ECONOMY

Boris ‘to announce voluntary mask wearing’ as Newcastle is new hotspot – LIVE

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oris Johnson is set to announce an end to compulsory social distancing and mask wearing later today as he lays out the final stages of the roadmap out of Covid-19 restrictions in England.

Meanwhile, Newcastle has become the area of England with the highest rate of new cases of Covid-19, with the North East overtaking the North West as the nation’s main coronavirus hotspot

In the US, President Joe Biden has celebrated the nation’s 245th birthday by opening the doors of the White House and calling on Americans to do their part to end the Covid-19 pandemic once and for all.

“It’s the most patriotic thing you can do,” Mr Biden said of getting vaccinated.

Live updates

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Ireland: Half of adult population will be fully vaccinated by end of Monday

Half of Ireland’s adult population will have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of Monday, the Health Minister has said.

More than 4.3 million coronavirus jabs have been administered to date, with 49.6 per cent of adults fully vaccinated.

Some 67 per cent of adults have received their first dose.

Stephen Donnelly tweeted: “By the end of today half our adult population will have full vaccination.

“This will continue to grow in the days and weeks ahead.

“It’s important that everyone continues to ensure they get their second dose.”

It came as the country’s vaccination programme took a significant step forward, with those aged between 18 and 34 able to receive the one-shot Janssen jab from Monday.

Some 800 pharmacies across the country have begun rolling out vaccines to those in the younger age group.

Mr Donnelly confirmed that people aged 18 to 34 can receive their coronavirus vaccination up to two months early under the accelerated programme.

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Covid-19 in Wales: Health minister cannot guarantee this is the end of the road in terms of further restrictions

Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan has said she cannot give assurances that “this is the end of the road” in terms of further lockdown measures in Wales.

She told a press conference in Cardiff: “We will have to learn to live with this virus and what I won’t give you is any assurances that this is the end of the road.

“We don’t know. There may be a new variant that escapes our vaccines, so I can’t make those kind of predictions.

“I’m surprised the UK Government is able to make them but certainly here in Wales we won’t be giving those kind of assurances that there won’t be any lockdowns in the future.

“Of course we will avoid them if we possibly can.”

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Covid-19 in Wales: Further announcements on any potential easing of measures to be made next week

The Welsh Government “would like to move together” with other parts of the UK in lifting coronavirus restrictions but will only do so if it is “right for Wales”, health minister Eluned Morgan has said.

She told a press conference: “We will be driven by the data not by any political deadline that has been set out artificially, which time and time again in England has been set and then missed.

“We do have constant dialogue with representatives of the UK Government and of course in an ideal world we would like to move together but if it is not right for Wales we won’t be doing that.”

Ms Morgan said further announcements on any potential easing of lockdown measures in Wales were hoped to be made on Wednesday next week.

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Boris Johnson to be joined by Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance at 5pm press conference

Boris Johnson will be joined by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance for a Downing Street press conference at 5pm.

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Delta has ‘sent cases rising again’ in Wales

Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan said the emergence of the Delta variant “has sent cases rising again”, especially in North Wales where there are “very high” levels of infection in the community.

She said Wales is a “couple of weeks” behind what’s happening in England and Scotland, but ministers are “increasingly confident this wave will not cause the same level of serious illness” as before.

There had been a small increase in hospitalisations during the last few days, with around 100 people with COVID in hospital at the moment, she added.

She said: “But we believe vaccination has weakened the link between the virus and hospitalisation, even in the case of the Delta variant.”

She said almost nine in 10 adults have had a first dose, while two-thirds have been double jabbed, adding: “Our vaccination rates are still the best in the UK.”

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Welsh health minister says she can’t give any assurances there won’t be any lockdowns in the future

Eluned Morgan told a press conference the government hopes to make announcements about easing restrictions, such as face masks, next Wednesday.

She said: “Boris Johnson will do what he thinks is right for England and we will do what’s right for us here in Wales.

“We will be driven by the data – not by a political deadline that has been set out artificially, which time and time again in England has been set and then missed.”

She said there is a “huge amount of movement across our borders” – and in an ideal world, “we would like to move together”.

But she added: “We will have to learn to live with this virus.

“What I won’t give you is any assurances that this is the end of the road. We don’t know there may be a new variant that escapes our vaccines.

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London vaccines: Not a single borough has hit PM’s target of double-jabbing two-thirds of adults

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Norway delays lifting Covid restrictions due to Delta variant risk

Erna Solberg, the prime minister of Norway, said the country will delay the next major step in unwinding restrictions related to the pandemic to the end of the month at the earliest.

She said: “There is a risk that the Delta variant will cause a fourth wave of infection in the unvaccinated part of the population, among those who have only received one dose or are in vulnerable groups.”

It comes amid warnings from the World Health Organisation that Delta is becoming the globally dominant variant, raising concerns over whether existing vaccines will work against it.

In Norway, it could become the dominant variant this month, the country’s health minister said.

Nearly two-thirds of adults have received a first dose of a vaccine and 37% of adults are fully vaccinated, public health officials said.

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Experts clash with Boris Johnson as he moves to scrap compulsory mask-wearing in shops and on transport

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Hospital admissions nearly 10 times less than mid-December, says NHS chief

Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, told Sky News it is the “fantastic success” of the vaccination programme which is “allowing us to begin to open up and get back to normal lives”.

He said the NHS is ready for a rise in infections after 19 July, when remaining lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Professor Powis said there are “far fewer” patients in hospital compared to the winter and spring of last year.

He said there were about 23,000 Covid cases a day in mid-December – which is “pretty similar” to now in England – and about 15,000 people in hospital.

But today there are about 1,700 people in hospital, which is “almost 10 times less”, he added.

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