Coronavirus live news: Belgium to vaccinate 16- and 17-year-olds next month; Italy gives 600,000 jabs in a day


Powered by article titled “Coronavirus live news: Belgium to vaccinate 16- and 17-year-olds next month; Italy gives 600,000 jabs in a day” was written by Edna Mohamed (now); Kevin Rawlinson and Nicola Slawson (earlier), for on Saturday 5th June 2021 20.52 UTC

According to the latest health ministry data, Brazil registers 66,017 new cases and 1,689 new coronavirus-related deaths.

The country has now registered 16,907,425 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 472,531, according to ministry data, in the world’s third-worst outbreak after the US and India.


New England currently has the highest vaccination rate in the US and is seeing drops in cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
New England currently has the highest vaccination rate in the US and is experiencing drops in cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
Photograph: Michael Dwyer/AP


Contact tracers in Victoria are trying to find out the source of two Covid-19 cases which have been infectious in the community, AAP report.

The couple who tested positive were among five new local cases that were reported on Saturday.

One of the pair said to be a regular visitor to Craigieburn Central shopping centre came forward for testing due to health department efforts to test heavily in the area.

The other unlinked case is that person’s partner, a construction worker, which has prompted a Melbourne building site closure.

Testing commander Jeroen Weimar said: “Seven positive cases entered the Craigieburn shopping centre on different days, and contact tracers are working to ascertain the man’s exact movements to see if they overlap with any of them.”

AAP report:

The other three cases recorded on Saturday were less concerning, authorities said, because they were all primary close contacts of confirmed cases and had been quarantining during their entire infectious period.

Among these three cases are two Delta strain cases – a child of a family already infected with the virus and a family friend. That cluster appears separate from the rest of the Melbourne outbreak, which is made of the Kappa strain, which, like the Delta strain, has caused havoc in the UK and India.

Experts still don’t know how the Delta strain entered the community and have been analysing genomic sequencing from across the country in the hope of finding a match.

Prof Sharon Lewin from Victoria’s genomic sequencing centre, the Doherty Institute, said there was no evidence pointing to the Victorian family picking up the virus while on holiday in NSW.

Rather, her “strong hypothesis” is that it entered the community via hotel quarantine.


NHS boss says Delta variant ‘not significantly increasing hospital numbers’

The Covid-19 vaccine appears to have “broken the chain” between catching the virus and becoming seriously ill, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.

Chris Hopson said that the number of people in hospital for the Delta Covid-19 variant was not increasing “very significantly”. He told BBC Breakfast that many of those in hospital in Bolton were younger than in previous waves of coronavirus.

Of the 12,431 Indian variant cases confirmed in the UK, 10,797 are in England, 1,511 in Scotland, 97 in Wales and 26 in Northern Ireland.

In England, the cases are spread across the country, with the most affected areas including Bolton in Greater Manchester (2,149 cases), Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire (724), Bedford (608), Leicester (349), Manchester (278) and Birmingham (223).


Markets and shopping centres will be allowed to partially reopen from Monday in New Delhi, India, in a further easing of coronavirus restrictions, the chief ministers say as infections fall in major cities after weeks of rules.

The Delhi Metro will also resume services at 50% capacity, the city’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said.

AFP reports that the Maharashtra government, which includes the business hub, Mumbai, unveiled a five-stage plan to ease off on restrictions, depending o infection data and hospitality capacity.


Belgium to start vaccinating 16- and 17-year olds

Belgium is to begin vaccinating 16 to 17-year-olds from next month.

Ministers said in a statement: “Starting in the month of July, they will start receiving an invitation concerning the first dose.”

The new recipients will be inoculated with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which was the first vaccine to be approved for children by the EU medical watchdog.


A senior public health official says her “strong hypothesis” is that the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus that caused a second outbreak in Melbourne was caused by a hotel quarantine leak.

Victoria reported five new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday from 36,362 tests on day nine of Melbourne’s fourth lockdown, including two cases linked to the so-called Delta variant – which emerged in India during its devastating outbreak.

On Saturday the infectious diseases expert Prof Sharon Lewin from the Doherty Institute was asked whether she believed the West Melbourne family that caught the strain could have caught it while holidaying in Jervis Bay in New South Wales.

Lewin did not rule it out as a possibility – saying there was “extensive testing” occurring in the south coast holiday town – but said it was more likely the strain emerged from someone in hotel quarantine.

“My strong hypothesis is that it’s coming through an importation from overseas, through our quarantine hotels. That would be the most likely,” she said.

Lewin is leading sequencing efforts in Victoria in an attempt to track down the origin of the new strain but cautioned that it was possible the source would never be known definitively.

“Every effort is being made right now to look for that match, but we may not get the match,” she said.

More on the Delta variant in Victoria here:


Italy is expecting a 20% tourism increase over 2020 as summer travel restrictions ease, the Italian tourism federation said.

The federation has said: “The 2021 summer season is showing the first signs of a sector recovery. Between June and August, 33m arrivals are forecast along with 140m nights spent in official (tourist) structures – a 20.8% rise on 2020.”

Assoturismo added that the rise “would not be enough to return to pre-Covid levels” because during summer 2019, the last before the pandemic, an additional 73.5m nights were spent in the country.

AFP reports that, before the pandemic, tourism had accounted for 14% of Italy’s GDP, the EU’s third-largest economy, but the Covid fallout had helped to tip the country into its worst recession since the second world war.

Italy hopes to welcome 6.7m more foreign tourists this year than in 2020, but arrivals will still be down, by about two-thirds, on 2019 when the 100m mark was passed.

Assoturismo president Vittorio Messina said:

“After 12 terrible months, Italian tourism finally can detect concrete signs of recovery. But it is still a slow recovery, above all where foreign demand is concerned which will not be enough to pull back what was lost with the pandemic.

Our hope is that end of season sales give us better results thanks to the European health passport.”


While the first cruise ship set sail from Venice on Saturday, some residents protested over the return to normal, unhappy about the passage of liners throughout the historical lagoon city.

Hundreds of people gathered on land and on small boats, waving flags saying “No big ships” as the 92,000-tonne MSC Orchestra departed Venice port en route for Croatia and Greece.

Reuters reports:

We are here because we are against this passage but also against a model of tourism that is destroying the city, pushing out residents, destroying the planet, the cities, and polluting,” said Marta Sottoriva, a 29-year old teacher and Venice resident.

But port authorities, workers and the city government welcomed the departure of the Orchestra, operated by MSC Cruises, seeing it as a symbol of business kicking off after the health crisis that hit hard at the cruise industry and the wider travel sector.

“We are happy to be back … to restart the engines. We care a lot about Venice and we’ve been asking for a stable and manageable solution for ships for many years,” said Francesco Galietti, national director for the trade group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Some residents have been urging governments for years to ban large cruise ships and other big vessels from passing through the lagoon and docking not far from the famed St Mark’s Square.

Campaigners worry about safety and the environment, including pollution and underwater erosion in a city already in peril from rising sea waters.

“The struggle is very long, I think we are against very big financial interests,” Marco Baravalle, a 42-year old researcher, and member of the No Grandi Navi (No big ships) group.

He and other protesters were worried that “everything will go back to what we had before the pandemic”, he added.

Italy’s government ruled in April that cruise ships and container vessels must not enter Venice’s historic centre but rather dock elsewhere.

But the ban will not take effect until terminals outside the lagoon have been completed, and a tender for their construction has not been launched yet. Part of the traffic may be diverted to the nearby port of Marghera from next year.

Environmental protesters from the “No Grandi Navi” group.
Environmental protesters from the “No Grandi Navi” group.
Photograph: Marco Sabadin/AFP/Getty Images


Britain’s decision to relegate Portugal to the amber travel list left Francina Pinheiro totally exasperated. “We’ve done everything by the book here,” said Pinheiro, the owner of a cafe beside Torre dos Clérigos, one of Porto’s landmark sights, as customers arrived for lunch on Friday.

