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In the meantime you can catch up with all our coverage of the pandemic here.

Lifting the remaining Covid restrictions in England this month is “dangerous and premature”, according to international scientists and doctors, who have called on the UK government to pause reopening until more people are vaccinated.

Writing in the Lancet, more than 100 global experts warn that removing restrictions on 19 July will cause millions of infections and risk creating a generation with chronic health problems and disability from long Covid, the impact of which may be felt for decades.

Government scientists expect cases of Covid to soar in the summer months even without the further easing of restrictions that is scheduled for 19 July. On Wednesday, the UK reported more than 30,000 new cases for the first time since January, and rises of more than 40% in hospital admissions and deaths.

Whitehall sources have said further delay or U-turn is not on the cards, but expect to come under increasing pressure in the coming days to change course. “I think we’d only be looking at further delay if there was an emergence of a particularly nasty new variant,” one said. Another source said it was unlikely” that the plan could be knocked off course, whatever the numbers.

Tunisia has recorded 9,823 new coronavirus cases and 134 deaths, a daily record since the start of the pandemic, Reuters reports.
Intensive care wards are almost full, health authorities said, adding the situation was catastrophic. After successfully containing the virus in the first wave last year, Tunisia is grappling with a rise in infections.

It imposed a lockdown in some cities since last week, but rejected a full national lockdown due to the economic crisis.
The total number of cases has climbed to around 465,000 and more than 15,700 deaths.

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa has given the go-ahead for the Butanvac Covid-19 vaccine developed by Sao Paulo’s Butantan Institute biomedical center to be used on volunteers in clinical trials.

Anvisa said the vaccine will be applied in two doses, 28 days apart.

Phase I of Butanvac’s clinical trial will involve 400 volunteers and the first two phases are expected to involve 6,000 volunteers in total.

In a separate statement, Butantan said the tests will begin in the coming days in Riberao Preto, a city in the state of Sao Paulo, Reuters reports.

Butantan said it has around 10 million doses of the Butanvac shot in stock, which will be used to assess the vaccine’s safety and efficacy in the trials. It hopes to have 40 million shots ready for use by October, it added.

The Victorian government in Australia will provide sick leave to casual workers in a trial program developed in response to the spread of coronavirus in insecure workplaces during Melbourne’s second wave.

The program will provide up to five days of sick or carer’s leave, at minimum wage rates, to workers in high-risk industries including aged care staff, cleaners, supermarket workers, hospitality workers and security guards. It is set to begin in early 2022, and consultation will open this month.

The workplace safety minister, Ingrid Stitt, said the trial program would mean workers did not have to choose between taking a sick day and being able to pay rent.

Grand marshal Sandra Lindsay, the first person in the US to receive an approved Covid-19 vaccine, attends the Hometown Heroes Ticker-tape Parade along the Canyon of Heroes in New York. The parade included a variety of different floats, representing the groups of essential workers who served the city throughout the pandemic.
Grand marshal Sandra Lindsay, the first person in the US to receive an approved Covid-19 vaccine, attends the Hometown Heroes Ticker-tape Parade along the Canyon of Heroes in New York. The parade included a variety of different floats, representing the groups of essential workers who served the city throughout the pandemic. Photograph: Debra L Rothenberg/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Brazil registered 54,022 new Covid-19 cases and 1,648 deaths in the past 24 hours, the country’s health ministry said.

It brings the total in Brazil to nearly 18.9 million cases and 528,540 deaths, Reuters reports.

The latest on the Covid-19 situation in Australia:

Pressing ahead with the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour was always going to be a calculated risk but its ongoing viability is now teetering on the brink.

This is a potentially strong Lions squad but, despite this latest comfortable provincial victory at Ellis Park in South Africa, the accelerating third wave of Covid-19 infections sweeping across southern Africa is emerging as their most daunting opponent.

As the SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux correctly stressed there are rather more pressing local concerns than games of rugby being disrupted but the chaos caused by two positive coronavirus tests inside the Lions’ supposedly bio-secure bubble, forcing eight withdrawals from the originally selected Lions 23, clearly poses a major threat to this tour running its full course.

The number of coronavirus cases in Germany rose again on Wednesday after more than two months of steady decline and most new cases have been of the Delta variant since the end of June, according to official data.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported 985 new infections to bring the total to 3.73 million, a rise of 177 compared with the daily increase a week ago, Reuters reports.

The death toll rose by 48 in the past day to a total of 91,110, down from a daily rise of 56 a week ago.

It also said that the more infectious Delta variant first identified in India made up 59% of cases at the end of June.

The number of cases per 100,000 people recorded in the last seven days rose slightly to 5.1 from 4.9 on Tuesday. The figure had previously been declining since late April.

Updated

A summary of today's developments

  • The Delta variant now represents around 40% of new Covid-19 infections in France and could ruin the summer if a fourth wave of infections is allowed to build, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said. The share of this variant has doubled each week over the past three weeks, from 10% of infections three weeks ago to 20% last week and 40% this week, he said.
  • Indonesia has set new daily records for both deaths and cases again, with 34,379 infections and 1,040 deaths. It is the third consecutive day of record new infections in Indonesia and the fourth straight day for record deaths.
  • Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry has said it is making Covid vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over. Exceptions would only be made for those with medical issues preventing inoculation.
  • Vietnam will impose restrictions on its largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, for 15 days from Friday to tackle rising cases, according to state media reports.
  • Cases are rising in the 22 countries of the eastern Mediterranean region due to limited vaccination, the spread of the Delta variant and increased travel, the World Health Organization has warned. Increasing infection levels follow two months of maintained decline.
  • The UK has reported 32,548 new Covid cases, with the weekly tally double that of the previous seven days amid surging cases in the runup to the lifting of all restrictions on 19 July.
  • A hospital in Uganda has allegedly refused to hand over the dead body of a patient to their relative without payment of medical bills, the Associated Press reports, as the country’s residents struggle with Covid healthcare costs.
  • Bangladesh has reported its highest daily number of Covid deaths, with 201 fatalities registered as the south Asian country battles a surge in cases.
  • Japan’s government is expected to issue a state of emergency this month in Tokyo that will likely remain in place throughout the Tokyo Olympics, according to financial newspaper Nikkei.
  • Authorities in Myanmar have ordered people in several regions of the country’s largest city, Yangon, to stay at home as coronavirus cases surged to almost 4,000 infections on Wednesday. In early May, there were fewer than 50 daily.

Mexico reported 8,507 new confirmed Covid-19 infections on Wednesday amid signs of a surging pandemic and slow vaccination rollout in the country.

The health ministry also posted 234 additional fatalities, bringing its total to 2,558,369 infections and 234,192 deaths, according to data published, Reuters reports.

The US had administered 331,651,464 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the country as of Wednesday morning, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. 331,214,347 doses the gone into arms by July 6.

The agency said 182,896,080 people had received at least one dose, while 157,908,171 people were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday.

Updated

Government ministers in the UK are being urged to reassure vulnerable members of the public as Covid cases surge ahead of the 19 July reopening, with MPs and campaigners warning they are being “deluged” with emails from anxious members of the public.

Health secretary Sajid Javid has acknowledged that new cases of Covid could rise as high as 100,000 a day in the coming weeks, as almost all restrictions are lifted, including mandatory mask-wearing.

