Day: 14 July 2021

Two-Thirds of U.K. Adults Fully Vaccinated Against Covid

Two-thirds of all U.K. adults have received two doses of a Covid vaccine, almost a week ahead of schedule, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced. Yet the Government has U-turned on ending all lockdown restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’ and appears instead to be gearing up for more restrictions.

Sky News has the story.

Sajid Javid said on Twitter: “Two-thirds of adults across the U.K. have now had two jabs.

“We have beaten our target by almost a week – this is a huge achievement. Thank you to everyone who has come forward.

“The vaccine is our wall of defence against the virus.”

The figure is a key milestone ahead of a drastic [!] easing of restrictions on Monday.

The Government delayed lifting most rules until July 19th so two-thirds of adults could be double-jabbed, and every adult could be offered a first vaccine.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked people for “coming forward” and “helping others get jabbed” on Twitter. …

Latest data from the Department of Health shows a total of 81,192,857 doses have been administered in the U.K., with 46,037,090 people receiving a first dose (87.4%) and 35,155,767 people receiving both doses (66.7%).

Worth reading in full.

Is this the True Level of Opposition to Restrictions? Over Half of 18-34 Year Olds Have Deleted the NHS Covid App or Never Had It

Opinion polls are sometimes poor at distinguishing between virtue-signalling and what people really think – respondents tell the pollsters what they think they are supposed to say, especially on issues that have become moralised, like anti-Covid measures.

But actions speak louder than words. So the news that 19% of people have deleted the NHS Covid app (which pings you to tell you to self-isolate if you are identified as someone who’s come into contact with a person who’s tested positive) and so joined the 32% of people who never had it, according to a new ComRes poll, perhaps gives a better indication of how many people are not so keen on Covid restrictions. Among 18-34 year olds, over a third – 34% – have deleted the app, which is as many as still have it, while 21% never downloaded it in the first place – despite 98% owning a smartphone.

To my mind, statistics like these are a much more realistic indicator of who actually supports restrictions, since if you’re not willing to self-isolate when potentially infected, how can you be in favour of less targeted measures? This would mean just 42% of people are genuinely in favour of restrictions continuing.

True, you have to allow for the 16% of adults who don’t have a smartphone. If we assume this group splits in their views in the same proportions as those who do have a smartphone then we get 44.5% against restrictions in practice versus 50.5% in favour. This is probably an upper bound for those in favour, as some may just be saying they have the app even though they don’t, and some may have downloaded it just for appearance’s sake. Furthermore, some may not be supportive of measures beyond isolation of contacts (though I assume that anyone who favours more restrictive measures must favour self-isolation of contacts as it seems the bare minimum of restrictions beyond isolation of the infected).

Among 18-34 year-olds, those opposed to restrictions (by this measure) outnumber those in favour by 55% to 34%.

Such figures sound much more likely to me than the alarming support for draconian restrictions that often appears in opinion polls. They suggest that if politicians think the public are solidly behind the continuation of restrictions then they are in for a nasty shock come polling day. Politicians should pay closer attention to what people do than what they say.

Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca Likely to Be Pushed Back Down to “Amber List”

Reports suggest that Spain’s Balearic islands are likely to be pushed back down to the “Amber List” from next Monday, just three weeks after they were added to the “Green List“.

When quarantine-free travel was confirmed for the Balearic islands and a handful of countries, we warned that their position on the “Green Watchlist” meant they were “at risk” of being demoted at any time. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that such changes were likely to occur “with quite a lot of regularity“. But many are likely to have missed this message.

While a demotion to the Amber List will not greatly affect fully vaccinated Britons, who will be allowed to avoid self-isolation upon returning from an Amber country from July 19th (so long as they, and their children, aged five and over, test negative for Covid two days after returning), those returning from the country before Monday and those who have not been vaccinated will have to quarantine. As such, the holiday plans of many Brits still face being ruined.

Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast that travel lists are reviewed every three weeks. He is quoted in the MailOnline:

I hope we have made very clear to everybody when booking trips at the moment there is always the chance that countries will move around.

Some countries may go to the “Red List”, some countries may go to the Green, but some may move the other way to the Amber List.

It is a fact of life that they will continue to move around as the virus continues to develop and change globally.

