THE Indian coronavirus variant could be 100% more transmissible than the Kent strain, an expert has warned.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said: "The best estimate at the moment is this variant may be 60% more transmissible than the Alpha [Kent] variant.

"There's some uncertainty around that depending on assumption and how you analyse the data, between about 30% and maybe even up to 100% more transmissible… Certainly substantially more transmissible."

It comes as new data suggests the mutation is twice as likely to cause hospitalisation, as June 21's "Freedom Day" hangs in the balance.

A Public Health England report showed that people who tested positive for the Indian coronavirus variant were at 161% higher risk of needing hospital treatment within 14 days.

This figure already factors in aspects such as vaccine status, age and ethnicity and points to the Indian strain being twice as likely to put you in hospital after contracting it.

Read our coronavirus live blog below for the latest news and updates…

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Boris Johnson will take "added caution" when deciding whether to press ahead with the June 21 end of lockdown, a senior ally said today.

    Cabinet big beast Robert Jenrick hinted freedom day hangs in the balance as experts issued a series of dire warnings about the Indian variant.

    He said there are "some signals that we're seeing" within the latest data about the impact of the new strain.

    The PM is set to make a decision in 10 days' time on whether to go ahead with lifting all restrictions or pause the end of lockdown.

    More on the story here.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Jabbed-up Brits are protected against the Indian Covid variant, "astounding" tests have shown. The vaccinations offer positive signs of resistance to the spreading mutant strain, it has emerged.

    Professor Susan Hopkins, PHE's Covid-19 strategic response director, said the data trend was "quite clear" and heading in the "right direction".

    But a new study on the Pfizer vaccine, published last night found that people who are given that jab produce fewer antibodies to protect them against the virus.

    Experts at the Francis Crick Institute and the National Institute for Health Research UCLH Biomedical Research Centre found that antibodies are lower with increasing age and also decline over time.

    It suggests that more people could tests positive for the variant but that they might not fall ill with it.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    The Indian variant doubles the risk of hospitalisation, public health chiefs fear.

    The strain, officially named "Delta", is now the UK's dominant Covid strain – with cases doubling in the past week.

    A total of 12,431 cases of the Indian variant have been confirmed in the UK up to June 2, up 79 per cent from the week prior (6,959).

    It now represents 73 per cent of all sequenced cases.

    As well as being faster spreading and able to weaken vaccines, the variant now show signs of causing mroe severe disease.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Even people who have mild Covid can end up with long-term psychiatric problems, a study has found.

    Some coronavirus symptoms may also be more common in those with a mild case than those treated in hospital.

    Lead author Dr Jonathan Rogers at University College London said: "We had expected that neurological and psychiatric symptoms would be more common in severe Covid-19 cases, but instead we found that some symptoms appeared to be more common in mild cases. 

    More on the story here.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    What countries are green, amber and red on the traffic light list? Below is everything you need to know about travelling abroad…

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    The change officially takes place at 4am on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, meaning anyone returning after that date will have to self-isolate for 10 days.

    Brits are now rushing to book flights home in order to beat the deadline.

    Travellers returning from Portugal and other amber list countries will be required to take a pre-departure PCR Covid test and provide a negative result.

    They will then have to pay for a further two tests on days two and eight of their 10-day quarantine.

    Brits can opt for private Covid test providers, which can cost between £120 and £300 per person – or slightly cheaper options are available from Boots and Superdrug.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Work from home might be around for a little longer as government officials consider delaying the return of workers to offices.

    Whitehall plan to keep the advice to work from home gone June 21 when Boris is set to lift the lock down.

    The decision will be made at the expense of lifting other lockdown restrictions.

    Boris has already taken drastic action in removing Portugal from the green list in the hope of protecting the final stage of his road map.

    The return to the offices is seen as being the least economically damaging option to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

  • Debbie White


    Portugal's foreign ministry said it did not understand the "logic" behind the UK's decision.

    "We took note of Britain's decision to remove Portugal from the green list," the ministry said on Twitter.

    It added that it would continue to ease its lockdown rules "gradually".

  • Debbie White


    The UK removed Portugal from its quarantine-free travel list on Thursday, essentially shutting down the UK’s international leisure market just weeks after it reopened and sparking outrage from embattled airlines.

    The industry has asked why British people could not travel when the country had some of the highest vaccine rates in the world.

    Portugal said the decision lacked logic. Airports have demanded a cash lifeline.

    Over the last three weeks, Portugal proved a lifeline for the industry which had expected a wider reopening to follow. It now faces weeks of cancellations and uncertainty.

    “This decision essentially cuts the UK off from the rest of the world,” easyJet said.

  • Debbie White


    Portugal is being removed from the UK’s list of Covid-safe travel destinations.

    This means that thousands of Brits currently on vacation there face the prospect of 10 days’ quarantine on return.

    Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday that the “difficult decision” was prompted by rising infection rates in Portugal and worries about new strains of the virus that could prove resistant to vaccines.

