If there was any doubt that we are heading towards a third wave then Wednesday’s daily infection total should go some way towards dispelling those uncertainties.
The trend upwards has been exponential. Since May, the Delta variant has been driving a surge in COVID infections.
That is why the prime minister was forced to delay “Freedom Day”. The spike was expected to continue upwards and it has.
The question being asked is what it means in terms of hospital admissions and deaths. The short answer is both will follow.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said so last week when he stood next to Boris Johnson at the Downing Street briefing.
There is usually a 10-day lag between infections and hospitalisations. We are already seeing hospital admissions rise in some areas of the country.
But let us keep this in some context. We are unlikely to see the numbers reach the levels of the first and second waves. We can thank the vaccine programme for that.
The modelling presented to Boris Johnson predicted a surge big enough to put pressure on the NHS, if he went ahead with his original date of 21 June to remove all restrictions.
But we must also recognise that every hospital admission means a bed taken up and capacity reduced.
Only very sick people need treatment in hospital, even if they are not there for an extended time.
For so long we have talked about this virus targeting the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Wednesday’s 9,000 infections reminds us there are still some 10 million adults who have not had their first vaccine dose.
A senior government scientist told me this week “the virus has a way of finding unvaccinated adults and infecting them”.
She was one of the many scientists I have been talking and listening to this week.
They all talk about uncertainty, that not enough is known about the Delta variant to make definite predictions.
We cannot say exactly what will happen in the coming weeks, they tell me.
But we have the vaccine on our side and that is the game-changer.
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Wales have beaten Turkey 2-0 in their second game at Euro 2020 thanks to goals by Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts.
Ramsey controlled a superb pass by Gareth Bale and tucked the ball home from close range on 43 minutes.
Bale later wasted a glorious chance to double the lead when he lifted a penalty well over the bar after the break.
But Roberts scored deep into injury time to secure three points for the Welsh in a tense finish.
Wales have four points from their first two Group A matches with fancied Italy to come on Sunday.
The top two teams in each of the six groups will advance to the round of 16 along with the four best third-place teams.
Wales played with far more aggression than they did in their opening draw with Switzerland and might have won by more if Ramsey, in particular, had been sharper with his finishing.
The Turks, who have lost their first two matches, were roared on by the crowd in the Azerbaijan capital, most of whom were backing them, rather than Wales.
But Welsh captain Bale said that helped him and his team mates.
“The fans were fantastic,” he told the BBC, “most of them were Turkish, but the Welsh fans were incredible as well.
“They made it loud and they made us keep going.”
Asked if progress to the knockout stages now felt assured, Bale said: “You’d like to think so, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
“If you’d offered us four points [from two games] at the start, we’d’ve bitten your hand off.”
Wales were one of the big surprises of Euro 2016, when they reached the semi-finals.
Wales go top of the table, one point ahead of Italy.
The Azzurri play Switzerland in the other game in the group at 8pm.
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Scientists believe they have solved the mystery behind why one of the brightest stars in the sky suddenly became visibly darker.
Betelgeuse – a red supergiant located in the constellation of Orion – lost more than two-thirds of its brilliance, sparking fears the star was coming to the end of its life and could be about to explode.
Astronomers were left puzzled by the discovery, dubbed the “great dimming” in late 2019.
But an international team of researchers now believes a cloud of stardust was responsible.
The team reached its conclusion after analysing images of Betelgeuse over the years using the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.
They revealed in scientific journal Nature how the event was triggered by the formation of stardust obscuring half of Betelgeuse.
Miguel Montarges, from the Observatoire de Paris, France, and KU Leuven, Belgium, who is lead author on the study, added: “For once, we were seeing the appearance of a star changing in real time on a scale of weeks.
“We have directly witnessed the formation of so-called stardust.”
But the dimming of Betelgeuse – which is about about 500 light-years from Earth – only lasted for a few months before the star returned to its original level of illumination in April 2020.
The surface of the star is subject to regular changes as giant gas bubbles move, shrink and swell – in a phenomenon known as pulsation.
Scientists believe that Betelgeuse ejected a large gas bubble during the dimming.
Shortly afterwards, as the surface of the star partially cooled, heavier elements in the gas, such as silicon, condensed into solid dust.
Professor Stefan Kraus from the University of Exeter, one of the study authors, added: “Ageing stars such as Betelgeuse have long been suspected to churn out flecks of dust, either through a constant wind or more localised surface ejections.