“We sanitise everything, we’ve reduced our table numbers. All so we can welcome our friends from overseas. And, pah, now they shut the door on us!”

The usually perky Pinheiro was still shaking her head over the decision. After months in the doldrums, the sight of tourists recently returning to her pavement tables and sipping on a fino (small beer) or trying her prized bolinhos (fishcakes) had put a skip in her step.

Now British visitors are set to join her American and Brazilian customers – another important source of income – in disappearing from Porto’s streets. That leaves her falling back on local customers, who, loyal as they may be, tend to content themselves with a €0.95 cup of black coffee.

British tourists queue at Faro Airport for Covid-19 tests before flying home.
British tourists queue at Faro Airport for Covid-19 tests before flying home.
Photograph: Visionhaus/Getty Images

More of the story here:


The Indian airline IndiGo reports its fifth straight quarterly loss on Saturday as the pandemic continues to keep air travel well below normal pre-Covid levels.

The company reported a net loss of 11.47bn Indian rupees ($157.43m) in the three months ended 31 March, compared with 8.7bn rupees a year earlier.

Reuters reports:

This has been a very difficult year with our revenues slumping hard due to Covid, showing some signs of recovery during the period December to February and then slumping again with the second wave of the Covid,” IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta said in a statement.

The coronavirus pandemic is a period of great trial for IndiGo shareholders and staff, Dutta said, adding that the carrier was strengthening its core to emerge stronger when the sector recovers from the current situation.

India’s aviation sector is reeling under losses, with air travel brought to a halt for several weeks last year. The country’s airlines are expected to lose a total of $4bn this fiscal year, aviation consultancy CAPA estimated – similar to their losses last fiscal year through to 31 March.

Just as air travel in India was beginning to recover earlier this year, a second more deadly wave of the pandemic hit the nation, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

Most Indian states were under lockdown in April and May, and the government has restricted airlines to fly only 50% of their total capacity.


France recorded 57 new deaths on Saturday, adding to the total of 83,547 coronavirus-related deaths in hospital. The country’s health authorities also reported that were 2,525 people in ICU for Covid-19, with Saturday’s figures down by 46.

People watch World War II history enthusiasts in Normandy, on the eve of its 77th anniversary.
People watch second world war history enthusiasts in Normandy, on the eve of its 77th anniversary.
Photograph: David Vincent/AP


Coronavirus has resulted in the deaths of at least 3,714,923 people since the outbreak emerged in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

So far, at least 172,499,930 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

The figures compiled by AFP are based on the daily Covid-19 reports provided by health authorities in each country.

The World Health Organization estimates that the pandemic’s overall toll could be two to three times higher than official records due to the excess mortality that is directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19.

Based on the latest reports, the US is the worst affected country with 597,001 deaths from 33,346,365 cases.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil, with 470,842 deaths from 16,841,408 cases, India with 344,082 deaths from 28,694,879 cases, Mexico with 228,568 deaths from 2,429,631 cases, and Peru with 185,813 deaths from 1,976,166 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared with its population is Peru with 564 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Hungary with 309, Bosnia-Herzegovina with 286, the Czech Republic with 282, and The Republic of North Macedonia with 261.


Ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade group have agreed to speed up the transit of Covid-19 vaccines and related goods at ports, a statement on Saturday said.

Reuters reports that the APEC ministers met in New Zealand, where they also agreed to consider voluntary actions to reduce the cost of vaccines to fight the pandemic.


Italy reports 57 coronavirus deaths

Italy has recorded 57 coronavirus deaths and 2,436 new cases, the Italian health ministry has reported. Saturday’s data is lower than the figures recorded yesterday, with 73 deaths reported on Friday and 2,557 new cases.

Not including those in intensive care, patients in hospital stood at 5,193 on Saturday, down from 5,488 a day earlier.

There were 20 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 22 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 788 from a previous 836.

Nearly 238,632 Covid tests were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 220,939, the health ministry said.


UK records 13 deaths

The UK records 13 new deaths and 5,765 new cases on Saturday, government data showed.

