Boris Johnson

Boris Due to Announce End of Lockdowns

According to the Telegraph, Boris is about to announce a new policy: no more national lockdowns. Yet another tease of Tuesday’s speech, but who’s complaining? They’ve all been good so far, save for the determination to press on with vaccinating healthy 12-15 year-olds. Although, as with the other “announcements”, Boris is hedging, leaving the door open to doing a reverse ferret.

Boris Johnson will make clear this week he is “dead set” against another national lockdown as he rips up the old system of Covid rules and adopts a new approach for winter.

The Prime Minister is expected to argue to Parliament and in a press conference that the UK must learn to live with Covid-19 now that all adults have been offered a vaccine.

Covid laws that are no longer required will be ditched and plans for vaccine passports for nightclubs and other large crowd venues have been shelved.

The travel traffic lights system will be scrapped, PCR tests will not be required for fully vaccinated travellers and, The Telegraph understands, the red list will be significantly reduced.

In a sign of the importance placed on the jabs program, vaccinations for children aged 12 to 15 and autumn boosters for scores of adults will also be rolled out, pending approval from scientific advisers.

But some restrictions, such as new face mask mandates and guidance urging people to once again work from home, will remain as options should the virus surge in the months ahead.

Discussing Mr Johnson’s new approach, sources in his inner circle said it would reflect both the success of the vaccine rollout and the continued threat from Covid.

A senior Government source told The Telegraph of the argument Mr Johnson would make: “This is the new normal. We need to learn to live with Covid.

“The vaccines are a wall of defence. The autumn and the winter do offer some uncertainty, but the Prime Minister is dead set against another lockdown.”

Worth reading in full.

The Telegraph describes this as a “major pivot” in the Government’s approach to COVID-19. (Polite term for U-turn?) Time will tell.

Feudalism’s Revenge

We’re publishing an original essay by longtime contributor Freddie Attenborough today – and this one is a humdinger. Possibly his best yet. Anyone who struggles to digest a piece of this length can go to his Substack where he’s divided it into two parts: one and two. It’s a variation on the “It’s not a conspiracy, but…” theme, suggesting that even though Boris and his Government couldn’t organise a washing up rota, let alone The Great Reset, they’ve revealed their unconscious agenda via their endless cock-ups. And that agenda is essentially to turn the masses back into forelock-tugging serfs by destroying their health and their livelihoods and making them completely dependent on the state. It’s a fantastic read, with some first-class phrasing – more like a stream-of-consciousness novel by Martin Amis crossed with John Kennedy Toole than a polemic. Here are the opening two paragraphs:

The U.K. Government’s latest attempt to satiate Boris Johnson’s multiple, complex and apparently chronic penetrative insemination paraphilias will involve the private sector in bribing young people with discounted takeaway food and free taxi rides. Food delivery and taxi-hailing firms including Uber, Bolt, Deliveroo and Pizza Pilgrims have all been enrolled in this latest psychiatric intervention and are now offering incentives for young people to arouse the Prime Minister’s husband by receiving what he’s taken to referring to during Cabinet meetings as “the pharmaceutical boys’ ejaculate”. “How many disease vectors have the pharmaceutical boys ejaculated into this week?” he’ll ask excitedly, often several times a minute, the words oozing up and out of that capricious little slit in his head like smarmy treacle, mellifluous and full of privilege.

As you might imagine, the BBC got themselves pretty hot and horny about this, the policy’s underlying mix of messianic, full-throttle welfarism and Old Testament-style retributive psychopathy touching a sweet spot for the munificent totalitarians over at New Broadcasting House. Not that they were able to get off as many superlatives as they’d have liked. True, manipulation of the young is as essential to the BBC as it is to every other elite western institution currently waging war on that dangerous, socially harmful pathogen known as “cognitive diversity” – sorry, I mean “Covid misinformation”. But unlike, say, the Guardian, Independent SAGE or Emily Maitlis, the BBC’s efforts to save the povvy proles from wrongthink are forever getting ensnared in all sorts of tiresome, fuddy-duddy, neo-Victorian priggery: here, a Royal Charter blathering on about fairness and due impartiality; there, a Parliamentary Select Committee stuffed to the gills with white men all bloviating away about discredited colonial-era shibboleths like objectivity and truth, and everywhere you look hardworking reporters barely able to take a rhetorical step without some ghastly white supremacist popping out from behind a copy of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and demanding they stop acting like the public relations arm of the global pharmaceutical industry.

Go and make yourself a cup of coffee, then come back to your device and read it in full.

