What happened today?
Good evening, that's all for now. Here's an evening roundup of Covid developments:
Boris Johnson threw into doubt the extent to which our freedoms will be restored, warning that some "extra precautions" will be required after July 19, when all restrictions are due to be lifted in England
The Prime Minister also urged parents and pupils to be "patient" over the possibility of scrapping isolation for whole bubbles in schools
The World Health Organization warned of a new Covid wave in Europe, as a 10-week fall in new cases ends
A senior German minister accused Uefa, the European football governing body, of endangering public health by allowing thousands of fans into Wembley stadium to watch England beat Germany this week
Children from most ethnic minority backgrounds missed more sessions of school in England during the autumn of last year than their white counterparts due to Covid-19, new figures suggested
Nearly 400,000 people have suffered long Covid symptoms for more than 12 months, the latest survey data from the Office for National Statistics showed
The African Union special envoy tasked with leading efforts to procure Covid-19 vaccines for the continent has hit out at Europe as Africa struggles amid third wave of infections, saying: "Not one dose, not one vial, has left a European factory for Africa"
The World Health Organization has said that any Covid-19 vaccines it has authorised for emergency use should be recognised by countries as they open up their borders, including apparently less effective Chinese jabs, to avoid creating a "two-tier system".
'Remain disciplined' or face a new wave in Europe, warns WHO
Europe faces a fresh wave of coronavirus “unless we remain disciplined”, World Health Organization chiefs have warned.
Cases rose by 10 per cent across the continent last week, “driven” by the Delta variant and more travel, mixing and gatherings, especially among Euro 2020 fans, officials said.
"There will be a new wave in the WHO European region unless we remain disciplined," Hans Kluge, WHO’s Europe head, told a press conference, adding the Delta variant could become the dominant strain there by the end of August.
A 10-week decline in new infections across the region has ceased and countries such as Russia, where vaccination hesitancy is rife, as well as Portugal and Spain have seen upticks.
In particularly hard-hit Russia, where vaccine hesitancy is rife, health authorities on Thursday launched booster coronavirus vaccinations for people immunised more than six months ago, as the country faces a rise in new infections and deaths.
Moscow has started offering booster shots with the two-shot Sputnik V vaccine and its one-shot Sputnik Light version. Other Russian regions are also starting to offer booster shots.
Most over-50s fully vaccinated across England
At least nine in 10 people aged 50 and over in most local areas of England are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, figures suggest.
The estimates range from 90.1 per cent in Liverpool and Oldham to 99.5 per cent in Stratford-on-Avon.
In total, 276 out of 314 local areas have at least 90 per cent of people aged 50 and over likely to be fully vaccinated.
The figures cover vaccinations delivered up to June 27 and have been published by NHS England.
Of the 38 local areas below the 90 per cent threshold, 24 are in London.
These include the areas with the lowest proportion of people 50 and over estimated to have received both doses: Westminster (65.3 per cent), the City of London (66.9 per cent) and Camden (69.9 per cent).
Overall, an estimated 93 per cent of people in England aged 50 and over are now fully vaccinated.
Surge in NHS staff absences prompts calls for Scottish quarantine rules review
SNP ministers are under mounting pressure to review self-isolation rules after NHS staff absences skyrocketed in the last week, prompting concerns over the health service’s ability to tackle the pandemic backlog, Georgina Hayes reports.
Under current requirements, even fully vaccinated Scots must self-isolate for 10 days if they are pinged as a close contact of a Covid case regardless of whether they test negative for the virus themselves.
But there are fresh demands for this to be reconsidered as latest figures show that Covid-related NHS staff absences have surged by 109 per cent in the last seven weeks.
Overall, 2,356 staff were absent on the week ending June 29 - an increase from 1,711 the week before.
SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said discussions over removing the self-isolation requirement are ongoing and on a four nations basis.
One in four elderly care home staff not fully vaccinated, says NHS England
Around one in four staff in elderly care homes in England eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine have not had both jabs, new figures suggest.
A total of 73.9 per cent of eligible staff were reported to be fully vaccinated as of June 27, according to NHS England.
The proportion fell to 67.9 per cent in London, suggesting around a third of staff in the capital have not had both doses.
Staff in elderly care homes are classed as eligible for the vaccine if they have not tested positive for Covid-19 in the previous 28 days.
The Government announced last month that from October all people working in care homes registered with the Care Quality Commission must have two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, unless they have a medical exemption. This subject to parliamentary approval and would come with a 16-week grace period.
PHE: AstraZeneca vaccine 94 per cent protective against death in over 65s
Two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine gives an estimated 94 per cent protection against death from the disease in people over 65, Public Health England said on Thursday in its weekly surveillance report of real-world data.
