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Coronavirus latest: Chicago adds Florida, Louisiana and Nevada to travel advisory list

Coronavirus latest: Chicago adds Florida, Louisiana and Nevada to travel advisory list

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The coronavirus pandemic will not be over by the end of 2022 unless the global vaccination campaign accelerates, the head of the International Monetary Fund has warned.

Kristalina Georgieva said on Wednesday that even if no new variants emerge, “it is so clear that we are, on the pace we’re on today, not going to end the pandemic . . . by the end of next year”.

Speeding up the vaccine rollout would cost “the same money, but have a bigger impact”, she said, advising countries with surplus vaccines to “lean forward”.

“Don’t wait for when you have already vaccinated all your people. Predict how your plans will go and give an early indication of what you are able to do” to support counties with fewer jabs, she added in an interview with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Georgieva said that the world should aim to vaccinate 40 per cent of every country by the end of this year and 60 per cent by the middle of 2022, but that doing so would cost $50bn and require “strong international co-operation”.

But that figure is “dwarfed” by the estimated $9trn in additional economic output that might be realised between now and 2025 if higher global vaccination rates are achieved, Georgieva said. “Very clearly the economic logic is there.”

The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party is self-isolating after one of his children tested positive for coronavirus.

Sir Keir Starmer and his family, in line with the UK government’s guidelines, will stay at home for 10 days.

“Keir was already doing daily tests and tested negative this morning. He will continue to take daily tests,” the Labour party statement said.

The news came just after the opposition leader appeared in the House of Commons for prime minister’s question time. Boris Johnson, who is also self-isolating, took questions from MPs via video link.

Telecommunications group Verizon said businesses took advantage of promotions as the US eased restrictions in the second quarter and that higher demand for 5G-related services helped it add more subscribers.

The New York-based company said that as the economy reopened, “business customers took advantage of promotions and an advanced communications, security and video collaboration product portfolio, creating strong momentum in small and medium business”. It also marked the first quarter of growth for large global companies since the start of the pandemic.

Revenues in its business segment were up 3.7 per cent from a year ago to $7.8bn and were flat from the same period in 2019.

In its larger consumer segment, revenues rose 11.2 per cent year on year to $23.5bn, which was also 6.7 per cent higher than the second quarter of 2019.

Overall, the company reported adjusted earnings of $1.37 a share on operating revenues of $33.8bn, ahead of Wall Street estimates. Verizon added 275,000 postpaid phone subscribers in the second quarter, above expectations for 174,800, according to analysts polled by FactSet.

Verizon highlighted increased adoption of the 5G wireless network, adding that 20 per cent of its consumer wireless phone customers now have 5G-capable devices.

Following its strong first-half growth, the company boosted its full-year earnings guidance to between $5.25 and $5.35 a share, up from a previous range of between $5 and $5.15. The company also boosted its wireless service revenue growth outlook to between 3.5 and 4 per cent, from its previous guidance for growth of at least 3 per cent.

Pfizer and BioNTech will begin manufacturing their Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa, as part of an effort to accelerate the rollout of the jab on a continent battling another wave of infections.

The US pharma group and German biotech, who together created the first mRNA-based Covid vaccine to win regulatory approval, said on Wednesday that they would work with the Biovac Institute in Cape Town.

The collaboration with Biovac will enable its facility in Cape Town to complete the final stages of production, known as “fill and finish”, while still importing the vaccine material from Europe.

Under the plan, the manufacture of finished doses will start in 2022 and aim for annual production of more than 100m.

The announcement comes a month after BioNTech’s founder and chief executive Ugur Sahin outlined plans to establish production facilities in Africa that will ultimately help tackle other diseases.

Read more here.

© Bloomberg

Coca-Cola raised its full-year forecasts for earnings and revenue, as looser coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, cinemas and stadiums pushes up demand for its drinks.

Capacity limits on public venues have taken a toll on Coca-Cola’s sales, which fell 11 per cent last year. At-home consumption of its products, which include Minute Maid juices and Costa Coffee, has helped bolster sales during the pandemic. But the company expects a rebound in the hospitality sector to fuel growth in 2021 as people begin to get out more.

Away-from-home sales recovered in the second quarter amid a rollback in Covid-19 curbs, Coca-Cola said on Wednesday. It added that while the virus’s resurgence weighed on some economies, global volumes benefited from the recovery in the US and elsewhere.