A department of health spokesperson said the clinically vulnerable – those with underlying health conditions that make them susceptible to the virus, or whose immune systems are ineffective – “will want to take extra precautions”. But no advice has yet been published about how they should do so.

Several other MPs also told the Guardian that worried constituents were raising concerns with them about the high level of cases the government is anticipating, and the impact of mask-wearing no longer being mandatory.

Delta variant accounts for 40 per cent of Covid cases in France

The Delta variant now represents around 40% of new Covid-19 infections in France and could ruin the summer if a fourth wave of infections is allowed to build, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.
The share of this variant has doubled each week over the past three weeks, from 10% of infections three weeks ago to 20% last week and 40% this week, he said. “This variant is dangerous and quick and wherever it is present, it can ruin the summer,” Attal told a news conference. Attal said infection rates were surging higher in 11 metropolitan regions, and the situation was deteriorating rapidly in the Ile-de-France region around Paris, with infection rates in the capital nearly doubling over the past week, Reuters reports. “We are getting more and more warning signals and we could see the same trajectory as in some neighbouring countries,” he said.

A coalition of 24 industry organisations urged the White House to lift restrictions that bar much of the world from traveling to the US but the Biden administration showed no signs of taking immediate action.

The groups led by U.S. Travel Association and representing airlines, casinos, hotels, airports, airplane manufacturers and others, urged the administration to ease entry restrictions by July 15 that were imposed last year during the pandemic, and to quickly lift entry restrictions on UK travelers.

“We have the knowledge and the tools we need to restart international travel safely, and it is past time that we use them,” U.S. travel chief executive Roger Dow said.

Separately, 75 members of the U.S. House of Representatives called on Biden to reopen the US border with Canada to non-essential travellers, Reuters reports.

Spain’s health minister warned that young people can develop severe cases of Covid-19 and asked for their cooperation in taming an infection rate that has more than doubled in a week as the Delta variant tears through unvaccinated younger adults.

“One in every 100 cases in 20 to 24-year-olds is admitted to hospital,” Carolina Darias said, adding the majority of recent outbreaks were linked to end-of-term student parties, Reuters reports.

“Interactions between young people are multiplying...it is very important to ask them for responsibility but not to hold them responsible,” she said.

The national infection rate as measured over the past 14 days soared to 252 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday from 117.2 a week ago, ministry data showed, putting the country back above the 250-case extreme risk threshold.

Among 20 to 29-year-olds that figure climbed to 814 cases per 100,000, jumping by nearly 100 since Tuesday.

Updated

Russian police have detained a health worker in the Kaliningrad region for allegedly selling fake coronavirus vaccination certificates.

Moscow and several Russian regions have resorted to tough measures to encourage people to get inoculated, including by making vaccination mandatory to hold certain jobs, Reuters reports.

The measures have driven some people towards an online black market to purchase vaccination certificates, a development authorities in Moscow say they are following closely.

The Interior Ministry said the suspect, an administrator at a clinic in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania, had allegedly issued fake vaccination certificates to more than 20 people.

The woman also allegedly poured down the drain the contents of the doses that were meant to be used by the people purchasing the fake certificates, the ministry said.

The Kremlin has blamed a new surge in coronavirus cases on the more infectious Delta variant and on people’s reluctance to get vaccinated despite shots being widely available.

Spectators wait along Broadway as marchers pass through the financial district during a parade honoring essential workers for their efforts in getting New York City through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spectators wait along Broadway as marchers pass through the financial district during a parade honoring essential workers for their efforts in getting New York City through the COVID-19 pandemic. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

Summary of recent developments

  • Indonesia has set new daily records for both deaths and cases again, with 34,379 infections and 1,040 deaths. It is the third consecutive day of record new infections in Indonesia and the fourth straight day for record deaths.
  • Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry has said it is making Covid vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over. Exceptions would only be made for those with medical issues preventing inoculation.
  • Vietnam will impose restrictions on its largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, for 15 days from Friday to tackle rising cases, according to state media reports.
  • Cases are rising in the 22 countries of the eastern Mediterranean region due to limited vaccination, the spread of the Delta variant and increased travel, the World Health Organization has warned. Increasing infection levels follow two months of maintained decline.
  • The UK has reported 32,548 new Covid cases, with the weekly tally double that of the previous seven days amid surging cases in the runup to the lifting of all restrictions on 19 July.
  • A hospital in Uganda has allegedly refused to hand over the dead body of a patient to their relative without payment of medical bills, the Associated Press reports, as the country’s residents struggle with Covid healthcare costs.
  • Bangladesh has reported its highest daily number of Covid deaths, with 201 fatalities registered as the south Asian country battles a surge in cases.
  • Japan’s government is expected to issue a state of emergency this month in Tokyo that will likely remain in place throughout the Tokyo Olympics, according to financial newspaper Nikkei.
  • Authorities in Myanmar have ordered people in several regions of the country’s largest city, Yangon, to stay at home as coronavirus cases surged to almost 4,000 infections on Wednesday. In early May, there were fewer than 50 daily.

That’s all from me for today – my colleague Nadeem Badshah will be here shortly to take you through the rest of the day’s events. Thanks for reading.

Under the new libertarian public health system, “living with the virus” means we must not compromise people’s freedom to do what they like. If you prefer to cough and sneeze in a crowded commuter train, so be it: there’ll be no legal restriction on that. If porters, nurses, doctors, care workers, bus drivers or factory workers become infected, and if some of them die, so be it.

Seemingly no one is accountable. Politicians say they follow the science. Advisers say ministers must make the decisions. An explosion of cases is imminent, the burden on the NHS could be severe, and the threat of new variants that can break through the present vaccine protection is real, as I know. Rather than a merry-go-round of birthday honours and George Crosses, we need a plan to deal with the rampant third wave – one that will keep us safe.

Anthony Costello, professor of global health and sustainable development at University College London, writes for the Guardian ahead of the 19 July date which will see England shed most coronavirus measures:

Updated

Coronavirus cases have risen by 1,820 in Greece, according to the latest government figures – almost triple the number recorded a week today.

Infections are surging as the country’s tourism season kicks off, leading authorities to impose new restrictions allowing seated customers only in restaurants, nightclubs and bars from Thursday. Officials have said that the many of the cases related to young people at hospitality venues.

People sit at a bar as the ancient Parthenon temple is seen atop the Acropolis hill, in Athens, Greece, July 7, 2021.
People sit at a bar as the ancient Parthenon temple is seen atop the Acropolis hill, in Athens, Greece, July 7, 2021. Photograph: Costas Baltas/Reuters

This takes the total number recorded since the onset of the pandemic to 430,960. A further nine people died from Covid.

Most of the new cases (1,061) were located in the Attica region, while 51 cases were found in Thessaloniki, according to Kathimerini newspaper.

The National Organization of Public Health (EODY) said it administered a total of 59,903 tests (including both PCR and rapid tests), finding a positivity rate of 3.03%, up from 2.7% the previous day. In one coastal Athens suburb, Glyfada, the figure was 8.5%.

