Coronavirus latest news: Summer holidays to Europe ‘hopefully possible’, says government adviser

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The new European Union Digital Covid-19 Certificate on a smartphone beside a French national passport - Benjamin Girette/Bloomberg
The new European Union Digital Covid-19 Certificate on a smartphone beside a French national passport – Benjamin Girette/Bloomberg
  • European holidays could be off limits to 5m Britons given Indian-made AstraZeneca jab

  • France, Italy and Austria on track to join green travel list

  • Modelling that delayed lockdown lifting was flawed, admits scientist

  • Boris Johnson pleads for patience as crisis grows in schools

  • Ministers fear the growing cost of free Covid tests

It will be “hopefully possible” for holidaymakers to travel to Europe this summer, a government scientific adviser has said.

The news comes amid reports that five million fully vaccinated Britons will be locked out of European countries due to receiving a vaccine that is not recognised by the EU’s passport scheme.

This is because the European Medicines Agency has not yet authorised a batch of AstraZeneca doses that were manufactured in India, identifiable by the batch numbers 4120Z001, 4120Z002, 4120Z003.

The hitch could leave thousands of British holidaymakers turned away at EU border crossings when the batch numbers on their vaccines are checked digitally, as part of the EU Digital Covid Certificate.

However, Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling Government advisory panel (SPI-M), has said that international travel is something the Government “needs to look at”.

Dr Tildesley told Times Radio: “They need to look at trying to open up where it is safe to do so…where vaccine coverage is high and (Covid) prevalence is low.”

He added: “Travel in Europe is hopefully possible at some point over the summer but it’s going to have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis”.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

08:46 AM

Delta variant up 46pc in latest week, says PHE

A total of 161,981 confirmed and probable cases of the Covid-19 delta variant have now been identified in the UK, according to the latest figures from Public Health England – up by 50,824, or 46pc, on the previous week.

Of the 161,981 cases, 148,538 have been in England, 10,185 in Scotland, 1,749 in Wales and 1,509 in Northern Ireland.

The Delta variant continues to account for approximately 95pc of confirmed cases of coronavirus across the UK.

08:33 AM

India’s death toll from coronavirus crosses 400,000 amid faltering vaccination drive

India’s official death toll from the coronavirus reached 400,000 on Friday, though experts say the actual number of dead could have reached one million or even higher, with a possible third wave approaching.

India added 100,000 deaths in 39 days, a Reuters tally showed, as a brutal second wave of infections swept across cities and into the vast countryside where millions remain vulnerable without a single shot of vaccine.

Overnight, the country recorded 853 deaths, taking the toll past the 400,000 mark, health ministry data showed.

India’s death toll is the third-highest globally.

“Undercounting of deaths is something that has happened across states, mostly because of lags in the system, so that means we will never have a true idea of how many people we lost in this second wave,” said Rijo M John, a professor at the Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in the southern city of Kochi.

The government has shifted its focus to mass immunisations amid warnings from disease experts of a looming third wave as the country slowly re-opens and a new variant, locally called the Delta Plus, emerges.

A woman undergoes a swab collection to detect Covid-19 after arriving at Dadar railway station in Mumbai, India - DIVYAKANT SOLANKI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A woman undergoes a swab collection to detect Covid-19 after arriving at Dadar railway station in Mumbai, India – DIVYAKANT SOLANKI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

08:13 AM

Those who received jabs manufactured in India ‘should not be concerned’, says JCVI member

Professor Adam Finn, from the JCVI, said people should not be concerned about receiving doses of AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India.

“The most important part of this is that people who have received these batches should be reassured that they have received exactly the same stuff as people who have received other batches made elsewhere,” he told the Today programme.

“This is an administrative hurdle that needs to be straightened out but people should not be concerned that they are in some way less well protected.

“We’re in the early days of this new world of needed vaccine passports and there are lots of aspects of this that are still being sorted out for the first time.

“But it’s clearly, ultimately not in anyone’s interest, including the European Union, to create hurdles that don’t need to be there.”

He added: “I would anticipate that this will get straightened out in due course.”

A woman checks her EU Digital Covid certificate on her mobilephone at El Prat airport in Barcelona on July 1 - PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images
A woman checks her EU Digital Covid certificate on her mobilephone at El Prat airport in Barcelona on July 1 – PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

07:57 AM

Five million Britons being locked out of EU countries due to unauthorised jab batch called an ‘administrative error’

The Telegraph’s report that five million fully vaccinated Britons will be locked out of European countries due to receiving a vaccine that is not recognised by the EU’s passport scheme has been called an “administrative hurdle” by a JCVI member.

Professor Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said that the issue “needs to be straightened out”, but reassured people who received the particular AstraZeneca batches that “they are exactly the same vaccine, just made in a different factory”.

The batches that are not yet authorised by the European Medicines Agency are 4120Z001, 4120Z002, 4120Z003.

