Freedom Day

Clubs and Bars Packed Out in First Friday Since Easing of Restrictions on July 19th

People should stick to the behaviours that have become “second nature” over the past year of lockdowns, such as mask-wearing in crowded spaces, according to the latest Government ad campaign. But if clubs and bars are anything to go by, many people would much rather return to normal.

Thousands of punters packed out venues across the country on Friday night – the beginning of the first weekend since ‘Freedom Day’. But with the introduction of vaccine passports in sight, it is unclear how long this will be allowed to last. The MailOnline has the story.

In major party hubs across the U.K., from London to Liverpool to Leeds, tens of thousands of young people descended on packed – and sold-out – events on Friday night.

Pictures taken at the stroke of midnight show huge queues forming outside venues in Newcastle, and hundreds of young people partying in Portsmouth.

Approximately 100,000 punters are expected to let their hair down across the country as partygoers dance the night away without major Covid restrictions for the first time in 16 months. …

Furious hospitality chiefs, MPs and civil liberties campaigners have slammed Boris Johnson’s plans to make vaccine passports compulsory in clubs come September.

And with fears growing of a staffing crisis in pubs, clubs and bars, sparked by the record-breaking number of alerts sent to workers thanks to the ‘pingdemic’, hospitality staff will not be exempt from self-isolation rules despite major concerns from industry leaders.

Venues are gearing up to host thousands inside packed – and largely sold-out – clubs, pubs and bars across the nation throughout the week after most legal restrictions on contact were eased on ‘Freedom Day’.

Several club nights advertised the long-awaited return of freedoms, such as face coverings no longer being required and social distancing measures shelved – with many setting lofty targets of pulling in more than 1,000 patrons a night.

On popular online ticket selling platforms such as Fatsoma and Eventbrite, there are over 200 clubbing events lined up in big party cities across the U.K., including London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. …

Using numbers shared on ticket sales websites, there could be close to 70,000 revellers enjoying club nights in major party hubs across the U.K. if the venues operate at full capacity and can attract punters in droves.

Worth reading in full.

U.K. Positive Cases Plummet 33% in Week Following ‘Freedom Day’

How many positive tests will we reach following the lifting of restrictions? One hundred thousand, as predicted by Health Secretary Sajid Javid? Two hundred thousand, as Professor Neil Ferguson suggested? One thing all the doom-mongers have been confident of is that there will be an exit wave as restrictions are lifted and it will be big. After all, lots of people are still unvaccinated, the vaccines are imperfect, and everyone is mixing again.

Yet what has happened? In the past six days new reported infections have declined from a high of 54,674 on Saturday July 17th down to 36,389 today, a drop of over 33% in just six days. This is despite the lifting of restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’ last Monday.

It can’t be repeated often enough that this demolishes all the models and exposes their assumptions as fundamentally flawed. None of the models predicted anything other than exponential growth at this point as people mingled and dropped the masks. After all, prevalence was high and rising, people were mingling more not less, lots of people are still susceptible (so they assume) – why should it stop? But it did. Unless and until a model can predict data like this it should be regarded as little more than elaborate but flawed guesswork.

Brits Told To “Keep Life Moving” by Wearing Face Masks in New Government Scare Campaign

It’s as if ‘Freedom Day’ never happened. A new Government ad campaign tells Brits to carry on wearing face masks and to use the NHS Covid app so as to “keep life moving”. One poster warns that “Covid is still with us” and that you can still pass on the virus “even if you’ve been vaccinated”: “[So] let’s wear face coverings in crowded places to protect others.” The Evening Standard has the story.

An official information campaign, which will hit airwaves, newspapers and other media from Thursday, will see the Government replace its “hands, face, space, fresh air” slogan with its new catchphrase: “Keep life moving.”

A video fronted by TV doctor Dr Amir Khan will also recommend people continue to follow social distancing guidance, as the film shows a young man stepping off a pavement to allow an older neighbour to pass.

The advice comes despite Monday being trumpeted as England’s ‘Freedom Day’, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson removing almost all legal restrictions, including social distancing guidelines.

Pressure has also been placed on young people to get a vaccine, as Health Secretary Sajid Javid reiterates the Prime Minister’s plan to make full vaccination a “condition of entry to nightclubs” by the autumn.

The campaign will warn, however, that being doubled jabbed does not entirely protect you from being infected with coronavirus, or from being told to self-isolate.

The campaign instructs people to stick with the behaviour that has become “second nature” over the past year of lockdowns. This advice appears to have been pulled directly out of Susan Michie’s rule book. In June, the top Government adviser and long-time member of the Communist Party of Britain said measures adopted during the pandemic should become part of our “normal” routine behaviour, just as wearing car seat belts has become commonplace. The Evening Standard continues:

The recommendations include using quick-result lateral flow tests twice a week and booking a PCR test if there is any sign of even mild coronavirus symptoms.

People will be encouraged to keep washing their hands regularly, to check in to pubs, bars and restaurants using the Covid app, and to wear face masks in crowded places where “distancing is not possible”, such as public transport or small shops.

It will also place renewed emphasis on the importance of ventilation in fighting infection during social gatherings, while vaccine take-up will also be pushed.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: “Mask-wearers, in my experience, need no encouragement,” says Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens. “So what’s the aim?”

The Daily Sceptic

The name of this website is about to change from Lockdown Sceptics to the Daily Sceptic. I intended this change to coincide with the bonfire of the coronavirus restrictions – the long-awaited terminus – but ‘Freedom Day’ has turned out to be a damp squib. Not only have many of the restrictions remained in place, but it’s been made clear by Chris Whitty and others that any freedoms we’ve been granted today will be snatched away as soon as the NHS comes under pressure again.

I always imagined I’d retire Lockdown Sceptics one day – turn it into an archive that would serve as a record of a dark period in our history – but after almost 16 months of continuous activity, it has developed in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I don’t just mean it averages 1.5 million page views a month and has almost 15,000 email subscribers, as well as a staff of seven. It has also attracted a community of regular contributors and commentators, either above the line, below the line, or in the forums, as well as a team of tireless moderators. Together, we’ve created a kind of intellectual home for tens of thousands of people, and I get regular emails from people all over the world telling me that if it wasn’t for Lockdown Sceptics they would have gone mad.

So instead of shutting down the site, I’ve decided to turn it into the Daily Sceptic. All of the original content we published will still be there, organised under the headings you can see on the right-hand vertical, and the focus will be on the lockdowns and associated restrictions for the time being. But the subject matter will be a bit broader. I wanted to create something more permanent, something that wasn’t contingent on lockdowns continuing forever, but which was imbued with the same irreverent, antic spirit as the original site, and the same rigorous, analytical approach.

So the Daily Sceptic will include sceptical articles by disaffected journalists and academics – including citizen journalists and independent scholars – about a range of public policies that are supposedly based on science or data or evidence, where ‘the Science’ is being invoked as a source of unassailable authority, but which often appear to be rooted in a covert political agenda. The idea is to challenge the new powerful class of government scientists and public health officials – as well as their colleagues in universities, grant-giving trusts, large international charities, Silicon Valley and the pharmaceutical industry – that have emerged as a kind of secular priesthood during the pandemic. And to challenge them on their own terms, much like the group of citizen journalists who successfully rehabilitated the ‘lab leak’ hypothesis after it had been designated a ‘conspiracy theory’ in the pages of the Lancet. (Scientific and medical journals will also be in our sights.)

Peak of the Delta Surge Elusive for England, While Scotland’s Decline Continues

It appears that the anticipated peak of the current surge in England has not yet arrived, and the recent slowdowns may have been temporary.

U.K. positive Covid tests by date reported

As of today, ZOE data is now beginning to show the uptick in infections that Government data has shown over the past week, reversing what had appeared to be (including to ZOE lead scientist Tim Spector) the early signs of a declining trend.

All U.K. Adults Have Been Offered a First Dose of a Covid Vaccine

All U.K. adults have been offered a first dose of a Covid vaccine a day ahead of schedule, the Government has announced. But the success of the national vaccine roll-out has not persuaded the Prime Minister to give back more freedoms on ‘Freedom Day’, with mask-wearing still to be encouraged and the introduction of vaccine passports in a number of domestic settings seemingly imminent. Sky News has the story.

The Department of Health and Social Care said more than 46.2 million people had now had a first dose (87.8% of the [adult] population), while 35.7 million had received both shots (67.8%).

