Vaccines appear to have broken the chain between coronavirus infection and serious illness, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.

Delta variant hospitalisations are increasing but not “very significantly” and, in Bolton at least, typically involve individuals who are “a lot younger and a lot less at-risk of very serious complication” or death – reducing the demand for critical care, according to Providers chief Chris Hopson.

But Professor Stephen Reicher, who sits on the SPI-B advisory committee, warned that it is clear by the government’s own criteria that it would be “foolish” and a “major risk” to go ahead with the June 21 lockdown easing, as reports suggest ministers are considering delaying the reopening date by a fortnight.

With new daily coronavirus cases surpassing 6,000 for the first time since March, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday it was “too early to say” whether current plans could go ahead.

Meanwhile, the travel industry continues to rage at the government following its decision to remove Portugal from its “green list”, with Airlines UK’s chief executive lamenting the “complete pandemonium” caused by the lack of warning offered to travellers by the government.

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Belgium’s most senior virologist forced into hiding over threat of armed far-right soldier

The most senior virologist in Belgium has been forced to go into hiding for the past three weeks after an armed far-right soldier with a lockdown-inspired vendetta set him in his sights.

Professor Marc van Ranst and his family have found themselves living in a police safe house as special forces hunt for Jurgen Conings, a military shooting instructor who disappeared from his barracks three weeks ago, reportedly armed with a rocket launcher and machine gun.

Speaking for the first time of the night he was forced to leave his home, Professor van Ranst told the BBC: “The ex-soldier, heavily armed, was on my street for three hours, right in front of my house, waiting for me to arrive home from work.”

He added: “Unfortunately, he’s a trained sniper with heavy armour, military-grade material and weapons. So, these are the kind of people that you would prefer not to have hunting you.”

Andy Gregory5 June 2021 15:52


Arlene Foster receives second vaccine dose

Northern Ireland’s first minister has received her second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in her Co Fermanagh constituency.

The former DUP leader had her first jab at the end of March.

Andy Gregory5 June 2021 15:37


Former LGBT+ adviser to government says community ‘forgotten about’ when it comes to Covid data

A former LGBT+ adviser to government has urged ministers and public health bodies to produce data on the health impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the minority group, our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports.

Issuing a plea for the collection of national statistics on incidence, hospitalisations and deaths during the crisis, professor Catherine Meads suggested the community had been “forgotten” about.

The member of the recently disbanded group – set up to advise government on LGBT+ issues – told The Independent she was concerned about the lack of research, saying: “The analysis has not been done and it should have been done”.

Andy Gregory5 June 2021 15:28


Glasgow finally drops to lower level of restrictions

Glasgow has finally dropped to Level 2 of Scotland’s coronavirus measures, permitting residents to drink alcohol indoors, meet in each others’ homes and hug loved ones for the first time in months.

While the whole of mainland Scotland was supposed to move to Level 1 on Monday, the west coast city will join Edinburgh, Stirling, Dundee and 10 other council areas in remaining in Level 2 for another few weeks.

Announcing the move on Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon admitted the Level 2 restrictions were “still tough” but insisted it was “not lockdown”.

However, Aberdeenshire, Perth and Kinross and Fife are among 15 council areas which moved to Level 1 restrictions from midnight on Saturday – which permit eight people to meet inside public spaces and 12 people outdoors.

Andy Gregory5 June 2021 15:12


Scotland records second-highest number of new cases since February

Scotland has recorded its second-highest number of daily coronavirus infections since February, according to the latest Scottish Government figures.

There were 860 new cases of coronavirus identified in the past 24 hours – although it is a significant drop from the 992 reported on Friday.

One person infected with coronavirus has died in the same period, taking the official death toll to 7,677.

The total of 51,814 vaccinations carried out is down by 1,331 on the figure reported on Friday, but is still the second-highest since 23 April.

Andy Gregory5 June 2021 14:55


‘We are going to see cases rise over coming weeks’, adviser says

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), said the government has a “difficult call” to make about easing restrictions.

He told Times Radio that with a delay “of course you’ll get a smaller subsequent wave”, but added: “Of course, if you delay that we know that negatively impacts businesses, people’s livelihoods, and so forth.”

Asked for his own view on what the current data meant for unlocking in little over a fortnight, Dr Tildesley said: “I think the data is certainly pointing towards the fact we are going to see cases rise over the coming weeks.

“I think we may well see hospital admissions and deaths also rise over the coming weeks, but I think where the bigger uncertainty is, and this is really where the key decision is for the Government, is how much those hospital admissions and deaths may rise.

“I don’t believe they will rise to the same scale they did in January, but what are the government going to consider is a rise they are then concerned about and that may then jeopardise the reopening on June 21?”

Andy Gregory5 June 2021 14:45


Latest vaccine figures for England

A total of 56,602,996 Covid-19 vaccinations took place in England between 8 December and 4 June, according to NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 471,939 on the previous day.

NHS England said 33,525,485 were the first dose of a vaccine, a rise of 150,337 on the previous day, while 23,077,511 were a second dose, an increase of 321,602.

Zoe Tidman5 June 2021 14:11


Independent Sage calls for ‘pause’ to lockdown easing plans

The Independent Sage group are among those urging Boris Johnson to “pause” the lifting of the final Covid restrictions on 21 June in order to avoid a lockdown at a later point.

In a statement, the self-styled shadow group said there was increasing evidence that the so-called “Delta variant” has “spread widely across the UK and is continuing to spread, that it has higher infectivity than the previous circulating variant, and that it is more likely to cause disease and hospitalisation”.

The group added: “There is increasing evidence that vaccine efficacy is compromised against this variant, and that individuals remain at particular risk until they receive two doses.

“There is some evidence that protection from two doses wanes after a number of months, particularly in the elderly. Meanwhile, cases are surging in school-aged children, and spreading into the community, particularly amongst those yet to be fully vaccinated. It is clear that the link between infection and hospitalisation has not yet been fully broken.”

But the numbers of patients being admitted to hospital across England with Covid appear to be holding steady.

According to our health correspondent Shaun Lintern, the latest internal data shared withThe Independent showed that there were 803 patients in hospital overall, up from 779 on Thursday. On Wednesday, the figure was 801. Although there were more than 50 new admissions to hospital for patients with Covid, the NHS discharged 90 patients in the past 24 hours.

Andy Gregory5 June 2021 13:57


Covid infection rate up by 75% in one week

With the 21 June reopening date potentially on the line and “pandemonium” in the travel sector, experts and decision-makers are anxiously waiting to see what impact vaccines may have upon hospitalisations and incidences of serious disease.

What is clear, however, is that cases are rising significantly, placing pressure on the already rapid vaccine rollout to keep pace.

Our health and policy correspondents, Shaun Lintern and Jon Stone, have this joint report on the latest Office for National Statistics figures:

Andy Gregory5 June 2021 13:42


Huge queue forms for vaccines among under 30s at Greater London clinic

Young people have queued up for hours to get a Covid-19 vaccine at a Greater London health centre offering jabs to those aged 18 and over.

While national eligibility criteria in England states that only those aged 30 and over are currently being invited for their first jab, Belmont Health Centre in Harrow is open on Saturday to over-18s who are still waiting for their first vaccine and who live or work in Harrow.

By mid-morning, a huge queue had formed in the area of the health centre, with the line snaking around a car park and stretching down the street.

(Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

(Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

Andy Gregory5 June 2021 13:20

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