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Although the late comedian Jackie Mason thought that the UK’s House of Commons was akin to a ‘sanitarium’, there are inviolable rules for suspension from the Chamber.

Criminal charges or sexual harassment will do the trick. Often, the party whip is removed from the MP in question, rendering them Independent unless the whip is restored.

Here are two other ways that MPs can be suspended.

Grabbing the mace

When the Commons is in session, the mace sits atop the desk in front of the Speaker.

Only the Serjeant at Arms is allowed to handle it. He/She puts it in place before the session and removes it afterwards.

On Wednesday, December 16, 2020, the SNP’s Drew Hendry was vexed about the Internal Market Bill, which is part of the post-Brexit legislation.

He claimed that it would interfere with Scottish devolution because Parliament would be taking decisions he believed the Scottish government should take.

Excerpts of his speech and the debate follow, emphases mine (unless otherwise stated):

Westminster Ministers will still have the right to impose lower food, environmental and other devolved standards on Scotland, regardless of the view of Holyrood. This Bill is the biggest assault on devolution in the history of the Scottish Parliament. It undermines devolved policy making, grabs spending powers, and removes state aid from being a devolved responsibility. The Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly refused to give this Bill consent, and it is outrageous that the UK Government are once again ignoring the wishes of the people of Scotland as well as Wales …

The only reason for this Bill as it now stands is to demolish devolution. If the Government take this Bill forward today, as they obviously will, that is what they will be doing. Any pretence thereafter by the Scottish Tory MPs that they respect the democratic rights of the people of Scotland will be blown apart if they support this today. In fact, they have already supported it, because it seems that it will go through. They have done nothing to protect the democratic rights of the Scottish people.

People in Scotland are watching. People in Scotland, when they see the effects of this Bill, will be angry about the fact that their rights are being taken away by these Tory Ministers, aided by their Labour bedfellows. They will be furious about the fact that their rights are being stripped from them. They are listening, they are watching, and they are seeing developments in this place. They are understanding, now, that the only way to protect their Parliament, their rights and their democracy in Scotland is to go forward as an independent nation—and they will be voting for that, I am sure, in due course.

Yet another SNP rant about rights, democracy and independence.

The debate went on for some time. At the end, the presiding minister responding for the Government — Conservative MP, Paul Scully — concluded:

I welcome the contributions and the constructive discussions that we have had in recent days with Opposition Members in both Houses that have got us to this place. We have had some passionate debates on the Bill, because of the importance of the issues. However, the Bill will ensure that UK businesses can trade across the four parts of the UK in a way that helps them to invest and create jobs, just as they have for hundreds of years. I am therefore delighted to ask the House to agree to the amendments, and to complete our scrutiny and consideration of the Bill.

At that point, Drew Hendry stood up and walked towards the centre of the Chamber, a big no-no. Then he grabbed the mace:

Dame Rosie Winterton was the Deputy Speaker for the debate.

This was the exchange between her and Hendry:

Hendry: This is an outrage to Scotland. It is not acceptable.

Winterton: Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat, and he knows that. [Interruption.] This is just showing off. He should resume his seat, otherwise I will name him and order him to leave. [Interruption.] Does he want to be named? Is that what is happening? [Interruption.] If that is what is happening, we can do it. [Interruption.] Okay—I will name him. I know what he is doing. [Interruption.] Oh, for goodness’ sake! Very childish.

Hansard records that the suspension took place under Standing Order No. 44:

Drew Hendry, Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, was named by the Deputy Speaker for disregarding the authority of the Chair (Standing Order No. 44).

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 44),

That Drew Hendry be suspended from the service of the House.—(David T. C. Davies.)

Question agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker directed Drew Hendry to withdraw from the House, and the Member withdrew accordingly.

Guido Fawkes posted the BBC video the next day. His readers were appalled:

It was a costly move on Hendry’s part. One of Guido’s readers recalled that Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle also grabbed the mace. That was on December 18, 2018, also in a Brexit-related debate; he was suspended only for the rest of the day:

Guido’s report explained the £7,000 (emphases in the original):

SNP MP Drew Hendry made a bit of a fool of himself last night, shouting to disrupt proceedings and then seizing the mace – all over the passage of the Internal Market Bill. As a result of his actions he was officially ‘named’ and suspended from the House for five working days. Despite some news outlets claiming the suspension is just 24 hours, Guido’s well placed source says they have got it wrong.