“This is Still a Very Dangerous Disease,” Says Boris Johnson. But Neil Ferguson Disagrees: “The Equation has Fundamentally Changed”

Boris Johnson today told reporters that Covid is “still a very dangerous disease” as he encouraged people to stick with self-isolation when ‘pinged’. “Don’t forget, we will be coming forward with a new system from August 16th,” he said during a visit to Surrey Police HQ in Guildford. “Until then please everyone, stick with the programme.”

He also warned against drawing “premature conclusions” from the dropping coronavirus case numbers, saying:

I’ve noticed, obviously, that we are six days in to some better figures. But it is very, very important that we don’t allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions about this. Step Four of the opening-up only took place a few days ago, people have got to remain very cautious and that remains the approach of the Government.

The PM’s remarks may be little more than prudent caution, but describing Covid as “still a very dangerous disease” doesn’t tally with the fatality rate, always very low for most of the population at below 0.1%, and now apparently reduced further including for those at higher risk by the vaccination programme. Does Boris not believe the vaccines are effective? If he doesn’t, what was the point of them? The Government needs to sort out its messaging on this.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak Will Spend “Freedom Day” in Self-Isolation After Speedy U-Turn Due to Backlash Over Quarantine Exemption

When it was first suggested that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak would need to self-isolate after coming into contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who has tested positive for Covid, Downing Street reported that the pair would be exempt from the rule as part of a pilot scheme (how convenient!). They have since been forced to U-turn due to the backlash following the announcement and will spend ‘Freedom Day’ in isolation. Sky News has more.

“The Prime Minister has been contacted by NHS Test and Trace to say he is a contact of someone with Covid,” a spokesperson said.

“He was at Chequers when contacted by Test and Trace and will remain there to isolate. He will not be taking part in the testing pilot.

“He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely. The Chancellor has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot.”

Mr Sunak tweeted: “Whilst the test and trace pilot is fairly restrictive, allowing only essential Government business, I recognise that even the sense that the rules aren’t the same for everyone is wrong.

“To that end, I’ll be self-isolating as normal and not taking part in the pilot.” …

Mr Javid revealed on Saturday that he had tested positive for Covid – only a day after the Health Secretary reportedly met with Mr Johnson in Downing Street.

But this morning, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick appeared on Sky News to defend Downing Street’s initial announcement that the PM and chancellor would not be isolating.

He said: “I appreciate the frustration [the public] might feel listening to this.

“They, like me, or other members of the public who are pinged will have to self-isolate in the usual way.”

Having seen Mr Jenrick sent on to the morning politics programmes to defend the original decision, Sky’s Political Correspondent Rob Powell described the situation as “baffling”.

“This is a pretty speedy U-turn,” he said.

While Mr Jenrick referred to being “pinged”, the PM and chancellor were in fact contacted by NHS Test and Trace directly rather than simply being alerted by the NHS Covid app.

That means that there is a legal obligation to self-isolate for 10 days, whereas being pinged by the app is only guidance. …

Mr Jenrick encouraged people to keep the app installed and self-isolate when pinged.

Worth reading in full.

We Must “Proceed With Caution”, Says Boris Johnson As He Announces Lockdown Easing on July 19th

There’s was a particularly downbeat tone to the Prime Minister’s speech on Monday evening in which he said that the country can proceed with easing lockdown restrictions on July 19th, but “with caution”.

The mood was set by Health Secretary Sajid Javid earlier in the day, who confirmed Government plans to urge large indoor venues to implement vaccine passports. In his speech, Boris Johnson said he expects and recommends people to continue wearing face masks after “Freedom Day” and cautioned that “this pandemic is not over”. The Guardian has the story.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister urged “extreme caution” on Monday, as he gave the final confirmation that Step Four of the ‘roadmap’ would go ahead next week.

It will mean nightclubs can reopen, social distancing rules will be abandoned and mask-wearing will no longer be legally enforceable…

But in a marked shift of emphasis from a week ago, when he said mask-wearing would become a matter of “personal choice”, Johnson said he would “expect and recommend” that face coverings be worn in crowded indoor spaces, and people were advised to limit their contact with those outside their households.

He warned businesses such as nightclubs and theatres that it was their “social responsibility” to check their customers’ Covid status; and said he expected the return to offices to take place only “gradually”.

Government documents said that ministers will “consider mandating” the NHS Covid Pass if “sufficient measures are not taken to limit infection”. 

The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, had earlier told MPs: “This is not the end of the road. It’s the start of a new phase of continued caution, where we live with the virus and manage the risks.”

