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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Coronavirus live news: UK reports a further 29,520 cases; Carrie Johnson urges pregnant women to get jab – as it happened | World news

In late June alone, the initiative known as Covax sent some 530,000 doses to Britain more than double the amount sent that month to the entire continent of Africa.

Under Covax, countries were supposed to give money so vaccines could be set aside, both as donations to poor countries and as an insurance policy for richer ones to buy doses if theirs fell through. Some rich countries, including those in the EU, calculated that they had more than enough doses available through bilateral deals and ceded their allocated Cova doses to poorer countries.

But others, including Britain, tapped into the meagre supply of Covax doses themselves, despite being among the countries that had reserved most of the world’s available vaccines. In the meantime, billions of people in poor countries have yet to receive a single dose.

The result is that poorer countries have landed in exactly the predicament Covax was supposed to avoid: dependent on the whims and politics of rich countries for donations, just as they have been so often in the past. And in many cases, rich countries don’t want to donate in significant amounts before they finish vaccinating all their citizens who could possibly want a dose, a process that is still playing out.

“If we had tried to withhold vaccines from parts of the world, could we have made it any worse than it is today?” asked Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor at the World Health Organization, during a public session on vaccine equity.

“The government is a strong champion of Covax,” the UK said, describing the initiative as a mechanism for all countries to obtain vaccines, not just those in need of donations. It declined to explain why it chose to receive those doses despite private deals that have reserved eight injections for every UK resident.

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Covid: UK shares India jab data with EU amid travel fears

A European Commission spokesman said that while entry to the EU should be allowed to those who are fully vaccinated with EU authorised jabs, member states could make their own decision on whether to allow entry for people vaccinated with jabs on the World Health Organization’s emergency list – which includes Covishield

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Spain travel news: bar owner praises jab rollout – Urges Brits visit Spain | UK | News

A jubilant bar owner in the Spanish resort of Benidorm told Sky News that it was “fantastic” that Britons can now travel to Spain after the country threw open its borders to UK  holidaymakers. Ashley Price, the British owner of The Corner Bar in Benidorm said the resort is “ready to welcome tourists back” and “needs to move forward” after 15 months of being shut. He urged Brits to come to Spain after they were barred from Germany and France. The news comes despite the UK government advising against all but essential travel to Spain and keeping the country on the Coronavirus amber list.

Mr Price told Sky News: “It is fantastic, it is brilliant news.

“Superb for businesses in Spain that are desperate to start tourism again.”

He added: “And also for the Brits that are desperate to come back to Spain to see family and visit second homes – it is not all just about holidays.”

The bar owner went on to say: “I must say we are all quite surprised how we have gone from one extreme to the other.”

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He explained: “One minute Brits cannot come at all then all of a sudden they can come without testing, they come without anything really.”

The Benidorm based Brit went on to praise the UK’s jabs rollout and his confidence in tourists coming on holiday to Benidorm.

Mr Price said: “It is one extreme to the other but in our opinion we feel the majority of people who are going to be flying out to Spain from the UK have been vaccinated.

“The rollout in the UK has been huge, here the vulnerable have been vaccinated.”

READ MORE France travel: Is France on the green list? What tougher measures could be introduced?

But he insisted “Benidorm is ready to go” adding that the Spanish destination “is ready to welcome tourists back.”

A massive 100,000 Brits are expected to touchdown in Spain from Monday after the country threw open its borders to British holidaymakers desperate for some sunshine, with 30 flights from the UK will land in Spain on Monday alone. 

But the UK Government insists Spain’s is still on the “amber list” with travellers required to quarantine for 10 days upon their return to the UK.

In its most recent update, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) says: “New information on changes to entry requirements for Spain if you are travelling from the UK from May 24 onwards. No changes have been made to the level of our travel advice for any regions of Spain. We continue to advise against all but essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic Islands, but excluding the Canary Islands.”

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Covid vaccine update: could the jab open up international travel from May?

Following the news of President Biden’s announcement that the US will have enough Covid-19 vaccine supplies for all US citizens by the end of May, Philipp Rosenbaum, Senior Healthcare Analyst at GlobalData, offers his view: “Getting every US-American adult vaccinated by May will require a big effort from the already exhausted healthcare system, in addition to motivating people to receive the vaccine. With increases in vaccine production from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, a newly authorised vaccine from Johnson and Johnson, and a manufacturing partnership between J&J and Merck&Co, confidence in reaching the goal is high.

“However, not every US-American wants to get vaccinated, and although the willingness to receive a Covid-19 vaccine has increased since last year, as available vaccines have been shown to be overwhelmingly safe and well tolerated, recent polls show that still only around 70 per cent of US-Americans want to get vaccinated. The percentage of vaccinated people to reach herd immunity is still unclear and debated but is likely to be around 70 per cent of the population. In some US states, vaccination uptake will be even lower than 70 per cent, potentially leaving enough people vulnerable and preventing the stop of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”

IATA will not ask for vaccines as requirement for flying

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s Director General has said that the airline association is not asking for vaccination to be a requirement to fly.

In an online briefing, Alexandre de Juniac said: “We don’t believe that vaccines should be a requirement to fly. But if the European Union (EU) does implement a vaccine mandate, there must be a common standard for this across the EU. It is governments, not airlines, that will decide what travellers need to enter their country. There are significant populations who cannot or will not be vaccinated. As a practicality, we are preparing for governments to use a combination of testing and vaccination to re-open borders.”

De Juniac also said that the IATA Travel Pass is ‘not a vaccine passport’ and that it would hold test data for now. “It can accommodate vaccine data, should governments require it,” he added.

Cyprus to let vaccinated Brits into country from May

Elsewhere, Cyprus said it would open its borders to vaccinated UK travellers from the start of May, saying those who had both Covid vaccines could travel there without restrictions from 1 May.

However, this is more than two weeks before those in England are expected to be able to go abroad for holidays. Cyprus has not yet explained how tourists will be able to prove that they have had both vaccine doses.

Cyprus’s Deputy Tourism Minister, Savvas Perdios, told the BBC that the country would allow Britons who had been given vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency the right to enter without the need for a negative test or to quarantine. Tourists would be required to have had their second dose at least seven days before travelling, the minister added.

Hopeful holidaymakers have been buoyed by the approval and rollout of the first coronavirus vaccines, as says new research from UK travel insurance specialists Just Travel Cover.

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