Two aspects of the suspension that have gone unreported are that; firstly it is without pay and secondly it covers five working days. Meaning that after today and tomorrow, the House will have to sit for three more days before Hendry can be paid again. Even if the Commons returns for an extraordinary day or two to ratify a potential Brexit deal, it is unlikely there will be a third sitting day until well into January. It’s possible therefore that Hendry’s five sitting days suspension could end up lasting for a calendar month – costing the MP almost £7,000 in lost salary. A very expensive mace grab.

It’s hard to know what happened in the end, but a £7,000 penalty would have been fitting.

Accusing an MP of lying

Another way of getting suspended from the Commons is to accuse an MP of lying, which is what Labour’s Dawn Butler did on the final day before this year’s summer recess.

On Thursday, July 22, 2021, in the Summer Adjournment debate, she said, in part:

While the NHS was coping with 130,000 people dying from the pandemic, the Prime Minister was making his mates rich. Cronyism is rife and old chums are given jobs regardless of their skillset—some a little bit on the side. This has been one big experiment for this corrupt, authoritarian, racism-laden Government, and I am not scared of saying it like it is

Poor people in our country have paid with their lives because the Prime Minister spent the last 18 months misleading this House and the country.

Peter Stefanovic from the Communication Workers Union has a video with more than 27 million views online. In it he highlights that the Prime Minister says: that the economy has grown by 73%—it is just not true; that he has reinstated nursing bursaries—just not true; that there is not a covid app working anywhere in the world—just not true; and that the Tories invested £34 billion in the NHS—not true. The Prime Minister said

“we have severed the link between infection and serious disease and death.”

Not only is that not true but it is dangerous.

It is dangerous to lie during a pandemic, and I am disappointed that the Prime Minister has not come to the House to correct the record and correct the fact that he has lied to this House and the country over and over again.

Having watched enough of these debates and all of Boris’s coronavirus briefings, he did not say any of those things.

Judith Cummins MP (Lab) was Deputy Speaker while Dame Rosie Winterton was self-isolating with the virus. She did a great job in handling the situation:

Cummins: Order. I am sure the hon. Lady will reflect on her words and perhaps correct the record.

Butler: What would you rather, Madam Deputy Speaker, a weakened leg or a severed leg? At the end of the day, the Prime Minister has lied to this House time and time again. It is funny that we get in trouble in this place for calling out the lie rather than for lying.

Cummins: Order. Can you please reflect on your words and withdraw your remarks?

Butler: Madam Deputy Speaker, I have reflected on my words. Somebody needs to tell the truth in this House that the Prime Minister has lied.

Standing Order No. 43 was invoked:

The Deputy Speaker ordered Dawn Butler, Member for Brent Central, to withdraw immediately from the House during the remainder of the day’s sitting (Standing Order No. 43), and the Member withdrew accordingly.

Guido’s team posted the video:

The accompanying post had this sentence (highlight in the original):

This attention-seeking stunt will work as desired…

Unfortunately, Butler left the Commons at 3:49 p.m., and summer recess began around 5 p.m., so any salary deductions were minimal.

Even so, the left-leaning PARLYappteam thought Judith Cummins did the right thing:

But there was more. Stuart Andrew MP responded to the debate on behalf of the Government. I really like him. He came from humble circumstances and is now the Treasurer of Her Majesty’s Household.

Of Dawn Butler, he said:

I cannot ignore the disappointing tone of the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler). It was disappointing to hear the constant accusation of cronyism and corruption. I took particular offence at being described as a member of a racism-enabling Government. I have faced prejudice in my life, and I have ended up in hospital, as did my father, because of my sexuality. I took offence at being told that I do not believe in the NHS, as I spent most of my working life working for the hospice movement, and at being told that we do not care about poorer families, as my dad spent a lot of time in unemployment—I had to have free school meals. I take exception to such accusations.

I will stand up to anyone who discriminates against any single person for who or what they are, or for who they love. I will defend the NHS for as long as I am alive. I believe that the best way to help our poorest families is to give them the opportunity to have a job that pays well, because being able to support themselves is their best opportunity for a better life.

PARLY picked up on it:

Later that afternoon, Butler tweeted:

She tweeted again that evening with another video:

In between those tweets, The Independent‘s Chief Political Commentator, veteran journalist John Rentoul, hardly a conservative, appeared on GB News to say that Butler’s actions were ‘a cheap political stunt’. Someone replied with a news story about Butler from 2012:

John Rentoul — and Guido — were correct.

On Friday, July 23, Guido reported on the great social media results for the MP:

Dawn Butler’s Commons hissy fit yesterday went exactly as planned: her own Twitter clip is currently on 1.4 million views, though she’s retweeted various other uploads of the clip which total 6.3 million in about half a day. She even had a speedily filmed and produced Byline TV interview out on the strop stunt…

The monetary fine was negligible:

It turns out Dawn’s stunt came very close to backfiring. Thankfully for her she was only suspended for the remainder of the day’s sitting – if she’d been thrown out using a similar standing order, and been suspended until the next sitting day, she would have remained a suspended MP going into the Summer recess, thereby being unable to draw a salary for over six weeks. Six weeks of an MP’s salary would have come to £9453. Commons sources suggest Dawn’s dodging of this unlucky outcome was unlikely to have been deliberate after a careful reading of Parliamentary procedure…

There is much more to write about her, but that will have to wait for another day.

Time is short today, so here are a few brief takes on coronavirus.

The young

I was appalled to see this video of an infant undergoing a PCR test. What are parents and medical staff thinking?

Why would a tiny baby need to undergo such a test? Yes, I agree that the procedure could cause an infection or, worse, damage. The barrier between the brain and back of the nose must be extremely delicate in such a young child.

The old

Allegedly, last October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent the following message expressing scepticism about a winter lockdown in England. I agree with all of what he says. Barrister Francis Hoar makes a valid point about deaths of/with coronavirus. At the time Boris made this statement, our PCR cycle threshold was >35, thereby picking up anything and everything:

It is true that, in England, at least, the average age for the elderly dying from the virus is greater than the average life expectancy.

I do wish Boris had had the nerve to ‘recalibrate’ and avoid a winter-to-spring lockdown. He resisted, but, as usual, SAGE got to him, it would seem.

This topic came up in the comments to an article on Conservative Home about Boris.

One reader wrote (emphases mine):

If Boris Johnson at the start of this pandemic did say that those dying from Covid were “essentially all over 80” then he shouldn’t have to apologise. He was right! What he should apologise for is locking us all in our homes for 15 months in order to protect those who have had their “three score years and ten” and then some, and (unpalatable truth though it seems to be for some) are going to die of something eventually all the same.

A reply to the comment pointed out the truth about winter respiratory diseases:

I am 82 years old. Pneumonia was always called “the old man’s friend.”

Vaccine passports

Despite the Government denying it for the past seven months, it looks as if coronavirus passports are coming to England.

There is speculation that they will be required at the annual Conservative Party conference this coming autumn in Manchester at the Midland Hotel:

Guido Fawkes says:

The Mail reports the Tories’ September conference in Manchester is set to require Covid passports, in a blow to any libertarian MPs hoping to attend. While most of conference is quite far away from nightclubbing scenes, no doubt photos of a packed Midland’s bar would attract online ire …

Yesterday the Telegraph reported one prominent Tory rebel MP said he suspects if Boris does force them “significant numbers of Conservative MPs and activists will refuse to attend.”

I hope libertarian-minded Conservatives do boycott this. This policy would set a dangerous precedent for civil liberties. It’s a narrow step from a vax passport to a digital ID.

The Mail‘s article reports that the insider said:

‘Some MPs might not like it, but all the polling suggests the public are quite strongly in favour of Covid passports,’ they said. 

‘That looks to be truer for the older generations who are more at risk, and might be wanting to come along.’ 