Under questioning from the Health Select Committee Chair, Jeremy Hunt, Javid declined to rule out imposing new restrictions in the future, if ministers judged it to be necessary.

Government advisers expect about 1,000 to 2,000 daily hospital admissions over the summer as restrictions are lifted, and 100-200 deaths a day under what was described a “central scenario”. This would depend on how quickly the public’s behaviour returns to normal.

Minutes published by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) also highlighted the threat of a new vaccine-resistant variant emerging in the U.K., which they warned would pose a risk to the whole world.

Johnson said there would be an increase in cases whenever restrictions were lifted, and it was better to do so now, with the “natural firebreak” of the school summer holidays, than during the autumn or winter when the NHS is already under intense pressure.

“But it is absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution, and I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough – this pandemic is not over,” he said. “This disease, coronavirus, continues to carry risks for you and your family. We cannot simply revert instantly on July 19th to life as it was before Covid.” …

Speaking alongside the Prime Minister, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said that while a rise in infections was both expected and inevitable whenever restrictions were moved, the scale of this, and the subsequent impact on hospitalisations and deaths, depended on the public.

He said: “If behaviour returns immediately to pre-pandemic levels, that would be a very, very big rise. If we go slowly and cautiously, that will be less of a rise.” …

[An official] document said the Government would, in September, review the country’s preparedness for the coming months “which will consider whether to continue or strengthen public and business guidance as we approach the winter”.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Johnson to “Tone Down Freedom Day Rhetoric”

We have almost reached July 19th, yet we appear to be moving further away from what we once considered to be ‘normal’ (just look at the reappearance of plans for vaccine passports). It’s no wonder that the Prime Minister is toning down the “Freedom Day” rhetoric. The Guardian has more.

The final decision about July 19th will be taken on Monday morning, based on modelling from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) about Covid cases and pressures on the NHS.

The Prime Minister still believes it is “now or never”, with a later reopening potentially posing even higher risks as cases could peak as children return to school and winter looms.

Two Whitehall sources told the Guardian that ministers had been spooked by internal polling. One said the data showed just 10% of the public support the policy of scrapping all restrictions at once, while another said substantially more people believed the Government was moving too quickly than at the last reopening step on May 17th. These accounts were denied by Number 10.

A cabinet minister said the Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s admission that there could be 100,000 new Covid cases a day over the summer had raised eyebrows among some colleagues. Medical advisers were fighting a rearguard action to slow down the reopening plan, they added.

Government sources conceded that while Johnson had warned the public at last Monday’s press conference not to be “demob happy”, his cautious message had “got slightly lost” as he announced the scrapping of all restrictions, including mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing. …

Several sources said the most likely outcome of Monday’s deliberations was for the Government to press ahead with July 19th but tone down the “freedom day” rhetoric. One said it “would be political suicide” to U-turn.

Worth reading in full.

Boris to Declare End of Mask Mandate and Social Distancing Rules

The Prime Minister has signed off plans to end the legal requirement to wear masks as of July 19th, according to the Telegraph, saying that the link between COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations has been broken.

Mr Johnson is expected to lay out a blueprint for how England will live with the virus, as ministers prepare to replace swathes of legal restrictions with a call for “common sense” and “personal responsibility”.

As part of the move, the Government is expected to ditch the compulsory wearing of masks, along with the one-metre-plus rule that pubs and restaurants have warned is crippling them.

Announcing the changes this week, an increasingly bullish Mr Johnson is expected to cite recent data and modelling to declare that, while infection rates will rise as restrictions are eased, the successful roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines means that the numbers of hospitalisations and deaths are no longer rising at the same scale as before.

The latest data are believed to have given the Prime Minister the confidence that the legal requirement to wear face masks is among measures that can be lifted without the risk of the NHS coming under “unsustainable pressure”.

If true, this is a welcome move from the Prime Minister, who continues to come under pressure from various quarters to keep restrictions in place.

Exactly what life will look like after July 19th, and what guidance will remain in place that becomes essentially mandatory once lawyers and insurers get involved, remains to be seen. There are also questions about the future of international travel, which is sliding fast towards a system of privileges for the elite and preferential treatment for the vaccinated with no clear end point in sight. Then there is the uncertainty of what may happen come autumn and winter now that lockdowns have been established as an acceptable tool of infection control and healthcare management.