PHE said the majority of the data was derived from a period when the Alpha variant, first detected in Kent, was still dominant. It did not provide a specific estimate of protection from death against the Delta variant, first detected in India.
For the under 40s, early estimates suggested a single dose of Pfizer's vaccine is 61 per cent effective against symptomatic disease and a single dose of the Moderna vaccine is 72 per cent effective.
"This data gives us even more confidence that the vaccines offer high levels of protection against COVID-19 across all age groups," said Jamie Lopez Bernal, consultant epidemiologist at PHE.
New data from @PHE_uk shows the Moderna vaccine is 72% effective in keeping people under 40 safe after one dose, with two doses of AZ providing 94% protection against death for over 65s - get your jab if you haven't already to strengthen your protection so we can beat this virus
— Nadhim Zahawi (@nadhimzahawi) July 1, 2021
Portugal imposes night-time curfew as cases rise
A night-time curfew from 11pm will be imposed in several Portuguese municipalities, including the capital Lisbon and in the city of Porto, as Covid-19 infections continue to rise, the government announced on Thursday.
"We are not in any circumstances to claim that the pandemic is in control," Cabinet Minister Mariana Silva Vieira told a news conference.
It comes after Portugal imposed stricter rules, including forcing restaurants to shut earlier over the weekend in Lisbon and in the Algarve. It has reopened to EU travel, but was taken off the UK's 'green list'.
Officials had said around 70 per cent of coronavirus cases in the Lisbon area are from the more contagious Delta variant, which is quickly spreading to other parts of the country.
Germany recommends vaccine mix for better protection
Germany's vaccine committee on Thursday recommended that everyone who received an AstraZeneca first dose switch to BioNTech-Pfizer or Moderna jabs for better protection against the coronavirus, including against the Delta variant.
Studies show that the immune response is "clearly superior" when an AstraZeneca shot is combined with a second mRNA vaccine, compared with double AstraZeneca jabs, said STIKO.
The commission therefore recommended the mix "regardless of age" and with a minimum gap of four weeks between the two jabs.
The vaccines developed by BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna are based on the same novel messenger RNA technology, which trains the body to reproduce spike proteins, similar to that found on the coronavirus.
Chancellor Angela Merkel had received a Moderna second jab after getting an AstraZeneca injection for her first.
Planet Normal: ‘Matt Hancock has done us all a favour'
England are through to the Euro 2020 quarter-final, and Matt Hancock is out of his role as health secretary - events which have Allison Pearson smiling.
“Mr Hancock may have done us all a bit of a favour by exposing the rancid double standards under which we all live. And I think going forward we can all cite the Hancock exemption if anyone challenges us," she tells Planet Normal co-host Liam Halligan.
Also on the podcast: Leader of the Social Democratic Party William Clouston tell listeners what will set his party apart in the closely-followed by-election in Batley and Spen, and why he believes the Labour Party no longer shares the values of its former voters.
Have a listen below.
Health minister ‘held undeclared meetings’ with firms that won Covid-19 contracts
The Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC) failed to declare 27 meetings held by a health minister for more than a year, including with firms that went on to win lucrative Covid-19 contracts, it has emerged.
Lord Bethell, who is already under pressure over his use of a personal email, was found on Wednesday to have held meetings with firms that obtained millions of pounds in public sector contracts.
The meetings have now been declared, with the Department updating its records to reveal a number of meetings between Lord Bethell and organisations between April 1-6 last year.
Officials claimed that the omission had been accidental and due to an administrative error.
Latest UK Covid figures are in
Daily coronavirus cases in the UK have risen to their highest point since January 29, beating Wednesday's high.
In the latest 24 hour period 27,989 confirmed cases were logged, Government figures show, after more than 26,000 infections were recorded on Wednesday.
But deaths within 28 days of a positive test remain low, at 22 in the latest figures, reaffirming that vaccines have broken the chain between infection, serious illness and mortality.
Hospitalisations remain far below the peak and broadly flat.
The vaccination rollout is also continuing apace, with 85.2 per cent of UK adults having had a first dose and 62.7 per cent fully covered with both doses.
Official data up to June 30 shows that of the 77,909,177 Covid jabs given in the UK so far, 44,860,978 were first doses - a rise of 141,216 on the previous day.
Some 33,048,199 were second doses, an increase of 175,749.
Is it a cold or Covid? How to tell the difference now the main symptoms are so similar
A cough, a fever or shortness of breath: back in March last year, these were the three symptoms that the government warned us to look out for which could be signs of Covid-19.
