctors are worried that India is letting its guard down again, just like early this year before a devastating surge that led to a near-collapse of the healthcare system.
Clutching a bag of clothes as she shopped with her new husband at Delhi’s busy Select City Walk mall, Surili Gupta said she was “fed up being cooped up inside”.
“I needed this break, for how long you can remain locked up?” the 26-year-old sales executive told AFP as she waited for a table at the mall’s packed food hall.
“The coronavirus is not going any time soon, so one has to learn to live with it. I am sure with the vaccinations and all, we will be fine.”
Mall staff performed perfunctory temperature checks and reminded people to sanitise their hands.
Cuba encouraged by its vaccine trials
Cuba’s Soberana 2 vaccine candidate has shown 62pc efficacy with two of its three doses, state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma said on Saturday, based on preliminary data.
Cuba, whose biotech sector has exported vaccines for decades, has five vaccine candidates in clinical trials, of which two – Soberana 2 and Abdala – are in late-phase trials.
“In a few weeks we should have the results for the efficacy with three doses which we expect will be superior,” said Vicente Vérez, director of the state-run Finlay Vaccine Institute, which developed Soberana 2.
Cuba is facing its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic in the wake of the arrival of more contagious variants, setting new records of daily cases.
The Communist-run country has opted not to import foreign vaccines, relying instead on its own.
Several countries from Argentina and Jamaica to Mexico and Venezuela have expressed an interest in buying Cuba’s vaccines. Iran started producing Soberana 2 earlier this year as part of late-phase clinical trials.
US to deliver 2.5 million vaccines to Taiwan today
Taiwan reacted with an outpouring of thanks to the United States for shipping 2.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, more than doubling its arsenal as it deals with a rise in domestic infections.
Washington, competing with Beijing to deepen geopolitical clout through “vaccine diplomacy”, initially had promised to donate 750,000 doses but increased that number as President Joe Biden’s administration advances its pledge to send 80 million US-made shots around the world.
“What a sight! What a gesture!” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted in thanks late on Saturday, linking to pictures of the vaccines being loaded onto a China Airlines Boeing 777 freighter at Memphis airport.
“The Taiwan-US relationship is rock solid, and we’ll keep cooperating closely in combating Covid-19. Forces for good will prevail!”
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted she was touched by the US move (below).
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The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is its most important international backer, to China’s anger.
The 2.5 million Moderna doses, due to arrive at Taiwan’s main international airport on Sunday afternoon, will more than double the number of vaccines that have already arrived on the island, including 1.24 million AstraZeneca shots donated by Japan earlier this month.
China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as an integral part of its territory, has offered Chinese-made vaccines, but the government in Taipei has repeatedly expressed concerns about their safety and efficacy.
Olympic team member tests positive in Japan
A member of Uganda’s Olympic team has tested positive for coronavirus on arrival in Japan, just over a month before the pandemic-postponed Games.
The first group to arrive from Uganda – a nine-strong party, including boxers, coaches and officials – landed at Tokyo’s Narita airport on Saturday.
One of the delegation tested positive during screening at the airport, a government official told reporters. The person tested twice but their condition remained unknown, reported local media.
“I heard the person has been isolated based on regulations,” Hidemasa Nakamura, the Tokyo 2020 Games delivery officer, said.
Public broadcaster NHK said the group had all been vaccinated and tested negative in Uganda before Japan.
Travel companies ramp up pressure to ease restrictions
Britain’s airlines and holiday companies are planning a “day of action” on Wednesday to ramp up pressure on the Government to ease travel restrictions, with just weeks to go before the start of the peak summer season.
Travel companies, whose finances have been stretched to breaking point during the pandemic, are desperate to avoid another summer lost to Covid. But with Britain’s strict quarantine requirements still in place, that now looks likely.
As the clock ticks down to July, Europe’s biggest airline Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group on Thursday launched legal action to try to get the government to ease the rules before the industry’s most profitable season starts.
On Wednesday pilots, cabin crew and travel agents will gather in Westminster, central London, and at airports across Britain to try to drum up support.
Britain’s aviation industry has been harder hit by the pandemic than its European peers, according to data published by pilots trade union BALPA on Sunday.
Today’s top stories
Matt Hancock failed to tell Boris Johnson about a major Public Health England study showing the effectiveness of vaccines against the Indian or delta variant during a key meeting to decide whether to extend Covid restrictions, The Telegraph can disclose.
Couples will be able to hold civil weddings outdoors for the first time from next month as part of a move to allow more ceremonies to take place during the Covid pandemic.
NHS 111 is piling the pressure on ambulances because medically untrained call handlers and “risk-averse” algorithms are sending paramedics to patients suffering with minor ailments such as period pain.
Iconic but “unexceptional” British cars are at risk of becoming extinct, analysts have found – but there are hopes that nostalgia will save classic 80s models from the scrapheap.