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Coronavirus: Life in UK will ‘feel a lot more normal by the summer’, says SAGE adviser Neil Ferguson

Coronavirus: Life in UK will ‘feel a lot more normal by the summer’, says SAGE adviser Neil Ferguson
Coronavirus: Life in UK will ‘feel a lot more normal by the summer’, says SAGE adviser Neil Ferguson


Even Professor Neil Ferguson is now optimistic that vaccines will squash the UK’s third wave of Covid and life in Britain will ‘feel a lot more normal by the summer’.

The SAGE adviser and Imperial College London epidemiologist, whose sobering death toll predictions led Britain into its first lockdown last year, said today that he expects the vaccine rollout to help keep the UK out of lockdown for good. 

His comments will be seized upon by the Tory MPs calling for the roadmap to normality to be sped up. Only one Covid death was announced for the UK yesterday, bolstering their argument for Boris Johnson to stick to his ‘data not dates’ pledge and ending lockdown sooner than June 21 to reboot the economy.

Sir Robert Syms, Tory MP for Poole in Dorset, yesterday said: ‘We need to push the Government to get on with it. A lot of normal life could be returned’. He said the country would ‘lose another summer’ if rules aren’t eased soon. The PM has so far refused to budge in the face of calls for more freedom. 

The next lockdown relaxation is due in less than two weeks’ time on Monday, May 17, when people will be allowed to meet in large groups outdoors, small groups indoors, and indoor entertainment and international travel are expected to reopen.

Professor Ferguson said that jabs appear to work so well that they may hold the virus at bay even in the autumn and winter, when experts fear it will make a comeback like flu.

He added that the ratio of cases to hospital admissions would be much lower next time around and it was unlikely there will be any danger of the NHS getting overwhelmed.

He admitted ‘we do expect transmission’ when society fully reopens in June but suggested vaccination should replace the need for lockdowns and the UK is ‘in a very good position’ to stick to plans for June 21.

Another member of SAGE, however, urged people not to get over-excited about Boris Johnson’s claim that social distancing could be totally scrapped in summer. 

Professor Stephen Reicher, a psychologist at St Andrews University, said ‘things can change very rapidly’ and that cases could spiral if people got complacent. 

Professor Ferguson, known as 'Professor Lockdown' because his warnings of a huge death toll in the first wave led Boris Johnson to lock down the country, said the ratio of cases to hospital admissions would be much lower next time around

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to budge on calls for lockdown to be ended sooner but sounded optimistic yesterday, when he said: 'We have got a good chance of being able to dispense with the one-metre plus from June 21.' (Pictured on a campaigning visit to Hartlepool yesterday)

Professor Ferguson (left) said the ratio of cases to hospital admissions would be much lower next time around but Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) has refused to budge on the roadmap back to normality

Only one UK death from coronavirus was announced yesterday – the lowest since August. MPs seized on the figure to call for an earlier end to lockdown

Only one UK death from coronavirus was announced yesterday – the lowest since August. MPs seized on the figure to call for an earlier end to lockdown

‘The period we had concerns about – but they are diminishing – is really late summer, early autumn,’ Professor Ferguson said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘If we’re going to see another wave of transmission, that’s where it would take place. 

‘But the data on the vaccines is getting ever more encouraging, particularly when you get new data that was released just over a week ago which showed even if you do get infected [after having a vaccine] you are less infectious. 

‘So that’s pushed our estimates of the scale of any autumn wave down.’

He said there was still a risk that a vaccine-resistant variant could come along and dent plans to return to life as normal.

Dangerous variants are more likely to emerge when there is widespread transmission – as there still is in many parts of the world, particularly India – and it may also be more likely when people are immune because the virus must evolve to survive.

Professor Ferguson said the South African variant is the closest thing to this right now but that jab still appear to work well against it. 

Other advisers to SAGE last week published a study showing that Pfizer’s jab protects well against the SA variant after people have had both doses.

The NHS yesterday passed the milestone of giving out 50million vaccine doses in the UK, with 15.5m people fully vaccinated and 19.1m having received their first jab

The NHS yesterday passed the milestone of giving out 50million vaccine doses in the UK, with 15.5m people fully vaccinated and 19.1m having received their first jab 

Office for National Statistics figures showed last week that the total number of people thought to have the virus in England is just 54,200, down 40 per cent in a week and lower than at any time since September

Office for National Statistics figures showed last week that the total number of people thought to have the virus in England is just 54,200, down 40 per cent in a week and lower than at any time since September

Professor Ferguson said: ‘The risk from variants, where vaccines are less effective is the major concern. That’s the one thing that could still lead to a very major third wave in the autumn.

‘So I think it’s essential that we roll out booster doses which can protect against that as soon as we finish vaccinating the adult population which should finish by the summer…

‘It’s much better to be vaccinating people than shutting down the whole of society. 

‘So I think, with that one caveat, I am feeling fairly optimistic that we will be – not completely back to normal – but something that feels a lot more normal by the summer.’

FERGUSON SAYS FOREIGN TRAVEL SAFE TO COUNTRIES WITH LOW COVID RATES 

Professor Ferguson said there would be ‘no risk’ in travelling to somewhere that had a Covid outbreak as small as the one in the UK.

Although popular destinations such as Spain, France and Italy are currently recording around five times as many cases each day as Britain, if this came under control by the summer, holidays could be on the cards, he said.

The UK Government is expected to lift a blanket ban on international travel later this month, but it will be limited only to countries considered safe. 

Portugal is one that could make the green list – its daily rate of cases per person is about equal to the UK’s.

Professor Ferguson said on BBC Radio 4: ‘If for instance, by the summer, infection levels in France and Italy are the same sort of level as they are here, then there’s no risk associated with travelling overseas.

‘The risk comes from going from a place like the UK with very low infection levels and going to a place with much higher infection levels and therefore having the risk of bringing infection back.

‘If the two places are at comparable levels, and that’s what the EU is saying, then there is no particular risks associated with travel.’

On whether he had personally booked a holiday he said: ‘I haven’t booked anything,’ and added: ‘I think it’s probably unlikely’. 

MPs yesterday called again for Boris Johnson to end the UK’s lockdown sooner and said the fact that only a single Covid death was announced was proof the national restrictions were no longer needed.

Despite the falling numbers and the huge success of the vaccine rollout, Britain is still not scheduled to open up fully for another seven weeks. 

Ministers are even hinting that masks and forms of social distancing may continue past June 21.

And the list of quarantine-free destinations is likely to be very limited when the blanket ban on foreign travel ends later this month.

MP Robert Syms said: ‘If you take the data rather than dates, infections, hospitalisations and deaths have fallen quite rapidly and there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that any of the unlocking has caused any sort of spike.

‘It didn’t happen when schools reopened and hasn’t as a result of shops reopening. We need to push the Government to get on with it. A lot of normal life could be returned.’ 

Tory former minister David Jones said the Government should now consider bringing forward the June 21 target.

He added: ‘Lots of hospitality businesses desperately need to recommence full trading and lots of livelihoods depend on it.’

