Coronavirus LIVE updates: Prime Minister to hold Covid briefing amid India variant concern, Bolton ‘in discussions’ on ‘surge’ vaccines and Portugal travel latest
Latest updates and breaking news on the coronavirus pandemic across the UK and in Greater Manchesterme
See news near youAndy Burnham says younger people should be vaccinated more quickly in high Covid areas ANDY BURNHAM SAYS YOUNGER PEOPLE SHOULD BE VACCINATED MORE QUICKLY IN HIGH COVID AREAS
Ministers are poised to order further action in response to the rising spread of the Indian coronavirus ‘variant of concern’.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the situation was being monitored carefully and the Government “will not hesitate to take further action if necessary”.
New data from Public Health England (PHE) shows Covid cases have more than doubled in a week in the UK – from 520 to 1,313 – with the agency saying cases were “rising in the community” and that it was assessing the impact and severity of the variant.
One response being considered is bringing forward the date for a second dose of vaccine for eligible groups to increase protection.
In Bolton, which has one of the highest case rates of the variant in the country, mobile testing units have been deployed and door-to-door PCR Covid testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.
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A vaccine bus has been set up to increase uptake among those who are eligible and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers has been sent in.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not ruled out local lockdowns being necessary to contain the spread of the virus.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at PHE, said: “We need to act collectively and responsibly to ensure that variants do not impact on the progress we have all made to drive down levels of Covid-19 and the increased freedom that brings.”
Follow for live updates below…
- Bolton Council leader says they are “in discussions” with government over surge vaccinations13:50
- Portugal will allow British tourists from next week12:52
- Boris Johnson to hold Downing Street conference today12:48
- Four people have died with Indian Covid variant in England12:22
- WATCH: Bolton residents queue for mobile vaccination centre12:21
‘Small number’ of Indian variant cases detected in Cambridge
A small number of cases of the Covid-19 Indian variant have been detected in Cambridge, health officials said.
Dr David Edwards, Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health England East, said:
Following a rise in the number of cases of coronavirus in Cambridge, Public Health England (PHE), Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge City Council have been working together with local communities to help stop further transmission of the virus.
The contacts and movements of confirmed positive cases have been robustly traced and all those who are deemed at risk of infection have been advised to self-isolate and are being offered testing. Through our investigations, we have found a small number of cases of the Covid-19 India variant (VUI-21APR—02).
These are associated with recent travel to India. We are aware that there are cases elsewhere in the country and further work is taking place to help us understand how this variant behaves.
We continue to ask our communities to be aware of the symptoms of Covid and follow the guidance and advice, hands, face, space and fresh air to help protect yourself and those around you.
In particular, we urge people not to mix socially indoors with anyone outside of their household or bubble at any time.”
Wales could ‘allow small food festivals’ from next week depending on Indian variant
Wales could allow small food festivals and small live music and arts events to reopen next week if the Indian coronavirus variant poses no need to pause relaxing restrictions, Mark Drakeford has said.
The First Minster said there were now 26 cases of the mutated strain of Covid-19 across Wales, up from 17 on Thursday, with each case associated with foreign travel as opposed to community transmission.
He said the UK government’s Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) group was expected to give its advice later on Friday, with the Welsh governments own scientific advisers reporting back “very shortly”.14:47HELEN CARTER
Glasgow overtakes Moray as Scotland’s coronavirus hotspot as warning of ‘loss of control’
Glasgow has overtaken Moray as Scotland’s Covid hotspot as an epidemiologist warned the country is seeing a “loss of control” of the pandemic in some areas.
Latest figures published on Friday showed there were 80.4 cases per 100,000 people in Glasgow in the seven days to May 11, pushing it ahead of Moray where there were 68.9.
Moray saw a surge in cases which started in April and it had the highest rate in Scotland in recent days.
It is unlikely to join the rest of the country by dropping down a level under the Scottish government’s five-tier system as restrictions ease on Monday, while the situation in Glasgow is being closely monitored.
Epidemiologist Dr Deepti Gurdasani has cautioned it would be premature to lift restrictions, and she called for action to prevent the situation worsening amid concerns about the spread of one of the new Indian variants of the virus north of the border.
Public health experts have warned the spike in infections in Glasgow could include the Indian B.1.617.2 variant.14:42HELEN CARTER
Mask wearing to continue in secondary schools in Bolton and Bury
Secondary school pupils in parts of the north of England are being told to carry on wearing face masks in the classroom next week amid concerns about the Indian variant of coronavirus.
