Coronavirus latest news: Keep restrictions in place ‘for a few more weeks’, PM urged by public health expert
Boris Johnson has been urged by a public health expert to keep restrictions in place “for a few more weeks” to “stop us going backwards” into another lockdown.
Jim McManus, the vice-president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, has said that the current restrictions should be kept going four four more weeks, and that if we “invest that little bit of time to keep us going forwards, it will stop us going backwards”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the “uneven and rapid” spread of the new more-transmissible Delta variant means that the Prime Minister should delay the planned June 21 reopening.
Mr McManus said data, and not dates, should be behind the final decision, adding: “Patience now will pay off in the long run.”
The latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England, published on Thursday, showed case rates had risen in nearly all age groups in England and more than doubled among 20 to 29-year-olds.
Mr McManus said: “Covid is not going to disappear on the 21st of June and lifting all measures as early as the 21st risks reversing the significant progress we have made.
“The complete lifting of measures on the 21st of June not only risks an increase in cases and hospitalisation, but risks the introduction of new variants to the UK which will undermine our vaccination programme and derail our path back to normality.”
We need to be ‘really careful’ when deciding whether to reopen, says vaccines minister
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi stressed the importance of being “really careful” when asked about the possibility of a delay to the June 21 lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England.
“There has been some really hard won battles against this virus and we don’t want to squander those hard fought gains that we have made through the vaccination programme,” he told Times Radio Breakfast.
“In saying that, the virus hasn’t gone away, the virus will continue to attempt to mutate, to escape, to try and survive, and I think it’s really important that we are really careful.”
Pushing back June 21 reopening would ‘stop us going backwards’
Jim McManus, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said that pushing back the June 21 reopening would “stop us going backwards”.
“Businesses and organisations have done so well in reopening that if we just keep that going for a few more weeks, and invest that little bit of time to keep us going forwards, it will stop us going backwards,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“If you get enough people infected, you will get a rise in hospitalisations. You will also get a significant rise in long Covid, which is something we want to avoid too.
“The second thing is that the more people infected, the more variants will develop, and the more risk we have that a variant will develop that evades the vaccine completely.
“So actually, investing a bit of time is really important to enable the vaccine programme to finish and do its job.”
Heathrow lost more than six million passengers in May compared with the same month in 2019.
Just 675,000 people travelled through the London airport last month, a 90pc reduction on the total for May 2019.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “With the G7 starting today, ministers have a chance to kickstart the green global recovery by agreeing how to resume international travel safely and setting a mandate for sustainable aviation fuels that will decarbonise aviation.
“This is the time for them to show global leadership.”
UK economy grew in April at fatest level since July 2020
The easing of coronavirus restrictions saw the UK economy grow in April at the fastest level since July 2020 but it still remains below pre-pandemic levels, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Gross domestic product (GDP) – a measure of the size of the economy – rose 2.3pc driven by a 3.4pc rise in the services sector as restaurants, pubs and non-essential retailers welcomed customers back. It was tempered by a fall in construction, the ONS added.
Commenting on the latest GDP figures for April, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Today’s figures are a promising sign that our economy is beginning to recover.
“With more than a million people coming off furlough across March and April and the number of employees in work rising, it is clear that our Plan for Jobs is working.
“But I know there are people who still need our support, which is why the furlough scheme is in place until September to protect as many jobs as possible, and schemes like Kickstart will continue to create jobs for young people, as we look to build the economy of the future.”
Australia’s Victoria reports zero cases as lockdown ends
Australia’s Victoria state reported zero locally acquired cases of Covid-19 for the first time in nearly three weeks on Friday as state capital Melbourne came out of a snap two-week lockdown after an outbreak that has seen about 90 cases since May 24.
Melbourne exited the lockdown on Thursday night but some restrictions on travel and gathering will remain, including a rule that would force the city’s five million residents to stay within 25 km (15 miles) of their homes.
Neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) state and Queensland, meanwhile, are on virus alert after an infected woman and her husband travelled from Victoria through several country towns in both states.
China’s government said on Friday that it welcomed Taiwanese to come and get vaccinated against Covid-19 and called on Taiwan to remove obstacles and allow its people to receive the “highly effective” Chinese shots.
China claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory and has repeatedly offered to send vaccines to the island, which is battling a spike in domestic infections but has expressed concern about the safety of Chinese shots and has not cleared them for use.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement two Chinese-made vaccines had been granted emergency use authorisation by the World Health Organisation and its shots were in use or approved by more than 90 countries, showing their safety and efficacy.
Taiwan people can come to China to get vaccinated against Covid-19, provided they strictly comply with China’s pandemic control measures, the office said.
It urged Taiwan’s government to “quickly remove artificial obstacles for mainland vaccines being sent to Taiwan and allow the broad mass of Taiwan compatriots to receive the safe and highly effective mainland vaccines”.
Brazil plans to allow vaccinated people to not wear face masks
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that the health minister was preparing a measure to no longer require face masks for people who have been vaccinated for the coronavirus or previously infected.
Mr Bolsonaro, who has opposed lockdowns and social distancing despite his country having the second-deadliest outbreak, said in a speech that quarantines should be only for infected people.
“They are useful for people who are infected,” he said, adding: “Quarantines are for those who are infected.”
Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said Mr Bolsonaro has asked him for a study on the use of masks in Brazil.
The minister, however, testified this week before a Senate commission of inquiry that masks should be used to prevent transmission.
World’s first organ transplant from Covid-positive to negative patient
The world’s first organ transplant from a Covid-positive patient to a Covid-negative one has taken place in the Italian city of Bologna, writes Erica Di Blasi in Turin.
The operation took place in late April but news emerged only on Thursday. Normally transplants from Covid sufferers are banned by the Italian health authorities but this operation “was necessary to save the life of the recipient”, said the Sant’Orsola hospital in Bologna, where the surgery took place. The patient was discharged in good health on June 1.
A second heart transplant from a Covid sufferer was made to a 15-year-old boy at the Child Jesus hospital of Rome. He had been on the waiting list for a heart since September last year. A compatible organ was identified last month but it was from a donor who had the virus. Again, special authorisation from Italy’s National Transplant Centre and the Italian Medicines Agency was needed.
The boy has been treated with monoclonal antibodies to minimise the risk of developing Covid.