A further 1,649 confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported yesterday – down 20 per cent in seven days. 

The solitary death took the seven-day total to 105 – down 35 per cent on the week before.   

Mr Johnson refused to budge but struck a positive note yesterday, saying that the lockdown easing roadmap was on course, with almost all social distancing rules likely to be scrapped from June 21. 

He said: ‘We have got a good chance of being able to dispense with the one-metre plus from June 21.

‘That is still dependent on the data, we can’t say it categorically yet, we have got to look at the epidemiology as we progress. But that’s what it feels like to me right now.’

But another SAGE adviser today said the suggestion of scrapping social distancing completely should be ‘taken with a pinch of salt’.

Professor Stephen Reicher said on BBC Breakfast: ‘Remember, he said it in the middle of an electioneering visit to the North of England, and clearly he wants to tell a good news story… 

‘He immediately qualified it by saying it depends on the data and how many infections there are and the state of things on June 21, nearly two months away. 

‘Now, if a week is a long time in politics, two months is an eternity in a pandemic. Remember, two months ago in India they were declaring the pandemic was all over, now they’re having 400,000 cases a day.

‘So things can change very rapidly, but I think the critical issue for us now is how do we bring infections down so the data does look good, and we can relax things in two months’ time.

‘The real important issue is this – if we take this as a signal that things are all over, if we relax and if we mix now, the paradox is we will push up the infections and will make it less likely that we can relax on June 21.’

He added: ‘If we believe there is no risk at all, if we start mixing without restraint, then we’re going to be in real trouble.’

Business owners have also joined calls for lockdown to end sooner after their companies have struggled to turn a profit with strict regulations in place or are still unable to open at all. 

Mark Hix, owner of Oyster & Fish House restaurant in Lyme Regis, told the Daily Mail: ‘We need a quicker re-opening. We’ve had a lot of reservations cancelled because of the terrible freezing weather.’

Kate Nicholls of trade body UK Hospitality said: ‘A return to unrestricted trading on June 21 is critical and will mean hospitality businesses can come off life support and be viable for the first time in almost 16 months.

‘We urge the Government to confirm reopening dates and these plans at the earliest opportunity, which will boost confidence and allow companies to step up planning and bring staff back.’

A spokesman for the UK Cinema Association indicated it hoped face coverings would not be a continued requirement.

He said: ‘We strongly believe that our exemplary record on safety – with not a single case of Covid traced back to a UK venue – and our ability to manage the movement of cinema-goers in modern, highly ventilated indoor environments offer ample evidence that any relaxation from June 21 can be undertaken safely without the need for further ongoing restrictions, including any requirement for face coverings.’



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Ministers hope targeted vaccine drive can beat Indian Covid variant

Ministers hope targeted vaccine drive can beat Indian Covid variant
Ministers hope targeted vaccine drive can beat Indian Covid variant


Ministers are cautiously optimistic that targeted vaccinations can arrest a surge of the Indian variant and stop it from derailing Boris Johnson‘s roadmap out of lockdown.

Door-to-door Covid ‘hit squads’ are heading to Bolton and Blackburn, where the strain is at its most virulent, to focus on areas with the greatest ‘vaccine hesitancy’.

Entire multi-generational households will be offered inoculations.

A Government source said: ‘In jabs we trust.’ 

Mr Johnson will proceed as planned with tomorrow’s reopening of pubs and restaurants for indoor dining, but has warned that the Indian variant poses ‘a real risk of disruption’ to the end of social distancing on June 21.

Door-to-door Covid 'hit squads' are heading to Bolton and Blackburn, where the strain is at its most virulent, to focus on areas with the greatest 'vaccine hesitancy'

Door-to-door Covid ‘hit squads’ are heading to Bolton and Blackburn, where the strain is at its most virulent, to focus on areas with the greatest ‘vaccine hesitancy’

Figures released yesterday showed hospital admissions down 1.2 per cent in a week to 103, with deaths down 8.9 per cent to seven.

Positive tests were fractionally down on last Saturday’s figure, at just over 2,000.

A total of 36,320,867 first doses of the vaccine have now been administered – 69 per cent of all adults in Britain – while second doses have reached 19,698,121.

Offers of a vaccine will be extended to all over-35s within days. The Government source added that there was ‘no evidence’ that vaccines were not effective against the Indian variant.

Ministers are planning to blitz areas where the Indian variant has taken hold by vaccinating entire households to stop Covid spreading ‘like wildfire’.

Figures show that in the two worst hotspots, Bolton and Blackburn, the virus is spreading three times faster in areas where the jab take-up is below 80 per cent.

With Boris Johnson warning that the Indian variant posed a threat to his roadmap out of lockdown, Ministers are now sending in the Army to help with a drive to target entire multi-generational households in the worst affected areas.

More than 4,000 people were vaccinated by a Covid ‘jab bus’ which drove into Bolton yesterday.

It comes as the NHS prepares to send invites to all over-35s by the end of the week to take up their vaccination. 

Ministers are planning to blitz areas where the Indian variant has taken hold by vaccinating entire households to stop Covid spreading 'like wildfire'

Ministers are planning to blitz areas where the Indian variant has taken hold by vaccinating entire households to stop Covid spreading ‘like wildfire’

More than 4,000 people were vaccinated by a Covid 'jab bus' (pictured) which drove into Bolton yesterday

More than 4,000 people were vaccinated by a Covid ‘jab bus’ (pictured) which drove into Bolton yesterday

And it was reported last night that at least 20,000 passengers were allowed to enter Britain while Mr Johnson delayed imposing a travel ban from India.

The PM only added India to the travel red list on April 23, three weeks after announcing a ban on flights from neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

Analysis of Civil Aviation Authority data indicates an average of 900 people were arriving daily from India during the three-week period from April 2-23. 

A Government spokesman pointed out that the most dominant of three strains from India was only identified as a concern six days after the country was put on the red list. 

Ministers increasingly fear that a low take-up of the vaccine by ethnic minority communities is helping to spread the Indian variant. 

According to NHS England data, 93.5 per cent of white people aged over 50 have had a Covid jab. This falls to 83.5 per cent for South Asians, and 67 per cent among black people in the same age bracket. 

In areas of Blackburn and Bolton with the lowest vaccine take-up, the current weekly Covid rate is 261 cases per 100,000.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday urged everyone in communities affected by the Indian strain to get the jab. 

He warned: ‘If there are communities unprotected, the virus will find them and go through them like wildfire.’

Government sources confirmed that special door-to-door jab services may now be offered in Bolton and other affected areas to combat low vaccine take-up in ethnic-minority households.

The move would mean those in their 20s with no underlying health conditions getting the jab.

Ex-Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq urged those in hotspots who were still hesitant about getting the jab to think of others. She said: ‘You would never go outside with a gun and start shooting people because you can see the destruction. But those without the jab don’t see the impact of passing the virus on.’

Labour health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth added: ‘We have to be flexible and carry out a vaccine blitz in those areas most affected by the new Indian variant.’ 