“Here, we see that Betelgeuse has ejected a massive dust cloud that has obscured half of the star’s surface while drifting away into space.”
The scientists will continue examining the star, which is around 1,000 times the size of the sun, in a bid to witness another gas bubble being ejected.
Study author and astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the US, Andrea Dupree, said the research “affects our understanding of the evolution of all stars”.
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The Metropolitan Police commissioner has defied calls to quit after allegations the force was “institutionally corrupt”.
Dame Cressida Dick said she has “no intention of resigning” following the publication of a damning report on Tuesday into the unsolved axe murder of private detective Daniel Morgan in 1987.
An independent inquiry found the force had prioritised protecting its own reputation above tracking down Mr Morgan’s killer.
The 37-year-old was killed in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, southeast London, on 10 March 1987.
But Dame Cressida defended Scotland Yard’s work and her job, insisting she did not obstruct the work of the panel investigating the case.
And the Met chief insisted she was an “honourable person”, adding: “If I thought I should be considering my position I would be, but I don’t.”
The force admitted in 2011 that the initial investigation into the murder – which saw the crime scene unsearched and unguarded – had been hampered by corruption.
But the panel concluded corruption had gone on after the first probe – and questioned why no action was taken to bring those who sabotaged the investigation to justice.
The panel, led by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, said: “Concealing or denying failings, for the sake of the organisation’s public image, is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for reputational benefit and constitutes a form of institutional corruption.”
Dame Cressida told reporters on Wednesday: “I don’t believe we are institutionally corrupt. No, I don’t accept that.
“I have the deepest feelings for Daniel Morgan’s family. They have shown extraordinary grit and determination and courage.
“Yesterday, I apologised again to them for our failings and the fact that we have not brought anybody to justice despite six investigations and countless other reviews and pieces of work.
“And for the fact that, in so doing and along the way, we have clearly, we the Met, my force of which I’m very proud to be the commissioner, we have caused them extra anguish.
“But I don’t accept that we are institutionally corrupt, no.”
She told how she “acted with integrity”, adding: “I was at all times trying to fulfil my duty there to the family and the panel.”
But she conceded that, in the wake of the “very difficult and powerful report” findings, the Met, together with the Home Office, should explore if there are “any lessons to be learned”.
Dame Cressida said she is focused on leading the force through “what has been in the last 15 months, for all sorts of reasons, some pretty challenging times.”
And she backed her colleagues, adding: “My people do very difficult work, they have to make very difficult decisions, often with far too little time, sometimes with far too little information.
“I’m very proud of them. I love my job and I will continue to do it.”
A series of police investigations and an inquest have failed to convict anyone of Mr Morgan’s killing – or any associated corruption in protecting those responsible.
The private investigator’s brother, Alastair, who has spent 30 years fighting for justice, said the Met commissioner should “absolutely” consider her position.
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Coronavirus restrictions in England have been extended until 19 July as MPs voted in favour of a four-week delay to lockdown easing.
Boris Johnson faced a rebellion from some Conservative MPs who disagreed with the measures being continued into next month, but the regulations passed by 461 votes to 60.
It means the next, and final stage, of unlocking will now take place in just over four weeks.
Opening the Commons debate on the extension of the coronavirus regulations, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Delta variant, formerly known as the Indian variant “has given the virus extra legs”.
The new variant “spreads more easily” and a four-week delay is necessary “to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them”, Mr Hancock added.
But some Conservative MPs have expressed their concern at the deviation from the government’s roadmap which had planned for all remaining restrictions to be removed on 21 June.
Conservative former minister Mark Harper, who chairs the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group expressed his “worry” that “we’re just going to be back here all over again extending the restrictions”.
But the health secretary said the country must learn “to live with this virus” after the four week “pause”.
Fellow Conservative Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) added that the restrictions were never proportionate “even from the outset”.
“I always thought it was wrong for them to take our freedoms, even though they believed that they were acting in our best interests in an emergency, but by any measure that emergency has now passed and yet freedoms are still withheld, and the government will not allow us to assess for ourselves the risks that we are prepared to encounter in our ordinary everyday lives,” he said.
Conservative former Cabinet minister Karen Bradley called on the government to “take advantage of the vaccine programme”.
“With a heavy heart, I’m afraid to say to the minister that I cannot support the government this evening, because I cannot find a way to explain to my constituents why the things they are looking forward to getting back to doing have to wait,” she said,
“We have to accept that we cannot save every life – I might have been able to be persuaded if the government was able to support those businesses that are unable to open but that support is simply not there.
