Day: 29 June 2021

Ministers Expected to Shelve Plans for Covid Vaccine Passports in All Domestic Settings – But Venues Will be Able to Enforce Their Own Schemes

Finally, some good news! The Government is expected to announce that vaccine passports will not be required at mass gatherings from next month and says that we should learn to “live with Covid”. The good news, however, ends there, as venues will be told that they can run their own certification schemes. Plus, vaccine passports could be back on the cards this winter when an inevitable new variant becomes the latest cause of concern. The Mail has the story.

Ministers are set to shelve plans for the mandatory use of ‘Covid certification’ after Freedom Day on July 19th. Plans for pubs and restaurants had already been put on the backburner following a backlash from MPs and the hospitality sector.

The Mail can now reveal that ministers have also dropped the idea of imposing them on mass events. Organisers will, however, be permitted to run their own schemes, with the Premier League among those expected to introduce some form of certification to prove those attending football grounds do not pose a Covid risk. …

[Boris Johnson] told the Cabinet yesterday that our vaccination success means Britain will be able to “live with Covid” because the link between virus cases and hospitalisations has been broken.

“We need to get used to the idea of treating Covid more like flu,” [a Government] source said. “People have the flu vaccine, which helps reduce serious illness, but we still get large numbers of cases and significant numbers of deaths.

“When we get to July 19th, cases look like they will be potentially very high, perhaps as many as 30,000 or 40,000 per day. But that is not in itself a reason not to go ahead, provided hospitalisations and deaths remain at relatively low levels.” …

A Downing Street spokesman said: “Cabinet agreed that once we have completed the roadmap, we will be able to live with Covid in the future – even if cases continue to rise – thanks to the protections provided by the vaccine.”

In what appeared to be a coordinated series of interventions, Michael Gove said people will have to live with Covid in “the way that we live with flu”, which claims thousands of deaths each winter but does not require society and the economy to be locked down. …

Whitehall sources told the Mail that [vaccine passports] will be shelved for domestic use, despite ongoing trials at Wimbledon and Wembley. Pilot schemes have controlled access to mass events by requiring those in attendance to supply proof that they have been vaccinated or tested for Covid.

Ministers now believe that the success of our vaccination programme means such measures will not be required across Britain this summer, avoiding another potential clash with MPs.

“It is looking unlikely that we will have to make Covid certification compulsory, even for mass events,” a source said.

“It will be needed for foreign travel and some events may choose to run their own schemes, but it does not look like we will need legislation at this stage.

“The work has not been wasted. It will be needed for travel and we will have a system in place which could be used if we need it in the winter.” Indeed, plans for widespread use of the passports could be revived in the event of another major wave of Covid. This would allow venues to stay open even if cases soar dramatically. Number 10 said the PM was “increasingly confident” there would be no need for further delays to lifting curbs on our freedoms.

Worth reading full.

Man Dies from Blood Clot after Taking Moderna Covid Vaccine

Cases of blood clotting after vaccination have mainly been associated with the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine over recent months, but an American man, aged 65, has now died 12 days after his second dose of the Moderna vaccine in what is being reported as the first known death from blood clotting linked to this vaccine. The Sun has the story.

After getting the coronavirus jab, the man experienced pain in both legs, difficulty breathing and was diagnosed with thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) two days before he died.

Three days into his stay at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the man developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, according to a report published on the Annals of Internal Medicine website.

This is a rare type of blood clot blocking the brain’s sinus channels of draining blood, which could lead to hemorrhages. 

Doctors searched to identify other causes behind his TTS including Covid, other viruses or thrombotic thrombocytopenia purport, a rare disorder that causes blood clots throughout the body.

The man had chronic underlying conditions including high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia, which presents itself when high levels of fat particles are in the blood.

Despite “rapid and exhaustive” treatment eliminating all other options, a solution could not be found leaving investigators believing the blood clots were caused by the vaccine.

Previously, research showed that the “rare but life-threatening” condition only occurred in individuals who received Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca vaccines.

Both vaccines combine genetic material taken from the coronavirus and genes of the adenovirus, producing an immune response.

The findings show that the side effects can also occur when someone gets a vaccine that has messenger RNA (mRNA).

Because blood clots do occur after vaccinations, the report claims, “it should not dissuade people from getting the Covid jab”.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it would add a warning to the Moderna vaccine – as well as the Pfizer vaccine – after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is a “likely link” between them and cases of heart inflammation, particularly in children and young adults.

The Sun report is worth reading in full.

Sajid Javid Has “Worsened” Prospect of All Freedoms Being Returned on July 19th, Says Steve Baker

Allies of Sajid Javid are keen to point out that he will be much less “nanny state-ish” as Health Secretary than Matt Hancock has been over the past 15 months. But Javid failed his first test by ruling out unlocking the nation on July 5th and he is now accused of being unclear about whether all restrictions will be removed when ‘Freedom Day’ finally arrives.

Conservative MP Steve Baker has told Sky News that Javid has actually “worsened” the prospect of all restrictions being lifted on July 19th by being ambiguous over whether or not guidelines on social distancing and testing will end at this time.