Prof Finn told BBC Radio 4’s Today that he believed this issue will “get straightened out in due course”.

He said: “It’s not just a matter of people in the UK travelling to Europe, there’s actually people all over the world receiving this vaccine who will ultimately need to be able to travel.

“And the places they’re going to travel to are going to need to be able to receive them.”

“This is something that is going to upset people in the short term, but I think in the longer term when this actually starts to matter, it’s just going to have to be sorted out,” he added.

07:48 AM

Blood cancer patients ‘unaware they may not get full protection from Covid jabs’

Eight in 10 people with blood cancer have not been told they are not fully protected by the Covid-19 vaccine, a charity has warned.

An online survey by Blood Cancer UK of around 1,000 people found that 80pc were not told by the NHS that their weakened immune systems lessened the chance they would have an immune response to the jab.

The charity said this means people with blood cancer are at a high risk of contracting coronavirus despite having both doses of a vaccine, and are also more likely to get severely ill.

Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “We have known since the start of the vaccination programme that immunocompromised people were less likely to be protected by the vaccines, and over the last few months research we have funded has shown that many blood cancers and treatments have a significant impact on vaccine response.”

Recent research suggested people with blood cancer account for an increasingly high proportion of Covid admissions to intensive care. Some 230,000 people in the UK are living with blood cancer.

A charity has said that people with blood cancer are at a high risk of contracting coronavirus despite having both doses of a vaccine - Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
A charity has said that people with blood cancer are at a high risk of contracting coronavirus despite having both doses of a vaccine – Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

07:11 AM

End self-isolation for double-vaccinated healthworkers, say NHS chiefs

NHS bosses have called for a change to self-isolation rules for double-vaccinated healthcare workers.

It is understood that up to a fifth of staff in some parts of the UK are off work with sickness, and self-isolation is increasing the burden and creating a threadbare workforce.

The issue of nurses being off work due to contact tracing and mandatory self-isolation was described as a “big issue” by one top-level NHS official.

“With demand levels about 20 per cent up on the levels that we saw pre-pandemic, and they were high, then you can imagine the stress and tension,” another source said.

A senior NHS manager added: “The rules around [self-isolation] need a rethink. I’ve got lots of medics who are saying, ‘I’m double jabbed, I’ve done a flow test, I’m negative, can I come back to work?’.

“Covid-positive patients are nowhere near as sick as [before] but we’ve also got like, 130, 140, registered nurses off, isolating, and this is a big issue.”

06:50 AM

European holidays could be off limits to 5m Britons given Indian-made AstraZeneca jab

Up to five million Britons face being locked out of European holidays because their vaccines are not recognised by the EU’s passport scheme, the Telegraph has learned.

Millions of vaccines administered here do not qualify for the European Union’s vaccine passport scheme, because the shots were manufactured in India and are not yet authorised by the European Medicines Agency.

The hitch could leave thousands of Britons turned away at EU border crossings when the batch numbers on their vaccines are checked digitally.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate, which launched on Thursday, is designed to allow Covid-secure travel across the continent but does not recognise a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine called Covishield, produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), because it is yet to receive approval in Europe.

Up to five million doses of this version of the vaccine have been administered in the UK and are identifiable by the vaccine batch numbers (4120Z001, 4120Z002, 4120Z003) included on recipients’ vaccine cards and in the Covid travel pass available via the NHS app.

  • Read the full story

The EU Digital Covid Certificate, which launched on Thursday, is designed to allow Covid-secure travel across the continent - Maja Hitij/Getty Images 
The EU Digital Covid Certificate, which launched on Thursday, is designed to allow Covid-secure travel across the continent – Maja Hitij/Getty Images

06:25 AM

Ministers fear the growing cost of free Covid tests

Free coronavirus tests are becoming a burden on the state, ministers fear, as it emerges the Government is considering a “sticker” scheme to coax firms to foot the bill for testing staff.

Officials are examining how to incentivise sectors that currently get public-funded testing to pay commercial providers for the service, under moves to shift the cost away from the taxpayer, The Telegraph has learned.

A so-called sticker system, under which businesses could boast “we test here”, has been floated on Whitehall as a way to incentivise firms to pay for lateral flow devices, which cost several pounds each.

It would stop short of a formal certification scheme, but allow companies to signal to their staff and to potential recruits that they are a responsible and caring employer.

However, the future winding down of government-funded tests is likely.

  • Read the full story from Lucy Fisher

06:08 AM

Today’s front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph for Friday, July 2.

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05:37 AM

Experts question if WHO should lead pandemic origins probe

As the World Health Organisation draws up plans for the next phase of its probe of how the coronavirus pandemic started, an increasing number of scientists say the UN agency it isn’t up to the task and shouldn’t be the one to investigate.

Numerous experts, some with strong ties to WHO, say that political tensions between the US and China make it impossible for an investigation by the agency to find credible answers.

