Day: 29 July 2021

Reported Covid Cases Down by More Than a Fifth on Last Thursday in U.K.

Reported Covid cases have fallen by 22% compared to last Thursday and cases are falling in every English local authority. MailOnline has the story.

The Department of Health posted another 31,117 infections spotted in the last 24 hours, down by more than a fifth (22%) on last Thursday.

But hospitalisations rose by nearly a quarter to 932 admissions a day, and another 71 deaths were recorded which was the same as last week. Experts say hospitalisations may fall in the next seven days, and that they lag behind cases because of the time taken for someone who has caught the virus to fall seriously ill.

Separate Public Health England data today added to the promising picture by suggesting Covid cases were now falling in all of England’s 149 local authorities, and every age group except the over-80s.

Their weekly report showed, however, that fewer tests were being carried out which may be behind the drop in cases. But the positivity rate – the proportion of swabs that detected the virus – also fell, suggesting the trend is genuine and not skewed by a lack of swabbing.

But another report from the Covid symptom-study app today suggested Covid cases are not falling as fast as official figures suggest, and may have just plateaued last week.

King’s College London scientists estimated just over 60,000 people were catching the virus every day in the week to July 24th, the latest date available. This was barely a change from the previous week.

Worth reading in full.

Students Must Wait Until September to Find Out Whether They Need Proof of Vaccination to Go to University, Says Dominic Raab

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has admitted that the Government is “coaxing and cajoling” young Brits into getting vaccinated against Covid with plans to introduce vaccine passports at nightclubs and other “large venues”, but warned that students will have to wait for months to find out whether they need to be fully vaccinated to attend university lectures and to live in halls.

Given that Raab says “these decisions will be taken in September”, the month in which the university term starts, it is hard to see how students will have any “advance warning” of vaccine status checks, as he suggests they will. BBC News has more.

Mr Raab was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the Government was in favour of going further and making the vaccine pass compulsory in more settings.

“I think the key principle is in crowded places where we want to open up… whether it’s going to a football game or pop concert, we want to make sure people can do that,” he said.

And asked whether they were planning to require students in university halls to get vaccinated, Mr Raab said: “When we come to the crunch, these decisions will be taken in September. We’ve got some time to go.

“Right the way through this pandemic we’ve had to take advice and decisions based on the evidence when we see it.

“We will certainly make sure university students have advance warning, of course we’re going to be mindful of this.”

He said he had recently visited France, where they had a big surge in vaccinations after bringing in a health pass for many activities.

“It’s a little bit of coaxing and cajoling and also making clear that ultimately over September when we know we’ll see, as a result of coming out of the lockdown step four, an increase in cases, we can control that with backstop safeguard measures.”

Latest Government figures show that more than 71% of adults have now had two jabs, while 88% have had a first dose.

Young people who are within three months of turning 18 – meaning those who are soon able to go to university – and those aged 12-17 who live with people who have a suppressed immune system, can now also get a jab.

The idea to make vaccines compulsory for university students was not ruled out by either education minister Vicky Ford or Downing Street when asked about it earlier this week.

“We are still looking at the scope for vaccination certifications,” the Number 10 spokesman said on Monday.

Earlier this week, the trade union for academic staff such as lecturers, criticised the idea following news reports.

“Students should be prioritised for vaccinations, to ensure as many as possible have the opportunity to be vaccinated by September,” said the University and College Union.

“But making vaccinations compulsory as a condition to access their education is wrong and would be hugely discriminatory against those who are unable to be vaccinated, and international students.”

Worth reading in full.

Neither Zero Covid nor Vaccinations will Allow us to Return to Normality: We Must Learn To Live With Covid

We’re publishing on original essay today by Dr. Lee Jones, a reader in International Politics at Queen Mary. He argues that trying to suppress a virus that has an infection fatality rate of 0.05% for the under-70s is pointless and the sooner we learn to live with it, the better. Here is an extract.

Lockdowns and other societal restrictions were never recommended in pre-Covid pandemic planning by the World Health Organisation or national governments, because they were of unproven and dubious efficacy and came at tremendous cost. That most countries collapsed into some form of lockdown, throwing out their existing pandemic planning, thus indicates decisions taken in moments of panic, amid mounting, media-induced fear among the general public.

In most (though not all) countries, governments lacked the necessary authority to resist such pressure and hold to existing plans, which focused on delaying the spread of new diseases and mitigating their impact. Crucially, moreover, in many places, including Britain and Australia, the state was also very poorly prepared to do even this. Successive governments failed to invest in necessary capacities, outsourcing planning and preparedness to local authorities and private companies. Consequently, existing systems soon collapsed, adding to the sense of panic. As the U.K.’s Deputy Cabinet Secretary told the Prime Minister’s chief adviser on March 12th – the day that test-and-tracing was secretly abandoned because the U.K. could only handle five tests per week – “I’ve been told for years there’s a whole plan for this. There is no plan… I think we are absolutely fucked.”

