HERE'S everything you need to know about the pandemic.

  • The Government said a further 11 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 127,640. Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have been 152,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. The Government also said that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 2,284 lab-confirmed cases in the UK. It brings the total to 4,441,975.
  • People aged 38 to 39 in England will be able to book Covid-19 vaccinations from this morning. The vaccine rollout will continue to younger age groups, with the aim of giving all adults at least one dose by the end of July, NHS sources told the PA news agency. People under 40 are being offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
  • The Government will set up an independent public inquiry with statutory powers into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Boris Johnson has said. The Prime Minister told MPs the inquiry, which was welcomed by some bereaved families, will begin in spring 2022 and will place “the state’s actions under the microscope”. The inquiry will be able to take oral evidence under oath, he said, adding that the state has an obligation “to learn every lesson for the future”. It comes as a damning report from the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO), said a quicker international response could have stopped the 2019 Covid-19 outbreak in China becoming a global catastrophe.
  • The “lethal danger” posed by coronavirus variants could lead to a new wave of disease worse than that endured by the UK in January, Boris Johnson has warned. The Prime Minister stressed the need for caution and vigilance as lockdown eased, highlighting particular concern about the Indian variant which experts believe could be even more transmissible than the Kent strain which swept across the UK. Even without the prospect of a deadly new variant which could escape the vaccines currently being used, Mr Johnson said there was a “high likelihood” of a seasonal surge in coronavirus cases in the winter. Mr Johnson warned that “new variants pose a potentially lethal danger, including the one first identified in India which is of increasing concern here in the UK”.
  • It comes as customers of a popular Tyneside bar have been asked to take a Covid-19 test after a case of the Indian variant was linked to the premises. Anyone who visited Allard’s Lounge in Tynemouth between April 23 and May 3 has been urged to book a PCR test. Public Health England and North Tyneside Council said “one of the cases in an outbreak linked to the premises has been identified as having the Indian variant”.
  • The NHS contact tracing app for England and Wales prevented at least 100,000 Covid-19 infections between October and December last year, a new study suggests. Researchers analysing data collected from the app estimate that somewhere between 100,000 and just over 900,000 cases of Covid-19 were prevented by the app’s exposure notifications. The study, which has been published in Nature, says that the contract tracing app sent around 1.7 million exposure notifications in the last three months of 2020, as a result of 560,000 app users testing positive.
  • Boris Johnson has backed plans for a coronavirus memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral and will establish a new commission on Covid commemoration to mark the sacrifices of millions across the country. The Prime Minister said it is important to tell “the whole story of this era in our history”, remembering the thousands who have died but also celebrating those who helped the country get through the crisis. He told MPs there is a “solemn duty” on the whole United Kingdom to “come together and cherish the memories of all those who have been lost”.
  • There have been a further 91 confirmed Covid cases across the region in the last 24 hours. Here's a regional breakdown of the number of cases recorded since the pandemic began:

County Durham: 38,224 was 38,219

Darlington: 7,583 was 7,581

Gateshead: 13,825 was 13,824

Hartlepool 8,947 was 8,944

Middlesbrough: 12,597 was 12,586

Newcastle: 23,868 was 23,847

North Yorkshire: 30,081 was 30,066

North Tyneside: 12,603 was 12,594

Redcar and Cleveland: 9,360 was 9,359

South Tyneside: 11,403 was 11,401

Stockton-on-Tees: 16,016 was 16,011

Sunderland: 22,171 was 22,163

York: 12,329 was 12,321