Fully jabbed Britons won’t have to quarantine when they return home from amber destinations from as early as mid-July, according to reports.
Meanwhile, Malta and the Balearic islands of Spain are slated for the green list, which is due to be updated tomorrow.
There are currently 11 countries on the green list, most inaccessible to British tourists.
It comes as the travel industry lobbies the government in a Travel Day of Action, putting pressure on the government to support the beleaguered travel industry.
What could be added to the green list tomorrow?
Rumours are swirling that Malta and the Balearics could be added to the green list in the latest traffic light reshuffle tomorrow.
But what could make the cut for summer holidays?
Data analysed by the PC Agency from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and Our World in Data suggests that, according to the UK’s own criteria, the following countries should go green: the US, Croatia, Canada, Italy, Germany, the Balearic Islands, Mexico, Jamaica, Finland, Poland, Morocco, Malta, Barbados and Grenada.
The Independent’s travel correspondent Simon Calder has made his own green list predictions, and agrees that Malta should be added.
“I am holding out hope of Albania, Morocco (100 to 1), Finland and plucky Moldova. And of course Malta they cannot overlook for a third time.”
Cathy Adams23 June 2021 10:37
Could Malta and Balearics make the green list tomorrow?
The government is expected to announce its next review of the travel “traffic light” system on 24 June.
While there has been much speculation that no countries would be added to the slim “green list”, from where returning travellers need not quarantine, a government source told The Times there was a “real possibility” that the Balearics would make the cut.
Read the full report here.
Helen Coffey23 June 2021 10:33
Travel Day of Action kicks off
People from across the industry, including travel agents, pilots, tour operators, aviation workers and cabin crew, are among the thousands who will “speak up for travel” at events across the UK today.
The day has been organised by a brace of industry groups, including Abta, Airlines UK and the Business Travel Association.
Huw Merriman, chairman of the Transport Select Committee, shared his support.
Gatwick Airport added its voice.
To see more messages of support, the hashtag to follow is #SpeakUpForTravel.
Cathy Adams23 June 2021 10:23
Travel expert responds to assertion that ‘important people’ need not quarantine
“The government is way behind other countries on this issue and is now having to play catch-up. The sooner it frees up travel for the masses, the sooner it protects and saves hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk in the sector.”
Simon Calder23 June 2021 10:15
A reminder that travel isn’t just about holidays…
Your regular reminder that travel isn’t just about holidays.
In a new poll of 2,000 adults, travel insurer battleface found that almost a quarter were planning to travel abroad this year or next for family reasons. On average, those polled have not seen those family members in 15 months, when Covid lockdown restrictions began.
A similar percentage (28 per cent) said they wanted to travel abroad for a holiday.
“It is clear from our latest data that there is a huge appetite for the return of international travel,” said Katie Crowe, director of communications for battleface.
“While there are many Brits looking forward to an overseas holiday, there are even greater numbers who want to reconnect with family members who they haven’t seen in over a year.
We hope very much that families who have been kept apart due to ongoing travel restrictions will be reunited as soon as possible. battleface continues to offer travel insurance for all destinations including countries under FCDO and government essential and non-essential travel advisories.”
Cathy Adams23 June 2021 10:07
EasyJet scraps Manchester-Scotland flights
Britain’s biggest budget airline has constantly been thwarted in its hopes to fly British travellers abroad this summer.
In desperation, six days ago easyJet announced a dozen new UK domestic routes, on the basis that travel was unrestricted within and between the four nations.
But now key links from Manchester to Edinburgh and Aberdeen have been scrapped because of Scotland’s ban on non-essential travel to and from the English city.
Read the full story here.
Simon Calder23 June 2021 09:50
Green list bingo
Which countries could be added to the green list tomorrow following the last disappointing traffic light update?
The Independent has crunched the numbers, and here is what could be added in the next reshuffle.
Cathy Adams23 June 2021 09:47
Travel industry lobbies government over support
Workers from across the travel industry are today lobbying the government for support as part of a Travel Day of Action.
Everyone from travel agents, pilots, tour operators, aviation workers and cabin crew are among the thousands who will ‘speak up for travel’ today, asking the government to capitalise on the vaccine rollout by safely reopening travel for the summer season and provide tailored financial support to businesses.
According to industry body Abta, as many as 195,000 jobs have been lost or are at risk in the travel industry.
The Travel Day of Action has two main aims.
The first is for the government to “properly implement” the traffic light system, and to expand the green list “in line with the evidence”. Additionally, it wants the government the remove quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers from green and amber countries.
