Coronavirus latest news: State will ‘stop telling you what to do’ on July 19, Robert Jenrick says

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Mask wearing is likely to become a 'personal choice' after July 19 - AFP
Mask wearing is likely to become a ‘personal choice’ after July 19 – AFP
  • Bullish Boris Johnson to axe face mask laws

  • School bubbles are paralysing society, says expert

  • How Scotland became the Covid capital of Europe​

  • World leaders ‘like shoppers hoarding toilet paper’

  • Slow return of transatlantic travel fuels Heathrow fears

  • Michael Gove living arrangements call ‘shameful’

A cabinet minister has said July 19 will see the end of the Government “telling the public what to do” as he claims face masks will become “a personal choice” after this date.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the data on current infection rates are looking “very positive” and is enabling the country to progress to a “much more permissive regime”.

Downing Street is expected to lift the majority of coronavirus restrictions, including the one-metre-plus rule in hospitality venues, from July 19 onwards.

Mr Jenrick told Sky News: “We are going to now move into a period where there won’t be legal restrictions – the state won’t be telling you what to do – but you will want to exercise a degree of personal responsibility and judgement.

“So different people will come to different conclusions on things like masks, for example.”

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which provides evidence to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said July 19 is “probably the right time” to consider ending the wearing of face masks.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

12:28 PM

Brazil suffers over a half a million deaths with thousands taking to the street in protest

Brazil has suffered more than 500,000 Covid-19 fatalities and thousands with thousands taking to the street on Saturday to protest against President Jair Bolsonaro, who faces an investigation over an allegedly corrupt vaccine deal.

Thousands demonstrate against President Jair Bolsonair's handling of the pandemicA - Anadolu
Thousands demonstrate against President Jair Bolsonair’s handling of the pandemicA – Anadolu

It was the third day of demonstrations against the government, which is accused of mishandling the pandemic.

Physician Lima Mendes took part in Rio de Janeiro and blamed the government for the high death toll.

“This government has killed more than 500,000 people through its spurious decisions, fake news, lies and now this absurd corruption scandal over the vaccines,” she said,

12:12 PM

Delta variant surges around the world

Russia on Sunday counted more than 25,000 new daily infections after a week of record deaths tolls as the highly contagious Delta variant propels a global resurgence of the pandemic.

The virus has killed nearly four million people worldwide, forcing numerous nations to reimpose restrictions well over a year after the outbreak of the pandemic.

In the Middle East, Iran is fghting the region’s deadliest outbreak, warning it could be about to be hit by yet another wave of infections.

“It is feared that we are on the way to a fifth wave throughout the country,” President Hassan Rouhani told Iran’s anti-virus taskforce, warning the public to be careful as “the Delta variant has spread” in southern provinces.

The variant, first identified in India and now present in at least 85 countries, has driven outbreaks in places that had previously been able to escape the pandemic’s ravages.

Meanwhile in Fiji, which went an entire year without recording any community coronavirus cases until Delta arrived in April, recorded its biggest-ever infection increase on Saturday.

Authorities reported two deaths and warned of more to come as the virus threatens to overwhelm the South Pacific nation’s health system.

11:55 AM

Keir Starmer: ‘We have have seen the very best of Britain’ during pandemic

Keir Starmer has said “we have seen the very best of Britain” over the past 18 months and has urged the public to harness this energy for a “fairer and more united county.”

In a video commemorating the UK’s first National Thank You day, the Labour leader praised the countless numbers of volunteers, key workers, nursing staff and scientists who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.

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11:34 AM

Landmarks lit up in blue to pay tribute to staff on NHS anniversary

Landmarks across England were lit up in blue on Saturday evening to thank NHS staff for their role in fighting the coronavirus pandemic on the health service’s 73rd birthday.

The Wembley arch, the Liver building in Liverpool, Salisbury Cathedral and vaccination centres across England were among more than 70 sites to join the tribute.

Penshaw Monument in Sunderland  - PA
Penshaw Monument in Sunderland – PA
The Millennium Wheel - PA
The Millennium Wheel – PA
Wembley Stadium Arch in London  - PA
Wembley Stadium Arch in London – PA

11:19 AM

Calls for ‘rethink’ of child contact tracing

A senior politician has called for an “urgent rethink” of the contact tracing system for children.

Scrutiny head Senator Kristina Moore from Jersey in the Channel Islands wrote to ministers asking them to find a “simpler solution”.

