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News Covid Pandemic not over PM warns as he sets out 19 July

News Covid Pandemic not over PM warns as he sets out 19 July


COVID-19: Most rules to end in England on 19 July – but face masks … Mon, 12 Jul 2021 11:00:00 +0100-Boris Johnson says mask use will be advised in crowded spaces in England after legal controls end.

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Covid: Pandemic not over, PM warns, as he sets out 19 July reopening – BBC News

  1. Here’s a round-up of the key points from the Downing Street briefing:

    • The PM confirms the plan to lift legal restrictions and social distancing on 19 July but says the country cannot just go back to life before Covid
    • He warns the pandemic “is not over” and mask use will still be advised in crowded and enclosed spaces
    • He says a “gradual return to work over the summer” is expected rather than a rush back to the office en masse
    • The PM urges nightclubs and other venues to make use of Covid passports as a means of entry
    • There will be new guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable on how to keep themselves safe
    • The existing border policy will continue to apply after 19 July, including quarantine for those coming back from red list countries
    • He says 19 July is the right time to ease coronavirus restrictions because of the “natural firebreak” of the school holidays
    • The PM says he hopes the roadmap is irreversible but that it has to be a cautious approach
    • England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty says the rates of hospitalisation are “not trivial” and are rising but they are “way below” those of autumn and spring of both last year and this year
    • And Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, says vaccinations are decreasing the chance of someone fully-vaccinated catching the virus by roughly 50%
  2. Getty ImagesCopyright: Getty Images

    The peak of the third wave of Covid infection across England is not expected before mid-August and could lead to 1,000 to 2,000 hospital admissions per day, according to the government's scientific advisers.

    Modellers advising the government estimate that step 4 of the roadmap for England, along with the wave of infections, could be associated with 1,000 or more hospital admissions per day at the peak (with an estimate of 1,000 to 2,000 per day).

    Deaths are expected to be between 100 and 200 per day at the peak of the wave, though there is a large amount of uncertainty in the modelling.

    Papers newly released from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), conclude that “all modelled scenarios show a period of extremely high prevalence of infection lasting until at least the end of August”.

    Experts are urging the public to “go slow” once restrictions lift on 19 July, in order to curb infections and cut the number of people who will go on to die from Covid-19.

    They recommend that workers do not all head back to the office from mid-July, continue to wear masks in crowded spaces and stay at home when infected or contacted by the NHS app or NHS Test and Trace.

  3. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined the end of England's social distancing rules on 19 July, but has warned that the “pandemic is not over”.

    In a Downing Street news conference, Mr Johnson said that more deaths and hospitalisations from Covid would be seen, but that “now is the right time to proceed”.

    Video caption: Boris Johnson: Prime Minister sets out reopening but warns pandemic is not overBoris Johnson: Prime Minister sets out reopening but warns pandemic is not over
  4. Esther Webber from Politico asks if there is a danger of mixed messaging from the government when it comes to easing restrictions.

    She wants to know how advice to go slowly squares with talk of “freedom day”.

    The PM says yes this is a big package of measures and it will “only work if people are cautious”.

    He says in order for this to be irreversible it has to be cautious and everyone who is offered a vaccine should take it up.

  5. Dan Bloom of The Mirror says he understands there could be up to 100 to 200 deaths a day, according to the modelling – is that a price the government is willing to pay for freedom, he wants to know?

    The PM says the reality is that both deaths and hospitalisations are sadly going to rise, whenever you decide to unlock. “We simply have to recognise that”, he adds.

    Bloom also asks the scientists what measures might be needed this autumn and winter.

    Chris Whitty says it has already been said there is likely to be an increase in flu and other respiratory diseases this winter – and now there would be Covid on top of this.

    This would probably lead to people taking “sensible precautions” but that is different to there being restrictions, which is an issue for ministers, he adds.

    It is not an inevitability that because of a surge, there will be anything ministers have to do, he adds.

    The reality is that it is going to come in winter and possibly other winters, says the chief medical officer.

  6. Chris Smyth from the Times asks what people should or shouldn't do after the 19 July changes.

    Prof Whitty advises people to cover their faces in crowded areas, avoid crowded areas where you can, avoid unnecessary meetings, and get vaccinated.

