UK-News

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Boris Johnson was facing mounting pressure to halt England’s long-awaited next step out of lockdown today as it was revealed that the new Indian Covid variant has killed four people in Britain.

Experts suggested that easements planned for Monday, including allowing people to meet inside pubs and hug close friends and family, should be postponed as cases of the highly contagious strain doubled.

Public Health England revealed this morning that four deaths linked to the highly contagious Indian variant B.1.617.2 were reported across Britain between May 5 and 12, out of 97 total Covid deaths. There are no signs it is more deadly or resistant to vaccines yet, it found. 

Surge testing has already begun in 15 towns including Bolton and Formby and ministers last night approved plans aimed at slowing the spread of the imported strain of Covid-19.

It came as ministers revealed teenagers could be offered jabs as authorities battle to bring the outbreaks under control.

The Government’s Sage and Nervtag scientific committees were reported to be meeting today and Boris Johnson will lead a press conference at 5pm in which he is expected to address the outbreak. 

Mr Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings is among those calling for caution, sharing on social media warnings by scientists that the roadmap out of lockdown should be delayed. 

A Warwick University modelling team cautioned that if the variant was 40 per cent more transmissible than the UK dominant Kent strain the next surge could be worse than the second wave, with up to 6,000 daily hospital admissions.

A 50 per cent increase could lead to 10,000 admissions per day. However, less grisly numbers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine suggested a 50 per cent rise could lead to 4,000 per day. 

And the Independent Sage group today said: ‘In the light of the new variant, we consider that any increase of mixing in indoor spaces (whether domestic or commercial) to be highly inadvisable, particularly in areas with already proven high levels of B.1.617.2. 

‘Accordingly, local directors of public health should have the discretion to determine when the relaxation of measures can safely occur. 

‘Additionally, indoor commercial spaces should only be allowed to reopen if they can maintain adequate social distancing and have proper ventilation, with a priority program of inspection developed in co-operation with the Health and Safety Executive.’

Earlier scientists had warned the June end of lockdown will be ‘in doubt’ if the variant causes a surge in serious illness, threatening to send the Government’s unlocking plans into chaos. 

Ministers are so-var resisting calls to slow the roadmap, insisting the current vaccines roll-out is able to cope.  

Boris Johnson will lead a press conference at 5pm in which he is expected to address the outbreak that has struck 15 towns and cities

Surge testing has already begun in 15 towns including Bolton (pictured today) and Formby and ministers last night approved plans aimed at slowing the spread of the imported strain of Covid-19 .

Surge testing has already begun in 15 towns including Bolton (pictured today) and Formby and ministers last night approved plans aimed at slowing the spread of the imported strain of Covid-19 .

Epidemiologist Professor Paul Hunter said that the nation faces an anxious wait to see how serious the outbreaks of the highly contagious strain are.

Nadhim Zahawi said that the innoculation roll-out would 'flex' to tackle the outbreak, but said that a planned easing of the lockdown would go ahead on Monday.

Epidemiologist Professor Paul Hunter said that the nation faces an anxious wait to see how serious the outbreaks of the highly contagious strain are. Nadhim Zahawi said that the innoculation roll-out would ‘flex’ to tackle the outbreak, but said that a planned easing of the lockdown would go ahead on Monday

A Warwick University model of a more infectious variant after lockdown is completely lifted on June 21 suggests that any more than a 30 per cent increase in transmissibility compared to the Kent variant could lead to an August peak of daily hospital admissions that is higher than either the first or second wave. In a worst-case scenario with a variant 50 per cent more transmissible, hospital admissions could surge to 10,000 per day or even double that  (Thick lines indicate the central estimate while the thin lines are possible upper limits known as confidence intervals)

A Warwick University model of a more infectious variant after lockdown is completely lifted on June 21 suggests that any more than a 30 per cent increase in transmissibility compared to the Kent variant could lead to an August peak of daily hospital admissions that is higher than either the first or second wave. In a worst-case scenario with a variant 50 per cent more transmissible, hospital admissions could surge to 10,000 per day or even double that  (Thick lines indicate the central estimate while the thin lines are possible upper limits known as confidence intervals)

Similar but less grim modelling by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine suggested that a 50 per cent increase in transmissibility could trigger a peak of 4,000 admissions per day in July or August, possibly extending to 6,000 per day

Similar but less grim modelling by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine suggested that a 50 per cent increase in transmissibility could trigger a peak of 4,000 admissions per day in July or August, possibly extending to 6,000 per day

The LSHTM model suggested hospitals could have another 30,000 inpatients by the end of July - up to around 45,000 - compared to the current 845

The LSHTM model suggested hospitals could have another 30,000 inpatients by the end of July – up to around 45,000 – compared to the current 845

Cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India are rising in the UK, potentially threatening the lockdown-easing roadmap.

Cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India are rising in the UK, potentially threatening the lockdown-easing roadmap.

An emergency meeting will be held by experts at the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies committee on Thursday after it was found that India's Covid variant is now dominant in five local authorities in England. There are mounting concerns that it is more infectious than the currently dominant Kent strain

An emergency meeting will be held by experts at the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies committee on Thursday after it was found that India’s Covid variant is now dominant in five local authorities in England. There are mounting concerns that it is more infectious than the currently dominant Kent strain

Zahawi refuses to rule out local lockdowns 

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said ‘we will take nothing off the table’ when asked if local lockdowns are being considered by officials in areas with a surge of the variant first identified in India.

He put himself on a potential collision path with local politicians, who clashed with ministers over a scheme used late last year.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Over a year of dealing with this pandemic suggests that the most effective way of dealing with this, because we have had such a successful vaccination programme, is the surge testing by postcode, the genome sequencing and isolation, so that is our focus, that is our priority.

‘But we will take nothing off the table, whether it is regional or national further measures that we would need to take, we will deal with this.’

But Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he would not welcome local lockdowns to combat the spread of the Indian coronavirus variant.

He told Sky News: ‘My heart sank yesterday when I heard the Prime Minister reintroduce the possibility of local lockdowns; they really didn’t work.

‘We were under different forms of local lockdown pretty much for the whole of the second half of last year and it took a huge toll on people, obviously on our businesses and our economy.

‘We are in a different situation this year because, even though we are seeing spread of the Indian variant in Bolton, we are not seeing the same numbers of people going into hospital because obviously older people are more protected now.

‘So we don’t need to have the same response that we had last year. We do believe if we move quickly on vaccination we can take away any risk of a local lockdown.’

More than eight in 10 people aged 40 and above in England have now had at least one dose of Covid vaccine, latest official figures show.

NHS England data released yesterday revealed that, across the whole country, 83 per cent of adults in the age group had at least one jab by May 9.

In nearly 50 areas coverage was 90 per cent or higher but MailOnline analysis shows vaccination rates vary wildly across the country.

Epidemiologist Professor Paul Hunter said that the nation faces an anxious wait to see how serious the outbreaks of the highly contagious strain are and how many people end up in hospital.

But Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that England’s inoculation roll-out would ‘flex’ to tackle the outbreak and the roadmap would continue as planned.

He insisted that the jab could control the impact of the virus strain which has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths in India. Scientists are trying to work out if it is more infectious than previous strains.

Modelling by the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies warned that if it proves to be a lot more transmissible than the currently dominant Kent version then it could result in a third wave deadlier than the second. 

No10’s scientists said it could trigger up to 20,000 hospital admissions per day in a worst-case scenario. January’s peak, which nearly crippled the NHS, was around 3,800 a day in England. 

A Warwick University modelling team cautioned that if it was 40 per cent more transmissible the next surge could be worse than the second wave, with up to 6,000 daily admissions, and a 50 per cent increase could lead to 10,000 per day.

Step 4 of England’s lockdown-easing plans, involving the almost complete end to Covid restrictions, is due to take place on June 21 if there are no setbacks.

But speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Prof Hunter, who has worked for the World Health Organization, said: ‘The big question is how many people who are getting the Indian variant will end up requiring hospitalisation.

‘At the moment the hospitalisation rate doesn’t seem to be increasing yet although if this becomes much more common we will almost certainly see some increase. 

‘So it’s certainly a concern. I think Step 4 is in doubt in June now, but we really need to see what impact it has on severe disease before we can really be certain.’   

Asked why June 21 is in doubt, he said: ‘Well, because if the epidemic continues to increase, if the Indian variant of the epidemic continues to increase at the same rate as it has over recent weeks, we’re going to have a huge number of cases by June.

‘The issue though is that because it seems to be spreading in unvaccinated younger people at the moment and not yet that much more active in older people maybe we’ll be able to weather it and we’ll still be able to have the step four in June.

‘But if that increases cases in elderly and starts to increase hospitalisations, and puts pressure on the NHS again then I think step four would be in doubt.’

Eight out of 10 over-40s in England have had a Covid vaccine – but parts of London lag behind 

More than eight in 10 people aged 40 and above in England have now had at least one dose of Covid vaccine, latest official figures show.

NHS England data released yesterday revealed that, across the whole country, 83 per cent of adults in the age group had at least one jab by May 9.

In nearly 50 areas coverage was 90 per cent or higher but MailOnline analysis shows vaccination rates vary wildly across the country.

Uptake is as low as 57.7 per cent in two boroughs in London – Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, which have both seen the some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country throughout the roll-out.

By comparison, North East Derbyshire has the highest rate in the country, with 56,646 out of 60,848 in the age group having their first dose — 93.1 per cent.

The success of the rollout had led to calls for lockdown-easing plans to be accelerated. But Boris Johnson has refused to rule out extending measures due to rapidly increasing cases of the Indian variant.

The PM admitted yesterday he was ‘anxious’ about its spread and will ‘rule nothing out’ in his efforts to contain it.

Scientists believe it could be as, or more, transmissible than the Kent strain that triggered the second wave in the UK – but they are confident the jabs will protect against it. Ministers today boosted the roll-out of second doses of vaccines for ten million Britons across the UK in an effort to protect them in the event there is a third wave.

Public Health England figures showed yesterday cases of the mutant strain had more than doubled in a week, rising from 520 confirmed infections to 1,313. But these figures lag at least a week behind the spread of the virus, because it takes time to sequence every case, suggesting the current outbreak may be larger.

Government ministers last night shut down plans by local health officials in Blackburn and Darwen to offer vaccines to all residents aged over 18 amid rising Indian variant cases in the area. NHS sources said officials must stick to the aged-centred priority list designed by JCVI top scientists.

 

Older people living in areas of high infection are also to be offered their second dose of the vaccine early to protect them.

It means a total of ten million people who are considered to be most vulnerable could have their second doses of the vaccine brought forward to prevent them getting hospitalised if Britain faces a third wave, The Times reported.

Mr Zahawi said today that adults as young as 18 could be offered the jab if they live in multi-generational households.

‘The clinicians will look at all of this to see how we can flex the vaccination programme to make it as effective as possible to deal with this surge in this variant, the B1617.2,’ he told Sky News.

‘They will make those decisions and we will be ready to implement, whether it’s vaccinating younger cohorts.

‘We have been doing some work on multi-generational households where we vaccinate the whole household, over-18s, and of course the older groups who are already eligible.

‘Or, bringing forward the second dose – we look at all of that and be guided by the clinicians as to what we do on that.’

However, asked about lockdown easing due to start on Monday that includes allowing family members to hug each other again, he added: ‘We think that the road map for Monday remains in place, because the vaccines are delivering, and vaccines are keeping people out of hospital and, of course, away from severe infection.’

He added that the Government was ‘confident’ this could continue but said officials would ‘continue to monitor’ the situation.

So far, most people aged over 65 have had both doses, but only around a quarter of people in their 50s have – leaving more than six million people in this group still without full protection.   

But another expert said the Indian variant’s effect on vaccines was ‘not particularly concerning’ and there were already signs that outbreaks of the mutant strain were ‘levelling off’ in parts of England, a microbial genomics expert says.

Professor Nick Loman, who studies variants for Public Health England, offered a ray of hope to Britons when he said the mutations carried by the strain are not expected to allow it to dodge vaccine-sparked immunity.

‘The mutations we see in the genome are not predicted to have a big impact on the shape of the protein and change how antibodies produced by the natural infection or the vaccine will work,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘And the limited experimental data available on vaccine efficacy is not particularly concerning… The thing that makes it reassuring is that the vaccines work really well and we do have options in, as you say, changing the dosing schedule and changing the way we approach vaccinations.’

The Birmingham University scientist added it was possible accelerating cases were being driven by a large number of imports from abroad, rather than the virus being more transmissible. 

Could this derail the exit plan?

What’s going on?

Cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India are rising in the UK, potentially threatening the lockdown-easing roadmap. B.1.617.2 has been upgraded by Public Health England from a variant under investigation (VUI) to a variant of concern (VOC). Cases are still relatively low but they are rising, particularly in parts of London, the Midlands and North West.

How did it get here?

Initial cases last month were linked to overseas travel but the rising number of infections now points to more widespread community transmission.

Have people not been quarantining?

It is not known how exactly infections are spreading, although there is a suggestion cases have increased through work or religious gatherings. That said, it is only travellers rather than whole households who must quarantine, so family members could unknowingly be spreading the virus.

What is the Indian variant?

B.1.617 has three strains or sub-types that are genetically similar – B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3. It has 13 mutations that separate it from the original Chinese virus, but the E484Q and L452R mutations are of most interest. Scientists believe they have the potential for it to transmit faster and to get past immune cells made in response to older variants.

So why is it now a ‘variant of concern’?

The second sub-type of the Indian variant – B.1.617.2 – was upgraded to a VOC because of concerns over its spread. While it is hoped the vaccination programme will offer good protection to many, the more cases there are the more severe disease, hospitalisations and deaths there could be in those unable to be vaccinated or where vaccines haven’t worked.

Is it more deadly?

Probably not, but we don’t know for certain. PHE said there was insufficient evidence to indicate the Indian variants cause more severe disease, while experts suggest that the high mortality in India is more likely the result of high infection levels and its healthcare system being overwhelmed.

What about vaccines?

Again, we don’t know for sure but the signs are good. Scientists are testing whether the new variant is capable of ‘immune escape’, meaning antibodies created after vaccination or a prior infection may not stop a person becoming infected.

There is some laboratory evidence that the mutations are ‘escape mutations’ suggesting they could make vaccines less effective. However, scientists say reinfections are likely to be mild compared to primary infections, suggesting the strain is not more deadly. Research has shown current vaccines continue to provide good levels of protection against all the existing variants.

BioNTech this week said the Pfizer vaccine will not need tweaking to protect against current variants. And an updated jab by Moderna successfully neutralised South Africa and Brazilian variants in lab trials.

What next?

Door-to-door testing is under way in infection hotspots such as Bolton to detect further cases in a bid to stop the strain from spreading. Everyone living within specific postcodes is asked to get a PCR test, even if they do not have any symptoms. But while experts say this is finding cases, they are less confident it is enough to stop the spread. Downing Street says it has not ruled out surge vaccinations and ministers also have plans to give booster jabs in the autumn. 

‘We know the virus is growing very fast and particularly in certain regions of the UK but that does not necessarily mean that the virus is more transmissible.

‘Last summer… we imported very large numbers of cases from holidaymakers – predominantly returning from Spain – and that produced the same fast growth rate that we see, but then levelled off.

‘Simply because the propoulsive force of having so many imports all at the same time, and that produced that fast growth rate but then it levelled off. And in retrospect we didn’t think that that variant was more transmissible.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday he was ‘anxious’ about the 100 per cent increase in cases in some areas, as the national infection rate started to also creep back up. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has also been asked to examine the case for ‘targeted vaccinations’ of all over-17s in the worst-hit areas. 

Surge testing for the new coronavirus variant will also be deployed in areas where it is spreading rapidly. Boris Johnson said he was ‘anxious’ about the variant and refused to rule out local lockdowns to help try to contain it.

Government sources also played down the risk that outbreaks of the ‘variant of concern’ could derail the plans to lift the lockdown on June 21 – as some scientists called for the lifting to be postponed.  

Mr Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings also shared on social media warnings by scientists that the roadmap out of lockdown should be delayed. 

The new variant spreads at an alarming rate, with Public Health England last night revealing that cases in the UK had more than doubled from 520 to 1,313 in a week.

But a source said there was no evidence so far that current vaccines would fail to protect against serious disease and death. ‘If it is just spreading quicker, that is no reason to change course,’ the source said.

‘The important thing is that we do not see a rise in hospitalisations and deaths. But we have to be cautious because we just do not know enough about this variant.’

Last night’s move will see people aged over 50 and those with underlying health conditions offered their second jab earlier if they are living in an area where the Indian variant is spreading fast.

Figures yesterday showed the UK had recorded its biggest daily rise in cases since April 27. There were 2,657 new cases of the disease, up from 2,284 new cases the day before. Eleven patients were confirmed to have died within 28 days of a positive test, the same as the previous day.

Blackburn with Darwen Council in Lancashire yesterday claimed jabs would be offered to all over-17s, after infection levels doubled in a week, but later changed its mind and said the vaccines would be offered only to those age groups which had been invited to come forward by the NHS.

But neighbouring Bolton – which has the highest infection rates in the country – last night pleaded with the Government to be allowed to administer jabs to all adults. 

David Greenhalgh, the council’s Conservative leader said: ‘Send us more vaccinations and allow us to vaccinate 18 years-plus now. That is the answer, not further restrictions.’

Other known hotspots include Bedford and Sefton in Merseyside. Britain’s national outbreak remains generally flat, with another 2,657 more coronavirus cases and 11 deaths.

The Prime Minister said yesterday: ‘It is a variant of concern, we are anxious about it.’

Speaking at a primary school in Ferryhill, County Durham, he said: ‘There is a very wide range of scientific opinion about what could happen. We want to make sure we take all the prudential, cautious steps now that we could take. There is a range of things we could do – we are ruling nothing out.’

The variant spreads more quickly than the Kent strain, which is currently the most dominant in the UK, although scientists are not yet sure whether it causes more severe illness and hospitalisations.

Public Health England confirmed yesterday that several of the areas in England with the highest infection rates are those where the Indian variant is known to be rampant.

But scientists remain divided as to whether the variant can be contained locally – through increased vaccination and testing – or whether the Government should delay the next stage of the easing of restrictions.

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Cinemas, theatres and restaurants may be spared Covid passport hassle 

Covid passports may be waived for cinemas, theatres and restaurants as ministers plan to scale back the circumstances where they are needed.

Pubs are already excused having to check the vaccine status of punters amid an outcry and now more businesses are set to avoid measures critics say will have a constricting effect on business. 

A review is expected to report on the scope of any domestic passport scheme by the end of the month.

But ministers questioned their health benefits at a meeting on the subject last week, the Telegraph reported. 

It also said that there were feared that physical passports for those without smartphones might be a forgery risk.

Amid nosediving hospitalisation rates across England a source told the paper: ‘This different reality has prompted people saying, ”well actually, I saw the benefit of it before but do we really need it?”’ 

 

Professor John Edmunds, epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of Sage, said that at this stage, efforts should be focused on local measures.

He said: ‘We should look at whatever we can locally in terms of containing the spread. That’s a much better way of doing it. It’s still fairly isolated.

‘It’s only if it gets out there and it becomes more widespread, that more widespread measures might be necessary.’

But Dr Deepti Gurdasani, a lecturer in epidemiology at Queen Mary’s University of London, told Times Radio: ‘If it’s growing now, with current restrictions, we can’t afford to be easing restrictions.

‘We are seeing rapid exponential growth. And if we ease restrictions further, that’s leading us straight into another lockdown.’

Professor Christina Pagel, the director of the clinical operational research unit and a member of the Independent Sage group of experts, said in The Guardian on Wednesday that the rate at which cases of the new variant were increasing showed the lifting of lockdown restrictions should be delayed. 

Dominic Cummings then shared a separate Tweet saying that if there was only a 20 per cent chance that Professor Pagel was correct, ‘the cost of another big wave is much higher than the cost of delaying the next stage of the Roadmap’ – suggesting he supports a delay in lifting lockdown restrictions.  

Professor Ravi Gutpa, a professor of clinical microbiology at Cambridge University, said it was 50:50 whether restrictions would be eased on June 21.

He told Sky News: ‘The problem is that (the variant) has seeded so quickly that it’s probably spread to other areas.

‘So we may get dissemination of the virus before the vaccine has taken effect. It’s going to be a difficult decision and it’s 50:50 at the moment.’

Steve Baker, of the 70-strong Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said ministers should not be considering extending lockdowns.

He added: ‘Why on Earth would we lock down when the vaccines continue to break the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths?’

The case count was on a par with last Thursday’s – a 1.7 per cent rise from 2,613 — but the number of positive test results have been rising for over a week, with fears growing about the highly infectious Indian variant that is spreading quickly.

Deaths were down 15 per cent, continuing three months of decline, and hospital admissions are also still tumbling thanks to the vaccine rollout.

11th hour deal to SAVE Portugal trips: Insider hints that holidays for thousands of Britons could be back on as Lisbon officials plead with EU to end travel ban due to ‘millions of pounds at stake’

UK tourists still hoping to visit Portugal from Monday could have their holidays saved as the country holds crunch talks with the EU today about non-essential travel.

Portugal had been expected to lift its ban on European tourists entering – including Britons – from Sunday, but reports then followed that this might not be until May 30.

The move would mean Britons with holidays booked there next week – to coincide with the UK’s own travel ban being lifted on Monday – face having them cancelled.

It would also block thousands of football fans who have booked tickets for the Champions League final in Porto between Chelsea and Manchester City on May 29.

People in the UK have been venting their fury after their holidays to Lisbon, Faro and Porto were thrown into doubt – but there are now claims that they could still happen.

One senior travel industry insider told MailOnline: ‘Portugal are in discussions with the EU today about relaxing the rules on allowing non-essential travel in the bloc.

‘So there is still a chance that the 20 flights could still happen on Monday. But if there is a deal there may not be an announcement until the 11th hour.

‘The airlines are in the dark – although they may be lobbying in Brussels – but I’m optimistic there will be an agreement. I’m confident that this will be sorted.

‘The Portuguese want to open up because there are millions of pounds at stake. I think this is an EU decision, but the Portuguese are working hard to get this done.’

Among the tourists worried about their upcoming holiday are Sue and Sean Flynn, both 55 and from Leeds, who are hoping to fly to Faro with Ryanair next Friday.

Sue Flynn, 55, from Leeds, is hoping to fly on holiday to Faro with Ryanair next Friday. She spoke to Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty on BBC Breakfast this morning

Sue Flynn, 55, from Leeds, is hoping to fly on holiday to Faro with Ryanair next Friday. She spoke to Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty on BBC Breakfast this morning

Ryanair aircraft and ancillary equipment are prepared at London Stansted Airport this morning

Ryanair aircraft and ancillary equipment are prepared at London Stansted Airport this morning

Britons still hoping to travel to Portugal when it is added to the UK's 'green list' in three days' time can snap up a flight from London to Faro or Porto for as little as £17 return

Britons still hoping to travel to Portugal when it is added to the UK’s ‘green list’ in three days’ time can snap up a flight from London to Faro or Porto for as little as £17 return

Mrs Flynn told BBC Breakfast this morning: ‘We’ve booked with Ryanair to go on a flight and we’ve booked the accommodation as well, my husband and I.

‘We’ve been trying since last year really to get away. We have a holiday business in Kalkan in Turkey, and we’ve not been able to get there since October.

Flights to Portugal drop 74% in four days with returns to Faro and Porto for just £17 

Britons still hoping to travel to Portugal when it is added to the UK’s ‘green list’ in three days’ time can snap up a flight from London to Faro or Porto for as little as £17 return.

There have been huge price reductions this week with flights to both destinations down by more than 70 per cent since Monday.

Flights to Lisbon have also fallen by more than 40 per cent in four days to £39 return, when travelling with Ryanair on May 17 and coming back a week later.

There has also been a fall of 86 per cent in one week after the cheapest return to Lisbon when checked last Friday before the ‘green list’ announcement was £282 with TAP Portugal.

Over the weekend Ryanair launched a flurry of new flights to Portugal, with Lisbon initially priced at £67 return on Monday.

As for Faro, a return from Stansted is now £17, having been £63 on Monday – down 73 per cent in four days.

And Porto has dropped by a similar level, 74 per cent, from £66 on Monday to £17 today.

However, as for the other main warm weather destination on Britain’s ‘green list’, Gibraltar, prices have shot up over the past week.

Last Friday, the cheapest return was with WizzAir from Luton at £76, but this has gone up to £147 today – a rise of 93 per cent in a week.

‘We’ve had four flights cancelled, and when we thought that Portugal was going on the green list, we thought, well, we’ll change to there.

‘But unfortunately this has come along, to throw a curveball, and here we are again looking at potentially cancelled flights – it’s really frustrating.’

Mrs Flynn said she and her husband have both had their two Covid-19 vaccines and are ‘very, very careful’ having been shielding for much of the pandemic.

She added:  ‘We’ve been used to taking our own precautions and looking after ourselves. The flight, I believe, is as safe as a flight can be.

‘We have self-catering accommodation. So as far as I’m concerned we can look after ourselves. But I do understand the overall concerns for everyone flopping off to a holiday.’

Mrs Flynn continued: ‘I think we’ve all got used to not knowing, and it really takes away the shine off going on holiday and being able to look forward to it.

‘Instead you’re worrying and wondering – is it actually going to happen?

‘It may or it may not, and we’ll just have to live with that if it doesn’t unfortunately, and try and get refunds from the operators that we’ve booked with.’ 

Other tourists took to Twitter to share their concerns about holidays this month to Portugal. One said: ‘I have just changed holiday from Lanzarote, now going to Portugal, but it’s saying not open for holiday. We go May 30, very worried now.’

Another tweeted: ‘I’m flying to Faro next Thursday. Is holiday likely to be cancelled due to recent news about Portugal? How far in advance will you make a decision.’ 

A third tourist hoping for a holiday in Portugal said they had got ‘sucked in by green list this and that’. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that as of May 17 the ‘stay in the UK’ restriction will lift, meaning people will be able to travel to green list countries such as Portugal without self-isolating on their return.

But guidance published on the Portuguese government’s website on Thursday stated that ministers had approved a move to continue the current level of lockdown.

UK holidaymakers are currently prohibited from entering the European Union, but holiday firms have reported huge demand for trips to Portugal following the publication of the green list. 

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

EasyJet has added 105,000 extra seat to its flights serving green tier destinations, while Tui plans to use aircraft which normally operate long-haul routes to accommodate the surge of people booked to fly to Portugal.

Four dead from Indian variant as experts tell Boris to hit the brakes and keep England OUT of pubs

 

A spokesman for Tui said: ‘We’re monitoring the situation closely and will provide a further update as soon as we have clarification from the Portuguese government.

‘We would like to reassure customers that we will contact them directly if their flight or holiday is impacted to discuss their options, this includes offering a full refund or the chance to change the holiday for free.’

The Portuguese archipelago of Madeira is open for tourism.

Thousands of British football fans are hoping to travel to Porto in mainland Portugal for the all-English Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea on May 29.

The final had previously been due to be held in Istanbul but was moved to Portugal following talks between UK ministers and UEFA organisers after Turkey was added to England’s travel red list.

Uefa previously confirmed that 6,000 tickets would be made available to each of the finalists, with the final capacity limit at the Estadio do Dragao still to be fixed.

However, officials in Lisbon suggested the Portuguese cabinet talks about Covid concerned extending the country’s official ‘state of calamity’ and would not change the lifting of the travel ban. 

People enjoy the sunshine on the beach at Nazare in Portugal in August 2016

People enjoy the sunshine on the beach at Nazare in Portugal in August 2016

The Champions League final in Porto is between Chelsea and Manchester City and it is hoped 6,000 fans from each club will attend. Pictured: Man City and Chelsea fans at Wembley in 2019

The Champions League final in Porto is between Chelsea and Manchester City and it is hoped 6,000 fans from each club will attend. Pictured: Man City and Chelsea fans at Wembley in 2019

They said it related to its ability to introduce emergency Covid legislation and would not include tourism, which they said was still expected to be given the green light from Sunday. 

Chelsea and Manchester City fans face strict Portuguese travel requirements 

English fans travelling to Portugal for the Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City have been told they must fly in and out of the country within 24 hours.

The Portuguese government also said supporters will have to operate in ‘bubbles’, arrive and depart only on charter planes, and face Covid-19 tests for the May 29 clash in Porto.

The European showpiece has been switched from Istanbul after the UK Government added Turkey to its high-risk ‘red list’ for international travel.

Chelsea and City will each be provided with 6,000 tickets for the match at the Estadio do Dragao.

Quoted on the BBC website, Portugal’s cabinet affairs minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said ‘Those who come to the final of the Champions League will come and return on the same day, with a test done, in a bubble situation, on charter flights.

‘There will be two fan zones and from there they will be moved to the stadium and from the stadium to the airport, being in Portugal less than 24 hours.

‘Obviously those coming by plane [to be in Porto while the match is on but do not actually go the stadium] will comply with the established rules and security measures will be put in place.’

City said on their website that they will provide ‘qualifying supporters an official day trip travel package from Manchester to Porto.’

Wembley was considered as an alternative to Porto, but the UK Government could not accommodate UEFA’s request to allow quarantine exemptions for thousands of sponsors, VIPs and broadcasters.

Secretary of State Oliver Dowden told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing the UK Government had constructive dialogue with UEFA but a resolution could not be reached.

‘Ultimately I was unable and the Government was unable to give an assurance to UEFA that we would be willing to vary our quarantine rules in the way they wished to happen,’ Dowden said.

‘We had a very constructive discussion with UEFA and it was a genuine difference that couldn’t be overcome. I respect the decision that UEFA made and I think they respect the fact the Government wasn’t able to move on that.’

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (left) and Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel will go head to head in Porto (Ben Stansall/PA).

The decision means Portugal will host the Champions League final for the second year in a row, after Lisbon was the location for the delayed final stages of last season’s competition.

UEFA said: ‘The final was originally scheduled to take place at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul but, following the UK government’s decision to place Turkey on its red list of Covid-19 travel destinations, staging the final there would have meant none of the clubs’ domestic fans would be able to travel to the game.

‘After a year of fans being locked out of stadiums, UEFA thought that everything needed to be done to ensure the supporters of the two finalist teams could attend.

‘UEFA discussed moving the match to England but, despite exhaustive efforts on the part of the Football Association and the authorities, it was not possible to achieve the necessary exemptions from UK quarantine arrangements.’

 

A formal announcement clarifying the situation is expected today.

It came as the BBC reported that the Portuguese government will require UK football fans to fly in and out of the country on the day of the match. 

Fans will also have to stay in a ‘bubble’ while in the city. 

The country’s cabinet affairs minister, Mariana Vieira da Silva, said: ‘Those who come to the final of the Champions League will come and return on the same day, with a test done, in a bubble situation, on charter flights.

‘There will be two fan zones and from there they will be moved to the stadium and from the stadium to the airport, being in Portugal less than 24 hours.’ 

Air fares from London and Manchester to Porto soared after the final was moved there.

On Friday May 21, Ryanair had seats on an early flight from Manchester to Porto for £10.

A week later, the day before the final, the same flight cost £288 as seats started being snapped up.

Other flights before or on the day of the final were going for £300 or more.

According to the BBC, Ms Vieira da Silva said in a briefing yesterday she had ‘no information to give yet’ when asked if restrictions on travel from the UK would soon be lifted. 

Cristovao Norte, Portuguese MP for the Algarve, said a decision should be taken ‘immediately’. 

He told BBC Breakfast on Friday: ‘We are today going to make an urgent inquiry asking the (Portuguese) government whether or not the English travel can come to Portugal next Monday because we are three days ahead from 17th and no one is sure what is going to happen.

‘Our vaccination process is going steadily and it is important a decision is taken immediately.

‘The message is clear: there are no reasons, nor political or scientific reasons to maintain restrictions for travel from the UK to Portugal.’

Ms Vieira da Silva said under current plans for the Champions League final, a series of restrictions to British fans would apply.

As well as the limit on ticket sales, fans will have to fly in on charter planes, arriving and leaving ‘on the same day’, the BBC said. 

Ms Vieira da Silva described the plans as ‘a bubble situation’, with fans passing through a separate zone at the airport and needing a negative coronavirus test before travelling.

Guidance from the Department of Transport warns that many green list countries still have restrictions on UK travellers.

It advises passengers to check all entry and testing requirements and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice for Portugal before booking travel.

It is understood the UK Government has been in discussion with Portuguese representatives this week to discuss plans to unlock travel between the two countries.

The Government is also in talks with the European Commission on how to safely reopen travel routes on the continent, it is understood.  

During the ‘state of calamity’, entry to Portugal is only allowed if you are a returning resident, according to information on the FCDO website.

Entry to non-residents is limited to essential purposes from the UK and other non-EU countries, and EU or European Economic Area countries where the case rate is above 150 cases per 100,000 residents.

‘Essential purposes’ are defined as travelling to live with immediate family members or professional, educational, health or humanitarian reasons.

To enter Portugal, proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken with 72 hours of departure is required.

Those without proof of a negative test can be refused permission to board a flight, or may be forced to quarantine in government-approved accommodation upon arrival.

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