More than 3,000 people, nearly three per cent of Jersey’s population, are currently self-isolating after being contacted.

The testing system is also under strain, with many people experiencing delays to results – preventing them from leaving isolation.

The Government of Jersey apologised on Saturday for the delays and said it was “working hard to reduce the backlog” caused by “technical issues”.

Currently, nursery and primary aged children identified as a contact must isolate until they test negative for the virus.

Secondary school children, however, must isolate until they test negative for a test on day five after being contacted.

11:05 AM

British Medical Association petitions for retention of restrictions amid rise in cases

The possibility of a wholesale easing of restrictions will come as a blow to senior doctors, with the British Medical Association petitioning for some measures to remain in place to arrest the “alarming” rise in Covid-19 cases in England.

The latest Government figures show that, as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 24,885 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, while a further 18 people had died within 28 days of testing positive.

It comes after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that cases in England nearly doubled in a week, with one in 260 people in private households having Covid in the week to June 26 – the highest level since the week to February 27.

10:54 AM

Bulgaria considers offering vouchers to boost ailing vaccination drive

Bulgaria is considering offering incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, interim Prime Minister Stefan Yanev said on Sunday.

Bulgaria is one of the few countries where people can choose between four different jabs approved in the European Union.

But only 14.5 per cent of the nation’s adults are fully vaccinated, putting the country far behind its EU peers.

Healthworkers give out jabs from a mobile vaccination clinic in Ognen, Bulgaria - Reuters
Healthworkers give out jabs from a mobile vaccination clinic in Ognen, Bulgaria – Reuters

“We do not plan to force anyone. But we are considering the possibility to offer people who are getting the second shot some vouchers,” Yanev said.

The country’s capital has opened special vaccination sites in parks to make it easier for busy people to get jabbed and is urging Roma communities to take up the vaccine.

10:42 AM

Firms urge PM to back returning to the office

Over 50 business leaders have written to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to encourage people in England to return to the office.

Current guidance tells people to work from home where possible.

In a letter organised by lobby group London First, the business leaders say:

At this critical moment, we believe that it is essential that the government is unambiguous in its communications that when the stage four restrictions lift, public transport is safe, offices are safe, and working from home is no longer the default.

Signatories included Heathrow and Gatwick airport chief executives John Holland-Kaye and Stewart Wingate, Capita chief executive Jon Lewis and BT boss Philip Jansen.

Despite their initiative, almost all of 50 of the UK’s biggest employers questioned by the BBC in May said they did not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time.

10:35 AM

Serbia’s Olympic rowing team member tests positive

A member of Serbia’s Olympic rowing team tested positive for the new coronavirus on arrival in Japan, an official said today.

It is the third Covid infection confirmed among Olympic team members visiting for the Tokyo Games starting this month.

A member of Uganda’s Olympic squad tested positive for the virus on arrival last month and a second member was confirmed as having the virus a few days later.

One of Serbia’s five-member rowing team tested positive during a screening at Haneda airport last night, said Takashi Ikeda, an official at the sports section of the central Japan city of Nanto, which had been scheduled to host the Serbians’ training camp.

The man in his 30s was sent to a medical facility, while the other four were isolated in a separate facility in Tokyo, Ikeda told Reuters. “Since they are expected to be isolated for two weeks, the Serbian rowing team is unlikely to come to Nanto for training before the Games,” he said.

10:19 AM

Iran reimposes virus restrictions as Delta variant spreads

Iran has announced it is reimposing Covid-19 restrictions on major cities, as the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant spurs fears of another devastating surge in the nation.

After over a year battling the worst virus outbreak in the Middle East, Iran ordered the closures of non-essential businesses in 275 cities, including the capital of Tehran.

The shutdown of all public parks, restaurants, dessert shops, beauty salons, malls and bookstores applies to the country’s “red” and “orange” zones, or municipalities ranked as having an elevated risk of Covid-19.

The government said it was also imposing a travel ban between cities with high infection rates.

Iran’s new restrictions are designed to slow the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant first detected in India, which on Saturday President Hassan Rouhani warned was driving a potential “fifth wave” of infections in the country.

Reports of new cases have risen steadily in recent weeks, nearly doubling from from mid-June to early July.