Lockdown was thus the result of panic and state failure. It appealed to politicians because it gave the public what they seemed to be clamouring for, and bought time to organise a better response. The trouble is that justifying and securing compliance with such draconian measures entailed a colossal propaganda effort that has permanently skewed public perceptions of the virus, and inverted the proper relationship between state and citizen. As Laura Dodsworth chronicles in A State of Fear, the U.K. Government deliberately mobilised behavioural psychology to instil fear into the population to increase compliance with lockdown measures. The media has followed suit for its own purposes.

A conformist culture ensued in which dissenting voices – even among world-leading scientists – have been silenced, censored, or subjected to abuse. Sceptics are derided as “Covidiots”, “selfish morons” and people who want to “kill granny”. The proper relationship between citizen and state in a democracy has been turned on its head, with the Government telling the public what to do, rather than vice-versa, and demanding that people stay home to “protect the NHS”, when the NHS’s job is actually to protect us.

Worth reading in full.

Record 689,313 ‘Pings’ Sent Out by NHS Covid App in One Week

The number of people ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app has reached a record high for the third week in a row. In the week up to July 21st, 689,313 ‘pings’ were sent out by the app – over 70,000 more than were sent the week before. It remains to be seen whether the number of ‘pings’ recorded in the week up to July 28th, which saw reported ‘cases’ fall every day but one, will be lower than in previous weeks. Sky News has more.

The alerts tell people they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid.

The new number was recorded in the week up to July 21st and is an 11.4% increase on the week before. …

Businesses in all sectors have complained that they are struggling to maintain operations when so many staff have been told to stay at home to break the transmission.

The Government has said that some essential workers can now use daily testing to avoid having to isolate.

The car industry has joined calls for the Government to bring forward the date for exempting fully-vaccinated adults from self-isolation rules.

It comes after a slump in production blamed on the so-called ‘pingdemic’.

Stock levels in relation to expected sales across the distribution sector reached a new record low this month, according to a key business survey.

Retailers are fretting over supplies and staffing as a result of the number of people being pinged.

Worth reading in full.

Families Could Pay an Extra £400 a Year to Meet Net-Zero Target

Britain’s families face paying hundreds of pounds more a year on food, flying and shipping costs to meet the net-zero emissions target by 2050, according to a new report. MailOnline has more.

The poorest tenth of households will pay an extra £80 each year by 2050 while the richest tenth will face a £400 annual bill to help sectors that currently have a low chance of hitting the Net Zero emissions target by this date.

The National Infrastructure Commission said the UK needs an industry to store the gases to help meet its pledge on carbon emissions – and taxpayers will have to spend up to £400million in the next decade to fund this.

However the executive agency added that the biggest polluting industries such as agriculture, shipping and aviation should make a £2billion-a-year contribution from 2030 – even if these costs are passed onto households.

The suggestion issued in a report provoked fury among consumer groups amid mounting concerns over how much Boris Johnson’s Net Zero commitments will end up costing hard-working families in the long run.

Among the organisations concerned about the costs involved is the TaxPayers’ Alliance, whose chief executive John O’Connell told MailOnline today: “The net zero target must not see working taxpayers landed with the bill.

“With the highest tax levels in 70 years, family finances are already strained and they cannot be expected to pay more for food, goods and travel. Ministers must promise to protect Brits from any green cost hikes.”

Worth reading in full.

Netflix to Demand Proof of Covid Vaccination From Key Cast and Crew

Netflix has become the first major U.S. film studio to announce that key cast and crew will have to show proof of Covid vaccination on TV and film productions.

Far from hitting back against this ruling, actor Sean Penn – who is likely not alone in his belief – says all staff at the organisation, not just those who are deemed ‘key’, should be forced to get the vaccine. He is refusing to work on his new show Gaslit until all those who would be around him have been jabbed. BBC News has more.

According to reportsthe U.S. streaming company will require that ‘Zone A’ personnel – actors and crew in close contact with them – must get the jab.

Other firms such as Google have said workers must get vaccinated before returning to the office. 

The policy will begin at its U.S. campuses and then be rolled out globally for its 144,000 employees.

Netflix has implemented the move after new standards were recently agreed between Hollywood unions and studios that would allow companies to implement mandatory vaccination policies for key cast members and crew. 

However, the actor Sean Penn wants the policy extended for all members of production, not just those classed as ‘Zone A’. …

Netflix is making the move after the U.S. Disease Control and Prevention announced earlier this week that masks will once again have to be worn indoors even by people who have been fully vaccinated.

As the BBC News report points out, Netflix is not the only company to demand proof of vaccination from its workers.

In June, Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury said staff must have vaccinations ahead of their return to the workplace.

“The simple fact is that this virus is still extremely dangerous,” it said.

In the U.S., JP Morgan said in June that it would instruct staff to log their vaccination status on an internal web portal, with fully-jabbed employees being allowed to discard face masks at work.

Goldman Sachs bankers also have to disclose how many jabs they have had before returning to the office.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up