Coronavirus latest news: School bubbles set to end from July 19, Gavin Williamson announces

·48 min read

School bubbles and a raft of other Covid restrictions in education settings are set to be dropped from July 19, Gavin Williamson has announced.

Speaking to the Commons, the Education Secretary said that school bubbles are causing "disruption to many children's education" and will be replaced in order to allow children to "get the education they deserve and need".

Mr Williamson announced that restrictions including staggering start and finish times, the recommendation of wearing face masks in school settings, and social distancing will be removed.

Headteachers will also no longer have to conduct tracing of contacts within schools when outbreaks do occur, with the responsibility handed to NHS Test and Trace. And from August 16, children will only need to isolate if they have tested positive.

However, the Education Secretary noted that some measures would need to remain in place next term, including enhanced hygiene and ventilation.

Schools will also need to carry out testing programmes, with two tests required on site at the start of term, with regular home testing continuing until the end of September, when it will be reviewed.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

05:57 PM

Here's a recap of today's top news:

  • Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, announced that from the 16 August fully-vaccinated people will no longer need to self isolate unless they test positive for Covid-19, and also warned that cases could top 100,000 a day in the summer as life returns to normal

  • Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, announced that school bubbles will be scrapped from 19 July, face-to-face teaching can resume at universities and under-18s would be exempt from isolation unless they test positive

  • ONS data suggested that 12 per cent of last year's deaths were from Covid

  • Germany and Finland will no longer require fully-vaccinated foreign travellers to quarantine

05:49 PM

Face mask debate continues: scientists have their say

Dr Simon Kolstoe, senior lecturer in evidence-based healthcare at the University of Portsmouth, said although there is "justification" for relaxing many restrictions, the recent rise in cases remains "worrying" - and face masks should stay.

He said: "Face masks... are a proven health intervention that reduces the spread of coronavirus... Maintaining widespread use of face masks would be a reasonable and proportionate precaution to keep in place - ideally mandatory when in confined, crowded and poorly ventilated places such as public transport."

Dr Raghib Ali, senior clinical research associate at the University of Cambridge, said the "harms of Covid need to be balanced against the harms from restrictions".

"On balance, I think there is now a reasonable case to move from restrictions to guidance," he said.

Professor Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said the move was a "big gamble" and it would have been "far better to have maintained some mandatory restrictions (e.g. face masks in crowded spaces such as shops and public transport) and waited until a greater proportion of the population is fully vaccinated."

05:30 PM

Japan to ship millions more Covid vaccines to Taiwan and others

Japan said it will ship millions more doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to its Asian neighbours this week.

Japan will send 1.13 million more doses to Taiwan on Thursday, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters at a press conference, after delivering 1.24 million doses last month.

A further 1 million doses each will be sent to Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam this week, following earlier donations to Indonesia and Malaysia, Motegi said.

People wait to get vaccinated in Tokyo, Japan on 30 June 2021 - Carl Court/Getty
People wait to get vaccinated in Tokyo, Japan on 30 June 2021 - Carl Court/Getty

05:01 PM

Finland to allow fully-vaccinated foreign travellers

Finland has said foreign travellers will be allowed to enter without quarantine if they have had both jabs, can show they have had Covid-19 within the last six months, or come from a country with a low infection rate.

Anyone else will have to take a Covid-19 test before departure, then self-isolate on arrival and take another test after three days.

04:58 PM

CEPI to fund study of Covid vaccine efficacy among immunosuppressed

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has announced that it will co-fund a study to assess the immune response to Covid-19 vaccination in patients aged 18 and over who are immunosuppressed or who have received an organ transplant and are receiving immunosuppressive medication.

Study participants will include those who have received an organ transplant, patients with depleted levels of B-cells, patients with immunodeficiency, patients with autoimmune disease, and patients receiving anti-inflammatory drugs.

CEPI will provide $3.1 million in funding for the trial, with an additional $3.6 million coming from a consortium of Norwegian health organisations including the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Diakonhjemmet Hospital and Akershus University Hospital.

At least 6,000 patients and 10,000 healthy participants who have received two-doses of a Covid-19 vaccine will be recruited in Norway.

04:30 PM

Stop ‘dodging questions’ over lockdown, Scottish Tory leader tells SNP

SNP ministers must stop "dodging questions" about the easing of lockdown in Scotland and what the new normal will look like, the Tories have said, after Boris Johnson unveiled details of his plan for England.

Douglas Ross said Kate Forbes, the Scottish Finance Secretary, had refused during an interview to provide a "concrete guarantee" that the entire country would move to the lowest tier of restrictions on July 19.

The Scottish Tory leader also said that she had failed to make clear when directly challenged what restrictions would continue and when they would be removed.

04:09 PM

Lifting all restrictions at once is 'very, very risky', says former chief scientific adviser

Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser, said he "can't quite believe" that all Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted at once and described it as a "very, very risky way forward".

Sir David told Sky News that he was concerned because in addition to a rise in cases meaning a rise in deaths and a heightened risk of new variants, it will also increase the number of people suffering from long Covid.

One million people in the UK have suffered from long Covid, he said, and many "will suffer from life-shortening due to the impact on their inner organs".

"Yes vaccination is very successful, but for a government to rely on only one means of tackling this pandemic seems remarkable," he said.

"I would never lift all the restrictions in one step and I simply cannot understand why we would remove the need for face masks and two-metres distance apart. If we lift all of these restrictions at once, there's an enormous risk we'll have to come back into restrictions again."