10:07 AM

After year of pandemic, Americans celebrate July Fourth with a bang

US President Joe Biden will mark the nation’s 245th birthday on Sunday with a traditional celebration looking forward to a rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

After a holiday spent buying cherry pies in Michigan before spending a quiet night at his family home in Delaware, Biden is returning to the White House to host around 1,000 people at the White House for burgers and fireworks.

It’s a sweet dose of nostalgia for a country weary of pandemic restrictions and hardship, burdens that have eased but not disappeared with widespread availability of vaccines.

US President Joe Biden eats ice cream at Moomers Homemade Ice Cream in Traverse City, Michigan ahead of July 4 celebrations - AFP
US President Joe Biden eats ice cream at Moomers Homemade Ice Cream in Traverse City, Michigan ahead of July 4 celebrations – AFP

The pandemic forced cancellation of nearly all celebrations last year and led to a toned-down January inauguration for the Democratic president, who had to do without traditional black-tie galas and bipartisan comity as Republican former President Donald Trump disputed his election loss.

09:57 AM

England primed to ‘return to normality’ on July 19 with restrictions rolled back

Life will “return to normality as far as possible” after July 19 in England as the country moves into the “final furlong” of coronavirus restrictions, a senior Government minister has said.

Rumours were abound in the Sunday newspapers that Boris Johnson, who is due to update the nation this week on plans for unlocking, is due to scrap social distancing and mask-wearing requirements on so-called “Freedom Day”.

Communities Secretary appeared to all but confirm those reports as he said the impact of the vaccine on preventing serious illness meant it was time to “roll back” the “difficult” restrictions that have been in place for the past 16 months.

Robert Jenrick told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It does look as if, thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, that we now have the scope to roll back those restrictions and return to normality as far as possible.”

According to The Sunday Times, mask wearing will become voluntary in all settings and the one metre-plus rule in hospitality venues will end, meaning a return to drinking at the bar without the requirement for table service.

09:44 AM

Russia records highest number of virus cases since early January

Russia on Sunday reported more than 25,000 new cases, the highest number of daily infections since early January as the country battles the surging Delta variant.

Figures have soared since mid-June against a background of reluctance among many to get inoculated and suspicion of home-grown vaccines.

Russia on Sunday announced 25,142 new infections, the highest figure since January 2 when the country was emerging from a second wave of the pandemic.

This week Russia also reported record numbers of coronavirus deaths for five days in a row, registering 697 Covid-19 fatalities on Saturday.

09:34 AM

Economy adviser ‘encouraged’ by planned ending of requirement to give personal data in pubs, bars, and restaurants

Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said he was “encouraged” by reports which say customers will no longer need to give their personal data when entering hospitality settings from July 19.

“The need for hospitality venues to capture the personal data of each customer not only put unnecessary pressure on staff to implement new systems, but has undoubtedly led to a reduction in trade as customers became disgruntled with the ritual,” he said.

“I believe this process misled the public to believe hospitality venues were greater transmitters of the virus, when in fact there has been little to zero tracing protocols implemented in other settings and therefore incomparable data.”

He added he is also waiting for other measures in venues, such as capacity limits, one way systems and people banned from going to the bar to make orders, to be dropped.

09:27 AM

NHS preparing to vaccinate children, says medical chief

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said he believed people would naturally be more cautious and may continue to wear face masks after July 19 out of choice.

He told Andrew Marr on BBC One: “I think some people will choose to be more cautious. Some people may choose to wear face masks in particular circumstances, such as crowded environments, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those habits to reduce infections are a good thing to keep.”

Discussing long Covid, he said the NHS has established 89 clinics across the nation to manage demand from people suffering from long-term effects of the virus.

He also confirmed children can also get long Covid and the NHS is prepared to vaccinate children against coronavirus if the Government chooses to.

“Some children can get symptoms that persist beyond the infection,” he said. “That’s why we are in addition to those 89 clinics putting in a number of paediatrics of children’s hubs for long Covid across the country.

“The NHS is prepared to vaccinate children. Of course, that is a decision for the Government based on guidance from JCVI.”

09:21 AM

Indonesia ramps up oxygen output after scores die amid scarcity

Indonesia has ordered oxygen makers to prioritise medical needs amid growing demand from Covid-19 patients, after more than 60 people died in a hospital where supply of the life-saving gas was almost exhausted.

The world’s fourth most populous nation is battling one of Asia’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks, with Saturday’s 27,913 infections becoming the newest of many peaks during the last two weeks.

