Covid-19 live updates: Oxford jab should be fine for US travel – adviser

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Image caption: Chancellor Rishi Sunak described the payback as “heartening”

Businesses have handed back more than £1 billion claimed through the Government’s furlough scheme, the Treasury has said.

HMRC said £1.3 billion had been returned by firms to the government since July 2020 because the funds had been over claimed or they no longer needed the cash.

The furlough scheme is due to come to finish at the end of this month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said thanks to the scheme “nearly two million fewer people are now expected to be out of work in the UK than previously feared”.

He added: “With our recovery under way it is heartening to see that £1.3 billion in furlough grants have been returned as the economy recovers.”

It is estimated the scheme will have cost the government £70 billion when it concludes on 30 September – with nearly nine million people being supported at the height of the pandemic last year.

“HMRC and the National Audit Office estimate between 5% and 10% of the total furlough money claimed could represent over claims,” warned Nigel Morris, employment tax director at MHA.

“The advice to all businesses, as the scheme ends, must be to review all their furlough claims and ensure that if they have overclaimed, they make arrangements to pay HMRC back as soon as possible.

“This should help to avoid interest and penalties.”

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Delay unlocking by a few weeks to allow vaccines to contain Indian variant, says government adviser

The unlocking of coronavirus restrictions on June 21 should be delayed “by a few weeks” due to the rise of the Indian variant, a Government adviser has said.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said the freedom date should be pushed back to enable the vaccination drive to contain the rise.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think the problem is we are not too far from reaching the sort of levels of vaccination that would help us contain the virus and I think that people are not saying we should abandon the June 21 date altogether but just to delay it by a few weeks while we gather more intelligence and we can look at the trajectory in a clearer way.

“If you look at the costs and benefits of getting it wrong, I think it is heavily in favour of delay, so I think that’s the key thing.”

Asked whether the UK was already in a third wave of coronavirus infections, the University of Cambridge academic said: “Yes, there has been exponential growth in the number of the new cases and at least three-quarters of them are the new variant.

“Of course the numbers of cases are relatively low at the moment – all waves start with low numbers of cases that grumble in the background and then become explosive, so the key here is that what we are seeing here is the signs of an early wave.

But he said it will probably take longer than earlier waves to emerge due to the high rate of vaccinations and warned that this may create a “false sense of security”.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

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Ready to travel again? AAA says get a travel adviser as BBB warns of scams

TAMPA, Fla — Raise your hand if you are ready to travel again.

As soon as I was vaccinated I booked a weekend in Ukraine. Because that’s completely normal, to fly to their Ukraine for a weekend,” she said with a laugh. “But, we just wanted to celebrate”

She and her travel buddy say the experience was emotional.

“I cried on the plane, she cried over dinner, we were just so excited to be traveling again,” she said.

They’ve booked nearly a dozen trips this year, many postponed from 2020 but traveling is a priority after being diagnosed with breast cancer 7 years ago and beating it.

“When I finished and got to the other side I thought clearly life is too short and that was definitely a lesson,” Hamrick said. “I think that’s where people are right now with COVID, they’ve been home for a year so they’re getting that itch but they’re also feeling that need to connect with people and see places and do things.”

“It’s just one more of those dominoes that are falling in this phased reopening and returning to travel,” said AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins.

But he says you may want to get a travel adviser — someone who can navigate through COVID restrictions and entry and exit requirements in each country.

“When you’re browsing the Internet looking for a travel deal, you’re on your own! And sometimes if things don’t work out, you’re on your own,” he said.

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that plans can change and trips can be canceled if there is a worldwide emergency.

And the Better Business Bureau says right now scammers are making it easy to get taken advantage of. A common scam they’re seeing now is when folks do a quick search for “cheap flights.” You may come across a great fare from what looks to be a major airline. You book the flight but never get a confirmation e-mail or they suddenly call you right after you pay and tell you the airfare has gone up. The BBB says a legitimate company would never do that.

“I spend a lot of time doing the research, and I’m a member of AAA so that’s also a really valuable resource to use someone like that,” said Hamrick. “I think it depends on your comfort level with travel even pre-COVID.”

AAA says it has an app that will alert you of the restrictions around the US in different states and counties if you’re planning a road trip.

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