The Guardian has more.

Multiple sources told the Guardian that the switch, which will affect those heading home from Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera, is expected to be discussed by ministers on Wednesday afternoon and come into force from early next week.

There has been no official confirmation from the Government and last-minute decisions are sometimes made not to move countries up and down the traffic light system. …

Several countries are expected to be added to the Red List, meaning most travel from them will be banned, with the exception of arrivals of British citizens and nationals who will have to stay in a hotel for 10 days to avoid the importation of Covid variants.

Meanwhile, the Transport Secretary… has voiced concern over a report in the Telegraph that Britons who have had two AstraZeneca vaccines including one manufactured in India were being turned away from a flight from Manchester to Malta.

He said the jabs, produced at the Serum Institute of India and given to up to five million Britons, were no different from those produced in the U.K.

The numbers of the batches, which are not yet authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and so do not qualify for the European Union’s digital vaccine passport scheme, appear on people’s vaccine card and are: 4120Z001, 4120Z002 and 4120Z003. …

The news came despite Boris Johnson saying he was “very confident” that the non-European approved vaccines would not cause problems for travellers.

The Guardian report is worth reading in full.

Nightclubs to Ignore Government Plea to Check Customers’ Vaccine Status

The Government’s insistence that it the “social responsibility” of large indoor events to check vaccine passports is “disingenuous and unclear“, says the Night Time Industries Association as two of the biggest nightclub chains have ruled out introducing such checks. Rekom U.K. and Tokyo Industries will reopen next week without discriminating against unvaccinated customers, but Government officials have warned that vaccine passports could become mandatory in the near future if hospitality venues don’t play ball.

Theatres and festivals are considering introducing vaccine passports, but cinemas are more resistant to the idea. The Times has more.

Peter Marks, Chief Executive of Rekom U.K., said yesterday that its 42 venues would reopen next week “at full capacity and without any requirement for a negative Covid test, something we believe would create a barrier to both customer enjoyment and getting the industry back on its feet”.

Aaron Mellor, Founder of the nightclub chain Tokyo Industries, will reopen all of its 45 venues next week aside from those that cater for university students who are away during the summer.

“Many of our events have already been sold out and to ask us now retrospectively to force a vaccine passport is super-difficult to manage,” he said. “You’ve also got to consider that many of our target age group are people in the 18-25 bracket who haven’t had the option to have two vaccinations yet.”

Michael Kill, Chief Executive of the Nighttime Industries Association, said the industry was at risk of being “scapegoated” for a rise in cases resulting from other factors including the European football championships.

At a meeting with nightlife groups yesterday, Government officials stressed that coronavirus passports could become mandatory further down the line. The Times reported last week that plans were being drawn up to extend their use to other entertainment and hospitality settings in the autumn.

Cinemas have said they would resist such a move. Phil Clapp, Chief Executive of the U.K. Cinema Association, said: “We believe that the overwhelming majority of our members continue to oppose the notion that audience members should be required to show evidence of a double Covid vaccination or negative test before being allowed into their venues.

“U.K. cinemas have throughout the pandemic repeatedly shown their ability to offer a safe and enjoyable environment, as evidenced by the fact that not a single case of Covid has been traced back to a cinema site.”

Theatres are more amenable to the proposal, however. London theatre groups including Nimax, Delfont Mackintosh, LW Theatres and the Really Useful Group met yesterday to agree on an industry standard for Covid certification.

They will recommend that theatregoers bring proof of their vaccination status from next week when venues have opened at full capacity, despite the fact that they are not required to do so by the Government.

Festivals have also welcomed the measures. Paul Reed, Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said that it supported Covid passports as a “short-term measure to kickstart our £1.76 billion festival industry safely”.

He added: “With no legal requirement to do this, it is going to come down to what is acceptable at a localised level with relevant authorities and directors of public health.”

Greg Parmley, Chief Executive of LIVE, which represents the live music industry, said: “We were supportive of mandatory Covid certification for large events to allow us to reopen and now expect those large events, where organisers feel it is necessary, to move forward with certification to build customer confidence.”

Worth reading in full.

Masks Will Stay on London Transport for “As Long as the Virus Is Still With Us”, Says Sadiq Khan

London commuters hoping to return to normality after July 19th are in for disappointment, as Sadiq Khan says face masks will remain compulsory on transport networks within the city beyond “Freedom Day” and for “as long as the virus is still with us”. London is the first city to announce that it will continue mandating mask-wearing after this date. Greater Manchester looks set to be the next, with Mayor Andy Burnham refusing to “rule out” keeping restrictions. BBC News has the story.

Sadiq Khan said he was not prepared to put Tube, tram and other transport users at risk by relaxing the rules on face coverings.

Face masks have been mandatory on public transport for the past year to reduce the spread of the virus.

But those rules will be replaced with Government guidance advising passengers to wear masks only on busy services.

England is removing most of its Covid restrictions next Monday, and while Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he expects masks to be worn in crowded places, such as on a busy Tube train, their use will no longer be compulsory.

But Mr Khan has gone further and made it a condition of carriage for the Tube, bus, tram, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail.

This means that, despite the easing of restrictions on July 19th, it will be listed as a condition in a legal agreement between TfL and its customers.

Mr Khan said: “We know from the Government’s own advisors and from the World Health Organisation, that wearing a face covering indoors does reduce transmissions.

“It leads to greater public safety and greater public confidence as well.

“As long as the virus is still with us, and as long as we’re still concerned about the virus being transmitted, we will make it compulsory.”

He said he was “confident you will see from Monday high levels of the rules being followed just like there have been since last June”.

TfL’s 400 enforcement officers will deny those without a face covering from using London transport, under the plan.

TfL staff and bus drivers will continue to remind passengers that masks are a requirement, Mr Khan said.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Times Radio this morning that Sadiq Khan’s decision “makes sense”. He is quoted in the Guardian:

We expect carriers to provide rules or what we call conditions of carriage appropriate to their own circumstances. And obviously, London Underground is a particularly crowded network. And, of course, we said people should wear masks in crowded areas. So just in the same way as the airlines have made it a stipulation – an ongoing stipulation – we expected – indeed invited TfL – to do the same thing. So no surprises there. And if you think about it, it makes sense.

Also worth reading in full.

Is the Rioting in South Africa Caused by Lockdown?

South Africa has now witnessed multiple days of deadly riots. More than 70 people have been killed, and whole city districts have been ransacked. Shocking videos posted on Twitter show looters pouring out of shops with stolen merchandise, vigilantes armed with rifles firing into crowds, and fleeing police vans being pelted with rocks.

The riots were triggered by last week’s 15-month jail sentence of Jacob Zuma, the country’s former president, on corruption charges. But many have suggested that poverty and unemployment helped fuel the lawlessness. Without wishing to excuse the wanton criminality on display, it’s worth considering whether lockdown is a factor here.

South Africa’s unemployment rate stands at 32.6% – the highest since the labour force survey began in 2008. Youth unemployment is almost 75%. Last year, the country’s GDP fell by 7% – the largest single drop since 1980 (when the IMF’s data series begins).

While unemployment has been rising for more than a decade in South Africa, the country’s dismal economic situation was exacerbated by months of lockdown.

How stringent has the lockdown been? We can check, using the Oxford Blavatnik School’s COVID-19 Government Response Tracker. Since the start of the pandemic, South Africa has had 228 days of mandatory workplace closures, and 421 days of mandatory stay-at-home orders in at least part of the country.

Lockdowns were damaging enough in countries like Britain that could afford to pay for lavish furlough schemes. But they must have been even more destructive in South Africa, where almost one in five people lives in extreme poverty. How these individuals were supposed to cope when the economy was put on standby is anyone’s guess.  

I’m not trying to absolve the looters of responsibility here. There’s no excuse for what they’ve been doing. But we should ask: how responsible was it for the Government to impose months of sweeping restrictions in a country where many people are quite literally living hand to mouth?

And likewise: how responsible was it for Western governments to impose sweeping restrictions over their own economies, knowing what effect this would have in the developing world.

Martin Kulldorff – one of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration – posted a Twitter thread last November titled “Twelve Forgotten Principles of Public Health”. His 4th principle was: “Pubic health is global. Public health scientists need to consider the global impact of their recommendations.” Perhaps we should have paid more attention to his advice.

News Round-Up