Coronavirus latest news: Human trial begins for first Oxford ‘variant vaccine’ against South Africa strain

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The London Underground has been filling up this weekend as new Health Secretary Sajid Javid says the priority is ending all lockdown restrictions as soon as possible - Guy Bell/Alamy Live News
The London Underground has been filling up this weekend as new Health Secretary Sajid Javid says the priority is ending all lockdown restrictions as soon as possible - Guy Bell/Alamy Live News

The world’s first Covid variant vaccine has today been injected into the arms of Britons as part of a clinical trial.

University of Oxford academics who created the original vaccine updated their blueprint to target the strain first identified in South Africa, also known as B.1.351 or the Beta variant.

This Variant of Concern emerged last year and is still in the UK at low levels, but while it never took hold like the Delta variant, it is believed this variant has some level of antibody escape making the existing jabs less effective against it.

As a result of this it was a prime target for the first “variant vaccine” and the AstraZeneca/Oxford team have now started trialling the booster jab — called AZD2816 — in 2,250 volunteers across the UK, Brazil, South Africa and Poland.

People are only eligible for the trial if they have already received two doses of an approved Covid vaccine more than three months prior to the study.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

01:22 PM

Good news for England's roadmap: vaccines weakening Covid chain

Britain's mass Covid-19 vaccination campaign has weakened the link between infections and deaths, a Government scientific advisor has reassured.

This link between infection, serious illness, hospitalisation and death has been a critical metric cited by ministers for deciding whether to ditch all remaining lockdown restrictions.

Prof Sir Peter Horby, chair of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that Britain was seeing a "much lower level of hospitalisation".

He was asked if there was enough data to say vaccinations had broken the link between the virus and serious illness and death.

"They've certainly weakened the link," Sir Peter said of the vaccines, a first dose of which has been given to more than 80 per cent of UK adults and a second dose to more than 60 per cent.

"We're definitely seeing increasing infection rates, but what we're seeing is a much lower level of hospitalisation, so that link is really, really much weaker which is really fantastic but it's not completely broken."

01:02 PM

It's game, set and match as Wimbledon throws open its gates again

It may rain, umbrellas being as much a feature of the English summer as striped jackets and strawberries and cream, but the return of Wimbledon will put a spring in the step of tennis fans whatever the weather.

The immaculate grass courts of southwest London went untrodden last year as one of the highlights of the sporting calendar was cancelled for the first time in three quarters of a century, another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But play is at least being resumed with eager spectators set to attend in their thousands this week, kicking off on Monday.

The tournament is a Government-approved 'pilot event' with a minimum 50 per cent capacity rising to a full 15,000 attendance for the men's and women's singles finals on Centre Court.

Ticket holders must still show proof of vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test or evidence of full recovery from the virus, and wear facemasks when moving around the grounds but not while seated.

Wimbledon is getting ready to welcome back fans this week - Toby Melville/Reuters
Wimbledon is getting ready to welcome back fans this week - Toby Melville/Reuters

12:42 PM

Children 'collateral damage' in pandemic as mental health admissions surge

As many as seven in 10 children in some hospitals have been admitted for mental health problems during the pandemic, according to a study.

It comes amid a rise in child admissions for eating disorders and depression across the country.

A survey of paediatricians across England found that the vast majority had seen an increase in the number of children in hospital due to mental health disorders, compared to a year earlier, before the three national lockdowns.

The research, backed by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), will add to concerns about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions on the mental health of children.

Writing for The Telegraph, Dr Lee Hudson, chief of mental health at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “So many children and young people have effectively been collateral damage in this pandemic and evidence suggests that it is the most vulnerable, socioeconomically, who have had the worst hit to their mental health.”

12:19 PM

Call to India public to overcome vaccine hesitancy amid third wave fears

India's Prime Minister has pleaded with the public to overcome vaccine hesitancy and get inoculated as soon as possible, as concerns grow about the highly infectious 'Delta plus variant' being detected in some states.

After a fall in infections from May's daily peak of 400,000, India has redoubled its efforts to inoculate the country's 940 million adults amid supply constraints and fears of a third wave of pandemic.

"Get vaccinated," Narendra Modi said in his monthly radio address, urging the public to adhere to social distancing and wear masks. "That is a good safety shield. Think about that."