Baker’s comments on the likelihood of Test and Trace continuing to play a large role after July 19th are particularly fitting, given that the Government has just awarded Serco and Mitie new testing contracts – worth up to £687 million collectively – to support this system. These contracts could run for up to 18 months.

The Deputy Chair of the Covid Recovery Group says that maintaining some restrictions after Step Four of the lockdown “roadmap” would risk creating a “hollow and haunted society”. Sky News has more.

Asked by Sky’s Deputy Political Editor Sam Coates whether he welcomed the fact Mr Javid described July 19th as “irreversible”, Mr Baker said the claim did not go far enough.

He said: “I am very pleased he doubled down on it, but I would just observe he has doubled down on the existing Government line to take. In fact, in a sense, he has worsened the position.

“The impression which Matt [Hancock] was happy to create in the Commons was that once we got to Step Four there would not be regulations – freedom from regulations – now that’s difficult to reconcile with what’s now going on with events with Covid certification being trialled, with social distancing and test and trace – what actually is the world going to look like when we get our freedom back?”

Mr Baker said guidance on face masks and the one-metre rule should all be removed next month to ensure businesses do not feel pressured to follow them by default…

“I’m very conscious that even voluntary measures will be interpreted by the Health and Safety Executive and businesses and could effectively be compulsory. So until the Government stops recommending these things, too many businesses will become unviable.”

Worth reading in full.

Infections Are Rising in Scotland but Hospitalisations Remain Low

Compared to the other U.K. nations, Scotland’s third wave of infections appears to be more advanced. On June 22nd, 3,253 cases were recorded (going by date of specimen) which is the highest daily total since the start of mass testing. See the chart below, taken from the government’s COVID-19 dashboard:

However, as even Nicola Sturgeon has acknowledged, “Most cases are now in younger, yet to be vaccinated groups, so fewer are becoming v ill.” In fact, the recent surge appears to be related to Euro 2020.

A dramatic gender gap has opened up in the last two weeks, with men aged 15–44 substantially more likely to test positive than their female counterparts. The BBC quotes behavioural scientist Stephen Reicher as saying “the obvious explanation is that people were getting together for the football”.

Compare the chart above with the one below, which shows the number of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19:

The first time there were over 3,000 cases recorded in a single day, on 29th December, the number of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 was 153. Yet on 22nd June, the number was only 35 (roughly four and a half times lower).

As Fraser Nelson noted in a tweet yesterday, the number of hospitalisations per 1,000 cases 10 days earlier (for the whole of the U.K.) has been trending downward for the past four months. At the end of February, the number was about 100. It has since fallen to less than 30.

People Who Have Had One or Zero Doses of a Covid Vaccine to be Barred from Indoor Hospitality When it Reopens in Ireland

The Irish Government is delaying the reopening of indoor hospitality, along with other indoor activities, due to fears over the Indian Delta variant. To add insult to injury, only those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid, and who have a pass to prove it, will be allowed into indoor venues when restrictions are finally eased. People who have only received one dose of a vaccine, or who – for medical or other personal reasons – are unvaccinated, will be forced to stay outside. BBC News has more.

Indoor hospitality was due to reopen on July 5th.

When it reopens, indoor hospitality will be limited to those who are fully vaccinated against Covid, Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin has said.

The recommendation had been made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). …

Mr Martin said while there will be an increase in the number of people who can attend outdoor events and the number who can attend weddings will be increased to 50 as planned, “the return to other indoor activities including hospitality will be delayed”.

“NPHET’s clear advice based on the modelling it has done is that given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, the safest way to now proceed with the return of indoor hospitality is to limit access to those who have been fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid infection,” he said. …

“The simple truth is that we are in a race between the variants and the vaccines and we want to do everything we can to ensure that the vaccine wins.” …

The Taoiseach gave no date as to when indoor dining and drinking in pubs and restaurants will resume.

Restaurateurs and publicans have expressed their anger and frustration at Mr Martin’s comments…

The plans have been criticised by the Restaurants Association of Ireland, which said it was “astounded” that indoor hospitality will face a further delay.

In a statement, the group said it believed the policy is discriminatory and unworkable. 

“Restaurant, pub and café owners will now be placed in the unenviable, complex and difficult position of allowing vaccinated customers enter indoors and restricting non-vaccinated customers to outdoor dining,” its Chief Executive Adrian Cummins said. 

“Such a practice of refusing access to goods and services in currently illegal under equality acts.”

He added that many people working in the hospitality sector are in the unvaccinated age groups, and could potentially be asked to refuse service to their peers.

Worth reading in full.