Bolton and Bury councils are asking secondary schools and colleges to keep face coverings in place until further notice following a surge in cases.
The advice comes after the government confirmed that it will remove the face mask requirement for pupils in England from Monday, when more indoor mixing is allowed when restrictions are lifted further.
A school leaders union’ said it supported the schools which were planning to extend the use of face coverings among pupils beyond next week, adding that they are “best placed” to make the call.
MPs and parents have raised concerns about face masks in class disrupting pupils’ learning and wellbeing since they were introduced in March, but unions and scientists have called for them to remain in class for longer to ensure pupils, staff, parents and the community are not put at risk of infection.13821623855814:38HELEN CARTER
A total of 46.4 million vaccinations have now taken place in England
A total of 46,461,266 Covid-19 vaccinations took place in England between December 8 and May 13, according to NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 552,470 on the previous day.
NHS England said 30,146,933 were the first dose of a vaccine, a rise of 173,820 on the previous day, while 16,314,333 were a second dose, an increase of 378,650.14:32HELEN CARTER
Two more deaths and 215 new cases recorded in Scotland
Scotland has recorded two coronavirus deaths and 215 new cases in the past 24 hours, the latest Scottish government figures show.
It brings the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,664.
A total of 228,908 have tested positive for the virus and the daily test positivity rate is 1.3 per cent, up slightly from 1.2 per cent the previous day.
A note on the Scottish government’s Covid-19 website said there was a “potential data issue affecting the flow of tests from UK government testing sites” from Thursday evening to Friday morning “which has impacted on the numbers reported today”.
A total of 64 people were in hospital yesterday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up one, with three patients in intensive care, down one.
So far, 2,985,557 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 1,575,765 have received their second dose.14:25HELEN CARTER
Public ‘must help to suppress the Covid-19 infection rate’
Earlier, the vaccines minister said the public must help suppress the Covid-19 infection rate if the planned lifting of restrictions in June is to stay on track.
Nadhim Zahawi urged people in affected areas to follow local health advice, get tested and isolate if they test positive.
Asked if the June 21 road map easing – when all legal limits on social contact are due to be lifted – could be put on ice, Mr Zahawi told LBC’s Nick Ferrari that this Monday’s reopening of indoor meet-ups “is still on”.
When pressed on whether the plans for June 21 could be paused, he said:
The way we don’t have to do that is by everybody doing their bit, by taking the two tests a week, doing your PCR test in those areas, and to isolate, isolate, isolate.
We have got to break the cycle of infection, because one of those big tests was infection rates have to be suppressed, and the other big test is variants.
If those cause a problem, then the tests will fail. The four tests have to be met for June 21.”
Where is the Indian variant is on the rise?
London and the North West have seen the biggest rise in cases of the Indian variant, with Public Health England (PHE) data showing it has been responsible for four deaths as of May 12.
The government has been looking at ways to “flex” the rollout of vaccines in the worst-hit areas, including possibly vaccinating everyone in multi-generational households from 18-year-olds to grandparents.
More vaccine doses have been sent to Bolton, which has a particularly high rate of the Indian variant, while 800,000 PCR tests have been sent to 15 separate areas of England, including parts of London and Merseyside.
Another option on the table is bringing forward the date for second doses of vaccine for the elderly and vulnerable in worst-affected areas.14:23HELEN CARTER
Surge vaccinations to take place for over 20s in Sefton to curb the Indian variant
Surge vaccinations are to take place for over 20s in Sefton to curb the Indian variant, the Echo reports.
People will be offered a Pfizer jab after the variant was found in Formby.14:21HELEN CARTER
Portugal tourist board confirms UK holidaymakers can go there from Monday
Portugal’s tourist board has confirmed that UK holidaymakers will be allowed to enter the country from Monday.
Visit Portugal said in a statement:
The Portuguese minister of state for foreign affairs announced today that British tourists will be allowed to enter Portugal as of the 00:00 of 17th of May, next Monday.
This decision will revoke the essential travel restrictions that is in place until the 16th of May.
Any person entering Portugal will have, in any case, to have an RT-PCR test done 72 hours before departure.”
How the R rate remains unchanged in a week
What is being done in Bolton (and Formby) over the Indian variant
Mobile testing units have been deployed in Bolton and door-to-door PCR Covid-19 testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.
A vaccine bus has been set up to increase uptake among those who are eligible and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers has been sent in.
Surge testing has also been deployed in Sefton, after cases of the Indian variant were confirmed in the Formby area, as well as in parts of London.
