The Covid news you may have missed amid ‘freedom day’ furore

Twenty-four hours is a long time in politics

Jon Sharman
Tuesday 20 July 2021 09:13 BST
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No vaccine passports needed for pubs, says minister

England’s so-called freedom day was, for many people, just another busy Monday. For others, it was a booze- and sun-soaked whirlwind of revelry; an outpouring of elation fuelled by the knowledge they no longer have to wear face masks in Tesco – Delta variant be damned.

No midnight pilgrimage to Pryzm for Boris Johnson, however, who remained cooped up in isolation, despite his best efforts.

Perhaps it was jealousy that prompted the PM to sober up clubbers by announcing mandatory vaccine passports, or perhaps it was press images of dancefloors packed with people he had waved through the doors without allowing time for them to be fully inoculated.

So, on F Day plus one, catch up on some of the news you might have missed.

Hospitals and ambulance services are in a deepening crisis caused by the surge in Covid-19 infections as the end of lockdown coincides with added pressure from the heatwave and the return of thousands of workers to offices, writes Shaun Lintern.

More than half of staff at one NHS trust are absent because of Covid-19 isolation rules, forcing operations to be cancelled, while the number of Covid patients in England has leapt by one-third in the past week.

The chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told a Downing Street press conference he expected the NHS to see 1,000 patients a day being admitted to hospital soon.

Proof of vaccination will be needed to enter a nightclub – and possibly sports matches – as Boris Johnson ordered young Britons to get jabbed or miss out on “life’s pleasures”.

On what was once dubbed “freedom day”, a jittery prime minister betrayed his nervousness at the inevitable surge in Covid cases by announcing a crackdown within 24 hours of lifting rules, writes Rob Merrick. On Tuesday, another minister added to the confusion by insisting pubs would not be affected.

From the end of September, nightclubs will bar entry to unvaccinated customers in a French-style bid to force the 3 million under-30s who have so far refused to get a jab to do so.

It was meant to be a triumphant expression of England’s success in vanquishing Covid-19. Boris Johnson had reportedly planned a “Churchillian” victory speech to be delivered at a historic venue on what had been labelled “freedom day”.

As it turned out, the ending of legally enforced restrictions in England arrived with more of a whimper than a flourish of wartime rhetoric, writes Ben Chapman.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised its Covid-19 warning level for the UK to “very high”, the highest rating on its scale measuring the threat of Covid-19 within a country.

The agency warned Americans not to travel to the UK, adding that if they “must” travel then it is advisable to be fully vaccinated first, writes John Bowden.

The UK’s rate of new Covid-19 cases has exploded since early June, and is approaching highs previously seen during the worst of the second wave last winter.

Clinically vulnerable children who face an increased risk from Covid-19 are to be vaccinated, the government has confirmed – though health officials have decided against a universal rollout for all under-18s, writes Samuel Lovett.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that children aged 12 to 15 with severe neurological conditions, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression or multiple or severe learning disabilities should receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

This recommendation extends to 17-year-olds who are within three months of their 18th birthday, and children as young as 12 who live with an immunosuppressed person.

Boris Johnson refused to take the country into lockdown in the autumn because “the people dying are essentially all over 80”, leaked phone messages appear to show.

The WhatsApp chats, passed to the BBC by former No 10 chief of staff Dominic Cummings, also show the prime minister saying he did not “buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff” months before deaths soared to over 1,000 a day, writes Jon Stone.

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