Healthworkers treat a Covid-19 patients at an emergency tent in Sardijto - Antara Forto
Healthworkers treat a Covid-19 patients at an emergency tent in Sardijto – Antara Forto

In a statement, the Sardjito hospital on the island of Java said 63 patients died after it nearly ran out of oxygen over the period from Saturday until early on Sunday, when fresh supplies arrived.

A hospital spokesman could not confirm if all the dead had suffered from Covid-19, however.

09:13 AM

Robert Jenrick urges Scotland and Wales to act in tandem with England on lifting restrictions

The Communities Secretary said he hoped that the UK could move together when lifting Covid restrictions but acknowledged the picture was different across the Union.

Robert Jenrick, asked whether Wales and Scotland would follow England’s example on July 19, told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I don’t know.

“We would like the whole of the Union to move as one. We are going to work with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to try and be as co-ordinated as possible.

“Cases are slightly different in each of the four nations but certainly in England, our view is that things are looking positive for July 19.”

Mr Jenrick said the Government was “still looking at the data” in terms of allowing those who have been fully vaccinated to be able to holiday quarantine-free in countries on the amber list for international travel.

09:07 AM

Government in position to ‘roll back restrictions’ and ‘return to normality’, says Robert Jenrick

Robert Jenrick has said the Government was in a position to “roll back” coronavirus restrictions in England and “return to normality as far as possible”, despite rising cases.

The Communities Secretary told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We have been living now for 18 months with extraordinary restrictions of one kind or another.

“It does look as if, thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, that we now have the scope to roll back those restrictions and return to normality as far as possible.

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09:04 AM

NHS chief says link between infections and hospitalisations ‘not completely broken’

The head of NHS England has said the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths for Covid-19 is not totally broken but it is “severely weakened”.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said some habits would be “really good” to keep after the pandemic, such as people washing their hands more frequently and not going into work if they’re feeling unwell.

He added it was “too early to say” if Covid would be different each year in the same way the flu virus changes.

His comments come after over 122,000 people were vaccinated yesterday with nearly 80 million doses now administered across the UK.

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08:33 AM

New infectious variants to happen again in UK if pandemic goes ‘unchecked around the world’

Professor Adam Finn said he is most worried about the global situation in terms of the virus, as that is also what will most likely cause problems in the UK.

He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: “There are obviously countries where they’re in fourth and fifth waves now, and I’m worried about that not just out of a sense of fairness for the people around the world, but actually also for us in the UK.

“We’ve had this experience in the last two months of importation of a much more infectious virus from India.”

Prof Finn said that will happen again if the pandemic goes forward “unchecked around the world”, causing a worse problem.

08:27 AM

Government adviser on vaccines says he will continue to wear face mask ‘indefinitely’

Professor Adam Finn, from the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he will continue to wear a face mask “indefinitely” despite plans to end enforced mask wearing.

He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: “Well on a personal level I shall certainly be continuing to wear a mask if I’ve got any symptoms or if I’m in an enclosed space with lots of other people for a prolonged period of time, indefinitely in fact.”

Prof Finn explained: “I think we learned, as paediatricians, we learned that we can avoid massive problems with children getting sick in the winter by doing these kind of measures.

“We simply didn’t see the epidemics of respiratory viruses last winter that we’ve seen every year throughout my career.

“So I actually now completely understand it, whereas I was puzzled before when I saw Asian people in the Tube wearing masks in the pre-pandemic era.

“So I think mask wearing is obviously something we’ve learned is extremely valuable to do under certain circumstances. That doesn’t mean I’ll wear a mask all the time but it does mean I will some of the time.”

08:24 AM

Big cats, bears and ferrets get Covid-19 vaccine at US zoo

A zoo in San Francisco is inoculating its big cats, bears and ferrets against coronavirus as part of a national effort to protect animal species using an experimental vaccine.

Tigers Ginger and Molly were the first two animals at the Oakland Zoo to get the vaccine this week.

The doses were donated and developed by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis in New Jersey.

Archie, a ferret, receives a Covid-19 vaccine while enjoying a treat from veterinarians at the Oakland Zoo  - Oakland Zoo
Archie, a ferret, receives a Covid-19 vaccine while enjoying a treat from veterinarians at the Oakland Zoo – Oakland Zoo

Alex Herman, vice president of veterinary services at the zoo, said none of the animals have gotten the virus, but they wanted to be proactive.

