Day: 5 June 2021

Foreign Fans Visiting Britain for Euro 2020 Games Will Not Be Exempt From Travel Rules

There are currently no plans for foreign fans visiting Britain for Euro 2020 games to be exempt from travel restrictions, meaning those coming from countries on the Government’s “Amber List” will have to quarantine for 10 days. The Mail has the story.

Tournament Director Martin Kallen revealed on Friday that talks between UEFA and the Government were ongoing to allow those key matches to be attended by foreign spectators without the need for a lengthy quarantine period.

But a Government spokesperson said: “Overseas ticket holders will be able to watch Euro 2020 matches at Wembley but will be subject to travel restrictions and requirements in England and at their place of origin, including testing and quarantining. There are no plans to change travel exemptions for ticket holders.

“We continue to work very closely with the FA and UEFA to support a fantastic Euros and to communicate the latest travel guidance to fans. We will keep this under review over the course of the tournament.”

Wembley will host the semi-finals and the final along with two last-16 matches.

The U.K. has the toughest entry requirements of any of the host countries, requiring visitors from Amber List countries to quarantine for 10 days on arrival.

Travel between the other host nations – particularly other European Union countries – is largely possible with proof of a recent negative PCR test.

Kallen said: “We are in a dialogue with the Government, we are looking at what’s possible.

“The Prime Minister and the British Government said June 21st would be the date when in principle everything should go back to normal. And if it goes back to normal, what will the rules say for foreigners to come to the U.K. who are not on a business trip?

“We are in a dialogue and we hope that we can achieve something if the situation allows it, that something could happen on that side.” …

Government sources had previously said it was unlikely that the current restrictions will be eased at any stage of the tournament with the country at such a decisive stage of its unlocking programme. 

Worth reading in full.

U.K. Pubs’ Turnover 20% Down on Pre-Lockdown Levels Due to Continuing Government Restrictions

The reopening of pubs indoors last month has been hampered by the continuation of Government restrictions on the hospitality sector, particularly social distancing, which has resulted in a 20% slump in trade compared with pre-lockdown levels. This fall has come in spite of the reopening of between 90-95% of pubs since May 17th, although the cost of a pint has increased in many pubs. The Guardian has the story.

Pub owners have warned that despite welcoming customers back indoors from May 17th, and a boom in table bookings for restaurants and bars, turnover in the first week of reopening was 20% lower than in the same week in 2019 because of Government restrictions and physical distancing measures.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), which carried out the survey of publicans representing 7,000 pubs across the country, said the Government’s rules to limit the spread of the coronavirus had continued to make the businesses “unviable”.

Drinks sales initially soared to almost double the pre-pandemic when pubs first opened for business again in April outdoors, according to industry data, but the pub industry has blamed physical distancing measures for the punters’ muted response to the reopening of indoor spaces.

Under the Government’s current rules, pubs are limited to providing table service to limited group sizes of up to six people and cannot allow punters to drink at the bar or standing. They are also required to keep people at least one metre apart and ensure face masks are worn at all times, except when outdoors or seated inside.

The BBPA has warned that unless restrictions are removed in line with the Government’s June 21st timeline, the average pub would need to sell more than 24,672 extra pints over a year to make up for their loss in turnover.

The pub association’s survey revealed that across the week of May 17th turnover was at 80% of the same period in 2019 despite 95% of U.K. pubs, or about 45,000 venues, reopening to trade. The association estimates that if trade continues to stay at 80% of normal, the average pub would lose £94,000 in turnover over a year.

Emma McClarkin, the Chief Executive of the BBPA, warned that turnover may even fall further if the early enthusiasm to return to the local pub begins to wane because of the coronavirus restrictions.

It is a big blow to the industry, therefore, that the Government is considering keeping social distancing guidelines in place after the June 21st “Freedom Day”.

Worth reading in full.

School Leaders Say Children Should Be Vaccinated before the Start of the Summer Holidays

Following the approval of the use of the Pfizer vaccine in those aged 12-15 by the U.K. medicines regulator, school leaders have called on the Government to vaccinate schoolchildren against Covid before the start of the summer holidays. Their hope is that pupils will be fully vaccinated before returning to the classroom in September. The MailOnline has the story.

Ministers have asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) whether to give the jab to teenagers – the current rollout is set to stop at age 18 except for children with serious health conditions. 

The JCVI – which normally rules who should get a vaccine – is expected to tell Number 10 that jabbing children is a “political” decision and will leave the ball in ministers’ court. 

