The pressure to get England’s Covid restrictions dropped on 21 June is coming from several quarters, not least those sectors of the hospitality industry that are still unable to open their doors.
CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, Michael Kill, has been pushing for earlier clarification of when reopening might happen. He told Sky News:
Nine out of ten late night businesses feel that veering off the roadmap would threaten their survival. 95% of businesses have already made financial commitments in terms of stock, staff and entertainment. So this is a key time, and the government really needs to step up and make it very clear exactly what their intentions are.
The UK’s small businesses minister Paul Scully has been on LBC this morning reiterating the message from the government that people in the UK should use “caution” in the face of the growing number of cases of the “Delta” variant of coronavirus – the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India. He stressed again that no decision would be taken until 14 June, saying:
I know for some people that won’t be quick enough, but we’ve got to make sure that we are working with the latest data, accurate data. Scientists have to be able to go through this with a fine tooth comb, because it’s a really really important decision that affects so many people.
Pressed about whether the country was in fact seeing increased hospitalisations and what the threat to the NHS currently was, he said:
We’ve just got to make sure that we are looking forward to see what happens in the next few weeks and months in terms of that modelling, based on the data. Because what we do know is that when case rates go up, hospitalisations to date have also gone up. But the vaccination progress is still continuing with 63 million vaccinations and that is what is going to help us win this race.
Eddie Blake writes for us this morning, asking what should Britain’s memorial to the Covid pandemic look like?
Memorials aim to be an eloquent last word on an event. A key quality is that they resist change: they attempt to fix for us an abiding sense of what exactly has happened. They can be many things: columns, tombs, plaques, cenotaphs, village halls, even housing. But who are they for? The people who suffered, their families, the wider public or future generations?
At some point, inevitably, there will be an official, national memorial of the pandemic in the UK (as well as many more, surely, at local and international levels). What, then, should it look like? It will have to contend with how messy the past year has been – the death, the sorrow, the fear, but also the ensuing political and social division. Perhaps through all of that, memorialisation can play a therapeutic role.
Memorials naturally remove some of the complexity of the past, replacing it with something smoother, better suited to a broad audience: the tomb of the Unknown Warrior doesn’t address one specific loss, so it can talk of all loss. Because of this universal ambition it is vital public memorials hit the right tone – being both honest and broadly interpretable, tending to avoid friction. As a result, though, memorials can feel as if they don’t talk to you directly or seem too vague. But at a time when narratives are brutally contested, it seems unlikely that a pandemic memorial will avoid controversy, no matter how skilful the architect.
Prof Adam Finn, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, is a second expert in the UK on the airwaves today warning against further easing of domestic restrictions on 21 June. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s vulnerability across the country. The idea that somehow the job is done, is wrong.
“We’ve still got a lot of people out there who’ve neither had this virus … nor yet been immunised, and that’s why we’re in a vulnerable position right now.”
PA Media reports Finn added: “There are a lot of people who are very fed up about the idea of us even worrying about this. Since I’ve been saying in the last 24 hours that we should be cautious I’ve been getting lots of messages from people telling me to shut up basically.
“But the truth is that a more infectious virus, which is what it looks like we’ve got, will reach people who are vulnerable – those who did not make a good response to the vaccine, those who have not yet had their doses – and that will be a problem for everyone because in the end it will be worse economically as well as for public health if we end up having to shut down again.”
China locks down part of Guangzhou amid outbreak of ‘Delta’ Covid variant
Chinese authorities in Guangdong province have cancelled flights and locked down communities in response to what is believed to be the first community outbreak of the “Delta” or Indian variant in China.
Guangdong province had been reporting daily single figures of local cases, including asymptomatic cases, for more than a week, until the case load suddenly jumped to 23 on Monday, including three asymptomatic cases, and 11 on Tuesday. Most of Guandong’s cases are in the city of Guangzhou, with some in nearby Foshan, which has a population of 7.2 million.
“In this race against the virus, we must run a bit ahead and run faster than before in order to block the spread of the virus and cut off the infection chain in time,” said Huang Guanglie, director of the Guangzhou municipal health commission.
Guangzhou deputy mayor, Li Ming, said the strain had a short incubation period, a high viral load, and spread quickly. However she said that the trajectory was “under control”.
In response hundreds of flights at the busy Guangdong Baiyun international airport have been cancelled, and authorities ordered some streets in the Liwan neighbourhood of Guangzhou city to isolate at home, with only one person per household allowed out to buy daily necessities.
On Sunday, all 15.3 million Guangzhou residents were barred from leaving via bus, air or train without a green code on the health management app and a negative Covid test taken in the preceding 72 hours.
Read more of Helen Davidson’s report here: China locks down part of Guangzhou amid outbreak of Indian Covid variant
Malaysia has begun a tough nationwide lockdown to battle a worsening coronavirus outbreak, AFP reports, as countries across Southeast Asia struggle with a resurgence in cases driven by infectious variants.
Much of the region escaped the pandemic’s first wave last year relatively unscathed by rapidly closing borders and introducing curbs.
But countries from Thailand to Vietnam are being hammered by fresh surges, with efforts to quell outbreaks hampered by slow vaccine rollouts and populations weary of restrictions.
Malaysia is among the worst hit. Of almost 2,800 deaths from Covid-19 recorded in the country of 32 million since the start of the pandemic, over 40 percent were in May alone.
More than 570,000 infections have been reported, with a string of new daily records last week.
As well as variants, the outbreak has been fanned by gatherings in the Muslim-majority country during the holy month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday, often in defiance of coronavirus rules.
Under what authorities have termed a “total lockdown” in force from Tuesday, only essential businesses – such as supermarkets and medical clinics – can operate, people can only go outside for necessities, and most schools are closed.
Travel between most parts of the country had already been banned for months.
Just following up on Prof Ravi Gupta’s words there with a quick check on the UK government’s own coronavirus dashboard, and we can see that with data in from 31 May now, that the rolling seven-day averages of cases, deaths and hospitalisations are all up – all admittedly from a baseline much lower than was in the earlier peak of the second wave of the virus. You can have look for yourself here.
A leading scientific adviser to the UK government has repeated calls to delay the 21 June lifting of restrictions by “a few weeks”, warning the coronavirus’s ability to adapt in the face of vaccines has still left the UK in a vulnerable position.
Prof Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said the increased socialisation which has followed last month’s phase of restriction lifting could be expected to lead to “quite a lot” of hospital admissions.
PA Media reports that he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that while the nation had performed “amazingly well” in its vaccination programme, it was still too early “to put the vaccine straight up against the virus”.
Gupta said a delay of a few weeks to the 21 June target could have a significant impact on Britain’s battle against the pandemic, and recommended it should be made clear to the public that it would be a temporary measure based on recent events, chiefly the emergence of the newly-designated “Delta variant”, which we had previously been calling the B.1.617.2 strain of the virus or the variant that was first detected in India.
“Even a month delay could have a big impact on the eventual outcome of this,” said Prof Gupta.
He continued: “As long as it’s clear to people this is not an unlimited extension of the lockdown but actually just a reassessment, that would be realistic.
“Because we didn’t plan for the 617.2 variant when the initial roadmap was made, and actually things have gone really well except for the fact that we have this new variant to complicate things.
“We must remember this is a virus that does adapt, and faced with vaccines it will eventually start to make mutations to avoid them even further, and then we could be in an even more precarious situation after that.”
Vietnam is seeking to buy Covid-19 vaccine production technology and wants to build a plant to supply the Covax programme, Reuters reports, as the country tries to step up vaccinations to stem a new outbreak of infections.
India and South Africa are among developing countries that have been pushing for an intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines. But even with a surprise US shift last month to support a waiver World Trade Organization talks on the issue on Monday failed to achieve a breakthrough.
“Vietnam would build the plant and would like to receive the patent so it could supply vaccines to Covax, to other countries as well as to Vietnam,” the health ministry said in a statement, following a meeting with Covax representatives overnight.