Alongside imposing local lockdowns, the government is also considering bringing forward the date for a second dose of vaccine for eligible groups to increase protection as well as vaccinating younger people in multi-generational households.
A press conference takes place at 5pm tonight with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.13:54HELEN CARTER
Coronavirus R rate in England remains unchanged
The coronavirus reproduction number, or R value, in England remains unchanged from last week and is between 0.8 and 1, according to the latest government figures.
R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.
When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but when it is below 1, it means the epidemic is shrinking.
An R number between between 0.8 and 1 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 8 and 10 other people.https://7bc89497e0859882763fe6b0acdb3e2c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html7651648633713:50KEY EVENT
Bolton Council leader says they are “in discussions” with government over surge vaccinations
The leader of Bolton Council has said that they have been in discussions with the government about the introduction of “surge” vaccinations in the area where there has been a high number of cases of the Indian variant.
David Greenhalgh told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One:
This is an issue of capacity but we have had very, very constructive talks and certainly all the soundings are is that they are looking to progress that as soon as possible.
The vast majority of our cases are in their teens, 20s and 30s at the moment.
If we can get vaccinations to (those aged) 16-plus, which are licensed by Pfizer, then it will make a total transformation of transmission as it moves forward.
I think realistically that would start in targeted areas where we see the predominance (of the virus) currently.”
Confirmation Prime Minister will address the nation later today
Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference this afternoon as concerns grow over the UK surge of the India variant of coronvirus.
The Prime Minister will address the public at 5pm and will be joined by England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, a spokesman for Mr Johnson confirmed.
It comes days before the next stage of the easing of restrictions in England is due to take place in England.
Ministers have said this will still go ahead despite concerns around the B1617.2 variant, which was first found in India.
On Thursday Boris Johnson said he was ‘anxious’ about the Indian variant and said the Government will ‘rule nothing out’ to prevent its spread.
For the full story, click here.13:41TODD FITZGERALD
Confirmation on Portugal trips
Portugal will allow British tourists to travel into the country from May 17, its government has confirmed.
Following confusion over lockdown rules, the Portuguese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, announced in a U-turn today that travellers from the UK can enter from midnight on Monday.
Everything you need to know about travelling to Portugal in May
British holidaymakers who hope to travel to Portugal on Monday – as soon as travel restrictions are lifted – had been facing uncertainty as the Portugese government has extended its ‘state of calamity’ lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this month that as of May 17 the ‘stay in the UK’ edict will be lifted, allowing people to visit a limited number of green list countries – including Portugal.
Portugal’s ‘state of calamity’ lockdown measures have been extended until at least May 30. That had thrown the travel plans for those who were hoping to jet away next week into disarray.
But in a 12th hour U-turn on Friday morning, the Portugese government confirmed that Brits CAN travel there from midnight on Monday.
Full explainer here.13:34SAFFRON OTTER
Does the JCVI need to sign off on surge vaccinating hotspots?
Downing Street said ministers had accepted advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) throughout the pandemic, when asked if the body needs to sign off on “surge” vaccinations in hotspots.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister told reporters:
The JCVI’s remit is to advise on the prioritisation order and set out the details and the rationale of that to Government.
Throughout the vaccination programme, we have accepted their advice and we have rolled out the vaccinations accordingly.
Indian variant surge testing sparks massive queues in Formby
Queues continue to form at a surge testing site in Formby as local health bodies try to contain the Indian variant of coronavirus in the area.
People are queuing in their cars as they wait to get Covid tests at Deansgate Lane Park and a second centre in Park Road.
There has been a rapid surge in cases in Sefton, most of these linked to Formby, and the area has also been highlighted as one of the regions where the Indian variant is proving particularly concerning.
Live updates on the testing centre can be followed via the Liverpool Echo here.https://7bc89497e0859882763fe6b0acdb3e2c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html7651648633713:00SAFFRON OTTER
Four people have died having contracted Indian Covid variant in England
Four people have now died having contracted the Indian variant of concern as of May 12, according to data published by Public Health England (PHE).
It comes as new coronavirus cases involving the variant – strain B16172 – have more than doubled in a week, going from 520 last week to 1,313.
The cases are spread across the country, with the majority in the north west – mainly in Bolton, Sefton in Merseyside, Blackburn in Lancashire and London.
Full story here.12:58SAFFRON OTTER
‘Vast majority’ do abide by self-isolation rules
Downing Street insisted that the “vast majority” do self-isolate when they are told to, amid calls for the Government to increase financial support for anyone self-isolating.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister told a Westminster briefing:
Throughout we have seen the vast majority of people abide by the ask to isolate when they have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
And that has played an absolutely massive role in reducing the transmission rate of the virus, and we are sure people will continue to abide by that request.