The latest figures had also shown that 40,124,229 had now received their first vaccination shot, and 27,160,635 had received two doses.


An Amazon employee with a dose of the Covishield vaccine during a vaccination program for employees and dependent family members in India.
An Amazon employee with a dose of the Covishield vaccine during a vaccination programme for employees and dependent family members in India.
Photograph: Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

Hi, I’m Edna Mohamed; I’ll be taking you through the next few hours, if I miss anything you can message me on Twitter or drop me an email at edna.mohamed.casual@theguardian



Here’s a brief summary of the major recent developments:

  • A record 600,000 vaccine doses were administered in Italy on Friday. Citing local authorities, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that that put the country in second place in Europe for the number of people fully vaccinated.
  • Going ahead with the UK’s planned reopening on 21 June would be “foolish” and a “major risk”, an expert on an advisory group to the UK government warned. Prof Stephen Reicher said there was enough evidence to say that one of the government’s four key tests for its road map out of lockdown has not been met.
  • India recorded 120,529 new cases in 24 hours as its capital, New Delhi, undertook a partial easing of its lockdown. The city was preparing to deal with an infection peak of 37,000 cases a day, its chief minister said.

That’s it from me – I’m handing over to my colleague, Edna Mohamed.

The people of Glasgow can finally hug loved ones, meet in homes and drink alcohol indoors for the first time in months, after the city dropped to level 2 of Scotland’s coronavirus measures – alongside an easing of restrictions across the country.

While the whole of mainland Scotland was supposed to move to level 1 on Monday, the city will join 13 other council areas in remaining in level 2 for another few weeks.

Announcing the move on Tuesday, the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said that while the level 2 restrictions were “still tough”, they were at least “not lockdown”. She added: “We can go into each other’s homes, we can see hospitality open, stay open indoors, so there are significant steps there.”


The planned scrapping of remaining restrictions in England on 21 June has been thrown into doubt with reports that the government is looking at contingency plans including a two-week delay to allow more adults to be fully vaccinated.

The Telegraph and the Financial Times reported on Saturday that civil servants were drawing up contingency plans to delay the easing lockdown restrictions by two weeks, possibly to 5 July. A senior Whitehall source told the FT:

A variety of options are being drawn up, including a delay to step 4 and trading off some measures against others.

These are the most pressing issues likely to be covered during Hancock’s grilling:

Matt Hancock, the UK’s health secretary, was calling on the government to take Covid more seriously as early as January last year, his allies have claimed, as he prepares to give his full response to explosive accusations over his handling of the pandemic.

Hancock is set to undergo hours of questioning before MPs on Thursday after Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former senior adviser, said the health secretary should have been fired on up to 20 separate occasions for various Covid failings. Cummings’ claim that Hancock misled the prime minister over sending untested hospital patients back to care homes – an allegation he denies – is set to be a key focus of the hearing.

However, with a highly pressurised grilling in prospect, insiders sympathetic to Hancock said he had regularly been one of the cabinet ministers urging most caution on the lifting of Covid restrictions – and had also been calling for the government’s Cobra emergency committee to meet from very early in 2020. They said Hancock had been pushing for quarantine for travellers from China to the UK before official advice supported the idea – when others in government were suggesting they should be allowed to travel home immediately by train.


NHS England data shows a total of 7,254,217 jabs were given to people in London between 8 December and 4 June, including 4,497,648 first doses and 2,756,569 second doses. This compares with 6,287,623 first doses and 4,477,536 second doses given to people in the Midlands, a total of 10,765,159.

The breakdown for the other regions is:

  • East of England: 4,003,822 first doses and 2,777,778 second doses, making 6,781,600 in total
  • North-east and Yorkshire: 5,221,289 first and 3,631,836 second doses (8,853,125)
  • North-west: 4,249,530 first and 2,954,182 second doses (7,203,712)
  • South-east: 5,464,828 first and 3,783,734 second doses (9,248,562)
  • South-west: 3,547,393 first and 2,632,020 second doses (6,179,413)


A further 471,939 vaccine doses have been administered in England in the last 24 hours, according to NHS England data. That took the total in the country between 8 December 2020 and 4 June 2021 to 56,602,996.

