unlock

Caroline Lucas MP Says “Cases Are Soaring”. Hasn’t She Seen the Data?

A reader has forwarded an email sent by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas via the platform of March for Change in which she reiterates the need for an immediate public inquiry into the Government’s handling of Covid. As with most people calling for a Covid inquiry, she accused Boris Johnson of lifting the coronavirus restrictions “too soon”. That restrictions suppress infections is simply taken for granted.

The odd thing about this email is that it appears to have been written a week ago since it makes no reference to the fact that the number of daily cases yesterday was 40% lower than it was on July 18th, the day before ‘Freedom Day’. By going ahead with ‘Freedom Day’, Caroline Lucas claims, the Prime Minister has “chosen to bury his head in the sand and simply hope for the best”. As a result of this criminal recklessness, “the third wave of Covid [is] sweep[ing] across the country”, she says, and”cases are soaring”.

In fact, official figures show that cases are falling or levelling off in every region of England, including Caroline Lucas’s Brighton constituency. As Will Jones has pointed out, “the myth of the exit wave persists” – and the fact that this myth is so impervious to facts makes it look like a pro-Lockdown conspiracy theory.

The same goes for Lucas’s claim that hospitals are filling up (see orange line in graph below).

Professor Adam Finn of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation says the fall in reported Covid cases “means less viral transmission and eventually fewer hospitalisations and deaths than we feared and expected a week ago”. The biggest problem faced by the NHS is the huge backlog of patients who haven’t received treatment because of successive lockdowns. Not to mention those whose illnesses haven’t even been diagnosed. Isn’t Caroline Lucas concerned that sending out emails like this, including false claims about the case rate, will discourage even more sick people to seek much-needed hospital treatment?

Next time Lucas accuses a lockdown sceptic of trafficking in ‘misinformation’, they should point to this dangerously misleading email.

Stop Press: U.K.’s Covid cases have dropped for the sixth day in a row, according to MailOnline.

Stop Press 2: The Director of March For Change has tweeted an apology to Caroline Lucas for sending out an out-of-date, earlier draft of an email in her name. This is almost certainly a result of our eagle-eyed reader bringing this matter to our attention, the above article and those other Daily Sceptic readers who emailed Caroline Lucas’s office to point out the mistake.

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.

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.

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.

Covid Rules at University of Oxford to Remain Unchanged After July 19th

The number of settings in which life will continue as it is now after ‘Freedom Day’ keeps growing. Most recently, students at the University of Oxford have been told that rules on mask-wearing and social distancing will remain unchanged after July 19th due to high infection rates in the county.

The number of positive Covid tests in Oxford has been on the up in recent weeks, but deaths remain low, with zero deaths having been recorded in seven of the last 10 weeks and no more than three deaths recorded in the other three weeks.

Graph from Oxfordshire County Council.

University leaders haven’t let this stop them imposing tough lockdown restrictions. In an email sent to staff and students on Tuesday (and kindly forwarded to us at Lockdown Sceptics by a reader), Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, the Principal of Somerville College, said measures would remain “until further notice”.

Please note that, whilst the Government has confirmed plans to lift Covid restrictions on Monday, July 19th, the University’s policies on social distancing, face coverings and working from home will not change due to the high rates of Covid in Oxford. We will therefore continue with our Covid restrictions in College until further notice and, for the moment, we will not be allowing visitors.

On its website, the University warns that “Covid remains a real threat to many people in our community and… the pandemic is not yet over”. Students are instructed to continue following these measures:

  • Continue social distancing – assume two metres within University buildings unless told otherwise.
  • Keep washing your hands.
  • Keep wearing a face covering (unless you’re exempt).
  • Get tested – twice a week, with Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs); and take a PCR test if you have symptoms or have received a positive LFD test result or have been advised that you are a close contact of someone who has a PCR-confirmed case of Covid.
  • Continue to follow the self-isolation guidance.

If we can’t banish these restrictions from one of the country’s – the world’s – most learned institutions, what chance have we got of scrapping them from pubs and restaurants?

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.

Government to Urge Venues to Require Vaccine Passports for Entry after “Freedom Day”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that the Government is going ahead with the fourth and final stage of its ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on July 19th, saying there will “never be a perfect time” to end restrictions: “If not now, then when?”

It has, however, become quite clear why ministers have decided to “tone down Freedom Day rhetoric“, as large indoor venues in England have been urged to tell customers to show vaccine passports before being granted entry this summer. The day we were told would be the “terminus date” for restrictions in England will instead be a partial easing of restrictions that in all likelihood will return in winter. The Guardian has more.

Speaking to MPs, the Health Secretary confirmed the Government’s plan on July 19th to lift almost all the remaining legal restrictions put in place during the pandemic, including those covering mask-wearing and the size of social gatherings.

But his tone was noticeably more downbeat than a week ago, when he told MPs, “freedom is in our sights once again”.

The vaccine certification plan, in which venues will be “supported and encouraged” by Government to use the NHS app to check up on their customers, was the most concrete sign of a change of tack.