    “Everything should be done steadily,” he says.

    Sir Patrick adds that it's an “absolute necessity” to continue to self-isolate if you test positive.

    “And in reopening, make sure that ventilation gets a priority. Summer is quite a good time to do that,” he says.

    The prime minister says he wants people to “think carefully” before acting.

    And he recalls the “immortal words” of deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam – “don't rip the pants out of it”.

    “Don't be demob happy about this,” the PM warns. “This is not the end of Covid.”

  7. Carl Dinnen of ITV news says the PM used to say the steps on the roadmap would be irreversible and wants to know if he still believes that.

    Boris Johnson says he hopes the roadmap is irreversible, which is what he has always said, but that it has to be a cautious approach. That's why there has been a four-week delay, he says.

    It's also why “we want people to remember this pandemic is not over”.

    The reporter also asks Chris Whitty what level of daily hospital admissions would be unsustainable for the NHS.

    He answers there is no specific cut-off point – and that it is hoped the next peak, if we all “go very carefully”, will be significantly lower than the January peak which put pressure on the NHS.

    It is not realistic however to think there will be no pressure on the NHS, he adds.

    There might be a situation where there is a different amount of pressure in different parts of the country, he says.

  8. Ben Kentish from LBC asks about people wearing masks.

    He asks why, in the middle of a global pandemic, are people being expected to wear coverings rather than told that they must do so.

    The PM says we are following the principle of moving towards personal responsibility and thinking about others.

    We must exercise extreme caution, he says, as we continue to fight the disease.

    People will be expected to wear masks on crowded Tube trains he adds.

  9. BBC health editor Hugh Pym asks the first journalist question.

    He asks if self-isolation for NHS staff who are double-jabbed will end, given the pressure on hospitals?

    The PM says: “We will be looking at ways to get the NHS operating in a pre-Covid way,” without the requirement for social distancing but he says we will have to wait for the health secretary to set out how that will happen.

    We want the NHS to operate as much as possible as it was before he says.

    Sir Patrick Vallance stresses that the reopening needs to happen slowly to stop a very big spike in cases.

  10. The next question from the public is from Sarah from Brighton.

    She says we know two doses of a vaccine are good at reducing the risk of severe infection – but what are the risks of unknowingly passing it on, she wants to know?

    Patrick Vallance says there are no figures for this on the Delta variant yet – but roughly speaking, vaccinations are decreasing the chance of someone fully-vaccinated catching the virus by 50%.

    And the risk of transmission to someone else is also cut by roughly 50%.

    So, it means it looks as though overall you are 70-75% less likely to be able to infect someone else if you've had both jabs.

    Chris Whitty adds that this does mean a quarter of people could still pass it on. It reduces the risks to others but does not eliminate it.

    And Sir Patrick also stresses that he was talking about the risk of getting the virus – the protection against severe disease, hospitalisation or death is much higher, at 90% or higher after two doses.

  11. Back to those slides and Prof Whitty continued running through the four tests which must be met to lift England's lockdown.

    The third test was that infection rates did not risk a surge in infections which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

    Prof Whitty said “inevitably we have to be more cautious in our interpretation of the data”.

    He explained that while the rates of hospitalisations were “not trivial” and were rising, they were “way below” those of autumn and spring of both last year and this year:

    HM GovernmentCopyright: HM Government

    He pointed out that cases were following almost an identical track to the previous wave, as you can see in the graphic below.

    He said admissions were going “significantly below that”.

    “But they are still rising at a slower exponential rate,” he said.

    The death rate is “much lower” than previously but deaths were rising, he said.

    HM GovernmentCopyright: HM Government

    He added: “We inevitably cannot be quite as confident on this test as the others.

    “But at this point, modelling data… would imply, that if we go slowly with the next stage of the roadmap, the expectation is this will not reach the point where it's putting unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”

    On the final test – that the risks weren't fundamentally changed by a variant of concern – Prof Whitty reiterated that Delta was now the dominant variant in the UK.

    But he said, looking at other variants of concerns, “the numbers are low and are not rising”.

