Boris Johnson is to delay announcing how social distancing rules could be eased amid concerns over the impact of new Covid variants.
The government is now not expected to give the all clear to the fourth and final step in England’s relaxation of lockdown rules until 14 June – a week ahead of the earliest date for the removal of restrictions on 21 June.
That comes amid speculation that the June date could slip, with some health experts urging the government to delay a full unlocking while new variants are assessed.
Elsewhere, a study found thay Covid infection has a distinct smell that can be detected by specially trained dogs with up to 94 per cent accuracy.
The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, are based on six dogs who tested more than 3,500 odour samples donated by the public and NHS staff.
Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for Monday 24 May, 2021.
Akshita Jain24 May 2021 05:12
India’s Covid-19 death toll surpasses 300,000
India’s overall death toll from Covid-19 has crossed 300,000 after 4,454 fatalities were recorded over the 24 hours ending Monday morning.
This makes India only the third country after the US and Brazil to record more than 300,000 deaths.
The daily infections rose by 222,315, taking the caseload to 26.75 million.
Experts say the real number of coronavirus cases and deaths might be much higher than those being officially recorded.
Akshita Jain24 May 2021 05:39
Indian state says unable to get Covid-19 vaccines directly from Moderna
The Indian state of Punjab has said that US pharmaceutical firm Moderna refused to send supplies of its Covid-19 vaccines and said it can only deal with the federal government.
Punjab, like several other states in the country, has flagged a shortage of doses in recent days. It was forced to stop vaccination for some categories of adults because of the shortage.
Punjab official Vikas Garg said that the state government had also approached manufacturers of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Sputnik vaccines, according to Reuters.
Akshita Jain24 May 2021 05:48
India looks at WHO recognition for homegrown vaccine
The Indian government is reportedly working to get Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin clearance from the World Health Organisation and European Medicines Agency.
This comes amid reports that Indians inoculated with Covaxin may not be allowed to travel internationally because the vaccine is not part of WHO’s Emergency Use List yet.
The Hindu reported that India’s external affairs ministry has been tasked with looking at the matter.
Akshita Jain24 May 2021 06:02
Passengers skip Covid-19 test at train station in India
Passengers who arrived in the Indian state of Assam rushed out of a train station in an attempt to avoid the mandatory Covid-19 test.
The incident happened at the Jagiroad station in Assam. Railway authorities said the crowd was more than expected, and they are now tracing people to get them tested.
Akshita Jain24 May 2021 06:26
India ‘late to the table” in buying vaccines, says virologist
India delayed the process of buying Covid-19 vaccines in bulk and may now have few options available, top virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang told NDTV in an interview.
States in India have reported a shortage of vaccines and some have been forced to suspend vaccinations. India has fully vaccinated only 3.8 per cent of its population.
Dr Kang said that a better option would be to approach Indian manufacturers. “There are multiple manufacturers who are ready to make vaccines that are in clinical trials. We don’t have the results of their studies, but why are we not doing at-risk investments in those manufacturers?” she asked.
Akshita Jain24 May 2021 06:41
Indian state prepares for cyclone amid pandemic
Bracing for a cyclone, the Indian state of Odisha is preparing its Covid-19 hospitals to have alternate power backups.
The state chief minister has directed officials to ensure that hospitals have adequate supply of medical oxygen and medicines.
The Indian Meteorological Department has said the cyclone is likely to cross Odisha-West Bengal coast around 26 May as a very severe cyclonic storm.
Akshita Jain24 May 2021 07:08
Britons urged not to travel to Spain after it opens doors to UK tourists
Britons have been urged not to travel to Spain after Madrid opened the doors to tourists from the UK.
The country remains on the government’s “amber list”, meaning people returning will need to take a series of Covid-19 tests and self-isolate at home.
Business minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan told Sky News: “The prime minister has been clear that, for now, amber means ‘please don’t go unless there is an urgent family reason and so on’ because we are still trying to slowly move through our road map to being able to open up on June 21 and we want to do that in a steady and careful way.”
She added that “we hope very much that, obviously, the amber numbers will become more green in due course” but “at the moment, today, that means amber countries really aren’t safe to go to”.
Samuel Osborne24 May 2021 07:49
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Tom Batchelor24 May 2021 08:14
Pandemic ‘over’ if vaccines keep hospital admissions low, says professor
The pandemic can effectively be declared “over” if vaccines continue to keep the number of people requiring hospital treatment at a low level, a leading health expert has said.
Professor Andrew Pollard, from the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If the current generation of vaccines are able to stop people going into hospital, whilst there is still mild infections, people are getting the common cold with the virus, then the pandemic is over.
“Because we can live with the virus, in fact we are going to have to live with the virus in one way or another, but it doesn’t matter if most people are kept out of hospital because then the NHS can continue to function and life will be back to normal. We just need a little bit more time to have certainty around this.”
On whether booster vaccines will be needed, he said work was ongoing to make new vaccines in case they were needed, but it was not certain that they would be.
He urged people to have their second jab and said coronavirus will find the unvaccinated, adding that the Indian variant was able to spread “slightly better” whether people have been vaccinated or not.
“Of course this is the variant that’s around at the moment but future variants are going to get even better at doing that,” he said.
“That’s the evolution of this virus, that it’s going to find ways around immune responses to be able to spread a bit better, and so that gives a really important public health message, which is that if you’re unvaccinated, then the virus will eventually find those individuals in the population who are unvaccinated, and of course if you’re over 50 and unvaccinated, you’re at much greater risk of severe disease.”
Tom Batchelor24 May 2021 08:25