India must administer 10 million doses a day to achieve its aim of inoculating all adults by December, experts say. But the country has fully vaccinated fewer than 6 per cent with two doses.

Interacting with some villagers in a virtual meeting, Modi asked community leaders to foster awareness among villagers about the benefits of vaccination and curb rumours about ill effects.

11:58 AM

'Perhaps the Great British public aren’t terrified, quivering supplicants after all'

Matt Hancock’s offence was to break the sacred moral trust on which the lockdown is constructed, says Janet Daley.

It may well be causing a revival of some form of social democratic spirit. Just as, at the end of the war, there was enthusiasm for a welfare state and a free health service to reflect national solidarity, there is now a feeling of shared communality that low tax-small state conservatism (which used to be labelled “selfish individualism”) must take into account. Is it possible that the Prime Minister, in the midst of the shambles that is Downing Street, may be vaguely aware of this mood in the country?

11:37 AM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

A near empty Sydney Opera House forecourt as fresh stay-at-home orders come into force in the city for two weeks - Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
A near empty Sydney Opera House forecourt as fresh stay-at-home orders come into force in the city for two weeks - Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
In front of the National Palace in Guatemala City, Guatemala, an candle-lit vigil is held for the country's 9,000 Covid victims - REUTERS
In front of the National Palace in Guatemala City, Guatemala, an candle-lit vigil is held for the country's 9,000 Covid victims - REUTERS
In New Delhi, India, a fruit vendor pulls his cart as he walks past a wall mural depicting a frontline Covid-19 health worker - MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images
In New Delhi, India, a fruit vendor pulls his cart as he walks past a wall mural depicting a frontline Covid-19 health worker - MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images

11:19 AM

The Covid road ahead is bumpy, says scientist

The route out of the Covid-19 pandemic will be "a bumpy road" with "twists and turns", an expert has warned.

Prof Sir Peter Horby, chair of the Government's Nervtag advisory group, said: "We've seen Sydney reintroduce lockdown measures, we've seen Israel reintroduce masks, we've seen the Alpha variant and now we've seen the Delta variant and how many letters are in the alphabet? We will see many more.

"So we have to expect that it will be a bumpy road out and that there will be twists and turns that we're not wishing to see."

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "One of the questions is how far can this virus change... what's the envelope of plasticity of the virus? Can it really keep on changing forever? Will it sort of settle down? It probably will settle down I think."

11:04 AM

Marr discloses 'unlucky' brush with Covid after vaccination

Andrew Marr has revealed he suffered a "nasty" bout of coronavirus after having both vaccinations.

Describing his symptoms as similar to a "summer cold", the 61-year-old presenter told BBC viewers this morning: "I had a bit of Covid last week, despite being double jabbed, and very nasty it was too."

He suggested he may have contracted the virus while covering the G7 summit in Cornwall earlier this month.

According to Government guidance, some people may still get Covid-19 despite having a vaccination, but it should be less severe.

On his BBC show, Mr Marr raised the illness with Sir Peter Horby, who chairs the Government's Nervtag scientific committee, who felt he was just unlucky. He said:

What we know with the vaccines is that they are actually remarkably effective at preventing hospitalisations and deaths. They are less effective at preventing infection. So, although you were sick, you weren't hospitalised and there wasn't any fatality, and that is probably because of the vaccination.

10:45 AM

'Breakthrough infections' still a concern despite high vaccine rates

Despite people being vaccinated there will be "breakthrough infections" and individuals can still be "pretty sick" from Covid-19, an expert said.

Nervtag chairman Professor Sir Peter Horby told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "It's really important for people to realise that, as we increase the vaccination rates and most older people are vaccinated, we will see breakthrough infections."

He added "that does not mean that the vaccines don't work, breakthroughs were expected".

"What we want to do is to prevent hospitalisations and deaths and the vaccines do that very effectively," he added.

Prof Horby said: "You can be pretty sick and not end up in hospital", adding: "I'm in my 50s and many of my friends of a similar age have had pretty severe illness and have been close to trying to commit themselves to hospital, so you can get quite a nasty disease."

He added there is not yet strong enough evidence to change definitions of Covid-19 symptoms.

10:30 AM

New Health Secretary says 'immediate priority' is to get UK back to normal

Sajid Javid has said his "most immediate priority" will be getting the UK back to normal "as quickly as possible", as he takes up the job of Health Secretary.

The former Chancellor made a return to Government on Saturday night, amid a scandal over his predecessor breaching social distancing rules with a close aide.

Mr Javid, who has been vocal on the backbenches about the harms of lockdown, told reporters: "I just want to start by saying I think Matt Hancock worked incredibly hard, he achieved a lot, and I'm sure he will have more to offer in public life.

"I was honoured to take up this position. I also know that it comes with a huge responsibility and I will do everything I can to make sure that I deliver for this great country.

"We are still in a pandemic and I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible and that will be my most immediate priority, to see that we can return to normal as soon and as quickly as possible."

The British Medical Association has warned Mr Javid he faces a “baptism of fire” with “huge and urgent” challenges around NHS staffing, morale and the backlog ahead.

10:17 AM

Scientist: Data looks encouraging for July 19 unlocking, but not before

Data on the UK's coronavirus situation is looking "encouraging" and on track for lockdown to be fully eased by July 19, but not before, a Government scientist has said.

Professor Sir Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said: "We always have to be driven by the data, not the dates.

"So we're watching it very carefully and there will be a lot of analysis of the data coming up to that date, to make sure we're comfortable with that release.

"At the moment, the data is encouraging that we can do that. But we have to make sure that we follow the data."

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show he would not bring the restrictions easing date forward, adding that it had been "very sensible" to delay the previous June 21 target date by four weeks.

"I don't think we should rush into anything, we really want to make sure that we can release all restrictions and not have to backtrack at all," he added.

10:01 AM

Coronaviral: How the internet reacted to Matt Hancock's resignation

The day after video footage emerged of Matt Hancock kissing an aide in his ministerial office in a breach of coronavirus restrictions he quit as Health Secretary.

Images and video showed Mr Hancock in an embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo last month, and Conservative MPs told of how their inboxes had filled with complaints similar to those they received during Dominic Cummings's infamous trip to Barnard Castle during a national lockdown.

The affair and his resignation prompted shock and mockery on the internet.

Here we take a light-hearted look at how the Twitterverse reacted.

09:42 AM

Sadiq Khan calls for theatres and hospitality to open fully next month

Theatres, music venues, pubs and bars should "fully reopen" on July 19, the Mayor of London has said.

Following desperate pleas for support from Andrew Lloyd-Webber and much of the industry, Sadiq Khan told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show this morning: "Theatres have worked so hard to make themselves Covid secure."

He added: "I think they should fully reopen on July 19, as well as live music venues, as well as pubs, as well as bars.

"The two things that are crucial over the next period is: one, to make sure everyone gets the vaccine, but also secondly, that we make sure we have a rapid recovery."

He added that he felt "reassured" over tens of thousands of fans attending the closing matches of Euro 2020 at Wembley Stadium, adding: " It's going to be great for our city.

The Government announced this week that Wembley could go up to 75% capacity for the semi-finals and final, meaning more than 60,000 people could attend each of those matches.

09:38 AM

In pictures: Martha Hancock out and about following Matt Hancock aide scandal

Martha Hancock leaves home earlier on Sunday morning after Matt Hancock resigned - Jamie Lorriman
Martha Hancock leaves home earlier on Sunday morning after Matt Hancock resigned - Jamie Lorriman
Martha Hancock was pictured out and about on Sunday morning - Jamie Lorriman
Martha Hancock was pictured out and about on Sunday morning - Jamie Lorriman

09:20 AM

Labour MP refers Hancock footage to the police

A Labour minister has said the police should investigate Matt Hancock's alleged breach of social distancing rules.

She told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News that Labour MP Fleur Anderson had referred the ex-health secretary to the police to find out if any laws had been broken.

"At the time, you'll remember, when this video was taken, we were all told that we could only have close contact with those that we were in a bubble with, they were our bubble, and that was the only people we could have close contact with, that was the law at the time," she said.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of London said the departure of Matt Hancock as health secretary should be followed by "proper investigations into which rules were broken".

Sadiq Khan told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show this morning: "What's important now is for there to be proper investigations into which rules were broken in relation to use of private email, in relation to the appointment of senior staff and also in relation to the social distancing rules."

The mayor welcomed Mr Hancock's successor Sajid Javid to his new role as a fellow son of a bus driver.

He said: "It's always good to see this small club of children of bus drivers doing really, really well and I wish him all the best."

09:01 AM

Fresh lockdown in Thailand as Covid cases rise

Thailand is reimposing a month of lockdown curbs as it tries to contain a fresh wave of Covid cases.

After a year of relative success in keeping infection rates low, Thailand's latest wave kicked off in April and has since spread through an overcrowded prison system, migrant workers and service industries.

Starting Monday, construction sites in Bangkok and surrounding areas will close, workers will be banned from leaving, eat-in customers at restaurants prohibited, and and gatherings restricted to a maximum of 20 people.

Checkpoints will be set up in Thailand's southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Songkhla. Travellers must carry a "letter of intent" to leave or enter.

The new restrictions come ahead of the July 1 launch of a quarantine-free model for vaccinated tourists in the popular holiday destination Phuket.

08:45 AM

Poll: 'The Government’s new plan for face masks is a recipe for chaos'

After July 19, life is supposed to get back to normal. But it might actually get more complicated, says our columnist Michael Deacon.

And what will you be doing with masks? Have your say in our Twitter poll below.

Sorry, but the Government has got to make its mind up. Either we do need to wear masks, or we don’t. This woolly, indecisive new approach will cause chaos. At least when we were forced to wear the things, we were all in the same boat. After July 19, however, we’ll be horribly divided. Think about it. Suddenly, in every supermarket in the country, there will be two kinds of shopper. And each group will resent the other with a seething, muttering fury.

08:31 AM

'I buried my daughter mostly alone, why should I follow the rules now?'

Sky's Trevor Phillips, who buried his daughter last month at a Covid restricted funeral, has asked the Northern Ireland secretary why he should follow any further rules after Matt Hancock breached them.

Mr Philips tells Brandon Lewis: "I wouldn't normally do something like this but I want to put a private personal question to you."

He points out that over the past two days every cabinet minister has come out to defend the prime minister and Mr Hancock, since pictures emerged of him breaching social distancing riles, reportedly on May 6.

Mr Phillips says that five days later, "my family buried my daughter who had died, not of Covid, but during the lockdown".

He adds: "Three hundred of our family and friends turned up online but most of them were not allowed to be at the graveside, even though it was in the open air, because of the rule of 30 - because of the instruction by Mr Hancock.

"Now the next time one of you tells me what to do in my private life, explain to me why I shouldn't just tell you where to get off?"

Mr Lewis says he understands the "tragic situation" and says it stresses why people need to stay safe.

08:15 AM

Official probe to search for answers on Hancock video leak

An official investigation will be launched into how the CCTV footage from Matt Hancock's office showing him kissing and embracing an aide was leaked.

Appearing on Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, was asked about the security concerns around the footage.

"It's something we need to get to the bottom of," he said. "Quite rightly what happens in Government departments can be sensitive and important."

He added: "So yes, I do know that is something the Department of Health will be taking forward as an internal investigation."

Mr Lewis also said Matt Hancock did not resign straight away because he "wanted to stay focused" on tackling coronavirus, but was right to quit after "taking that opportunity to look at the situation and to reflect".

Leaked footage from Matt Hancock's office in the Department of Health and Social Care
Leaked footage from Matt Hancock's office in the Department of Health and Social Care

08:00 AM

Labour says Hancock leaves behind 'damning legacy'

Matt Hancock should have been sacked as health secretary by the Prime Minister and leaves behind a "damning legacy", Labour has claimed.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, told BBC Breakfast: "Boris Johnson should have had the guts, the spine, the awareness, the judgment, to sack him on Friday.

"Over 12 months now he failed to protect the care homes. He didn't put a protective ring around care homes and that had tragic consequences.

"He sent NHS staff to the front line to face a ferocious deadly virus and they didn't have the correct PPE. The test and tracing system, billions have been spent on it and it hasn't worked.

"We still don't pay people decent sick pay. The Delta variant reached our shores because our borders were not secure. So I don't think that is a record to be proud of. I think that is a damning legacy."

07:49 AM

Javid 'looking forward' to contributing to Covid fight

Sajid Javid has said he is "honoured" to be asked to be Health Secretary. following the resignation of Matt Hancock over a social-distancing rule breach scandal by kissing an aide.