Boris Johnson had set July 19th as the date to offer all over-18s a jab, as well as to fully vaccinate two in three people.

It has been met a day before most existing coronavirus restrictions end in England.

The Prime Minister said today’s milestone was an “extraordinary achievement” and that it comes just eight months after the first shot was administered.

Graphic from Sky News.

“Thank you again to everyone coming forward, and to those helping others to get jabbed,” he said.

“You are the reason we are able to cautiously ease restrictions next week, and return closer towards normal life. Now let’s finish the job. If you’re over 18, book both your jabs today.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who’s isolating after contracting the virus himself, said it was “testament to the sheer dedication of NHS teams and local volunteers” who’ve been giving out the jabs.

Every adult will now have the chance to be double-jabbed by mid-September, added the Department of Health.

However, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph, ministers have decided against a mass vaccination of under-18s and will only offer a jab to those who are vulnerable.

Worth reading in full.

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.

Is it ‘Freedom Day’ Already?

Sun-starved Britons flocked to beaches and parks today causing miles-long tailbacks on the hottest day of the year so far as temperatures hit 88F (31C), making parts of the U.K. warmer than the Caribbean. MailOnline has more.

The warmest parts of England today were Yorkshire, the Midlands and Bristol – and conditions could be even hotter tomorrow with the Met Office warning of 91F (33C) highs as the summer heatwave continues.

The balmy weather, driven by a blast of warm air coming in from the Azores in the North Atlantic, has prompted health officials to issue warnings about the dangers of extreme heat – especially to the elderly and vulnerable.

The sunshine is due to last until so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday, the day when the last of the Covid-19 restrictions are due to be lifted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when thunderstorms could arrive.

Thousands of people have flocked to beaches across the country, with London and the South East seeing clear skies and highs of 84F (29C) today – with the mercury climbing to between 88F (30C) and 90F (32C) tomorrow.

And, for a change, the heat is being shared across the country – with the North Midlands and South Yorkshire hottest today, followed by the South East tomorrow.

Monday is expected to see the highest temperatures shift to the West Country. But we are still a long way off record temperatures – with the all-time UK record of 101.7F (38.7C) being set in Cambridge on July 25, 2019.

Tom Morgan, meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “We have got quite an extended hot spell of weather to come through the next several days lasting much of this week, nighttime temperatures will be in the high teens Celsius and daytime temperatures will be in the high twenties or low thirties.

“It’s going to mean that people are really going to feel the effects of the heat as we go through this week.”

Worth reading in full – not least for the gallery of photographs showing people relaxing and enjoying themselves in the sunshine.

Sainsbury’s and Tesco to Continue Telling Customers to Wear Face Masks After ‘Freedom Day’

A growing number of retail giants are going to continue asking customers to wear face masks in their stores after the much-anticipated ‘easing’ of restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’. The Government says that it “expects and recommends” people to continue mask-wearing after July 19th – a plea that has so far been backed by Waterstones, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and more. What’s most disappointing is that this appears to be what customers want. BBC News has the story.

Sainsbury’s said signs and tannoy announcements would remind shoppers to cover their faces.

Tesco said it wanted to “be on the safe side”.

The chain will also continue to limit the number of shoppers in store at any one time.

The Government has said it “expects and recommends” shoppers in England to wear face masks from Monday. But the legal requirement to cover your face in enclosed spaces will end. Different rules apply in the devolved nations.

The new guidance leaves firms to decide their own safety policies after July 19th when Covid rules are lifted. …

Primark has said it won’t have signage requesting customers to wear masks but hopes they will continue to do so. John Timpson, Founder of the keycutting and shoe repair chain, said the decision would be left to customers.

Sainsbury’s said its strategy reflected feedback from customers and colleagues, with the majority of those surveyed in favour of keeping the mask policy in place.

The chain said some Covid measures, such as screens between self-service checkouts and checkout queues, would be gradually removed. However screens between checkout staff and customers will remain in place. …

Dr Roger Barker, Policy Director at the Institute of Directors, said: “Like everybody else, businesses across the country having been awaiting ‘Freedom Day’ with bated breath.

“But instead we have had a series of mixed messages and patchwork requirements from Government that have dampened that enthusiasm.”

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.