“Our results in the second quarter show how our business is rebounding faster than the overall economic recovery,” said chief executive James Quincey.

Organic sales rose 37 per cent year on year. Coca-Cola generated $10.1bn in net sales during the quarter, a 42 per cent increase fuelled by markets where restrictions related to the pandemic have eased.

The sales figure beat analysts’ estimate of $9.3bn and was also higher than in the same quarter two years ago.

Net income attributable to shareholders climbed to $2.64bn from $1.78bn. Coca-Cola earned 68 cents per share on an adjusted basis, beating the consensus forecast of 56 cents.

Coca-Cola now expects a 12-14 per cent increase in 2021 organic revenue over last year, compared with previous guidance for high single-digit growth. Adjusted earnings per share are forecast to rise by 13-15 per cent. It previously expected an increase in the high single-digits to low double-digits.

Shares in Coca-Cola rose 1.7 per cent in pre-market trading on Wednesday.

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine generated $164m of revenues in the second quarter, and the company expects full-year sales to reach $2.5bn.

The world’s largest healthcare company reported $23.3bn in quarterly revenues on Wednesday, a 27 per cent increase on the same period last year and ahead of analysts’ expectations of $22.5bn.

J&J’s shares rose 1 per cent in pre-market trading.

The drugmaker’s jab, which has been seen as a cheap and effective way to vaccinate lower income countries, has faced problems with both manufacturing and side effects.

Investors are awaiting more definitive data showing the efficacy of the single-shot jab against the Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in the US.

The healthcare company raised its forecast for full-year revenues, expecting sales to hit as much as $94.6bn including the contribution from its Covid vaccine.

Unlike BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, J&J is providing the jab on a not-for-profit basis during the pandemic.

Baker Hughes, one of the world’s largest oilfields services companies, missed Wall Street expectations with a smaller-than-expected second-quarter profit even as activity in the oil and gas patch continued its march to recovery from last year’s pandemic-driven collapse.

The company said it does not expect the emergence of the Delta variant of coronavirus, which has cast a shadow over the economic reopening, to derail the industry’s accelerating recovery.

Oil prices have dropped sharply on worries over the Delta variant, with US crude falling to around $68 a barrel today from $75 a barrel last week.

“Although we recognize the risks presented by the variant strains of the Covid-19 virus, we expect spending and activity levels to gain momentum through the year as the macro environment improves,” said Lorenzo Simonelli, the company’s chief executive.

Baker Hughes reported second-quarter adjusted net income of $83m, or 10 cents per share, missing analyst expectations of $129m, or 16 cents per share, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Revenue for the quarter was $5.1bn, up from $4.8bn in the previous quarter and $4.7bn in the same period last year, beating analysts' expectations.

The company’s shares were up around 4.5 per cent in pre-market trading.

The results came a day after rival Halliburton topped Wall Street expectations with second-quarter profits of $227m, or 26 cents per share, up from $170m, or 19 cents per share, in the first quarter.

Halliburton’s chief executive Jeff Miller also gave a bullish outlook for the sector, arguing that post-pandemic “pent-up global oil demand” was set to fuel a surge in oil and gas drilling. “For the first time in seven years, we anticipate simultaneous growth in international and North America markets,” he told analysts.

Dozens of self-isolation orders have sparked anxiety among athletes and delegates inside the Tokyo Olympics bubble over concerns they could miss the Games after coming into contact with a Covid-infected person.

Athletes who have come into contact with a person who has tested positive have been told to quarantine and train alone under strict rules. Competitors will still be allowed to participate so long as they continue to pass daily tests. 

But there is also growing anger over the stricter rules applied to media and other delegates, who have been forced to quarantine for two weeks in cramped hotel rooms under the same circumstances. 

Just 39 coronavirus infections have been identified among people coming from abroad to the Olympics since the start of the month. Yet the rules mean that many more will face quarantine.

Many inside the Olympics bubble fear being “pinged” — notified by an app designed to track the 79,000 overseas travellers attending the Games that they have been near someone who tested positive.

Read more here.

People who experienced long Covid were more likely to report depression, anxiety and a hit to personal finances during the pandemic than others, according to official data which showed that the complex long-term effects of the virus were closely related to wellbeing.

A survey published by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday showed that 30 per cent of people who reported long Covid experienced moderate to severe depressive symptoms compared to 16 per cent of those who had not had Covid-19, and 25 per cent were likely to have some form of anxiety compared to 15 per cent.

Tim Vizard, principle research officer at the ONS, said that more work was needed to “disentangle” the impact of long Covid from factors such as age, sex or disability.

“Although no single definition of long Covid exists, it is likely it affects people in different ways and research is already showing the potential impacts on physical health,” he said. “Today’s research highlights the potential for people’s mental health, wellbeing or work to be impacted by long Covid.”

The ONS data found 6.2 per cent of the adult population in Great Britain may have experienced long Covid.

Women were more likely than men to report they had experienced the condition, and in the most deprived areas 8.4 per cent of adults reported they had experienced long Covid compared to 5.2 in the least deprived.

Figures showed a correlation between financial wellbeing and the condition, with 22 per cent of people who experienced long Covid reporting that their finances affected by the pandemic compared to 13 per cent of those who had not had Covid.

People speak with health workers before receiving a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Perpignan
Vaccination uptake continues to rise in France © AFP via Getty Images

Vaccination uptake is slowing in much of Europe, but rising in France following new restrictions for unvaccinated individuals.

France reported a daily average of 0.91 jabs per 100 people in the week to July 18, according to the FT’s vaccine tracker, and vaccination uptake continues to rise despite a brief fall earlier this month. 

There was a surge of more than 1.7m bookings for vaccinations the day after President Macron said access to cafés, restaurants, planes and trains would be limited to those with health passports showing vaccinations or a negative Covid-19 test.

However, the administration of vaccines is slowing in other parts of Europe including Portugal, Spain and Germany.

Germany administered a daily average of 0.68 doses per 100 people in the week to July 19, down from a high of 1.04 doses per 100 on June 15.

Portugal registered 1.03 doses per 100 people on July 19, down from a peak of 1.45 doses per 100 individuals on July 12.

Meanwhile, Spain reported 1.01 doses per 100 people on July 18, down from a peak of 1.21 doses per 100 individuals on July 5.

European equities rallied and the euro held at its weakest level against the dollar since April ahead of a European Central Bank meeting this week, when policymakers are expected to commit to continued monetary stimulus.

The Stoxx Europe 600 share index rose 1.2 per cent while the euro dipped 0.1 per cent to $1.1763. Traders were banking on the ECB ramping up its bond-buying plans at a meeting on Thursday beyond the end of its €1.85tn pandemic emergency purchase programme.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Bund, which moves inversely to its price and determines the returns investors can expect from other European assets, fell 0.01 percentage points to minus 0.419 per cent.

This yield traded at around minus 0.15 per cent a month ago and has been below zero since April 2019 in a broad rally in government debt triggered by vigorous central bank efforts to support the global economy.

Traders gambled on its hitting zero again as the eurozone’s delayed coronavirus vaccination programme has gathered steam, prompting the ECB to reduce the pace of its emergency pandemic bond purchases and move closer to an interest rate rise.

These bets were crushed by the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant in Europe and an announcement by the ECB this month that it would tolerate inflation temporarily shooting above a 2 per cent target.

Read more here.

The Delta variant of coronavirus has a “unique strategy” to facilitate infection and evade antibodies, a preprint study suggests.

Like other viruses, Sars-Cov-2 multiplies by infiltrating and hijacking cells before bursting out to continue the cycle in a process known as “cell-free” infection. But infected cells can also fuse with non-infected cells before rupturing, and viruses such as hepatitis C that spread in this way tend to be relatively more resistant to neutralising antibodies. 

Researchers at the Genotype to Phenotype Japan Consortium found that a mutation in Delta’s spike protein, which the coronavirus uses to infect people, boosts its “fusogenicity”, or ability to spread cell-to-cell, and that the globules of infected cells formed are significantly larger than those in people infected with other strains. 

Switching the preference of viral replication from cell-free to cell-cell infection “may be a unique strategy” of the Delta variant to evade antiviral immunity, the researchers said.

Higher fusogenicity associated with the mutation might also be responsible for Delta’s heightened virulence, as well as the “unusual symptoms” it causes.

Hamsters infected with a virus bearing the mutation “showed a significant weight loss” compared with those infected with other variants, the researchers added.

Food supply chains in the UK are “starting to fail” as large numbers of workers isolate after being contacted by the NHS Covid-19 app, an industry leader has warned.

Hundreds of thousands of workers are staying at home after being “pinged” by the app, prompting labour shortages across several industrial sectors.

Prime minister Boris Johnson this week said fully vaccinated critical workers would be allowed to avoid self-isolation if they provided “food, water, electricity, medicines . . . and the defence of the realm”.

But Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, said his members were unlikely to qualify for the exemption as the bar had been set “very, very high”.

Confusing messages from government” were not helping staff morale, he said, adding that an “air of despondency [was] creeping through the industry”.

“Until now we’ve managed to keep the food supply chain running,” Allen told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “but there’s a sort of sense that we’re starting to fail on that front.”

Some production lines had already stalled because of staff shortages. “You’re starting to see that at retail level and in restaurants,” he said on Wednesday. “Everyone is struggling to get things out.”

He added that “every morning, every management meeting starts with taking stock of where you are, who’s turned up to work and how you’re going to keep the plant running”.

Insurance costs for UK motorists have fallen to their lowest in just over five years, as a Covid-related drop in claims shows through in pricing.

Lockdowns and a shift to working and shopping from home during the pandemic have resulted in a big drop in motor insurance claims. In turn, insurers have cut premiums.

The latest index from price comparison website Confused.com and broker Willis Towers Watson found that during the second quarter of 2021, UK motorists paid £522 on average for their yearly cover, down from £593 in 2020 and the lowest sum since early 2016. Motorists in the City of London and West London enjoyed the biggest fall over the quarter.

Willis Towers Watson’s Graham Wright said the UK personal insurance market was facing “one of the most turbulent times in its history” as the impact of the pandemic combines with sweeping reforms to the way that prices are set.

In January, motor and home insurers will be forced to offer the same terms at renewal as they offer to new customers, a regime shift that analysts think will push insurance costs for new customers higher. Meanwhile, the growing number of cars on the road as pandemic restrictions are rolled back is expected to push claims, and eventually premiums, back up.

© Tolga Akmen/FT

Mulberry’s full-year sales fell by nearly a quarter as pandemic-induced lockdowns hit the luxury retailer with store closures but demand in Asia, especially China, surged.

The handbag retailer reported a 23 per cent drop to £115m in the 52 weeks to March, compared with the same period a year earlier, reflecting the impact of the pandemic as lockdown restrictions closed most of its physical stores.

Digital sales, however, climbed 55 per cent to £56.4m. International revenue, with the Asia-Pacific region especially buoyant, picked up 4 per cent to £33.8m. In China they soared 81 per cent while in South Korea they added 36 per cent.

The group produced more than 15,000 reusable personal protective equipment for healthcare workers in its factories.

Mulberry also set up a European distribution facility to support online sales now the UK is no longer an EU member.

“We have delivered a robust financial performance,” said chief executive Thierry Andretta, adding that the group has made “good strategic progress” as a leading sustainable global luxury brand.

Next has upgraded its full-year profit guidance, repaid some business rates relief and declared a special dividend after trading ahead of expectations during the second quarter.

Full-price sales at the UK fashion retailer in the 11 weeks to July 17 rose 18 per cent on the same period two years ago before the pandemic struck. The group raised it expectations and predicts annual sales to increase 6 per cent, double its previous estimate.

Next expects an underlying pre-tax profit of £750m for the year to January 2022, some £30m ahead of its previous forecast. If achieved, this would be the highest level reported since 2017.

The chain attributed the surge in sales to pent-up demand, especially given the difficulty in taking overseas holidays, warm weather at the end of May and into June and the unleashing of lockdown savings.

© Bloomberg

Royal Mail says the UK parcel market is showing signs of settling above pre-pandemic levels as the habit of buying goods online sticks for consumers even while they venture out again.

The UK’s largest logistics group said that the volume of domestic parcel deliveries slipped 7 per cent to 326m in the three months to June compared with the same quarter a year ago when the UK endured its first lockdown and non-essential retailers shut their doors. But they rose 35 per cent compared with the preceding, pre-pandemic year.

“We are starting to see evidence that the domestic parcel market is re-basing to a higher level than pre-pandemic, as consumers continue to shop online,” said Keith Williams, the chair of Royal Mail.

However, international parcel shipments dived by two-fifths to 45m over the previous year because of limited air freight capacity, increased transport costs and the change to a trade deal with the EU after the UK left the bloc.

On a group level including its international arm GLS, revenues jumped to £3.1bn in the first quarter, up 12.5 per cent the same period a year ago and 20.2 per cent against two years earlier.

UK public sector borrowing fell in June compared with the same month last year, as the reopening of the economy supported tax revenues and cut spending.