As time went on, our understanding of the virus changed, and loss of smell or taste were added to the list.
Now, however, the list of the “classic” symptoms appears to be somewhat out-of-date for sufferers of the Delta variant, which originated in India.
At the moment, the NHS says that a temperature, cough or loss of smell or taste are the main signs of Covid, but none of these feature in the top three most common symptoms in people with the virus in the UK.
'Act now or we'll have a generation of ghost children'
Urgent work needed to ensure return of 93,500 pupils who are missing school, as well as changes that will boost life chances of all students, writes Robert Halfon, chair of the education select committee.
The four horsemen of the school-closure apocalypse have been galloping towards our children. The Covid generation of young people have had to face up to staggering gaps in learning and attainment, a significant rise in mental health problems, safeguarding hazards and, according to a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a lifetime loss of earnings up to £40,000.
Have your say: Playground vaccination clinics for teens, suggests expert
Schools could hold vaccination clinics for teenagers if Covid jabs for young people are given the go-ahead, a Sage member has suggested.
Prof Russell Viner, of University College London, said a schools-based programme would be the best choice if the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decides jabs should be given to youngsters.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use among children aged 12 and over but the JCVI is yet to decide whether they should receive it.
Prof Viner told a briefing hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine that the risk of death from Covid-19 in this country for children and young people is about one in 0.5 million, and most of those were clinically vulnerable.
"The risk of coming into intensive care, so having severe disease, is about one in 50,000 - these events are exceptionally rare," he added.
"This is about the balance of risks. The benefits to them (children) of being vaccinated, are very low, the risks are unclear."
Do you think children should be vaccinated? Have a say in our poll below.
WHO decision challenges West to recognise Chinese vaccines
The World Health Organization has said that any Covid-19 vaccines it has authorised for emergency use should be recognised by countries as they open up their borders.
The move could challenge Western countries to broaden their acceptance of two apparently less effective Chinese vaccines, which the UN health agency has licensed but most European and North American countries have not.
In addition to vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, the WHO has approved the two Chinese jabs, made by Sinovac and Sinopharm.
The European Union said in May that it would only recognise people as vaccinated if they had received shots licensed by the European Medicines Agency, although it is up to individual countries if they wish to let in those with other jabs, including Russia's Sputnik V.
The EU drug regulator is currently considering licensing China's Sinovac vaccine but there is no timeline on a decision.
WHO has warned of a "two-tier system, further widening the global vaccine divide" if only countries bar travellers based on a subset of their approved vaccines.
Vaccines hold up strong despite WHO's fresh Covid wave fears
Two doses of Covid vaccine appear to provide protection against the rapidly spreading Delta variant, the European Medicines Agency said Thursday.
It comes as the World Health Organization warns that the coronavirus variant first spotted in India could fuel a new wave of cases in Europe.
The EMA's head of vaccine strategy, Marco Cavaleri, said the Amsterdam-based watchdog was "aware of concerns caused by the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
"Right now it seems that the four vaccines approved in the European Union are protecting against all the strains circulating in Europe, including the Delta variant," he said. "Emerging data from real world evidence are showing that two doses of vaccines are protective against the Delta variant."
Lab tests also showed that antibodies from the vaccines were able to neutralise Delta "so these are very reassuring news." Four vaccines are currently approved for use in the EU: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
Ethnic minority pupils 'missed more school than white peers due to Covid'
Children from most ethnic minority backgrounds missed more sessions of school in England during the autumn of last year than their white counterparts due to Covid-19, new figures suggest.
Nearly one in 10 (9.2 per cent) Asian pupils were absent from school in coronavirus-related circumstances - the highest of all the major ethnic minority groups, according to Department for Education data.
Mixed race pupils had absence rates of 7.3 per cent and black pupils 7.2 per cent, compared with 6.6 per cent for white pupils.
Broken down, the DfE said pupils from Gypsy/Roma and Pakistani ethnic groups had the highest levels of absences, with rates of 10.9 per cent and 10.8 per cent respectively.
This compared to 7 per cent across all pupils.
Chinese pupils were the least likely to miss school, with 6.1 per cent recorded as absent due to the virus.
Teens in Mallorca mega-outbreak ferried home in 'bubble boat'
A "bubble boat" carrying 118 students linked to a major Covid outbreak on Mallorca has set sail for mainland Spain, ending their confinement in a quarantine hotel on the Mediterranean island.
Spain has been grappling with the growing fallout from the exam celebration trip in mid-June, which has seen almost 2,000 people infected and nearly 6,000 others placed in quarantine.
Hundreds of youngsters across Spain tested positive, prompting the authorities to quarantine some 250 students at a hotel in the capital Palma and a backlash from youngsters and their parents.