“I will not be able to support the government, although I will on procedural matters.”
Conservative Peter Bone simply stated that he will be voting against the government as they have “got it wrong”, adding: “I don’t think the government has made the case for putting off unlocking.”
And Tory John Redwood said: “It is time to trust people more, it is time to control people less.”
But trying to assure potential Conservative rebels, Mr Hancock said he has “a very high degree of confidence that we can deliver the vaccines that we think are needed in order then to be able to take step four on 19 July”.
Earlier, Labour signalled it would back the extension of restrictions.
Giving his support, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Delaying the road map by four weeks will hopefully relieve the pressure on hospitals…
“I think if we lifted all the restrictions now I fear that that could be akin to throwing petrol on a fire at this moment.”
Earlier on Wednesday during PMQs, Tory backbencher Philip Davies called on the PM to listen to his “Conservative instincts” and trust the country’s vaccination programme instead of listening to “communist scientists” who want to see restrictions “forever”.
Fellow Conservative MP William Wragg asked for an assurance that the easing of lockdown measures will not be delayed once more beyond the new 19 July date.
Mr Johnson reiterated he believes the four-week delay will save “many thousands more lives” and that restrictions will not be in place “forever”.
“Nobody, least of all I or [Conservative MP Mr Davies] want to see COVID restrictions last forever, nor do I think that they are going to last for ever.
“Because, as I made clear earlier this week, I think we can have a high degree confidence that our vaccination programme will work and I think we need to give it a little bit more time – as I have explained – to save many thousands more lives by vaccinating millions more people,” the PM told MPs.
MPs also voted to extend virtual participation in the House of Commons until July 22 – the start date of the summer recess – by 588 votes to 563.
The latest figures show 1,136 patients with COVID-19 were in hospital in the UK on 13 June, an 18% rise from the previous week.
The government has said the proposed extension will be reviewed to see if action can be taken two weeks sooner on Monday 5 July.
However, confirming the delay earlier this week in a Downing Street press conference, the PM did announce some changes including scrapping the 30-person limit on weddings from 21 June as planned and removing the requirement for care home residents to quarantine for two weeks after day trips.
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Sainsbury’s and Pets at Home are among retailers to pull dry cat food from their shelves over a potential link to a deadly feline disease.
The FSA and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have warned cat owners not to give their pets dry food made on behalf of the brands by manufacturer Fold Hill Foods, as a precaution.
It comes after an outbreak of feline pancytopenia, an illness that can often be fatal in cats.
More than 130 cases of the rare disease have been recorded since April this year, the FSA said.
Pancytopenia is a rare condition where the number of blood cells (red, white and platelets) rapidly decrease, causing serious illness.
The FSA said the current outbreak of pancytopenia was potentially linked to specific cat food products, which were being recalled.
But it added there is “no evidence to suggest this outbreak presents any risk to human health”.
The government is working with the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and the Animal Plant and Health Agency, together with authorities across Britain and the pet food supply chain to investigate a possible link between specific cat food products and feline pancytopenia.
A Government spokesman said: “There is no definitive evidence to confirm a link at this stage.
“No unsafe cat food has been identified but the manufacturer and brand owners affected, based on investigations so far, are taking the precautionary action of recalling and withdrawing cat food products that have been linked to affected cats.”
Cat owners are urged to buy alternative pet food and seek immediate help if their animal has eaten any of the products recalled and is unwell.
Products under Sainsbury’s Hypoallergenic Recipe range and Pets at Home’s Ava range are being recalled, Fold Hill Foods said.
Applaws products, which are sold by Amazon and other pet food shops, may also be unsafe.
Fold Hill Foods said ensuring pet safety was its priority, explaining how the recall was the “safest course of action” until an exact cause has been identified.
General manager Ben Mankertz said: “As cat owners ourselves, we fully understand how upsetting and stressful this situation is for families and although diet has not been confirmed as the cause, we would prefer to act now to ensure the absolute safety of cats.”
We are issuing advice to cat owners not to feed their cats specific cat food products.
This follows a rise in cases of feline pancytopenia which can cause serious illness in cats.
— Food Standards Agency (@foodgov) June 16, 2021
A Pets at Home spokeswoman also said pets’ health and wellbeing was its “top priority”, adding: “This is a precautionary measure whilst further investigations are carried out and we are working closely with the FSA, RVC and wider industry to determine the cause.
“In the meantime our store colleagues are on hand to help customers select a suitable alternative.”