NHS England said 150,337 of the new administered shots were first doses and 321,602 were second doses, taking the respective totals to 33,525,485 and 23,077,511.


Italy administers record number of vaccine doses

A record 600,000 vaccine doses were administered in Italy on Friday, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports, citing local authorities. That put the country in second place in Europe for the number of people fully vaccinated.

“Yesterday was marked by a record number of injections in 24 hours which touched the 600,000 mark, while the number of doses administered crossed the 37 million mark,” the government body in charge of vaccinations said on Saturday.

“Italy is in second place in Europe in terms of the number of people fully vaccinated, just behind Germany and ahead of France and Spain,” it added.

According to AFP, it said Friday’s record vaccinations were in part due to an increase in the number of vaccination centres, which now stood at 2,666 against 1,500 at the start of March. About 800 new centres will be opened in the coming weeks.

According to official government figures, 37m vaccine doses have been administered and 12.7 million people – or nearly 24% of the population aged older than 12 years – have been vaccinated.

The pandemic has claimed 126,415 lives in Italy, where the number of cases and deaths has been falling steadily in recent weeks. The government has been slowly easing Covid restrictions, relaxing a night curfew and opening up indoor dining in restaurants and bars.


Progress is being made towards a deal on an intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization (WTO), the US trade representative Katherine Tai said on Saturday.

Backers of a patent waiver for Covid vaccines say it would boost vaccine production and improve delivery to poorer countries.

These countries are battling surges in Covid-19 infections and struggling to access vaccine supplies as well as diagnostics, therapeutics and medical devices.

Tai pointed to a revised proposal from the original proponents of the waiver, led by India and South Africa, as well as principles the EU has come up with to guide how they would like to negotiate the issues, Reuters reports.

In a surprise shift in May, the US moved to supporting a patent waiver, piling pressure on opponents such as the EU and Switzerland, where many drugmakers are based.

Tai told reporters before a meeting of trade ministers in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum:

We’re actually really encouraged to see more WTO members come forth with proposals on what they can support at the WTO with respect to intellectual property rules at the WTO and how they apply to the Covid vaccines.

The latest draft from proponents of the waiver sets a time span for a waiver of at least three years and would allow the WTO’s 164 members to determine when it ends.


A huge queue has formed outside a health centre in Harrow, in London, which is offering jabs to people aged 18 and over.

Belmont health centre in Stanmore, Harrow, is open on Saturday to over-18s who are still waiting for their first vaccine and who live or work in Harrow.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is being administered all day at the walk-in clinic and people do not need to be registered with the practice to get their vaccine.

A queue of people waiting for vaccine outside Belmont health centre in Harrow, London
A queue of people waiting for vaccine outside Belmont health centre in Harrow, London
Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

National eligibility criteria in England states that only those aged 30 and over are invited for their first jab, and it is understood that health officials want to prioritise that cohort in Harrow rather than younger age groups, PA news reports.

But the poster advertising the walk-in centre clearly states that people aged 18 and over can come along, and the majority of people waiting appeared to be in their 20s.

By mid-morning, a huge queue had formed in the area of the health centre, with the line snaking around a car park and stretching down the street.

People queuing for the first dose of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.
People queuing for the first dose of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.
Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Among them were 20-year-old students Jamie Lesser and Daniel Simmons who arrived at around 8.15am.

Lesser said it will be a relief to get the jab, telling the PA news agency: “If all plans go ahead, clubs are going to open in three weeks’ time and we both have plans to go out.”

He said he had clubbing plans for “about five days in a row” if nightclubs open, “making up for the last year and a half”.

Lesser said he found out about Saturday’s walk-in through friends in a group chat who had forwarded on information about it.

The queue for vaccines is snaking around a car park and stretching down the street
The queue for vaccines is snaking around a car park and stretching down the street.
Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

He said:

To be honest we weren’t intending to give up the whole of the Saturday. We were going to go to the gym fairly early … Thought we’d get here very early to avoid the queue, which hasn’t been very successful.