But a judge on Wednesday ordered that those students who tested negative could be released from quarantine in the four-star Palma Bellver, which has been dubbed "Hotel Covid", with a ferry laid on Thursday to bring them home.
Dubbed the "bubble boat" because the students are in an isolated section so they can't mix with any other passengers, the vessel is expected to arrive in the eastern port of Valencia later.
'How long must we put our children through a pointless Covid charade?'
Our Education Secretary seems determined to keep schools on a war footing until the end of time, writes Allister Heath.
With Matt Hancock having defenestrated himself last week, Gavin Williamson appears to be the next barrier to a more proportionate, rational approach to Covid. He should be fighting with every fibre in his body to normalise our children’s education, and yet, terrorised by Left-wing teachers’ unions and brow-beaten by pro-lockdown scientists, he seems determined to keep schools on a war footing until the end of time.
Comment: What is wrong with Gavin Williamson?
Malaysia to impose fresh lockdown restrictions in capital
Malaysia has announced tighter restrictions on movement and businesses in the capital Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring Selangor state as new coronavirus cases show no sign of abating.
Security Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Kuala Lumpur and several districts in Selangor will see stricter measures imposed from Saturday for a period of two weeks.
Only essential businesses, including factories producing food and daily necessities are allowed to operate, he said in a statement.
Malaysia last week extended a national lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said restrictions will not be eased until daily cases fall below 4,000. The Southeast Asian nation recorded 6,988 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 758,967 infections and 5,254 deaths.
Science minister Khairy Jamaluddin also announced that the country would shorten the dosing interval for the AstraZeneca vaccine to nine weeks from a 12-week gap previously.
'Not one dose has left a European factory for Africa'
The African Union special envoy tasked with leading efforts to procure Covid-19 vaccines for the continent has hit out at Europe as Africa struggles amid third wave of infections.
"Not one dose, not one vial, has left a European factory for Africa," Strive Masiyiwa said on Thursday, with just 1 per cent of Africans are double-jabbed.
He also also took aim at the global programme meant to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, accusing COVAX of withholding crucial information including that key donors hadn't met funding pledges.
"The situation could be very different had we known back in December that 'Listen, this help is not coming, do for yourselves,"' Masiyiwa told reporters, adding that "many countries were just sitting back saying, 'the vaccines are coming.' ... We as Africans are disappointed."
He stressed that Africa has purchased 400 million vaccine doses and can buy more, but he challenged donors: "Pay up your money ... We will no longer measure pledges, we will measure vaccines arriving at our airports."
The African continent of 1.3 billion people is now in the grip of a third surge of infections that is "extremely aggressive," officials say, with overflowing wards, depleted oxygen supplies and the spread to poor rural areas.
Boris Johnson urges 'patience' over school bubbles
Boris Johnson has urged parents and pupils to be "patient" over the possibility of scrapping isolation for whole bubbles in schools.
During a visit to a Nissan plant in Sunderland, the Prime Minister told reporters: "I understand people's frustration when whole classes, whole bubbles, are sent home and people are asked to isolate.
"So what's happening now is Public Health England and the scientists are looking at the advantages, the possibilities, of going to testing rather than isolation.
"They haven't concluded yet so what I want to do is just to be cautious as we go forward to that natural firebreak of the summer holidays when the risk in schools will greatly diminish and just ask people to be a little bit patient."
'Double jabs will be liberator' for international travel, insists Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has said "double jabs will be a liberator" when asked about reports that fully vaccinated people may be able to travel quarantine-free from amber list countries by July 26.
During a visit to a Nissan plant in Sunderland, the Prime Minister told reporters: "Everybody who is frustrated about travel over the summer - double jabs will be a liberator.
"I want travel to be possible but I've got to stress that this year will not be like every other year because of the difficulties with Covid. People shouldn't expect it will be completely hassle free."
Not so free? 'Extra precautions' for Covid loom after July 19, PM suggests
Boris Johnson has acknowledged that some "extra precautions" may be necessary to protect against coronavirus after step four of his plans to end the lockdown in England.
During a visit to a Nissan plant in Sunderland, the Prime Minister told reporters: "I know how impatient people are to get back to total normality, as indeed am I.
"I will be setting in the course of the next few days what step four will look like exactly.
"But I think I've said it before, we'll be wanting to go back to a world that is as close to the status quo, ante-Covid, as possible. Try to get back to life as close to it was before Covid.
"But there may be some things we have to do, extra precautions that we have to take, but I'll be setting them out."
Government 'hopeful' of ending legal limits on social contact on July 19, says Culture Secretary
The Government is working to end "legal limits" on social distancing by the terminus date of July 19, the Culture Secretary has said.
Oliver Dowden was challenged by Chris Green, the Conservative MP for Bolton West, over whether restrictions would be lifted "permanently" at the final stage of Boris Johnson's road map out of lockdown.
"Does he agree with me that terminus day means an end to social distancing, an end to compulsory masks wearing and a full return to normal, not just for the end of July but permanently?" Mr Green asked.
The minister replied: "As the Health Secretary has said, we are making very good progress towards July 19.
"We are hopeful and indeed confident we will be able to remove as planned at Stage 4 all the remaining legal limits on social contact, reopen the remaining closed settings and remove all limits on weddings and other live events, and that is very much what I am working towards."
France facing fourth wave as Europe races to vaccinate against delta surge
France delayed the planned lifting of coronavirus restrictions in a key region on Wednesday as its chief scientific advisor warned the delta variant could cause a fourth wave of infections.
Europe is now in a race to vaccinate enough people to avoid another damaging wave of Covid-19 like that currently gripping the UK.
“We do not want to take the risk of having a re-start of the epidemic,” said Gabriel Attal, a French government spokesman, as he announced the national easing of restrictions would be delayed in the Landes region until at least July 6.
The region has experienced a particularly high number of cases of the delta variant, which was first identified in India and is behind the current wave in the UK.
“We have all the cards in hand to avoid a fourth wave of the epidemic,” said Mr Attal.
Coronavirus around the world, in pictures
Exclusive: Schools must return to normal on July 19, Tory MPs warn
Almost 50 Conservative MPs have told Boris Johnson that schools must return to normal from July 19, as they called for an end to “unnecessary disruption”.
Former Tory cabinet ministers, ministers, ministerial aides and select committee chairs are among the 48 signatories of a hard-hitting letter sent to the Prime Minister on Wednesday demanding that school bubbles be scrapped.
They warned that the Government's guidance on self-isolation was a “disproportionate” and “unsustainable” policy that was sparking “deep uncertainty and anxiety among a cohort who have already suffered enough”.
The MPs continued that “bubbles in schools are causing ongoing and severe disruption and preventing schools from operating normally and being able to offer the full array of extracurricular activities and sports which are so vital for children’s health”.
Their intervention comes after The Telegraph launched a campaign this week calling on ministers to put children first as the country recovers from repeated lockdowns, with decisive action to end the chaos in schools and reverse the harm caused.
Euro 2020 crowds driving rise in Covid-19 infections, says WHO
Euro 2020 football fans are driving the current rise in coronavirus infections in Europe, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.
A 10-week decline in new cases across the region has ended and a new wave, coming as the Delta variant spreads, is inevitable if football fans and others drop their guard, officials said.
Last week, the number of new cases rose by 10 per cent, driven by mixing of crowds in Euro 2020 stadiums and bars in host cities, as well as travelling and the easing of social restrictions, WHO said.
"We need to look much beyond just the stadiums themselves," WHO's senior emergency officer, Catherine Smallwood, told reporters.
"We need to look at how people get there, are they travelling in large crowded convoys of buses? And when they leave the stadiums, are they going into crowded bars and pubs to watch the matches? It is these small continuous events that are driving the spread of the virus."
UEFA said in a statement to Reuters that mitigation measures at host venues "are fully aligned with the regulations set out by the competent local public health authorities".
Man filmed harassing Chris Whitty loses estate agent job as he apologises for 'upset caused'
A man who was criticised after being filmed apparently accosting Professor Chris Whitty has apologised to the top medic for "any upset I caused".
Lewis Hughes, from Romford in Essex, said if he made England's chief medical officer feel "uncomfortable", then "I am sorry to him for that".
Mr Hughes added that he felt "very let down" by the Prime Minister's comments, saying: "For him to call me a thug...I actually voted for him as well."
Long Covid most common symptoms revealed
Long Covid was estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 634,000 people - around two-thirds of those with self-reported long Covid - with 178,000 reporting that their ability to undertake day-to-day activities had been "limited a lot", the ONS said.
Fatigue was the most common symptom reported as part of an individual's experience of long Covid (535,000 people), followed by shortness of breath (397,000), muscle ache (309,000) and difficulty concentrating (295,000).
Estimated 385,000 people have long Covid that has lasted a year in UK
An estimated 385,000 people in private households in the UK have experienced self-reported "long Covid" that has lasted for at least a year, new figures suggest.
This is up from 376,000 in a similar survey carried out one month earlier.
The figures, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), are based on responses collected in the four weeks to June 6.