Tigers, black and grizzly bears, mountain lions and ferrets were the first to receive the first of two doses. Primates and pigs are next on the list.

Great apes share 98 per cent of their DNA with humans and are especially susceptible to the virus as are felines.

Confirm Covid-19 cases include gorillas, tigers and lions at zoos, and domestic cats and dogs.

08:15 AM

Infectious diseases expert hopes UK can have a ‘flu relationship with Covid’

Dr Mike Tildesley said he hopes that as we move into the autumn we can have more of a “flu relationship with Covid”.

He was asked about the importance of personal responsibility and the lack of social distancing among football fans, and he told BBC Breakfast: “I think it’s understandable that people are obviously very excited yesterday but of course there has to be some level of responsibility going forward.

“I hope when we move into the autumn we can start to have a little bit more of what I call the flu relationship with Covid.”

He said the wave of Covid over the last 12 months was “far greater than influenza epidemics we’ve had in previous years”, adding: “But hopefully with a successful vaccination campaign we can get more into that kind of mindset and look to sort of mitigate the worst risks of Covid by vaccination, by hand washing practices and advisory strategies and of course supporting people to be at home when they are sick.

08:07 AM

People will want to exercise personal responsibility after Freedom Day, says Robert Jenrick

Cabinet Minister Robert Jenrick has said people will want to “exercise personal responsibility” on whether to wear a face mask when restrictions are lifted on July 19.

The Communities Secretary added that “he does not particularly want to wear a mask”.

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08:02 AM

Half of parents willing to have jab given to children under 17

More than half of parents with children aged 17 or under are willing to have them vaccinated against Covid-19 if jabs are offered to under-18s, a survey shows.

A YouGov poll of 938 parents found that 53 percent would get their child vaccinated, rising to 59 percent of parents who have already had, or were planning to get, the jab themselves.

However, one in five (18 percent) of all parents said that they would not vaccinate their children, while another 29 percent were unsure.

Even among those having the vaccine themselves, 29 percent of parents were uncertain about jabbing their offspring, while 12 percent said they would not do it.

07:47 AM

July 19 is ‘probably right time’ to abandon face masks, says Sage member

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which provides modelling evidence to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said July 19 is “probably the right time” to consider ending the wearing of face masks.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s an interesting one. If we are going to do that I think probably this is the right time to consider that.

“We know that of course masks have helped throughout the pandemic in terms of reducing the risk a little bit, but they’re part of a number of measures that do help to reduce the risk.”

He said he has been worried about some commentators suggesting masks might be around for a long time, as he pointed out they can be difficult for people who are hard of hearing and those who struggle with their mental health.

07:40 AM

Many people may continue to wear face masks beyond Freedom Day, says GP

Many people may continue to wear face masks even if they are no longer mandatory, a GP has said.

Dr Ellie Cannon told BBC Breakfast: “It’s a very easy win for us to be wearing face masks, not all the time and not necessarily in the classroom.

“But I think particularly popping on a face mask if you are going into hospital to visit a relative, coming to my GP surgery, getting on a bus, I think that’s an easy win.

“And I actually think there will be many people who will continue to wear face masks, myself included, even after July 19 if the mandate is lifted.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say to me, who travel on the bus or the London Underground particularly in the winter, that they would absolutely put on a face mask, particularly in the winter because we all get used to having these coughs and colds and flu and if you can do something very simple to prevent that, why wouldn’t you?”

07:10 AM

Oxygen shortage hits Bangladesh hotspot

Empty oxygen cylinders are piling up almost as fast as bodies in the city of Khulna, which has become Bangladesh’s coronavirus hotspot in a dire new surge.

The government has ordered a strict week-long nationwide lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of Covid-19, but Khulna’s hospitals can not cope. Neither can relatives of the dead.

Mohammad Siddik leaned against empty cylinders under a hospital emergency porch, tearfully telling relatives in phone calls that his 50-year-old brother had died.

The 42-year-old businessman brought his brother to hospital as his condition deteriorated. But there was no bed and no oxygen.