On their heads be it.

Appalling.

Freedom Day — Monday, July 19 — in England is turning out to be a damp squib with the exception of nightclubs — for now.

Everyone’s preoccupation now is vaccine passports, which France is already rolling out with a grace period of six weeks.

Here in England, vaccine passports are likely to be rolled out in September not only for nightclubs and music venues but anywhere else that can be deemed as a ‘crowded space’.

Julia Hartley-Brewer interviewed the owner of a group of entertainment venues, who said that this is a ‘very dangerous step’ for the Government to take:

She also interviewed a spokesman for the Night Time Industries Association who says that random security guards will be checking people’s health status, something that should be private information:

It is the thin end of a very nasty wedge, indeed.

Oxford’s Prof Carl Heneghan rightly wonders if he will need a vaccine passport if he takes the Tube in London:

Here’s Julia Hartley-Brewer’s opening editorial on the danger such a policy presents:

She interviewed the Conservative MP, Sir Iain Duncan Smith. He is not one of my favourite politicians by a long shot, but he gave a considered 10-minute interview and said that we need a balance of risk, otherwise we could end up like China, where you cannot leave the house without the government knowing about it:

Lord Sumption wrote an editorial for The Telegraph on Monday. He says that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has no coronavirus plan:

We are squandering our vaccination success, which is the best in Europe. Lord Sumption concludes:

Vaccination is an impressive achievement. It represents the best that humanity can do about Covid. If it is not enough, then there are only two options. One is to impose total and permanent restrictions on human interaction, something which even governments realise is impossible. The other is to recognise defeat and allow their populations to live with Covid-19 – just as humanity had learned to live with worse pathogens for centuries before governments embarked on their current unprecedented and ill-advised experiment.

Bob Moran, a cartoonist for The Telegraph, has been concerned about coronavirus restrictions for a long time.

On Monday, July 12, he tweeted:

He had quite the Twitter thread on Tuesday. Politicians, he says, do not like solving difficult problems:

Yes, but Labour MPs, except for a handful, have actually voted with the Government on continuing coronavirus restrictions.

Moran has no love for Labour leader Sir Keir ‘Keith’ Starmer, either:

Bob Moran is genuinely concerned about what is happening:

Also:

If only we could remove the boot on our collective necks.

The next discussion point in England will be vaccinations for children. Even other conservatives, such as James Delingpole, are sounding the alarm:

I have no words for how awful this is.

Although I’m writing about England, Scotland and Wales are no better with their restrictions. I despair.

Freedom Day did go ahead on Monday, July 19, in England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, was told at the weekend to self-isolate. Boris went to Chequers and broadcast from there.

At 5 p.m., Boris gave a remote coronavirus briefing while Prof Jonathan Van-Tam and Sir Patrick Vallance were in the Downing Street press conference room.

Nightclubs

It looks as if Covid passports are coming in September for nightclubs and music venues.

As Dan Wootton said on GB News, Freedom Day will be remembered as the day when the Government took more of our freedoms away:

Note that tweet about the Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone: no vaccine cards accepted, only the NHS app. No smart phone, no entry. That, to me, is also wrong. The Government should not force people to have smart phones.

GB News took a poll on vaccine passports. They had omitted their earlier question on dictatorship:

Reporter Ellie Costello returned to her favourite nightclub, Faces in Essex. She had a ball. She pulled an all-nighter as she gave this update to the GB News breakfast show. She interviewed the owner of Faces who said he was concerned about his obligation to check vaccine passports in future and the possibility they could be faked:

I hope there are enough Conservative MPs to put pressure on Boris not to go down this route:

Travel

Journalist Isabel Oakeshott spoke to Wootton about the draconian self-isolation one has to go when returning from a nearby country such as France, which is on the Amber list. During that 10-day period, one is not allowed to leave one’s house — at all. Police or a third party representative of the Government can go to a person’s home to make sure he is there:

Supermarkets

Yesterday, on Freedom Day, I did a recce of my high street. Mask wearing was 50/50.

I did not wear a face covering.

I won’t be going to the supermarket until later in the week, so cannot speak to that for now.

However, Guido Fawkes’s readers compared notes on what their Freedom Day experience was like.

One wrote:

… let me report the depressing experience of shopping in Morrisons this morning. Less than 1% unmasked amongst the customers (2 apart from me). Plenty of staff unmasked, though, behind the checkouts. And I could see they were happy, as their smiling faces were visible.

Another Morrisons shopper said (emphasis mine):

I was also in a Morrisons this morning, ignoring the pleas over the tannoy to ‘Be kind and show [you] care’. I decided to be kind to myself and abandon the mask. At first I couldn’t see anyone else unmasked, but finally in the milk aisle there was a guy coming the other way, also unmasked. We smiled at each other and nodded like we had just completed a Freemasonry ritual, and went on our way. I wasn’t challenged and no-one seemed to care, not that I care what they think anyway.

A Tesco shopper wrote in:

I’ve just done my start-of-the-week shop at Tesco: normal crowd levels. Most people are still doing their cleaning routines at the entrance. About 75%, including all at the check-outs, remain masked-up. The other 25% were mainly the twenty-somethings with no fear of Covid, either short or long …

And, finally, there was a report about Sainsbury’s:

Sainsbury’s Chesterfield 9am -ish today.

All screens gone staff scraping up the floor markings and unmasked. 😍

Was worried when I read they “REQUIRED” customers to mask up and had decided that if it was the case to boycott.

They keep my business.

Moving goalposts

Presenter Neil Oliver (the bearded gentleman in the video below) appeared on Wootton’s show to say that the Government is controlling the people, when, in fact, this is our country, not theirs.

Wootton pointed out that the Government is continually moving the goalposts in this coronavirus fiasco. Last year, they told us that when we got the vaccines, we would be able to, in Matt Hancock’s words, ‘Cry Freedom!’ Now that we have the vaccines and a majority of the adult population has had the ‘jabs’, we’re still not out of the woods:

In fact, we have less freedom now than we did a year ago.

The cost of coronavirus in England has been immense.

There is no end in sight for some restrictions and, as I wrote earlier in the week, there will be no Freedom Day on July 19, except for theatres and nightclubs.

London

On July 15, The Telegraph‘s Tanya Gold wrote about London’s ongoing ghost town appearance (emphases mine):

It is too early to say that London is dying, but something is wrong with the city and Covid has accelerated it. Certainly, there is a sense that things are slipping out of control

I was in central London last week, and it felt ever more ominous. Perhaps it was the weather – again, the rain was monstrous. Or perhaps it was the silence: the department stores in Oxford Street were glassy and empty

What will happen if offices shutter forever, and most people work from home? This will work for the affluent with spare rooms for offices, and gardens; or they might just leave for Amersham and its Britain in Bloom awards stacked on posts. For those renting in inner cities, it won’t; employers will pass a business expense onto an employee, one whose home is already small.

Will central London’s beautiful buildings become flats? John Lewis [a nationwide department store chain] is moving into housing. Will anyone want to live in them if the city declines?

Restaurants 

On the topic of London, Mark Hix, one of Britain’s best chefs, has had to close his two restaurants in the capital.

He has moved back to Dorset and opened a restaurant there.

Hix Soho in Brewer Street is now a taqueria and Tramshed, his old 150-cover restaurant in Shoreditch (East London), will become a furniture showroom.

He wrote about the two establishments for The Telegraph.

The owners of the El Pastor taqueria invited him to visit, which he did:

My strongest feeling was not one of regret, or even missing the time when this place was my flagship, but rather of pleasure at seeing it busy and buzzy again. It has a new lease of life. And therefore I wished them well, especially with the landlord, the same greedy one who had doubled the rent when I was the tenant and began the collapse of my London chain of restaurants because we just couldn’t make any money at the rate he was charging.

We have all learnt some important life lessons these past 16 months of Covid. Perhaps the landlord has too in the new business climate it has produced. Most of all, though, what that walk down memory lane did was give me courage.