They also suggest a total of 962,000 people in the UK experienced long Covid in the period of the survey, defined as symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after their first suspected coronavirus infection.
Not enough evidence to decide on children's vaccines, says Sage member
Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, said he feels there is not enough evidence to decide whether children should be vaccinated against coronavirus.
Speaking in a personal capacity, he told BBC Breakfast: "The risk of severe harm to children is incredibly low. Vaccines are safe, but not entirely risk-free.
"From the position of personal health harm, the balance, I think, has not swayed positively one way or the other. I'm not convinced the evidence base there is strong enough to support vaccination of children because we don't have complete safety data for the vaccines that we would want to use."
He added that the debate over prioritising children's health versus their education is "very, very difficult" and is "very, very nuanced".
"The harm to education is a different issue - that has to be thought of in a societal term, but that's not actually a harm to health," he said.
"Remember, if you are the rare child that suffers a side-effect, that could be a side-effect for quite some time.
"Missing some school also could affect your life chances, but you have to think 'What do you put first, health or education?'
"At the moment, I don't think there's enough evidence to support vaccinating children."
Vaccinating children decision to be made in 'forthcoming weeks'
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the under-50s will be considered for the vaccine booster programme in due course.
He said: "We do know from other other vaccines that immunity wanes quicker in older people than younger people so we're factoring that in, but it's something we will keep a very close eye on.
"And, as I say, this is just stage one and stage two, and if we see data suggesting that either the vaccine effectiveness or the immunity is waning over time in younger people, we will be considering a booster in those groups as well."
He added that a decision on vaccinating children will be made in the "forthcoming weeks".
Summer holidays could be saved as ministers consider quarantine-free travel for double jabbed
Ministers are hoping to save the summer holidays by introducing quarantine-free travel for those who have had two doses, according to reports.
The plans would make fully-vaccinated passengers exempt from having to isolate upon returning from amber-list countries, according to The Times.
If successful the change will come into place by July 26 - the first full week of the summer holidays, the paper said.
After 16 months of restrictions, the move would open up travel to much of Europe but it could mean a scramble for vaccines as younger people try to make sure they get their second jabs in time to fly.
Vaccines for children necessary for herd immunity
Professor Jeffrey Almond, adviser to the UK's vaccine taskforce, told Sky News it may be necessary to vaccinate children in order for the population as a whole to reach herd immunity.
He said that, while it is good that so many adults have been jabbed, "the real figure that's important is what proportion of the whole population" are vaccinated.
"At the start of this we reckoned that you needed somewhere around 65% to 70% of the whole population to be immune in order to have that herd immunity which prevents the virus spreading, " he said.
"Now, since then we've got these rather more transmissible variants, particularly the Delta variant, so maybe that figure has gone up to around 70% ... and therefore we have to think about vaccinating kids.
"Because, with 80% of the adult population (vaccinated), if that only represents 50% of the whole population, we're still too low to prevent the virus spreading and it will spread in kids.
"So, I'm in favour, if we can and when we can, of vaccinating children as well so that the whole population is immune to the point where the virus can no longer circulate."
He added that, if herd immunity can be increased through vaccines, in future "any outbreaks might be quite localised and won't spread across the country".
List of Covid symptoms should be expanded, says Sage member
Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, said the Government's list of Covid symptoms should be expanded.
Professor Semple said fatigue, headache, sore throat and diarrhoea should be added to the list to catch diagnoses of the virus earlier as those symptoms are particularly prevalent in people in their 20s and 30s.
He told BBC Breakfast: "As older people are vaccinated, proportionally more younger people are having disease and they have a different group of symptoms.
"By extending the symptom list, we think we'll pick up about a third more cases. But, more importantly, we'll pick them up a day earlier and that offers greater opportunity to break transmission chains and stop further spread of the virus."
He added that the challenge is to make sure people are getting the "right" test for their symptoms but also encouraged anyone who is feeling unwell with any of the coronavirus symptoms to get tested.
"We don't want to overwhelm the PCR testing; we probably want to encourage more people to do lateral flow testing in the community, and then get a PCR to confirm it," he said.
'It's very clear we need to vaccinate children', says professor
Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of Independent Sage, said he does not believe that annual coronavirus vaccinations will be given to people in the future.
He told Times Radio: "I suspect what we will find is that, over the next few years, we'll have a couple of different variants of the vaccine and then that will probably be adequate. Then obviously younger people will have to be vaccinated as they come through the population."
Prof McKee added that he feels it is important to vaccinate children from a "population perspective" due to the need for 87% of people to be vaccinated so that there is "population immunity" against the virus.
"Twenty percent of the population are under 18 and there's a higher proportion in some communities so, therefore, it seems obvious from a population perspective," he said.