There were huge queues for a ‘jab bus’ in Bolton yesterday after everyone in the town was invited to get vaccinated before 5pm. 

Thousands waited in the pouring rain for injections as council officials went door-to-door urging residents to go to a bus parked in Great Lever – an area where vaccine take-up had been below average.

Bolton’s infection rate is the highest in the country at 192 cases per 100,000 people. The Indian variant now makes up the majority of its new cases. 

Nearly 20 million Britons have now had two doses. Yesterday, a further 2,027 cases were recorded. Seven people died.



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UK records another 2,027 Covid cases in 1% fall on last week

UK records another 2,027 Covid cases in 1% fall on last week
UK records another 2,027 Covid cases in 1% fall on last week


A further 2,027 people have tested positive for Covid-19 today – a drop of 1 per cent on last week. 

Today’s case total – 20 fewer than the 2,047 recorded last Saturday – come as fears continue to grow about the Indian Covid variant spreading rapidly in parts of the UK.

But as Britain’s death toll stands at seven today, a rise of just two on the five recorded this day last week, the virtually-unchanged figures will no doubt come as a relief to Boris Johnson.

The PM has been criticised for his response to the B.1.617.2 strain – also known as the Indian variant due to its country of origin.

A health minister was today forced to defend the Government’s delay in shutting Britain’s borders with India.

The Government comes under fire for ‘inexplicable delays’ in reacting to the spread of the deadly variant abroad. 

Edward Argar said the decision to keep India off the ‘red list’ until April 23, two weeks after its neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh were added, was ‘based on evidence’.

A further 2,027 people have tested positive for Covid-19 today - a drop of 1 per cent on last week

A further 2,027 people have tested positive for Covid-19 today – a drop of 1 per cent on last week

But as Britain's death toll stands at seven today, a rise of just two on the five recorded this day last week, the virtually-unchanged figures will no doubt come as a relief to Boris Johnson

But as Britain’s death toll stands at seven today, a rise of just two on the five recorded this day last week, the virtually-unchanged figures will no doubt come as a relief to Boris Johnson

By that point, 122 cases of the rapidly-spreading variant had already entered the UK from abroad. 

The variant has since spread significantly – with the latest data showing a rise from 520 to 1,313 this week alone.  

Now, surge testing and pop up vaccination centres have been introduced in Indian variant hotspots in a bid to tackle the spread.

Anyone living in Bolton has been invited to get a Covid jab before 5pm today as the race is on to tackle the spread of the Indian variant.

Councillor Andy Morgan shared a Tweet inviting Britons to ‘visit the vaccine bus’ if they live in the area and are registered with a local GP. He said the team of medics ‘will find a reason to vaccinate you’ before closing time at 5pm.

Anyone living in Bolton has been invited to get a Covid jab before 5pm today amid fears over the spread of the Indian variant. Pictured: A queue for the jabs at the pop up centre

The 4,000 jabs at the pop-up centre must be used before the end of the day (the queue, pictured), the councillor for Heaton and Lostock added

The 4,000 jabs at the pop-up centre must be used before the end of the day (the queue, pictured), the councillor for Heaton and Lostock added

The 4,000 jabs at the pop-up centre – held at a school – must be used before the end of the day, the councillor for Heaton and Lostock added. 

Today’s centre at the Essa Academy school saw queues snaking along the pavement as eager locals waited to get their jabs.

There were no age limits on those eligible today so anyone over the age of 18 could be inoculated – meaning the youngest don’t need to wait until the summer as they would in other parts of the country.

The area has seen a surge in cases of the Indian Covid variant, which now makes up the majority of it’s new cases. 

As of yesterday, Bolton’s infection rate is the highest in the country at 192 cases per 100,000 people.

And Government scientists fear the Indian variant could be 50 per cent more infectious than the Kent strain – which models project could lead to 1,000 deaths a day, as well as 10,000 daily hospitalisations, by the summer. 

Mr Johnson has pledged to ‘throw everything we have’ at keeping cases of the Indian variant down and is set to send the Army into Britain’s worst hotspots to hand out tests in a bid to slow the spread. 

The area has seen a surge in cases of the Indian Covid variant, which now makes up the majority of it's new cases. Pictured: A queue for the jabs at the pop up centre

The area has seen a surge in cases of the Indian Covid variant, which now makes up the majority of it’s new cases. Pictured: A queue for the jabs at the pop up centre

Councillor Andy Morgan shared a Tweet inviting Britons of all ages to 'visit the vaccine bus' if they live in the area and are registered with a local GP. He said the team of medics 'will find a reason to vaccinate you' before closing time at 5pm

Councillor Andy Morgan shared a Tweet inviting Britons of all ages to ‘visit the vaccine bus’ if they live in the area and are registered with a local GP. He said the team of medics ‘will find a reason to vaccinate you’ before closing time at 5pm

The Prime Minister has pledged to 'throw everything we have at this task' and is set to send the Army into Britain's worst variant hotspots - including Bolton (a vaccination centre, pictured) - to hand out tests in a bid to slow the spread

The Prime Minister has pledged to ‘throw everything we have at this task’ and is set to send the Army into Britain’s worst variant hotspots – including Bolton (a vaccination centre, pictured) – to hand out tests in a bid to slow the spread

As of yesterday, Bolton's infection rate is the highest in the country at 192 cases per 100,000 people. Pictured: A seven-day cases rate by age in Bolton

As of yesterday, Bolton’s infection rate is the highest in the country at 192 cases per 100,000 people. Pictured: A seven-day cases rate by age in Bolton

A Warwick University model of a more infectious variant after lockdown is completely lifted on June 21 suggests that any more than a 30 per cent increase in transmissibility compared to the Kent variant could lead to an August peak of daily hospital admissions that is higher than either the first or second wave. In a worst-case scenario with a variant 50 per cent more transmissible, hospital admissions could surge to 10,000 per day or even double that  (Thick lines indicate the central estimate while the thin lines are possible upper limits known as confidence intervals)

RUNNERS RETURN FOR ‘TASTER OF WHAT NORMALITY MIGHT LOOK LIKE’ AT PILOT 5K 

Runners have put their best foot forward for a pilot event on the road to a safe return of mass participation sport amid a ‘brilliant atmosphere’.

The only running event in the Government’s Events Research Programme began on Saturday morning at Kempton Park in Surrey.

Runners and spectators taking part in the Reunion 5K will help to provide scientific data on Covid-19 transmission levels, with both socially-distanced and non-socially-distanced runs being trialled.

Surrey County Council leader Tim Oliver said it had been ‘amazing’ to take part.

In a video on Twitter, he said: ‘It was a brilliant atmosphere, everybody really enjoying themselves.’

He added: ‘It’s just a taster really of what normality might look like again, just amazing.

‘So well done to Surrey for hosting it and well done to all the runners for participating.’

All those in attendance had to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 lateral flow test and were asked to take a PCR test both on Saturday and five days later.