Portugal will allow British tourists from next week
The Mirror reports that Portugal’s government has announced that British travellers will be allowed to visit from May 17 after hours of uncertainty.
Boris Johnson to hold Downing Street conference today
Boris Johnson is to hold a Covid-19 press briefing at 5pm amid concern growing about the UK surge of the India variant.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said he will be joined by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.12:22KEY EVENT
Four people have died with Indian Covid variant in England
Four people have now died from the Indian variant of concern as of May 12, according to data published by Public Health England (PHE).12:21KEY EVENT
WATCH: Bolton residents queue for mobile vaccination centre
People are seen queuing outside the mobile vaccination centre at Bolton’s Essa Academy. It’s been erected to help tackle the area’s surge in cases amid the Indian variant.
Residents speak of how important they feel it is to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others against the virus.
Aidan Cleaver, who lives with his grandparents, thinks “it’s necessary” for him to get the jab.
Francis Kenny, also waiting in line to be vaccinated, says: “It’s sunk in now a bit for people”.
While Haleema and Hassan Warraich comment on how convenient the pop up is.https://7bc89497e0859882763fe6b0acdb3e2c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html7651648633711:53SAFFRON OTTER
Discussions on reopening nightclubs in Wales won’t take place until end of June, First Minister says
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford said discussions to reopen nightclubs and indoor live music venues would not take place until June or July and would partly depend on the vaccination of young people.
Asked if a certain percentage of young people would need to receive a jab before clubs could open, Mr Drakeford told reporters:
As of yesterday, 56% of people in their 30s had already received a first dose of a vaccine, and 37% of people in their 20s had received a first dose.
That number is going to keep on rising and rise pretty quickly over the weeks ahead. So every week that goes by does extend the protection that vaccination offers to younger people, and that does mean that the reopening of some of those live venues will get closer.
But the virus thrives in indoor settings, it thrives when people are close together, it thrives when people spend time together, and it thrives in places where ventilation is not a particularly strong feature of the venue.
That’s not far off describing a nightclub. So it’s just inevitable those venues will come towards the end of the reopening queue.
We’re probably talking about the three-week cycle that will happen towards the end of June and into July before active consideration of those venues begins to happen.
Blackburn’s health director speaks out against local lockdowns
Blackburn with Darwen Council’s director of public health, Dominic Harrison, has spoken out against the potential use of local lockdowns to curb the rise in infections of the Indian variant in certain local authorities.
He said infection control messages need to be maintained or strengthened instead.
Mr Harrison tweeted:
The logic of the current situation is that if we have a more transmissible virus AND we want to open up through the lockdown lifting, we need to maintain or strengthen current infection control measures – NOT lockdown..!
We are going to risk have multiple variants emerging over the next 12 months.
The UK needs to find ways to actively and sustainably manage this risk – not threaten every Local Authority where a variant emerges with Lockdown.
‘Window of opportunity to control the wider spread across the UK’
The “variant of concern” has been detected in Blackburn, Lancashire.
Blackburn with Darwen Council’s director of public health, Dominic Harrison, said on Twitter that the authority had asked the NHS to “surge vaccinate” but the request was refused.
At the moment the Indian variant is surging in a small number of #localgov areas.
These areas have a window of opportunity to control the wider spread across the UK by a mixture of community engagement, surge testing and surge vaccination.
If the Government stops areas with high #IndianVariant cases from ‘surge vaccinating’ target areas (which will contribute to reduced transmission) – it will reduce our local capacity to control spread.
WATCH: ‘We don’t know whether Brits can visit Portugal yet’
‘We will flex the vaccine programme according to the clinical advice’
Nadhim Zahawi said officials will “flex” the vaccination programme according to the clinical advice.
The vaccines minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme more vaccine doses have been sent to Bolton.
We will flex the vaccine programme according to the clinical advice.
Even if you get your first dose now it’ll take two to three weeks before that protection’s in place and it begins to affect transmission rates, which especially amongst the younger cohorts is what’s important to break the cycle of transmission.
What’s equally important is to surge test by postcode, to genome sequence, and then to isolate, isolate, isolate.
That is the way we break this cycle. People need to take advantage of those free PCR tests, two tests a week of lateral flow to find out whether you’re positive and get your PCR test after that, that’s what’s really important.
Mr Zahawi said four tests must be met for the June 21 lockdown relaxations to go ahead.
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