03:46 PM

EU orders almost 40 million more Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Countries in the European Union have ordered nearly 40 million additional doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson, a spokesman for the EU Commission said.

The move signals a display of confidence in the efficacy of the single-dose vaccine, but also shows caution, as the order placed is far below what was originally proposed under the contract.

EU nations initially ordered 200 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and under the contract could buy up to another 200 million optional doses.

A man receives a Covid-19 vaccine in Sant Vicenc de Casteller, Spain on 6 July 2021 - Albert Gea/Reuters
A man receives a Covid-19 vaccine in Sant Vicenc de Casteller, Spain on 6 July 2021 - Albert Gea/Reuters

03:29 PM

Unite to meet with Sadiq Khan regarding face masks

Trade union Unite is seeking an urgent meeting with London mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) to discuss the rules on face masks.

Unite regional secretary for London Pete Kavanagh said bus workers are "rightly worried for their safety following the Government's reckless announcement".

He continued: "Unite is seeking urgent meetings with Sadiq Khan and the senior figures at Transport for London to argue that the rules on wearing face masks must continue in London at least while cases of Covid continue to grow.

"Mandatory face masking protects drivers and passengers from the transmission of Covid, it is a basic safety measure and it should be maintained."

03:26 PM

Evidence suggests natural origins for Covid, say scientists

The strongest evidence available to date suggests the coronavirus pandemic emerged via a natural spillover event, according to a letter to The Lancet from two dozen scientists.

The article – a follow up to a now-controversial piece published in February 2020 – argues there is currently no “scientifically validated evidence” pointing towards a laboratory-related incident, and warns that “allegations and conjecture” will not aid efforts to uncover the origins of Sars-Cov-2.

The letter is signed by prominent scientists including Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the UK’s Sage advisory group, Dr Christian Drosten, a key figure in Germany’s pandemic response and Dr Josie Golding, epidemics lead at the Wellcome Trust.

It is also signed by Dr Peter Daszak – the president of the EcoHealth Alliance and a member of the World Health Organization’s investigation into pandemic origins – who last month “recused himself” from a separate Lancet inquiry into Sars-Cov-2 due to his previous work with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

03:23 PM

More cases leading to 'level of population immunity', says JCVI member

Professor Robert Dingwall, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, has suggested that the current high levels of Covid-19 infection in England are moving the country closer to achieving herd immunity.

Prof Dingwall told Sky News: "I think what we've done is underestimate the level of immunity in the population by concentrating solely on the vaccine rollout.

"If you look at the Office for National Statistics data, over 80 per cent of the population have measurable levels of antibodies either from vaccination or from previous infection.

"It may sound like a hard and callous thing to say, but every person who gets infected is taking us towards that target of a level of population immunity where the virus just runs out of people to infect and where we are all of us protected against the most serious infections."

He said people will instead get "mild infections" and have them "recurrently" but the system of track, trace and isolate will become "irrelevant".

03:20 PM

UK records 28,773 new Covid cases and 37 deaths

The UK has recorded 28,773 new cases of Covid-19 and 37 deaths.

It marks the highest daily number of cases since 29 January and the largest number of deaths since 23 April.

03:03 PM

Health service buckles in Myanmar under Covid surge

Nine months pregnant, and gasping for breath, Myat Thu Zar was rushed to three hospitals on the day she died, but none were able to save the young mother or her child.

“This was to be our first baby and now she’s gone with her mother and left me alone forever,” said Myo Myint Aung, her grieving husband. “I hope Covid will end soon. In our village every house has Covid patients. There is no medical worker to help with oxygen support.”

Five months after the military seized power from the civilian government in Myanmar, the country’s healthcare system is in a state of collapse.

The struggle to get treatment during a surge in Covid-19 cases is one of the clearest signs that most citizens are now deprived of basic medical services, while treatment for chronic diseases and health emergencies is also no longer guaranteed.

02:43 PM

Gavin Williamson: Nobody wants to see school testing 'in perpetuity'

Gavin Williamson said "none of us wish to see testing in perpetuity" in schools although suggested it could be required in the longer term to help take a "cautious and careful approach".

The Education Secretary told the Commons: "If there are concerns and there's a continued need in order to be able to have testing in schools then we would of course look at doing this because the most important thing, I think for all of us, is to ensure that schools remain open and pupils are in those schools."

Conservative MP Mark Harper asked: "When schools return in September, every adult will have had the chance to be vaccinated once at least, which provides the bulk of protection so why is regular testing still going to continue, perhaps forever?"

02:31 PM

Greater Sydney area to remain in lockdown for extra week

Greater Sydney will remain in lockdown for an extra week, with schools no longer set to reopen as expected after the holiday break, as several Australian states attempt to suppress growing Covid-19 outbreaks.

Empty tables and chairs are seen at a closed restaurant near the Sydney Opera House on 6 July 2021 - Bianca De Marchi/AFP
Empty tables and chairs are seen at a closed restaurant near the Sydney Opera House on 6 July 2021 - Bianca De Marchi/AFP

The Guardian reports that the state's premier Gladys Berejiklian will announce on Wednesday that existing restrictions will remain in place until midnight on 16 July.

Sydney, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour had been scheduled to emerge from lockdown this Friday.

02:22 PM

Vaccine rollout must go 'hell for leather' to suppress Covid, says Prof Whitty

Professor Chris Whitty has said the vaccine rollout and attempts to suppress Covid-19 infection rates must go "hell for leather" in order to prevent a significant increase in long Covid sufferers.

England's chief medical officer told the Local Government Association's Annual Conference: "Since there's a lot of Covid at the moment and the rates are going up I regret to say I think we will get a significant amount of long Covid, particularly in the younger ages where the vaccination rates are currently much lower.

"Fundamentally, the two ways to prevent long Covid in my view are to keep Covid rates right down and to make sure everyone is vaccinated so they get very mild disease, and I think we really just need to push hell for leather for those two.

"The deaths from Covid, I think, are mercifully going to be much lower in this wave compared to the previous ones as a proportion of cases but long Covid remains, I think, a worry.

"We don't know how big an issue it's going to be but I think we should assume it's not going to be trivial."

02:14 PM

Germany should lift all remaining restrictions by end of August

Germany should lift all remaining Covid-19 restrictions as soon as the entire population has been offered a vaccine, foreign minister Heiko Maas was quoted as saying this morning.

Around 56.5 per cent of people in Germany have received at least one dose and almost 39 per cent are fully vaccinated, according to health ministry data.

“When everyone in Germany has received a vaccine offer, there is no longer a legal or political justification for any kind of restriction,” Maas told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. That should occur sometime during August, he added.

02:05 PM

Face masks: Will Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and others wear them after July 19?

01:49 PM

Adults in England's poorest areas 3.7 times more likely to die from Covid, study finds

Working-age adults in England's poorest areas are more than three times as likely to die from Covid-19 than those in the most affluent parts of the country, a study has found.

Researchers said health and wealth are "inextricably connected", with the coronavirus mortality rate 3.7 times higher for under-65s living in the most deprived neighbourhoods.

The Health Foundation said adults living there in their 50s and 60s were twice as likely to have at least two pre-existing long-term health conditions, such as lung disease or diabetes. This left them at greater risk when the pandemic hit.

01:34 PM

Global vaccine rollout, in pictures

Valenzuela City, Philippines

Healthcare workers ride on a makeshift raft to administer vaccines to bedridden citizens in Valenzuela City, Philippines on 6 July 2021 - Lisa Marie David/Reuters
Healthcare workers ride on a makeshift raft to administer vaccines to bedridden citizens in Valenzuela City, Philippines on 6 July 2021 - Lisa Marie David/Reuters

Moscow, Russia

People wait at a mobile vaccination site at the Gostiny Dvor exhibition centre in MOscow, Russia on 6 July 2021 - Sergei Savostyanov/TASS
People wait at a mobile vaccination site at the Gostiny Dvor exhibition centre in MOscow, Russia on 6 July 2021 - Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

La Paz, Bolivia

A group of clowns entertain people while queuing for a Covid-19 vaccine in La Paz, Bolivia on 5 July 2021 - Martin Alipaz/Shutterstock
A group of clowns entertain people while queuing for a Covid-19 vaccine in La Paz, Bolivia on 5 July 2021 - Martin Alipaz/Shutterstock

01:05 PM

Why I won't wear a face mask after July 19: The new Freedom Day divide

12:42 PM

Gavin Williamson: School restrictions will end from July 19

Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, is addressing the Commons as he sets out plans for schools, colleges, early years centres, childcare and universities under Step Four of the lockdown roadmap.

Mr Williamson confirmed that restrictions will end on July 19 and from August 16 only children who test positive for Covid-19 will need to self isolate.

Gavin Williamson addresses the Commons today - Sky News
Gavin Williamson addresses the Commons today - Sky News

"Children are better off in their classroom, with their friends and teachers," he added, noting that "they have given up so much to keep the older generation safe".

He said the "greatest single act" to help children's mental health was to get them back to school in March, and that school bubbles are "causing disruption to many children's education" and will be scrapped and replaced with contact tracing, with staggered start times also to be removed.

He added that fully-vaccinated teachers "will be able to remain in the classroom from the autumn term" and can also avoid self-isolation.

12:35 PM

South Korea to get 700,000 vaccine doses from Israel

South Korea said it will receive 700,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine from Israel on loan this week, in an attempt to try and boost immunisation amid a surge in cases near capital city Seoul.

More than 1,000 cases were reported as of 6pm on Tuesday, the highest figure since December, officials said.

Under the vaccine swap arrangement announced by both governments on Tuesday, South Korea will give Israel back the same number of shots, already on order from Pfizer, in September and October.

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said the deal will allow South Korea to speed up its vaccination plans, including providing jabs to employees in sectors that have a high amount of contact with other people.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said it is a “win-win deal” that will help both countries to “beat the pandemic”.

12:07 PM

Covid-related pupil absence in English schools at record high

Covid-related pupil absence in schools in England has hit a new record high since all students returned to class in March, Government figures show.

Around 8.5 per cent of state school pupils did not attend class for Covid-19-related reasons on July 1, up from 5.1 per cent on June 24 and 3.3 per cent on June 17, according to Department for Education (DfE) statistics.

These include approximately 561,000 children self-isolating due to a possible contact with a Covid-19 case, 34,000 pupils with a suspected case of coronavirus and 28,000 with a confirmed case of Covid-19.

12:02 PM

Vaccine success marks time 'to start moving away' from face masks

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, responded to a request by Labour's Jonathan Ashworth for a U-turn on face masks by saying "there is a role for masks" in a pandemic", but "when you have the best vaccine programme in the world you need to start moving away from those restrictions".

Mr Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said vulnerable people will have their "freedoms curtailed" because of concerns that will arise when face masks become voluntary.

He added: "Let's have a U-turn on mask-wearing. Let's have freedom, but not a high risk free-for all."

Mr Javid responded that "as the shadow health secretary, he should be just as concerned about non-Covid problems as he is about Covid problems".

11:57 AM

Sajid Javid: 'We must balance the risks'

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said "after the 18 months we have all endured" he took pleasure in talking about a world without "the blunt world of rules" and restrictions.

"I understand some people are cautious about the idea of easing restrictions, but we must balance the risks," he said.

"This pandemic is far from over and we will proceed with caution, but we are increasingly confidence that our plan is working."

In addition to self-isolation rules ending for fully-vaccinated adults and under-18s, Mr Javid confirmed the same rule will apply to those returning from amber countries, but said Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, will set out details later this week.

11:49 AM

Sajid Javid: 'Odds have shifted in our favour' thanks to vaccines

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, is delivering his second address to the Commons in two days, and has confirmed that self-isolation rules will lift for fully-vaccinated adults on the 16 August.

He said the 'odds have shifted in our favour' thanks to the vaccination programme, with both doses reducing symptomatic infection by almost 80 per cent.

From August 16, when even more people will have had both doses, "anyone who is a close contact of a positive case will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been fully vaccinated".

People will have to wait two weeks after getting the jab to assume this new freedom, he adds.

Sajid Javid speaks in the Commons - Parliament TV 
Sajid Javid speaks in the Commons - Parliament TV

People who test positive for Covid-19 will still have to self-isolate regardless of their vaccination status, while under-18s will be exempt from isolation rules from the same date and will instead be contacted with advice about testing depending on their age, and will only have to self-isolate if they test positive.

11:20 AM

Westfield White City to 'encourage guests' to wear masks

Jacinta Rowsell, manager of the Westfield Shopping Centre in White City, says the company will still "encourage guests" to wear masks, the BBC reports.

"We are very focused on the fact that guests coming to the centre want to feel safe," she said.

Individual shops "may implement their own policy" on masks, she added.

11:16 AM

US sends two million Covid vaccine doses to Vietnam

The US sent Vietnam two million doses of Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, the White House said.

The Moderna vaccine shipment should arrive in Vietnam this weekend, an anonymous official told AFP.

"This is just the beginning of doses being shipped to southeast Asia," the official said.

They added that the delivery to Vietnam, made through the World Health Organisation's Covax program, is part of a strategy aimed at "ending the pandemic everywhere."

A million doses went to Malaysia on Monday and last week the White House announced delivery "soon" of four million doses to Indonesia. Other countries in line for some of the 80 million doses donated by the US include Cambodia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Thailand.

11:08 AM

UK businesses received almost £80bn in Government Covid loans

UK businesses received almost £80 billion in emergency Government-backed loans during the Covid-19 pandemic, a Treasury news release says.

Over 1.6 million loans – including Bounce Back Loans and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans - were approved between April 2020 and May 2021.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "We promised to stand by businesses at every stage of the pandemic and we have delivered on that promise.

"I am proud of the extraordinary extent of support we've offered since March last year – we will continue to back businesses and protect people’s jobs as we recover from coronavirus."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the Financial and Professional Services Address, previously known as the Bankers dinner, at Mansion House in London on July 1, 2021.  - Stefan Rousseau/Pool/Reuters
Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the Financial and Professional Services Address, previously known as the Bankers dinner, at Mansion House in London on July 1, 2021. - Stefan Rousseau/Pool/Reuters

10:56 AM

Weekly care home resident deaths at lowest level since pandemic began

The number of weekly registered deaths of care home residents involving Covid-19 has fallen to its lowest level since the pandemic began, figures show.

The deaths of 10 care home residents relating to Covid-19 were registered in the week to June 25 in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

It takes the total number of care home resident deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales to 42,556.

Mike Padgham, Chairman of the Independent Care Group, which represents providers in North Yorkshire, said: "Today's reported fall is very welcome news and all of us are happy to see fatalities in care and nursing homes down to single figures - we will be even happier when they are at zero."

10:49 AM

12 per cent of last year's deaths from Covid, ONS data suggests

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that 12.1 per cent (73,766) of deaths registered in England and Wales in 2020 were related to Covid-19.

The highest numbers of deaths last year due to coronavirus (29,435) were recorded in April, the ONS said.

Figures show the highest Covid-19 death rate was in the North West of England, at 176 per 100,000 people, while the South West saw the lowest death rate, at 59.3 per 100,000.

10:40 AM

Indonesia to import oxygen from Singapore amid shortage

Indonesia is sourcing emergency oxygen supplies for Covid-19 patients from Singapore, the government announced on Tuesday.

The government said about 10,000 concentrators - devices that generate oxygen - were to be shipped from neighbouring Singapore, with some arriving by a Hercules cargo plane earlier. They are also in talks with other countries, including China, for help.

A worker picks up oxygen tanks for hospitals at an oxygen distribution facility in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.  - Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg
A worker picks up oxygen tanks for hospitals at an oxygen distribution facility in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. - Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

Hospitals in capital city Jakarta are topping 90 per cent occupancy, while more than a dozen hospitals in second-city Surabaya are now full and unable to take more patients, authorities said.

"The team is preparing for a scenario of up to 50,000 cases a day, maybe even 60,000 to 70,000 per day at worst," said senior minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, tasked with enforcing new virus rules.

"But we hope that won't happen."

A record 728 deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours.

10:22 AM

Christmas in July: Pret brings back festive sandwich early

Pret A Manger has decided to sell its Christmas sandwich in stores from today - despite it being July - to offer people who missed out on the favourite in the winter, because of lockdown restrictions and home working, the chance to grab a bite.

UK managing director Clare Clough said: "Every year customers ask us for the Christmas sandwich to return earlier and earlier, and after many customers missed out on having one last year we’ve decided to stand by our mission of spreading joy through our food and coffee, and bring our iconic Christmas sandwich back early for a limited time this summer."

The sandwich is in shops from today until early August.

10:16 AM

Carers 'deliberately excluded' from honours, says industry body

The National Care Association has criticised the lack of official recognition for carers across the UK and their work during the pandemic, a day after the NHS was awarded the George Cross by the Queen.

Nadra Ahmed OBE, Chair of the NCA, said:

"National Care Association is delighted that our colleagues in the NHS have been recognised on NHS Frontline Workers Day and we congratulate them.

The George Cross is an award that recognises the greatest acts of heroism/courage in circumstances of extreme danger and they are deserving of it.

The irony is that the 1.6 million social care staff, who also fought on the front line, have not been bestowed any such honour despite their heroism and courage.

We would like to express our disappointment that once again our workforce, who have supported some of the most vulnerable people of our society with nominal support from government have been deliberately excluded from any recognition of their role throughout the pandemic.

This must not be allowed to continue. We urge the Secretary of State to fight for Social Care and not take the same path as his predecessor."

10:03 AM

Face ask polls | Early results

Just over an hour ago, we asked you for your opinions on face masks.

Early indication suggests that more than half of you (51pc) will be ditching your masks for good.

Of those who said they will sometimes continue to wear a mask after July 19, more than two thirds (67pc) have said the place they will most likely wear a covering would be on public transport.

And asked why people would continue to wear a mask - you say your main motivation is to help protect others (42pc).

You can still have your say below.

If you answered "sometimes"...

And finally, why?

09:51 AM

More deaths than births last year for first time in almost 50 years

More deaths than births took place in the UK last year for the first time in nearly half a century, figures suggest.

A total of 689,629 deaths were registered in 2020, while 683,191 live births were recorded.

This means that natural change in the UK - the difference between births and deaths - was a negative figure of 6,438.

It is the first time deaths have exceeded births since 1976, according to provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It is also only the second time this has happened since the start of the 20th century.

09:34 AM

'Government must not fly blind into situation where virus is allowed to run rampant'

Responding to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s admission that Covid cases could rise to 100,000 a day later in the summer, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus Layla Moran MP said: "The Health Secretary must clarify what this figure would mean for hospitalisations, deaths and long Covid cases, and what the expected impact on the NHS will be.

"The Government must not fly blind into a situation where the virus is allowed to run rampant while the patchwork of support services for long Covid patients is stretched to breaking point.

"We also need urgent clarity on the impact of these plans on the clinically vulnerable and immuno-suppressed.

"Many of these people are deeply worried about protections like mask-wearing being dropped on July 19. For them, so-called Freedom Day risks meaning their freedoms to travel or visit crowded indoor places are taken away."

09:32 AM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

A masked Air Force cadets march during a military parade marking Independence Day in Caracas, Venezuela - Matias Delacroix/AP
A masked Air Force cadets march during a military parade marking Independence Day in Caracas, Venezuela - Matias Delacroix/AP
A clown receives the first dose of the vaccine against Covid-19, in La Paz, Bolivia - Martin Alipaz/Shutterstock
A clown receives the first dose of the vaccine against Covid-19, in La Paz, Bolivia - Martin Alipaz/Shutterstock
Two volunteer members of Shwe Yaung Mitter Foundation sprays disinfectant on cargo ships at the Myanmar-Bangladesh border trade in Sittwe Rakhine, Myanmar - Nyunt Win/Shutterstock
Two volunteer members of Shwe Yaung Mitter Foundation sprays disinfectant on cargo ships at the Myanmar-Bangladesh border trade in Sittwe Rakhine, Myanmar - Nyunt Win/Shutterstock

09:25 AM

Government's former chief scientific adviser criticises mass easing

Professor Sir Mark Walport, the Government's former chief scientific adviser, said the lifting of Covid restrictions will make it "even more favourable" for the virus.

He told Sky News: "I don't think anyone would have imagined taking off all restrictions at a time when there are 25,000 infections a day, doubling about every nine days.

"The reason it's become possible for ministers to make this decision is because the vaccine programme has become so very successful and has weakened, but certainly not broken, the link between infection and the most serious consequences of disease.

"As the Prime Minister says, by July 19 it's quite likely there'll be 50,000 cases a day and when we do take off the restrictions it will make the conditions for transmission of the virus even more favourable for the virus.

"I think there is a very high priority to keep the vaccines up, and I think the other thing is the guidance needs to be very clear for people."

Sir Mark added: "People are going to have to behave responsibly and that guidance really matters."

09:19 AM

Cases could top 100,000 a day in summer, warns Health Secretary

Coronavirus case numbers could reach 100,000 per day in the summer as restrictions are eased, according to Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

"By the time we get to the 19th, we would expect case numbers by then to be at least double what they are now, so around 50,000 new cases a day," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"As we ease and go into the summer, we expect them to rise significantly and they could go as high as 100,000 case numbers.

