YouTube star Lele Pons reveals her battle with severe OCD in new documentary series


Lele Pons is opening up about her battle with mental illness, including Tourette syndrome, depression, ADHD, and severe obsessive-compulsive disorder that at times has left her unable to function.

The 23-year-old Venezuelan star, who has 16.4 million YouTube subscribers and 40.9 million Instagram followers, revealed her struggled with mental disorders for the first time on April 22 with a trailer for her new YouTube documentary, The Secret Life of LeLe Pons. 

‘People who think that I have the perfect life: Know that I don’t have a perfect life,’ she said. ‘My deepest, darkest secret is that I have OCD and that I’ve had it for most of my life.’

Candid: Lele Pons is opening up about her battle with mental illness, including Tourette syndrome, depression, ADHD, and severe obsessive-compulsive disorder

Famous: The 23-year-old Venezuelan star has 16.4 million YouTube subscribers and 40.9 million Instagram followers

Famous: The 23-year-old Venezuelan star has 16.4 million YouTube subscribers and 40.9 million Instagram followers

Real life: But, she recently revealed, she has been secretly battling neurological disorders for most of her life

Real life: But, she recently revealed, she has been secretly battling neurological disorders for most of her life

While Lele named several neurological disorders she suffers from, the premiere episode of the show mostly focuses on her OCD, which she has been struggling with for over a decade.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterizing by having unwanted obsessive thoughts, which lead a person to repeat certain behaviors (compulsions).

Obsessions defy logic and usually involve concerns about germs or contamination, a need for symmetry, ‘intrusive thoughts’ of a sexual nature, or fears about death or harm befalling themselves or loved ones. 

This can lead the sufferer to commit repetitive behaviors to calm their thoughts. The rituals — like cleaning repeatedly or doing an action a set number of times — can become debilitating and take up much of the day, interfering with normal function.  

‘My OCD is very, very powerful thoughts that make me do stuff that I don’t want to do,’ Lele said.

Scary: In one of the earliest manifestations of the disorder began when she was a child, Lele would feel a need to put a pillow over her head and go a full minute without breathing

Scary: In one of the earliest manifestations of the disorder began when she was a child, Lele would feel a need to put a pillow over her head and go a full minute without breathing

Looking back: Her mother said that she first noticed something was wrong when she observed Lele's need to touch three times

'I just had to touch everything. Everything, everything,' Lele said. 'And if I didn't touch everything, I thought my family was gonna die'

Looking back: Her mother said that she first noticed something was wrong when she observed Lele’s need to touch three times

'When I was little, it got to a point where I could not move from the car and I stayed an hour there, doing some rituals ... and my dad had to carry me out of the car,' she said

‘When I was little, it got to a point where I could not move from the car and I stayed an hour there, doing some rituals … and my dad had to carry me out of the car,’ she said

In one of the earliest manifestations of the disorder began when she was a child, Lele would feel a need to put a pillow over her head and go a full minute without breathing.

‘If I made it, I was gonna be happy,’ she explained.

‘When I was little, it got to a point where I could not move from the car and I stayed an hour there, doing some rituals and touching things. And my dad had to carry me out of the car,’ she recalled.

Her mother said that she first noticed something was wrong when she observed Lele’s need to touch three times. 

‘I began to know that she had something wrong when she began to touch three times the door of my room, and I [asked] her, why you do that?’ recalled her mom. Lele told her it was one touch for her, one for her father, and one for her mother.

‘I just had to touch everything. Everything, everything,’ Lele said. ‘And if I didn’t touch everything, I thought my family was gonna die.’

She grew afraid to walk through doors and developed several other compulsions, like turning a faucet on and off three times.

'My OCD is very, very powerful thoughts that make me do stuff that I don't want to do,' Lele said in the documentary

‘My OCD is very, very powerful thoughts that make me do stuff that I don’t want to do,’ Lele said in the documentary

Opening up: She gives a surprising look at her struggles in her new docu-series

Opening up: She gives a surprising look at her struggles in her new docu-series

Stepping in: Her parents realized something was wrong and took her to get professional help

Her father noted that Lele can do incredibly complicated things with no effort — but might be incapable of doing something as simple as writing a check or turning off a light, because the rituals get in the way

Stepping in: Her parents realized something was wrong and took her to get professional help

She had learning disabilities, too. Because she wouldn’t talk a lot, she would draw pictures to communicate with her parents. For example, a drawing of a girl eating pizza meant she wanted to eat pizza.

All of these difficulties disrupted her life, and Lele said she ‘barely had any friends’ beyond her family, and would mostly play with her cousins. She was ‘really lonely.’ 

Eventually, she started seeing Dr. Katia Moritz, a clinical psychologist.

‘When I first met Lele, she came in as an emergency situation,’ Dr. Mortiz said. ‘She couldn’t really function and they were struggling to get her to school, eat, sleep, do any of the basic activities that she needed to do.’ 

OCD sufferers benefit from medication and cognitive behavioral therapy, in which the patient learns to cope with negative thoughts and emotions in a more productive way. 

One thing that helped Lele was joining Vine in high school.   

‘Doing funny videos was a distraction to OCD, to what was going on,’ she said.

Diagnosis: Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterizing by having unwanted obsessive thoughts, which lead a person to repeat certain behaviors (compulsions)

Diagnosis: Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterizing by having unwanted obsessive thoughts, which lead a person to repeat certain behaviors (compulsions)

Serious: At her worst, Lele has been unable to function properly due to the disorder

Serious: At her worst, Lele has been unable to function properly due to the disorder 

How it works: Obsessions defy logic and usually involve concerns about contamination or germs, a need for symmetry, 'intrusive thoughts' of a sexual nature, or fears about death or harm befalling themselves or loved ones

How it works: Obsessions defy logic and usually involve concerns about contamination or germs, a need for symmetry, ‘intrusive thoughts’ of a sexual nature, or fears about death or harm befalling themselves or loved ones

She had initially joined the video-sharing app to make friends, and it soon helped her find them not just online but in school, where her classmates took notice. 

Though her online presence has helped her in some ways, she still struggles with OCD today. 

‘In times that I’m sad, in times that I’m going through stuff, OCD is there. It’s just really hard because there’s triggers, and in OCD if you are triggered to do something, you have to do it,’ she said.

‘When you have a condition that controls you most of the time, you wish you didn’t have that.’

Lele still needs to turn the faucet off three times after she takes a shower — a compulsion that’s shown on camera during the episode.   

The cameras also capture a particularly rough moment with her therapist, in which she is seen sobbing while fighting off a compulsion.

In a video she shared, her therapist talks her through an episode as she sobs and clenches her body, overcome with emotion

In a video she shared, her therapist talks her through an episode as she sobs and clenches her body, overcome with emotion

Can't help it: She insists that she needs to perform her compulsion one more time to make it three times total

Can’t help it: She insists that she needs to perform her compulsion one more time to make it three times total

Raw: She shared several candid looks at what it looks like when she is overcome and fighting a compulsion

Raw: She shared several candid looks at what it looks like when she is overcome and fighting a compulsion

She tells Dr. Moritz that she needs to do the compulsive action one more time, because she has only done it twice and it needs to be three times. Dr. Moritz speaks to her calmly, holding her hand and reminding her that she doesn’t need to do it.

She walks her through relaxing her body, unclenching her hands and uncurling her toes in order to push through the moment.    

Dr. Moritz explained that people suffering from OCD turn to compulsions to stop the bad feelings and thoughts creeping in their heads, because doing the ritual quiets it. But the job of therapy is to make the feeling pass without doing the ritual.

Lele also said that she gets help from medication, explaining: ‘If I didn’t take medication, I wouldn’t be where I am.’

Her father, Luis Pons, noted that Lele can do incredibly complicated things with no effort — but might be incapable of doing something as simple as writing a check or turning off a light, because the rituals get in the way.

Some help: Eventually, she started seeing Dr. Katia Moritz, a clinical psychologist, who appears in the documentary

Some help: Eventually, she started seeing Dr. Katia Moritz, a clinical psychologist, who appears in the documentary

Stilling doing it: One compulsion she still performs is turning off the faucet three times after showering

Stilling doing it: One compulsion she still performs is turning off the faucet three times after showering

Fun: Lele first started on Vine as a distraction from her OCD and as a way to make friends

Fun: Lele first started on Vine as a distraction from her OCD and as a way to make friends

‘All she has been trying to do all her life is to find a balance between the things that are expected in the world in which she lives and her mind. It’s a struggle that is 24 hours a day,’ he said.  

Adding to her struggle, Lele is the subject of hatred and bullying on the internet, as many public figures and social media stars are. 

‘People are making hating me cool,’ she says through tears. ‘Sometimes I block out, I just want to end it.’ 

She also finds herself comparing herself to other people all the time, and that has made the prospect of being vulnerable and talking about her mental illness especially scary

‘Am I scared to tell people? Yes. Am I scared of what they might say? But am I embarrassed? No.’  

Busy: She has had an incredible amount of success, but says it wouldn't be possible if she wasn't on medication

Busy: She has had an incredible amount of success, but says it wouldn’t be possible if she wasn’t on medication

Surprise: She said that she has gone into treatment for a month at a time on several occasions and fans don't notice she is gone because she has content saved up that can be posted

Surprise: She said that she has gone into treatment for a month at a time on several occasions and fans don’t notice she is gone because she has content saved up that can be posted

What is obsessive compulsive disorder?

Obsessive compulsive disorder, usually known as OCD, is a common mental health condition which makes people obsess over thoughts and develop behaviour they struggle to control.

It can affect anyone at any age but normally develops during young adulthood.

It can cause people to have repetitive unwanted or unpleasant thoughts.

People may also develop compulsive behaviour – a physical action or something mental – which they do over and over to try to relieve the obsessive thoughts.

The condition can be controlled and treatment usually involves psychological therapy or medication.  

It is not known why OCD occurs but risk factors include a family history of the condition, certain differences in brain chemicals, or big life events like childbirth or bereavement. 

People who are naturally tidy, methodical or anxious are also more likely to develop it.

Source: NHS 

As the episode debuted on YouTube, Lele spoke to Entertainment Tonight about the sensitive subject matter, explaining that she chose to open up ‘now that I’m not ashamed and embarrassed about having OCD.’

‘When I was little I couldn’t move, I was stuck in one place. I couldn’t move and my dad had to carry me around places,’ she said. ‘There are things that you don’t want to do, but your brain and your thoughts are telling you to do them.

‘I do a lot of touching, a lot of checking, I touch things, everything.’ she went on. ‘I talk to someone but I repeat myself three times and they don’t notice. I touch something three times. Sometimes I even get nervous when I say [or] do something two times and I’m like, I need to go back… 

‘Everything is so calculated, it’s insane. When it comes to thoughts, I have fear of, “If I don’t do this three times, something bad is going to happen.” And you really, really, truly believe it. It’s not normal, you know? Because I know for a fact that nothing bad’s going to happen, but the feeling is so there that you actually believe it, it’s just hard.”‘

She said that she has gone into treatment for a month at a time on several occasions and fans don’t even notice she is gone because she has content saved up that can be posted while she is away.      

Julianne Hough is a ‘deeply different person now’


Julianne Hough is not the same person she was when she wed Brooks Laich nearly three years ago after first falling for the athlete in late 2013.

A source has told People the change is what led to the couple’s May split.

‘She is a deeply different person than she was when they got married, and she is proud of those differences and changes she’s made and she doesn’t want to go back,’ said an insider close to the Dancing With The Stars judge. ‘He is the man he is, and he shouldn’t change a thing.’

New vibe: Julianne Hough is not the same person she was when she wed Brooks Laich nearly three years ago after first falling for the athlete in late 2013, a source has told People; here she is seen at home in May

No longer a fit: 'She is a deeply different person than she was when they got married, and she is proud of those differences and changes she's made and she doesn't want to go back,' said an insider close to the Dancing With The Stars judge. Seen in February

No longer a fit: ‘She is a deeply different person than she was when they got married, and she is proud of those differences and changes she’s made and she doesn’t want to go back,’ said an insider close to the Dancing With The Stars judge. Seen in February

Brooks wanted to be there for Hough, but he just could not figure out what would bring her joy.

‘Brooks was determined to make it work, but he was constantly questioning what changes he needed to make for Julianne to be happy,’ said the insider.

‘He was fighting with this for months and it was very hard for him to let go of his marriage.’

When they decided to spend lockdown in different states – she is in LA while he is in Idaho – they had time to think the marriage over.

Hard to say bye: 'Brooks was determined to make it work, but he was constantly questioning what changes he needed to make for Julianne to be happy,' said the insider. 'He was fighting with this for months and it was very hard for him to let go of his marriage.' Seen in 2019

 Hard to say bye: ‘Brooks was determined to make it work, but he was constantly questioning what changes he needed to make for Julianne to be happy,’ said the insider. ‘He was fighting with this for months and it was very hard for him to let go of his marriage.’ Seen in 2019

‘It really took the lockdown and them being separated for two months for him to realize that it is time to let go,’ said a pal of Brooks;.

‘He has been happy living by himself in nature.’

And now the two don’t want to push themselves any longer to make things better.

‘It took them a while to get here, but now they both understand that they shouldn’t spend the rest of their lives together — not as spouses,’ said a source close to the former pro dancer.

‘They are hoping to move forward as deeply loving friends forever who will always be supportive and encouraging of one another.’

She went in this bra for a thirsty selfie

And he went shirt free for his thirsty portrait

They did have THIS in common: Both stars like to share alluring images to Instagram

Another source told Entertainment Tonight: ‘It has taken Julianne and Brooks some time to find the right moment to announce their split.

‘They haven’t been happy together for a long time but needed to come to terms with the fact that their marriage was over.’

Seems like one of the problems was he loved the country and she loved the city.

‘Brooks loves his outdoor life in Idaho, wanted a more traditional marriage and to start a family. Julianne wanted a less traditional marriage, to focus on her career and loves her city life and Hollywood existence,’ said a source.

But they went in with the best hopes: ‘They truly had a loving, romantic relationship, a fairy-tale wedding and believed they would spend the rest of their lives together but within two years, their views of marriage differed tremendously,’ the source added.

She came to fame on Dancing With The Stars: With Carrie Ann Inaba in 2015

She came to fame on Dancing With The Stars: With Carrie Ann Inaba in 2015

And her fame grew: Seen with (l-r) Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, Simon Cowell and Terry Crews on America's Got talent

And her fame grew: Seen with (l-r) Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, Simon Cowell and Terry Crews on America’s Got talent

And now they feel it just makes sense to let go.

‘They have been happier apart than together and realized they had no choice but to go their separate ways. Despite truly loving each other, they just didn’t see eye to eye.’  

‘We have lovingly and carefully taken the time we have needed to arrive at our decision to separate,’ Julianne, 31, and Brooks, 36, told People together in May.

‘We share an abundance of love and respect for one another and will continue to lead with our hearts from that place.’

Dearly beloved: Julianne reportedly began dating Brooks near the end of 2013 and they married in July 2017 by the lakeside town of Coeur D'Alene, Idaho (pictured)

Dearly beloved: Julianne reportedly began dating Brooks near the end of 2013 and they married in July 2017 by the lakeside town of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho (pictured)

The duo noted in their statement: ‘We kindly request your compassion and respect for our privacy moving forward.’ 

Two days before the separation announcement, Brooks posted ‘THIRST TRAP!’ shirtless photos from Idaho and Julianne commented that they were ‘awesome.’ 

During an Instagram Live interview with Oprah Magazine last month Julianne said of being in lockdown without Brooks: ‘I don’t feel lonely, but I definitely feel alone.’

Earlier last month amid rumors of marriage trouble with Brooks, Julianne wrote on Insta Stories: ‘Never betray yourself to be loyal to others.’

Amid the lockdown, during an Instagram Live session for her dance-influenced Kinrgy workouts she spilled that she was ‘Releasing all this stagnant energy built up from what’s going on personally and in the world.’

Julianne, who has described herself as ‘not straight,’ was glimpsed in mid-April on a stroll with dashing 38-year-old English actor Ben Barnes who is an old pal of hers. 

Out and about: The couple are seen maintaining a united front while stepping out in Los Angeles together this February

Out and about: The couple are seen maintaining a united front while stepping out in Los Angeles together this February

Meanwhile that month on his How Men Think podcast Brooks gushed that he was having a ‘great’ time in Idaho with his ‘awesome’ husky Koda.

Calling himself an ‘introvert by nature’ he acknowledged: ‘I love having my dog – if it wasn’t for my dog, I’d probably be a little more antsy with the isolation.’

Brooks drew notice in January when he said on How Men Think that he wanted to ‘really explore learning about sexuality’ going forward.

However on a later episode of How Men Think he clarified that he was looking into ‘exploring my sexuality, and by that I don’t mean if I’m gay or straight.’

Brooks explained: ‘I mean like in my sexual relationship, what is my sexuality and what am I craving and what are my desires and what are my wife’s, and like, how can we have this language to feed each other in – and get everything we want and be sexually expressed to the nth degree and everything?’ 

He also said: ‘When I think of being married and being in my relationship, truthfully at my core, I don’t see any other life for me. Like that’s the life that I choose.’

Julianne reportedly began dating Brooks near the end of 2013 and they married in July 2017 by the lakeside town of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

Priti Patel says 14-day coronavirus quarantine on UK arrivals is ‘essential’


Priti Patel insisted 14-day quarantine for UK arrivals is ‘essential to save lives’ today but admitted it will hit businesses hard – and confirmed ‘travel corridors’ are being considered to low-infection countries.

The Home Secretary defied a huge Tory revolt to tell MPs the blanket rule will come into force from Monday, with the next review new due to happen until the end of the month.

With only very limited exceptions for lorry drivers and NHS workers, everyone coming to the country by plane, rail or sea will be ordered to give an address and self-isolate for two weeks, with spot checks from officials. 

While she was adamant the clampdown was ‘proportionate’ to ensure coronavirus did not spike again, Ms Patel did raise hopes by saying the government is looking at ‘international travel corridors’ to low infection countries in the future. 

But she was assailed by a slew of Conservatives, with former minister Theresa Villiers urging her to act to ‘save jobs in aviation and let families go on holidays in the sun’. 

Ex-trade secretary Liam Fox said the government’s policy contortions resembled ‘gymnastics’, and the focus should be on test and trace rather than ‘unnecessary economic isolation’. 

Ryanair branded the system ‘utterly ineffective’ saying because spot checks are carried out on the phone people could trick officials even if they were out playing golf or on the beach.  

Ms Patel said: ‘Currently, there should only be essential travel, but across Government and with the sector we continue to explore all options for future safe travel. Any international approaches will be bilateral and agreed with the other countries concerned,’ she said. 

‘We need to ensure that those countries are deemed to be safe. We are not alone in our fight against this disease, or in the measures we have taken to stop it.’ 

Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps are among ministers who have been pushing the idea behind the scenes – with Portugal this morning becoming the latest holiday destination to suggest it wants a deal in place soon.

The review criteria for the quarantine include international infection rates, what controls other countries have in place and whether ‘antibody and other testing methodologies’ can help minimise the health risk. 

Despite the resistance from business and Conservative MPs, Ms Patel was boosted today by a poll suggesting the public overwhelmingly supports the restrictions. The YouGov research found 63 per cent in favour of applying the rule broadly, while 24 per cent said it should only cover countries with high infection rates. Just 4 per cent did not think there should be any quarantine.   

In other news today as the coronavirus crisis rages on:

  • Leaked figures showed the new track-and-trace system identified only half of contacts in its first three days;
  • Labour’s Keir Starmer has torn into Boris Johnson for ‘winging it’ by loosening lockdown, saying the PM had an ‘exit but not a strategy’;
  • The children’s commissioner for England has warned that some vulnerable children might never return to school after lockdown, and ‘immense’ damage is being done to their prospects;
  • Wales has announced that schools are going to start reopening from June 29, but only for around a third of pupils; 
  • There have now been more deaths related to Covid-19 in Scottish care homes than in hospitals north of the border, according to latest figures; 
  • A study suggested that most prospective students want the start of the academic year delayed in order to secure more face-to-face teaching at university;
  • Mr Johnson has insisted ‘black lives matter’ and condemned the ‘inexcusable’ death of George Floyd but refused to criticise Donald Trumps’ response to protests; 

Priti Patel (pictured in the Commons today) insisted 14-day quarantine for UK arrivals is needed to prevent more deaths

YouGov research found 63 per cent in favour of applying the rule broadly, while 24 per cent said it should only cover countries with high infection rates

YouGov research found 63 per cent in favour of applying the rule broadly, while 24 per cent said it should only cover countries with high infection rates

From Monday, people coming into the UK from abroad will have to quarantine for 14 days to stop the spread of coronavirus

From Monday, people coming into the UK from abroad will have to quarantine for 14 days to stop the spread of coronavirus

A police officer talking to beach-goers in Italy. The UK has more cases of coronavirus per million people than most of the 15 most popular holiday destinations for Britons - including Italy

A police officer talking to beach-goers in Italy. The UK has more cases of coronavirus per million people than most of the 15 most popular holiday destinations for Britons – including Italy

A couple hug each other at Misericordia beach in Malaga. Spain has a far lower level of coronavirus infection rate than the UK

A couple hug each other at Misericordia beach in Malaga. Spain has a far lower level of coronavirus infection rate than the UK

Can Britons head off to their favourite destinations on holiday this summer?

France 

How many British visitors each year? 8.5million 

Can you visit? No. Its borders are closed to all tourists until June 15 at the earliest. Any foreigner arriving, including Britons, must go into 14-day quarantine.  

Is there anything open? Thousands of Britons have second homes in France. Hotels, B&Bs, campsites and gites open for French citizens from June 3. Cafes and restaurants are also open – but in Paris only ones with outside space can serve customers.   

Italy 

How many British visitors each year? 4.3million 

Can you visit?  Yes. Its borders open from today and there is no mandatory quarantining at all.

Is there anything open? Hotels are slowly opening from today while all campsites are now up and running. Beaches are open with social distancing and bars and restaurants are serving.  

Spain 

How many British visitors each year? 15.6million

Can you visit? No. Spain will open its borders from July 1. There is no quarantine planned but Britain is currently not on its list of agreed visitors because its coronavirus infection and death rates ‘still have to improve’. 

Is there anything open? Yes, but still limited options. Beaches are reopening with strict capacity numbers. Many hotels, restaurants and bars remain closed but are slowly reopening to be ready for the end of the month. 

Portugal 

How many British visitors each year? 2.8million

Can you visit? No, but probably soon. Borders are open but not currently to Britain. Although the two Governments are expected to agree an ‘air bridge’ meaning citizens can travel between the two nations with no quarantine. 

Is there anything open? Yes. Most hotels, B&Bs and campsites are expected to be open in the next fortnight. Beaches are fully open from the weekend onwards.  Golf courses are opening too.

United States 

How many British visitors each year? 3.9million

Can you visit? No. President Trump banned all EU visitors in mid-March but has said he soon will ‘start to open up’ to Europeans soon. There are still commercial flights between the UK and US.

Is there anything open? New York lockdown is not expected to ease until next week at the earliest – but on the west coast beaches, restaurants and beauty spots are opening. Restrictions vary from state to state.

Greece 

How many British visitors each year? 2.4million

Can you visit? No. Tourists are banned until mid-June. Border guards will test people arriving from high risk destinations. Mandatory quarantine of seven days is required. And the Greek Government has already said it will not accept flights from 13 UK airports, excluding Heathrow. 

Is there anything open? Yes. Hotels, tavernas and bars are open but with restrictions on numbers. Beaches are free to use and ferries still run between islands.  

Australia 

How many British visitors each year? 493,000

Can you visit? No. Only Australian citizens can enter – and they must go into quarantine for two weeks. There are plans to run an air corridor with neighbouring New Zealand from the Autumn.

Is there anything open? Yes. Restaurants and bars can operate with a maximum of 50 people. Pubs are open to diners not drinkers. Some, but not all, beaches are open.  

New Zealand 

How many British visitors each year? 128,000

Can you visit? Only NZ citizens can jet in – and as in Australia they must quarantine for 14 days on arrival. They will probably reopen an air corridor with Australia and Pacific islands from September.  

Is there anything open? As cases plummet, social distancing could end as early as next week – but gatherings will not exceed 100 people. Most businesses, including hotels, are now open.

United Arab Emirates

How many British visitors each year? 1.4million

Can you visit? No. But tourists could be allowed back in from July 1. A 14-day quarantine is likely. 

Is there anything open? Yes. Hotels, beaches, shopping centres and parks opened in May but face masks are mandatory. 

South Africa 

How many British visitors each year? 440,000 visits a year 

Can you visit? No. The South African borders are closed to all visitors. Experts believe this will remain in place until February 2021 with South Africans not allowed to holiday in the country themselves until Christmas. 

Is there anything open? No. Wildlife and safari parks, beaches, beauty spots and restaurants are all shut. 

Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva revealed this morning that his country is in discussions with the UK about forming an air bridge so tourists can avoid being quarantined, telling the BBC that ‘quarantine is an enemy of tourism’. 

He added: ‘During these weeks our diplomats will work together in order to guarantee that British tourists coming to Portugal would not be subjected on their return to England to any kind of quarantine.’

Germany will lift a travel ban for European Union member states plus Britain, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland from 15 June as long as there are no entry bans or large-scale lockdowns in those countries, the foreign minister said.

But Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germans would be urged not to travel to the UK while 14-day quarantine is in place.

Ms Patel told the Commons that the government was ‘taking a proportionate and time-limited approach to protect the health of the British people’.

She said arrivals will be required to fill in a ‘contact locator form’, including details on where they will isolate and how they can be contacted.

She said: ‘The form must be completed in advance of travel to provide details of the journey and Border Force will be at the front line of enforcing this requirement.

‘Passengers require a receipt, either printed or on their phone, to prove they have completed the form.

‘Border Force will undertake spot checks at the border and may refuse entry to non-resident nationals who refuse to comply. They will have the power to impose a £100 fixed penalty notice to those who don’t comply.’

Ms Patel said the data collected will be used by Public Health England, which will undertake checks to ensure people understand and follow the rules, adding: ‘If Public Health England has reason to believe someone is not following the law as they should be, they will inform the police.’

A breach of self-isolation could result in a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England, or potential prosecution, Ms Patel added.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for the Government to be clear on the scientific advice surrounding its plans to introduce a quarantine for overseas arrivals. 

He said: ‘If these measures are necessary from June 8, why have they not been necessary in recent weeks or from when they were first announced by the Home Secretary herself on May 22? 

‘And can the Home Secretary give me her assurance these measures from Monday next week have been recommended and approved by SAGE?’ 

Senior Tory Dr Fox said: I’m afraid I simply cannot get my head around the public health mental gymnastics of this policy.

‘If such a barrier was required, why was it not introduced earlier in the outbreak.

‘And if it is a contingency measure against a second wave, why apply it to countries with a lower infection rate than we already have.

‘Surely the answer lies in the government’s test-and-trace system, rather than unnecessary economic isolation.’ 

The 14-day quarantine scheme will be reviewed on June 29 to see whether low case numbers in some destinations might allow the measures to be relaxed on a country-by-country basis. 

A Downing Street source said: ‘We will be guided by the science, but the PM does not want to be standing in the way of people’s holidays unnecessarily.’ 

Health minister Edward Argar said earlier that he hoped people would be able to go on holiday this year.

He told Today: ‘I’m not going to say a particular date on when that might happen because we will have to be guided by how the disease behaves, controlling any risk of a second wave and controlling the disease.

‘I hope that people will be able to go on holiday at some point this year, but I can’t make that promise and because I have to be cautious and go with the science and I don’t have that forward view yet of how a second wave or otherwise might behave.’

Heathrow chief John Holland Kaye warned there was a danger of the ‘health pandemic becoming an unemployment pandemic’. 

He said there had to be an ‘exit plan’ from the quarantine plan to avert huge redundancies. 

‘If we don’t get a plan from the Government in the next few days on how we are going to reopen the economy, those jobs are at risk,’ he said.

‘I am going to have to make that decision in the next few weeks about jobs in my own company.

‘We need to stop this health pandemic becoming an unemployment pandemic.’

In a glimmer of hope for airlines, it has emerged that commercial flights will resume at London City Airport by the end of June.

Domestic routes will be the first to restart, with international flights ‘depending on the proposed quarantine of passengers arriving into the UK’, according to a statement.

London City’s runway has been closed to commercial and private flights since March 25 due to travel restrictions and the collapse in demand.

Leading travel operators still fear they will have to lay off 60 per cent of their staff, however. 

And the London Chambers of Commerce warned today that the policy sends out the message that the UK is ‘closed for business’.

Chief executive Paul Scully said: ‘Domestically, the Government’s roadmap to restarting the economy is correctly centred on a risk-based approach. 

‘Yet this blanket aviation proposal doesn’t appear to be risk-based. 

‘If it was, it would recognise that arrivals from some countries with much lower transmission levels than the UK and low incidence of the disease would not increase our risk, provided they adopted our social distancing protocols on arrival. 

‘The proposal sends out the message that the UK is closed for business, at a time when we are beginning to restart our economy.’ 

The news came as it emerged that nearly every country popular with Britons as a summer holiday destination has a lower coronavirus infection rate than the UK. 

The UK currently has more cases of coronavirus per million people than most of the 15 most popular holiday destinations for Britons. 

Only the US and Portugal have a higher infection rate with places like France, Spain, Greece and Italy all drastically lower than Britain. 

Ryanair says phone checks mean people in quarantine can be off ‘playing golf’

Ryanair has described the UK’s quarantine as ‘utterly ineffective’, claiming people can be playing golf or lying on a beach when telephone checks are made.

The airline claimed quarantines can only work when passengers are ‘detained’ at their point of arrival.

It said in a statement that the UK plans to allow people to travel on public transport across the country, and there is ‘nothing to stop’ them shopping in a supermarket to collect groceries before their 14-day quarantine begins.

The airline went on: ‘Once they have arrived at their ‘quarantine address’, the UK Government will phone less than 1% of these visitors but only on their mobile phone, which can be answered from any golf course, beach, park or indeed supermarket across the UK, thereby rendering this quarantine utterly ineffective and useless.

‘For the UK to be imposing a 14-day quarantine on inbound visitors when it already has one of the worst Covid infection and death rates in Europe, is closing the door long after the horse has bolted.

‘Most visitors to the UK from Europe are arriving from countries with a lower R rate than the UK.’

The data is sure to fuel the anger of opponents of the quarantine, after some 124 chief executive and owners of businesses worth a combined £5billion said they expect to make up to 60 per cent of their staff redundant if the scheme goes ahead.

Details of the quarantine scheme, which is due to come into force on Monday June 8, were expected to be revealed to MPs yesterday. 

But Downing Street confirmed that Home Secretary Priti Patel is now expected to unveil them later today, fuelling suggestions that some sort of compromise could be on the cards. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday he was growing ‘more optimistic’ about the prospect of Britons taking holidays abroad this year.  

Ms Patel will face rebellious Conservative MPs in the Commons later, warning them that opposition to the quarantine plan risk alienating the public and throwing away the country’s progress in tackling coronavirus. 

The 14-day quarantine scheme will be reviewed on June 29 to see whether low case numbers in some destinations might allow the measures to be relaxed on a country-by-country basis.

Leading travel operators still fear they will have to lay off 60 per cent of their staff however.  

Mr Johnson has been told to drops the plans to force visitors and returning British nationals to self-isolate for 14 days to avoid a ‘catastrophic’ hammer blow to the tourism and hospitality industries. 

MPs have also branded the curbs ‘ridiculous’ and ‘pointless’ after it emerged people will be allowed to pop out for food, only a fifth face spot checks, and officials will not be allowed to enter their homes.     

Under that plan, agreements between Britain and countries with low infection rates would allow people from those nations to visit the UK without self-isolating. 

Asked about the government’s policy in the evening Downing Street press briefing, Mr Hancock hinted at friction within the cabinet: ‘This air bridge idea has been floated. 

‘I know there has been a lot of discussion about it and I know that some countries have been mentioned in the media but that is a piece of work that is being done by the Home office and the DfT and I’m not going to tread on the toes of my colleagues no matter how tempting it is.’

The Health Secretary also said that all measures taken by the government, including those related to travellers, were taken with people’s safety as the key consideration.  

The new quarantine rules will allow people subject to the 14-day restrictions to leave their place of isolation for a number of reasons, including shopping for food. 

Travellers will also be able to board public transport from the port or airport to where they will quarantine, although they will be encouraged to use private vehicles instead. 

But the rules will only be in place for an initial three weeks, with the first review on June 29. 

Campaigner George Morgan-Grenville, the chief executive of tour operator Red Savannah, said: ‘By pursuing its quarantine plans without due regard for the economic consequences, the Government is choosing to ignore the devastation it will cause to companies, to employment and to the lives of all those whose jobs will be lost.

Heathrow chief warns over an ‘unemployment pandemic’ 

Heathrow’s chief railed against the quarantine place today warning there is a danger of the ‘health pandemic becoming an unemployment pandemic’. 

John Holland Kaye said there had to be an ‘exit plan’ from the restrictions to avert huge redundancies. 

‘If we don’t get a plan from the Government in the next few days on how we are going to reopen the economy, those jobs are at risk,’ he said.

‘I am going to have to make that decision in the next few weeks about jobs in my own company.

‘We need to stop this health pandemic becoming an unemployment pandemic.’

In a glimmer of hope for airlines, it has emerged that commercial flights will resume at London City Airport by the end of June.

Domestic routes will be the first to restart, with international flights ‘depending on the proposed quarantine of passengers arriving into the UK’, according to a statement.

London City’s runway has been closed to commercial and private flights since March 25 due to travel restrictions and the collapse in demand.

 

‘The quarantine measures are a blunt weapon which will bring only economic disaster.’

Ministers are also facing a major Tory rebellion over the issue.  

Whitehall sources said the quarantine plan had been championed by the PM’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings. 

But Mr Johnson is said to have been taken aback by the scale of opposition from within his own party.

Meanwhile, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said travellers should not face quarantine unless arriving from a country with a higher infection rate than the UK’s.

A Government spokesman said: ‘Our priority will always be to protect the public’s health and these new measures are being introduced to do exactly this. We have received clear science advice and the quarantine system is designed to keep the transmission rate down, stop new cases being brought in from abroad and help prevent a devastating second wave of coronavirus.

‘We are supporting businesses in the tourism sector through one of the most generous economic packages provided anywhere in the world and we will continue to look at options to increase international travel, when it is safe to do so, as we move forward.’ 

The rules are due to take effect on Monday, but a there are growing signs the measures will be scaled back again when they are reviewed in three weeks. 

The air bridges plan, championed by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, could see restrictions eased on countries like Australia and Greece with low levels of coronavirus. 

It offers some hopes of summer holidays for Britons as the nation struggles to get back to normal after months of lockdown. 

Ministers are expected to use a five-point assessment to judge which countries could be prioritised for the agreements. 

The criteria could include the economic and cultural ties to the UK, the infection rate and the level of health screening at departure airports.  

A country’s R rate of infection is likely to be the key factor in whether an air bridge agreement is considered.   

Just 23 people used Gatwick Airport in an entire day last week - down from its pre-covid average of 45,000

Just 23 people used Gatwick Airport in an entire day last week – down from its pre-covid average of 45,000

The news comes as MPs urged the government to rethink the 14-day quarantine to avoid killing off the airline industry.    

How UK coronavirus cases compare to 15 popular holiday destinations for Britons  

Tourism bosses and MPs have discussed air bridges to popular tourist destinations and countries who send large numbers of tourist to the UK.

Here is how the UK’s coronavoirus cases compare to popular nations. The figures are the daily confirmed cases of coronavirus per million people for each country, as of June 1.

UK – 28.52

SPAIN – 4.30

FRANCE – 3.94

ITALY – 5.87

USA – 59.84

GREECE – 0.19

PORTUGAL – 29.13

NETHERLANDS – 10.80

TURKEY – 9.85

IRELAND – 12.35

GERMANY – 3.98

BELGIUM – 16.82

MEXICO – 24.45

MOROCCO – 0.73

AUSTRALIA – 0.39

NEW ZEALAND – 0

Tory MP Henry Smith, whose Crawley constituency covers Gatwick, said low passengers at the airport last week highlighted the scale of the problem.   

He said: ‘It’s well-intentioned but it hasn’t been thought through.

‘It sounds good, to stop people at the borders so we don’t get re-infections of Covid-19. But I don’t think it is going to be a benefit to public health and will prolong the economic damage.’

Travel industry experts say quarantine, will cost Britain’s tourism sector as much as £15billion if it is maintained throughout the summer.

Under the plans, people arriving in the UK from Britain, including citizens returning from abroad, will have to self-isolate for two weeks. 

There are exemptions for groups including lorry drivers, health workers and scientists. 

Spot checks will be carried out on addresses and fines of £1,000 could be imposed on people breaking the rules.

But according to the Guardian, only a fifth of arrivals will be subject to spot checks. 

People will be able to give more than one address where they will be self-isolating – and will also be allowed to go out to buy food – including for pets – or medicine.

‘To get caught, you will either have to be unlucky or stupid,’ one source said.  

Like the wider lockdown measures, the plans will be reviewed every three weeks.

Former transport minister Stephen Hammond asked what the point of the quarantine was when it could be dodged relatively easily.

The Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that air bridges would be a ‘sensible, targeted response’ between low-risk countries.

‘I think the idea of air bridges are the right way forward,’ he added.

‘I think, as we’ve seen across the world, people are taking measures out of the lockdown and this targeted approach would be a much more sensible way to behave.’

The air bridges idea was first floated by Mr Shapps last month, before being played down by No10 sources.

However, sources told the Telegraph that Mr Johnson is now ‘personally in favour’ of the plan. 

Priti Patel, the home secretary, is thought to remain sceptical. 

Travel companies are offering up to 65 per cent off summer holidays – but tourism experts are warning Britons the trips may not end up going ahead.

The bargain packages are being advertised on booking sites for as early as July in a bid to salvage the season.

It came as last night the holiday dreams of millions of Britons were given a boost after Portugal and Greece said they were ready to welcome back UK tourists within days.

Tui, Britain’s biggest tour operator, is cutting three nights all-inclusive at the TUI SUNEO Odessos in Bulgaria on July 10 from £543 per person to £296. And a seven-night trip to Gran Canaria on July 6 has been slashed from £606 to £394.

Travel Zoo is offering two nights in Paris in September for £79 – up to 64 per cent cheaper than usual.

And easyJet Holidays is selling a week-long stay at Anseli Hotel in Rhodes from July 8 for £195 with flights and transfers.

But experts have warned desperate Britons to hold off booking for now.

The Foreign Office still advises against all but essential travel and there will be a two-week quarantine for returning holidaymakers from June 8.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘If consumers are keen to book something now they should go into it with their eyes open.

‘If the FCO advice is still in place when their holiday is due to take place, they will get a refund, but there’s a good chance they will be waiting a long time.

‘Holiday providers need to make it clear to their customers that these holidays may not take place.’

The UK quarantine will be reviewed every three weeks. TUI spokesman Liz Edwards said they hope it will be lifted on June 29 in time for summer trips.

She added: ‘We believe we will be having summer holidays this year, hopefully from July. We hope the quarantine will be lifted, but air bridges are certainly a possibility.

‘Bookings have been really picking up. Spain, Greece, Cyprus are likely to open up first. The Canaries and Balearics are keen to welcome back tourists.’

Airlines are also heavily discounting flights. A Heathrow to Cancun return with Air France in September, which usually sells for around £800, is being advertised for £312.

And return flights from Manchester to Reykjavik with easyJet in November are being sold for £41 (usually £150 plus), and Manchester to Dubrovnik with Jet2 from £30 one-way in late June (usually around £120).

Emma Coulthurst, from TravelSupermarket, said: ‘The 14-day quarantine measure makes holidays pretty impractical, although I have heard of some people willing to do it to get a holiday. There is a risk booking now as there is no guarantee the holiday will go ahead.’

Research by TUI revealed the most popular destinations for trips this year are Spain, Greece and Italy followed by Florida and the Caribbean.

AREAS WITH THE MOST AND LEAST COVID-19 DEATHS

According to ONS data for England and Wales up to May 22, these are the areas that had recorded the most and least deaths from the coronavirus: 

MOST DEATHS

  1. Birmingham (1,082) 
  2. Leeds (605)
  3. County Durham (567)
  4. Liverpool (529)
  5. Sheffield (498)
  6. Brent (465)
  7. Croydon (458)
  8. Barnet (442)
  9. Cheshire East (417)
  10. Bradford (416)

FEWEST DEATHS

  1. Isles of Scilly (0)
  2. City of London (5)  
  3. Ceredigion (7)
  4. Hastings (8)
  5. South Hams (12)
  6. Rutland (15)
  7. Mid Devon (15)
  8. West Devon (15)
  9. Norwich (17)
  10. Mendip (18)

And those hoping to go to Greece or Portugal this summer could still get the chance.

Officials in Lisbon believe Britain has coronavirus ‘under control’ and want quarantine-free travel between the two countries to restart from this Saturday.

Greece’s tourism minister Harry Theocharis told the Mail the epidemic was moving ‘in the right direction’ in the UK and restrictions could be dropped for Britons from June 15.

The interventions increased pressure on Downing Street to re-think its plan for a ‘blanket’ 14-day quarantine amid a growing backlash from MPs at being denied a vote on the measures.

Ms Patel will now introduce the regulations in Parliament to come into effect from next Monday.

But they will be brought as a statutory instrument, which does not automatically go to a vote. Tory MPs are expecting the government to give a strong signal on air bridges to head off an outright rebellion.

Under the plans, anyone entering the country by plane, train or boat will have to go into quarantine for two weeks.

This will apply to foreign tourists as well as Britons returning from abroad.

However, some people, including medical professionals and lorry drivers, will be exempt.

MPs among a cross-party group of at least 40 who are critical of the plans last night voiced their fury.

They want the Government to leave open the option of creating ‘air bridges’ – which would allow tourists between two countries to visit without needing to quarantine – to salvage as much of the summer holiday season as possible and help keep the hard-hit tourism industry afloat.

They say, instead of quarantine, arrivals to the UK could be subject to health checks or testing.

Industry chiefs say millions of Britons are desperate for a foreign getaway, but the blanket quarantine policy has all but cancelled summer holidays.

Former Cabinet minister David Davis said: ‘Parliament should be properly involved and quite plainly it is not. In this particular case, its very blanket policy could reasonably be amended in a number of ways. 

‘For example, our death rate is many, many times than that in Greece. So the idea of quarantining someone coming from Greece who would have a much lower risk of suffering from the disease than someone anywhere else in Britain is plainly not supported by any sort of science.

‘The idea of putting in air bridges might be a sensible amendment.’

Former environment secretary Theresa Villiers said: ‘I would very much prefer the quarantine rules be targeted on flights from Covid hotspots.

‘I appreciate why the Government is bringing in quarantine but I do think that applying it in a blanket way across the board is an over-reaction.’

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said: ‘I hope the Government will move swiftly to introduce air bridges and also to introduce a testing regime at airports as quickly as possible.’

Downing Street last night insisted it still intended to push ahead with the policy.

It has stressed quarantine will be reviewed every three weeks and has left open the possibility of striking air bridge deals in future.

But the first review period would not be until June 29. 

It comes as a leading expert predicted today that Britain is on track to have zero Covid-19 deaths by July – as health chiefs announced 324 more coronavirus fatalities. 

Professor Carl Heneghan, an Oxford University epidemiologist, expects no ‘excess deaths’ when weekly data taking into account suspected and confirmed deaths is published next Tuesday.  

The week ending May 22 had the fewest coronavirus deaths of any seven-day period since Britain's lockdown began in March. The Office for National Statistics showed that 1,983 people died in England and Wales in the week ending May 22, down from 2,766 a week earlier

The week ending May 22 had the fewest coronavirus deaths of any seven-day period since Britain’s lockdown began in March. The Office for National Statistics showed that 1,983 people died in England and Wales in the week ending May 22, down from 2,766 a week earlier

The weekly death toll in England and Wales dropped to its lowest levels since the lockdown began, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report said today. A total of 1,983 people in England and Wales died with Covid-19 in the week ending May 22, down almost 30 per cent in a week and the lowest figure for two months.  

Both England and Wales – which suffered 16,000 deaths during the darkest fortnight of the crisis in April – are now en route to the way they were before the unprecedented lockdown was imposed on March 23.  

But sobering statistics also show that there have now been nearly 50,000 people killed by Covid-19 across the UK this year, cementing Britain’s position as one of the worst-hit countries in the world. And other estimates looking at ‘excess deaths’ – deemed the most reliable measure to work out the true scale of an infectious disease outbreak – show 62,000 more fatalities were recorded during the pandemic than expected.

It comes as the UK Government this week starts to move the nation out of lockdown and back to work and school as the number of new deaths and cases continue to tumble. 

Department of Health figures today revealed the official death toll has jumped to 39,369 – an increase of 324 on yesterday. For comparison, 111 fatalities were registered yesterday, as well as 134 last Tuesday – a figure much lower than expected due to a recording lag on the bank holiday Monday.  

At this evening’s press Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the trend for daily infections is ‘broadly down but there is still some way to go’, as the total number of positive tests neared 278,000. 

Mr Hancock said the number of new admissions for Covid-19 in England has fallen to the lowest since March 20, and demonstrates progress against the disease. Daily admissions are down seven per cent since last Tuesday.  

The Department of Health revealed 324 more people had died across all settings. 

Each nation’s health agency reported their own figures earlier today – including 12 in Scotland, seven in Wales and two in Northern Ireland. These figures do not always match with the DH count because of a difference in how they are recorded.

Today’s official Government figure, which brings the total closer to 40,000, is 68 per cent lower than the Tuesday a fortnight ago, when 545 deaths were recorded following a lag in reporting over the bank holiday. 

Processes for recording people’s deaths are known for slowing down and even stopping at the weekends and on bank holidays, meaning there is a dip every Monday, followed by surges on Tuesdays.   

The weekly report from ONS said there were 12,288 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending May 22, known as ‘Week 21’.

This was 2,285 less than the previous week – but still 2,348 more than usual for this time of year.

Professor Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford said he expects deaths to be back to normal by next week. 

Asked during a Science Media Centre briefing whether he expects deaths from Covid-19 to stop or plateau, Professor Heneghan said: ‘If the trends continue, the deaths look like they will be back to where they should be normally by next week.

‘There’s been a continued reduction in hospital deaths, care home outbreaks are coming down so the ‘all deaths’ by (week) 22 I’m expecting will be back to where we should be.’

Professor Heneghan said there may be no Covid-19 deaths by the end of June – which would follow Spain yesterday. Italy is still reporting between 50 and 100 deaths per day, and France around 30.

‘But it also depends on what happens next, within sporadic outbreaks,’ Professor Heneghan said.

He warned that there will be spikes in deaths with further outbreaks in care homes, and said information on how many people are catching the virus in hospital would ‘give us a really good understanding of the spreading of this disease’.

Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, said: ‘I certainly don’t want to be a prophet of gloom, but I would urge some caution about these positive trends. 

‘The new week’s data would not yet have been affected by the loosening of the lockdown. That began to happen in the previous week (ending 15 May), though most changes occurred much more recently.

‘If any of the changes turn out to have increased infections, that won’t show up in death statistics yet anyway, because obviously there is a time gap between infection and death. But we’ll see eventually.’ 

Priti Patel says 14-day coronavirus quarantine on UK arrivals is ‘essential’


Priti Patel insisted 14-day quarantine for UK arrivals is ‘essential to save lives’ today but admitted it will hit businesses hard – and confirmed ‘travel corridors’ are being considered to low-infection countries.

The Home Secretary defied a huge Tory revolt to tell MPs the blanket rule will come into force from Monday, with the next review new due to happen until the end of the month.

With only very limited exceptions for lorry drivers and NHS workers, everyone coming to the country by plane, rail or sea will be ordered to give an address and self-isolate for two weeks, with spot checks from officials. 

While she was adamant the clampdown was ‘proportionate’ to ensure coronavirus did not spike again, Ms Patel did raise hopes by saying the government is looking at ‘international travel corridors’ to low infection countries in the future. 

But she was assailed by a slew of Conservatives, with former minister Theresa Villiers urging her to act to ‘save jobs in aviation and let families go on holidays in the sun’.

Ex-trade secretary Liam Fox said the government’s policy contortions resembled ‘gymnastics’, and the focus should be on test and trace rather than ‘unnecessary economic isolation’.   

Ms Patel said: ‘Currently, there should only be essential travel, but across Government and with the sector we continue to explore all options for future safe travel. Any international approaches will be bilateral and agreed with the other countries concerned,’ she said. 

‘We need to ensure that those countries are deemed to be safe. We are not alone in our fight against this disease, or in the measures we have taken to stop it.’ 

Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps are among ministers who have been pushing the idea behind the scenes – with Portugal this morning becoming the latest holiday destination to suggest it wants a deal in place soon.

The review criteria for the quarantine include international infection rates, what controls other countries have in place and whether ‘antibody and other testing methodologies’ can help minimise the health risk. 

Despite the resistance from business and Conservative MPs, Ms Patel was boosted today by a poll suggesting the public overwhelmingly supports the restrictions. The YouGov research found 63 per cent in favour of applying the rule broadly, while 24 per cent said it should only cover countries with high infection rates. Just 4 per cent did not think there should be any quarantine.   

In other news today as the coronavirus crisis rages on:

  • Leaked figures showed the new track-and-trace system identified only half of contacts in its first three days;
  • Labour’s Keir Starmer has torn into Boris Johnson for ‘winging it’ by loosening lockdown, saying the PM had an ‘exit but not a strategy’;
  • The children’s commissioner for England has warned that some vulnerable children might never return to school after lockdown, and ‘immense’ damage is being done to their prospects;
  • Wales has announced that schools are going to start reopening from June 29, but only for around a third of pupils; 
  • There have now been more deaths related to Covid-19 in Scottish care homes than in hospitals north of the border, according to latest figures; 
  • A study suggested that most prospective students want the start of the academic year delayed in order to secure more face-to-face teaching at university;
  • Mr Johnson has insisted ‘black lives matter’ and condemned the ‘inexcusable’ death of George Floyd but refused to criticise Donald Trumps’ response to protests; 

Priti Patel (pictured in the Commons today) insisted 14-day quarantine for UK arrivals is needed to prevent more deaths

YouGov research found 63 per cent in favour of applying the rule broadly, while 24 per cent said it should only cover countries with high infection rates

YouGov research found 63 per cent in favour of applying the rule broadly, while 24 per cent said it should only cover countries with high infection rates

From Monday, people coming into the UK from abroad will have to quarantine for 14 days to stop the spread of coronavirus

From Monday, people coming into the UK from abroad will have to quarantine for 14 days to stop the spread of coronavirus

A police officer talking to beach-goers in Italy. The UK has more cases of coronavirus per million people than most of the 15 most popular holiday destinations for Britons - including Italy

A police officer talking to beach-goers in Italy. The UK has more cases of coronavirus per million people than most of the 15 most popular holiday destinations for Britons – including Italy

A couple hug each other at Misericordia beach in Malaga. Spain has a far lower level of coronavirus infection rate than the UK

A couple hug each other at Misericordia beach in Malaga. Spain has a far lower level of coronavirus infection rate than the UK

Can Britons head off to their favourite destinations on holiday this summer?

France 

How many British visitors each year? 8.5million 

Can you visit? No. Its borders are closed to all tourists until June 15 at the earliest. Any foreigner arriving, including Britons, must go into 14-day quarantine.  

Is there anything open? Thousands of Britons have second homes in France. Hotels, B&Bs, campsites and gites open for French citizens from June 3. Cafes and restaurants are also open – but in Paris only ones with outside space can serve customers.   

Italy 

How many British visitors each year? 4.3million 

Can you visit?  Yes. Its borders open from today and there is no mandatory quarantining at all.

Is there anything open? Hotels are slowly opening from today while all campsites are now up and running. Beaches are open with social distancing and bars and restaurants are serving.  

Spain 

How many British visitors each year? 15.6million

Can you visit? No. Spain will open its borders from July 1. There is no quarantine planned but Britain is currently not on its list of agreed visitors because its coronavirus infection and death rates ‘still have to improve’. 

Is there anything open? Yes, but still limited options. Beaches are reopening with strict capacity numbers. Many hotels, restaurants and bars remain closed but are slowly reopening to be ready for the end of the month. 

Portugal 

How many British visitors each year? 2.8million

Can you visit? No, but probably soon. Borders are open but not currently to Britain. Although the two Governments are expected to agree an ‘air bridge’ meaning citizens can travel between the two nations with no quarantine. 

Is there anything open? Yes. Most hotels, B&Bs and campsites are expected to be open in the next fortnight. Beaches are fully open from the weekend onwards.  Golf courses are opening too.

United States 

How many British visitors each year? 3.9million

Can you visit? No. President Trump banned all EU visitors in mid-March but has said he soon will ‘start to open up’ to Europeans soon. There are still commercial flights between the UK and US.

Is there anything open? New York lockdown is not expected to ease until next week at the earliest – but on the west coast beaches, restaurants and beauty spots are opening. Restrictions vary from state to state.

Greece 

How many British visitors each year? 2.4million

Can you visit? No. Tourists are banned until mid-June. Border guards will test people arriving from high risk destinations. Mandatory quarantine of seven days is required. And the Greek Government has already said it will not accept flights from 13 UK airports, excluding Heathrow. 

Is there anything open? Yes. Hotels, tavernas and bars are open but with restrictions on numbers. Beaches are free to use and ferries still run between islands.  

Australia 

How many British visitors each year? 493,000

Can you visit? No. Only Australian citizens can enter – and they must go into quarantine for two weeks. There are plans to run an air corridor with neighbouring New Zealand from the Autumn.

Is there anything open? Yes. Restaurants and bars can operate with a maximum of 50 people. Pubs are open to diners not drinkers. Some, but not all, beaches are open.  

New Zealand 

How many British visitors each year? 128,000

Can you visit? Only NZ citizens can jet in – and as in Australia they must quarantine for 14 days on arrival. They will probably reopen an air corridor with Australia and Pacific islands from September.  

Is there anything open? As cases plummet, social distancing could end as early as next week – but gatherings will not exceed 100 people. Most businesses, including hotels, are now open.

United Arab Emirates

How many British visitors each year? 1.4million

Can you visit? No. But tourists could be allowed back in from July 1. A 14-day quarantine is likely. 

Is there anything open? Yes. Hotels, beaches, shopping centres and parks opened in May but face masks are mandatory. 

South Africa 

How many British visitors each year? 440,000 visits a year 

Can you visit? No. The South African borders are closed to all visitors. Experts believe this will remain in place until February 2021 with South Africans not allowed to holiday in the country themselves until Christmas. 

Is there anything open? No. Wildlife and safari parks, beaches, beauty spots and restaurants are all shut. 

Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva revealed this morning that his country is in discussions with the UK about forming an air bridge so tourists can avoid being quarantined, telling the BBC that ‘quarantine is an enemy of tourism’. 

He added: ‘During these weeks our diplomats will work together in order to guarantee that British tourists coming to Portugal would not be subjected on their return to England to any kind of quarantine.’

Germany will lift a travel ban for European Union member states plus Britain, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland from 15 June as long as there are no entry bans or large-scale lockdowns in those countries, the foreign minister said.

But Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germans would be urged not to travel to the UK while 14-day quarantine is in place.

Ms Patel told the Commons that the government was ‘taking a proportionate and time-limited approach to protect the health of the British people’.

She said arrivals will be required to fill in a ‘contact locator form’, including details on where they will isolate and how they can be contacted.

She said: ‘The form must be completed in advance of travel to provide details of the journey and Border Force will be at the front line of enforcing this requirement.

‘Passengers require a receipt, either printed or on their phone, to prove they have completed the form.

‘Border Force will undertake spot checks at the border and may refuse entry to non-resident nationals who refuse to comply. They will have the power to impose a £100 fixed penalty notice to those who don’t comply.’

Ms Patel said the data collected will be used by Public Health England, which will undertake checks to ensure people understand and follow the rules, adding: ‘If Public Health England has reason to believe someone is not following the law as they should be, they will inform the police.’

A breach of self-isolation could result in a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England, or potential prosecution, Ms Patel added.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for the Government to be clear on the scientific advice surrounding its plans to introduce a quarantine for overseas arrivals. 

He said: ‘If these measures are necessary from June 8, why have they not been necessary in recent weeks or from when they were first announced by the Home Secretary herself on May 22? 

‘And can the Home Secretary give me her assurance these measures from Monday next week have been recommended and approved by SAGE?’ 

Senior Tory Dr Fox said: I’m afraid I simply cannot get my head around the public health mental gymnastics of this policy.

‘If such a barrier was required, why was it not introduced earlier in the outbreak.

‘And if it is a contingency measure against a second wave, why apply it to countries with a lower infection rate than we already have.

‘Surely the answer lies in the government’s test-and-trace system, rather than unnecessary economic isolation.’ 

The 14-day quarantine scheme will be reviewed on June 29 to see whether low case numbers in some destinations might allow the measures to be relaxed on a country-by-country basis. 

A Downing Street source said: ‘We will be guided by the science, but the PM does not want to be standing in the way of people’s holidays unnecessarily.’ 

Health minister Edward Argar said earlier that he hoped people would be able to go on holiday this year.

He told Today: ‘I’m not going to say a particular date on when that might happen because we will have to be guided by how the disease behaves, controlling any risk of a second wave and controlling the disease.

‘I hope that people will be able to go on holiday at some point this year, but I can’t make that promise and because I have to be cautious and go with the science and I don’t have that forward view yet of how a second wave or otherwise might behave.’

Heathrow chief John Holland Kaye warned there was a danger of the ‘health pandemic becoming an unemployment pandemic’. 

He said there had to be an ‘exit plan’ from the quarantine plan to avert huge redundancies. 

‘If we don’t get a plan from the Government in the next few days on how we are going to reopen the economy, those jobs are at risk,’ he said.

‘I am going to have to make that decision in the next few weeks about jobs in my own company.

‘We need to stop this health pandemic becoming an unemployment pandemic.’

In a glimmer of hope for airlines, it has emerged that commercial flights will resume at London City Airport by the end of June.

Domestic routes will be the first to restart, with international flights ‘depending on the proposed quarantine of passengers arriving into the UK’, according to a statement.

London City’s runway has been closed to commercial and private flights since March 25 due to travel restrictions and the collapse in demand.

Leading travel operators still fear they will have to lay off 60 per cent of their staff, however. 

And the London Chambers of Commerce warned today that the policy sends out the message that the UK is ‘closed for business’.

Chief executive Paul Scully said: ‘Domestically, the Government’s roadmap to restarting the economy is correctly centred on a risk-based approach. 

‘Yet this blanket aviation proposal doesn’t appear to be risk-based. 

‘If it was, it would recognise that arrivals from some countries with much lower transmission levels than the UK and low incidence of the disease would not increase our risk, provided they adopted our social distancing protocols on arrival. 

‘The proposal sends out the message that the UK is closed for business, at a time when we are beginning to restart our economy.’ 

The news came as it emerged that nearly every country popular with Britons as a summer holiday destination has a lower coronavirus infection rate than the UK. 

The UK currently has more cases of coronavirus per million people than most of the 15 most popular holiday destinations for Britons. 

Only the US and Portugal have a higher infection rate with places like France, Spain, Greece and Italy all drastically lower than Britain. 

The data is sure to fuel the anger of opponents of the quarantine, after some 124 chief executive and owners of businesses worth a combined £5billion said they expect to make up to 60 per cent of their staff redundant if the scheme goes ahead.

Details of the quarantine scheme, which is due to come into force on Monday June 8, were expected to be revealed to MPs yesterday. 

But Downing Street confirmed that Home Secretary Priti Patel is now expected to unveil them later today, fuelling suggestions that some sort of compromise could be on the cards. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday he was growing ‘more optimistic’ about the prospect of Britons taking holidays abroad this year.  

Ms Patel will face rebellious Conservative MPs in the Commons later, warning them that opposition to the quarantine plan risk alienating the public and throwing away the country’s progress in tackling coronavirus. 

The 14-day quarantine scheme will be reviewed on June 29 to see whether low case numbers in some destinations might allow the measures to be relaxed on a country-by-country basis.

Leading travel operators still fear they will have to lay off 60 per cent of their staff however.  

Mr Johnson has been told to drops the plans to force visitors and returning British nationals to self-isolate for 14 days to avoid a ‘catastrophic’ hammer blow to the tourism and hospitality industries. 

MPs have also branded the curbs ‘ridiculous’ and ‘pointless’ after it emerged people will be allowed to pop out for food, only a fifth face spot checks, and officials will not be allowed to enter their homes.     

Under that plan, agreements between Britain and countries with low infection rates would allow people from those nations to visit the UK without self-isolating. 

Asked about the government’s policy in the evening Downing Street press briefing, Mr Hancock hinted at friction within the cabinet: ‘This air bridge idea has been floated. 

‘I know there has been a lot of discussion about it and I know that some countries have been mentioned in the media but that is a piece of work that is being done by the Home office and the DfT and I’m not going to tread on the toes of my colleagues no matter how tempting it is.’

The Health Secretary also said that all measures taken by the government, including those related to travellers, were taken with people’s safety as the key consideration.  

The new quarantine rules will allow people subject to the 14-day restrictions to leave their place of isolation for a number of reasons, including shopping for food. 

Travellers will also be able to board public transport from the port or airport to where they will quarantine, although they will be encouraged to use private vehicles instead. 

Heathrow chief warns over an ‘unemployment pandemic’ 

Heathrow’s chief railed against the quarantine place today warning there is a danger of the ‘health pandemic becoming an unemployment pandemic’. 

John Holland Kaye said there had to be an ‘exit plan’ from the restrictions to avert huge redundancies. 

‘If we don’t get a plan from the Government in the next few days on how we are going to reopen the economy, those jobs are at risk,’ he said.

‘I am going to have to make that decision in the next few weeks about jobs in my own company.

‘We need to stop this health pandemic becoming an unemployment pandemic.’

In a glimmer of hope for airlines, it has emerged that commercial flights will resume at London City Airport by the end of June.

Domestic routes will be the first to restart, with international flights ‘depending on the proposed quarantine of passengers arriving into the UK’, according to a statement.

London City’s runway has been closed to commercial and private flights since March 25 due to travel restrictions and the collapse in demand.

 

But the rules will only be in place for an initial three weeks, with the first review on June 29. 

Campaigner George Morgan-Grenville, the chief executive of tour operator Red Savannah, said: ‘By pursuing its quarantine plans without due regard for the economic consequences, the Government is choosing to ignore the devastation it will cause to companies, to employment and to the lives of all those whose jobs will be lost.

‘The quarantine measures are a blunt weapon which will bring only economic disaster.’

Ministers are also facing a major Tory rebellion over the issue.  

Whitehall sources said the quarantine plan had been championed by the PM’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings. 

But Mr Johnson is said to have been taken aback by the scale of opposition from within his own party.

Meanwhile, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said travellers should not face quarantine unless arriving from a country with a higher infection rate than the UK’s.

A Government spokesman said: ‘Our priority will always be to protect the public’s health and these new measures are being introduced to do exactly this. We have received clear science advice and the quarantine system is designed to keep the transmission rate down, stop new cases being brought in from abroad and help prevent a devastating second wave of coronavirus.

‘We are supporting businesses in the tourism sector through one of the most generous economic packages provided anywhere in the world and we will continue to look at options to increase international travel, when it is safe to do so, as we move forward.’ 

The rules are due to take effect on Monday, but a there are growing signs the measures will be scaled back again when they are reviewed in three weeks. 

The air bridges plan, championed by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, could see restrictions eased on countries like Australia and Greece with low levels of coronavirus. 

It offers some hopes of summer holidays for Britons as the nation struggles to get back to normal after months of lockdown. 

Ministers are expected to use a five-point assessment to judge which countries could be prioritised for the agreements. 

The criteria could include the economic and cultural ties to the UK, the infection rate and the level of health screening at departure airports.  

A country’s R rate of infection is likely to be the key factor in whether an air bridge agreement is considered.   

Just 23 people used Gatwick Airport in an entire day last week - down from its pre-covid average of 45,000

Just 23 people used Gatwick Airport in an entire day last week – down from its pre-covid average of 45,000

The news comes as MPs urged the government to rethink the 14-day quarantine to avoid killing off the airline industry.    

How UK coronavirus cases compare to 15 popular holiday destinations for Britons  

Tourism bosses and MPs have discussed air bridges to popular tourist destinations and countries who send large numbers of tourist to the UK.

Here is how the UK’s coronavoirus cases compare to popular nations. The figures are the daily confirmed cases of coronavirus per million people for each country, as of June 1.

UK – 28.52

SPAIN – 4.30

FRANCE – 3.94

ITALY – 5.87

USA – 59.84

GREECE – 0.19

PORTUGAL – 29.13

NETHERLANDS – 10.80

TURKEY – 9.85

IRELAND – 12.35

GERMANY – 3.98

BELGIUM – 16.82

MEXICO – 24.45

MOROCCO – 0.73

AUSTRALIA – 0.39

NEW ZEALAND – 0

Tory MP Henry Smith, whose Crawley constituency covers Gatwick, said low passengers at the airport last week highlighted the scale of the problem.   

He said: ‘It’s well-intentioned but it hasn’t been thought through.

‘It sounds good, to stop people at the borders so we don’t get re-infections of Covid-19. But I don’t think it is going to be a benefit to public health and will prolong the economic damage.’

Travel industry experts say quarantine, will cost Britain’s tourism sector as much as £15billion if it is maintained throughout the summer.

Under the plans, people arriving in the UK from Britain, including citizens returning from abroad, will have to self-isolate for two weeks. 

There are exemptions for groups including lorry drivers, health workers and scientists. 

Spot checks will be carried out on addresses and fines of £1,000 could be imposed on people breaking the rules.