"I think people in the JCVI, who are looking at this from the perspective of the individual child and looking at the risk/benefit balance, are less enthusiastic about vaccinating children, but I'm a public health physician. From a population perspective, it's very clear that we have to vaccinate children."
Andy Murray rebukes Government over 'pathetic' NHS pay rise
British tennis star Andy Murray has joined condemnation of the Government for the "pathetic" 1% pay rise given to NHS workers.
Murray was asked for his thoughts after his second round win at Wimbledon on Wednesday, saying it was "fantastic" many frontline health workers and other key figures of the pandemic had been recognised by being invited to the championships.
"I think the whole country kind of realised how important they all are, and maybe hadn't got the recognition that they probably deserve up until now," Murray said.
"So, yeah, it's fantastic that they have been able to come along and watch some of the tennis. Hopefully they can enjoy it and, yeah, hopefully the politicians can realise that they deserve more than what they are getting paid just now.
"I think, what is it, they got something like a 1% pay rise? It was pathetic. So, yeah, they obviously deserve a lot more than that. They have done an amazing job getting us through the pandemic."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March insisted the 1% payrise allocated to NHS staff was as much as the Government could afford amid the financially tight times of the pandemic, although Labour said it went against a Government promise made last year for a 2.1% pay rise.
Covid booster in one arm, flu vaccine in the other in autumn
Dr Maggie Wearmouth said doctors are hoping that people who go for their flu vaccine in the autumn will also choose to have a coronavirus booster vaccine.
She told LBC's Nick Ferrari: "We would obviously want people to be up for both, but if someone says one and not the other, they're not going to be turned down when they're actually in front of a vaccinator.
"It is very much provisional information so that we can get on and get planning because it's an enormous task for a very tired workforce," she added. "Every day that we leave this, then it gets harder and harder to make this work because it's a big change. Some GP surgeries that are used to giving flu vaccines, for example, may not be able to give the Covid vaccine. So there's a lot of planning behind the scenes to make this work."
Asked if it was as effective to mix and match different brands of coronavirus vaccines when having the boosters rather than sticking to the original brands, she said: "It's definitely as good, it may be better, but we haven't had the final results from the Cov-boost trial," adding the results would be coming from the study "in a few weeks".
Covid cases in the future will be 'significantly more mild', says Oxford professor
Covid cases will be less of a worry in the future because infection will be much milder, a professor has said.
Professor Jeffrey Almond - chairman of the scientific advisory board at biotech company Osivax and visiting professor of microbiology at Oxford University - told Sky News that although a wave of the virus may return in the winter, we would live with it like we do with flu.
He said: "It's worth observing, however, that the serious pandemics of the 20th century... in the first wave, the first year, those pandemics were quite severe with a lot of deaths.
"As they went on, although those same viruses - with changes - continued to circulate, it became attenuated. They were less virulent in the population and caused less deaths.
"And it may be when we're vaccinated... if we do get infected in the future, it may be that it's significantly more mild than this first wave of infections in the human population."
Rise of the super-size meal as Britons eat to beat lockdown stress
Calorie intake increased by up to 15 per cent in the pandemic as Britons turned to cooking to cope with lockdown stress, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
Nine in 10 households increased their total calories as they were forced to work from home, raising the risk of rising obesity if the trend continued, the IFS said.
The biggest increases were among wealthier middle-class households, while the smallest increases were among the retired, many of whom had to shield and were reluctant to go out and buy food during lockdown, and among poorer families, who struggled financially during the pandemic.
Stormont decision day on rule relaxation
Stormont ministers will decide later whether to press ahead with further Covid-19 rule relaxations amid a warning the Delta variant now accounts for around 75 percent of Northern Ireland's cases.
A delayed round of measures originally scheduled for June 21 is currently earmarked for July 5, but only if the Executive green lights the steps at Thursday's meeting.
The relaxations include the return of live music across the hospitality sector; the reopening of theatres and indoor seated venues; the resumption of conferences and exhibitions; and increases in the numbers permitted to gather in indoor and outdoor domestic settings.
Ministers will also consider whether to lift a 500 limit on the size of outdoor non-domestic gatherings, potentially replacing the cap with a risk assessment model.
Allowing walk-in appointments for close contact services and permitting residential stays for youth summer camps are also among measures due to be assessed by the powersharing administration.
Today's front page
Here is your Daily Telegraph on Thursday, July 1.
Delta outbreak growing in Australian state despite lockdown
Australia's New South Wales (NSW) state on Thursday warned that significant numbers of new Covid-19 cases were being found in the community, raising fears of fresh clusters as it reported a rise in new infections for a third straight day.