India has reported its lowest daily rise in new coronavirus infections since 8 April at 127,510 cases over the past 24 hours, while deaths rose by 2,795, Reuters reports.
The South Asian nation’s tally of infections now stands at 28.2 million, while the death toll has reached 331,895, health ministry data showed.
That’s it from me, Helen Livingstone, for today. I’m handing over to my colleague Martin Belam in London.
Here’s a quick roundup of what’s been happening so far:
- Peru has revised its official Covid-19 death toll to 180,764, nearly triple the previous official figure of 69,342, following a government review that shows the severity of the outbreak in the country.
- As new coronavirus variants continue to be discovered, the World Health Organization has revealed new names, after the letters of the Greek alphabet, to simplify the discussion around the variants and avoid stigma.
- Australia’s drug regulator says it may refer anti-vaccination Facebook posts to federal police after anti-vaccine campaigners targeted an MP who posted about getting the jab.
- Australia’s federal court has rejected a bid by a rightwing thinktank to overturn the country’s ban on outbound travel.
- US gun sales spiked during the pandemic and continue to rise, with first-time buyers making up more than a fifth of those who purchased guns
- Germany has pledged to crack down on fraud in coronavirus test centres, after evidence that some have been claiming for more tests than they have carried out.
- Scientists are urging the government to speed up second doses of Covid vaccines and delay a decision on easing lockdown restrictions in England on 21 June in an effort to tackle the creeping spread of new cases.
- France has opened up vaccines to all adults a week before Germany, as Europe rushed to avoid another wave of infections caused by new virus variants.
- Vietnam has announced the suspension of incoming international flights to its capital and tightened restrictions in its biggest city. The inbound flight suspension to Hanoi will apply from 1-7 June.
- Travellers from the UK will have to provide “compelling reasons” to enter France from Monday, as French authorities tighten curbs to halt the spread of the Indian Covid variant.
- The European Commission has proposed that all EU countries gradually ease travel measures over the summer.
- School closures in England during the Covid lockdown badly damaged the mental health of mothers but had no impact on fathers’ wellbeing, research has found.
Here’s a sobering, but important, feature by Guardian contributor V on the ways in which the pandemic has erased women’s rights and left them vulnerable to violence. She writes,
All over the world, patriarchy has taken full advantage of the virus to reclaim power – on the one hand, escalating the danger and violence to women, and on the other, stepping in as their supposed controller and protector.
And in more Australia-related Covid news, the country’s drug regulator is considering referring Covid vaccine misinformation posts to the federal police, after anti-vaccine campaigners targeted an MP who posted about getting the jab.
In response to a viral post of Labor backbencher Julian Hill receiving his vaccine, numerous users posted false material purportedly from the Therapeutic Goods Administration wrongly claiming Covid-19 vaccines have caused more than 200 deaths.
The figure they used was in fact the number of people who have died after receiving the vaccine, but apart from one case, none have been linked by the TGA to the vaccine.
The TGA told Guardian Australia the alleged posting of the death counter was “particularly concerning” and it would consider referring it to the federal police.
If you’re looking for something to listen to, the latest edition of Today in Focus is here! In it, our Tokyo correspondent Justin McCurry talks to Anushka Asthana about the widespread opposition to the Olympic Games in Japan and whether the movement to cancel them can overcome huge commercial interests.
Hello, and welcome to today’s coronavirus live news blog with me, Helen Livingstone.
Peru has revised its official Covid-19 death toll to 180,764, nearly triple the previous official figure of 69,342, following a government review that shows the severity of the outbreak in the country.
As new coronavirus variants continue to be discovered, the World Health Organisation has revealed new names, after the letters of the Greek alphabet, to simplify the discussion around the variants and avoid stigma.
And Australia’s drug regulator says it may refer anti-vaccination Facebook posts to federal police after anti-vaccine campaigners targeted an MP who posted about getting the jab.
Here’s a roundup of what’s been happening over the past 24 hours: