Covid-19: India variant concerns and Wales advises only 'essential' overseas travel

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Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Friday morning. We'll have another update for you this evening.

1. Moves considered to tackle Indian variant rise

Second vaccine jabs could be given earlier and local restrictions imposed to tackle the Indian Covid variant in badly hit areas, the UK government says, after cases more than doubled to 1,313 in a week. The Department of Health and Social Care says "economic or social" restrictions could be imposed in parts of England, if any variant "escapes the vaccine". However, there's "no firm evidence yet" to show that's the case with the Indian variant, or that it has any greater impact on severity of disease.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The NHS is sending a mobile vaccine bus into parts of Bolton with high infections

2. What's causing the spike in Bolton?

Bolton has seen a sharp spike in infections since mid-April and a doctor reports an increase in people turning up at casualty with confirmed or suspected Covid in the past week. The Indian variant makes up the majority of new coronavirus cases. Lynn Donkin, the town's assistant director of public health, tells us: "We've now got a picture of widespread community transmission."

3. Wales residents urged to hold off foreign holidays

While the UK government says people in England can go on holiday abroad to a small number of countries from Monday, Welsh ministers say people in Wales should travel overseas only for "essential purposes". That advice is likely to remain for at least three weeks. First Minister Mark Drakeford is expected to confirm later that Covid "alert level two" will apply from Monday. Meanwhile, in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to give an update on Covid restrictions for Glasgow and Moray.

Image source, Getty Images

4. Vaccines have saved 11,700 lives in England - research

Coronavirus vaccines have saved 11,700 lives and stopped 33,000 people becoming seriously ill, Public Health England analysis suggests. The research - covering the vaccination programme to the end of April - found people in their 70s and 80s had seen the biggest reduction in deaths and hospital admissions.

Image source, PA Media

5. It's hug time! Here's how to make it safer

From Monday, close physical contact with people from other households is allowed in England and Scotland. For millions of us it will be the first time we've hugged family and friends in months. Scientists explain how best to do it, while limiting the chance of spreading coronavirus. "Don't hug too frequently, keep it short," is the advice of Prof Cath Noakes, who advises the government.

And don't forget...

What you're allowed to do from Monday will depend on where in the UK you live. Check which rules apply to you.

Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

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