image caption“Touched by hope” is how the Daily Mirror describes scenes of emotional reunions seen across England, Wales and most of Scotland on Monday – with some of them pictured on its front page – as Covid restrictions were eased. The paper says the relaxation of the rules – which saw the return of hugs with loved ones and indoor socialising – brought “joy for millions”.
image captionA pony enjoying a pint of lager inside a pub is the ultimate sign that Britain “is back in business”, according to the Daily Star’s take on Monday’s lockdown easing.
image captionAs the first passengers flew abroad on Monday after the lifting of the government’s foreign travel ban, the Daily Telegraph’s splash reports that British tourists are shortly set to be given the “green light” by the EU to use vaccine passports to travel to Europe. The paper says that EU ambassadors are set to approve a plan on Wednesday that would allow fully vaccinated Britons to fly to popular hotspots such as France, Italy and Spain, without having to take a Covid test or quarantine. But it points that whilst the plan would see the EU accept passengers based on their vaccination status, the UK “confers no such status” on those who have had the jab, and still requires testing or quarantine for all returning holidaymakers.
image captionThe Times’ splash reports that ministers are weighing up plans for local lockdowns, or a delay to the planned easing of restrictions, on 21 June amid concern over the Indian variant. Under one proposal, modelled on last year’s Tier 4 restrictions, the paper says people would be advised to stay at home and non-essential retail and hospitality would be closed if the variant wasn’t brought under control. An alternative plan, focused on a delay to the June unlocking, would see grants handed out to the worst-hit sectors such as nightclubs and for large events like festivals. A source tells the paper that local lockdowns could lead to a “patchwork” of restrictions across the country that people would ignore.
image captionThe i says that new advice on mask wearing and social distancing will be “delayed” as scientists “want more time” to consider the risk posed by the Indian Covid variant – a setback the paper says will be a “huge blow” for the arts and hospitality industries as they welcomed back customers to indoor spaces on Monday.
image captionThe Guardian says that as the “rapid spread” of the Indian variant puts the end of lockdown in “jeopardy”, the government is facing “intense pressure” to “more fully explain” the delay in adding India to its travel red list of countries.
image captionBut the Daily Mail’s splash says Boris Johnson has been urged by his MPs not to delay the planned unlocking in June over a “few” vaccine “refuseniks”. A cabinet minister tells the paper that missing the “milestone” date could become the prime minister’s “Theresa May moment” – a nod, it says, to her “failed Brexit deadline”. The June “freedom date is burned on people’s brains” much like Mrs May’s date for leaving the EU, the source says, adding: “When she missed it, she was finished”.
image captionThe Metro’s lead reports that thousands of Covid vaccine “sceptics” have “changed their minds” and been “queuing round the block” for a jab in areas worst hit by the surge of the Indian variant. More than 6,200 people were vaccinated over the weekend in Bolton – where the B.1.617.2 variant is now dominant. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is quoted as saying that most people in hospital in Bolton with this variant had been eligible for a jab but had chosen not to have it.
image captionLike other papers, the Daily Express reports Mr Hancock’s appeal to the public to get vaccinated in order to beat the Indian variant and help end all restrictions by June.
image captionThe Financial Times’ lead reports that ministers are locked in a “ferocious” battle over whether to give tariff-free access to Australian farmers as part of a “major” post-Brexit trade deal with Australia. Sources familiar with the internal talks have told the paper that the International Trade Secretary Liz Truss regards the issue as a “crunch point” but is being met with “stiff opposition” from Environment Secretary George Eustice and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove. The FT reports a zero-tariff deal risks a “backlash” from the British farming industry and “inflaming” arguments over Scottish and Welsh independence as tariff-free imports of Australian lamb and beef would “likely” hit Scottish and Welsh hill farms.