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Coronavirus news – live: Johnson urged to cancel India trip over variant fears as UK nears 10m second jabs

Coronavirus in numbers

Only eight countries would make the government’s green list for safe travel, industry modelling suggests.

So far only Ireland, the US, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Malta, Gibraltar and Israel meet what is thought to be the government’s criteria.

Meanwhile, Labour has called on Boris Johnson to cancel a planned visit to India later this month amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Scientists and government officials have raised concerns about the spread of the coronavirus variant first identified in India, with more than 70 cases already having been recorded in the UK.

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Good morning and welcome to the latest coronavirus updates fromThe Independent.

Samuel Osborne18 April 2021 08:09
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Fans return to live sport in lockdown easing test

Thousands of fans are returning to Wembley Stadium on Sunday as part of a lockdown easing test.

FA Cup semi-final spectators will be part of a large research project looking at how fans and audiences can safely attend events again, with music events to follow in the coming weeks.

Along with the World Snooker Championship, which started on Saturday, the pilots will be part of the UK government’s science-led Events Research Programme (ERP).

The FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton on Sunday will host an audience of 4,000. While the snooker at the indoor Sheffield Crucible Theatre will operate at the socially distanced capacity of about 325 for the first few days.

Before attending any of the events, spectators will have to test negative for coronavirus in a lateral flow test (LFT) – supervised where possible – taken in the previous 36 hours.

And after attending the occasion, they will be asked to conduct a PCR coronavirus swab test.

Samuel Osborne18 April 2021 08:20
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Indian Covid variant must be investigated as soon as possible, epidemiologist says

A leading epidemiologist says it is crucial that British scientists urgently learn as much as they can about the Indian Covid-19 variant to assess what action needs to be taken to restrict its transmission.

“I would always say when these new variants do emerge it is a concern and it’s really important that we get as much information as we can as quickly as possible,” Dr Tildesley, from the University of Warwick, told BBC News.

“What’s concerning about the Indian variant is there appear to be two mutations which… may make the vaccines less effective, and may make the virus more transmissible.

“The key thing here is ‘may’. We are still trying to gather evidence about this.”

Samuel Osborne18 April 2021 08:40
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Action to combat local clusters as they appear may be necessary, scientist warns

Mike Tildesley said the emergence of new Covid variants was not surprising, but that action to combat local clusters as they appear may be necessary.

“It’s not surprising that new variants emerge. They’re emerging all the time,” he told BBC News.

“But as we get more information, if we do get evidence that they are evading the vaccine and they are more transmissible, what we need to do is take action to really suppress those.

“It may be that surge testing is needed to stamp down on local clusters of infection if we do get evidence that this is a real variant of concern.”

Dr Tildesley said it was likely in future that vaccines would be adjusted to address mutations, much like flu vaccines are changed most years.

“Every time you have a (flu) vaccine… it’s not the same one you have every year. It will be tweaked to combat whatever happens to be circulating at the time,” he said.

“We’re not quite there yet of course with Covid vaccines that can be tweaked to protect against new variants, but my understanding is the vaccine companies are working on this, and in the longer term we should be able to provide boosters to people to protect against whatever new variants are circulating.”

Samuel Osborne18 April 2021 08:51
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Only eight countries would make green list for safe travel, industry modelling suggests

So far only Ireland, the US, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Malta, Gibraltar and Israel meet what is thought to be the government’s criteria.

According to The Telegraph, research from the former strategy chief at BA, Robert Boyle, suggests the criteria includes vaccination rates, prevalence of the virus, the extent of variants and the capacity for genome sequencing

Samuel Osborne18 April 2021 09:06
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No evidence Indian variant can ‘get around’ vaccine, environment secretary says

George Eustice said there is no evidence that the Indian variant of coronavirus is able to “get around” the vaccine.

Asked about the variant from India on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, the environment secretary said: “The last I think I saw… there were around 70 cases.

“But I think I’ve seen lots of different numbers on different variants – you’ll appreciate, there is quite a few – so it is a fairly small number at the moment. But it is something that we are watching.

“I’m told that there is no evidence at the moment that this particular variant is able to get around the vaccine, for instance, or indeed that it is necessarily more contagious than the others.”

Samuel Osborne18 April 2021 09:23
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Labour calls on Johnson to cancel India trip amid Covid variant surge

Boris Johnson should not visit India later this month as he currently plans to, Labour has said,

The shadow communities secretary, Steve Reed, said: “I can’t see why the prime minister can’t conduct his business via Zoom.”

Asked by Sky’s Sophy Ridge whether Mr Johnson should still be planning to attend the trade visit, he responded: “he should not be, no.”

Samuel Osborne18 April 2021 09:35
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Prime minister’s trip to India should go ahead despite rising Covid rates, Eustice says

Earlier, George Eustice said the prime minister’s trip to India should go ahead later this month.

Pressed on the matter on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, the environment secretary said: “Public health does come first but there doesn’t mean that there should be no visits at all for business purposes.”

Mr Eustice said “for something like this, I think yes it is appropriate”, adding: “But absolutely measures will be taken to ensure that the visit is Covid-secure.”

Samuel Osborne18 April 2021 09:54
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People can be reinfected by different strains of coronavirus, Dr Susan Hopkins warns

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said there had been cases where people had become reinfected by different strains of the coronavirus.

“We have seen some people who have had their first dose of vaccine who have had the South African variant and the variant that arose in Kent,” she told BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

“That’s to be expected, we know that these vaccines aren’t 100 per cent protecting you against infection and that’s why we ask people to take caution.

“You can see that they’re not as good against the South African variant as they are against our own (variant) B117 at preventing infection and transmission.”

Dr Hopkins said vaccines were a “primer” for the immune system and would help reduce hospitalisations and deaths from the virus.

“It is highly likely that these (vaccines) will be effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths because it is a primer for your immune system,” she said,

“When your immune system is exposed to a variation of the same virus it responds faster and more adequately to protect you against severe disease.”

Samuel Osborne18 April 2021 10:11
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Vaccinations may be needed for new care workers, co-leader of Green Party says

The co-leader of the Green Party, Jonathan Bartley, said people becoming care workers in new jobs may need to have been vaccinated before taking up a post.

Mr Bartley told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We don’t feel that there should be a jab-to-work programme and a mandatory requirement for people in workplaces to have to have the jab.”

He added that care homes were “a grey area” and while “there should be encouragement of it (vaccinations) to happen” the government should be “very, very cautious” about making them mandatory.

Mr Bartley continued: “But maybe in terms of new recruitment to posts like that there should be a requirement that the jab has happened in order to take on new (roles).”

Samuel Osborne18 April 2021 10:29