Updated

Sri Lanka Army personnel recording the details of people arriving to be vaccinated with the Pfizer- BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a centre in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 07 July 2021.
Sri Lanka Army personnel recording the details of people arriving to be vaccinated with the Pfizer- BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a centre in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 07 July 2021. Photograph: Chamila Karunarathne/EPA
A Sri Lankan soldier assists a Buddhist monk arriving to be vaccinated with the Pfizer- BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at a vaccination centre in Colomb, Sri Lanka, 07 July 2021.
A Sri Lankan soldier assists a Buddhist monk arriving to be vaccinated with the Pfizer- BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at a vaccination centre in Colomb, Sri Lanka, 07 July 2021. Photograph: Chamila Karunarathne/EPA

Russia has reported 23,962 new coronavirus cases and 725 deaths as the country battles the surging Delta variant. This compares with 20,633 infections and 659 deaths a week ago.

As of today, Russians returning from abroad will be required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result, with the exception of those who are fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from Covid, according to the Moscow Times.

Russia has confirmed 5,682,634 cases of coronavirus and 140,041 deaths since the pandemic began. Some 17.9% of Russians have received at least one vaccine dose, according to Our World in Data.

Updated

As England moves towards an anticipated “big bang” lifting of coronavirus restrictions on 19 July, a senior World Health Organization official has warned countries to lift their Covid-19 restrictions slowly so as “not to lose the gains that [they] have made”.

The comments from the UN global health body’s head of emergencies, Mike Ryan, were not aimed directly at Boris Johnson’s much-trumpeted reopening.

However, they will be interpreted as grist to the mill of those health experts who have been arguing that England is moving too fast amid a surge in infections.

Updated

Authorities in Myanmar have ordered people in several regions of the country’s largest city, Yangon, to stay at home as coronavirus cases surged to almost 4,000 infections on Wednesday. In early May, there were fewer than 50 daily.

From Thursday, a ban on more than one person leaving home for non-medical reasons will apply to 10 Yangon townships, which together are home to around 1.5 million of Yangon’s seven million people, according to AFP.

No time limit has been set for the restrictions, which include the township of Hlaing Thar Yar, where pro-democracy protests have been cracked down on by the military. Thousands of doctors, volunteers and civil servants have formed a mass civil disobedience movement in protest against the military regime in the wake of the February coup.

Some 1.75 million of the country’s 54 million people have been vaccinated, according to Myanmar’s state television channel.

Italy has reported 14 further coronavirus-related deaths, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose by 1,010.

Wednesday’s figures compare with 24 deaths and 776 cases a week ago.

Italy has registered 127,718 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eight-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.27 million cases to date.

UK reports more than 32,000 daily cases and 33 Covid-linked deaths

The UK reported 32,548 new Covid cases on 7 July, with the weekly tally double that of the previous seven days amid surging cases in the runup to the lifting of all restrictions on 19 July.

According to Reuters, this is the first time the figure has surpassed 30,000 since January.

Official data showed that between 1 July 2021 and 7 July 2021, 192,902 people had a confirmed positive test result, an increase of 42.8% compared to the previous 7 days.

Hospitalisation and death rates remained low, however there were substantial increases over the past week. On 3 July, 386 people with coronavirus went into hospital, with the weekly tally increasing by 44.7%. There were 2,446 patients in hospital with coronavirus on 6 July 2021.

There were 33 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus reported on 7 July 2021. Between 1 July 2021 and 7 July 2021, there were 161 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, an increase of 42.5% compared to the previous 7 days.

Updated

The risk of pathogens spilling over from wildlife trade and farmed animals into humans should be key considerations in efforts to prevent the next pandemic, Natalie Grover reports.

Researchers have been assessing the risks of the different ways that disease-causing organisms jump from animals to humans in an effort to characterise and address the risk of the next pandemic.

In a study published in the journal Biological Reviews, University of Cambridge scientists found that while the risk of another pandemic cannot be eliminated, systemic changes in the way we interact with animals, in general, could substantially minimise the probability.

The Delta variant is also a concern in the US, where new data shows it is now the dominant strain of Covid-19.

According to the health agency’s estimates the Delta variant became dominant in the country over the two weeks ended July 3, with 51.7% cases linked to the variant. The proportion of cases linked to the Alpha variant which had been dominant in the United States so far, fell to 28.7%.

Reuters reports:

The Delta variant, which is becoming dominant in many countries, is more easily transmitted than earlier versions of the coronavirus and may cause more severe disease, especially among younger people. It has now been found in every US state, health officials have said.

Social distancing restrictions are returning in a number of European countries amid rapidly rising infection rates as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads across the continent.

The Dutch government is considering reintroducing restrictions following a swift rise in new Covid-19 cases after the country’s pandemic lockdown ended in late June.

Reuters reports:

The Netherlands lifted most lockdown measures on June 26, as cases were falling and around two-thirds of the population has received at least one vaccination shot.

However, with bars, restaurants, and nightclubs re-opened, new cases in the country doubled to 8,000 in the week ended Tuesday, July 6. On Wednesday health authorities reported 3,688 new cases for the previous 24-hour period.

Around three quarters of new cases are occurring among young people.

Meanwhile, in Greece, bar and nightclub owners are worried that new restrictions allowing seated customers only will hit business during the vital summer season.

However, owners who spoke to Reuters said they accepted the rules were needed to contain a surge in Covid-19 infections, including the Delta variant.

On Tuesday health authorities reported 1,797 new confirmed infections, more than twice the level seen on Monday.

Updated

Portugal reported more than 3,000 daily coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours for the first time since February amid a surge in infections which may result in the country imposing further restrictions.

Reuters reports:

Wednesday’s 3,285 new cases, a nearly 40% jump from the same day last week, brought the total number of infections in Portugal, a country of just over 10,000 million, to 896,026 since the pandemic started.

New cases are being reported mostly among unvaccinated younger people so daily deaths have remained in single digits, well below February’s levels, when the country was still under a strict lockdown.

Nearly 90% of cases in Portugal are of the Delta variant. The infection rate started to increase after Portugal opened to visitors from the European Union and Britain in mid-May. Now, most businesses have reopened and, as the summer season kicks off, beaches and restaurants are busy.

Rachel Hall here taking over from Clea Skopeliti - do send over any tips, ideas and thoughts to rachel.hall@theguardian.com

Here’s a snapshot of global leaders’ reactions to the UK prime minister’s plan to make England Europe’s most unrestricted society from 19 July:

Updated

The head of the World Health Organization’s emergencies programme has urged countries to exercise extreme caution when ending restrictions and opening up their economies so as “not to lose the gains you have made”.

Dr Michael Ryan said the idea of allowing more people to be infected has already been proven to be “moral emptiness and epidemiological stupidity”.

The WHO also called on countries either considering or starting to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-old children to instead donate those doses to the Covax facility to help inoculate healthcare workers and the elderly in low-income countries. The programme has so far shipped over 95 million vaccines to 134 participants.

Only 1% of people in low-income countries have been given at least one dose, according to Our World in Data.

Indonesian Covid patients are facing a desperate medical oxygen shortage as infections climb to their deadliest levels yet. The Associated Press reports:

With his aunt gasping for breath at home from her Covid-19 infection, 17-year-old Ridho Milhasan took matters into his own hands Wednesday and went to find her some oxygen.

After his uncle scrounged an empty tank from a friend, Milhasan found an oxygen filling station in southern Jakarta, waited in the long line of others also in desperate need, and emerged triumphantly after three hours with the supply he needed

“My aunt badly needed this oxygen,” he said before strapping the oxygen container to his small scooter. “This pandemic is getting dire.”