As for the Tramshed:

I’ve got a date in my diary to go back to the kitchen at the Tramshed, my old 150-cover restaurant in Shoreditch. It is going to be less return in triumph and more fond farewell, for my presence there is, as the theatre posters put it, ‘for one night only’. The guys who have been running it since my business went into administration are moving out and are staging one last hurrah with my help.

Lockdown has killed the place off and it is going to be converted into a furniture showroom of some description. When I took it on in 2012, this handsome building had been used for chemical storage, so I suppose it is a case of back to the future. Which rather neatly sums up my life story since I handed back the keys in March of last year after breaking the news to the staff there that they had lost their jobs.

He foresees a difficult return for hospitality:

I’ve come back to Dorset, where it all started, and am now building a new future. All being well, on Monday we will be taking one more step towards that with the lifting of all Government restrictions on how we trade, but the hard work of repairing the damage done by Covid has only just begun. The road back to prosperity for the whole hospitality industry remains a long one.

As I write, Hix is taking a brief fishing break in Iceland, a country on the Green list.

However, a question remains over whether he and other restaurant owners will be able to trade freely on Monday with the lifting of restrictions. 

Hospitality chiefs are still trying to interpret what Boris Johnson said on Monday, which sounded to me like a U-turn on what he said on July 5. The Times says that masks and outdoor service are still recommended, as is checking customers in with contact details. That is what is in place today.

Furthermore, coronavirus passports, which the Government had previously denied would be recommended, are, in fact, on the table.

On Wednesday, July 14, The Telegraph reported:

Ministers on Wednesday published delayed sectoral advice for businesses on how to operate when the country moves to step four of the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown next Monday

The Government was accused of widening the net of companies encouraged to use domestic coronavirus passports, after Boris Johnson initially signalled on Monday that they would be recommended for nightclubs and venues with “large crowds”.

The Prime Minister said relevant firms should show “social responsibility” and “make use” of the NHS Covid pass app, which shows proof of double vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity, as “a means of entry”.

The updated guidance sparked a backlash among Conservative MP and hospitality chiefs, after advice specifically for restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs and takeaway services encouraged the use of Covid passports.

It stated: “Consider the use of the NHS Covid pass to reduce the risk of transmission at your venue or event.”

So far, only Steve Baker MP (Con) has spoken out against this recommendation:

I am simply astonished that after everything the Prime Minister and Michael Gove said in the past about ID cards that they are advancing this fast down this really quite appalling path.

Kate Nicholls, the head of the industry body UK Hospitality, expressed her disappointment and said:

the guidance for pubs and restaurants was “disappointing” in the wake of a select committee of MPs and a Cabinet Office consultation “acknowledging that this was a very difficult thing to implement in a domestic hospitality setting”.

She said ministers needed to provide a “whole suite of guidance” to explain how Covid passports should work in the sector “for us to decide whether we are willing to adopt this on a voluntary basis”.

Predicting few businesses would adopt the measure by Monday, from which date the guidance is meant to apply, she said: “I don’t think anybody would be able to introduce this on a voluntary basis from Monday until we have clarification.”

Ms Nicholls added that “more work is needed by the Government” and warned that there were “real concerns” around equalities legislation, and “practical issues” around the type of testing that qualifies and how businesses should handle customers’ personal health data.

This is an unfortunate development.

Transport

Still on the subject of London, the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan (Lab), a strong opponent of his predecessor Boris Johnson, intends to continue with mask mandates on Transport for London (TfL) vehicles and the Tube as a condition of carriage.

Douglas Murray wrote an editorial for The Telegraph in which he says:

Sadiq Khan, for instance, has tried to look super responsible by insisting that even after the rules for mask-wearing are relaxed masks will be compulsory on public transport in London. Obviously, throughout the pandemic, there have been the rules and there has been what people do. I have seen plenty of people get on the bus with their mask on and then pull it under their chin as soon as they are in their seat. We have become used to the theatre of masks.

But the Mayor of London has ordered Transport for London to enforce mask wearing after July 19, making the prospect of a journey on the London Underground even more enjoyable. Citizens of the capital not only have to pay the highest fares of any commuters in the world for one of the world’s worst services, but must now mask up under threat of the London Transport Police if they do not. What a wonderful way to get the capital moving again.

Agreed. It makes no sense, and Khan has complained for months that TfL’s finances have been dire since lockdown started last year. It’s pure political theatre just to oppose Boris Johnson’s government.

Office work

On July 5, the Government encouraged office workers to go back to their workplaces.

This Monday, they backtracked because they got complaints in the media.

The Times has an article about the travel company Tui, which has told its employees they only need to come into the office one day a month, regardless of what happens on July 19.

Other companies have followed suit. However, in the United States, fully-vaccinated employees are expected to be back at their desks by September:

Other businesses adjusting their working practices include KPMG, the accountancy firm, which has told its 16,000 UK staff they should work in the office for up to four days a fortnight. In the US, by way of contrast, Bank of America yesterday followed Goldman Sachs in telling all fully-vaccinated staff to be back at their desks by September.

The policy director of the Institute of Directors says that the Government’s advice this month has been confusing:

Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said: “Like everybody else, businesses across the country having been awaiting ‘freedom day’ with bated breathbut we have had a series of mixed messages and patchwork requirements from government that have dampened enthusiasm.

“Return to work or continue to stay at home. Throw away your masks or continue to wear them. The guidance has done little to dispel that confusion.

Business leaders are understandably confused as to the legal status that this guidance has and are concerned about vulnerability under health and safety legislation, as well as the validity of their insurance.

“Government needs to inspire confidence in businesses and the workforce that we can all return to work safely.”

School

We have little idea of exactly how much school-age children have been suffering over the past year.

One mother and her ex-husband saw how their daughter’s scholastic performance had been declining and put her in an independent school, with financial help from both sets of grandparents.

The mother, Mel Sims, told The Telegraph her story, beginning in the Spring of 2020:

My daughter was in Year 5 when the first lockdown brought her education to an abrupt halt. A bright only child, mature for her age because she spends so much time with adults, she’d been doing very well in the classroom. But then the state primary she attends in our village in Essex closed its doors to all but key worker children. I’m a 49-year-old single mother. My daughter’s father lives in Durham. I had no choice but to become her full-time teacher.

While some of her friends in private or religious schools were receiving a whole day of live Zoom teaching, my daughter’s school was very disappointing. What they did provide was an email every Monday morning, packed with multiple different lessons for parents to print off, somehow quickly get their heads around, then teach to our children as best we could.

My business – a children’s play centre – shut down along with the schools, so I was at home. I found myself teaching my daughter from 9.30am until 4.30pm every day. Other than the weekly email, we received no contact from the school, which, like many, lacks funding and has class sizes of 30-plus. My daughter’s after-school club, where she mixed with older children, was closed. Extracurricular dance classes went on hold and the swimming pool was shut.

Since Covid, my daughter has received very little or no homework as the teachers seem to feel the children already have enough on their plates. I don’t know what happened to her foreign language lessons. My previously high-achieving daughter was starting to fall behind the level she had been at before – not just a little, but dramatically. By the end of each week of lockdown, her maths and English were worse. She’d lost interest in doing better; any desire to excel. It was heartbreaking to see her sliding backwards.

This caused tension between the mother and the school:

Friction began to develop between us and the school, as they resented me trying to push her beyond the slow pace at which her class was moving. Many of the families in our village didn’t even have enough computers for their multiple children. My daughter’s academic success was riding on all the other local parents’ capabilities, and that felt deeply unfair on her.

Schools reopened last autumn then shut down at the end of January 4, 2021 for several weeks. By then, the cumulative negative effect had kicked in:

When the second lockdown arrived, my daughter was in Year 6 [the year before secondary school]. This time, there was at least a school registration every day, which took place over Zoom. But my daughter gained little from it, as everyone on the call was at such different levels both academically and behaviourally. There wasn’t the opportunity for much academic input from the teacher and my daughter quickly grew bored.

Fortunately, the girl had passed her 11-plus exams, which opened up more education opportunities. Her parents decided that she would have to go to an independent day school, but, even pooling their savings together, they could not afford school fees of £5,500 per term. With the help of the girl’s grandparents, they are able to meet the cost of the new school.