The second is to provide a package of tailored financial support, including extension of the furlough scheme until April 2022.
Cathy Adams23 June 2021 09:32
Big day for Essex airport
Ryanair will launch daily flights between London Stansted and Helsinki on 31 October 2021.
The Essex airport is among eight new links to and from the Finnish capital.
The airline schedule analyst, Sean Moulton, said: “Ryanair is also adding another Finnish city – Tampere, with flights to Stansted year-round.“
It’s a big day for Stansted’s connectivity.”
Simon Calder23 June 2021 08:57
Quarantine… but not if you’re ‘important’
The media minister has said that “people who are important” should be entitled to avoid tough quarantine rules when travelling to the UK.
Speaking on Sky News, John Whittingdale was asked why players, officials and others coming to London for the Euros final on 11 July should be allowed in without self-isolating.
He said: “We’ve always said that for some people who are important, players, for instance …”
Read the full story here.
Simon Calder23 June 2021 08:56
I made a lifelong dream of living in Paris come true when I moved here in 2005 at age 49 after living in New York City for my entire life. I was a chef and caterer in New York, and when I moved here, I reinvented myself as a tour guide, travel writer/blogger, and photographer.
I have led thousands of private tours since 2007 with mostly American clients and the most frequently asked question is: Why and how did you move here? After I tell them my story and they have experienced the magic of Paris and/or other places in France, many of them are inspired, and I have received frequent emails asking how they could move or retire to France.
Below are the top reasons why someone would consider moving to France to retire.
1. Quality Of Life/Lifestyle
Culturally, the French value their leisure time and pleasure more than work. They receive a minimum of five-weeks’ vacation time a year by law, whether they are a supermarket cashier, nurse, or a CEO. In fact, at certain jobs, employees receive more vacation time the longer they stay at the company. It’s common to receive seven to eight weeks of vacation after 10 years.
The French also take dining seriously and spend the longest time in the world eating their meals. Typically, the French take 60-to-90-minute lunches at work, and it’s considered a no-no to have lunch at your desk while working. Dinner is rarely less than two hours. The average work week in France by law is 35 hours, compared to 40 hours a week in the U.S. France also has a strong commitment to family time, and school children have a 2-week vacation every 6 weeks and also have July and August off.
In social situations, most people talk about their leisure time and vacations rather than work, and it’s taboo to discuss or ask what salary someone makes or what they pay for things.
2. Variety Of Places To Visit
Imagine if you had all the different landscapes and terrains in the U.S compacted into the size of Texas. That’s more or less what you have in France. You have an incredible variety of landscapes including beaches on many different coastlines, the Atlantic Ocean and many seas, lakes, and rivers, mountains for skiing and hiking including the mighty Alps and the Pyrenees, woods and forests, national parks, beach towns and resorts, and islands. There’s also great diversity in the cities of France, from the stunning 18th-century architecture of Bordeaux to the sun-kissed climate of Nice and the Cote d’Azur, to the other culinary capital of France, Lyon, to medieval Rouen in Normandy, to the German influence of northeast France in Strasbourg, and, of course, Paris.
I have traveled extensively in France for the last 16 years and I still have not been to many places because of how much there is to see in France.
3. Medical System
France has one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world and is always rated within the top five. Even if you are retired and don’t work in France, you are entitled to be part of the national medical system once you become a resident. You will receive a medical card named a Carte Vitale, which you use for all your medical procedures, doctor and hospital visits, and at the pharmacy for your prescriptions.
Although healthcare is not entirely free, the cost is minimal. In Paris, which has the highest cost of living in France, a visit to a GP costs between 25 and 40 euros (which is usually the cost of a co-pay in the U.S. with insurance). You only pay 7.50 to 10 euros out of pocket. Specialist doctors such as osteopaths, dermatologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, and oncologists are minimally or not covered, but visits usually cost no more than 80 euros. Most prescription medications and drugs are under 15 euros per month.
I had a major surgery in 2016 and had to stay in the hospital for four days. My treatment and care was as good, if not better, than any hospital visit I ever had in the U.S. and my total out of pocket expenses were under 200 euros ($250).
Dental and vision insurance coverage is minimal, about 10 to 15 percent. I am diabetic and also take medications for other conditions, so I have taken out an additional private insurance policy for 89 euros, or $110 a month. This policy covers all my medications including my four times a day insulin doses, needles, and my Freestyle Glucose meter and patches for free. The Freestyle patches, which are changed bi-weekly, can still cost up to $60 a month even with insurance in the U.S.
France has a rich and historical cultural heritage almost beyond measure. There are hundreds of museums across the country, some housed in significant historic structures. There are thousands of churches, from the grand gothic cathedrals of Notre Dame, Chartres, and Amiens, to tiny, countryside churches. There are also hundreds of royal and aristocratic chateaux and palaces open to the public (some with beautiful gardens and activities) and medieval villages and towns. The performing arts are numerous, especially in Paris, which has the world-famous Paris Opera, ballet at the Opera Garnier, pop and rock concerts, modern dance at many venues including The Theatre de la Ville, French and English language theatre, and classical music at the recently opened Philharmonie Paris.
Don’t forget the wide variety of annual festivals around France, including cultural festivals in Avignon and Aix en Provence, food and wine events, and contemporary and classical musical concert series.
5. Food And Wine
It’s a no-brainer that the food and wine are two of the best reasons to move to France. Known the world over, French cuisine, produce, and food products are superior in quality and taste, including the bread, pastries and desserts, cheeses, meats, eggs, fruit, and seafood.
You can spend the rest of your life in France and never even get close to tasting all the fantastic wines from so many regions and, of course, the thousands of Champagne brands.
One of my top personal reasons to live in France is the incredible and efficient public transportation, especially the train service. In Paris, the metro system is superior to the New York subway. The extensive service has 14 lines which take you to all corners of Paris. The average wait time between trains is never more than 5 to 8 minutes, and no more than 3 to 5 minutes with the popular lines. There’s also excellent service on the RER trains, the commuter trains of Paris that reach the suburbs. Many major cities in France have installed new tram lines with silent, electric cars.
The TGV, or fast train of France, is an amazing experience. The trains run at over 150 miles an hour and are super smooth, quiet, and comfortable, especially if you are in first-class. From Paris you can get to almost every region and major city in France in 2 to 4 hours including Marseilles, Lyon, Bordeaux, Provence, the Alps, Alsace, Brittany, and the Loire Valley. In 5.5 hours, you can be in Cannes, Nice, and the Côte d’Azur.
For only 50 euros a year, you can buy a senior pass, which discounts train fares up to 30 percent.
France is also in close proximity to many other countries in Europe, and you can easily travel to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Greece, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe in less than 3 hours by train or plane.
Editor’s Note: To avoid a potential faux pas, check out Richard’s 9 Ways To Avoid Looking Like A Tourist In France.
One of the few drawbacks I have found living in France is learning and speaking French, though this concern can be rectified. I did not study French in high school and only took lessons for about a year before I moved here. It is not the easiest language to learn, but the thing I find most difficult is speaking. Frequently watching French television shows and movies on Netflix and going to the movies has significantly helped me improve my understanding of French. Although I have a decent French accent, I find that people will still answer me in English when I speak French. What’s most frustrating is thinking you have pronounced a word correctly and then repeating it several times until someone understands what you said. English is widely spoken in Paris, a few other major cities, and in tourist destinations, but don’t expect English to be spoken much outside of these places. Remembering a few key phrases when shopping is helpful.
Currently, between 150,000 and 200,000 Americans live in France, and there are many support websites and organizations for American expats. Below are a few of them.
Want to learn more? No matter where you plan to spend your retirement years, Personal Capital wants to help! Read about their expert financial advising and retirement planning services here.
Relatively few people in Australia are fully vaccinated, making the country vulnerable to fresh outbreaks. Melbourne, in southeastern Victoria state, locked down last month as the delta and kappa variants were detected. Berejiklian, the New South Wales premier, stopped short of mandating masks in other settings, although she encouraged people to wear them indoors and in places where it is difficult to physically distance.
The A1 is closed following a serious accident involving two lorries in the early hours of this morning (Thursday, June 17).
The major road, heading northbound, has been closed since 2am following the incident between the A607 junction at Harlaxton and Melton Mowbray and the A52 junction at Grantham, Lincolnshire.
Lincolnshire Police and local fire service, plus traffic officers, are currently in attendance at the scene. In a tweet, Highways England described the collision as serious.
On its website, Highways England said: “Emergency services including Lincolnshire Police are in attendance. Highways England has resources deployed to assist.
“Road users are advised to expect disruption and to allow extra journey time.”
Accident investigation work is underway at the scene while the road is closed to traffic.
Diversions are in place, you can find the route posted in the blog below.
If you’ve been affected by this road closure, or have another travel tip you think other drivers should know about, you can get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if it is safe to do so.
Live A1 traffic updates below:
The European Union is expected to recommend lifting the ban on nonessential travel for visitors from the United States on Friday, opening for American tourists just in time for the summer season, which is crucial to the economy of many members of the bloc.
On Wednesday, ambassadors of the E.U. countries indicated their support for adding the United States to the list of countries considered safe from an epidemiological point of view, a bloc official confirmed. The decision is expected to be formally adopted on Friday and would come into effect immediately.
In principle, all travelers from countries on the safe list, not just citizens or residents, would be allowed to enter the bloc for nonessential reasons, such as tourism or visiting family, even if they are not vaccinated, without any further restrictions. The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, recommended that a PCR test should be required, but it is ultimately up to national governments to set out the specific rules, including any need to quarantine.
The move is part of a broader attempt to restore tourism flows within and from outside the European Union. Travel from outside the bloc was practically suspended last year to limit the spread of the coronavirus, with the exception of a handful of countries that fulfilled specific criteria, such as low infection rates, number of tests performed, and their overall response to Covid-19.
Until today, the list, which has been updated on a regular basis, contained a relatively small number of nations, including Australia, Japan and South Korea. China fulfilled the quantitative criteria, but the lifting of entry restrictions is subject to reciprocity. Albania, Lebanon, North Macedonia, Serbia and Taiwan would also be added to the list, and the requirement for reciprocity dropped for the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau.
The European Commission recommended last month that all travelers from third countries who were fully vaccinated with shots approved by the European Medicines Agency or by the World Health Organization should be allowed to enter without restrictions, a policy switch that was first reported by The New York Times.
The loosening of travel measures was enabled by the fast pace of vaccination in the United States and by the acceleration of the inoculation campaign in Europe, and bolstered by advanced talks between the authorities on how to make vaccine certificates acceptable as proof of immunity from visitors.
But health policy in the European Union is ultimately the province of the national member governments, so each country has the right to tailor the travel measures further, including possibly adding more stringent requirements, regardless of the decision on Friday.
Some countries that are heavily dependent on tourism, such as Greece and Spain, did not wait for a continentwide policy and moved in March to reopen to external travelers.
The further opening of the European Union comes as the bloc finalizes work on a Covid certificate system, which is supposed to become operational on July 1. Seven member countries started issuing and accepting the certificate ahead of schedule at the beginning of this month. The document records whether people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, recovered from illness or tested negative within the past 72 hours, and it would eventually allow those that meet one of the three criteria to move freely across the 27 member countries.
Travelers coming from outside the bloc would have the opportunity to obtain a Covid certificate from an E.U. country, the European Commission said. That would facilitate travel between different countries inside the bloc, but would not be a prerequisite for entering the European Union.
The United States is poised to reach a once-unthinkable number of 600,000 Covid-19 deaths. And had it not been for the removal of hundreds of deaths from official tallies in Northern California, the country would have surpassed the mark already.
More than 1,600 deaths had been tied to the coronavirus in Alameda County, Calif., which includes Oakland, when June began. But by this week, the county had reported fewer than 1,300 deaths linked to the virus.
The sudden drop had to do with longstanding questions about which deaths count as coronavirus deaths and which do not. Health departments routinely add or subtract deaths, sometimes by the dozens or even hundreds, as information becomes available about a patient’s residence or the circumstances of their death.
Alameda County, which had previously included in its tally any resident who died while they happened to be infected with the virus, recently tightened its rules to include only those for whom Covid-19 was identified as a cause of death, or for whom the virus could not be ruled out as a cause of death.
“It is important to accurately report deaths due to Covid-19 so that residents and health officials have a more precise understanding of the impact of the pandemic and response actions in our community,” county officials said in a news release. “Using the older definition of Covid-19 deaths, a resident who had Covid-19 but died due to another cause, like a car accident,” would still have been counted.
Public health officials across the United States had identified more than 599,860 coronavirus deaths through Tuesday, according to New York Times data, a figure that dropped after The Times adjusted its data to match the Alameda revision. Many experts say they believe the national total to be an undercount. Data on excess deaths, the number of deaths beyond what would be expected based on historical trends, has suggested that the official statistics may not capture the pandemic’s full toll.
As the pace of infection and death slows, public health agencies continue to revisit their death totals.
On Monday, officials in Washington State removed around 30 deaths, some dating back to April 2020, that they said were determined not to be related to Covid-19. On Tuesday, Missouri officials said they were adding 25 deaths, mostly from May, after conducting a weekly sweep of death certificates.
Over the course of the pandemic, the counting of coronavirus deaths has become more standardized. In the last year, many states, including Washington and Ohio, have adjusted their tallies to align with federal guidance, based on death certificates, which calls for counting deaths where the virus was determined to be a factor.
Oklahoma added about 1,800 deaths to its total in April as it worked to implement the federal guidance. Later that month, West Virginia removed 162 deaths because Covid-19 was not listed on the death certificate.
But death certificates, often filled out by a family doctor or county coroner, are subjective by nature and can vary widely in their content, leading to borderline cases.
Adding to the confusion, testing was scarce at the start of the pandemic, meaning many people died with coronavirus symptoms but without any confirmation of infection. Some places, including New Jersey and New York City, have classified those people as probable deaths and included them in their totals.
The lawyer who led the inquiry into the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has quietly laid a foundation for a nonpartisan commission in the United States to investigate the coronavirus pandemic, with financial backing from four foundations and a paid staff that has already interviewed more than 200 public health experts, business leaders, elected officials, victims and their families.
The work, which has attracted scant public notice, grew out of a telephone call in October from Eric Schmidt, the philanthropist and former chief executive of Google, to the lawyer, Philip D. Zelikow, who was the executive director of the commission that investigated Sept. 11.
Lawmakers in Washington are also taking up the idea of a Covid-19 commission. Bipartisan bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate, and discussion of a Covid-19 commission has not produced partisan discord — at least, not yet. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and a lead sponsor of the Senate bill, noted that its work would cover both the Trump and Biden administrations.
The team directed by Mr. Zelikow, called the Covid Commission Planning Group, has financial support from foundations, including one affiliated with Mr. Schmidt and another with Charles Koch, the conservative philanthropist. The group is forging ahead on a separate track that might, at some point, merge with a congressionally appointed panel.
The United States averted the direst predictions about what the pandemic would do to the housing market. An eviction wave never materialized and the share of people behind on mortgages recently returned to its prepandemic level.
But a comprehensive report on U.S. housing conditions makes clear that while one crisis is passing, another is growing much worse.
Like the broader economy, the housing market is split on divergent tracks, according to the annual State of the Nation’s Housing Report released on Wednesday by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. While one group of households is rushing to buy homes with savings built during the pandemic, another is being locked out of ownership as prices march upward. Those who bore the brunt of pandemic job losses remain saddled with debt and in danger of losing their homes.
For the past year, lower-income tenants have relied heavily on government support to pay their monthly bills. While those measures have helped, the majority of renters still had to borrow or draw on savings to cover bills.
With savings tapped out and unemployment benefits set to lapse, the financial damage to low-income households remains severe enough that they will need more support if they’re to recover along with the broader economy, the Harvard report said.
“Millions of households were financially unscathed coming out of the pandemic,” said Alexander Hermann, senior research analyst at the Joint Center for Housing Studies. “But the pandemic has left millions of others struggling to make their housing payments, especially lower-income households and people of color.”
Study after study has built a consensus around monoclonal antibody drugs for Covid-19: They work best when given early, long before a patient is admitted to the hospital.
But clinical trial data released on Wednesday offered the strongest evidence to date that at least one of the available treatments can sometimes help later in the progression of the disease. Results from a large study in Britain indicated that Regeneron’s antibody treatment can reduce deaths in a subset of hospitalized patients: those whose immune systems are unable to mount a natural response to the virus.
Regeneron, which has emergency authorization for its drug to be given to high-risk patients who are not yet sick enough to be hospitalized, said it plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration to expand its approval to allow the drug to be given to appropriate hospitalized patients.
That could eventually give doctors another tool to help some of the sickest Covid patients. Although the widespread availability of vaccines has sent infection rates plummeting, unvaccinated Americans are still getting seriously ill from the virus. Close to 20,000 patients remain hospitalized with Covid in the United States.
The study enrolled nearly 9,800 hospitalized Covid patients beginning last September. Among those who had not mounted their own natural antibody response when they joined the trial, the group randomly assigned to receive Regeneron’s antibody on top of standard care had a 20 percent reduced risk of death after 28 days, compared with the group that received only standard care. The usual treatment for such patients has typically involved the steroid dexamethasone or the antiviral drug remedesivir.
Regeneron’s drug provided no such statistically meaningful benefit for patients who had mounted their own immune response. “If you already have antibodies, giving you more may not make much difference,” Peter Horby, a University of Oxford researcher who co-led the trial, said at a news conference.
The results, which have not yet been peer-reviewed and are expected to be posted on a preprint server on Wednesday, came from the Recovery trial, a nationwide effort in Britain to evaluate Covid-19 therapies that has been praised for its rigor and simplicity.
Like other such treatments, Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody is a cocktail of two lab-made drugs designed to mimic the antibodies generated naturally when the immune system fights the virus. Although it is one of three such drugs authorized in the United States, it is the only one currently in use nationwide.
Another cocktail, from Eli Lilly, is no longer being distributed in eight states because of the high prevalence there of the Beta and Gamma variants first seen in South Africa and Brazil, respectively. (Lab experiments indicate that those variants can evade Lilly’s drug.) A third, from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir, has not been ordered by the federal government since being authorized last month.
Federal health officials have classified the Delta variant of the coronavirus now circulating in the United States as a “variant of concern,” sounding the alarm because it spreads rapidly and may partially sidestep certain antibody treatments.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday emphasized that the authorized vaccines are highly effective against the variant, however, and urged all Americans who have not yet been inoculated to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.
In England, the swift spread of Delta variant has forced government officials to postpone the lifting of pandemic restrictions, called Freedom Day, which was to be June 21. Now the government will maintain some restrictions for four additional weeks.
Reports from Britain indicate that single doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine are only 33 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 caused by the Delta variant.
In the United States, about 44 percent of citizens are fully vaccinated, according to a database maintained by The Times. In California and New York, states in which vaccination rates are higher, governors are moving to lift restrictions altogether.
“Even though our case counts are declining and people are getting vaccinated, we still have roughly half our population that is unvaccinated,” said Summer Galloway, a Covid-19 adviser to the C.D.C. and executive secretary of the SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group, which characterizes emerging variants for the U.S. government.
“We have circulation of a more transmissible variant that is definitely a concern, and our bottom line message here is we want to make sure people are taking this seriously and are getting vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible and it’s available to them.”
The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, is now one of six variants of concern. The virus first was identified in India in December, and by June was found in 54 countries. It was detected in Britain in late March. Public Health England called it a variant of concern on April 28, and the World Health Organization followed suit in May.
In the United States, the proportion of coronavirus infections attributed to the Delta variant has increased rapidly, from 2.7 percent during the two-week period ending May 22 to nearly 10 percent of cases during the two-week period ending June 5, according to modeling studies used by the C.D.C.
The rapid rise is “the number one driver for classifying this as a variant of concern,” Dr. Galloway said. Data from Britain suggest that the Delta variant is at least 50 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, also called B.1.1.7, she added.
There is still uncertainty about whether the Delta variant causes more severe disease, increasing the risk of hospitalization and death, Dr. Galloway said: “We don’t have hard data to say there is a definitive increase in disease severity, but there is potential for that and we don’t want to rule that out.”
The Delta variant “has rapidly become the dominant variant in England,” accounting for more than 90 percent of new infections, scientists recently reported. The variant contains a mutation in the viral genes that direct production of its spike protein, called the L452R substitution. That mutation is shared by other variants and may make monoclonal antibody treatments less effective.
Scientists determined that the odds of the Delta variant spreading among members of a household was 64 percent greater than that of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in Britain, which itself is considered both more contagious and more deadly than other variants.
The trajectory of the Delta variant in the United States is unpredictable, but it could present serious challenges, particularly in regions like the South, where vaccination rates are low, and in the more than 100 U.S. counties where fewer than 20 percent of the population is vaccinated, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
“This virus continues to throw curveballs at us,” he said.
Japan’s leaders are racing to lift Covid-19 vaccination rates at home, but that hasn’t stopped them from donating doses in the Asia Pacific region as part of a wider geopolitical strategy.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi of Japan said this week that the country would send a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Vietnam on Wednesday. The shots are among the 120 million doses that Japan expects to obtain as part of a deal it struck with the British-Swedish manufacturer.
Japan also donated more than a million AstraZeneca shots to Taiwan this month, and Mr. Motegi said this week that it planned to donate vaccines to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Japan is donating vaccines to Taiwan and Vietnam directly rather than through Covax, the global vaccine-sharing program. That suggests geopolitics are a motivating factor, experts say.
China has been promoting its self-made vaccines in Southeast Asia and beyond in a charm offensive that has clear diplomatic overtones. Stephen Nagy, a political scientist at International Christian University in Tokyo, said that Japan appeared to see its own vaccine diplomacy as a counterweight.
“Watching what China has done, delivering a lot of Sinovac in particular countries, Japan does not want to fall behind,” he said, referring to the manufacturer of one of China’s main vaccines.
China has been asserting its geopolitical muscle in the region for years, flying warplanes over Taiwan and fortifying artificial islands in parts of the South China Sea that are also claimed by Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Japan has often found ways to gently push back.
In Vietnam, Japan has invested in large infrastructure projects and supplied the country’s navy with coast guard vessels for patrolling the South China Sea. After Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan took office last year, he made Vietnam his first overseas stop.
Vietnam could use more vaccines. It kept infections low until recently through rigorous quarantining and contact tracing, but is now experiencing its worst outbreak yet. Only about 1.5 percent of the country’s 97 million people have received even one shot, according to a New York Times tracker.
Japan’s health authorities have authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use, and about 90 million of its 120 million doses will be manufactured domestically. But the government has held off administering that vaccine locally because of concerns over very rare complications involving blood clots.
Japan’s inoculation campaign has also been held up by strict rules that allow only doctors and nurses to administer shots, and by a requirement that vaccines be tested on people in Japan before being approved for use.
Only about 25 million vaccine doses have been administered in Japan and 15 percent of the population has received at least one shot. That percentage is about the same as in India, and far below that of most richer countries.
The government wants to speed up vaccines in part so that it can allow domestic spectators when the Tokyo Olympics begin in July. The news agency Kyodo reported on Tuesday that officials are considering allowing up to 10,000 fans or half of a venue’s capacity — whichever is smaller — at Olympic events.
For now, Tokyo and nine other prefectures remain under a state of emergency that has been in effect since late April. The order is scheduled to expire on June 20, barely a month before the Olympics start.
Jon Rahm was thunderstruck by the positive coronavirus test result that forced his June 5 withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament, a competition that he led by an almost insurmountable six strokes with one round remaining. Afterward, the 26-year-old golfer recognized the emotions elicited by his exit, which included a nationally televised broadcast of Rahm receiving the news and leaving the 18th green in tears.
“I was aware of what was going on,” Rahm said Tuesday in his first public remarks about the episode as he prepared for the 2021 U.S. Open, which begins Thursday at the Torrey Pines Golf Course, in San Diego.
Speaking at a news conference, Rahm revealed that he had been vaccinated before he tested positive.
“The truth is I was vaccinated, I just wasn’t out of that 14-day period,” Rahm said.
Had Rahm been able to complete the final round of the Memorial, which he won in 2020, he almost certainly would have been handed the winner’s check worth roughly $1.7 million. In Rahm’s absence, Patrick Cantlay claimed the title instead.
One of the more popular men’s golfers — a player who shows his emotions and competes with flair — Rahm acknowledged that had he been vaccinated earlier, he would have been more likely to avoid an infection. Alternately smiling and serious, he did not ask for sympathy, but had a message for his fellow pro golfers, who a tour official said this month had been vaccinated at a rate “north of 50 percent.”
“We live in a free country, so do as you please,” Rahm said. “I can tell you from experience that if something happens, you’re going to have to live with the consequences, golf-wise.”
The governors of New York and California, the states hit earliest and hardest by the pandemic, triumphantly announced on Tuesday that they had lifted virtually all coronavirus restrictions on businesses and social gatherings as both states hit milestones in vaccinating their residents.
In New York, where 70 percent of adults had received at least one dose of the vaccine, the order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo means that restaurants will no longer be forced to space tables six feet apart; movie theaters will be allowed to pack their auditoriums without spacing seats apart; and entering commercial buildings won’t require a temperature check.
“This is a momentous day and we deserve it because it has been a long, long road,” Mr. Cuomo said at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday, adding that the changes meant a “return to life as we know it.”
In California, where 72 percent of adults had received at least one dose of the vaccine, Gov. Gavin Newsom called Tuesday “reopening day,” as he lifted similar capacity limits on businesses and social distancing requirements, with some exceptions.
Businesses in both states, however, will still have the option of requiring health precautions on their premises. The two governors, both Democrats who are facing political difficulties, made their announcements at events that seemed more like rallies than news conferences.
For all the celebration, however, the nation was also poised to reach 600,000 dead from the coronavirus, a grim reminder of the virus’s painful toll even as Americans begin to enjoy a summer with significantly fewer limitations, if any, on their ability to live, work and socialize. As of Tuesday, more than 63,000 have died from the virus in California, while in New York that number has reached nearly 53,000 — the two highest totals in the country.
Yet both governors took the opportunity to look ahead.
In the United States, fireworks lit up the night sky in New York City on Tuesday, a celebration meant to demonstrate the end of coronavirus restrictions. California, the most populous state, has fully opened its economy. And President Biden said there would be a gathering at the White House on July 4, marking what America hopes will be freedom from the pandemic.
Yet this week the country’s death toll neared 600,000 — a staggering loss of life.
In Russia, officials frequently say that the country has handled the coronavirus crisis better than the West and that there have been no large-scale lockdowns since last summer.
But in the week that President Vladimir V. Putin met with Mr. Biden for a one-day summit, Russia has been gripped by a vicious new wave of Covid-19. Hours before the start of the summit on Wednesday, the city of Moscow announced that it would be mandating coronavirus vaccinations for workers in service and other industries.
“We simply must do all we can to carry out mass vaccination in the shortest possible time period and stop this terrible disease,” Sergey S. Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, said in a blog post. “We must stop the dying of thousands of people.”
It was a reversal from prior comments from Mr. Putin, who said on May 26 that “mandatory vaccination would be impractical and should not be done.”
Mr. Putin said on Saturday that 18 million people had been inoculated in the country — less than 13 percent of the population, even though Russia’s Sputnik V shots have been widely available for months.
While the robust United States vaccination campaign has sped the nation’s recovery, the virus has repeatedly confounded expectations. The inoculation campaign has also slowed in recent weeks.
Unlike many of the issues raised at Wednesday’s summit, and despite the scientific achievement that safe and effective vaccines represent, the virus follows its own logic — mutating and evolving — and continues to pose new and unexpected challenges for both leaders and the world at large.
The Morrison government notes the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) decision to award an increase of 2.5% to the national minimum wage and award wages.
The decision will take effect on 1 July 2021 and the national minimum wage rate will increase from $19.84 to $20.33 per hour. The government notes that some award increases will come into effect in the following months, such as general retail on 1 September, and aviation, tourism and accommodation and food sectors on 1 November. This takes into account those industries with higher exposure to the effects of the pandemic.
The decision represents a real wage increase for up to 2.2 million Australian workers and reflects the strong economic management of the Morrison government, putting the right conditions in place to drive upward pressure on wages for workers.
As the FWC noted, “the current performance of the economy has exceeded expectations and that the economic recovery was well under way. The Australian economy has recovered to a greater extent and more quickly than anticipated.”
Australia’s minimum wage is already the highest in the world according to the OECD.
The labour market has shown a remarkable recovery since the onset of the pandemic, with more Australians in work than before February 2020.
Creating and growing more jobs for Australians has been an integral part of the Morrison government plan for economic recovery. More Australians in work, drives upward pressure on wages.
The government respects the independence of the Fair Work Commission expert panel, which aims to balance the interests of workers, employers, the economy and jobs. The government’s role in the annual wage review is to provide the latest evidence on the economy, labour market, for the Fair Work Commission to consider in making its decision.
Cannabis farmer turned his living room into drugs factory
A cannabis farmer who turned his living room into a drugs factory has been spared prison.
Ian McConnell had kitted out his flat with three tents, which contained 21 plants at various stage of growth.
When police raided Ian McConnell’s home in February 2019, more plants were found in his bedroom, as well as small quantities of amphetamine and MDMA.
Prosecutor Clare Anderson told Newcastle Crown Court the plants were examined and had an estimated yield of more than a kilo of cannabis.
McConnell, 43, of at Northbourne Road, Jarrow, South Tyneside, pleaded guilty to producing a class B drug, possessing a class B drug and possessing a class A drug.
Christian Eriksen ‘unlikely to play again’ after collapsing on the pitch, says sports cardiologist
Christian Eriksen is lucky to be alive but unlikely to play again after suffering an apparent cardiac arrest at the Euro 2020 tournament, according to a sports cardiologist who previously worked with the footballer at Tottenham.
In dramatic scenes in Copenhagen, the 29-year-old midfielder dropped to the ground at the Parken Stadium soon before half-time in Denmark’s match against Finland and was treated on the pitch before being taken to hospital.
The first-round match was suspended with players from both sides in clear distress before resuming some two hours later after Eriksen was said to be in a stable condition. Finland won 1-0.
Professor Sanjay Sharma, professor of sports cardiology at London’s St George’s University, said football bodies and medical practitioners were likely to be “very strict” about allowing Eriksen, who is now with Italian club Inter Milan, to play again.