"We want to be very straightforward about this, about what we can expect in terms of case numbers.

"But what matters more than anything is hospitalisation and death numbers, and that is where the link has been severely weakened."

09:13 AM

Businesses can still enforce mask wearing, says Sage member

Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said "there's no reason" why businesses should not be able to refuse to serve customers without face masks after July 19.

He told Times Radio: "There's no reason why businesses which have made their own assessments cannot say actually 'If you come in here we still want you to wear a mask'.

"They can't mandate it, but neither are businesses mandated to have to serve you, so if you run a nail bar and you want the clients to wear a face mask, you simply say 'You have to wear a face mask if you want to get your nails done'.

"That's a good example of some direct, personal, face-to-face contact for a good 40 minutes where you don't want your staff breathing in what Joe Public is breathing on to you.

"There's no reason why many businesses can't actually just say 'Hang on a minute, in this setting we want you to wear a face mask'.

"I don't see why public transport companies couldn't make the same assessment."

08:58 AM

'I wouldn't say this is a gamble, it's more of a calculated risk'

Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said the lifting of coronavirus restrictions is a "calculated risk".

The professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, speaking in a personal capacity, told Times Radio: "I wouldn't say this is a gamble, it's more of a calculated risk.

"We do have good data now that does indicate we are gradually breaking the links in the chain between community cases and severe cases in hospital."

He went on to say: "I should point out, looking at the data last night, 88% of people in hospital, from what I could see, had not been vaccinated or had had the vaccine but hadn't had the chance to develop immunity, so that's within 28 days of the vaccine.

"There's now an incredibly strong signal that the vaccination is working and protecting the vast majority of people."

08:30 AM

Polls | Have your say on face masks

We want your answers.

If you answered "sometimes"...

And finally, why?

08:15 AM

Update later on self-isolation changes

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he would set out self-isolation changes for those who have had both vaccine doses in Parliament later today.

"We will have a more proportionate system of test, trace and isolate, and it is absolutely right that those that have been double jabbed that we can take a different approach than the one we take today," he told BBC Breakfast.

"In terms of what we will be doing exactly, you will have to wait for my statement to Parliament later today."

07:56 AM

Call for urgent supply of vaccines as delta threatens Africa

Africa is facing a “perfect storm” of Covid-19, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, has warned, with cases surging by almost 2,000 per cent in just a month in some parts of the continent.

It is an “urgent, vital necessity” to increase vaccine supply to Africa as the delta variant begins to take hold, Mr Blair wrote in the foreword of a new report, published on Tuesday.

However, other leading figures said that the focus for the short-term needs to shift away from vaccines to dealing with the acute emergency unfolding in many African countries.

Vaccines could help prevent another wave of infections but are too late to stop the “India-scenario” already sweeping across Africa, according to Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance. Instead, countries need oxygen, treatments, testing and field hospitals, she said.

Nations including South Africa and Uganda have already sounded the alarm about rising infections and overwhelmed hospitals, and on Friday Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Africa director, said that the continent was facing its worst week in the pandemic so far.

Jennifer Rigby has more here.

07:51 AM

Javid denies there is an 'acceptable' figure for deaths

Health Secretary Sajid Javid denied that there was a figure being considered as an acceptable excess mortality rate from coronavirus as restrictions are lifted in England.

"It's not about some number of deaths being acceptable, of course not," he told Sky News.

"What we are seeing is that with rising case numbers, yesterday I said we could see a doubling of case numbers by the time we get to July 19, we are not seeing a corresponding increase in hospitalisations and deaths numbers.

"That is because the vaccine is working, that's what the vaccine is for."

07:26 AM

ICYMI | Sajid Javid's statement to MPs

You might have missed the Health Secretary's statement to MPs in the Commons given that it overlapped with the Prime Minister's address to the nation.

Here it is for you:

07:25 AM

Jeremy Hunt: I'm not opposed to restrictions being lifted

Chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee Jeremy Hunt has said he is "not opposed" to coronavirus restrictions being lifted.

The former health secretary told LBC: "I have been on the cautious side of this debate for the whole of the last year but I'm actually not opposed to what the Prime Minister is doing.

"The reason is because if you look at the data at the moment, the projected number of deaths from Covid going forward is less than a bad flu year.

"That's not what's happened up to now but I'm talking about going forward from now.

"If you've got the context where the death rate is lower than some diseases that we normally cope with, then I think it's alright to change the social contract from compulsion to co-operation because we have to find a way of living with this virus."

07:24 AM

Israel donating 700,000 Pfizer doses to South Korea

Away from the UK, Israel will deliver about 700,000 expiring doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine to South Korea later this month, and South Korea will give Israel back the same number, already on order from Pfizer, in September and October.

South Korea has quickly distributed the COVID-19 vaccines it has, but has struggled to obtain enough doses in a timely manner amid tight global supplies, particularly in Asia.

"This is a win-win deal," Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement announcing the deal on Tuesday. "Together we will beat the pandemic."

After a stellar roll-out, Israel has administered both shots to around 55% of its population and seen turnout plateau.

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said the deal will allow South Korea to accelerate its vaccination plans, including providing shots to employees in some sectors that have a high amount of contact with other people.

07:16 AM

ICYMI | Catch up with Boris Johnson press briefing

If you missed the Prime Minister's briefing last night, then catch up below.

07:15 AM

Four week delay to Freedom Day 'has been worth it'

Professor Neil Ferguson said the four-week delay to lifting coronavirus restrictions "has been worth it".