Simmons said that as soon as he saw the chance to get the jab, he thought he would “jump on it”, adding: “I want to get it as soon as possible really.”

Queueing for his jab, Chand Shah, a 25-year-old accountant, said the walk-in centre was “heavily advertised” and he thought it was a “good idea” to get the vaccine before the possible further easing of restrictions on 21 June.

Asked if he expected to get his vaccine so soon, he said: “No. I was expecting August to be honest.”

Shah added: “I think if you get the vaccine you feel safer.”


South Korea’s respect for intellectual property rights makes it an ideal partner for the United States as it seeks to decouple its supply chains from China and forge partnerships to manufacture coronavirus vaccines, a trio of US senators said on Saturday during a visit to Seoul.

The Democrat senators Tammy Duckworth and Chris Coons, and the Republican senator Dan Sullivan, were in South Korea as part of their first official overseas trip since the pandemic began.

After last month’s summit in Washington between Joe Biden and South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in – who was only the second international leader to be welcomed by Biden as president – the senators said their visit was sign of the importance Washington places on South Korea’s role in countering China and shoring up global supply chains amid the pandemic.

Duckworth told a group of reporters:

We can trust in the legal system here, and we can trust that our intellectual property rights will be protected.

South Korea is a logical partner. This is critical whether it is manufacturing [computer] chips or pharmaceuticals.

A day after Biden and Moon met, the US drugmakers Moderna and Novavax entered into a deal with South Korea for its Covid-19 vaccines to be manufactured in the country, which has been seeking to secure more and faster deliveries of US-made vaccines.



Here’s a brief summary of the major recent developments:

  • Going ahead with the UK’s planned reopening on 21 June would be “foolish” and a “major risk”, an expert on an advisory group to the UK government warned. Prof Stephen Reicher said there was enough evidence to say that one of the government’s four key tests for its road map out of lockdown has not been met.
  • India recorded 120,529 new cases in 24 hours as its capital, New Delhi, undertook a partial easing of its lockdown. The city was preparing to deal with an infection peak of 37,000 cases a day, its chief minister said.


Covid-19 policies risk leaving psychological and socioeconomic scars on millions of young people across Europe, with far-reaching consequences for them and society, a wide-ranging Guardian project has revealed.

Taking a snapshot, the Guardian asked five members of Europe’s Generation Z how the worst global pandemic in a century has affected their lives, what they have learned and how they see their future after the pandemic.



The boss of Airlines UK has complained about a lack of transparency and consistency in the government’s changes to travel rules.

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of the industry body that represents UK carriers, said ministers had not kept to promises over a “green watchlist” that would have given travellers increased warning about a country potentially coming off the safe list.

His comments came after the government decided to move Portugal out of the green list and into the amber travel category. It means people arriving in the UK from Portugal after 4am on Tuesday will need to self-isolate at home for 10 days, a change that has left holidaymakers scrambling for expensive return flights in an attempt to beat the quarantine deadline.

Speaking about the “green watchlist” proposal, Alderslade told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

It would be a list of countries that were on the cusp, [where] there was a risk that they would be moving from green to amber, so passengers were aware of that, it was fully transparent and they would be taking that risk when they booked.

It was entirely to stop what happened last summer when countries were moving up and down off the corridor list on a weekly basis and we saw people stranded overseas and then desperate to come home again because they couldn’t afford to quarantine.

It has caused complete pandemonium because we don’t have that watchlist that we were promised by the government and I think with the taskforce, the transparency is not there, we don’t know what has to happen for countries to move from green to amber, or amber to green for that matter.


Everyone aged older than 12 years in specific postcode areas of the English county of Berkshire will be offered PCR testing over the next two weeks from Monday in an effort to tackle the spread of the Delta variant.

Meradin Peachey, the director of public health for Berkshire West, said a “real concern” with this variant is that if it keeps circulating there may be more mutations. She told BBC Breakfast:

What’s happened in the last couple of weeks, especially in the last week, we’ve noticed that a lot of cases now coming through we can’t link to any travellers, which means we now have community transmission.