The products being recalled are:
Sainsburys Hypoallergenic Recipe complete dry cat food with salmon 1+years 800g
Sainsburys Hypoallergenic Recipe complete dry cat food with chicken 1+years 800g
Pets at Home:
Ava Kitten Chicken 300g and 2kg
Ava Adult Chicken 300g, 2kg and 4kg
Ava Adult Fish 2kg
Ava Mature Chicken 7+ 2kg and 4kg
Ava Senior Chicken 12+ 2kg
Ava Sensitive Skin & Stomach 1.5kg
Ava Weight Management 1.5kg
Ava Hairball 1.5kg
Ava Oral Care 1.5kg
Ava British Shorthair 1.5kg
Ava Persian 1.5kg
Ava Maine Coon 1.5kg
Applaws products (best before date between December 2022 to June 2023 with a site reference code of GB218E5009):
Applaws Cat Dry Chicken 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg
Applaws Cat Dry Senior Chicken 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg
Applaws Cat Dry Chicken & Salmon 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg
Applaws Kitten Dry Chicken 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg
Applaws Cat Dry Chicken & Lamb 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg
Applaws Cat Dry Chicken & Duck 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg
Applaws Cat Dry Ocean Fish 350g, 1.8kg and 6kg
Story By Sky News
Russia’s Vladimir Putin says he and US President Joe Biden have agreed to return their ambassadors to their respective posts in an attempt to lower tensions.
It comes after around four hours of talks between the leaders at a summit in Switzerland.
The two men have had face-to-face discussions at a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva.
The first round of talks involved both leaders, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a pair of translators.
A second session involved other senior officials on both sides.
President Biden gave a thumbs up as he left the villa and then entered his limousine, TV footage showed.
Diplomats deemed it to be too risky for them to appear together because of the potential of an embarrassing public spat in response to media questions.
Opening the talks earlier, Mr Putin said he hoped for a “productive” meeting, while Mr Biden called it a discussion between “two great powers” and insisted “it is always better to meet face to face”.
As they appeared together for the first time since 2011, both men appeared to avoid looking directly at the other during a brief and chaotic photocall before jostling reporters and photographers.
Mr Biden instigated the summit, and for months the two leaders have criticised each other.
Mr Biden has repeatedly called out Mr Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers on US interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and alleged interference in American elections.
Mr Putin, in turn, has pointed to the US Capitol riot on 6 January to argue America has no business lecturing on democratic norms.
And he insisted the Russian government has not been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks despite US intelligence showing otherwise.
The jailing of Mr Navalny, whose novichok poisoning was blamed on the Kremlin, was a subject on which Mr Biden was unlikely to get much traction with Mr Putin who considers the case an internal Russian affair.
But there were areas where cooperation was expected. They include arms control, climate change, containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, humanitarian assistance to Syrians and working together on the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser has published a 7,000-word blogpost including a series of claims about the prime minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Here’s a round-up of Dominic Cummings’s most explosive allegations:
PM branded Hancock ‘totally f****** hopeless’
The most eye-catching part of Mr Cummings’s blogpost was his inclusion of screenshots of WhatsApp messages between himself and the prime minister.
These reveal that on two occasions, Mr Johnson described Mr Hancock’s efforts during the government’s initial response to the COVID crisis as “hopeless”.
In one exchange, which Mr Cummings said was part of late-night messages on 26 March 2020, he and Mr Johnson are shown to be discussing actions from “MH” in boosting the UK’s COVID testing capacity.
The screenshot shows a reply from the prime minister stating: “Totally f****** hopeless”.
Other messages, from 27 March, show what Mr Cummings said was him telling the prime minister that the Department for Health had “totally f***** up ventilators”.
The prime minister replied: “It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless.”
The PM suggested removing responsibility for PPE from Hancock
In another WhatsApp exchange, said to be from 27 April last year, Mr Johnson is suggested to have openly wondered about taking responsibility for procuring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) away from Mr Hancock and giving it to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.
The prime minister wrote: “On ppe it’s a disaster. I can’t think of anything except taking Hancock off and putting Gove on.”
Mr Cummings also said Mr Hancock “had to be removed from crucial decisions” with Lord Paul Deighton brought in to oversee PPE, Dame Kate Bingham asked to lead the vaccines taskforce, and Baroness Dido Harding taking charge of NHS Test and Trace.