But for now it seems that things are finally moving in the right direction, with a rare show of spine from the once outspoken libertarian in Number 10. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Sajid Javid: “We Are Going to Have to Find Ways to Cope With Covid, Just as We Do With Flu”

Signalling a change in tone and perhaps strategy, new Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said that “we are going to have to learn to accept Covid and find ways to cope with it, just as we do with flu”. Writing in tomorrow’s Mail on Sunday, according to a preview tweet from Freddie Sayers, Javid says that while the economic arguments for reopening are well known, “for me the health case is equally compelling”, pointing to record NHS backlogs that are getting worse.

In a possible nod towards the “new normal”, he adds: “We need to build on the changes we’ve all embraced in the pandemic.” However, the examples he gives are not contentious for sceptics: improving the delivery of healthcare using NHS 111, the NHS app and pharmacies.

It’s certainly an encouraging message from the new Health Secretary, and better than anything we ever heard from Matt Hancock. Now for the hard bit: putting it into action, against the doom-mongers on SAGE, the vested interests of those profiting from the emergency, the psychological comforts of those who seem to like the idea of permanent restrictions, and the unions for whom no imposition on others is too great to achieve a slight reduction of risk.

Already there is the notable absence of the promised review of the lockdown extension in time for a possible July 5th reopening, which was supposed to appear on June 28th. Boris Johnson appeared to rule it out last week but there has been no official announcement and July 5th is this Monday. It seems that we are just supposed to assume it isn’t happening.

Hancock Quits; Sajid Javid to Replace Him As Health Secretary

Following Matt Hancock’s resignation, the Prime Minister has appointed former Chancellor Sajid Javid as the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. BBC News has the story.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, [Hancock] said the Government “owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down”.

Boris Johnson said he was “sorry” to receive the resignation.

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid has been confirmed as the new Health Secretary, Downing Street said.

Mr Hancock had been under increasing pressure to quit, after the Sun published pictures of Mr Hancock and Gina Coladangelo, who are both married with three children, kissing. The newspaper said they had been taken inside the Department of Health on May 6th.

Fellow Tory MPs, as well as Labour and the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice group, had called for the Health Secretary to be sacked.

BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said Number 10 had stressed that it had been Mr Hancock’s decision to go and that he had not been pushed out by the Prime Minister.

She said Ms Coladangelo was also leaving her role as a Non-Executive Director of the Department of Health.

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Hancock said: “I have been to see the Prime Minister to resign as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.”

“I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in this country has made, that you have made, and those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I have got to resign.”

Hancock’s full letter of resignation to the PM can be read below:

The BBC News report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: According to MailOnline it’s a love match between Matt and Gina and the ex-Health Secretary told his wife on Thursday evening that the marriage was over and he intended to leave her.

The Sceptics’ Case For Boris

We’re publishing an original article today by an academic economist writing under the name of John William O’Sullivan setting out the case for the defence of the Prime Minister. Inevitably, it begins with a bit of throat clearing in which the author shares his reservations about Boris.

I am as hardcore a lockdown sceptic as they come. I was early to the game, and I question quite literally everything about the Government response – from face masks to lockdowns to vaccines. Nor am I fan of Boris. I am pro-Brexit, but I suspected that Boris was probably more clown than effective leader – more Beppe Grillo than Winston Churchill.

When he was nominated, I had concerns not just about his public persona, but about his private life. I know that this is unfashionable in Britain, but it should not be. In our professional lives we all know that if someone’s private life is a car crash, this is usually reflected in their professional competencies. Based on this simple and obvious wisdom, the taboo in Britain about questioning public officials based on their private lives – which, so far as I can tell, is purely a post-Profumo phenomenon – should be re-examined. It seems to me that the refurbishment scandal hanging over Boris and his newly minted wife confirms this impression.

But having got that out of the way, he then comes to the nub of the argument.

So, why would I defend old Boris? For the simple reason that the revelations that have come from Dominic Cummings speak volumes. Prior to these revelations I bought into the predominant narrative: that Boris had been a sceptic but then he was hospitalised for COVID-19 and the experience left him lobotomised and compliant. But this view is no longer tenable.

Cummings’ accusations are credible because they come from a hostile source. Everything that he pumps into the media ecosystem is designed to harm Boris. These accusations have been confirmed by others involved. They meet, as the ancient historians say, the flipside of the ‘criteria of embarrassment’.

Yet the accusations paint a picture of a committed sceptic and social libertarian fighting against a mob of technocrats. Cummings, himself being a mediocre technocrat, cannot see that his accusations play in Boris’s favour – but they do. Boris’s Cabinet – a hot mess of career Tories, stuffed shirts, and closet authoritarians – appear to have bullied him into becoming the ‘lockdown-zealot Boris’ that we have all come to know and hate.

Worth reading in full.