Call to delay June 21 reopening as variants renamed to remove stigma


alls from experts to postpone England’s unlocking on June 21 are growing amid fears the Indian variant is fuelling a third wave of potentially “explosive” Covid infections.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said with the UK in the grip of an “early” third wave the Government should consider pushing back the June 21 target “by a few weeks”.

Environment Secretary George Eustice, asked about the possibility of a delay to freedom from restrictions, told the BBC ministers “can’t rule anything out”.

It comes as the WHO has renamed Covid variants to simplify language, and remove stigma. The Kent variant will now be called Alpha, for example, and the Indian variant, Beta.

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Further calls to delay June 21 lifting of restrictions

A leading scientific adviser to the Government has repeated calls to delay the June 21 lifting of restrictions by “a few weeks”, warning the coronavirus’s ability to adapt in the face of vaccines has still left the UK in a vulnerable position.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said the increased socialisation which has followed last month’s phase of restriction lifting could be expected to lead to “quite a lot” of hospital admissions.

He said while the nation had performed “amazingly well” in its vaccination programme, it was still too early “to put the vaccine straight up against the virus”.

Prof Gupta said a delay of a few weeks to the June 21 target could have a significant impact on Britain’s battle against the pandemic, and recommended it should be made clear to the public that it would be a temporary measure based on recent events, chiefly the emergence of the Indian or B.1.617.2 strain of the virus.


Share Covid jabs with poorer nations to end variant threat, world leaders urged

Covid vaccines must be shared with poorer nations to prevent richer countries being hit by newly-imported deadly variants, world leaders have been told. Global bodies – along with MPs and peers – warned of fresh lockdowns if people in developing nations do not get a huge increase in jabs.

The heads of the World Health Organisation, International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group and World Trade Organisation warned of a “dangerous gap” in the availability of jabs, with low-income nations receiving “less than 1 per cent of vaccines administered so far”.

“Inequitable vaccine distribution is not only leaving untold millions of people vulnerable to the virus. It is also allowing deadly variants to emerge and ricochet back across the world,” they said in an open letter published in a number of global newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph.

In a separate letter, a cross-party group of more than 100 MPs and peers wrote to the Prime Minister with a similar message, calling for Britain to export more jabs to developing countries in a bid to prevent new variants from wrecking Britain’s freedom plans.


Covid-19 variants to be given Greek alphabet names

Global health leaders have announced new names for Covid-19 variants using letters of the Greek alphabet.

Experts working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) developed the labels for variants which are often colloquially named after the places where they are first detected.

Many variants of Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – have been identified around the world.

They include B.1.1.7, known in the UK as the Kent variant and around the world as the UK variant – but now labelled by the WHO as Alpha.

The B.1.617.2 variant, often known as the Indian variant, has been labelled Delta, while B.1.351, often referred to as the South African variant, has been named Beta.

The P.1 Brazilian variant has been labelled Gamma.

The WHO said these labels were chosen after wide consultation and a review of many naming systems.


Scotland: Sturgeon to confirm if further easing of Covid restrictions can take place

Nicola Sturgeon will confirm “whether and to what extent” plans to further ease coronavirus restrictions can take place next week.

Under the Scottish Government’s Covid route map, Scotland was scheduled to move into Level 1 restrictions from June 7.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

/ PA

But a recent spike in infections has forced ministers to keep the entire Glasgow City Council area under Level 3 restrictions – meaning bars and restaurants can not serve alcohol indoors and get-togethers inside people’s homes are also barred.

Ms Sturgeon has already warned that Glasgow may “have to be in Level 2 for a couple of weeks before it moves to Level 1”.

She is due to reveal if the move to Level 1 can go ahead in a statement to MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.


Welcome to the Standard Coronavirus Live Blog on Tuesday, June 1.

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