Mr Javid, the former chancellor and home secretary, was appointed to the prominent role just 90 minutes after Downing Street announced Mr Hancock had resigned on Saturday evening.

It came the day after video footage emerged of Mr Hancock kissing an aide in his ministerial office in a breach of coronavirus restrictions.

Images and video showed Mr Hancock in an embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo last month, and Conservative MPs told of how their inboxes had filled with complaints similar to those they received during Dominic Cummings's infamous trip to Barnard Castle during a national lockdown.

Here's what the new Health Secretary has to say:

07:43 AM

Today's front page

Here is your Sunday Telegraph for June 27.

06:46 AM

Lockdown measures strengthened in KL

Security forces set up barbed wire in Kampung Segambut on Saturday as the National Security Council ordered a total lockdown for two weeks after the increase in Covid cases in several districts in Kuala Lumpur - Syaiful Redzuan/Anadolu Agency
Security forces set up barbed wire in Kampung Segambut on Saturday as the National Security Council ordered a total lockdown for two weeks after the increase in Covid cases in several districts in Kuala Lumpur - Syaiful Redzuan/Anadolu Agency

Malaysia will extend a national lockdown beyond Monday to curb the spread of Covid, state news agency Bernama reported today.

Lockdown measures were set to end on Monday, but Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said they would not be eased until daily cases fall below 4,000.

Malaysia reported 5,803 cases on Saturday.

05:56 AM

Cases climb as Australia records cases once again

Australia is facing yet another coronavirus scare this weekend as the country struggles with its vaccination rate.

  • Sydney began a two-week lockdown today as a cluster of cases of the highly infectious delta variant rose to 110 in Australia's largest city

  • An outbreak in the Northern Territory capital of Darwin has prompted a hard two-day stay-at-home order. The Northern Territory, home to some of Australia's most famous ancient Aboriginal culture and a strong mining sector, saw its first coronavirus case in months yesterday and reported four locally acquired infections, unrelated to the Sydney outbreak

  • Neighbouring Queensland reported two locally acquired cases today, with authorities saying both infections were of the alpha variant, first detected in the UK in September

  • Western Australia has reported one community case that state authorities suspect is the delta variant. The state had only recently removed its coronavirus restrictions after managing to control the spread, but today they're back. Restrictions include mandatory masks, a limit of 30 visitors in homes and a cap of 150 people at weddings and funerals.

05:22 AM

New Zealand 'not out of the woods yet'

New Zealand will extend its Covid alert level in the capital Wellington for two days, as authorities said today that there is still a risk from an Australian tourist who tested positive for coronavirus after visiting the city last weekend.

Wellington, which moved to Alert Level 2 on Wednesday, will now remain at that level until Tuesday.

"It's clear that we are not out of the woods yet," Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

The measure means social distancing rules will be in place across the city, but offices, schools and businesses may remain open.

New Zealand halted quarantine-free travel from Australia on Saturday for three days, saying there were too many cases and outbreaks.

05:03 AM

Second jab figure reaches nearly 32.25 million

More than 32,244,220 people in the UK have received their second vaccination in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest government figures show that 44,078,244 people have been given their first dose of a Covid vaccine.

04:48 AM

UK surpasses 500,000 genomically sequenced Covid tests

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the UK had now genomically sequenced more than half a million positive Covid-19 samples.

This genetic make-up data is used to identify new variants and help suppress the spread of the virus. It is estimated that the UK contributes about half of all sequencing shared for comparison around the world.

The DHSC said such work will help support decisions over relaxing social distancing rules in the future.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: "Sequencing genomes has been one of most versatile tools in our armoury in the battle against Covid-19, and as we progress down the roadmap its role only increases in importance - helping us track mutations in the virus and act decisively to stop cases becoming outbreaks."

04:46 AM

Half of England's adults under 30 have had first jab

Half of all adults aged under 30 in England will have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by today, the NHS said.

More than 4.2 million people aged between 18 and 29 have received a jab just three weeks after the coronavirus vaccination programme was opened up to those in their 20s.

The achievement comes as hundreds of walk-in vaccination sites, including at stadiums and shopping centres, opened in England this weekend in a bid to boost vaccine numbers amid rising cases.

A new online search tool, "grab a jab" campaign, allows people in England to input their postcode to find their nearest walk-in vaccination site.

01:08 AM

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