Teaching unions and school leaders today said starting vaccinating children soon could ensure they have had both jabs by the time they start the school year in September.

But vaccinating children against the virus is a controversial issue because youngsters only have a tiny risk of getting seriously ill and their immunity would likely only protect older adults. 

More than 100 cross-party MPs and the World Health Organisation have said the priority should be to get vaccine doses abroad to poorer countries where vulnerable people still haven’t been jabbed before giving them to low-risk children.

Hamid Patel, Chief Executive of the Star Academies school trust based in Blackburn – the area of the country with the most cases of the Covid Indian variant – said schoolchildren should be vaccinated as a matter of priority.

He said there would be a much higher uptake if children were given the jab during term time before the school holidays…

And Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, also urged the JCVI to consider expanding the rollout to teenagers.

He said offering them the vaccine would “protect the wider adult population who are at greater risk from Covid”.

There are “ethical dilemmas” to be considered when it comes to the decision on whether or not to vaccinate children against Covid, an expert has said.

Professor Anthony Harnden, Deputy Chairman of the JCVI, said while a “very small minority” of children have been severely affected by the virus, children “in the main” do not get severe illness.

He told BBC Breakfast: “I think the vast majority of benefit won’t be to children, it will be an indirect benefit to adults in terms of preventing transmission and protecting adults who haven’t been immunised, for whatever reason haven’t responded to the vaccine and therefore that presents quite a lot of ethical dilemmas as to whether you should vaccinate children to protect adults.”

He added: “We need to be absolutely sure that the benefits to them (children) and potentially to society far outweigh any risks.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Health Secretary Matt Hancock says vaccinating children in the U.K. against Covid will take priority over donating doses to other countries.

Social Distancing, Mask-Wearing and Work from Home Likely to Remain in Place after June 21st

Reports from last week suggested that the Government was going to fudge the “Freedom Day” deadline by announcing restrictions were being lifted, but keeping nearly all of them in place. That has now been more or less confirmed. The i has the story.

Social distancing in hospitality venues, working from home and masks on public transport could all remain in place after June 21st under plans being considered to revise the roadmap out of lockdown, i understands.

According to senior Government advisers, the current thinking in Downing Street is that many restrictions will need to remain in place after so-called “Freedom Day” to avoid another full lockdown in the autumn. 

It means the full lifting of lockdown restrictions are likely to be delayed for “a few weeks” due to concerns over new variants of Covid and increased pressure on the NHS. 

Medical experts are pushing for a delay to the easing of restrictions, arguing that a few more weeks to vaccinate more people will offer greater certainty against another lockdown. 

i understands the Government is likely to backtrack on encouraging a return to the workplace, continue with the guidance to work from home if possible, and is also likely to continue with the policy of mask-wearing and social distancing on public transport.

A Government source told i: “The current thinking is it would be irresponsible to risk another full lockdown in the autumn by opening up too fast on June 21st. 

“While many businesses would have been hoping to operate at full capacity in a few weeks’ time it is better than they can operate at reduced capacity rather than being shut down completely again if we hit another peak.”

While pubs may no longer be required to provide table service, drinkers could be able to order at the bar from June 21st. However, social distancing in bars and restaurants is likely to remain, along with limits on audiences in theatres and cinemas. 

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

More Scaremongering From PHE About the “Twice as Deadly” Indian Variant

Infections are on the rise according to the ONS and, despite the vaccines (and the fact that fully-open U.S. states continue not to see a rise in infections let alone the prophesied mass hospitalisations and deaths), talk has once again turned to keeping restrictions going beyond June 21st. Portugal has been brutally struck from the green list, ruining the holidays of tens of thousands of Brits. Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, has suggested social distancing could continue for the rest of the year.

Driving the fear is the Delta (Indian) variant, which new data from Public Health England suggests could have more than double the risk of hospitalisation compared to the Alpha (British) variant. The Guardian reports:

An analysis of 38,805 sequenced cases in England revealed that the Delta [Indian] variant was associated with a 2.61 times higher risk of hospitalisation within 14 days of specimen date than the Alpha [British] variant. There was a 1.67 times higher risk of A&E care within 14 days. These figures take into account factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, area of residence and vaccination status.

It appears PHE has been up to its usual tricks again though. While the data adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity and so on might produce these alarming results, the raw data tells the opposite story. Here’s the relevant table with some key figures highlighted: