Britain today announced 100 more coronavirus deaths, as the UK’s outbreak continues to peter out.
It means the UK’s official Covid-19 death toll now stands at 43,514 — but more grim estimates by the Office for National Statistics put the tally in the region of 55,000 when suspected virus deaths are included.
A total of 890 more people were diagnosed with the viral disease in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infected to 310,250.
But millions of cases have went missed because of a lack of widespread testing, and the ONS predicts around 3,000 people are still catching Covid every day in England alone.
Meanwhile, holidaymakers will be able to travel abroad for summer holidays next month under a ‘traffic light’ system that ranks countries based on their coronavirus risk, it emerged today.
Britons visiting nations that are ‘green’ or ‘amber’ – which includes most tourist hotspots in Europe, including Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and France – will not have to self-isolate when they return.
Only those flying to ‘red’ countries – such as the US, Brazil and India, where the virus is still rife – will have to quarantine indoors for 14 days after flying back.
In other coronavirus developments in Britain today:
- Travel companies have reported their biggest Saturday sales ever as bargain hunters rushed to book before a ‘traffic light system’ letting Britons go on holiday to the safest destinations without having to quarantine is unveiled on Wednesday and comes into force on July 6;
- Pakistan was the origin for HALF of Britain’s imported coronavirus cases, data from Public Health England revealed amid calls for tougher quarantine checks from ‘high-risk’ countries;
- NHS England is now recommending BAME mothers-to-be with mild Covid symptoms be fast-tracked into hospital after an Oxford University study found ethnic minority pregnant women are up to eight times more likely to fall seriously unwell with Covid;
- The UK is on track to suffer another 30,000 Covid deaths because fatality rates have plateaued and lockdown has been lifted too early, a panel of independent scientists warned today.
NHS England revealed the latest victims were aged between 56 and 97 – with all but two victims suffering from underlying health conditions. It means the official number of deaths in England is 28,635.
No new deaths were announced in Scotland today for the second day running, with the death toll north of the border remaining at 2,482. In Wales, five new deaths takes its total to 1,502, and Northern Ireland’s single fatality puts its tally at 549.
It comes as travel companies reported their biggest Saturday sales ever as bargain hunters rushed to book before a ‘traffic light system’ letting Britons go on holiday to the safest destinations without having to quarantine is unveiled on Wednesday and comes into force on July 6.
The partial dismantling of Priti Patel’s quarantine scheme means UK holidaymakers will be able to return home without having to self-isolate for 14 days. The Foreign Office will also lift its advice against ‘all but essential travel’ to low or medium-risk destinations, making it possible to obtain travel insurance.
Spain-holiday.com, the third biggest holiday rental site in Spain, said it had a record-breaking Saturday morning while TUI, Britain’s leading tour operator, reported a rise of 50 per cent in bookings compared to last week.
Tour operators were yesterday offering record discounts of up to 70 per cent for trips to France, Spain, Italy and Greece. The changes will also let foreign tourists visit the UK, giving a boost to the beleaguered hospitality sector.
Head of International Brands at Spain-holiday.com Peter Jarvis said: ‘We’re already seeing a huge increase in online interest in our holiday homes from the UK market, with pool properties being the most popular (up 104 per cent).
‘Vigilance is absolutely still needed but with sensible precautions on either end we are confident we will see a safe summer in the sun for Brits again this year.’
Countries across the world are highlighted in green, amber or red based on the infection levels, the reliability of official data and confidence in test and trace systems
Under a traffic light system (above), countries will be rated green, amber or red based on infection levels, the reliability of official data and confidence in test and trace systems
Under the traffic light system, drawn up by the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England and set to be in place by July 6, countries will be rated green, amber or red based on coronavirus infection levels, the reliability of official data and confidence in test and trace systems.
The automatic 14-day quarantine requirement will remain only for ‘red-rated’ countries such as the US and Brazil. Travel between ‘green’ and ‘amber’ countries will be quarantine-free, but passengers will have to fill in a ‘locator form’ to trace their movements.
‘Green’ countries include Austria, Croatia, Greece and Germany while ‘Amber’ countries include France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and Spain. It is hoped an agreement will be reached with Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks to add them to the list of ‘green’ countries.
Managing Director of TUI UK & Ireland Andrew Flintham said: ‘We’re pleased the Government has finally confirmed that holidays overseas will be able to go ahead, and the full list of green and amber destinations will be released on Wednesday.
‘It’s a hugely positive step forward for the travel industry and I know our customers will be ecstatic that their summer is saved.
‘We’ve already seen bookings increase by 50 per cent this week, verses last, with holidays to Spain and Greece looking the most popular this summer. We know there were a lot of people hoping to travel and waiting for certainty that would be possible.’
Spain-holiday.com, the third biggest holiday rental site in Spain, said it had a 42 per cent surge in bookings – 24 per cent higher than any previous Saturday.
Mr Jarvis said: ‘So we would advise anyone who fancies falling back in love with Spanish paella, beaches and sangria this year to move fast.’
Tour operators were yesterday offering deep discounts to lure travellers abroad. A family of four can save well over £500 on headline prices to Greece.
Emma Coulthurst, of the holiday comparison site Travelsupermarket, said: ‘There are prices as low as £140 per person for a week to Corfu in September and around £200 for a week in the Mediterranean in August. This is unheard of.
‘For the height of summer in August, there are definitely some of the best prices on offer which we’ve seen. With talk of high demand and prices for holidays in the UK, it seems it is currently cheaper to book a holiday abroad than at home.’
TUI, Britain’s leading tour operator, is offering as much as 68 per cent off breaks to Europe and Trailfinders is offering reductions of a third on villas that would usually have been booked up months ago.
Chairman Mike Gooley said: ‘Bookings made now are benefiting from huge discounts.’ Downing Street warned it was ready to apply a ‘handbrake’ at short notice – meaning families could find the quarantine rules reinstated while they are abroad if there is an outbreak in the country they are visiting.
All travellers returning to the UK will have to provide contact details in case an outbreak is traced to their flight and they have to self-isolate. Failure to comply could result in a £1,000 fine.
And they will have to follow social-distancing measures on flights and ferries, including wearing face coverings. A detailed list of travel corridor destinations will be finalised next week but sources said it would include the most popular Mediterranean hotspots.
Portugal is in doubt following an outbreak in Lisbon that has led to the imposition of a curfew. Sweden will not be included and Turkey is also ‘doubtful’.
Despite being touted by the Government as a country which could benefit from the new arrangements in little over a week’s time, Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis indicated it could be up to three weeks before his country was happy to open up unrestricted travel with the UK.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I feel the way things are now – and we always have to put this asterisk that the health situation has to continue to be on the same track as it is now – that we can certainly lift the restrictions in the next few days or, you know, two to three weeks.’ Long-haul flights will be possible provided that any transit country is also deemed safe.
The moves pave the way for foreign holidays this summer, with travel corridors set to be in place by July 6.
UK is ‘on track to suffer 30,000 MORE Covid deaths’ because fatality rates have plateaued and lockdown has been lifted too early, alternative SAGE group warns
The UK is on track to suffer another 30,000 coronavirus deaths because lockdown has been lifted too early, an ‘alternative SAGE’ panel of experts warned today.
Infection rates have stopped falling for the first time in months due to people starting to meet up again, the independent scientists say.
About 3,000 people are still catching the coronavirus every day in England, according to the Office for National Statistics which said new cases had ‘levelled out’.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned this week he expected daily infections to remain the same through winter and into next spring.
If the death rate also stalls at current levels – with 100 to 150 people being killed per day – then the overall toll could eclipse 80,000 by next March, the independent scientists warned.
The grim predictions were made by ‘the Independent SAGE’ group, which is separate from the team of experts who advise the Government.
The group – led by former chief scientific adviser Sir David King, who advised Tony Blair during the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic in 2001 – has been fiercely critical of the Government’s response during the pandemic.
It slammed the latest lockdown-loosening measures due to come into force on July 4, saying they ‘send a message that the pandemic is over – and it’s not over.’
The UK is on track to suffer another 30,000 coronavirus deaths because lockdown has been lifted too early, according to the Independent SAGE group – led by Sir David King, a former Government chief scientific adviser (pictured)
July 4 – dubbed Super Sunday – will see pubs, restaurants, cinemas and cultures venues reopen. Independent SAGE said the lockdown loosening measures are coming too soon because the Government’s test and trace programme is still not up and running fully.
It predicts that just a third of symptomatic Covid-19 patients are being found through the system. Experts have previously said the programme will need to catch eight out of 10 patients to continue to bring daily infections down.
Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London and a member of Independent SAGE, said: ‘We are adding a lot of risk all at once in the context of infections not reducing anymore and test and trace not fully functioning.
‘They are sending a message that the pandemic is over – and it’s not over. New daily infections have stopped their downward trend and have been level for the last few weeks.
‘I think Chris Whitty said recently that he was expecting this kind of level to carry on for about another nine months in to next year.
‘If we carry on with 100 to 150 deaths a day that’s over 30,000 deaths. I think we really, really need to keep that downward trend.’
Pointing to a ‘massive surge’ in cases in the US and Germany after curbs were lifted, she added: ‘I am worried that we will be in a situation here where we don’t spot these increases until it’s too late.’
A major incident was declared in Bournemouth on Thursday after it became overrun by about 500,000 visitors
A view of the beach in Brighton on Thursday when people flocked to the Sussex coast to make the most of the warm weather and ignored social distancing rules
Gabriel Scally, professor of public health at the University of Bristol, urged Boris Johnson to set out a clear strategy ‘for the next nine months’ to prevent hundreds of people dying every day.
He said: ‘That’s what the people of this country deserve – we can’t go on with uncertainty and hoping things will be alright.’
Professor Whitty estimated that current levels of the virus would persist throughout the year and into next year.
At Tuesday’s final Downing Street daily briefing with the prime minister, he said: ‘I would be surprised and delighted if we weren’t in this current situation through the winter and into next spring.
‘I expect there to be a significant amount of coronavirus circulating at least into that time and I think it is going to be quite optimistic that for science to come fully to the rescue over that kind of timeframe.’
It comes after Boris Johnson warned on Friday that ‘immortal and invincible’ young people are taking risks by potentially spreading the disease to elderly people.
He was addressing the hundreds of thousands of people who ignored social distancing rules and flocked to beaches and parks during this week’s mini heatwave.
The PM warned of a ‘serious spike’ in coronavirus infections in the UK if people do not follow social distancing guidance before lockdown restrictions are eased further in just over a week’s time on July 4.
The official number of coronavirus deaths in the UK stands at 43,414 – but separate grim government statistics show the real number of fatalities since the crisis began to spiral out of control is closer to 55,000.
It makes the UK the third worst-hit country in the world, behind only the US and Brazil.