In this picture taken on July 2, 2021 Men unload medical oxygen cylinders at the entrance of a government hospital dedicated to treat Covid-19 coronavirus patients in Khulna. - AFP
In this picture taken on July 2, 2021 Men unload medical oxygen cylinders at the entrance of a government hospital dedicated to treat Covid-19 coronavirus patients in Khulna. – AFP

05:33 AM

Portugal to ramp up vaccination after surge in Delta variant

Portugal said it hoped to vaccinate a further 1.7 million people against Covid-19 over the next two weeks, as authorities scramble to contain a surge in infections caused by the more contagious Delta variant.

Cases in Portugal, a nation of just over 10 million, jumped by 2,605 on Saturday, the biggest increase since February 13, taking the total cases since the pandemic began to 887,047.

New cases are being reported mostly among unvaccinated younger people so daily coronavirus deaths, currently in single digits, remain well below levels in February, when the country was still under lockdown after January’s second wave.

Portugal has fully vaccinated around 35 percent of its population, and those aged 18 to 29 can start booking vaccination appointments on Sunday.

A healthworker walks by a poster at a Covid-19 vaccination center in Lisbon on July 2, 2021. - Nearly half of Portugal's population will be placed under night-time curfews again from Friday as the government seeks to rein in a resurgence in coronavirus infections, primarily due to the more contagious Delta variant.  - AFP
A healthworker walks by a poster at a Covid-19 vaccination center in Lisbon on July 2, 2021. – Nearly half of Portugal’s population will be placed under night-time curfews again from Friday as the government seeks to rein in a resurgence in coronavirus infections, primarily due to the more contagious Delta variant. – AFP

05:00 AM

How changes to the job retention scheme will affect you

The furlough scheme is starting to unwind despite the Prime Minister’s four-week delay in lifting remaining Covid restrictions.

The Job Retention Scheme, known as furlough, has acted as a lifeline to millions of households and will continue to run until the end of September. However, from today, employers are being asked to contribute 10pc towards the wages of furloughed workers for hours their staff do not work, rising to 20pc in August and September.

Employees will continue to receive 80pc of current salary capped at £2,500 per month until the scheme ends.

More than 2.4 million people continued to rely on the Government to pay their wages at the end of May 2021, with three in 10 employers still furloughing staff. This is down from 5.1 million at the height of lockdown in January.

Read the full story

03:57 AM

Olympic cloud hangs over Tokyo vote

Voters in Japan’s capital are electing the Tokyo city assembly amid worries about health risks during the Olympics, opening in three weeks, as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

In Sunday’s balloting, 271 candidates are vying for 127 seats. Eligible voters total 9.8 million people in the megacity with a population of nearly 14 million.

Public opinion surveys show most people want the Games canceled or postponed again. Behind the fears is the lagging vaccination rollout, with only about 10 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike called in sick two weeks ago, citing exhaustion, and was not seen in public until Friday. Her routine role would have been to stump for her party, Tomin First, the biggest with 46 seats in the assembly heading into the election.

Peruvian nationals living in Japan gather before voters lists at a polling station in Tokyo, Japan, - Shutterstock
Peruvian nationals living in Japan gather before voters lists at a polling station in Tokyo, Japan, – Shutterstock

02:58 AM

Fall in new cases encouraging, says NSW Premier

Australia’s most populous state reported a fall in new daily coronavirus cases on Sunday, following two days of record 2021 infections, as officials implored Sydney residents to follow rules so they could end a lockdown next week.

New South Wales recorded 16 new infections on Saturday, of which 13 were already in isolation. That was down from 35 new cases on Friday – the highest number of daily cases so far this year for the state – and 31 on Thursday.

“Whilst the numbers overnight are very encouraging, we know they have potential to bounce around. The next few days are absolutely critical,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

The outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant over the past few weeks has alarmed authorities amid a sluggish nationwide vaccination drive, and sent three state capitals into lockdown last week.

A man wearing a protective face mask walks past the Sydney Opera House, seen shrouded in fog, during a lockdown to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Sydney, Australia, July 1, 2021. - Reuters
A man wearing a protective face mask walks past the Sydney Opera House, seen shrouded in fog, during a lockdown to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Sydney, Australia, July 1, 2021. – Reuters

02:38 AM

Angry Brazilians protest ‘corrupt’ vaccine deal

Thousands of Brazilians took to the streets Saturday to protest against President Jair Bolsonaro, who faces an investigation over an allegedly corrupt Covid vaccine deal.

It was the third day of demonstrations against the government, which is also confronting mounting pressure from a parliamentary inquiry into its handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 500,000 lives in the country.