But according to the Guardian, only a fifth of arrivals will be subject to spot checks. 

People will be able to give more than one address where they will be self-isolating – and will also be allowed to go out to buy food – including for pets – or medicine.

‘To get caught, you will either have to be unlucky or stupid,’ one source said.  

Like the wider lockdown measures, the plans will be reviewed every three weeks.

Former transport minister Stephen Hammond asked what the point of the quarantine was when it could be dodged relatively easily.

The Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that air bridges would be a ‘sensible, targeted response’ between low-risk countries.

‘I think the idea of air bridges are the right way forward,’ he added.

‘I think, as we’ve seen across the world, people are taking measures out of the lockdown and this targeted approach would be a much more sensible way to behave.’

The air bridges idea was first floated by Mr Shapps last month, before being played down by No10 sources.

However, sources told the Telegraph that Mr Johnson is now ‘personally in favour’ of the plan. 

Priti Patel, the home secretary, is thought to remain sceptical. 

Travel companies are offering up to 65 per cent off summer holidays – but tourism experts are warning Britons the trips may not end up going ahead.

The bargain packages are being advertised on booking sites for as early as July in a bid to salvage the season.

It came as last night the holiday dreams of millions of Britons were given a boost after Portugal and Greece said they were ready to welcome back UK tourists within days.

Tui, Britain’s biggest tour operator, is cutting three nights all-inclusive at the TUI SUNEO Odessos in Bulgaria on July 10 from £543 per person to £296. And a seven-night trip to Gran Canaria on July 6 has been slashed from £606 to £394.

Travel Zoo is offering two nights in Paris in September for £79 – up to 64 per cent cheaper than usual.

And easyJet Holidays is selling a week-long stay at Anseli Hotel in Rhodes from July 8 for £195 with flights and transfers.

But experts have warned desperate Britons to hold off booking for now.

The Foreign Office still advises against all but essential travel and there will be a two-week quarantine for returning holidaymakers from June 8.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘If consumers are keen to book something now they should go into it with their eyes open.

‘If the FCO advice is still in place when their holiday is due to take place, they will get a refund, but there’s a good chance they will be waiting a long time.

‘Holiday providers need to make it clear to their customers that these holidays may not take place.’

The UK quarantine will be reviewed every three weeks. TUI spokesman Liz Edwards said they hope it will be lifted on June 29 in time for summer trips.

She added: ‘We believe we will be having summer holidays this year, hopefully from July. We hope the quarantine will be lifted, but air bridges are certainly a possibility.

‘Bookings have been really picking up. Spain, Greece, Cyprus are likely to open up first. The Canaries and Balearics are keen to welcome back tourists.’

Airlines are also heavily discounting flights. A Heathrow to Cancun return with Air France in September, which usually sells for around £800, is being advertised for £312.

And return flights from Manchester to Reykjavik with easyJet in November are being sold for £41 (usually £150 plus), and Manchester to Dubrovnik with Jet2 from £30 one-way in late June (usually around £120).

Emma Coulthurst, from TravelSupermarket, said: ‘The 14-day quarantine measure makes holidays pretty impractical, although I have heard of some people willing to do it to get a holiday. There is a risk booking now as there is no guarantee the holiday will go ahead.’

Research by TUI revealed the most popular destinations for trips this year are Spain, Greece and Italy followed by Florida and the Caribbean.

AREAS WITH THE MOST AND LEAST COVID-19 DEATHS

According to ONS data for England and Wales up to May 22, these are the areas that had recorded the most and least deaths from the coronavirus: 

MOST DEATHS

  1. Birmingham (1,082) 
  2. Leeds (605)
  3. County Durham (567)
  4. Liverpool (529)
  5. Sheffield (498)
  6. Brent (465)
  7. Croydon (458)
  8. Barnet (442)
  9. Cheshire East (417)
  10. Bradford (416)

FEWEST DEATHS

  1. Isles of Scilly (0)
  2. City of London (5)  
  3. Ceredigion (7)
  4. Hastings (8)
  5. South Hams (12)
  6. Rutland (15)
  7. Mid Devon (15)
  8. West Devon (15)
  9. Norwich (17)
  10. Mendip (18)

And those hoping to go to Greece or Portugal this summer could still get the chance.

Officials in Lisbon believe Britain has coronavirus ‘under control’ and want quarantine-free travel between the two countries to restart from this Saturday.

Greece’s tourism minister Harry Theocharis told the Mail the epidemic was moving ‘in the right direction’ in the UK and restrictions could be dropped for Britons from June 15.

The interventions increased pressure on Downing Street to re-think its plan for a ‘blanket’ 14-day quarantine amid a growing backlash from MPs at being denied a vote on the measures.

Ms Patel will now introduce the regulations in Parliament to come into effect from next Monday.

But they will be brought as a statutory instrument, which does not automatically go to a vote. Tory MPs are expecting the government to give a strong signal on air bridges to head off an outright rebellion.

Under the plans, anyone entering the country by plane, train or boat will have to go into quarantine for two weeks.

This will apply to foreign tourists as well as Britons returning from abroad.

However, some people, including medical professionals and lorry drivers, will be exempt.

MPs among a cross-party group of at least 40 who are critical of the plans last night voiced their fury.

They want the Government to leave open the option of creating ‘air bridges’ – which would allow tourists between two countries to visit without needing to quarantine – to salvage as much of the summer holiday season as possible and help keep the hard-hit tourism industry afloat.

They say, instead of quarantine, arrivals to the UK could be subject to health checks or testing.

Industry chiefs say millions of Britons are desperate for a foreign getaway, but the blanket quarantine policy has all but cancelled summer holidays.

Former Cabinet minister David Davis said: ‘Parliament should be properly involved and quite plainly it is not. In this particular case, its very blanket policy could reasonably be amended in a number of ways. 

‘For example, our death rate is many, many times than that in Greece. So the idea of quarantining someone coming from Greece who would have a much lower risk of suffering from the disease than someone anywhere else in Britain is plainly not supported by any sort of science.

‘The idea of putting in air bridges might be a sensible amendment.’

Former environment secretary Theresa Villiers said: ‘I would very much prefer the quarantine rules be targeted on flights from Covid hotspots.

‘I appreciate why the Government is bringing in quarantine but I do think that applying it in a blanket way across the board is an over-reaction.’

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said: ‘I hope the Government will move swiftly to introduce air bridges and also to introduce a testing regime at airports as quickly as possible.’

Downing Street last night insisted it still intended to push ahead with the policy.

It has stressed quarantine will be reviewed every three weeks and has left open the possibility of striking air bridge deals in future.

But the first review period would not be until June 29. 

It comes as a leading expert predicted today that Britain is on track to have zero Covid-19 deaths by July – as health chiefs announced 324 more coronavirus fatalities. 

Professor Carl Heneghan, an Oxford University epidemiologist, expects no ‘excess deaths’ when weekly data taking into account suspected and confirmed deaths is published next Tuesday.  

The week ending May 22 had the fewest coronavirus deaths of any seven-day period since Britain's lockdown began in March. The Office for National Statistics showed that 1,983 people died in England and Wales in the week ending May 22, down from 2,766 a week earlier

The week ending May 22 had the fewest coronavirus deaths of any seven-day period since Britain’s lockdown began in March. The Office for National Statistics showed that 1,983 people died in England and Wales in the week ending May 22, down from 2,766 a week earlier

The weekly death toll in England and Wales dropped to its lowest levels since the lockdown began, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report said today. A total of 1,983 people in England and Wales died with Covid-19 in the week ending May 22, down almost 30 per cent in a week and the lowest figure for two months.  

Both England and Wales – which suffered 16,000 deaths during the darkest fortnight of the crisis in April – are now en route to the way they were before the unprecedented lockdown was imposed on March 23.  

But sobering statistics also show that there have now been nearly 50,000 people killed by Covid-19 across the UK this year, cementing Britain’s position as one of the worst-hit countries in the world. And other estimates looking at ‘excess deaths’ – deemed the most reliable measure to work out the true scale of an infectious disease outbreak – show 62,000 more fatalities were recorded during the pandemic than expected.

It comes as the UK Government this week starts to move the nation out of lockdown and back to work and school as the number of new deaths and cases continue to tumble. 

Department of Health figures today revealed the official death toll has jumped to 39,369 – an increase of 324 on yesterday. For comparison, 111 fatalities were registered yesterday, as well as 134 last Tuesday – a figure much lower than expected due to a recording lag on the bank holiday Monday.  

At this evening’s press Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the trend for daily infections is ‘broadly down but there is still some way to go’, as the total number of positive tests neared 278,000. 

Mr Hancock said the number of new admissions for Covid-19 in England has fallen to the lowest since March 20, and demonstrates progress against the disease. Daily admissions are down seven per cent since last Tuesday.  

The Department of Health revealed 324 more people had died across all settings. 

Each nation’s health agency reported their own figures earlier today – including 12 in Scotland, seven in Wales and two in Northern Ireland. These figures do not always match with the DH count because of a difference in how they are recorded.

Today’s official Government figure, which brings the total closer to 40,000, is 68 per cent lower than the Tuesday a fortnight ago, when 545 deaths were recorded following a lag in reporting over the bank holiday. 

Processes for recording people’s deaths are known for slowing down and even stopping at the weekends and on bank holidays, meaning there is a dip every Monday, followed by surges on Tuesdays.   

The weekly report from ONS said there were 12,288 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending May 22, known as ‘Week 21’.

This was 2,285 less than the previous week – but still 2,348 more than usual for this time of year.

Professor Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford said he expects deaths to be back to normal by next week. 

Asked during a Science Media Centre briefing whether he expects deaths from Covid-19 to stop or plateau, Professor Heneghan said: ‘If the trends continue, the deaths look like they will be back to where they should be normally by next week.

‘There’s been a continued reduction in hospital deaths, care home outbreaks are coming down so the ‘all deaths’ by (week) 22 I’m expecting will be back to where we should be.’

Professor Heneghan said there may be no Covid-19 deaths by the end of June – which would follow Spain yesterday. Italy is still reporting between 50 and 100 deaths per day, and France around 30.

‘But it also depends on what happens next, within sporadic outbreaks,’ Professor Heneghan said.

He warned that there will be spikes in deaths with further outbreaks in care homes, and said information on how many people are catching the virus in hospital would ‘give us a really good understanding of the spreading of this disease’.

Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, said: ‘I certainly don’t want to be a prophet of gloom, but I would urge some caution about these positive trends. 

‘The new week’s data would not yet have been affected by the loosening of the lockdown. That began to happen in the previous week (ending 15 May), though most changes occurred much more recently.

‘If any of the changes turn out to have increased infections, that won’t show up in death statistics yet anyway, because obviously there is a time gap between infection and death. But we’ll see eventually.’ 

Cholesterol levels in the UK have dropped sharply since 1980


Britain’s cholesterol levels have nose-dived over the last 40 years thanks to a healthier diet lower in fat and the increasing use of statins, scientists have said.

The UK once had the 18th highest cholesterol level in the world for both men and women, putting them at increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, but it has shed the excess and dropped to 106th and 130th place respectively.

Poorer Asian nations such as Thailand and Malaysia have overtaken Britain and other Western nations in Europe, North America and Australasia as their populations suffer the effects of globalisation. 

Despite the shift, however, an estimated six out of ten adults in England are still suffering from high levels of cholesterol.

This map shows changes in total cholesterol levels between 1980 (left) and 2018 (right). The red colour means higher levels, while the blue and green means lower levels

The study, published in Nature, was conducted by hundreds of scientists who used databanks to collect information on the cholesterol levels of more than 100 million people living in 200 different countries. 

The data taken was from between 1980 and 2018, in order to reveal how levels had changed over time.

Lead author of the study, Professor Majid Ezzati, said cholesterol levels dropped in the UK due to an improved diet where saturated fats had been replaced with unsaturated fats.

‘The decline in western countries, including the UK, has actually been sharper than the rise in Asia,’ he told MailOnline.

‘To the best we can tell, from our work and broader literature, the long-term replacement of saturated with unsaturated fats – from butter to vegetable oils – and treatment with medicines like statins have been the strongest drivers.’ 

He added: ‘Some of the reduction in cholesterol levels in Western nations is due to increased use of statins, which are not yet used widely in low- and middle-income countries.’

Cholesterol levels in the UK have dropped as more people adopt healthier diets and due to the increasing use of statins. They have, however, risen in poorer Asian nations

Cholesterol levels in the UK have dropped as more people adopt healthier diets and due to the increasing use of statins. They have, however, risen in poorer Asian nations

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: ‘It’s encouraging to see the reduction in levels of non-HDL or “bad” cholesterol in the UK since 1980.

‘Public health initiatives about the risks of a diet high in saturated fat, and wider treatment with statins in those with high levels will have made a big contribution. 

‘The result is undoubtedly fewer heart attacks and strokes.

‘However, we mustn’t be complacent or be misled by this change. High numbers of people still have undiagnosed or uncontrolled levels of non-HDL cholesterol putting them at greater risk of heart and circulatory diseases.’  

Cholesterol, a waxy substance found in our blood, is normally used by our body to build cell walls.

There are two main types known as high density lipoprotein (HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL).

When too much LDL is circulating in the blood it can slowly build up on the walls of arteries which may lead to a blockages, triggering a heart attack.

Foods containing high levels of LDL include fatty cuts of meat, cheese, deep fried fast food and processed items such as biscuits and pastries.