PM wants to quit shortly after the next election to ‘make money and have fun’
Mr Cummings claimed Mr Johnson has a “clear plan” to leave Downing Street “at the latest a couple of years after the next election”, which is scheduled for 2024.
“He wants to make money and have fun not ‘go on and on’,” Mr Cummings wrote.
The ex-adviser claimed this mattered because a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the COVID crisis had been “designed to punt the tricky parts until after this PM has gone”.
Asked about the claim Mr Johnson had already planned when to quit, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: “The prime minister has been asked about this before and described it as utter nonsense.”
The PM ‘pegs it out of the room before anybody can disagree’
Mr Cummings depicted contrasting styles in the handling of key COVID meetings between Mr Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who deputised for the prime minister after Mr Johnson fell seriously ill with COVID last year.
The prime minister’s former adviser wrote that meetings under Mr Raab were “less pleasant for everybody but much more productive”.
“Raab can chair meetings properly instead of telling rambling stories and jokes,” Mr Cummings added.
“He let good officials actually question people so we started to get to the truth.
“Unlike the PM who as soon as things get ‘a bit embarrassing’ does the whole ‘let’s take it offline’ shtick before shouting ‘forward to victory’, doing a thumbs-up and pegging it out of the room before anybody can disagree.”
PPE supplies slowed down by officials
Mr Cummings claimed he was told by an official that most of the UK’s PPE supplies would not arrive until after the April 2020 peak in infections.
This was, he said he was told, because of procurement rules requiring goods to be shipped rather than flown in due to cost.
Mr Cummings also claimed he had been told that officials rejected PPE with a 25% markup.
“The cabinet secretary [Mark Sedwill] was investigating why we were refusing a 25% PPE markup when we had NHS staff wearing bin bags and dying for lack of PPE,” he wrote.
Story By Sky News
The UK has reported 9,055 new COVID cases, the highest daily total since February.
There were also a further nine coronavirus-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period, according to the latest government data.
The figures compare with 7,673 cases and 10 deaths announced on Tuesday, while 7,540 infections and six fatalities were recorded this time last week.
Today’s number of cases is the highest since 25 February, when 9,985 new infections were reported.
It comes as another 190,033 people had their first dose of a COVID vaccine on Tuesday, taking the total to 42,021,089.
Also 230,666 had their second jab, meaning 30,440,373 have now been fully vaccinated in the UK.
Yesterday marked a key milestone when the government announced more than 30 million adults had received both shots as the country grapples with the spread of the Delta variant, first detected in India.
Around one million people aged 21 and 22 are now eligible to book their coronavirus vaccination.
Some 972,000 text messages are being sent out, inviting them to schedule appointments for both doses via the national booking system.
And those aged 18 to 20 are expected to be invited to book their appointments by the end of this week.
There had been fears that younger people, who face a far lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19, might be reluctant to get inoculated.
But Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said that the response had seen these fears “blown out of the water”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also confirmed coronavirus vaccinations will be made compulsory for care home staff, and the government is consulting on implementing the same policy for NHS workers.
Meanwhile, Public Health England’s strategic COVID-19 response director has revealed there are 25 coronavirus variants “under monitoring”.
Dr Susan Hopkins told the parliamentary science and technology committee: “We’re living in a world of variants now, so everything we see is a variation of the original.”
She said eight variants are “under investigation”, along with the 25 that are being monitored.
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France is beginning to ease its COVID-19 restrictions earlier than planned, starting with the lifting of a curfew that has been in place since 2020.
The country’s prime minister said the nationwide night-time curfew, which has been in place since late last year, will now end on 20 June – 10 days early.
He added that soon face masks will no longer be required outdoors, as daily coronavirus infections are falling faster than anticipated.
Speaking at a news conference, prime minister Jean Castex said: “We’re on the right track – let’s keep up our efforts.
“The health situation is improving faster than we had anticipated, everywhere in mainland France.”
Last week, restaurants, cafes and bars across the country were able to open for the first time in seven months.
In the UK, a plan to lift all COVID-19 restrictions was pushed back from 21 June to 19 July amid rising cases of the Delta (Indian) variant, which now makes up 91% of all new infections.
However, French health minister, Olivier Veran, said the more transmissible variant only represented between 2% and 4% of confirmed cases in France.
He warned that if the Delta variant became dominant in the country, it could lead to another wave of infections.
The latest data from Johns Hopkins University shows France has recorded 5,806,418 COVID cases, 110,692 virus-related deaths and it has administered 44,304,266 vaccine doses.
Story By Sky News