Raising the Alarm on Myocarditis After Covid Vaccination

We’re publishing an original article today on the risks of heart problems following receipt of a Covid vaccine by Dr Clare Craig, a Diagnostic Pathologist in London and member of HART, and Dr Andrew G. Bostom, MD, a MS Research Physician at Brown University’s Center For Primary Care and Prevention at the Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island. They originally submitted it to the BMJ as a ‘Rapid Response’, but it was rejected. Here is an extract:

The FDA has expressed concerns around the rate of reported myocarditis within the VAERS reporting system, especially in the young. A presentation by the FDA on June 10th 2021 compared the reported rates of myocarditis with background expected rates, with data up to May 31st 2021. However, the expected rates to which observed rates were compared were those expected over a 31-day period. For under-18s, 90% of cases had an onset by day five after vaccination, making comparison with expected rates over 31 days unreasonable. A further meeting on June 23rd 2021 examined the reports in a seven day window with data up to 11 June 2021. A four fold increase above baseline was evident in the seven days after the first dose for under-24 year-olds, rising to over 27-fold for the seven days after the second dose. The rate per million doses given in males 12-17 years old was 17 times higher than in men aged over 50 years seven days after the first dose, rising to 74 times seven days after the second dose. (For females the risk was 50% higher and 13 times higher respectively.)

Worth reading in full.

Ministers Could Announce End of Automatic Isolation for English Pupils in Days

Following a good deal of pressure to end the policy of sending schoolchildren home if someone in their ‘bubble’ tests positive – which the Telegraph has launched a new campaign against today – the Government is said to have decided that pupils will no longer be required to automatically isolate. The change is likely to occur when schools return in September, with an announcement to be made in the coming days. A testing regime is likely to be introduced in the place of automatic isolation.

The Guardian has the story.

A quarter of a million children missed school in a single week because of coronavirus infections, self-isolation or school closures this month – the most disrupted week since schools fully reopened across the country in March.

It came as the new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said most Covid restrictions in England “must come to an end” on July 19th…

But, in a move likely to anger some Conservative backbenchers, he did not rule out keeping measures such as masks and social distancing in place.

The Guardian understands that ministers plan to overhaul the system for pupils, under which they are separated into bubbles – sometimes numbering more than 200 children – and forced to quarantine at home if anyone in their group tests positive for Covid.

An announcement is expected to be made in coming days to give schools time to prepare for the return in September, likely to be replaced with a testing regime.

A senior Government source said: “We will have a different system when schools return in September which combines proportionate protections when someone tests positive with trying as much as possible to keep schools open.”

The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, confirmed on Tuesday morning that the Government was conducting trials of daily testing in secondary schools which were due to be completed on Wednesday. This regime would enable schoolchildren to go into school provided they receive a negative result, eliminating the need for the entire classroom to self-isolate when a single child contracts the virus.

“We’ll look at the data and see whether that is an effective alternative to self-isolation,” Gibb told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme…

Steve Brine, a former Health Minister, said he was “looking for a change in policy as much as a change of tone” [following the replacement of Matt Hancock by Sajid Javid] and called for the rules on isolation bubbles to be overhauled. “Haven’t our young people suffered enough?” he asked. “Are we really going to continue to do this to ourselves?”

Jason McCartney, the Tory MP for Colne Valley, said children and families were being forced to isolate up to four times in a matter of months. He said it was “having a huge impact on education, mental health and wellbeing” and called for extra PCR testing and a new approach to the policy.

Areas in northern England have been particularly affected by the rise in children isolating, with Government figures showing one in 30 children in state schools were out of the classroom on June 17th. That included 9,000 pupils with confirmed Covid and 16,000 with suspected coronavirus, and more than 7,000 whose schools had shut because of outbreaks.

Worth reading in full.

Singaporean Ministers Announce That Country Must Learn to Live With COVID-19

Singapore has recorded fewer deaths from COVID-19 than almost any other country with reliable data: only 36 to date, which equates to a rate of just six per million. (The U.K.’s official COVID-19 death rate is 1,890 per million.)

And according to the World Mortality Dataset, Singapore has had zero excess mortality since the pandemic began. On the other hand, the country did take a sizeable economic hit last year – with GDP falling by 5.4% (compared to only 2.8% in Sweden).

What’s more, Singapore has not recorded more than 100 cases in a day since August of last year. If any advanced country has come close to “Zero Covid”, it’s Singapore.

Despite that record, three Singaporean ministers have announced that “COVID-19 may never go away” and “it is possible to live normally with it in our midst”.

Writing in The Straits Times, Gan Kim Yong, Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung (the ministers for trade, finance and health) say that “COVID-19 will very likely become endemic”. This means that “the virus will continue to mutate, and thereby survive in our community”.

In other words, the Singaporean Government is under no illusion that it will be possible to eliminate COVID-19, contrary to the claims of the “Zero COVID” movement. Indeed, a survey by Nature of 119 experts found that 89% believe it is “likely” or “very likely” that SARS-CoV-2 will become an endemic virus.

“We can’t eradicate it”, the ministers write, “but we can turn the pandemic into something much less threatening, like influenza.” How do they propose to deal with the virus going forward?

First, they intend to proceed with their vaccination program, which aims to have two thirds of people vaccinated by August 9th. Second, they intend to continue testing, but “the focus will be different”. For example, the country will cease “monitoring COVID-19 infection numbers every day”. Third, they intend to keep using and developing effective treatments for COVID-19.

As Yong, Wong and Kung conclude, “History has shown that every pandemic will run its course.” Though one might object that even the few remaining measures are no longer necessary, the ministers seem to understand what they’re talking about. Their article is worth reading in full.

News Round-Up