Approximately 1,000 socially-distanced runners were to set off at regular intervals in the first group of races, watched by a socially-distanced crowd of spectators.

Some 1,000 runners were then set to take part in a non-socially distanced 5K, with onlookers also not required to keep apart.

Organiser Hugh Brasher, the event director of London Marathon Events, took part in the non-socially distanced run and said it had felt ‘surprisingly normal’.

He said: ‘After 16 months of not being with people, to be with people felt… I thought it would feel different and it didn’t, and it was lovely to be able to do it and get inspired to run faster than I’ve run in quite a number of years.’

Mr Brasher, who completed the 5k in less than 19 minutes, said it had been ‘brilliant to see that it was such a diversity of abilities doing the event’, from the fastest runners to people walking.

He added: ‘I thought I would feel a bit of trepidation on the start line but I was surprised at how normal it felt. Everyone was just looking around, chatting as they normally would before a start.’

Mr Brasher is hoping the pilot will help see the return of all kinds of running events – ranging from park runs, the Great North Run or the London Marathon – to the sporting calendar.

He described the Government’s aim of all adults having been offered their first vaccine by the end of July as something he is ‘incredibly hopeful about’.

He added: ‘And (I’m) hopeful that events such as these can happen in the future, because for everyone’s mental, physical health and overall wellbeing it’s so important.’

Sports Minister Nigel Huddlestone said the Reunion 5k could help provide ‘essential data on the safe return of mass participation events’.

He added: ‘It’s fantastic to see so many runners and spectators getting involved in this event which will feed into policy decisions ahead of step 4 of the road map and hopefully see things like the great London Marathon return with crowds.’

However, Tom Williams, chief operating officer of Park Run, cast doubt on the return of that event if they can only hold some runs and not others.

He said some local authorities had said it ‘might take six months to get approval through a safety advisory group’, with some saying local R numbers would need to be taken into account.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: ‘If we only open a small subset of our events, then the ones that did open would be overwhelmed with participants from the events that were closed.

‘In England we have three million people registered to park run and on a normal Saturday prior to Covid we had about 200,000 people taking part.

‘So, unless we get the very large majority of all of our events open at the same time, we won’t be able to open any of them.’

 

Cases of the B.1.617.2 strain have more than doubled in the past week across the UK, with 1,313 cases detected by May 12, up from the 520 the previous week.

While Prime Minister is pinning his hopes of beating the virus on a ‘flexed’ jab drive, experts fear vaccinations are not the key to slowing the spread. 

Deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation Dr Anthony Harnden today said the jab is ‘almost certainly less effective against transmission’ because immunity only kicks in three weeks after the vaccine is given.  

Meanwhile, Scottish National Party health spokesperson Dr Philippa Whitford warned you ‘cannot out-vaccinate the variant’ due to the time taken to build immunity once someone gets the jab. 

And she stressed that letting the virus ‘run rampant’ in young people who are not yet vaccinated could lead to the creation of more deadly variants. 

Oliver Dowden today warned theatres, sports and music venues that the UK is entering a ‘period of heightened vigilance’ as the Indian variant threatens the return of live events. 

The Culture Secretary said the Government will continue to assess the spread of the variant in the coming weeks and update venues on their reopening.

Mr Dowden wrote on Twitter:  ‘The crucial road map date for theatres, music venues and sports has always been step four, so I understand this is an anxious time as we assess the situation over the next couple of weeks.

‘We continue to make good progress with the vaccine rollout and with testing the safe return of audiences through the Events Research Programme, but must accept we enter a period of heightened vigilance with the new fast-moving variant.

‘We will keep engaging with, and updating, organisations to allow everyone to plan their full reopening.’

Mr Johnson has warned England will face ‘hard choices’ if the Indian variant turns out to be much more transmissible than others.

But even so, he announced last night that Britain will press ahead with plans for indoor drinking and dining next week – with ministers today insisting the rule change is the ‘safe and right thing to do’.

Second doses of vaccines will be accelerated for the over-50s and the clinically vulnerable across the country, so they are given eight weeks after the first dose instead of the current 12 weeks. 

He also stressed that while the vaccine protects against ‘severe disease’ – therefore helping keep hospitalisation and death rates down – countless vulnerable people and over 50s still haven’t had the jab at all. 

At present the variant is spreading among unvaccinated younger age groups while cases remain lower among older vaccinated people. 

Although the most vulnerable people in Britain are protected against the variant by the vaccine, if it is allowed to spread uncontrolled among unvaccinated younger people it could still cause thousands of deaths and  hospitalisations in a third wave potentially more serious than Britain’s first and second. 

SAGE calculations upon which lockdown easing were based factored in the Kent variant but not a faster spreading strain. 

Dr Whitford told Radio 4’s Any Questions?: ‘If you think its a speeding train that’s heading down the track towards you, you get out of the way now. You don’t wait to see whether it changes on to another line.’

She added: ‘Yes, at the beginning there was no handbook. People were finding their way. But last summer, Scotland particularly but actually most of the UK got cases right down and then everyone was encourage to go on holiday.

‘And we already brought new strains in and the second wave kicked off.

‘There was a delay in six weeks of the Prime Minister putting lockdown in the south east of England and that is what allowed the Kent variant to evolve. And that hasn’t just taken over in the UK, that is what drove the second and third waves across Europe.

‘And now we have this Indian variant which there is clearly a significant suspicion that it is more infectious yet again and that is going to affect younger people. 

‘And its fine to say they’re not in hospital. And the vaccine does appear to be helping people.  

‘We’re not seeing a surge in deaths or hospitalisations, but if you allow [the Indian variant] to run rampant in younger people, you will actually generate more domestic new variants and you mustn’t forget long Covid is affecting younger people as well.’  

These includes Bolton, where today's pop up centre at the Essa Academy school saw queues snaking along the pavement as eager locals waited to get their jabs (a man getting his jab, pictured)

These includes Bolton, where today’s pop up centre at the Essa Academy school saw queues snaking along the pavement as eager locals waited to get their jabs (a man getting his jab, pictured)

A man gets his Covid vaccination in Bolton. The area has surge in cases of the Indian coronavirus variant

A man gets his Covid vaccination in Bolton. The area has surge in cases of the Indian coronavirus variant

Dr Whitford stressed that the ‘vaccine doesn’t work for two to three weeks’, adding: ‘This variant is trebling every week. You cannot out-vaccinate the variant.’

She urged the government to put the most-affected areas into ‘tighter restrictions’ to slow the spread of the Indian variant because jabs take two to three weeks to be effective. 

BMA public health medicine committee co-chairman Dr Jarvis today said the number of people still without the protection of a vaccine – and the rapid spread of the Indian variant – means the ‘utmost caution’ should be taken when lockdown restrictions ease. 

The Prime Minister will send in troops to help surge-testing efforts in Bolton – which is fighting a spike in infections almost ten times higher than the UK average – and neighbouring Blackburn. 

Images from Bolton today showed deserted streets as locals opted to stay indoors as cases surged. Those who did venture out were seen wearing masks.

A worker directs a patient to a Covid vaccination centre in Bolton. The area is also undergoing surge testing

A worker directs a patient to a Covid vaccination centre in Bolton. The area is also undergoing surge testing

Security are seen directing people in cars as they wait to have their vaccination outside Essa Academy

Security are seen directing people in cars as they wait to have their vaccination outside Essa Academy

Boris Johnson announced last night that Britain will press ahead with plans for indoor drinking and dining from Monday – with ministers today insisting the rule change is the ‘safe and right thing to do’ 

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme, Dr Harnden said: ‘This is a clearly more-transmissible virus, this B617 which originated in India. 

‘And the vaccines may be less effective against mild disease but we don’t think they’re less effective against severe disease. In combination with being less effective against mild disease, they’re almost certainly less effective against transmission. 

‘We’ve got a very successful programme at the moment in preventing severe disease and we have had a key focus on hospitalisations and deaths. 

‘So we believe vaccinating those in at-risk groups who are currently unvaccinated, and bringing forward that second dose in the over 50s by four weeks, is a better strategy. 

‘And the reason that we think this is because if we immunise 18 to 29 year olds for instance in these areas, we would be taking vaccines from somebody else in the country. 

Bolton Council workers distributing surge Covid testing kits to shops in the Daubhill area of Bolton, Lancashire, today

Bolton Council workers distributing surge Covid testing kits to shops in the Daubhill area of Bolton, Lancashire, today

Leicester City fans heading to the FA Cup final are seen walking outside Wembley Stadium on Saturday afternoon

Leicester City fans heading to the FA Cup final are seen walking outside Wembley Stadium on Saturday afternoon

21,000 spectators will be inside Wembley to watch the showpiece event in the English football calendar on Saturday night

21,000 spectators will be inside Wembley to watch the showpiece event in the English football calendar on Saturday night

Leicester supporters Gurmukh Singh and his nephew Arjun Singh make the walks along Wembley Way towards the stadium

Leicester supporters Gurmukh Singh and his nephew Arjun Singh make the walks along Wembley Way towards the stadium

‘The vaccines may be less effective against transmission – as I said – and actually the immunity takes a number of weeks to develop.

‘So it’s not a very good strategy for preventing transmission.’

He stressed that the country can ‘cope with infection rates in the community providing we don’t get our hospitals overwhelmed’. 



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Dr Alex George appointed one of ITV’s mental health advisors in the wake of reality show suicides

Dr Alex George appointed one of ITV’s mental health advisors in the wake of reality show suicides
Dr Alex George appointed one of ITV’s mental health advisors in the wake of reality show suicides


Dr Alex George has been appointed one of ITV’s mental health advisors in the wake of three suicides linked to its flagship show Love Island

The medic, 30, who starred on the ITV2 show’s fourth season in 2018 before returning to his doctor job at Lewisham hospital, will help the channel in promoting better wellbeing not only for contestants, but for those watching at home.  

His role comes after he was appointed as a Youth Mental Health Ambassador by Boris Johnson after speaking out following his brother Llŷr’s death last year. 

Congratulations: Dr Alex George has been appointed one of ITV's mental health advisors in the wake of three suicides linked to its flagship show Love Island

Congratulations: Dr Alex George has been appointed one of ITV’s mental health advisors in the wake of three suicides linked to its flagship show Love Island

In addition to appointing mental health tzars such as Alex, ITV have been making steps to help promote better mental health among its staff.

The station recently launched a series of self-care classes which include paint-pouring sessions, origami lessons and ‘racial fluency’ lessons.

While they have also set up a range of networking groups which welcomes women, minority ethnic staff, gay workers and those with disabilities.

The moves comes after the broadcaster was heavily criticised for the quality of care provided to former Love Island contestants as well as guest who had appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show. 

Brilliant: The medic, 30, who starred on the ITV2 show's fourth season in 2018 before returning to his doctor job at Lewisham hospital, will help the channel in promoting better wellbeing not only for contestants, but for those watching at home

Brilliant: The medic, 30, who starred on the ITV2 show’s fourth season in 2018 before returning to his doctor job at Lewisham hospital, will help the channel in promoting better wellbeing not only for contestants, but for those watching at home

Sophie Graydon and Mike Thalassitis both took their own lives after appearing on the reality dating programme, while host Caroline Flack took her life in February last year the day after hearing she would be prosecuted for allegedly attacking her boyfriend Lewis Burton, 27.

While Jeremy Kyle’s show was axed in May of last year after Steven Dymond, 63, killed himself less than a week after failing a lie detector test while filming an episode of the show. 

MailOnline have contacted ITV representatives for comment. 

Speaking about his new position, Alex told Susannah Constantine on her podcast My Wardrobe Malfunction: ‘I actually sit on the board now the mental health board advisory board for ITV.

Tragic: His role comes after he was appointed as a Youth Mental Health Ambassador by Boris Johnson after speaking out following his brother Llŷr's death last year (pictured together)

Tragic: His role comes after he was appointed as a Youth Mental Health Ambassador by Boris Johnson after speaking out following his brother Llŷr’s death last year (pictured together)

‘A lot of the thoughts now moving forward are around how can we promote better mental wellbeing not just on the show but for people watching it.

‘What can we do to support movements around mental health like Britain Get Talking (ITV’s Mental Wellness Campaign) which has been incredibly successful, partnerships with Mind and Calm.’

He continued: ‘You know, I think that’s important: TV, reality TV, all these shows, can actually have an impact on people’s mental health, but it can do it in a positive way as well, if we think about it and we consider that when you’re making the shows.

‘It’s considering who you’re putting on there. Are they prepared for that? What messages are we giving to people? Are we representing the body image, the diversity that we have in the UK on screen, you know, those kind of things.

A great help: 'A lot of the thoughts now moving forward are around how can we promote better mental wellbeing not just on the show but for people watching it'

A great help: ‘A lot of the thoughts now moving forward are around how can we promote better mental wellbeing not just on the show but for people watching it’

Important: 'You know, I think that's important: TV, reality TV, all these shows, can actually have an impact on people's mental health, but it can do it in a positive way as well, if we think about it and we consider that when you're making the shows' (pictured on Love Island in 2018)

Important: ‘You know, I think that’s important: TV, reality TV, all these shows, can actually have an impact on people’s mental health, but it can do it in a positive way as well, if we think about it and we consider that when you’re making the shows’ (pictured on Love Island in 2018)

‘I will be interested to see what the cast is like this year on Love Island. But I suspect we might see a better diversity I hope in all sorts of ways on the show this year. But let’s see.’ 

During the podcast, the medic also discussed his experience following his foray into reality TV and praised ITV for checking in on him when he returned to his profession. 

He explained: ‘I think we all have different experiences don’t we?’ he said. ‘I think it helped me a lot that I had my career and it was always my intention to go back.

Aftercare: During the podcast, the medic also discussed his experience following his foray into reality TV and praised ITV for checking in on him when he returned to his profession

Aftercare: During the podcast, the medic also discussed his experience following his foray into reality TV and praised ITV for checking in on him when he returned to his profession

‘I guess the first six months was a huge roller coaster. I know, it sounds very clichéd saying that, but it was very strange to go from someone who has no experience in the public eye, no media experience at all, to being the centre of a lot of focus and attention.

‘That was a huge shock and a massive thing to get used to. But I got there, I think…I actually think that the show was pretty good to me as well – they check in quite a lot, see how I’m doing, even now. And I think that’s very important.’

Alex’s appointment comes three months after Boris Johnson made him Youth Mental Health Ambassador in the wake of him openly speaking about the tragic passing of his younger brother. 

Downing Street: It comes three months after Dr Alex was appointed as a Youth Mental Health Ambassador by Boris Johnson after speaking out following his brother's death last year

Downing Street: It comes three months after Dr Alex was appointed as a Youth Mental Health Ambassador by Boris Johnson after speaking out following his brother’s death last year

The Love Island star has been passionately campaigning for better mental health provision as he struggled with the loss of his brother Llŷr, who took his life at the age of 19 in July.  

The A&E doctor met with the Prime Minister in No. 10 Downing Street as he was appointed into the unpaid role.

His role as Youth Mental Health Ambassador will be to advise government, help shape policy on improving support for young people and raise the profile of mental health education and wellbeing in schools. 

Mental Health advocate: The A&E doctor met with the Prime Minister in No. 10 Downing Street as he was appointed into the unpaid role

Mental Health advocate: The A&E doctor met with the Prime Minister in No. 10 Downing Street as he was appointed into the unpaid role

Dr. Alex has been a passionate online campaigner for children’s mental health since he tragically lost his younger brother to suicide last year. 

Speaking about his brother on Susannah’s podcast, he added: ‘It’s an ongoing tough time. You never get over it, do you? How can you?

‘But you know, I’ve learned to live with it, in some ways. It’s still very early. But I do feel like I’m at a place now where I’m able to kind of see that, you know, I can have a life after this.’

On New Year’s Day, he wrote on his Instagram that his number one goal this year was to ‘help bring meaningful change to mental health education at schools across the UK’ and he has been calling for a meeting with the PM.

Success! Dr. Alex announced the news on his Instagram along with a picture of him meeting with the Prime Minister in Downing Street

Success! Dr. Alex announced the news on his Instagram along with a picture of him meeting with the Prime Minister in Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was ‘delighted’ to appoint Dr. Alex as a Youth Mental Health Ambassador, saying: ‘Children and young people have heroically adapted to save lives and protect our NHS. 

‘This has understandably had a huge impact on their mental health, so I want to shine a spotlight on this vital issue ahead of their return to school. 

‘I’m delighted that Dr. Alex George will be working with us as we do everything in our power to improve people’s mental wellbeing.’

Dr. Alex said: ‘The last year has been unimaginably difficult for all of us, but particularly for young people who have sacrificed so much.

Busy man: Downing Street confirmed at the time that Dr. Alex would start his role immediately, and will work within the Department for Education, although he will remain independent of government

Busy man: Downing Street confirmed at the time that Dr. Alex would start his role immediately, and will work within the Department for Education, although he will remain independent of government

‘I am honoured to be appointed for this role where I’ll be working closely with government to make mental health an absolute priority and hope to have a positive impact on the lives of young people and their education for good.

‘Right now young people need a voice in government, and I hope that through this role I can advocate for meaningful change in this area.’ 

Downing Street confirmed at the time that Dr. Alex would start his role immediately, and will work within the Department for Education, although he will remain independent of government.

He will sit on the new Mental Health in Education Action Group, chaired by Children’s Minister Vicky Ford and Universities Minister Michelle Donelan – which will look specifically at how we support young people with their wellbeing as they return to school and university after this difficult year.

What a guy: Dr. Alex has been a passionate online campaigner for children's mental health since he tragically lost his younger brother to suicide last year

What a guy: Dr. Alex has been a passionate online campaigner for children’s mental health since he tragically lost his younger brother to suicide last year



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Inquiry into Boris Johnson’s Mustique holiday says he failed to say how it was financed

Inquiry into Boris Johnson’s Mustique holiday says he failed to say how it was financed
Inquiry into Boris Johnson’s Mustique holiday says he failed to say how it was financed


Boris Johnson faced a new sleaze row last night after it emerged that the parliamentary watchdog has accused him of failing to come clean about his Mustique holiday with fiancee Carrie Symonds.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone has said the Prime Minister’s break was worth more than twice the £15,000 he declared in the Commons Register.

And she said it was clear the bill had not been met by Tory donor and Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, as the Prime Minister claimed.

Her damning verdict was delivered privately to Mr Johnson months ago.

But he has refused to accept her ruling and is trying to overturn it to avoid the risk of being suspended as an MP.

The Prime Minister has told Miss Stone that he and Miss Symonds got the villa for half price as a last-minute bargain, the Daily Mail has learned in a leak that will rock No 10. 

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone said Boris Johnson's Mustique break (pictured in Turkey) was worth more than twice the £15,000 he declared

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone said Boris Johnson’s Mustique break (pictured in Turkey) was worth more than twice the £15,000 he declared

He has argued that, although the villa they stayed in was not owned by Mr Ross, the tycoon effectively paid for it because palatial villas on the Caribbean island are swapped like Costa Brava time-shares.

Mr Johnson admitted his deal was unconventional – but said there was nothing improper about it.

And he fiercely denied that the holiday was in fact paid for by the highly secretive Mustique Island Company (MIC). 

The company controls the villas – which can cost £20million – and owns the island, part of St Vincent and the Grenadines, a tax haven where offshore trusts, a device for avoiding tax, are commonplace.

The Mail has also established that Miss Stone’s inquiry – launched an astonishing 15 months ago – has been hampered by the refusal of the MIC to take part.

The disclosures come days after she publicly confirmed she is investigating Mr Johnson’s post-election victory holiday to Mustique in December 2019.

The watchdog and the Prime Minister have been locked in a behind-the-scenes battle over whether he obeyed Commons rules whereby MPs must reveal details of all financial donations and benefits.

Sources say that despite her announcement this week that her inquiry is ongoing, Miss Stone told Mr Johnson months ago she was certain he had flouted the rules.

The name of the donor and the value of the benefit he had entered in the Commons Register of Financial Interests were incorrect, she said, meaning he was in breach of Westminster’s code of conduct.

However, defiant Mr Johnson has demanded – and won – more time to prove his innocence.

The row over his holiday from Boxing Day 2019 to January 5, 2020, started after he declared the £15,000 cost was a ‘benefit in kind’ from Mr Ross. Mr Ross initially denied having paid for it.

Miss Stone said it was clear the bill (above: villa where the pair are believed to have stayed) had not been met by Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, as the Prime Minister claimed

Miss Stone said it was clear the bill (above: villa where the pair are believed to have stayed) had not been met by Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, as the Prime Minister claimed

There was further confusion when it was revealed Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds did not stay in Mr Ross’s villa, but in a different one owned by an American family.

The second family said they were unaware that Mr Johnson had stayed in their villa – but they had been paid by the MIC.

The Mail has been told that despite subsequently stating publicly that he had ‘facilitated’ the holiday, Miss Stone says Mr Ross told her he did not pay for it. 

This is thought to be why she rejected Mr Johnson’s claim that Mr Ross was the donor.

She also said the advertised cost of renting the villa at that time of the year was £3,300 per day – or £33,000 over ten days, more than double the £15,000 which was declared by Mr Johnson.

She is understood to have said she did not believe it would have been available so cheaply.

Miss Stone, frustrated by the refusal of the MIC to tell her who paid for the holiday and its true cost, demanded the information from Mr Johnson. 

He is said to have repeated his claim that Mr Ross was the donor – adding that he assumed the MIC would use Mr Ross’s villa on another occasion to get its money back.

Miss Stone reportedly challenged Mr Ross to provide evidence of this. Apparently unconvinced by his reply, sources say, she declared it was evident Mr Ross had not paid.

She told the Prime Minister bluntly she had decided he was in the wrong, and he had not met his duty to obey paragraph 14 of the Parliamentary code of conduct.

It says MPs must ‘conscientiously fulfil’ their duty to declare all financial interests in the Commons Register – including benefits from any trusts.

Miss Stone told Mr Johnson she planned to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Standards Committee, which can impose sanctions including suspending an MP, and asked if he accepted her decision.

The Prime Minister is said to have objected in strong terms. It was Miss Stone who had got her facts wrong, not him, he said.

The £15,000 was a realistic price for a last-minute booking – and Mustique villas were more akin to time-shares than privately owned holiday homes. 

It was routine for the use of them to be exchanged by their super-rich owners, just like the less well-off with time-shares.

Staying in a villa for free – as he had done – certainly did not mean the MIC had paid for it.

But the Prime Minister told Miss Stone that he and Miss Symonds (pictured) got the villa for half price as a last-minute bargain, the Daily Mail has learned in a leak that will rock No 10

But the Prime Minister told Miss Stone that he and Miss Symonds (pictured) got the villa for half price as a last-minute bargain, the Daily Mail has learned in a leak that will rock No 10

The only crack in his defiant stance came when, seemingly in a plea of mitigation, he said his Commons declaration was correct at the time it had been registered.

If Miss Stone sticks to her original judgment, it will be referred to the Parliamentary Standards Committee, chaired by senior Labour MP Chris Bryant.

Mr Johnson has previously been in hot water with the committee – and Miss Stone. 

In 2018, before he became Prime Minister, he made a ‘full and unreserved’ apology to MPs for failing to declare more than £50,000 in income and registering nine payments after the required 28-day deadline.

Miss Stone said the breaches were ‘neither inadvertent nor minor’. Some Tory MPs fear that if Mr Johnson is found to have broken the rules again he will be suspended from the Commons, the first prime minister to endure such a humiliation.

The Mail has been told that Downing Street’s main worry is that Miss Stone insists that he declares that the MIC provided the benefit either in part or in full.

That could lead to difficult questions about the company which prides itself on the secrecy, including financial, it offers to its rich and famous villa owners.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Mr Ross or the MIC.

Notwithstanding Miss Stone’s claim that Mr Ross told her he did not pay for the holiday, the businessman insists he backs the Prime Minister’s version of events. 

A spokesman for Mr Ross said: ‘Mr Ross facilitated accommodation for Mr Johnson on Mustique valued at £15,000.

‘Therefore this is a benefit in kind from Mr Ross to Mr Johnson, and Mr Johnson’s Commons declaration is correct.’

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The PM transparently declared the benefit in kind in the Commons Register of Interests. The Cabinet Office was aware of the declaration and was content it was appropriate.

‘A spokesman for Mr Ross confirmed the PM’s declaration is correct and the accommodation was facilitated as a donation in kind.’

An MIC spokesman told the Daily Mail it was ‘absolutely not’ the case the company had paid for Mr Johnson’s stay. She had ‘no idea’ who had actually paid. 

Miss Stone declined to comment.



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London’s best summer dining destinations

London’s best summer dining destinations
London’s best summer dining destinations


Prêt-à-Portea, The Berkeley

“Couture cakes” by executive pastry chef Mourad Khiat at Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley
“Couture cakes” by executive pastry chef Mourad Khiat at Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley

The five-star London landmark reopens for indoor dining on 17 May with its much-loved Prêt-à-Portea – a stylish affair (from £60 per person) with selections of “couture cakes” by executive pastry chef Mourad Khiat. This summer’s SS21 catwalk-inspired creations include Donatella Versace’s ocean-themed cocktail dress reimagined as a coconut dacquoise with mango confit topped with a sugar starfish. Tod’s neon tote bag is transformed into a citrus Victoria sponge; Valentino’s vivid green printed gown as a pistachio bavarois with Amarena cherry; while editor Anna Wintour has been immortalised as an iced vanilla biscuit complete with trademark sunglasses. the-berkeley.co.uk


Perrier-Jouët Terrace at Scott’s

The Perrier-Jouët Terrace at Scott’s serves seasonal seafood, meat and game under a canopy of golden blossom
The Perrier-Jouët Terrace at Scott’s serves seasonal seafood, meat and game under a canopy of golden blossom

A vision in golden blossom, the Mayfair outpost’s alfresco terrace – created in collaboration with Perrier-Jouët Champagne – serves seasonal seafood, meat and game under a cascade of petals. Select a la carte offerings such as lobster thermidor (£26/£52), paired with a selection of Perrier-Jouët’s cuvées. The menu includes Scott’s plateau de fruits de mer: sashimi, caviar, lobster, oysters, salmon tartare and prawns, perfectly paired with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2012 (£250). scotts-restaurant.com


Sea Containers x Laurent-Perrier summer terrace

An oyster platter at Sea Containers
An oyster platter at Sea Containers © Lucy Richards

Enjoy a slice of the English countryside overlooking the River Thames at Sea Containers, sipping Laurent-Perrier champagne (or its Hedgerow Spritz cocktail, £13.50), amid a summer woodland of potted field maple and hazel trees, barrenwort and coral bells. The menu offers sustainably sourced small plates with foraged hedgerow herbs, including fruits de mer: chilled pink prawns, dressed crab, oysters and lovage mayo (£90 to share); or oysters with mignonette (£2.80 each). The garden terrace, which opens on 19 May, has been created in consultation with the charity Bankside Open Spaces Trust, and the plants and materials will be re-used in future installations or donated to local community sites once the summer season concludes. seacontainerslondon.com


Nobu Hotel Portman Square Japanese gin garden

Chill with a cocktail inspired by the Japanese concept of shun at Nobu Hotel’s gin garden