With state capital Sydney in the middle of a two-week lockdown to contain an outbreak of the highly infectious delta variant, authorities said half of Thursday's total of 24 new cases had spent time in the community when infectious.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said many people with flu-like symptoms were ignoring lockdown orders and "going about their business".
Australia is battling simultaneous flare-ups of infections in several states and nearly half of all Australians are under stay-at-home orders to prevent any major outbreak of the Delta strain.
Pregnant women and new mothers left without mental health support
At least 16,000 pregnant women and new mothers missed out on mental health support during the pandemic, new figures reveal.
Covid pressures on the NHS meant women were abandoned to deal with suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) has warned.
In some areas, pregnant women and new mothers had just a 10 per cent chance of getting the help they needed.
Breastfeeding athletes can bring children to Olympics
Breastfeeding athletes will be allowed to bring children to the Tokyo Olympics "when necessary", organisers have announced, after criticism from mothers over tough rules on bringing family to the Games.
The clarification was welcomed by some athletes as a relief, but US football star Alex Morgan slammed organisers for keeping her in the dark about the criteria.
Athletes' families are banned from attending the pandemic-postponed Games, under anti-virus rules that organisers say are needed to hold the event safely.
But Games chiefs have now made an exception for breastfeeding infants "after careful consideration of the unique situation", saying they will be allowed to accompany their mothers "when necessary".
Nursing children will not be allowed to stay at the Olympic Village though, and must stay in private accommodation such as hotels.
Headache and runny nose should official symptoms, scientists say
A headache and a runny nose should be added to the official list of Covid symptoms, a government adviser has said.
Professor Calum Semple, who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), argued that the current definition risked missing many cases.
Classic symptoms of Covid-19, according to the NHS, are a high temperature, a new continuous cough, and/or a loss or change to a person's sense of smell or taste.
However, the most commonly reported symptoms by people taking part in the Office for National Statistics Covid-19 Infection Survey are a cough, headache and fatigue.
The latest ONS release showed that 61 per cent of people who tested positive reported symptoms.
Indonesia holds mass vaccination programme
Authorities in the Indonesian city of Bekasi on the outskirts of Jakarta are holding a mass coronavirus vaccination for 25,000 people at the city's main stadium on Thursday.
Officials say more than 1,500 health care workers, including 550 giving shots, are involved in the one-day effort.
The city's programme is part of Indonesia's campaign to boost the number of daily vaccinations to 1 million doses in July and 2 million in August.
Indonesia has reported nearly 2.2 million coronavirus cases and 58,491 deaths.
Thailand reports record daily deaths as some tourists return
Thailand on Thursday reported a daily record of 57 deaths from the coronavirus, the second day in a row of record-high fatalities as the Southeast Asian country struggles to quell a stubborn third wave of infections.
The report came on the same day as Thailand is kicking off a programme to revive tourism on Phuket, which has seen far fewer cases than the mainland after Thailand prioritised vaccinations for the population of the resort island.
Under the plan, foreign tourists vaccinated can bypass quarantine requirements and freely move around the island. After 14 days, barring any coronavirus issues, they can travel elsewhere in the country.
Infected should avoid their pets, experts warn
Cat or dog owners who have Covid-19 should avoid their pets while infected, experts have said.
Scientists in the Netherlands have found that coronavirus is common in pet cats and dogs where their owners have the disease.
While cases of owners passing on Covid-19 to their pets are considered to be of negligible risk to public health, the scientists say that there is a "potential risk" that domestic animals could act as a "reservoir" for coronavirus and reintroduce it to humans.
The research led by Dr Els Broens was presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) but has not yet been published in a journal.
Today's top stories
Head teachers have been told to stop sending “whole school bubbles” home to self-isolate when just one pupil tests positive.
Almost 50 Conservative MPs have told Boris Johnson that schools must return to normal from July 19, as they called for an end to “unnecessary disruption”.
Allowing children to catch Covid may be better than exposing them to the "risk" of vaccines, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said.
Britain’s underfunded school catch-up plan risks seeing the UK fall behind other nations for years to come, an education chief has warned.
More than half the population is set to be offered Covid booster vaccines alongside flu jabs from September, amid warnings that future freedoms depend on the rollout.
France delayed the planned lifting of coronavirus restrictions in a key region on Wednesday as its chief scientific advisor warned the delta variant could cause a fourth wave of infections.
Holidaymakers faced travel chaos on Wednesday as Malta refused to accept the NHS app as proof of vaccination and demanded Britons bring an official letter.
A headache and a runny nose should be added to the official list of Covid symptoms, a government adviser has said.