A review of Covid certification had been carried out by the Cabinet Office, under Michael Gove, but ministers had concluded previously that the scheme would not be immediately necessary, and should be held in reserve for the autumn.

Instead, with only a week to go until mass events will be allowed to go ahead, and venues such as nightclubs can reopen, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government would be in touch with businesses to encourage them to implement Covid checks at the door.

He suggested customers could either show that they have been double-vaccinated, or had a positive PCR test within the past six months – or could carry out a lateral flow test and show the email they received after reporting a negative result.

Javid said the Government was acting “in a measured way,” and had only proceeded because its four tests – on vaccines, hospitalisations, NHS capacity and new variants – have been met.

He said July 19th would be, “a major milestone for this country, taking us another step closer to the lives we used to lead”.

He conceded that infection rates are likely to get worse before they get better – potentially hitting 100,000 a day – but said the vaccination programme had “severely weakened” the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths. …

He said moving now offered, “the best possible chance of a return to normal life”.

The events industry is likely to respond with exasperation at being given such short notice to implement the scheme. The PM’s spokesman stressed it was already “up and running” because it had been tried at a series of pilot events.

Ministers have also underlined the continued importance of mask-wearing in all indoor, crowded spaces in recent days, despite the decision to lift legal restrictions.

And employers are being encouraged to act cautiously when it comes to ordering office staff back to the workplace.

Worth reading in full.

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?

Therapists Warn Of Rise in Anxiety over the Easing of Restrictions

Reports suggest that a high proportion of Brits not only disagree with the easing of lockdown restrictions on July 19th (or ever, in some cases) but are also seeking help from mental health organisations due to their anxiety over ‘Freedom Day’. MailOnline has the story.

One in five people are suffering from what experts have dubbed “Covid Anxiety Syndrome”, with people reporting fears of losing control as the restriction rules put in place to protect people from contracting the virus are removed.

Meanwhile, mental health charities have warned of a surge in treatment requests while an opinion poll has revealed half of people want restrictions to remain in place.

Research by the London South Bank University (LSBU), shows that 40% of respondents to a survey avoid touching things in public, and nearly 25% are avoiding being in public places. 

Professor Marcantonio Spada from LSBU’s Centre for Addictive Behaviours and Professor Ana Nikčević from Kingston University first identified the concept of Covid Anxiety Syndrome in April 2020.

Their research found that people were developing a particular set of behaviours as a result of their fear of the virus.

Covid Anxiety Syndrome consists of forms of coping such as a constant attention to threat, worry, avoidance and excessive checking, that can keep people locked into a state of continuous anxiety and fear of contracting the virus.

Professor Marcantonio Spada, Professor of Addictive Behaviours and Mental Health at LSBU, said: “Our data indicates that after one month of re-opening of society many people are still struggling with aspects of Covid Anxiety Syndrome, a similar figure to what we previously observed during full lockdown.

“This means that there are still many people who find it difficult to disengage from the Covid threats which may make return to normal daily living harder as restrictions ease.

“Our new findings show how vital it is that people affected by Covid Anxiety Syndrome receive support. Mapping out how we will do this will become a priority for mental health service providers.”

Meanwhile, an opinion poll carried out for the Observer has revealed 50% of people believe Freedom Day should be pushed back.

The poll, of more than 2,000 people, also revealed around 65% will continue to wear masks in shops and supermarkets while 54% will wear them on public transport. …

Research by mental health charities backs up the findings, with Mind reporting that 55% of adults and young people are concerned about seeing and being near others when restrictions ease next week. 

Nearly half, 46%, of those who have been vaccinated, say they are still concerned they will catch the virus. 

It comes after Mind reported that one in four adults experienced mental distress for the first time during the pandemic, with NHS figures showing an increase in people’s contact with mental health services since March 2020.   

Worth reading in full.

People Still “Expected” to Wear Face Masks After July 19th, Says Vaccines Minister

The Government has added further confusion to mask-wearing requirements after July 19th today. While there will be no “legal compulsion” to wear a mask in England when the final stage of the lockdown roadmap is reached, people will continue to be “expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces”, according to Vaccines Minister Nadim Zahawi. He is quoted in the Guardian.

I think it’s important that we remain cautious and careful and the guidelines that we’ll set out tomorrow will demonstrate that, including guidelines that people are expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces. 

And of course to remain vigilant with your hands and face and just remember that we all act responsibly as we did with the vaccination program. …

We can come together and deal with this pandemic in a way that is responsible, by thinking about our own actions and how they impact other people, including people who may be immunocompromised.

Whether or not people are guided by this “expectation”, masks will still need to be worn in a number of settings as businesses have been told they will be allowed to set their own rules.

Stop Press: The Vaccines Minister has also denied reports this morning that the gap between Covid vaccine doses will be cut down to four weeks. He told Sky News: “The eight-week interval offers that additional fortification in terms of protection with the two doses much better than having the interval shortened any further.”