She said cases are mainly among young people, with “virtually nobody over 60 or anyone who has been vaccinated” affected. She added:

If the variant spreads and becomes even more, it may mutate again and the big concern is that vaccines won’t work. We really want to get people tested and isolated if they’ve got the virus, stop the spread so that we can make sure the vaccination programme works.


Earlier, Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) UK government advisory panel, said ministers had a “difficult call” to make. He told Times Radio:

It’s a hard one. I’m going to be annoying and sit a little bit on the fence on this, as I don’t think it’s our role as epidemiologists to call that.

I think the difficult thing that we have, the difficult situation the government have, is of course if you delay that then of course you’ll get a smaller subsequent wave.

I mean, that’s the case with any control policy – if you leave them in for a longer period of time then it’s going to reduce cases.

But, of course, if you delay that we know that negatively impacts businesses, people’s livelihoods, and so forth.

So, this is the difficult call that they have to make, and all we can do is put together as much evidence as possible and say this is what we expect to happen if you relax on 21 June, this is what we may expect if you delay that by two weeks for example, or four weeks and so on, so they have all the evidence they can to make the decision.


UK’s planned reopening would be ‘foolish’

It is clear that it would be “foolish” and a “major risk” to go ahead with the 21 June reopening, an expert on an advisory group to the UK government has said.

Prof Stephen Reicher said there was enough evidence to say one of the government’s four key tests for its roadmap out of lockdown had not been met, according to the PA news agency.

The member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), which advises the government, said the criteria about the current assessment of the risks not being fundamentally changed by new variants of concern was “not upheld” due to the spread of the Delta variant. Reicher told the news agency:

I think, by the government’s own criteria, it’s quite clear that it would be foolish to proceed on the data that we’ve got at the moment. The risk would be very great indeed. And of course it’s a balance of risks but I think it would be a major risk to go further in opening up.

Again, I make the point that it is about data not dates, and if you make it too much about the dates then you box yourself into a corner and I think that’s what the government has done.


Marton Aszalos, a Hungarian paramedic, and Eniko Tokacs-Mathe, a vet, had to cancel their wedding twice during the pandemic and are finally getting ready for their big day this summer as restrictions are lifted.

Tokacs-Mathe and Aszalos pose during their wedding photoshoot on a water limousine on the Danube
Tokacs-Mathe and Aszalos pose during their wedding photoshoot on a water limousine on the Danube
Photograph: Bernadett Szabó/Reuters

Reuters reports that the couple, who met in 2016 at a clinic where Eniko was working and Marton was then a trainee, say the emotional rollercoaster of the past 18 months has been draining but has made their relationship stronger. Eniko told the news agency:

Because of the pandemic, we had to replan our wedding for the third time; both its date and the venue. The pandemic has also had a serious mental and physical affect on my fiancé as he is an ambulance officer.

Reuters reports that the couple held a civil ceremony a month ago and are preparing for a wedding party with more than 100 guests in the town of Makó, near the Romanian border. Eniko is from Transylvania and many of her relatives will cross to Hungary to attend.

They have been rehearsing their waltz for the wedding night, after a photo shoot on a motor boat on the Danube. Eniko said:

Before, I thought my main worries would be whether we manage the lift in the dance, whether my makeup and hair would look good. But now, I am just happy and hope that all the guests and relatives can make it in health and we can celebrate together.

Many couples are relieved that with 53% of Hungarians vaccinated, they can now go ahead and get married, Reuters reports. Gabor Herendi, a wedding planner, usually handles 30 to 35 weddings a year. But, in 2020, about 70% were postponed to this year. After the long wait, “energies will be multiplied”, he said.


Hawaii will drop its quarantine and testing requirements for travellers once 70% of the state’s population has been vaccinated, the Associated Press reports, citing the governor, David Ige.