He told the Today Programme: "The modelling tended to indicate that there was a real benefit to the four-week delay we're just coming to the end of now, in terms of topping up vaccination, getting second doses to people over the age of 40.

"I should say of everybody who has died in this pandemic in the UK, 99% of them have been over the age of 40.

"By the time we finally relax, nearly everybody in that age range will have had two doses, which gives a high level of protection.

"There are benefits going beyond that, there are still a few benefits but they're more incremental.

"So I wouldn't say it is a sweet spot but the four-week delay we have gone through has been worth it."

07:14 AM

Local authorities retain lockdown powers

The Health Secretary did not rule out the return of local lockdowns in the winter.

Sajid Javid said: "One concern that is still there throughout the world is that there will be new variants. Nobody can rule that out and nobody will know what they look like.

"There will be a risk of a vaccine-resistant variant and while there's no evidence of that yet, it's something we can't rule out."

When asked about the prospect of winter lockdowns, he said there was a "real risk of some kind of vaccine resistant variant", adding: "That is why it is sensible to retain some powers."

Local authorities will "retain powers at least until the end of September, and we will review them then", he added.

And Mr Javid said: "If there is a need for the local use of powers, that is something that can be done."

07:03 AM

Health Secretary will continue to wear a mask

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he would continue to wear a face covering in a crowded space or if he was with someone who felt uncomfortable about one not being worn, once restrictions are eased.

He told Sky News: "For the foreseeable future I will be carrying a face mask with me, I think that's a very responsible thing for anyone to do.

"As I have said, the pandemic is not over.

"If I'm in a crowded or enclosed space, I will wear a face mask. In fact I will wear one if I was next to someone or near someone that felt uncomfortable with others not wearing face masks.

"And that's what I mean by personality responsibility."

07:01 AM

Health Secretary understands concern over masks

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he understood that many people will be concerned about the rules around face coverings changing.

"I fully understand why many people will be anxious, they would want to be cautious," he told Sky News.

"That is why other protections remain in place."

He added that "for the foreseeable future", he would be carrying a face mask with him and would wear one in a crowded situation.

07:00 AM

Chris Whitty video: Second man charged with assault and obstructing police

A second man has been charged in relation to a video which emerged showing England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty being accosted in a central London park.

A video uploaded to social media appeared to show Mr Whitty looking uncomfortable as two men jostled and grabbed him while trying to persuade him to pose with them.

The footage drew widespread condemnation with the Prime Minister expressing shock and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary describing the incident as "appalling".

Last week, 23-year-old Lewis Hughes - an estate agent from Essex - was charged with common assault, prompting questions as to why the second man in the video was not charged.

But on Tuesday morning, Scotland Yard said Jonathan Chew, 24, was charged with common assault and obstructing police.

He will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on July 6.

06:49 AM

Experts warn against plan to scrap all restrictions

Boris Johnson's pledge to end nearly all of England's remaining coronavirus restrictions in one move despite cases rapidly rising has triggered a series of warnings.

British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was "incredibly concerning" for Mr Johnson to "decide to go full steam" despite warnings over rising hospitalisations and deaths.

He urged ministers to ensure the wearing of masks is compulsory "until the rampant spread of infection has been brought under control and more of the population are fully vaccinated".

Professor Stephen Reicher, who advises the Government as part of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), warned there is a "very real risk prospect" that by the end of July there could be nearly a million cases per week.

"I really do fear that if we were to get up to those high numbers of infections there is a risk of causing huge damage primarily to young people because they're the ones that aren't vaccinated," he told Channel 4 News.

"I think that's a very big risk indeed, it's not a risk I would take and I earnestly, I genuinely hope that I am wrong and it doesn't happen but I wouldn't be taking the risk."

Blood Cancer UK chief executive Gemma Peters warned that the reduction of preventative measures will mean "more freedoms are taken away" from people with compromised immune systems.

06:40 AM

Vaccine is 'our wall of protection', says Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid said that the coronavirus vaccine was "our wall of protection" as he said the Government was moving from a system of restrictions to personal responsibility.

"We need to learn to live with the virus and that is why yesterday I set out how we plan to ease restrictions from July 19, providing the tests that we have set are met," the Health Secretary told Sky News.

"The reason we can afford to do this, which is to move from a system of rules and regulations, including rules we currently have on face masks, to a system of guidance and personal responsibility, is because of the vaccine.

"The vaccine is working, it is our wall of protection - jab by jab, brick by brick."

06:36 AM

'Third wave going to look very different to second wave'

Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the Government, has said the third coronavirus wave will see "lower numbers" in hospital.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "This third wave is going to look very different from the second wave.

"In terms of cases per day, I think we will at least reach 50,000, I think (Prime Minister) was saying in his statement what he was expecting to see in the next couple of weeks, it will likely go higher than that.

"But what we do know is in the second wave there was a certain ratio between cases and hospitalisations and that ratio right now is being reduced by more than two-thirds, as we get more second doses into people it will go down even further.

"Even more positively, the ratio which we saw in the past between case numbers and deaths has been reduced by more like eight to ten fold.

"So the third wave, even if the number of cases per day gets very high, we're still likely to see lower numbers of hospitalisations and deaths than we saw back in December and January just gone."

06:23 AM

'We have got to be careful about language of irreversibility'

Chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee Jeremy Hunt has urged caution around "using the language of irreversibility" when lifting coronavirus restrictions because there is still a high number of infections each day worldwide.