The increasing use of statins in western nations has helped cause a fall in cholesterol levels

The increasing use of statins in western nations has helped cause a fall in cholesterol levels

Responding to the study, Prof Ezzati said: ‘For the first time, the highest levels of cholesterol are outside of the Western world.

‘This suggests we now need to set into place throughout the world pricing and regulatory policies that shift diets from saturated to unsaturated fats, and to prepare health systems to treat those in need with effective medicines.’

‘This will help prevent millions of deaths from high cholesterol in these regions.’

The study found  high cholesterol levels were responsible for almost four million deaths worldwide, half of which occurred in South and South-East Asia.

They also found China had seen one of the biggest spikes in cholesterol levels in the world.

The British Heart Foundation has encouraged anyone over 40 to get their cholesterol levels checked, so that anyone suffering from higher levels can be treated.

William Shatner, 89, reveals he doesn’t watch Star Trek and hasn’t seen Picard


William Shatner, 89, reveals he doesn’t watch Star Trek and hasn’t seen Star Trek: Picard … and admits his run as Captain Kirk is ‘pretty well played out’

William Shatner doesn’t watch Star Trek.

The 89-year-old actor is famous across the world for his iconic portrayal of Captain Kirk in the sci-fi franchise but admits that he doesn’t like watching himself back on screen.

Discussing his iconic role in a recent interview with The Guardian, Shatner also revealed that he is yet to see the recent CBS all access series Star Trek: Picard, which features Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

USS Enterprise: William Shatner revealed that he doesn’t watch himself as Captain Kirk on Star Trek and is yet to see the recent CBS all access series Star Trek: Picard in a recent interview with The Guardian

William told The Guardian: ‘Patrick Stewart is a great friend of mine, but I haven’t seen Star Trek: Picard. I haven’t watched any Star Trek. I just don’t like watching myself on television.’

William admits that he has been ‘a ferment of creativity’ during lockdown and is working on both music and television projects.

He explained: ‘I’m in a ferment of creativity. I’m making music and dreaming up new shows – I’m trying to sell two or three series to the networks right now. I’m finishing up a blues album that I started before coronavirus hit.

‘At the same time, I’ve been working with a poet and musician in New York. I perform the words on an iPhone and once I email it he writes the accompaniment, so I’ve got another album all ready.’

William told The Guardian: 'Patrick Stewart is a great friend of mine, but I haven't seen Star Trek: Picard. I haven't watched any Star Trek. I just don't like watching myself on television.' (Seen in 1968 as Captain Kirk)

William told The Guardian: ‘Patrick Stewart is a great friend of mine, but I haven’t seen Star Trek: Picard. I haven’t watched any Star Trek. I just don’t like watching myself on television.’ (Seen in 1968 as Captain Kirk)

Shatner – who first played Captain Kirk in the original 1960s TV show and then reprised the role seven times on the big screen – recently ruled out returning to the role, as he feels the character ‘is pretty well played out’.

When asked by a fan if he thinks there might be a Kirk TV series on the way, he tweeted: ‘No. I think Kirk’s story is pretty well played out at this point.’

However, Shatner did admit last year that he would love to be part of a ‘Star Trek’ movie directed by Quentin Tarantino.

No reboot: Shatner - who first played Captain Kirk in the original 1960s TV show and then reprised the role seven times on the big screen - recently ruled out returning to the role, as he feels the character 'is pretty well played out'

No reboot: Shatner – who first played Captain Kirk in the original 1960s TV show and then reprised the role seven times on the big screen – recently ruled out returning to the role, as he feels the character ‘is pretty well played out’

William said: ‘Quentin Tarantino said something in the paper that somebody said to me, that he loved me. And Quentin, I love you.

‘If you’re going to do Star Trek 50 years later, a few pounds heavier, come on. Not a problem! Well, I’d like to do it. Whether I’d be up for it, I don’t know.’ 

If Star Trek: Picard is any indication, there is still a voracious fanbase for content from the USS Enterprise from fans AKA Trekkies.

Success! CBS All Access premiered a new phase in the franchise with Star Trek: Picard in January and announced later that it set a record for streams on the platform

Success! CBS All Access premiered a new phase in the franchise with Star Trek: Picard in January and announced later that it set a record for streams on the platform

Season one premiered in January of 2020 on the Eye Network’s streaming platform and CBS announced later that it set a record for streams on the platform.

Critics and viewers alike heaped praise on the modernized franchise and Patrick Stewarts reprisal of his famous role was also critically acclaimed.

Season two of Star Trek: Picard is already in the works with a projected premiere date in late 2020 or early 2021, however that may be pushed due to coronavirus. 

Captain Picard: Sir Patrick Stewart returned to his famous role as Jean-Luc Picard and was met with rave reviews from critics and fans

Captain Picard: Sir Patrick Stewart returned to his famous role as Jean-Luc Picard and was met with rave reviews from critics and fans 

Giant 3,000-year-old Mayan temple unearthed in Mexico is the civilisation’s ‘oldest monument’


A Mayan temple discovered in Mexico is 3,000-years-old, making it the civilisations ‘oldest monument’ and no statues to the elite hints at a more egalitarian society.

The temple site in Tabasco, Mexico, was discovered by archaeologists from the University of Arizona and an international team during an expedition in 2017.

The site, called Aquada Fénix, is 4,600ft long, up to 50ft high and was built between 800 BC and 1,000 BC, according to the team behind the discovery. 

Aquada Fénix is both the oldest and largest known monument ever discovered from the Mayan civilisation – larger than pyramids and other more recent buildings. 

One of the most remarkable revelations from the find was the lack of monuments to the ‘elite’, suggesting it was part of a more equal society than other later Mayan sites.

The site, called Aquada Fénix, is 4,600ft long, up to 50ft high and was built between 800 BC and 1,000 BC, according to the team behind the discovery

Researchers excavated parts of the massive site and were able to radiocarbon date charcoal and rocks to determine it was up to 3,000 years old

Researchers excavated parts of the massive site and were able to radiocarbon date charcoal and rocks to determine it was up to 3,000 years old

From the ground, it’s impossible to tell that the plateau where this site was discovered hides something extraordinary, the research team said.

However, from the sky, with laser eyes, and beneath the surface, with radiocarbon dating, it became clear just how historically important the location was.

Located in Tabasco, Mexico, near the northwestern border of Guatemala, the newly discovered site of Aguada Fénix lurked beneath the surface.

It had been hidden by its size and low profile until 2017 when Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan from the University of Arizona made their remarkable discovery. 

Located in Tabasco, Mexico, near the northwestern border of Guatemala, the newly discovered site of Aguada Fénix lurked beneath the surface

Located in Tabasco, Mexico, near the northwestern border of Guatemala, the newly discovered site of Aguada Fénix lurked beneath the surface

They used lidar – or light detection and ranging – technology, which uses laser-emitting equipment from an airplane to find the site under a tree canopy.

The team then excavated the site and radiocarbon-dated 69 samples of charcoal to determine that it was constructed sometime between 1,000 to 800 B.C. 

Until now, the Maya site of Ceibal, built in 950 BC, was the oldest confirmed ceremonial centre dating back to the Mayan period in South America.  

‘This area is developed – it’s not the jungle; people live there – but this site was not known because it is so flat and huge. It just looks like a natural landscape. But with lidar, it pops up as a very well-planned shape,’ the team said.

The discovery marks a time of major change in Mesoamerica and has several implications for what we know about the period, Inomata said.

First, archaeologists traditionally thought Maya civilisation developed gradually. 

Until now, it was thought that small Maya villages began to appear between 1,000 and 350 BC, what’s known as the Middle Preclassic period.

This coincided with the use of pottery and some maize cultivation.

Second, the site looks similar to the older Olmec civilisation centre of San Lorenzo to the west in the Mexican state of Veracruz – but without the statues dedicated to rulers and the elite found at the Olmec site.

The fact that monumental buildings existed earlier than thought and when Maya society had less social inequality makes archaeologists rethink the construction process those sites went through

The fact that monumental buildings existed earlier than thought and when Maya society had less social inequality makes archaeologists rethink the construction process those sites went through

This suggests less social inequality than San Lorenzo and highlights the importance of communal work in the earliest days of the Maya.

‘There has always been debate over whether Olmec civilisation led to the development of the Maya civilisation or if the Maya developed independently,’ Inomata said. ‘So, our study focuses on a key area between the two.’

The period in which Aguada Fénix was constructed marked a gap in power – after the decline of San Lorenzo and before the rise of another Olmec center, La Venta. 

During this time, there was an exchange of new ideas, such as construction and architectural styles, among various regions of southern Mesoamerica. 

One of the most remarkable revelations from the find was the lack of monuments to the 'elite', suggesting it was part of a more equal society than other later Mayan sites

One of the most remarkable revelations from the find was the lack of monuments to the ‘elite’, suggesting it was part of a more equal society than other later Mayan sites

‘During later periods, there were powerful rulers and administrative systems in which the people were ordered to do the work,’ said Inomata.

‘But this site is much earlier, and we don’t see the evidence of the presence of powerful elites. We think that it’s more the result of communal work,’ he said.

The fact that monumental buildings existed earlier than thought and when Maya society had less social inequality makes archaeologists rethink the construction process those sites went through.

‘It’s not just hierarchical social organization with the elite that makes monuments like this possible,’ Inomata said. 

This is a map of Mesoamerica - the new site can be seen in the middle towards the top of the map.  The period in which Aguada Fénix was constructed marked a gap in power - after the decline of San Lorenzo and before the rise of another Olmec center, La Venta

This is a map of Mesoamerica – the new site can be seen in the middle towards the top of the map.  The period in which Aguada Fénix was constructed marked a gap in power – after the decline of San Lorenzo and before the rise of another Olmec center, La Venta

‘This kind of understanding gives us important implications about human capability, and the potential of human groups. 

‘You may not necessarily need a well-organized government to carry out these kinds of huge projects. People can work together to achieve amazing results.’

Inomata and his team will continue to work at Aguada Fénix and do a broader lidar analysis of the area to find out more about the ancient site.

They want to gather information about surrounding sites to understand how they interacted with the Olmec and the Maya.

They also wants to focus on the residential areas around Aguada Fénix.

‘We have substantial information about ceremonial construction,’ Inomata said, ‘but we want to see how people lived during this period and what kind of changes in lifestyle were happening around this time.’ 

The team’s findings have been published in the journal Nature 

WHO WERE THE MAYANS? A POPULATION NOTED FOR ITS WRITTEN LANGUAGE, AGRICULTURAL AND CALENDARS

The Maya civilisation thrived in Central America for nearly 3,000 years, reaching its height between AD 250 to 900.

Noted for the only fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, the Mayas also had highly advanced art and architecture as well as mathematical and astronomical systems. 

During that time, the ancient people built incredible cities using advanced machinery and gained an understanding of astronomy, as well as developing advanced agricultural methods and accurate calendars.

The Maya believed the cosmos shaped their everyday lives and they used astrological cycles to tell when to plant crops and set their calendars.

This has led to theories that the Maya may have chosen to locate their cities in line with the stars.

It is already known that the pyramid at Chichen Itza was built according to the sun’s location during the spring and autumn equinoxes.

When the sun sets on these two days, the pyramid casts a shadow on itself that aligns with a carving of the head of the Mayan serpent god.

The shadow makes the serpent’s body so that as the sun sets, the terrifying god appears to slide towards the earth.

Maya influence can be detected from Honduras, Guatemala, and western El Salvador to as far away as central Mexico, more than 1,000km from the Maya area.

The Maya peoples never disappeared. Today their descendants form sizable populations throughout the Maya area.

They maintain a distinctive set of traditions and beliefs that are the result of the merger of pre-Columbian and post-Conquest ideas and cultures.    

TV reporter screams on air as she is attacked by man yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ during protest in London


TV reporter screams live on air as she is attacked by screwdriver-wielding man yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ while covering Black Lives Matter protest in London

  • Correspondent Sophie Walsh was assaulted while broadcasting this morning
  • Footage was not captured of attack but the reporter can be heard screaming
  • She later tweeted ‘I’m shaken but okay’ and thanked her ‘incredible cameraman’

A reporter screamed live on air as she was attacked by a screwdriver-wielding man yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ while covering the Black Lives Matter protest in London.

Nine News’ Europe correspondent Sophie Walsh was assaulted while broadcasting at 9am this morning, according to the Australian network.

Footage was not captured of the attack but Ms Walsh can be heard screaming and seen clearly shaken afterwards while relaying the incident to one of her colleagues.

Nine News’ Europe correspondent Sophie Walsh, above, was seen clearly shaken after the attack while covering the Black Lives Matter protests in London this morning

She said: ‘Sorry, I just had someone come up and try and… yeah. 

‘A man just came up and grabbed me. He’s not armed. A man just came up and grabbed me though.’

A fellow presenter reported the attacker ‘made motions to stab her’ with the cameraman operator and bystanders chasing him down.

Footage later shows a man being detained by two police officers and held against a car bonnet.

The network said it is unclear whether the man ‘had a screwdriver in his hand or in his pocket’, reporting he was arrested for threats to kill and possessing an offensive weapon.

Ms Walsh later wrote on Twitter: ‘Thank you for your messages. The man has been arrested for threats to kill and carrying a weapon. I’m shaken but okay. 

‘Big thanks to my incredible cameraman Jason Conduit who chased him down armed with a light stand and got him arrested.’

Thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters including singer Liam Payne and actor John Boyega gathered in the capital city today as a show of force against the death of George Floyd in the US.

Footage showed a man being detained by two police officers, above, and held against a car bonnet. Ms Walsh later wrote on Twitter she is 'shaken but okay'

Footage showed a man being detained by two police officers, above, and held against a car bonnet. Ms Walsh later wrote on Twitter she is ‘shaken but okay’

Huge crowds came together in Hyde Park this afternoon despite ongoing social distancing rules as many campaigners wore face coverings and held signs with messages reading ‘Please, I can’t breathe’, ‘BLM’ and ‘Colour ≠ Crime’.

The rally comes as global demonstrations gather pace following the death of 46-year-old black man Mr Floyd who died after white police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on his neck for nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25.

Today, Star Wars star Boyega told the crowd: ‘Black lives have always mattered. We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain’t waiting.’  

One protester wore a Colin Kaepernick shirt after the black American footballer who started the knee protest in the US. Thousands of demonstrators at times went down on one knee chanting ‘George Floyd, George Floyd.’

Police were generally keeping in the background of the protest while helicopters circled above. Banners included ‘Enough is Enough’, ‘Remember Smiley Culture’, ‘Remember Cherry Groce’, and ‘UK is not innocent’. 

Mark Wright celebrates wife Michelle Keegan’s 33rd birthday


Mark Wright led the celebrations for wife Michelle Keegan’s 33rd birthday on Wednesday as he posted a sweet tribute. 

The former TOWIE star, 33, took to Instagram to post a collection of throwback snaps from different years of their relationship.

Mark penned: ‘Happy birthday to my señorita. @michkeegan I can’t wait to… Dance with you like nobody’s watching. Sing like nobody’s listening And party like there’s no tomorrow,’ followed by a blue heart emoji. 

Mwah! Mark Wright led the celebrations for wife Michelle Keegan’s 33rd birthday on Wednesday as he posted a sweet tribute

In one of the photos, the couple wore Hawaiian costumes as Mark lifted a hula skirt wearing Michelle in his arms for a tender smooch.

Another two snaps saw Mark and Michelle replicate the Dirty Dancing lift at the reception of their 2015 May wedding at Hengrave Hall in Suffolk. 

The reality star turned presenter also posted several photos of the couple on various nights out and dancing together.

Time Of My Life! The former TOWIE star, 33, took to Instagram to post a collection of throwback snaps, including the couple replicating the Dirty Dancing lift at the reception of their 2015 wedding

Time Of My Life! The former TOWIE star, 33, took to Instagram to post a collection of throwback snaps, including the couple replicating the Dirty Dancing lift at the reception of their 2015 wedding

Sweet: Mark penned: 'Happy birthday to my señorita. @michkeegan I can't wait to... Dance with you like nobody's watching. Sing like nobody's listening And party like there's no tomorrow,' followed by a blue heart emoji

Sweet: Mark penned: ‘Happy birthday to my señorita. @michkeegan I can’t wait to… Dance with you like nobody’s watching. Sing like nobody’s listening And party like there’s no tomorrow,’ followed by a blue heart emoji

Party! The reality star turned presenter also posted several photos of the couple on various nights out and dancing together

Party! The reality star turned presenter also posted several photos of the couple on various nights out and dancing together

Mark’s sister, Jess Wright, also shared a sweet birthday tribute to Michelle as she shared a picture of the trio together, as well as her fiancé William Lee-Kemp, on a getaway to the Caribbean earlier this year.

Jess penned: ‘Oh to be on the ocean, sipping on a rum cocktail with these people happy birthday to the beautiful @michkeegan Love you loads & can’t wait to celebrate one day soon x x.’ 

The former TOWIE star also posted a picture of Michelle on her do and on a snowy skiing getaway together.

Mark’s brother Josh Wright also posted a gushing tribute to his sister-in-law on his Instagram, he posted a picture of himself with Michelle, Mark and his own wife Hollie Kane. 

Sister-in-law: Mark's sister, Jess Wright, also shared a sweet birthday tribute to Michelle as she shared a picture of the trio together, as well as her fiancé William Lee-Kemp, on a getaway to the Caribbean earlier this year

Sister-in-law: Mark’s sister, Jess Wright, also shared a sweet birthday tribute to Michelle as she shared a picture of the trio together, as well as her fiancé William Lee-Kemp, on a getaway to the Caribbean earlier this year

Memories: The former TOWIE star also posted a picture of Michelle on her do

Lovely: She shared a picture of them during a snowy skiing getaway together

Memories: The former TOWIE star also posted a picture of Michelle on her do and on a snowy skiing getaway together

While Michelle’s mother-in-law, Carol Wright, also shared a sweet birthday message as she gushed over her ‘beautiful’ daughter-in-law.  

Michelle also shared several fun snaps and throwback videos posted by her friends, one including a hilarious video of herself trying to catch a crisp in her mouth on a night out.

It’s been a few days of celebrations for the star as she recently celebrated her five year wedding anniversary with Mark. They married on 24 May 2015.  

Double date night: Mark's brother Josh Wright also posted a gushing tribute to his sister-in-law on his Instagram, he posted a picture of himself with Michelle, Mark and his own wife Hollie Kane

Double date night: Mark’s brother Josh Wright also posted a gushing tribute to his sister-in-law on his Instagram, he posted a picture of himself with Michelle, Mark and his own wife Hollie Kane

Mother-in-law: While Michelle's mother-in-law, Carol Wright, also shared a sweet birthday message as she gushed over her 'beautiful' daughter-in-law

Mother-in-law: While Michelle’s mother-in-law, Carol Wright, also shared a sweet birthday message as she gushed over her ‘beautiful’ daughter-in-law

Cute: Michelle also shared several fun snaps and throwback videos posted by her friends to her Instagram Story

Cute: Michelle also shared several fun snaps and throwback videos posted by her friends to her Instagram Story 

Careful! One included a hilarious video of herself trying to catch a crisp in her mouth on a night out

Oops! But she missed and was left playfully clutching her mouth

Careful! One included a hilarious video of herself trying to catch a crisp in her mouth on a night out but missing 

Nice: Another of Michelle's friends shared sweet throwback holiday snaps of the two

Nice: Another of Michelle’s friends shared sweet throwback holiday snaps of the two 

The Our Girl actress marked the occasion by sharing a throwback from their day with the caption: ‘5 years ago today. Happy Wedding Anniversary @wrighty_ Thank you for always holding my hand.’ 

Mark also took to Instagram with a wedding picture that he captioned: ‘Happy 5 years @michkeegan Thank you for being you, making me smile every day and Thank you for being my biggest supporter. Love you always x’ 

The reality star also got a bouquet of yellow flowers delivered to his house on the special day so that he could gift them to Michelle. 

Costume! Michelle's pal shared a fun photo of the trio dressed up as Disney characters

Costume! Michelle’s pal shared a fun photo of the trio dressed up as Disney characters 

Holiday: Michelle and Mark on a snowy skiing getaway with their friends

Holiday: Michelle and Mark on a snowy skiing getaway with their friends 

Spoilt: Michelle was spoilt rotten with sweet gushing tributes from her loved ones

Spoilt: Michelle was spoilt rotten with sweet gushing tributes from her loved ones

Glamour: Michelle's stylist was on hand to share a look at some of her outfits over the last year

Nice: Naomi Anjeska shared a glamorous photo of herself with Michelle

Glamour: Michelle’s stylist was on hand to share a look at some of her outfits over the last year

Celebrate! It's been a few days of celebrations for the star as she recently celebrated her five year wedding anniversary with Mark. They married on 24 May 2015

Celebrate! It’s been a few days of celebrations for the star as she recently celebrated her five year wedding anniversary with Mark. They married on 24 May 2015 

Scientists grow hair on mice using human stem cells 


Scientists have grown hair on mice using human stem cells in a possible step towards curing baldness.

US scientists said they’ve created skin organoids – tiny tissue cultures – from stem cells in a lab dish.

These can generate into multi-layered skin tissue with hair follicles, sebaceous glands and neural circuitry when cultured for four to five months, they said.

In lab trials, when the nearly complete skin was grafted onto mice, more than half of the grafts went on to sprout hair in a promising development for bald men.   

Currently, transplanting hair follicles from one part of the head to the other is the only option for male-pattern baldness.

The research could also lead to treatments for alopecia, the condition that causes hair to fall out, as well as burns, genetic skin disorders and cancers. 

Human skin is a complex, multi-layered organ involved in diverse processes from temperature regulation and bodily fluid retention to the sensing of touch and pain. Reconstructing skin with hair follicles and sebaceous glands has been a major biomedical challenge

‘Reconstructing appendage-bearing skin in cultures and in bio-engineered grafts is a challenge that has yet to be met,’ said corresponding author Professor Karl Koehler, a plastic surgeon at Harvard Medical School in Boston.  

‘Here we report an organoid culture system that generates complex skin from human pluripotent stem cells.

STEM CELLS: EMBRYONIC VS ADULT

Stem cells are special human cells that have the ability to develop into many different cell types, from muscle cells to brain cells.

In some cases, they also have the ability to repair damaged tissues.

Stem cells are divided into two main forms – embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. 

Embryonic stem cells can become all cell types of the body because they are pluripotent – they can give rise to many different cell types. 

Adult stem cells are found in most adult tissues, such as bone marrow or fat but have a more limited ability to give rise to various cells of the body. 

Meanwhile, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to be more like embryonic stem cells. 

‘Direct comparison to foetal specimens suggest the skin organoids are equivalent to the facial skin of humans in the second trimester of development.

‘This shows the organoids are capable of integrating with the mouse epidermis and forming human hair-bearing skin.’    

Human skin is a complex, multi-layered organ involved in diverse processes from temperature regulation and bodily fluid retention to the sensing of touch and pain, the team said. 

Therefore, reconstructing skin with its associated structures – such as hair follicles and sebaceous glands – has been a major biomedical challenge.     

Taking pluripotent stem cells, the US team created tiny skin buds, or organoids, in a petri dish. 

The skin origanoids expressed genes characteristic of the chin, cheek, ear and scalp – suggesting it will work for hair transplants.

The buds were incubated in a cocktail of growth factors and other chemicals for four to five months.

This gave rise to both the upper and lower layers of skin – known as the epidermis and dermis, respectively. 

Follicles with specific glands that lubricate hair with an oily substance called sebum also appeared – along with interwoven nerves, muscles and fat. 

When the skin was implanted onto the backs of immuno-compromised bald mice, hair loss was reversed.

Human style strands 2 to 5 millimetres in length sprouted on more than half – 55 per cent – of the grafts. 

What’s more, the creation supports a network of sensory neurons and nerve cells form nerve-like bundles that target Merkel cells – oval-shaped receptors essential for light touch sensation in organoid hair follicles.

A mouse in the lan. When implanted onto the back skin of mice, 2–5 mm hairs (right) sprouted on 55 per cent of the grafts

A mouse in the lan. When implanted onto the back skin of mice, 2–5 mm hairs (right) sprouted on 55 per cent of the grafts

‘This mimics mimicking the neural circuitry associated with human touch,’ the researchers write in their study, published in Nature.     

The skin could also lead to the development of better drugs for diseases – including cancer.

‘Our study establishes a model for investigating the cellular dynamics of developing human skin and its appendages – including sweat glands,’ Professor Koehler said. 

‘A range of genetic skin disorders and cancers could be modelled with skin organoids to accelerate drug discovery.

Top, hair follicles stained with haematoxylin. Transmission electron microscopy image (bottom) of the region marked in the top dashed box, showing hair follicle layers

Top, hair follicles stained with haematoxylin. Transmission electron microscopy image (bottom) of the region marked in the top dashed box, showing hair follicle layers

‘Moreover, they could be used to reconstitute appendage-bearing skin in patients with skin burns or wounds.’   

Dermatologists Dr Leo Wang and Dr George Cotsarelis, who were not involved in the study, described it as a ‘major step towards a cure for baldness’. 

‘This achievement places us closer to generating a limitless supply of hair follicles that can be transplanted to the scalps of people who have thinning or no hair.

‘Moreover, if the approach reaches the clinic, individuals who have wounds, scars and genetic skin diseases will have access to revolutionary treatments.’

‘The work holds great promise of clinical translation – we are confident that research will eventually see this promise realised.’ 

Several questions remain before this therapeutic approach can become a reality, according to Wang and Cotsarelis.   

WHAT CAUSES HAIR LOSS?  

It is perfectly normal for people to lose small amounts of hair as it replenishes itself and, on average, people can shed between 50 and 100 hairs per day.

However, if people start to lose entire patches of hair or large amounts of it it can be more distressing and potentially a sign of something serious.

Pattern baldness is a common cause of hair loss as people grow older. At least half of men over the age of 50 will lose some of their hair just through the ageing process, according to the British Association of Dermatologists.

Women may lose their hair as they grow older, too.

Other, more concerning causes of hair loss include stress, cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, weight loss or an iron deficiency.

Most hair loss is temporary, however, and can be expected to grow back. 

Specific medical conditions which cause the hair to fall out include alopecia, a disorder of the immune system; an underactive or overactive thyroid; the skin condition lichen planus or Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. 

People should visit their doctor if their hair starts to fall out in lumps, falls out suddenly, if their scalp itches or burns, and if hair loss is causing them severe stress.