Across Indonesia the coronavirus is again spreading rapidly, and Wednesday was the country’s deadliest day since the start of the pandemic with 1,040 reported deaths. Hospitals are bursting beyond capacity and oxygen supplies are running out, leaving people like Milhasan to do what they can to care for sick friends and relatives at home.

In Milhasan’s case there was no other option — his uncle tried to get his aunt into multiple hospitals in Jakarta after she tested positive for Covid-19, but was turned away and told to find an oxygen tank and help her at home.

“Covid-19 patients have had difficulties to get proper medical services,” Milhasan said. “Now they have to find their own oxygen.”

Updated

The UK has announced that it will offer genomic sequencing support to Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan to help detect, assess and track new coronavirus variants.

Public Health England will extend support to Britain’s partners through the New Variant Assessment Platform Programme which tracks changes in the virus. The programme has already sequenced samples from Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Albania.

“New SARS-CoV-2 variants are a major threat and it is important to remember that in a global pandemic, no country is safe until all countries are safe,” said Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency.

India expects to receive between three and four million doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines via the Covax programme by August, two sources aware of the discussions have told Reuters.

The south Asian country administered about four million doses daily in the week to 2 July, and experts have said it needs to carry out 10 million vaccinations daily in order to immunise all of its 944 million adults by December.

The US-manufactured doses could be shipped to India as early as this month, one source told Reuters as the country tries to expand its rollout in order to prevent another wave of infections.

Nearly a third of adults in India (31%) have received at least one dose. Its vaccine rollout chiefly relies on a licensed version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The world’s biggest vaccines producer overall, India had donated or sold more than 66 million doses before a huge rise in infections forced it to divert all domestic output to inoculate its own people from April.

A member of the British & Irish Lions’ management team has tested positive for Covid, throwing tonight’s game against the Sharks into jeopardy after two players were forced into self-isolation.

BREAKING

The British & Irish Lions can confirm that a member of its management team has tested positive for COVID-19.

Full statement below.#LionsRugby #CastleLionsSeries #LionsSA2021

— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) July 7, 2021

My colleague Gerard Meagher has more details here:

Updated

Bangladesh has reported its highest daily number of Covid deaths, with 201 fatalities registered as the south Asian country battles a surge in cases.

A further 11,162 cases were added to its caseload, which stands at 977,568, while the death toll has reached 15,593, according to government figures reported by local media. The positivity rate across the country, calculated from more than 35,000 samples, was 31%.

It comes as Bangladeshis face their most severe lockdown yet, with people allowed to leave their homes only in emergencies and soldiers patrolling the streets.

Updated

Vietnam imposes curbs on Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam will impose restrictions on its largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, for 15 days from Friday to tackle rising cases, according to state media reports.

The move will “ensure the safety for people’s health and life”, Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted the chairman of the city’s People’s Committee, Nguyen Thanh Phong, as saying.

People will be instructed to remain indoors unless necessary and not meet with others. Public transport services will also be suspended, according to the report.

The southern economic hub, which is home to 9 million people, has stepped up its testing in recent days and accounted for more than two-thirds of the 1,029 new cases reported on Tuesday.

Updated

Cases are rising in the 22 countries of the eastern Mediterranean region due to limited vaccination, the spread of the Delta variant and increased travel, the World Health Organization has warned. Increasing infection levels follow two months of maintained decline.

The region, which includes the Gulf, North African and Asian countries, has registered more than 11 million infections and over 220,000 deaths since last year, according to the Associated Press. Iran has been the worst-hit country in the region, followed by Iraq.

Ahmed Al-Mandhari, regional director of the WHO, said more than 500m vaccine doses were still needed to vaccinate at least 40% of the population of east Mediterranean countries by the end of the year – a goal which we are “far, far behind” reaching.

The highly transmissible Delta variant has been identified in 13 of the 22 countries, and a spike in cases is expected as the summer proceeds and countries try to keep their economies active.

Updated

Ministers are likely to announce that vaccinated people travelling to England from amber list countries will no longer have to quarantine from later this month, in a significant boost for the travel industry, it is understood.

A date of 19 July to change the rules is among options that will be considered by the Covid operations committee, chaired by the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, which is due to meet on Thursday morning.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is then expected to make a formal announcement of the decision on Thursday afternoon. It would apply to England, but Covid travel rules have tended to be unified across the UK.

Currently, people coming into the UK from amber list countries and territories, covering the bulk of places and including major holiday destinations including France, mainland Spain, Italy and mainland Portugal, need to quarantine for 10 days.

Japan’s government is expected to issue a state of emergency this month in Tokyo that will likely remain in place throughout the Tokyo Olympics, according to financial newspaper Nikkei.

It would be Japan’s fourth emergency decree since the pandemic began. The development comes as Tokyo’s cases rose by 920 – the capital’s highest figure since mid-May.

Tokyo, which remains under a “quasi” state of emergency that is scheduled to end on Sunday, is likely to enter another on 12 July, the newspaper reports.

A declaration during the Olympics would mean the Games are likely to be held without spectators. Presently, the number of spectators at large venues has been capped at 10,000.

Updated

A hospital in Uganda has allegedly refused to hand over the dead body of a patient to their relative without payment of medical bills, the Associated Press reports, as the country’s residents struggle with Covid healthcare costs.

Tofa Tamale, who believes his mother had Covid-19 before she suffered a stroke, said he tried to reason with hospital managers, hoping for an arrangement that would preserve his mother’s dignity. The body was released after he threatened to sue, but no post-mortem report was given.

“You can’t say you’re holding onto a dead body in order for you to get your fee. That’s repugnant,” said Joseph Luzige, an attorney who represented Tamale. It is the second such case to be reported in Uganda as coronavirus cases surge.

The east African country, which has confirmed a total of 84,554 cases and 1,995 deaths – believed to be a severe underestimation – is grappling with a crisis in care amid the pandemic. Some hospitals are said to demand deposits in cash before admitting patients, while others ask for security items such as a title deeds instead. More than 200 anti-corruption complaints have been filed, one grift investigator said.

“There are many Ugandans who are dying in their homes simply because they fear to face high-deposit hospital fees,” Col. Edith Nakalema, leader of an anti-corruption unit under the presidency, wrote on Twitter. “This is unacceptable! We appealed to the medical authorities to heed the loud public outcry about exorbitant hospital fees.”

Less than 1% of Uganda’s 44 million population have received even a single vaccine dose.

Updated

India’s health minister has resigned ahead of a cabinet reshuffle, according to government officials. Prime minister Narendra Modi hopes the move will reinvigorate his government, which has come under fire after presiding over surging infections and deaths in recent months.

Reuters quotes a source close to the health minister as saying that Harsh Vardhan paid the “political price” for the administration’s failure to stymie the pandemic’s staggering second wave. More than 400,000 people in India have died since the onset of the pandemic and experts say this figure is a serious underestimate of the true scale.

Modi’s government has faced its harshest criticism in years as cases and deaths skyrocketed in April and May, peaking at 414,188 and overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums.

Australia will send 2.5m AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Indonesia and will fund 1,000 ventilators as the country battles record-high Covid cases that are pushing the health system to breaking point.

The aid package, announced on Wednesday night, is in response to growing calls for Australia to help its most populous neighbour.

Indonesia reported on Tuesday a record daily high of more than 31,189 new coronavirus cases and 728 deaths, but it is feared the true numbers may be higher because of low testing rates.

South Korea has reported its second highest number of daily cases, shortly after it began relaxing restrictions in some parts of the country.

Seoul, which is home to more than half of the country’s population, accounts for the majority of the 1,212 infections registered by midnight on Tuesday, leading officials to extend curbs on movement in capital for at least one more week, Reuters reports. Some 85% of the new locally transmitted infections were in in the Seoul metropolitan area.

People wait in line for a coronavirus test at a testing site which is temporarily set up at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, July 7, 2021.
People wait in line for a coronavirus test at a testing site which is temporarily set up at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, July 7, 2021. Photograph: Heo Ran/Reuters

The number of Delta variant cases are rising, prime minister Kim Boo-kyum warned, saying that the virus’s fourth wave was spreading particularly rapidly among unvaccinated people under 30.

Kim called on young people to get tested “to protect not just yourself, but everyone in your family, friends, school and the country”.

Updated

Hello, this is Clea Skopeliti picking up the blog for the next few hours. You can contact me on Twitter if you’d like to draw my attention to a development I’ve missed. Thanks in advance.

Today so far…

  • Indonesia recorded a third consecutive day of record new infections and a fourth straight day for record deaths. Data from the country’s Covid taskforce showed 34,379 new coronavirus infections and 1,040 new deaths.
  • Indonesia’s government has urged regional authorities to strictly implement coronavirus measures and quickly contain infections to avert the kind of outbreak that has crippled health facilities in parts of densely populated Java.
  • China reported 57 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 6 July, up from 23 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said on Wednesday. It was the highest daily tally of infections since 30 January.
  • Fiji on began distributing groceries to some households as it urges people to stay at home amid rising infections of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the novel coronavirus.
  • From today, all foreign tourists visiting France will have to pay for their own Covid-19 tests. The government has ended free testing for tourists, saying it was “a question of reciprocity since tests have to be paid for by French travellers in the majority of countries.”
  • The decision to allow thousands of football fans to watch England’s Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark at Wembley could result in an outbreak of coronavirus cases, the UK business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has conceded.
  • The Unite union has said mandatory face masks should be maintained in England to keep staff in bank branches safe, rather than allowing people to decide whether to wear them.
  • New Zealand has dismissed suggestions it should follow in Britain’s footsteps to “live with” Covid-19, saying the level of death proposed by Boris Johnson would be “unacceptable”.
  • Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry said it was making Covid vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over.
  • The Gavi vaccine alliance hopes the Serum Institute of India (SII) will resume exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine from this quarter,
  • In Malaysia, a social media campaign using the hashtag #benderaputih (white flag) is being used to direct assistance during the current Covid outbreak.
  • Epidemiologists are warning the Delta variant can have a more pronounced effect on younger Australians than other strains of Covid, with people aged under 55 accounting for an increasing share of hospitalisations during Sydney’s current outbreak.

Andrew Sparrow has our UK Covid live blog, and Clea Skopeliti will be here in a moment to continue bringing you the latest Covid news from around the world. That’s it from me, Martin Belam, and in the meantime, here’s a reminder of why face masks are more about protecting others than ourselves.

Indonesia reports record 1,040 further deaths

More grim numbers from Indonesia, which confirms it has set new daily records for both deaths and cases again.

Reuters report that data from the country’s Covid taskforce showed 34,379 new coronavirus infections and 1,040 new deaths. It was the third consecutive day of record new infections in Indonesia and the fourth straight day for record deaths.

Updated

A quick snap from Reuters here that Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry said it was making Covid vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over.

Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry said in an announcement published by state media that exceptions in the former Soviet region of Central Asia would only be made for those with medical issues preventing inoculation.

Neighbouring Kazakhstan made vaccinations mandatory for a wide range of public and private sector employees last month.

Updated

France ends free Covid testing for tourists from today

From today, all foreign tourists visiting France will have to pay for their own Covid-19 tests.

The government has ended free testing for tourists, saying it was “a question of reciprocity since tests have to be paid for by French travellers in the majority of countries.” The cost is lower than in the UK, at €49 (£42) for a PCR test and €29 (£25) for an antigen test.

Emmanuel Macron was holding a meeting of the emergency health and defence committee on Wednesday morning to examine the issue of several variants, as Delta variant cases in France are increasing.

France has lifted its Covid restrictions at a national level and it is no longer compulsory to wear a mask outside. But local restrictions still apply in areas which have seen high cases of the Delta variant.

The government is considering whether to make vaccination compulsory for health workers and other key workers.

Updated

Indonesia’s government has urged regional authorities to strictly implement coronavirus measures and quickly contain infections to avert the kind of outbreak that has crippled health facilities in parts of densely populated Java.

The government is monitoring daily cases and bed occupancy rates in 43 areas deemed higher risk “red zones” until 20 July, said Airlangga Hartarto, Indonesia’s chief economic minister.

“This is to suppress infections, to prevent a big surge like what’s happening in Java,” he told reporters.

Fransiska Nangoy and Stanley Widianto report for Reuters that on Tuesday, Indonesia recorded 31,189 new cases and 728 new deaths, the highest numbers since the start of the pandemic.

The rise in cases has fueled a growing sense of anxiety about Indonesia’s fragile healthcare system and its capacity to handle an unfolding health crisis.

On social media, messages pleading for help to find oxygen tanks and hospital beds have circulated, as hospitals across the capital Jakarta and Java edge closer to full capacity. The government has set up an oxygen refilling station in Jakarta to supply hospitals and said that all oxygen produced in the country will be diverted for medical use.

Doctors have questioned what good more beds will do amid shortages in staff, with thousands of healthcare workers across Java forced to isolate after contracting the respiratory disease.

The Tokyo 2020 Games are striving to ensure safety for all participants by taking effective public health measures against Covid, Toshiro Muto, chief executive of the organising committee, told the UN this morning.

Reuters report Muto, addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva by pre-recorded video, added: “Through the successful hosting of the Tokyo 2020 Games, we hope to show the world that people have the right to live healthier and happier lives, even in difficult circumstances.”

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, who is due to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday from Switzerland, told the council that the global event opening in 16 days “will send a powerful message to the world of peace and solidarity”, including gender equality and diversity.

Delta mutations mean young people less protected against Covid, Australian experts warn

Epidemiologists are warning the Delta variant can have a more pronounced effect on younger Australians than other strains of Covid, with people aged under 55 accounting for an increasing share of hospitalisations during Sydney’s current outbreak.

The New South Wales chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, revealed on Wednesday that of the 37 people in hospital with Covid in the state, 14 were under the age of 55. Eight have not yet turned 35.

Chant said that of the seven Covid patients in intensive care in NSW, one is aged in their 30s and one is in their 50s, while two are in their 60s and three are in their 70s.

Chant said the hospitalisations “should dispel the myth this is something that only impacts on the elderly” and act as “a bit of a wake-up call to young people”.

“The Delta strain is not a mild disease. It can be mild in some but, for many, it can lead to hospitalisation and death,” Chant said.

Prof Cassandra Berry, a researcher of viral immunology at Murdoch University, believes mutations that make Delta more transmissible also mean some of the biological defences that protected younger people against earlier strains are less effective.