Lima Mendes, a 47-year-old physician taking part in a Rio de Janeiro protest, squarely blamed the government for the high death toll.

“This government has killed more than 500,000 people through its spurious decisions, fake news, lies and now this absurd corruption scandal over the vaccines,” she said.

People take part in a demonstration against the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sao Paulo, on July 3, 2021 - Anadolu
People take part in a demonstration against the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sao Paulo, on July 3, 2021 – Anadolu

01:37 AM

Bears and big cats vaccinated as zoo moves to protect species

A San Francisco Bay Area zoo is inoculating its big cats, bears and ferrets against the coronavirus as part of a national effort to protect animal species using an experimental vaccine.

Tigers Ginger and Molly were the first two animals at the Oakland Zoo to get the vaccine this week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Saturday. The doses were donated and developed by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis in New Jersey.

Alex Herman, vice president of veterinary services at the zoo, said none of the animals have gotten the virus, but they wanted to be proactive. Tigers, black and grizzly bears, mountain lions and ferrets were the first to receive the first of two doses. Next are primates and pigs.

n this Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, file photo, bears frolic at the Oakland Zoo in Oakland, Calif. The Oakland Zoo zoo is vaccinating its large cats, bears and ferrets against the coronavirus using an experimental vaccine being donated to zoos, sanctuaries and conservatories across the country. - AP
n this Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, file photo, bears frolic at the Oakland Zoo in Oakland, Calif. The Oakland Zoo zoo is vaccinating its large cats, bears and ferrets against the coronavirus using an experimental vaccine being donated to zoos, sanctuaries and conservatories across the country. – AP

01:16 AM

South Africa infections continue record-breaking run

South Africa hit a record of 26,000 fresh Covid-19 cases on Saturday, its second record-breaking tally in as many days, as a rampant third wave of infections coursed through a largely unvaccinated population.

The rampant rise in infections in Africa’s most industrialised nation has stretched health services to breaking point, with hospitals out of beds and medics to man them, and forced the government to impose partial lockdown restrictions.

South Africa has recorded more than two million cases and 61,500 deaths so far during the pandemic, the data from the Department of Health showed, while 3.3 million people have been vaccinated — about 5 percent of the population.

The low vaccination rate has resulted from a mixture of bad luck and bureaucratic failures. The government had to destroy two million contaminated Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses earlier this year, while efforts to replace them have run up against global supply bottlenecks.

People wait to be swab tested at a Testaro Covid-19 testing site/laboratory in the Dunkeld suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday, July 1, 2021.  - Bloomberg
People wait to be swab tested at a Testaro Covid-19 testing site/laboratory in the Dunkeld suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday, July 1, 2021. – Bloomberg

12:35 AM

Landmarks light up to thank NHS staff

Landmarks across England were lit up in blue on Saturday evening to thank NHS staff for their role in fighting the coronavirus pandemic on the health service’s 73rd birthday.

The Wembley arch, the Liver building in Liverpool, Salisbury Cathedral and vaccination centres across England were among more than 70 sites to join the tribute.

Football stadiums, town halls, churches, hospitals and bridges in different parts also followed suit.

It comes as events are being held across England to commemorate health workers who have lost their lives to the virus.

Handout photo issued by NHS England of the London Eye lit up in blue on Saturday evening to thank NHS staff for their role in fighting the coronavirus pandemic on the health service's 73rd birthday.  - PA
Handout photo issued by NHS England of the London Eye lit up in blue on Saturday evening to thank NHS staff for their role in fighting the coronavirus pandemic on the health service’s 73rd birthday. – PA

11:19 PM

Today’s top stories

  • Boris Johnson has signed off on plans to end the compulsory wearing of face masks from July 19, The Telegraph understands, as the Prime Minister prepares to declare this week that the link between Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations has finally been broken.

  • School bubbles and the requirement to self-isolate are “paralysing” society and risk prompting a further lockdown by the back door, a senior government vaccines adviser has said.

  • Sajid Javid accused world leaders of “herd behaviour” in their response to the coronavirus pandemic and likened them to panicked shoppers who hoarded toilet paper, The Telegraph can reveal.

  • Heathrow Airport is at risk of defaulting on its £15bn debt mountain after talks stalled over the return of flights between Britain and America.

  • The furlough scheme is starting to unwind despite the Prime Minister’s four-week delay in lifting remaining Covid restrictions.

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