UK Covid LIVE: Social distancing will be dropped on June 21, says Boris Johnson, as Portugal and Spain ready to take Britons

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ocial distancing measures including the one-metre plus rule will be dropped on June 21, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Mr Johnson, speaking at a campaigning event on Monday morning, said: “It looks to me like on June 21 we’ll be able to dispense with the one metre-plus social distancing rule”.

It comes as some of the most popular tourism destinations in Europe will be open to UK holidaymakers by the end of June, the chief executive of Thomas Cook has said.

Alan French said: “We are expecting Portugal, Spain, Greece, Croatia and so forth to be open, it would be nice if Turkey was open.” He said there was “great progress” being made in terms of infection rates in the countries.

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Spanish police says pharmacy worker sold fake Covid-19 test papers for travellers

A pharmacy worker who was selling fake negative Covid-19 test certificates so that people could travel to Morocco has been arrested, Spanish police said on Monday.

The 24-year-old man, who was arrested in El Ejido, southern Spain, charged Moroccan people 130 euros ($156) for each fake certificate which allowed them to fly home from Spain, according to the authorities. They said he had a second job running his own travel business and selling plane tickets.

Spain’s National Police added they had discovered seven cases of the suspect selling false PCR test certificates and that the investigation was ongoing.

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Australia defends decision to sanction travellers from India

Australia on Monday defended its decision to penalise its own citizens entering the country within two weeks of being in India, saying it had “strong, clear and absolute” belief the move was legal.

Health Minister Greg Hunt pointed to the alarming surge of coronavirus cases in India and the pressure on Australia’s health system as reasons to pause travel until May 15.

Australia’s quarantine hotels have seen a 1,500 per cent spike in Covid-19 cases from India since March, raising questions about pre-departure testing in India and leading to this “agonising decision,” Hunt said.

“It’s a high-risk situation in India,” Hunt told a televised news briefing in Melbourne.

“The strong, clear view is that there has been no doubt in any of the Commonwealth advice about this measure or other measures,” he said, referring to Australia’s emergency biosecurity decision, which took effect on Monday.

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South Korea eyes mid-May arrival of coronavirus vaccines as stocks run down

South Korean officials fuelled hope on Monday for the arrival of 7 million doses of coronavirus vaccine by mid-May to prop up an inoculation campaign that is flagging as supplies dwindle, hit by shipment delays.

Nearly 3.4 million of the population of 52 million had received their first dose by Sunday in the campaign which began in February, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

A shipment of 7 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in mid-May, the agency added, without giving a date.

President Moon Jae-in said the campaign was going better than initially planned, since it had met a goal of vaccinating 3 million people by the end of April.

“We might be able to raise our first-half target to 13 million from the current 12 million, if we effectively use supplies that arrive in each period as much as possible,” Moon Jae-in told a meeting of officials to combat the virus.

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A return to unrestricted trading on June 21 is ‘critical’ says UKHospitality exec

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, has said a return to unrestricted trading on June 21 is “critical” and will mean firms in the industry can “come off life support”.

Her comments came as The Times newspaper reported that after that date the “one metre-plus” social distancing rule will be removed and there will be no restrictions on customer numbers for pubs and restaurants.

Ms Nicholls said: “These reports are very welcome if true. However, we must wait to see the full detail of plans as any restrictions in venues will continue to impact revenue and business viability.

“A return to unrestricted trading on 21 June is critical and will mean hospitality businesses come off life support and be viable for the first time in almost 16 months.

“We urge the Government to confirm reopening dates and these plans at the earliest opportunity, which will boost confidence and allow companies to step up planning and bring staff back.”

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EU executive recommends opening up to non-EU foreign travel

The European Union’s executive recommended on Monday that foreign citizens fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and those coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation be allowed to travel into the bloc without additional restrictions.

“The (European) Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine,” the executive arm said in a statement.

“This could be extended to vaccines having completed the WHO emergency use listing process. In addition, the Commission proposes to raise… the threshold related to the number of new Covid-19 cases used to determine a list of countries from which all travel should be permitted,” it also said, adding that should lead to the expansion of the list.

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Indonesia says finds two cases of Indian Covid-19 variant in Jakarta

Indonesia has recorded its first cases of a highly infectious Covid-19 variant first detected in India, the health minister said on Monday, as authorities implored people not to travel to their hometowns for the end of the Muslim fasting month.

Indonesia, which has been trying to contain one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in Asia, stopped issuing visas last month for foreigners who had been in India in the previous 14 days.

The two cases of the Indian variant, known as B.1.617, were found in Jakarta, while the minister said a variant first discovered in South Africa was also detected in Bali.

“We need to contain these cases, while there are still only a few of them,” Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a virtual conference.

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Russia: 8,489 new Covid-19 cases

Russia on Monday reported 8,489 new coronavirus cases and 336 deaths in the past 24 hours.

It comes after they reported 8,697 new cases and 342 deaths on the previous day.

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‘Great progress’ for countries preparing for return of holidaymakers, says Thomas Cook exec

Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French said there was “great progress” in countries such as Portugal and Spain in preparing for the return of holidaymakers.

“When the holidays proper start at the end of June, we are expecting most of the countries that the UK goes on holiday to – Europe particularly – to be open,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We are expecting Portugal, Spain, Greece, Croatia and so forth to be open, it would be nice if Turkey was open.

“When we look at what is going on in those countries, both in terms of infection rates and how they are preparing for holidaymakers, I think there is great progress being made.”

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The Government wants the roadmap out of lockdown to be a ‘one-way system’ – but science will be a ‘guiding force’

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the Government wanted the roadmap out of coronavirus lockdown to be a “one-way system” but that science would continue to be the “guiding force”.

“We’ve always said that we want to get this move back to normality, we want it to be a one-way system,” he said, speaking on Times Radio.

“We want things to improve so we’re going to take things cautiously, we’re going to make sure the decisions are driven by science and we will unlock in a way that is safe.

“We’ve already seen internationally that the coronavirus situation can change and can change quickly so it’s not about going backwards.”

On the topic of foreign travel, he added: “The policy is set, the philosophy that underpins it has been decided and the science will be the guiding force for which countries will be on the red, amber or green lists.”

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India’s Covid-19 case total nears 20 million

India on Monday reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for a 12th straight day, taking its overall caseload to just shy of 20 million, while deaths from Covid-19 rose by 3,417.

With 368,147 new cases over the past 24 hours, India’s total infections stand at 19.93 million, while total fatalities are 218,959, according to health ministry data.

Medical experts say real numbers across the country of 1.35 billion may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.

At least 11 states and union territories have imposed some form of restrictions to try and stem infections, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown, concerned about the economic impact.

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