Over 2 million people in England may have had long Covid and experience one or more symptom lasting at least 12 weeks, a leading study has found.
The REACT-2 study, led by Imperial College London, found that more than a third of people who have had Covid-19 reported symptoms that lasted at least 12 weeks, with one in ten reporting severe symptoms which lasted that long.
“Our findings do paint a concerning picture of the longer-term health consequences of COVID-19, which need to be accounted for in policy and planning,” said Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme.
The research comes as cases jumped by 40 per cent in a single day, with 16,135 infections reported on Wednesday, the highest daily figure since 6 February when 18,262 were recorded.
It was also confirmed that a potentially more transmissible variant has arrived in the UK, Public Health England identifying at least 41 cases of the so-called “Delta plus” strain of the virus.
While India has declared the mutation a variant of concern in India, PHE’s head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay said she was “not that convinced” that it has different symptoms from other strains.
Wembley crowd expanded under ‘controlled circumstances’, heath boss says
Prof Kevin Fenton, regional director for London for Public Health England (PHE), said allowing 40,000 people into Wembley next week was a controlled situation.
“With all of these large programmes, they’re done under very controlled circumstances,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, identifying measures such as lateral flow device testing before entry and marshals ensuring people social distance.
He said: “So there are really strict protocols in place… and the data that we get from events such as these will help us to plan further events in the future, so we need to understand how to live with the virus and to do so safely.”
Prof Fenton added he was prepared to say to the government that larger crowds should not be allowed if there was something he did not like the look of. He said the rates of infection, new variant clusters and controls will be monitored, so that concerns can be raised if there are issues “that can be taken into account for decisions as we move forward”.
“But again this is a partnership that we are in trying to look at how we manage these events safely, and learning those lessons as we go ahead,” he added.
Green list: Which countries could move from ‘amber’ and will quarantine end?
As ministers meet to decide on changes to the “traffic light” system for arriving travellers, airlines, holiday companies, travel agents and trades unions are demanding that the government expand the “green list” of quarantine-free destinations – and reveal the data on which decisions are based.
They also want news on much-leaked plans for allowing fully vaccinated travellers to avoid quarantine.
Simon Calder takes a look at the key questions ahead of today’s review:
Angela Merkel unjustified in calling for more travel restrictions on Britons, cabinet minister says
Cabinet minister George Eustice said Angela Merkel’s call for more European countries to make British tourists quarantine upon arrival was unjustified.
The German chancellor told the Bundestag on Wednesday that she would like other countries to follow her lead in expanding travel restrictions on Britons.
Mr Eustice told LBC: “Each country is taking their own decisions on this, so it will be for them to judge what approach they want to take.
“I’m not sure that such an approach would be justified given the highly advanced stage we are currently at now in terms of vaccination, with 80 per cent having had one jab and now 60 per cent having had the second jab.
“I don’t think such a move would be justified but obviously it’s for individual countries to make these judgments.”
Cabinet minister says he will no longer wear mask if restrictions end in July
Cabinet minister George Eustice said he would no longer wear a face mask if restrictions end on 19 July.
“What we want to do on 19 July, and the prime minister said that the data looks good to be able to have that end, is to remove all of the legal restrictions,” the environment secretary told Sky News.
He said that the question of “whether some people might choose to wear masks” or whether face coverings may be advised in some settings is “a separate matter”.
Asked if he would still wear a mask once restrictions end, Mr Eustice said: “I wouldn’t, no. I have to be honest, once I’m told that it’s safe not to [wear a mask], I want to get back to normal. I think a lot of people will want to shed those masks. “
Government will be cautious about relaxing travel restrictions, cabinet minister says
Cabinet minister George Eustice said the government would take a cautious approach to changes to travel restrictions ahead of an announcement on the traffic light system on Thursday.
Mr Eustice told Sky News: “I want us to get back to a position where we can support those who want to travel to do so. Nobody likes the draconian restrictions we have had to put in place over this last year as we have wrestled with the pandemic.
“So, yes, we want to get to a position where we can support people who want to travel to be able to do so, but it is difficult.
“We are being cautious because the biggest threat still to our progress against this pandemic and the great progress we have made on vaccination is that there will be another variant somewhere that maybe hadn’t been properly detected in another country and that that variant is more resistant to vaccination.”
Mobile recharge, grocery subscriptions among freebies India is offering to the vaccinated
People in India are being offered discounts and gifts to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
India’s biggest airline, IndiGo, has announced a 10 per cent discount for vaccinated customers. To claim the discount, the airlines said passengers must carry their vaccination certificates to the airport check-in counter.
Online grocery delivery service Grofers is offering a free one-month subscription to its loyalty programme to vaccinated customers.
A politician in the state of Madhya Pradesh has announced free mobile recharge for all those in his constituency who get vaccinated by 30 June.
Brazil official says he warned of pressure to buy Indian vaccine: report
A Brazilian health ministry official has said he alerted president Jair Bolsonaro about internal pressure to buy the Covid-19 vaccine made by Indian firm Bharat Biotech, according to reports.
Logistics department official, Luís Ricardo Miranda, was called to testify before a senate panel probing the government’s handling of the pandemic. Reuters reported that Miranda told prosecutors he was pressured by an aide to one of Bolsonaro’s closest allies, former health minister Eduardo Pazuello.
India to study if vaccines can neutralise Delta plus variant
India has decided to check if the vaccines available in the country can neutralise the new Delta plus variant of Covid-19.
The Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology in India will conduct a study and the results are expected to be released in a few weeks.
India is currently administering he Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine — produced by Serum Institute of India and called ‘Covishield’ locally — and its indigenous Covaxin made by Bharat Biotech. The country has also begun to roll out Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
Doctor says no evidence Delta plus variant will cause third wave in India
One of India’s top doctors and genome sequencers has said that there is no evidence yet to suggest that the Delta plus — a mutation in the Delta variant of Covid-19 — has anything to do with a possible third wave.
This comes as India reported 40 cases of the new variant.
Dr Anurag Agarwal, director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in India, told NDTV that Delta still remains a variant of concern and “we must be concerned about the second wave not ending, before we worry about the third wave.”
WHO says concerns about Sputnik V plant in Russia
The World Health Organisation has flagged concerns after its review of how Russia produces the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. The agency said it found issues with the filling of vials at one plant.
Pharmstandard-UfaVITA, the firm that fills the vaccine, said all the concerns have been addressed and invited the WHO for another inspection.
Sputnik V is approved for use in more than 60 countries. In India, drugmaker Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has a pact with Russian Direct Investment Fund to sell 250 million doses of the vaccine in India.