The state will also lift its requirement that people wear masks indoors once that level has been reached. The state health department website said 59% of Hawaii’s population had had at least one dose of a vaccine and 52% had finished their dosing regimen. The AP reports:

The state is using its figures, and not those provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to calculate thresholds for lifting restrictions. The health department director, Dr Libby Char, said that’s because Hawaii’s numbers are more accurate. She said it appeared the CDC had been counting some of Hawaii’s doses twice.

Right now, travellers arriving from out of state must spend 10 days in quarantine or, to bypass that quarantine, they must show proof of a negative test taken before departure for the islands.

Once 60% of Hawaii’s population is vaccinated, Ige said, the state will allow travellers to bypass a quarantine requirement as long as they can prove they were vaccinated in the US.

Restrictions on travel between the islands will open up before that.

Ige said that as of 15 June, people will be able to fly inter-island without taking a test or showing proof of vaccination. Also on that date, those who have been vaccinated in Hawaii may bypass quarantine when returning from a trip out of state.


Russia has reported 9,145 new cases, including 2,897 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,117,274. According to Reuters, the government’s taskforce said 399 people had died in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 123,436.


Taiwan has reported 511 new domestic cases, including 35 cases added to totals for recent days. That is up from the 472 domestic infections reported on Friday, Reuters reports.

The agency also reports that Taiwan is in talks with US companies about making their vaccines, following similar talks with European firms, citing the health minister Chen Shih-chung.

Taiwan, like much of the world, has been trying to speed up its vaccination programme following a spike in domestic cases, but has been stymied by global supply shortages.

Chen told reporters that they previously had talks with European companies he did not name about producing their vaccines under licence.

“Only recently have we started to have talks with US companies to see if it’s possible or not to carry out relevant subcontracting work,” he added, without providing details.

Taiwan has ordered around 5m shots from the US firm Moderna, of which 150,000 have arrived. It has ordered 10m shots from the British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca.

Taiwan, also in talks with BioNTech, blames China – which claims the island as its own territory – for blocking a deal with the German company earlier this year.

Johnson & Johnson said on Friday it had been in talks with Taiwan about providing its vaccine since last year.


The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 2,294 to 3,697,927, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) shows, while the reported death toll has risen by 122 to 89,148.


Mexico recorded 206 more deaths on Friday, bringing the total death toll to 228,568, its health ministry has said. Separate government data recently published suggests the real death toll may be at least 60% above the confirmed figure, Reuters has reported.

Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, has reported a small increase in locally acquired cases, as authorities hunt for the source of a new cluster of a highly infectious variant. Reuters reports:

Five new local cases were reported, taking Victoria’s total to 70 in the latest outbreak, as the state capital, Melbourne, entered its second weekend of a hard lockdown, due to end on 10 June. Curbs were eased for the rest of the state on Friday.

Saturday’s count was up from four new locally acquired cases on Friday.

Authorities were alarmed after detecting the highly infectious Delta variant for the first time in Melbourne, sparking concerns cases could surge. There are now seven known cases in the city.

The Delta variant, which has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as among the four variants of concern due to evidence that it spreads more easily, probably caused the latest devastating outbreak in India.

Snap lockdowns, regional border restrictions and strict social distancing rules have helped Australia rein in prior outbreaks and keep its numbers relatively low at just 30,150 cases and 910 deaths.

Victoria’s outbreak, which began on 24 May, has spurred people to join long queues for vaccinations following a slow rollout since February. The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said 20% of the adult population had now had a first dose of a vaccine.


India records more than 100,000 new cases

India’s capital city is preparing to deal with an infection peak of 37,000 cases a day in future, its chief minister has said, as the country as a whole reports 120,529 new cases over the last 24 hours.

According to the Reuters agency, New Delhi’s political leader Arvind Kejriwal announced a partial easing of a lockdown, while the city is also preparing for oxygen storage capacity of 420 tons, and will set up genome sequencing labs to study coronavirus variants.

Citing the federal health ministry, the agency reported 3,380 more deaths across India in 24 hours and said the tally of infections stood at 28.69 million and the death toll at 344,082.

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