They say what’s needed is a broad, independent analysis closer to what happened in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

04:36 AM

India’s death toll crosses 400,000

India reached the grim milestone of 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Friday, half of them during a second wave in the past few months that overwhelmed the healthcare system and crematoriums.

India has recorded 30.45 million cases since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, and is the second-most affected country behind the United States, which has 33 million cases.

The United States has over 604,000 deaths and about 518,000 people have died in Brazil.

India recorded 853 deaths in the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Friday. That took it past the 400,000 mark, with the last 100,000 being added in just 39 days, according to a Reuters tally.

Commuters walk along a platform after arriving in a special service local train following restrictions of public transportation as a part of the ongoing lockdown in West Bengal state - AFP
Commuters walk along a platform after arriving in a special service local train following restrictions of public transportation as a part of the ongoing lockdown in West Bengal state – AFP

04:10 AM

Australia tightens border further to curb outbreak

Australia announced a dramatic cut in the number of people who will be allowed to enter the country on Friday, as it struggles to contain coronavirus clusters that plunged major cities into lockdown.

With almost half of the nation’s population under stay-at-home orders, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said quotas for overseas arrivals would be cut by around 50 per cent to help prevent further outbreaks.

Under the current “zero Covid” strategy, just 6,000 people are allowed to enter Australia on overseas commercial flights each week and arrivals must undergo mandatory two weeks hotel quarantine.

That quota will be cut to around 3,000 by the middle of July, Mr Morrison indicated, although the government will at the same time step up its private repatriation flights.

Read more: PM to confront Merkel over quarantine demand for vaccinated Britons

02:18 AM

Australian outbreak continues to grow in NSW

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), on Friday warned residents to brace for an increase in Covid-19 infections over the next few days as it reported the biggest daily rise in locally acquired cases recorded so far this year.

Country-wide, Australia is fighting outbreaks of the highly infections delta variant simultaneously in three state capital cities, meaning nearly half of all Australians are currently under strict orders to stay at home.

Thirty-one local cases were reported in NSW on Friday, so far the biggest daily rise in cases during the latest outbreak and for 2021. Total infections have grown to more than 200 since the first case was detected more than two weeks ago.

01:12 AM

J&J’s vaccine shows strong activity against delta variant

Johnson & Johnson said late on Thursday that its single-shot vaccine generated strong, persistent activity against the delta and other highly prevalent variants.

Data showed that the durability of the immune response lasted through at least eight months, the US-based healthcare company said, adding that its vaccine was 85 per cent effective and could also help prevent hospitalisation and death.

“Current data for the eight months studied so far shows that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine generates a strong neutralising antibody response that does not wane; rather, we observe an improvement over time,” Mathai Mammen, head of research & development at J&J’s drugs business, said in the statement.

The vaccine elicited neutralising antibody activity against the delta variant, first identified in India, at an even higher level than what was observed for the beta variant, which was first detected in South Africa, the company said.

J&J has submitted data as a preprint to the website bioRxiv ahead of peer review.

Read more: Modelling that delayed lockdown lifting was flawed, admits scientist

12:29 AM

Cases surge in South Korea as delta variant spreads

South Korea’s daily count of coronavirus cases topped 800 on Thursday, the highest since Jan. 7, due to new cluster infections and the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, officials said on Friday.

The government had relaxed social distancing measures starting this month as the daily tally had hovered around 500 over the past couple of months and the country’s vaccination drive accelerated.

But just days before the eased curbs took effect, the numbers shot up to nearly 600 and then nearly 800 this week due chiefly to new outbreaks in the capital Seoul and its surrounding regions, prompting authorities there to postpone the easing by a week.

Women wattend a dance class re-opened for the first time since the start of the pandemic at Seodaemun Senior Welfare Centre in Seoul  - AFP
Women wattend a dance class re-opened for the first time since the start of the pandemic at Seodaemun Senior Welfare Centre in Seoul – AFP

11:02 PM

Today’s top stories

  • Up to five million Britons face being locked out of European holidays because their vaccines are not recognised by the EU’s passport scheme, the Telegraph has learned.

  • More than 20 countries including France, Italy and Austria are on track to join the UK’s green list and open to British holidaymakers this month, data has revealed.

  • Modelling that helped persuade the Government to delay the June 21 reopening was overly pessimistic and the lockdown lifting should “possibly” have gone ahead on time, a government adviser has admitted.

  • Boris Johnson has called for parents to be “patient” over the ending of bubbles as his own MPs and senior Downing Street officials warned that the situation in schools was worsening by the day.

  • Children’s activity levels have plummeted since the start of the Covid pandemic, with one in three doing less than half an hour’s exercise a day, official data reveals.

  • Free coronavirus tests are becoming a burden on the state, ministers fear, as it emerges the Government is considering a “sticker” scheme to coax firms to foot the bill for testing staff.

  • Wearing disposable facemasks is “unforgivable”, the environment minister has said.

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