Berry points to preliminary research into the Delta variant’s spread in the northern hemisphere that found evidence the virus binds better to younger people’s cell receptors. With earlier strains, the rapid responses of younger people’s immune systems provided an advantage in protecting the body from the virus.

“This form of virus also has a counterattack measure, it is using stealth to hide away and can block our very early innate responses. These are rapid immune responses that normally kick in within 15 minutes and are more effective in young people, but this mutation appears to be evading that early response,” Berry said. “It’s able to replicate at a higher level earlier on in young people.”

Read more of Elias Visontay’s report here: Delta mutations mean young people less protected against Covid, experts warn

Updated

Andrew Sparrow has launched our UK Covid live blog for today – so if you are after UK news then that’s where you need to head…

I’ll be continuing here with the latest global coronavirus news.

Prof Sir John Bell has said there is no need to “wobble” on plans to ease coronavirus restrictions, and suggested that immunity from vaccinations could be increasing over time.

The regius professor of medicine at Oxford University said he is encouraged by evidence that vaccines are “holding their own” by reducing the likelihood of hospital admission and death to “very small indeed” after both doses.

“That’s what the government is counting on and I see no reason to wobble on that,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The second thing is, our immune responses seem to get better over time. After you’ve had two vaccines, when you pop back up six months later, your immune system has developed the response to the virus to an even more mature state.

And perhaps coining a new idiom, PA Media reports he added: “So, I think, not only have we got good immunity but that immunity may well improve over time. As you know, I’m a sort of glass half-full guy and I’m sort of three-quarters full at the moment.”

Updated

Dr Deepti Gurdasani is a clinical epidemiologist and senior lecturer in machine learning at Queen Mary University of London, and she writes for us today that ditching England’s Covid restrictions is a dangerous experiment:

What is likely to happen under the current strategy? Vaccinations have weakened the link between cases and hospitalisations but this is far from broken. Hospitalisations are rising, and putting pressure on an NHS devastated by delayed action in the last two waves of the pandemic, with millions now waiting for routine care. The government focus on hospitalisations rather than transmission allows it to ignore cases completely until they reach levels seen in January. Given hospitalisation rates are severalfold lower now than prior to the start of the vaccination programme, this would mean a much higher level of daily cases would be tolerated before any action was taken. Implicit in this strategy is that cases don’t matter. Indeed, MPs have suggested cases should not even be publicly reported any more.

This strategy is dangerous and reckless. Contrary to suggestions by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, Covid-19 is not at all like the flu. Over the course of the UK pandemic, an estimated 2 million people have developed long Covid. Currently, almost 1 million people are living with long Covid – the consequences of the government strategy to ignore transmission. Of these, two-thirds report an impact on their day-to-day activities and lives and almost 400,000 have been ill for more than a year. Most of these are young people. We also know now that Covid-19 is not only a respiratory disease. It has long-term impacts on many body systems, including the brain, even in those with mild symptoms on infection. Ignoring transmission has created a generation with debilitating chronic disease.

Read more here: Dr Deepti Gurdasani – Ditching England’s Covid restrictions is a dangerous experiment

England match could spark Covid outbreak, minister admits

I’ve been trying very hard not to mention the football this morning, but …

The decision to allow thousands of football fans to watch England’s Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark at Wembley could result in an outbreak of coronavirus cases, the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has conceded.

Speaking to LBC radio, Kwarteng said the risk could be managed but not eliminated. “If you have thousands of people in one place … there’s always risk in life,” he said.

“I think we’re managing the risk. I’m confident there won’t be a big outbreak but we can’t guarantee that now.”

Read more of Alexandra Topping’s report here: England match could spark Covid outbreak, minister admits

Updated

Union: 'unacceptable' to remove mask mandates in bank branches in England

The Unite union has said mandatory face masks should be maintained to keep staff in bank branches safe, rather than allowing people to decide whether to wear them.

National officer Dominic Hook said: “Face coverings are essential in keeping bank branch staff safe as the health pandemic continues.

“Staff in banks have worked every day through the Covid crisis to provide face-to-face service to customers and meet their banking needs. They are the frontline heroes of the financial services sector and they deserve protection from the virus.

“It is unacceptable for this government to remove the requirement to wear facial coverings within banks at a time of rising infection rates and therefore leaving staff who deal with hundreds of customers each day totally exposed to harm.”

PA Media’s industrial correspondent Alan Jones notes that additionally Unite official Caren Evans said: “Many bank branches are in old, poorly ventilated buildings and it will be disgraceful to force staff to face the public with no personal protection.

“We know face coverings work to prevent the spread of infection; why doesn’t this government give our frontline banking heroes the chance to stay safe while at work?

“The removal of legal obligations for face coverings could result in bank branch staff being in close contact in an enclosed space with customers who may inadvertently put them and the whole branch at risk.”

Updated

In Malaysia, a social media campaign using the hashtag #benderaputih (white flag) is being used to direct assistance during the current Covid outbreak.

Tilda Kalaivani waving a shirt to use as a white flag to call for help in Kuala Lumpur.
Tilda Kalaivani waving a shirt to use as a white flag to call for help in Kuala Lumpur. Photograph: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

Ebrahim Harris reports for Reuters that shortly after mother Hadijah Neamat hung a scrap of white cloth outside her window a neighbour came by to offer her food and other items.

“I thought it would be outsiders who would come to help, like wealthy people or ministers or important people,” said Hadijah, who lives in a densely populated district of Petaling Jaya in Selangor state near the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

“But they said ‘We are neighbours. If someone puts up a white flag, of course we need to be concerned’,” she added, saying she was surprised by the act of generosity on her doorstep.

Hadijah’s husband, Mohd Rusni Kahman, 59, has a disability and has not been able to work since losing his job last year. “Sometimes I just stare into space … If I don’t have work, what will I do? I can’t just rely on my son,” he said.

In response to the white flag campaign, neighbours, businesses, politicians and even celebrities have stepped in to donate.

“It takes a lot of courage (to display the white flag) … Because it’s actually telling everyone that you … can’t manage,” lawmaker Maria Chin Abdullah told Reuters.

“But I think I take it positively – it’s something that this country actually needs because we can’t cover everybody. So it’s good that … you indicate that you need help and we’ll come to you,” she said.

Malaysia has reported more than 785,000 cases of Covid, the third-highest tally in south-east Asia, and has been in lockdown since 1 June.

Updated

A&E departments in hospitals in England may be one setting where face masks are still required after the proposed 19 July lifting of restrictions. PA Media reports that Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told Times Radio this morning:

So we haven’t seen what the plans are for hospitals but the likelihood is that we will want to make it as safe as possible for everybody. And the only way to do that will be to maintain the hand hygiene, the social distancing and mask wearing within a hospital.

A&E departments are often quite crowded environments and that’s one of our worries – so as people come in we may need mask-wearing to help keep other people safe because you might be an asymptomatic carrier and come with a cut finger, but you might be near somebody who’s immunosuppressed with a kidney transplant.

Updated

There’s a row brewing in Scotland over the release of prisoners, and whether they are being tested for Covid before being sent back into the community. Jane Hamilton reports for the Daily Record:

Prisoners are not tested for Covid when they are being freed back into the community – and calls have been made for procedures to be tightened up.

A relative of a prisoner recently freed from HMP Low Moss, in Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow, said he now faces an anxious wait to find out if he has contracted the virus after his family member tested positive just one day following his release.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Justice Secretary Jamie Greene said: “It is hugely concerning that prisoners are still not being routinely tested before they are released from jail during outbreaks on prison wings.”

A prison service spokesman said all inmates are given health guidance upon leaving prison.

Byron Kaye reports for Reuters that Fiji on Wednesday began distributing groceries to some households as it urges people to stay at home amid rising infections of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the novel coronavirus.

Authorities posted pictures on social media of bags of supermarket supplies – including packaged food and toilet paper – being delivered to homes around the capital, Suva, as they reinforced calls for people to obey social distancing rules and get vaccinated.

Police and a supermarket “delivered household packs to Fijians in targeted lockdown areas and home isolation”, the government said on Twitter as part of a publicity blitz on Covid safety.

The deliveries were mostly being made in poorer neighbourhoods. “We are here to ensure that Fijians get assistance,” the government said. It has continued to resist calls for a lockdown.

Police patrolling a residential area last week to check people are wearing face masks in Suva, Fiji.
Police patrolling a residential area last week to check people are wearing face masks in Suva, Fiji. Photograph: Leon Lord/AFP/Getty Images

Kate Greenwood, head the Pacific delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said relative to population size, Fiji had been hit harder by the virus than India at the height of its outbreak.

“The worse it gets, the bigger the warning sign for other Pacific countries about the desperate need at this stage to prepare for what could happen,” Greenwood said by telephone to Reuters from Suva.

“There’s a strain on the health system as all resources attempt to cope, from the hospitals to the blood service to the mortuaries,” she said.

Neil Sharma, a doctor and former Fiji health minister, told Reuters he would like to see a two-week lockdown.

“Unlike some developed countries where people are able to lock down and stay indoors, people are still running around, some of them without masks, and it’s not an easy situation,” he said.

One person on the airwaves this morning in the UK who has been very much against the proposed relaxing of legal rules on face masks in England from 19 July has been Prof Laurence Lovat, epidemiologist and clinical director at WEISS Centre at UCL. He said: “I do wonder whether it’s a wise thing to be doing.”

PA Media reports he told Sky News: “There is no doubt that face masks have an enormous impact on the transmission of droplets – these tiny aerosols that sort of float around in the air.

“And one thing we really don’t want to be doing is to have a major spike of patients coming into hospitals again just as hospitals are starting to settle down and get back to routine work

“And face masks are a really simple way to prevent people from transmitting disease to others.”

There’s a couple of aspects with this also worth bearing in mind. People deciding to go to pubs and clubs have already essentially self-selected as people who are willing to take more of a risk as the country emerges from Covid restrictions. However, for all the government’s talk of personal responsibility, frontline worker in shops and public transport have very little control over anybody else wearing a mask, leaving many of them concerned and in a more vulnerable position.

There is a second point though – removing the mask mandate now does mean it becomes one of the levers the government has to pull should hospitalisations start to rise in the UK. You can imagine a situation where the government says “We are not reversing any of our irreversible moves out of lockdown, but can you put your masks back on indoors?” later in the year.

Updated

It is the UK’s business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng who has been doing the media round this morning – he’s been on Sky News as his first stop. Two themes that emerged pretty quickly – face masks and self-isolation rules.

PA report he conceded that the plan to keep self-isolation requirements in place after the end of other restrictions is “not a perfect solution”. Asked about business concerns, he told Sky News: “You can’t have it both ways. On the one hand we’re saying we want to reopen but we’re giving a measure of precaution in terms of delaying the lifting of self-isolation restrictions.

“It’s a balance, it’s not a perfect solution. But on the one hand we’re saying that we can reopen and on the other we’re saying that we want to give a little bit more protection in terms of the self-isolation rules.”

Hospitality venues have complained, for example, that one positive case being identified having visited their venue can in some cases lead to entire shift’s worth of staff being sent into self-isolation.

Kwarteng made yet another unhelpful ministerial intervention on the face masks debate if you are one of the clinically vulnerable or cautious people who are relying on other people to use face masks to help keep you safer on public transport and in enclosed spaces like shops.

Kwarteng said he will “probably” wear a mask on the London Underground system after the legal requirement ends, but wasn’t entirely emphatic about it. He told Sky News: “Personally, I use the tube a lot in London, and I would probably wear a mask in that context, on the tube, on public transport. That’s a personal view, it’s not something I would mandate, or necessarily dictate to other people.”

It is worth noting that Transport for London and other rail operators may yet mandate wearing of masks as a condition of transport, which they are able to do over and above any legal requirement from the government.

JD Wetherspoon – the UK pub chain you either love for its cheap beer or loathe for its owner’s politics - has said it expects to tumble to a loss for the current financial year after reporting a decline in sales against pre-pandemic levels.

The company said like-for-like sales from 17 May, when hospitality venues were able to reopen indoors, to 4 July declined by 14.6% against the same period in 2019.

PA Media reports it said that 850 of its estate of 860 sites are now open, with the remaining closed pubs mainly at airports.

Updated

Michael McGowan offers us this analysis of the situation in New South Wales, Australia:

At her press conference announcing 27 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, and a one-week extension of the Sydney lockdown, the New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, told reporters it was “absolutely our intention” for restrictions to lift on 16 July.

It was a revealing moment of honesty. For a government that has until now banked enormous community goodwill off its ability to handle new Covid outbreaks without subjecting NSW residents to the kind of restrictions that became the default response in other states, that word – intention – hammered home both the seriousness of the situation and the incredible challenges for political leaders trying to control this virus.

As recently as April, Berejiklian was being hailed by one newspaper as “the woman who saved Australia” and the constant refrain that the state was the “gold standard” at controlling the virus was an implicit and irksome rebuke to the Labor premiers in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

How quickly things change. As Berejiklian and the state’s chief medical officer, Dr Kerry Chant, outlined the continued rise in cases and the health department’s struggle to contain new outbreaks in parts of south-western Sydney, the tone of Wednesday’s press conference took a decided dive.

Suddenly she was being grilled about the impact of extended lockdowns on business, the looming nightmare of homeschooling, and why the government had waited until Wednesday to announce them when journalists were being briefed on the decisions yesterday afternoon.

Read more of Michael McGowan’s analysis here: NSW’s ‘gold standard’ on Covid tarnished as Gladys Berejiklian faces acid test

Gavi vaccine alliance hopeful India will resume AstraZeneca exports this quarter

The Gavi vaccine alliance hopes the Serum Institute of India (SII) will resume exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine from this quarter, it has told Reuters. That would be earlier than an “end of this year” forecast by the Indian company.

Gavi co-leads the Covax facility for equitable distribution of Covid shots around the world. The programme suffered a big jolt in April when big vaccine producer India stopped all overseas shipments to meet local demand as infections rose dramatically.

India’s coronavirus crisis has now eased and output of the AstraZeneca drug at SII, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has also jumped, but so has domestic demand.

“We remain hopeful that SII deliveries will resume in the third quarter, however, this cannot be confirmed at this stage,” a Gavi spokesperson said in an e-mail to Reuters late on Tuesday.

“In the meantime, Covax has been aggressively following through on its strategy of diversifying its portfolio, securing over a billion additional doses in the past month alone either through direct procurements or through dose sharing.”

Heathrow, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to set up 'fast-track' for fully-vaccinated arrivals

Overnight, Gavin Cordon, PA Media’s Whitehall editor, was floating this story that London airport Heathrow is set to open up fast-track lanes for fully vaccinated arrivals. It is seen as an attempt by the airline industry to put pressure on the UK government ahead of an expected announcement on Thursday when the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, will set out details of the government’s plans to end the requirement for travellers from amber list countries to self-isolate on arrival.

Cordon reports that the scheme will initially involve fully vaccinated volunteers travelling on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay, Jamaica and New York.

The Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: “This pilot will allow us to show that pre-departure and arrival checks of vaccination status can be carried out safely at check in, so that fully vaccinated passengers can avoid quarantine from 19 July.”

His comments were echoed by the Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Shai Weiss, who said: “To reap the benefits of the UK’s world-leading vaccine roll out, the UK government must act now to remove self-isolation for fully vaccinated passengers arriving from amber countries, and no later than the domestic reopening on 19 July.

“The UK is already falling behind US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.”

Updated

Good morning, it is Martin Belam here in London. I expect today’s domestic UK media round to still be dominated by debate over the decision to drop Covid restrictions in England from 19 July. Oh and probably that Euro 2020 semi-final as well. I can’t imagine Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland getting much of a look-in from politicians and commentators on the airwaves – I’ll endeavour to do my best to redress that balance here.

In the meantime, our science editor Ian Sample has put together this analysis, asking what are the risks of England unlocking in the Covid third wave?

This would appear to be the key graph that the argument is going to revolve around, with lockdown sceptics pointing to the comparatively low rates of hospitalisations and deaths, while those who worry about the impact of long Covid and the threat of variants look with worry at the soaring case numbers.

Cases, hospitalisations and deaths compared.

New Zealand not willing to risk UK-style ‘live with Covid’ policy, says Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand has dismissed suggestions it should follow in Britain’s footsteps to “live with” Covid-19, saying the level of death proposed by Boris Johnson would be “unacceptable”.

If cases in Britain explode as a result of the lifted regulations, New Zealand may also consider putting the country on a no-fly list.

On Monday, Johnson announced plans to scrap regulations including on face masks and social distancing by 19 July, saying that Britain must “learn to live with” the virus. He said Covid cases would likely reach 50,000 a day within a fortnight, and “we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid”.

“That’s not something that we have been willing to accept in New Zealand,” the country’s Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said at a press conference alongside the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, on Tuesday.

Russia, which is battling a surge in cases, on Tuesday again reported a new national record of 737 deaths over the past 24 hours.

Covid deaths in the country hit at a record high for five days in a row last week, but President Vladimir Putin has for now refrained from calling another lockdown.

Updated

China reports highest cases since January

On Wednesday China reported 57 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 6 July, up from 23 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said on Wednesday. It was the highest daily tally of infections since 30 January.

Fifteen of the new cases were local infections, the National Health Commission said in a statement. All 15 cases were located in the Yunnan province, in the city of Ruili which borders Myanmar. In response, authorities locked down the city, shutting most businesses and requiring residents to stay at home.

The latest cases were discovered during mass testing of residents. The positive cases include both Chinese and Myanmar nationals in the city, where there is an active cross-border trade. Authorities said they would step up border controls.
Ruili previously had a Covid outbreak in March and launched a campaign to vaccinate the entire city in April.

China has relied on a tough lockdown strategy and mass testing to tamp down outbreaks, even as it has stepped up the pace of vaccinations. Central health officials have said they want to vaccinate 80% of the population.

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

On Wednesday China reported 57 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 6 July, up from 23 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said on Wednesday. It was the highest daily tally of infections since 30 January.

Meanwhile Russia, which is also battling a surge in cases, on Tuesday reported a new national record of 737 deaths over the past 24 hours.

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Two million people could contract Covid in the UK this summer, potentially meaning up to 10 million must isolate in just six weeks, Guardian analysis shows.
  • Zimbabwe has gone back to a strict lockdown to tackle a resurgence of Covid-19 amid vaccine shortages, the country’s information minister has announced.
  • Tunisia has broken its record for positive Covid tests, with 7,930 confirmed on Tuesday, Reuters reports. The increase is in addition to 119 deaths, according to the north African country’s health ministry.
  • The human rights commission in Mexico has accused authorities of keeping nearly 90 people in overcrowded facilities, without face masks to prevent Covid-19 or medicine.
  • It comes as Mexico has reported another 8,000 confirmed cases, and another 269 deaths. 233,958 have now died from the virus.
  • The situation is still bleak in Brazil, as it recorded another 1,780 deaths and 62,504 new cases, its health ministry said on Tuesday.
  • In Latvia, employers will be allowed to sack employees who have not had their vaccines by 15 September, according to the country’s main news agency.
  • Dozens of staff at a seafood plant in Northern Ireland have tested positive for Covid-19. A total of 42 workers at Kilkeel Seafoods, in County Down, have had confirmed infections, out of 250 staff at the site.
  • Heathrow, the Gaucho restaurant chain and the City Pub Group in England are set to continue with mask-wearing rules despite government plans to sweep away most safety measures from 19 July.

Contributors

Nadeem Badshah (now); Clea Skopeliti, Rachel Hall, Martin Belam and Helen Sullivan (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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Brazil reports 827 more deaths – as it happened
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Harry Taylor (now); Kaamil Ahmed ,Martin Belam and Helen Sullivan (earlier)

14, Jun, 2021 @10:47 PM

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UK reports 38,975 new cases – as it happened
Thanks for following along – this blog is now closed. You can catch up with the latest coronavirus coverage here.

Lucy Campbell (now); Nicola Slawson, Martin Belam and Helen Sullivan (earlier)

08, Sep, 2021 @10:45 PM

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Covid news: Omicron detected in US; UK reports 48,374 new cases and 171 deaths – as it happened
Case identified in California; UK infections on rise amid fears over Omicron variant; non-EU travellers to France must have negative Covid test regardless of vaccination status

Tom Ambrose (now), Rachel Hall, Martin Belam and Samantha Lock (earlier)

02, Dec, 2021 @12:50 AM

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Coronavirus live: South Africa reports daily case record; Brazil prosecutor agrees to investigate Bolsonaro — as it happened
Latest figures from South Africa show 24,270 new infections; President Bolsonaro linked to allegations of irregularities over $316m vaccine contract

Harry Taylor (now); Miranda Bryant, Martin Belam and Helen Sullivan (earlier)

02, Jul, 2021 @10:57 PM

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Covid live: Brazil reports 12,273 new cases with daily deaths down to 240; Russia’s death toll passes 250,000
Russia reports 1,239 fatalities to take official death toll to 250,454; UK figures slightly higher than previous day

Tom Ambrose (now); Lucy Campbell, Martin Belam and Samantha Lock (earlier)

11, Nov, 2021 @12:32 AM

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UK reports highest deaths since early April – as it happened
This blog is now closed. You can find all of our coverage of the pandemic here.

Nadeem Badshah (now); Mattha Busby,Kevin Rawlinson, Martin Belam ,Helen Sullivan (earlier)

13, Jul, 2021 @10:46 PM