Mask Mandate Should Stay After July 19th, Says Labour’s Kate Green

Labour believes mandatory mask-wearing should stay in place after July 19th so as to keep the rules clear and to provide people with a sense of reassurance about their safety.

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green told Sky News yesterday that allowing people to choose whether to wear a mask would be a “recipe for confusion” and “confrontations”, and that it would be much “clearer” to keep rules in place for public places after “Freedom Day”.

She added that, when on public transport, wearing masks and seeing others wearing masks is “a source of great reassurance and people want to do it”.

Despite appealing for clarity, Kate has created more confusion by suggesting that Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has decided to keep mask mandates in the city’s metro – a claim Burnham’s team has denied. Manchester authorities are, however, “strongly urging people to wear face coverings”, as is the Government more generally.

And it doesn’t stop there. Kate also said Labour believes social distancing measures should continue “as far as is possible” and that Test and Trace should be more – not less – sensitive. Do they ever want this to end?

Link Between Positive Covid Tests and Covid Deaths Has Been Broken, Says NHS Leader

The vaccine has broken the link between positive Covid tests and Covid deaths, according to the Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, who last week criticised the scientific modelling seen by the Government through much of the pandemic as “crude” and unreliable. Chris says that viewed alone, the raw number of positive tests does not tell the full story: “It is a much younger population that is coming in [for hospital treatment now], they are less clinically vulnerable” and much easier to treat. The MailOnline has the story.

Chris Hopson… said today that the surge in cases and hospital admissions in the Greater Manchester town was manageable for its hospitals.

Patients were generally younger and less sick, he suggested, than in the crippling second wave over the winter, and the numbers of people coming in were lower and significantly fewer of them are dying.

Vaccines appear to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting, Mr Hopson said, adding that they have broken the link between infections and “very high” levels of hospital admissions and deaths in earlier waves of the virus…

Bolton has been overtaken by nearby Blackburn as the country’s Covid hotspot after cases surged there driven by the Indian variant, which accounts for almost all infections in the town. Hospital admissions rose shortly after, to a peak of 49 people on wards with Covid and 14 admitted in a day, but these appear to be falling now, too, with 42 reported in patients on June 1st.

Mr Hopson said: “If – and it is a big if – if Bolton has gone through its complete cycle and if other areas follow Bolton, the view from the hospital there was that they were able to cope with the level of infections.”

His comments come as pressure is building towards Boris Johnson’s speech next Monday when he is expected reveal whether June 21st’s “Freedom Day” end of social distancing will go ahead. Current trends look as though he will prolong lockdown laws for a few more weeks or until the summer holidays to buy more time for vaccinations.

Mr Hopson told Times Radio: “It’s important not to just focus on the raw numbers here… you also do need to look at who’s being admitted into hospital and how clinically vulnerable and what level of acuity [illness] they’ve got.

“What chief executives are consistently telling us is that it is a much younger population that is coming in, they are less clinically vulnerable, they are less in need of critical care and therefore they’re seeing what they believe is a significantly lower mortality rate which is, you know, borne out by the figures.

“So it’s not just the numbers of people who are coming in, it’s actually the level of harm and clinical risk.”

Worth reading in full.

“Minimise Travel” Advice Extended to Cover Millions More Brits

All people living in Greater Manchester and Lancashire are now advised to “minimise travel” due to fears over the Indian Delta Covid variant, though Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has told people not to cancel trips because of the new guidelines. The Government hopes to tackle the Delta strain with a “strengthened package of support”, focusing particularly on additional Covid testing. The Mirror has the story.

The Government’s Covid advice was updated today, to expand the areas advised to only travel in and out of the area if necessary.

At the end of May, the Government faced criticism after it updated guidance for people in Bedford, Blackburn and Darwen, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow, and North Tyneside, where the India variant had started to surge.

The information was posted in an online update at on May 21st but it was not accompanied by an official announcement. 

Today, the areas covered by the guidance were updated to include the Greater Manchester Combined Authority… and Lancashire County Council…

Asked about the change, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Health Secretary has talked about that in the House. 

“He wants to provide the package of support that has been effective in Bolton to a wider area, so that’s Greater Manchester and all of Lancashire County Council, to tackle the cases of the Delta variant.”

After the advice was updated, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs: “I can tell the House that today working with local authorities, we are providing a strengthened package of support based on what’s working in Bolton, to help Greater Manchester and Lancashire tackle the rise in the Delta variant that we’re seeing there.

“This includes rapid response teams, putting in extra testing, military support and supervised in-school testing. I want to encourage everyone in Manchester and Lancashire to get the tests on offer.”…

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham told locals not to cancel trips because of the new guidance. 

“It’s very important to keep a sense of proportion,” he told a press conference today. 

“This is guidance… it is not a lockdown, it is not a ban.”

Worth reading in full.

Teenagers in Manchester to be Offered Covid Vaccines

Mancunian children as young as 16 are to be offered Covid vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna – though, notably, not by AstraZeneca – as local authorities launch a “preventive vaccine plan” due to fears about the Indian variant. This decision has been made in spite of the advice given by Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, that children shouldn’t be vaccinated because of the “side effects”. The Sun has the story.

David Regan, Manchester’s Director of Public Health, said the city was in a “race against time” to tackle the new variant – which is more transmissible than other strains. [Is it? Note that the article later acknowledges there is no evidence for this.]

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be offered to people aged 18 and over in target wards, while 17 and 16 year-olds from eligible households will also get the jab call.

The wards involved in the accelerated vaccine rollout are Ardwick, Crumpsall, Cheetham, Moss Side, Levenshulme, Longsight, Rusholme, and Whalley Range.

These areas have populations of more than half black, Asian, and minority-ethnic residents, with many people living in multi-generational households.

Across the rest of England, people aged 32 and 33 can now book their vaccine appointment as the age limit dropped once more…

A total of 49 cases of the new strain have been identified – but there is no evidence to show that it is more transmissible or resistant to vaccines, health chiefs said…

Extra testing and tracing is being carried out while the “strange combination of mutations” continues to be probed.

Downing Street said yesterday that the variant is being monitored and stressed “we won’t hesitate to put in measures that we think are necessary to try and tackle the transmission of any variants”.

Worth reading in full.