  • Debbie White


    The UK has hit a milestone in its coronavirus vaccination programme as 75 per cent of Brits have now had a first dose of a jab.

    It comes the day after zero Covid deaths were reported, amid debate over lockdown restrictions ending.

    The next set of lockdown restrictions are due to end on June 21, but doubt had been cast over this date due to a rise in cases of the Indian variant – especially in the North West.

    On Wednesday no deaths within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 were reported for the first time since July 30 last year – in a sign that vaccines are protecting people from severe infection.

    Extra jabs have been rolled out in hotspot areas and the UK was also given an extra boost last week after the Johnson & Johnson jab was approved for use.

  • Debbie White


    Egypt and Sri Lanka have been whacked on the red list in another holiday blow for Brits.

    Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Bahrain, Trinidad and Tobago, and Sudan will also be shoved on the red list from Tuesday at 4am, further putting holiday plans into chaos, the Department for Transport confirmed this afternoon.

    The Government is also announcing that as part of a limited trial, from June 8, direct flights will be permitted to England from countries on the ‘red list’ that were previously subject to flight bans, so long as they arrive at dedicated terminals at Heathrow and Birmingham airports. 

    It will mean Brits stuck in red list countries like India and South Africa – where flights have been banned – will be allowed to come home on direct flights.

  • Debbie White


    The Airport Operators Association said the government must provide a financial bailout to save jobs if it blocks another holiday season. “Summer 2021 is shaping up to be worse than last summer, which was the worst in aviation history,” it said.

    The industry added that the UK would be left behind as governments across Europe start to open up travel.

    “In the week that the Prime Minister hosts G7 leaders to launch his government’s vision of Global Britain, he’s sending a message that the UK will remain isolated from the rest of the world and closed to most of its G7 partners,” Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said.

    Transport minister Grant Shapps has said that coronavirus variants had been detected in Portugal.

    “It’s a safety-first measure,” Shapps said, adding that removing Portugal from its quarantine-free travel list was designed to prevent any further coronavirus strains from arriving and threatening the planned final stage of England’s reopening on June 21.

  • Debbie White


    Changes to the UK's travel list have been slammed by shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds.

    He told BBC News: "There has been an uptick in cases in Portugal, so it isn't a major surprise that Portugal has been removed from the green list.

    "But today is a huge missed opportunity – the amber list is an enormous problem frankly, government messaging on it has been ambiguous, we are taking far too much of a risk in terms of variants being able to come to our shores.

    "So what I say is, yes, lets develop the reopening of travel, with that small green list, which will gradually grow over time, but the amber list needs to go in to the red list.

    "We need absolute clarity about travel and we need a comprehensive hotel quarantine system in place across those countries to protect the gains made by the British people over the past 14 months, and to protect our vaccine rollout."

  • Debbie White


    The number of rapid Covid-19 tests carried out in England has fallen to its lowest level in six weeks – despite all members of the public being eligible to take two rapid tests a week.

    Just over 4.8 million lateral flow device (LFD) tests for Covid-19, or rapid tests, were conducted in England in the week to May 26, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

    It is the fifth week in a row that the number has decreased.

    LFD tests are swab tests that give results in 30 minutes or less without the need for processing in a laboratory.

    The number of LFD tests peaked at just over 7.6 million in the week to March 17, which coincided with the return of secondary students to school.

    Since April 9, everyone in England has been eligible for rapid Covid-19 tests twice a week.

  • Debbie White


    Removing Portugal from the travel green list will do "untold damage to consumer confidence" and risks sending a message that the UK "remains isolated from the rest of the world", industry leaders have warned.

    Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said: "Ministers spent last month hailing the restart of international travel, only to close it down three weeks later all but guaranteeing another lost summer for the travel sector.

    "Britain is the worst performing economy in the G7, and in the week that the PM hosts G7 leaders to launch his Government's vision of Global Britain, he's sending a message that the UK will remain isolated from the rest of the world and closed to most of its G7 partners.

    "After promises that the Global Travel Taskforce would result in a clear framework, removing the damaging flip flopping we all endured last summer, the Government decision to move Portugal straight from green to amber will do untold damage to customer confidence.

    "We were reassured that a green watch list would be created and a weeks' notice would be given so travellers wouldn't have to rush back home. They have failed on this promise."

  • Debbie White


    Confidence in the Covid-19 vaccines has been “sky high” in Britain, Matt Hancock has said.

    The Health Secretary told the Global Vaccine Confidence Summit: “Across the UK confidence in the vaccine programme has been sky high.

    “We continue to top the list of places where people are willing to take, or have taken, a Covid vaccine – around nine in 10 of us.”

    He added: “I am aware that this isn’t a vaccine world cup – different nations don’t compete for one prize, we know that when everyone is safe we’re all going to be the winners.”

    Mr Hancock added that when vaccine confidence in one country “takes a hit” then “word can spread, fake news travels fast”. “Vaccine confidence is an international challenge and one that takes international action,” he added.

  • Debbie White


    Surge testing has been deployed in Derbyshire to stop the spread of the Indian Covid variant.

    A “small number of cases” of the variant has been found in a hotspot, as officials work to nip any outbreak in the bud.

    All confirmed cases have been ordered to isolate and their contacts have been told.

    Anyone over five in Gamesley Ward, High Peak has been asked to take a PCR Covid test from today.

    A Government statement said: “Enhanced contact tracing will be used for individuals testing positive with a variant of concern (VOC). This is where contact tracers look back over an extended period to determine the route of transmission.

    “By using PCR tests, positive results are then sent for genomic sequencing at specialist laboratories, helping us to identify COVID-19 cases with a variant of concern and prevent their spread.

  • Debbie White


    Global efforts must tackle complacency as coronavirus vaccines are rolled out to younger age groups, experts have said.

    A five-pronged approach focused on the five C’s – confidence, complacency, convenience, communication and context – is needed to combat vaccine hesitancy, according to scientists from the UK, US and South Africa.

    Writing in the Royal Society of Medicine journal, they say complacency due to lower perceptions of personal risk and disease severity, particularly among younger people and those of lower socioeconomic status, is strongly associated with lower vaccine uptake.

    One of the authors, Dr Mohammad Razai, of the Population Health Research Institute at St George’s, University of London, said: “As the lower age groups are being offered the vaccine, addressing complacency through repeated risk communication is crucial to facilitate informed decision-making.

    “It is important to emphasise the greater societal benefits of population level immunity and the protection it offers to those vulnerable, their families and friends.”

  • Debbie White


    The White House on Thursday unveiled President Joe Biden's plans to share Covid-19 vaccines with the world, including its intent to direct 75% of excess doses through the UN-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program.

    The White House has previously stated its intent to share 80 million vaccine doses with the world by the end of June. The administration says 25% of doses will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners.

    The long-awaited vaccine sharing plan comes as demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped significantly as more than 63% of adults have received at least one dose, and as global inequities in supply have become more glaring.

  • Debbie White


    A third wave of Covid-19 could already be underway in the UK as infections continue to rise in some parts of the country, experts have warned.

    The next round of lockdown restrictions are set to be lifted on June 21 but an increase in cases has raised doubts that the relaxation will still go ahead.

    Cases are still rising in areas where the Indian variant is dominant and the North West has seen a rise in infections in areas such as Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen and Rossendale.

    In some areas, surge testing has been rolled out and increased vaccine capacity has also been deployed.

    Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows that out of the 380 local areas in the UK 61 per cent recorded a week-on-week rise in Covid-19 case rates as of May 26.

  • Debbie White


    A mum-of-three died after suffering with blood clots following the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine.

    Tanya Smith, 43, was rushed to hospital after waking with stomach cramps days after her jab.

    The childminder had felt "pretty rough" after having the vaccination in March, her partner said.

    After being admitted to Plymouth's Derriford Hospital it was found she had multiple blood clots.

    Tanya, from Mutley in Plymouth, suffered a heart attack and then deteriorated before dying in hospital on April 3.

  • Debbie White


    Rory Boland, travel editor with consumer champion organisation Which?, said the Government should take "greater responsibility" around making sure travellers are not left out of pocket.

    He said: "Many people who booked holidays to Portugal believing it would be a safe bet are going to now face difficult decisions over whether to travel against Government advice and quarantine on their return, or potentially lose the cost of their holiday.

    "Few tour operators and no airlines allow for refunds when a country changes from green to amber, and rebooking very often involves paying more money.

    "The Government should take greater responsibility for making sure travellers are not left out of pocket when changes are made to its travel lists.

    "A crucial step towards this would be to ensure destinations on the amber and red lists also come with a warning against travel from the FCDO, which should trigger package holiday providers to offer refunds to those who can no longer travel."

  • Debbie White


    Michael Gove has received an alert from the Covid app "less than a week after attending the Champions League final in Portugal with his son," reports Sky News.

    The broadcaster reported on Thursday night: "The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had to abandon a meeting with Boris Johnson and the devolved leaders on Thursday afternoon after receiving the notification that he had come into contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus in recent days.

    "It is thought Mr Gove's interaction with someone who has the virus may have occurred when he and his Chelsea-supporting son attended the match between Chelsea and Manchester City last weekend.

    "Mr Gove will be tested every day for a week rather than having to self-isolate for ten days as he is taking part in a pilot scheme, reports suggest."

  • Debbie White


    Any evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic was caused by a lab leak has probably been destroyed by China, the former head of MI6 has warned.

    Sir Richard Dearlove believes the world may never be able to prove the theory if relevant data from the Wuhan Institute of Virology has disappeared.

    Speaking to The Telegraph's Planet Normal podcast, he said western countries have been "naive" in their trust of China.

    He added that scientists who wanted to speak out about "gain of function" experiments in the country have probably been "silenced".

    Sir Richard, who headed up the secret intelligence service between 1999 and 2004, said: "The People's Republic of China is a pretty terrifying regime and does some things we consider unacceptable and extreme in silencing opposition to the official line of the government."

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