Public sector net borrowing was estimated to have been £22.8bn last month, £5.5bn less than in June 2020, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday.

The figure was lower than the £25.2bn forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK fiscal watchdog, as the economy is recovering more quickly than expected in the March budget.

However, the figure was the second-highest June figure for borrowing since monthly records began in 1993, as the pandemic weighed on public finances.

Read more here.

In downtown Little Rock, a chorus echoes around the room at Willy D’s Rock & Roll Piano Bar as groups of friends clutching beers and each other sing along to the soul hit “Stand By Me”.

Yet far from standing together, the capital of Arkansas is deeply divided over how to deal with a resurgence of Covid-19. Cases are increasing, hospitals are filling up, and health officials are struggling to convince residents in the city and across the state to get vaccinated.

The pace of vaccinations in US states has become starkly correlated with politics, with Republican voters less likely than Democrats to get a jab, just as they are more reluctant to wear a mask or observe social distancing.

About 35 per cent of people in Arkansas are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and only two states, Mississippi and Alabama, have lower rates of inoculation. By contrast, 56 per cent of people in the state of New York, a Democratic stronghold, have been fully vaccinated.

Read more here

The writer is senior lecturer in statistical machine learning at Imperial College London.

It is easy to become inured to the headline toll of the Covid-19 pandemic: almost 2m deaths in 2020 as the virus swept the globe; another 2m dead in just half that time in 2021 as variant-driven waves were resurgent.

But a large and important group has so far had less attention: pandemic orphans. In a new peer-reviewed study published in The Lancet and a report released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, my co-authors and I provide the first global estimates of orphanhood — defined by Unicef as the death of one or both parents — caused during the pandemic. Given that Covid’s mortality toll has fallen hardest on the elderly, we were shocked by what we found: at least 1m children worldwide have lost a parent or primary caregiver.

As cases and deaths ebb and flow, the urgent questions of the children left behind will not go away: what happened to my father? To my mother? Who will take care of me now? This presents questions to the rest of society too, most importantly: how can we best support them?

First, we must know the scale of this hidden epidemic. Using UN fertility numbers and country statistics on Covid deaths, we were able to work out that around the world, by the end of April 2021, at least 1m children had lost a parent. The true toll may be many more — death records are incomplete in hard-hit countries. In countries with high mortality rates, including the US, South Africa, Brazil and Russia, at least one in every thousand children has lost a parent.

Read more here

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha will meet the chief executives of 40 leading Thai companies on Wednesday, as Covid-19 infections hit a new record in the country.

Prayuth’s government is under growing criticism for its handling of the pandemic, including its slow rollout of vaccines and delayed response to the risks posed by the Delta variant. 

The Bangkok Post reported the meeting would begin at 2pm and include executives from oil and gas group PTT, duty free retailer King Power and others “who have requested to donate money and basic necessities to support the government’s fight against Covid-19”. 

Reported new coronavirus infections reached a record of 13,002 on Wednesday, with 108 new fatalities. The Thai government from Monday imposed its toughest restrictions on movement and business openings since early 2020, but has been criticised for failing to lock down in April, when the current spike in infections began. 

Thailand’s central bank last month cut its GDP forecast for growth in south-east Asia’s second-largest economy this year from 3 per cent to 1.8 per cent due to the impact of the virus.

South-east Asia’s crucial technology supply chain has been hit by record levels of Covid-19 infections, a development that could exacerbate a global shortage of chips.

Malaysia and Vietnam, economies that play critical roles in producing electronics as well as packaging and testing components that go in everything from vehicles to smartphones, are facing their worst outbreaks since the pandemic began.

The situation threatens to further squeeze the global technology supply chain, particularly for products that require semiconductors. The chip sector has been slammed by the confluence of a worldwide shortage and surging demand as lockdowns restrict people to their homes.

South-east Asia is a significant player in terms of its role in making passive components, which include the resistors and capacitors used in smartphones and other products, said Gokul Hariharan, co-head of Asia technology, media and telecoms research at JPMorgan. About 15 per cent to 20 per cent of global passive components are made in the region, according to the bank.

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Netflix lost 430,000 subscribers in the US and Canada in the second quarter and issued weaker than expected forecasts for later in the year, rekindling investor doubts over how the streaming group will fare after the economic reopening.

The California-based company predicted it would add 3.5m subscribers in the third quarter, disappointing investors who were looking for a stronger rebound in the second half of this year. Analysts had forecast that Netflix would add 5.9m subscribers during the third quarter.

In the past year and a half, Disney, Apple, WarnerMedia, Comcast and others have launched streaming platforms, and there are now more than 100 streaming services to choose from, according to data company Ampere.

Yet on a call for investors, executives dismissed the idea that intensifying competition was behind the weaker than hoped figures.

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The UK chancellor will have virtually no space to make new long-term commitments in this autumn’s spending settlement, even though tax revenues are rebounding faster than expected on the back of an improving economic outlook, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said on Wednesday.

The think-tank published new projections for the public finances, based on economic forecasts by Citi, showing that public borrowing in 2021-22 could come in £30bn lower than the £234bn forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility at the time of the March Budget.

This would make it possible for Rishi Sunak to announce a “sizeable short-term giveaway”, while still staying on the path for borrowing set out in March, the IFS said.

But it warned that there had been no improvement in the medium-term outlook for the public finances, with Citi’s forecasts suggesting the economy would be 3 per cent smaller in cash terms by the middle of the decade than if it had continued on its pre-pandemic trajectory.

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Mitch McConnell has urged hesitant Americans to ignore “voices” spreading “bad advice” and get vaccinated, in the hope the US can avoid a repeat of its deadly third wave of the pandemic.

“It never occurred to me, after reading how these effective vaccines were developed in under a year, that we’d have difficulty having Americans take the shot, but that’s obviously where we are,” the Republican leader in the Senate said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Having suffered from polio as a young child, McConnell said his advocacy for Covid-19 vaccines and treatment came with “some authority”. He has been urging Americans, including members of his own party, to get vaccinated since the early stages of the country’s vaccine rollout.

“It is not at all unclear that the way to avoid getting back in the hospital is to get vaccinated. I want to encourage everybody to do that and to ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice,” he said.

The role of misinformation in making people hesitant to get vaccinated or take public health precautions like mask-wearing has been dragged into the spotlight this month. The US surgeon general said last week that social media had contributed to the faster spread of misinformation.

President Joe Biden on Friday said Facebook was “killing people”, but clarified on Monday the company should “do something about the outrageous misinformation” about coronavirus on its platform and not take his criticism personally.

McConnell said 97 per cent of people who were now in US hospitals being treated for Covid-19 were unvaccinated, echoing comments late last week from the head of the US’s top public health agency that this was turning into an “pandemic of the unvaccinated”.

“These shots need to get in everybody’s arm as rapidly as possible or we’re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don’t yearn for that we went through last year,” McConnell warned.

Passengers returning to England from countries on the government’s “green” and “amber” travel lists may no longer face extensive checks on their Covid documentation, according to a trade union representing border staff.

Border Force agents at main airports and ports have received a new instruction not to conduct full checks on those passengers’ paperwork, the ISU said.

“It does appear that Border Force staff, at least at major locations, have been told not to check for Covid-secure documentation,” the union said. Instead, the onus will be on airlines to check that passengers have completed the correct paperwork and tested negative for Covid-19 before they travel.

Labour criticised the move and said the government had displayed “staggering incompetence” at the border. Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, told the BBC ministers “must urgently get a grip”. 

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Chipotle predicted strong sales in the third quarter after price increases bolstered earnings and demand for tacos and burrito bowls helped push up revenues by more than a third.

The restaurant chain, which has benefited as consumers order more meals for pick-up and delivery during the pandemic, said strength in digital sales and the recovery in dine-in service fuelled growth in the three months to the end of June.

Higher menu prices boosted Chipotle’s bottom line by helping the company overcome an increase in costs tied to new menu items and avocados, as well as wage inflation for one month of the quarter.

Chipotle forecast that third-quarter comparable sales will rise in the low- to mid-double digits on a percentage basis. That eclipsed analysts’ average estimate of 9.7 per cent growth year on year.

For the second quarter, Chipotle reported a 10.5 per cent increase in digital sales, a little more than half of which came from customers ordering ahead.

Revenue totalled $1.9bn, a gain of 38.7 per cent against the year-ago quarter. Comparable sales were up 31.2 per cent. Both measures came in higher than analysts had anticipated.

Net income rose to $188m from $8.2m. Chipotle earned $7.46 per share when excluding some costs, beating Wall Street’s $6.52-per-share forecast.

Costs related to food, beverages and packaging totalled 30.4 per cent of revenue, down nearly three percentage points from the second quarter last year. Restaurant-level operating margins climbed to 24.5 per cent from 12.2 per cent.

Shares in Chipotle rose more than 4 per cent in after-hours trading on Tuesday.

United Airlines posted another loss on Tuesday, while forecasting a return to profitability in the third quarter.

The Chicago company reported a net loss of $434m for the second quarter. That was almost four times smaller than the airline’s second quarter loss a year ago, but still far away from the $1.1bn in net income it earned in the same period two years ago.

The Covid-19 pandemic hammered carriers worldwide, and United, with its emphasis on business and international travel, has been particularly exposed. The previous time the carrier turned a quarterly profit was in the fourth quarter of 2019.

United Airlines reported a net loss of $434m for the second quarter © REUTERS

Rival Delta Air Lines last week posted second quarter net income of $652m, as US travellers returned to the skies in increasing numbers over the spring and summer.

United reported operating revenue of $5.5bn, down 52 per cent from the same period in 2019.

The company said its performance “largely exceeded original expectations as international long haul and business travel accelerated even faster than anticipated”, and it was able to command higher fares from travellers. United expects “a full recovery in demand” by 2023.

Chicago has expanded the number of states on its travel advisory list and placed new restrictions on unvaccinated travellers from Florida, Louisiana and Nevada, which are experiencing some of the highest rates of infection in the US.

The three states, and the US Virgin Islands, now have daily infection rates exceeding the threshold of 15 per 100,000 residents that triggers a state’s or territory’s addition to Chicago’s travel advisory list.

The latest announcement from Chicago’s public health department comes a week after Missouri and Arkansas were added to the list due to an increase in Covid-19 cases there. The pair marked the first additions to the list since early June.

The advisory requests that any unvaccinated travellers from these states and territory “are advised – not required – to obtain a negative Covid-19 test result no more than 72 hours prior to arrival in Chicago or quarantine for a 10-day period upon arrival.”

Bar chart of Seven-day average of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people showing US states and territories with the highest daily Covid infection rates

The addition of Louisiana alongside Missouri and Arkansas means all states west of the Mississippi River and below Illinois are now subject to the advisory.

In the four weeks ended June 19, the highly-transmissible Delta variant made up 74.6 per cent of sequenced genomes in Missouri and 44.1 per cent of sequences in Nevada, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These were the highest levels of Delta strain prevalence among US states.

Florida, the third-most populous state in the US, accounted for one in five new coronavirus cases in the US over the past week, according to CDC data.

Business urged the UK government to “get control” on Tuesday after ministers clashed over self-isolation advice and Downing Street refused to produce a list of roles in which people could keep going to work even if “pinged” by the NHS app. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that critical workers with two jabs would be able to avoid self-isolation if they provided — for example — “food, water, electricity, medicines … the defence of the realm”.

Renewed tests of blood samples collected in Italy as early as October 2019 have revived a debate over whether coronavirus was circulating in Europe before China confirmed the first case in Wuhan. Scientists from Milan’s Istituto Nazionale Tumori, a cancer research centre, wrote in a new paper that retesting of a small number of pre-pandemic blood samples by two laboratories had indicated the presence of antibodies normally observed after coronavirus infections.

Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London is selling 200 of its standing-only tickets in the wake of the relaxed coronavirus rules in England. The £5 tickets for the ground in front of the stage, aimed at capturing the atmosphere of the English playwright’s day, will be for performances from the opening night of Twelfth Night on July 29.

Anthony Fauci indicated the top US public health agency was reviewing its guidelines for children wearing masks in the classroom, regardless of vaccination status. Fauci sought to clear up confusion as education officials in several cities and states indicate that masks will, or may, be required in schools because they are unable to meet health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that would exempt fully vaccinated individuals from wearing face coverings.

US health officials on Tuesday said the more contagious Delta variant accounts for more than 80 per cent of new coronavirus cases in the country and urged Americans to get vaccinated noting it is “the most powerful tool we have”. “[The] CDC has released estimates of variants across the country and predicted the Delta variant now represents 83 per cent of sequenced cases,” Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in testimony before the Senate health committee.

Indonesia is currently battling the worst coronavirus outbreak in south-east Asia © REUTERS

Indonesia is extending distancing measures implemented at the beginning of the month in an effort to contain a severe Covid-19 wave that has pushed its healthcare sector to the brink. Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president, lengthened restrictions that were meant to end on Tuesday until Sunday as south-east Asia’s largest economy fights the worst outbreak in the region.

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