  12. image

    Vicki Young

    Deputy Political Editor

    There was a time when Boris Johnson talked about the lifting of restrictions being irreversible but it’s a few weeks since we’ve heard that word.

    Now he says the government must rule nothing out and won’t hesitate to use the means at our disposal if circumstances change.

    Conservative MPs believe some restrictions will return in the winter.

  13. Michael from Manchester asks tthe first question from the public.

    He wants to know what criteria will be used to determine whether restrictions will need to be bought back in the future if hospitalisations and cases increase significantly.

    The PM says he will keep all the data under review into next year and if a new variant emerges that is causing problems “then we must rule nothing out”.

    “We will not hesitate to use the means we have at our disposal to protect the public,” he says but, “We are confident if we go slowly we can proceed with the roadmap.”

  14. Analysis

    image

    Vicki Young

    Deputy Political Editor

    The most striking graph shows a comparison between this wave and the autumn wave.

    While cases are following an almost identical track, the hospital admissions and death rates are rising much more slowly now.

    The big question is when will the wave peak – and we’ve not been shown the modelling on that yet.

    Cabinet OfficeCopyright: Cabinet Office
  15. The PM urges nightclubs and other venues to make use of Covid passports as a means of entry.

    He says too that there will be new guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable on how to keep themselves safe.

    He urges everyone to keep thinking of others and consider risks.

    The existing border policy will continue to apply after 19 July, including quarantine for those coming back from red list countries. Test, trace and isolate will also continue.

    And there will be “hundreds of thousands” of more vaccinations each week.

    The four-week delay to this stage of the road map has enabled seven million more to be vaccinated, he says.

    By next Monday, two thirds of adults will have had a second dose and every adult will have been offered a first dose.

    The PM says the “single most crucial thing” people can do now is to get vaccinated. It will protect them and their family and enable them to do things such as go on holiday.

    Thanks to the vaccination programme we can take these “cautious steps” – but to take them, we “must be cautious”, he adds.

  16. England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty is now running through the four “roadmap tests” which need to be met for restrictions to be eased.

    On the first test, he says the NHS has rolled out vaccines “in a magnificent way”:

    HM GovernmentCopyright: HM Government

    The second test needed to show that the vaccines sufficiently reduced hospitalisations and deaths.

    He says real-life data in the UK has given the government “considerable confidence” that one dose reduces the chance of getting symptomatic infection by a third.

    For two doses, it's estimated to be between 78% and 80% reduced, he says:

    HM GovernmentCopyright: HM Government

    “These are very highly effective vaccines,” he says.

  17. Boris Johnson says there is no “easy answer or obvious date” for reopening.

    He stresses that we cannot “revert instantly” on 19 July to life as it was before Covid.

    As well as expecting people to continue wearing face masks in indoor spaces, Boris Johnson says he does not expect everyone to be back at their desks on Monday, although the government is removing the instruction to work from home.

    It is a “matter of social responsibility” he says.

  18. image

    Vicki Young

    Deputy Political Editor

    There's much more emphasis from the prime minister on the risks that still exist rather than the freedoms we can look forward to next Monday.

    Legal restrictions are going but there’s still plenty of guidance coming for businesses – and expectations on all of us to take sensible steps to stay safe.

    What ministers can’t be sure of is how people will behave and what impact that will have on the trajectory of this pandemic.

  19. Johnson says we are going to see more deaths and hospitalisations from Covid but that was always foreseen.

    If we were to delay the reopening until September we would be doing so when the weather was getting colder so “now is the right time to proceed” he says.

    It is “absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution”, he says.

    This pandemic is not over and continues to carry risks he warns, so people should not assume that everything will be normal, even when restrictions ease.

    People should continue to wear face masks where necessary, he adds.

  20. The PM starts the presser by thanking Gareth Southgate and the England squad for lifting spirits and bringing joy to the country.

    He says “shame on you” to those who have been directing racist abuse at players.

    They should “crawl back under a rock” he says.

Here’s a round-up of the key points from the Downing Street briefing:

  • The PM confirms the plan to lift legal restrictions and social distancing on 19 July but says the country cannot just go back to life before Covid
  • He warns the pandemic “is not over” and mask use will still be advised in crowded and enclosed spaces
  • He says a “gradual return to work over the summer” is expected rather than a rush back to the office en masse
  • The PM urges nightclubs and other venues to make use of Covid passports as a means of entry
  • There will be new guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable on how to keep themselves safe
  • The existing border policy will continue to apply after 19 July, including quarantine for those coming back from red list countries
  • He says 19 July is the right time to ease coronavirus restrictions because of the “natural firebreak” of the school holidays
  • The PM says he hopes the roadmap is irreversible but that it has to be a cautious approach
  • England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty says the rates of hospitalisation are “not trivial” and are rising but they are “way below” those of autumn and spring of both last year and this year
  • And Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, says vaccinations are decreasing the chance of someone fully-vaccinated catching the virus by roughly 50%
Getty ImagesCopyright: Getty Images

The peak of the third wave of Covid infection across England is not expected before mid-August and could lead to 1,000 to 2,000 hospital admissions per day, according to the government's scientific advisers.

Modellers advising the government estimate that step 4 of the roadmap for England, along with the wave of infections, could be associated with 1,000 or more hospital admissions per day at the peak (with an estimate of 1,000 to 2,000 per day).

Deaths are expected to be between 100 and 200 per day at the peak of the wave, though there is a large amount of uncertainty in the modelling.

Papers newly released from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), conclude that “all modelled scenarios show a period of extremely high prevalence of infection lasting until at least the end of August”.

Experts are urging the public to “go slow” once restrictions lift on 19 July, in order to curb infections and cut the number of people who will go on to die from Covid-19.

They recommend that workers do not all head back to the office from mid-July, continue to wear masks in crowded spaces and stay at home when infected or contacted by the NHS app or NHS Test and Trace.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined the end of England's social distancing rules on 19 July, but has warned that the “pandemic is not over”.

In a Downing Street news conference, Mr Johnson said that more deaths and hospitalisations from Covid would be seen, but that “now is the right time to proceed”.

Video caption: Boris Johnson: Prime Minister sets out reopening but warns pandemic is not overBoris Johnson: Prime Minister sets out reopening but warns pandemic is not over

Esther Webber from Politico asks if there is a danger of mixed messaging from the government when it comes to easing restrictions.

She wants to know how advice to go slowly squares with talk of “freedom day”.

The PM says yes this is a big package of measures and it will “only work if people are cautious”.

He says in order for this to be irreversible it has to be cautious and everyone who is offered a vaccine should take it up.

Dan Bloom of The Mirror says he understands there could be up to 100 to 200 deaths a day, according to the modelling – is that a price the government is willing to pay for freedom, he wants to know?

The PM says the reality is that both deaths and hospitalisations are sadly going to rise, whenever you decide to unlock. “We simply have to recognise that”, he adds.

Bloom also asks the scientists what measures might be needed this autumn and winter.

Chris Whitty says it has already been said there is likely to be an increase in flu and other respiratory diseases this winter – and now there would be Covid on top of this.

This would probably lead to people taking “sensible precautions” but that is different to there being restrictions, which is an issue for ministers, he adds.

It is not an inevitability that because of a surge, there will be anything ministers have to do, he adds.

The reality is that it is going to come in winter and possibly other winters, says the chief medical officer.

Chris Smyth from the Times asks what people should or shouldn't do after the 19 July changes.

Prof Whitty advises people to cover their faces in crowded areas, avoid crowded areas where you can, avoid unnecessary meetings, and get vaccinated.

“Everything should be done steadily,” he says.

Sir Patrick adds that it's an “absolute necessity” to continue to self-isolate if you test positive.

“And in reopening, make sure that ventilation gets a priority. Summer is quite a good time to do that,” he says.

The prime minister says he wants people to “think carefully” before acting.

And he recalls the “immortal words” of deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam – “don't rip the pants out of it”.

“Don't be demob happy about this,” the PM warns. “This is not the end of Covid.”

Carl Dinnen of ITV news says the PM used to say the steps on the roadmap would be irreversible and wants to know if he still believes that.

Boris Johnson says he hopes the roadmap is irreversible, which is what he has always said, but that it has to be a cautious approach. That's why there has been a four-week delay, he says.

It's also why “we want people to remember this pandemic is not over”.

The reporter also asks Chris Whitty what level of daily hospital admissions would be unsustainable for the NHS.

He answers there is no specific cut-off point – and that it is hoped the next peak, if we all “go very carefully”, will be significantly lower than the January peak which put pressure on the NHS.

It is not realistic however to think there will be no pressure on the NHS, he adds.

There might be a situation where there is a different amount of pressure in different parts of the country, he says.

Ben Kentish from LBC asks about people wearing masks.

He asks why, in the middle of a global pandemic, are people being expected to wear coverings rather than told that they must do so.

The PM says we are following the principle of moving towards personal responsibility and thinking about others.

We must exercise extreme caution, he says, as we continue to fight the disease.

People will be expected to wear masks on crowded Tube trains he adds.

BBC health editor Hugh Pym asks the first journalist question.

He asks if self-isolation for NHS staff who are double-jabbed will end, given the pressure on hospitals?

The PM says: “We will be looking at ways to get the NHS operating in a pre-Covid way,” without the requirement for social distancing but he says we will have to wait for the health secretary to set out how that will happen.

We want the NHS to operate as much as possible as it was before he says.

Sir Patrick Vallance stresses that the reopening needs to happen slowly to stop a very big spike in cases.

The next question from the public is from Sarah from Brighton.

She says we know two doses of a vaccine are good at reducing the risk of severe infection – but what are the risks of unknowingly passing it on, she wants to know?

Patrick Vallance says there are no figures for this on the Delta variant yet – but roughly speaking, vaccinations are decreasing the chance of someone fully-vaccinated catching the virus by 50%.

And the risk of transmission to someone else is also cut by roughly 50%.

So, it means it looks as though overall you are 70-75% less likely to be able to infect someone else if you've had both jabs.

Chris Whitty adds that this does mean a quarter of people could still pass it on. It reduces the risks to others but does not eliminate it.

And Sir Patrick also stresses that he was talking about the risk of getting the virus – the protection against severe disease, hospitalisation or death is much higher, at 90% or higher after two doses.

Back to those slides and Prof Whitty continued running through the four tests which must be met to lift England's lockdown.

The third test was that infection rates did not risk a surge in infections which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

Prof Whitty said “inevitably we have to be more cautious in our interpretation of the data”.

He explained that while the rates of hospitalisations were “not trivial” and were rising, they were “way below” those of autumn and spring of both last year and this year:

HM GovernmentCopyright: HM Government

He pointed out that cases were following almost an identical track to the previous wave, as you can see in the graphic below.

He said admissions were going “significantly below that”.

“But they are still rising at a slower exponential rate,” he said.

The death rate is “much lower” than previously but deaths were rising, he said.

HM GovernmentCopyright: HM Government

He added: “We inevitably cannot be quite as confident on this test as the others.

“But at this point, modelling data… would imply, that if we go slowly with the next stage of the roadmap, the expectation is this will not reach the point where it's putting unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”

On the final test – that the risks weren't fundamentally changed by a variant of concern – Prof Whitty reiterated that Delta was now the dominant variant in the UK.

But he said, looking at other variants of concerns, “the numbers are low and are not rising”.

image

Vicki Young

Deputy Political Editor

There was a time when Boris Johnson talked about the lifting of restrictions being irreversible but it’s a few weeks since we’ve heard that word.

Now he says the government must rule nothing out and won’t hesitate to use the means at our disposal if circumstances change.

Conservative MPs believe some restrictions will return in the winter.

Michael from Manchester asks tthe first question from the public.

He wants to know what criteria will be used to determine whether restrictions will need to be bought back in the future if hospitalisations and cases increase significantly.

The PM says he will keep all the data under review into next year and if a new variant emerges that is causing problems “then we must rule nothing out”.

“We will not hesitate to use the means we have at our disposal to protect the public,” he says but, “We are confident if we go slowly we can proceed with the roadmap.”

Analysis

image

Vicki Young

Deputy Political Editor

The most striking graph shows a comparison between this wave and the autumn wave.

While cases are following an almost identical track, the hospital admissions and death rates are rising much more slowly now.

The big question is when will the wave peak – and we’ve not been shown the modelling on that yet.

Cabinet OfficeCopyright: Cabinet Office

The PM urges nightclubs and other venues to make use of Covid passports as a means of entry.

He says too that there will be new guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable on how to keep themselves safe.

He urges everyone to keep thinking of others and consider risks.

The existing border policy will continue to apply after 19 July, including quarantine for those coming back from red list countries. Test, trace and isolate will also continue.

And there will be “hundreds of thousands” of more vaccinations each week.

The four-week delay to this stage of the road map has enabled seven million more to be vaccinated, he says.

By next Monday, two thirds of adults will have had a second dose and every adult will have been offered a first dose.

The PM says the “single most crucial thing” people can do now is to get vaccinated. It will protect them and their family and enable them to do things such as go on holiday.

Thanks to the vaccination programme we can take these “cautious steps” – but to take them, we “must be cautious”, he adds.

England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty is now running through the four “roadmap tests” which need to be met for restrictions to be eased.

On the first test, he says the NHS has rolled out vaccines “in a magnificent way”:

HM GovernmentCopyright: HM Government

The second test needed to show that the vaccines sufficiently reduced hospitalisations and deaths.

He says real-life data in the UK has given the government “considerable confidence” that one dose reduces the chance of getting symptomatic infection by a third.

For two doses, it's estimated to be between 78% and 80% reduced, he says:

HM GovernmentCopyright: HM Government

“These are very highly effective vaccines,” he says.

Boris Johnson says there is no “easy answer or obvious date” for reopening.

He stresses that we cannot “revert instantly” on 19 July to life as it was before Covid.

As well as expecting people to continue wearing face masks in indoor spaces, Boris Johnson says he does not expect everyone to be back at their desks on Monday, although the government is removing the instruction to work from home.

It is a “matter of social responsibility” he says.

image

Vicki Young

Deputy Political Editor

There's much more emphasis from the prime minister on the risks that still exist rather than the freedoms we can look forward to next Monday.

Legal restrictions are going but there’s still plenty of guidance coming for businesses – and expectations on all of us to take sensible steps to stay safe.

What ministers can’t be sure of is how people will behave and what impact that will have on the trajectory of this pandemic.

Johnson says we are going to see more deaths and hospitalisations from Covid but that was always foreseen.

If we were to delay the reopening until September we would be doing so when the weather was getting colder so “now is the right time to proceed” he says.

It is “absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution”, he says.

This pandemic is not over and continues to carry risks he warns, so people should not assume that everything will be normal, even when restrictions ease.

People should continue to wear face masks where necessary, he adds.

The PM starts the presser by thanking Gareth Southgate and the England squad for lifting spirits and bringing joy to the country.

He says “shame on you” to those who have been directing racist abuse at players.

They should “crawl back under a rock” he says.


... read more

Covid: Pandemic not over, PM warns, as he sets out 19 July … Mon, 12 Jul 2021 11:00:00 +0100-England's move to step four of the government's lockdown-easing roadmap on 19 July will see social distancing rules and limits on social contact removed …

image

COVID-19: Most rules to end in England on 19 July – but face masks and ‘passports’ encouraged

England will move to the fourth and final stage of the government's roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions in a week's time, the health secretary has confirmed to MPs.

In what Sajid Javid said was a “major milestone”, the move to step four on 19 July will see social distancing rules and limits on social contact removed across the country.

Live COVID updates from the UK and around the world

And all remaining businesses that have been closed during the pandemic, such as nightclubs, will be allowed to reopen.

“We've all be yearning to get there and we all want this to be a one-way journey,” Mr Javid told the House of Commons.

The health secretary cautioned there could be as many as 100,000 COVID cases a day later this summer.

But Mr Javid said, on the evidence before him, he did not “believe that infection rates will put unsustainable pressure on the NHS”.

This was due to the “severely weakened” link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths as a result of the vaccine rollout, he added.

Asked by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt if he would take action if the coronavirus situation deteriorates, Mr Javid replied: “If that risk matrix changes, for example, with variants of concern, we will not hesitate to take the appropriate action.”

On Monday, the UK reported 34,471 new COVID-19 cases and six more coronavirus-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period. It is the sixth day in a row where total cases have been more than 30,000.

This time last week Sajid Javid told the House of Commons the government had “concluded that we do not think using certification as a condition of entry is the way to go”.

Now he is telling businesses and organisers of large indoor gatherings in England that after 19 July they will be “encouraged” to use certification after all.

Many of those planning for reopening places like nightclubs in seven days' time will see that as an abrupt change of message, and one which could create significant operational headaches.

The government will argue Mr Javid's comments last week related to a decision about whether to make it a legal requirement for venues to check either vaccine status or a negative test result.

On that front nothing has changed – there will be no legal requirement, and ministers will say it was always clear businesses would be able to use certification at their own discretion. But there is a difference between saying certification can be used, and saying it should be used.

Mr Javid told MPs it was the “right time” to go to step four, adding: “If not now, when? There will never be a perfect time to take this step because we simply cannot eradicate this virus.”

Speaking later at a Downing Street news conference, Boris Johnson said it was “absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution”.

“I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough: this pandemic is not over,” the prime minister said.

“This disease, coronavirus, continues to carry risks for you and your family.

“We cannot simply revert instantly, from Monday 19 July, to life as it was before COVID.”

And he did not rule out introducing restrictions again, saying: “If we are seeing very exceptional circumstances, the arrival of a new variant that we haven't bargained for, budgeted for, that really is causing us a real problem, then obviously we must rule nothing out.”

As part of step four, businesses and large event organisers will be encouraged to use so-called “COVID passports” – proof of double-vaccination, negative test or recovery from coronavirus – in “high-risk” settings in order to limit the spread of infections in their venues.

image
Image: Social distancing rules will be removed in England on 19 July

The government will also no longer instruct people to work from home if they can, although ministers are recommending employers oversee a gradual return to workplaces for their employees this summer.

And, despite the legal requirement to wear face masks in shops and on public transport being lifted next Monday, ministers will recommend that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded areas such as on trains, trams and buses – although not venues such as nightclubs.

It comes after a strong backlash against ministers’ plans to no longer legally compel people to wear masks in certain settings.

Updated guidance for those most at risk from COVID will also be published this week, ahead of the full reopening on Monday.

England had been due to move to step four of the government’s roadmap on 21 June, but the PM last month announced a four-week delay to further unlocking due to a surge in infections of the Delta variant of coronavirus.

Mr Javid told MPs the delay had since allowed a further seven million COVID vaccinations to be given, with the government now “on track” to beat its target of offering every adult a first dose – with two-thirds of adults being given two doses – by 19 July.

image
Image: An NHS app can be used to demonstrate your COVID vaccination status

The government's encouragement for large event organisers to use COVID certification – via an NHS app or an emailed test result – appears to mark a change in approach from ministers in the last week.

Mr Johnson previously said that step four would see “no COVID certificate required as a condition of entry to any venue or event”, although businesses and events could “certainly make use of certification” via an NHS app.

The health secretary also previously told MPs that the government had “concluded that we do not think using certification as a condition of entry is the way to go”.

However, the government will now encourage the use of certification for entry for large events where there are significant numbers of strangers mixing without social distancing – particularly indoors where in less well-ventilated places.

Despite the lifting of almost all remaining COVID restrictions under step four, testing, contact-tracing and rules on self-isolation will remain in place.

The requirement for double-vaccinated people, or under-18s, who are a contact of a confirmed COVID case to self-isolate for 10 days will be lifted on 16 August.

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The 28-day gap between restrictions being lifted on 19 July and the easing of self-isolation rules has prompted fears that millions of Britons could be forced to self-isolate over the coming weeks.

Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth accused Mr Javid of taking a “high risk” and “fatalistic” approach.

“Instead of caution he is putting his foot down the on the accelerator while throwing the seat belt off,” Mr Ashworth told MPs.

“He admits that could mean 100,000 infections a day. That means potentially thousands suffering debilitating long COVID.

“It means as more cases arise potentially more escape and the threat of new more transmissible variant emerging.”


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– July 12, 2021
News Covid Pandemic not over PM warns as he sets out 19 July

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