Soft pink lanterns are framed by Japanese flora and foliage offering a taste of Japanese spring (haru) in the heart of Marylebone at Nobu’s Japanese gin garden. Drop by for an alfresco lunch or dinner of Nobu delights such as wood-oven cooked creamy spicy snow crab (£24). Chill with a cocktail inspired by the culinary concept of shun (enjoying food and drink in their proper season), which includes a smokey tobacco Toki highball (£17): Toki Whiskey combined with tobacco liquor, sakura syrup, Noilly Pratt chocolate bitters and smoky ginger ale. noburestaurants.com


Daphne’s summer terrace

Daphne’s Mediterranean-inspired terrace opens on 17 May
Daphne’s Mediterranean-inspired terrace opens on 17 May

Enjoy Italian fare in the conservatory of this Chelsea haunt, which reopens on 17 May, framed by greenery inspired by a Mediterranean garden. Dine on dishes such as octopus carpaccio with pickled fennel and datterini tomato or veal Milanese with lemon. Then kick back with a cocktail or two from its new selection, including the Riviera (£12): Malfy gin, lime juice, sugar syrup, basil and bitter lemon tonic topped with rosemary. daphnes-restaurant.co.uk


Taste of London, Regent’s Park

Big Mamma’s Napoli Gang is part of the line-up at the Taste of London festival from 7 July
Big Mamma’s Napoli Gang is part of the line-up at the Taste of London festival from 7 July

Outdoor festivals are back – and that includes the gourmand’s go-to, Taste of London. For the first time ever, the 10-day culinary event takes place over two long weekends (from 7 to 11 July and from 14 to 18 July), although with social distancing measures reducing capacity, it’s advisable to book tickets early (entry pass from £23, tasting ticket from £37, VIP from £59). There’s a strong line-up: Big Mamma’s Napoli Gang, Mexican favourite Sonora Taqueria and Jack Whitehall’s Food Slut. Feast your way around the festival (there are 135 dishes to try from chefs such as zero-waste New Yorker Max La Manna) or join a masterclass, including the ever-popular Laurent-Perrier club house, which this year offers a taste of The Berkeley’s Prêt-à-Portea, paired with its Cuvée Rosé champagne. london.tastefestivals.com


The Perrier-Jouët Wild Jardin at Allbright

Mayfair’s female-focussed member’s club has partnered with the champagne house to create a French-inspired dining experience on its verdant rooftop terrace. Sit back and relax with a glass of Grand Brut (£90 per bottle) paired with aperitif snacks and small sharing plates of fresh tuna tostada, pickled chilli and avocado; or succulent summer tomatoes, burrata and fresh basil. The summer-long experience will be open to non-members during the club’s open days each month, on request. allbrightcollective.com


Searcys at The Gherkin

Afternoon tea with views over the city at Searcys at The Gherkin
Afternoon tea with views over the city at Searcys at The Gherkin

One of London’s first sky-high restaurants reopens on 17 May with a “Great British Summer” dining experience – an ode to the season with new menus, champagne cocktails and a limitless afternoon tea (£85 per person) or Sunday brunch – where one can feast on dishes such as horseradish pikelets with avocado, gravadlax and spiced seeds; or scrambled Burford Brown eggs, smoked salmon, caviar and toasted sourdough, for £39. The season kicks off with a series of “Toast to London” gala dinners (from 20 to 22 May) – a five-course tasting experience with three glasses of paired wine (£119 per person), or glasses of Moët & Chandon champagne (£149 per person) – while entertainment is provided by dramatic cityscape vistas. searcysatthegherkin.co.uk


The Garden, Corinthia 

The Garden at Corinthia is open for breakfast and seasonal dining

Step into a Mediterranean oasis fringed with fragrant lemon trees that sets the scene for alfresco dining or a chilled glass of champagne. Breakfast is served, along with an a la carte menu including seasonal offerings of lamb cutlets with courgette, pomegranate and Rosemary (£29); and baked gnocchi cime di rapa, hazelnut and parmesan (£18). Finish with a Glass House cocktail (£18): Sado gin, Noilly Prat Dry, lemon thyme and tonic water. corinthia.com


Oblix at The Shard

High above London on the iconic’s building’s 32nd floor, the urban dining spot is reopening with a new cocktail menu at its Oblix East bar and lounge alongside bar dishes by executive chef Marcus Eaves; imagine crispy fried chicken, with caviar, sour cream and chive. Afternoon tea (£45 per person) is also served in the clouds, offering seasonal treats of blueberry and vanilla tarts and raspberry and white chocolate macarons served with sandwiches filled with lobster mayonnaise or Angus beef and horseradish. Similar seasonal twists can be found on the a la carte and brunch menus at the fine dining restaurant Oblix West. oblixrestaurant.com


The River Café summer terrace

The alfresco terrace at River Café Thames Wharf
The alfresco terrace at River Café Thames Wharf © Matthew Donaldson

Fans of the Hammersmith hotspot known for its exceptional ingredients-focussed fare can dine on the alfresco terrace nestled by the Thames or, from 17 May, back in the buzzy dining room. The menu changes daily but expect rustic spring dishes of risi e bisi (£21) – Venetian rice and peas with mint, stock and vermouth; or rombo al forno (£44) – turbot tranche wood-roasted over potatoes with Amalfi lemon and zucchini. rivercafe.co.uk



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Boris Johnson threatens to suspend checks on goods crossing Irish Sea 

Boris Johnson threatens to suspend checks on goods crossing Irish Sea 
Boris Johnson threatens to suspend checks on goods crossing Irish Sea 


Boris Johnson threatens to suspend all checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea if the EU doesn’t stop its hardline approach

  • Prime Minister is considering suspending checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea
  • Sources say he fears the resulting disruption could destabilise Northern Ireland 
  • The row is over the Brexit deal which prevents checks made at the Irish border

Boris Johnson may totally suspend controversial checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea next month if the EU does not drop its hardline approach.

Diplomatic sources told the Daily Mail the Prime Minister fears that disruption to trade caused by stringent checks could destabilise Northern Ireland – just as the Unionist ‘marching season’ approaches.

Mr Johnson raised the issue with Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin yesterday. A Downing Street spokesman said they ‘agreed on the importance of working together to uphold the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and to maintain smooth trade between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’.

Sources say the Prime Minister (pictured) fears that disruption to trade caused by stringent checks could destabilise Northern Ireland

Sources say the Prime Minister (pictured) fears that disruption to trade caused by stringent checks could destabilise Northern Ireland

The row centres on the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit deal, which prevents checks at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Mr Johnson has raised the issue with Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin (pictured)

Mr Johnson has raised the issue with Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin (pictured)

The EU can still make checks on certain goods crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland but ministers accuse Brussels of taking a ‘maximalist’ approach, causing serious disruption to trade.

They hope Mr Martin will help persuade Brussels to take a more reasonable stance by targeting only those goods destined for the republic. 

Ministers have stopped checks on certain goods in recent weeks but may now suspend all checks, which would plunge relations with the EU into the deep freeze.

Anger about the Irish Sea trade border was said to been a factor in Unionist rioting last month. 



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