The former health secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "At the moment, the projections are that the deaths from Covid will actually be less than some of our worst years for flu.

"When you have that kind of change, I think it's reasonable to change the social contract to one of co-operation, rather than compulsion.

"But I think we have got to be careful about using the language of irreversibility, because we still have 350,000 new infections every day across the world, there is still room for the vaccine-busting variants that we are all worried about.

"So we have to be on our guard and recognise that things may sadly yet change."

06:05 AM

Today's front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, July 6.


05:21 AM

Germany relaxes restrictions for travellers from four countries

Germany's public health institute said on Monday the UK, India, Portugal and Russia were no longer "areas of variant concern", reducing travel restrictions for people arriving from those countries.

All four countries had been downgraded to "high incidence areas", the Robert Koch Institute said, meaning their citizens can now travel to Germany and quarantine on arrival for 10 days.

The quarantine period can be shortened to five days if they test negative, and people who are fully vaccinated can avoid quarantine altogether.

The decisions, effective from Wednesday, come after Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday Britons who have had two vaccinations would soon be able to travel to Germany without going into quarantine on arrival.

Read more: Germany lifts travel ban on passengers from UK

04:32 AM

Indonesia prepares extra facilities for worst-case outbreak scenario

Indonesia has prepared backup health facilities for a worst-case scenario where daily coronavirus infections reach 40,000 to 50,000, senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters on Tuesday.

He said the government has accommodation infrastructure that can be turned into isolation facilities and has also ramped up production of oxygen.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin added that the provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo island, were being monitored closely amid rise in cases of the delta variant in those areas.

Read more: ‘Dozens’ of Covid patients die in Indonesia as hospitals run out of oxygen

People queue up to refill their oxygen tanks at a filling station in Jakarta - Anadolu
People queue up to refill their oxygen tanks at a filling station in Jakarta - Anadolu

03:48 AM

VIPs reportedly allowed at Tokyo opening ceremony, but no fans

Fans are likely to be banned from the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony over virus fears, but a reduced number of VIPs and Olympic officials will be able to attend, a Japanese newspaper reported.

International Olympic Committee representatives, foreign dignitaries, sponsors and others connected to the Games will be allowed into the National Stadium to watch the July 23 ceremony, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said late on Monday.

But under plans currently being discussed, fans would be locked out as organisers rethink attendance limits as concerns grow over rising virus cases in Tokyo.

The report, which cited several unnamed government sources, said organisers are working to whittle down the expected 10,000 "Olympic family" members to a level the Japanese public would find acceptable.

Read more: Vaccine passports will not be required for sports matches and concerts

02:52 AM

Sydney lockdown call looms as new case numbers drop

The premier of Australia's New South Wales (NSW) said on Tuesday she aims to decide within the next 24 hours whether to extend a lockdown in Sydney that is due to end on Friday as new infections dropped in the country's most populous state.

Just 18 new locally acquired cases were detected in NSW on Tuesday, half of the previous day's number. But Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the decision would also take into account her administration's determination to make the current lockdown in the city of five million people the last, as it aims to step up vaccinations.

"That will factor into our decision-making as to whether it (the two-week lockdown) finishes on Friday or whether we continue for a period longer," Ms Berejiklian told reporters. "I hope to be able to communicate to the community tomorrow on what next week looks like."

02:39 AM

Japan shipping another million vaccine doses to Taiwan

Japan will ship 1.3 million more doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine to Taiwan, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday, after previously delivering 1.24 million for free last month.

Mr Motegi told a regularly scheduled news conference that the vaccines would be shipped on Thursday.

01:40 AM

Hairspray cancels shows after positive test

West End musical Hairspray has cancelled its shows until next week after a member of the production team tested positive for coronavirus.

Starring singer Michael Ball, Hairspray had been praised by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden when it opened in London last month.

In a statement shared on Twitter, the show said someone on the production team tested positive "despite extremely robust measures being in place".

All performances have been cancelled until Wednesday July 14, producers said.

Read more: What does Boris’s lockdown announcement mean for theatres, festivals and nightclubs?

Read more: Never mind July 19, Covid cancellations are already ruining theatre’s grand return

01:31 AM

Israel and South Korea reportedly agree to vaccine exchange

Israel agreed on Monday to provide about 700,000 expiring doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine to South Korea, the Haaretz newspaper reported, citing Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Delivery of the doses is to begin later in July, and as part of the deal Israel will receive in September and October an identical number of Pfizer vaccine doses that had been ordered by Seoul, Mr Bennett said.

A spokeswoman for South Korea's Health Ministry said on Tuesday she had no comment on the report.

Read more: Pfizer vaccine efficacy drops in Israel as delta variant spreads

01:13 AM

Chinese city on Myanmar border reports three more cases

Authorities in China's southwestern province of Yunnan reported three locally transmitted coronavirus cases for July 5, with all cases from the city of Ruili bordering Myanmar, according to Yunnan provincial authorities on Tuesday.

Yunnan province had reported three locally transmitted coronavirus cases the previous day as well, and is preventing individuals from leaving or entering Ruili city without special permission beginning from July 5.

The last outbreak of local cases in China was in the southern Guangdong province in mid-June.

People line up for nucleic acid testing at a residential compound in Ruili - via Reuters
People line up for nucleic acid testing at a residential compound in Ruili - via Reuters

11:10 PM

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