Mel Sims concludes:

We’ll all be making big changes. But we’ll do so in order that, if schools do close again, our daughter’s education will not grind to a halt. The new school staff have already assured me that if we go back into lockdown, exactly the same learning will continue over Zoom, full-time and unaided by parents.

I never thought it would come to this. Pre-pandemic, I’d always believed we didn’t need private school; that whatever happened at state school, we could get our daughter through.

School closures have changed all that. Yes, we’re paying a price. But I feel we’ve had to invest in a lockdown-proof education. With so many children off school again even now, as their “bubbles” have burst, it seems we have made the right decision.

Care homes

Recently, Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare, a group which runs 45 private care homes in England and one in Wales, wrote to Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for the Department for Health and Social Care to ask that mask mandates be relaxed.

On Thursday, July 15, The Telegraph reported that:

some of these measures are now damaging the well-being of care home residents.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is expected to issue updated guidance on care homes, and whether or not masks will be mandatory in them, later this week …

“For many residents, a visit from their family member has provided invaluable improvements to their well-being, but the requirement for these visitors to wear a face mask degrades the level of connection and therefore devalues the positive impacts their visits can have.

“This restrictive policy, along with various others from both the DHSC and PHE [Public Health England], should be reconsidered as we approach this next step in England’s roadmap out of lockdown.”

The letter said the success of the vaccination programme among care home staff and residents meant the majority of homes “are now set to confidently return back to an enhanced degree of normality”.

All 46 Sunrise and Gracewell homes have at least 90 per cent of residents vaccinated and all but one have more than 80 per cent of staff jabbed. This is the threshold that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) says needs to be met in each setting to provide a minimum level of protection against Covid outbreaks.

Helen Whately MP (Con) oversees social care provision. It is unclear as yet whether she will change any requirements for July 19. The Telegraph quoted her as saying:

I’m also really aware that there will be circumstances I’m expecting to continue in health and social care, clearly, where people will need to continue to wear PPE [personal protective equipment], which includes masks.

Conclusion

I find it concerning that the Left, whether in Parliament, SAGE and elsewhere have caused the Government to backtrack on Freedom Day.

As Douglas Murray says in his aforementioned article:

It is inevitable, perhaps, that politicians like Khan want to score some political points. But again what is so strange is that all the points are scored from that side. Putting aside a few MPs on the Tory benches there is no political pressure on us to go the other way. To do so – to advocate the path of greater risk and greater freedomis still presented as though it is somehow irresponsible or otherwise risky.

But society is risky. Life is risky. The biggest leap towards normal life has already been taken. It is the success of the mass vaccination programme which this country has rolled out so well. But after that we do not need politicians and private companies policing us ever more. We need to take a different leap. Not into greater safety, but into greater freedom. Our allies and competitors are up for that. The question now is whether Britain is. An awful lot rides on the answer.

I couldn’t agree more.

Monday, July 19, 2021, will not be the long-awaited Freedom Day in England, just an unlocking for larger gatherings and venues, including theatres, nightclubs and strip clubs.

Mask wearing will still be ‘expected’.

In his coronavirus briefing on Monday, July 12, Prime Minister Boris Johnson no longer used the words ‘terminus’ or ‘irreversible’. In fact, he warned about the winter months ahead.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid had announced the very same in his statement to the Commons earlier that afternoon.

At this point, I doubt that we will see any semblance of pre-coronavirus normality until next year. We might even have to have coronavirus passports. Here is the minister in charge of the vaccination programme, Nadhim Zahawi:

Incidentally, French president Emmanuel Macron announced his plans for such passports on Monday for France. He also suggested that vaccinations could be made mandatory if there is not enough take up.

The Telegraph summarised the position in England (emphases mine):

People will be expected to continue wearing masks in indoor spaces, a stricture that will no doubt remain a requirement of entry for shops and hospitality venues as well as being mandated on public transport. Companies eager for their staff to return to the office have been left in an impossible position by ambiguous guidance about working from home. Employees are not being told to stay away but nor are they expected to go to work.

Since Mr Johnson previously said it was “now or never” to end these restrictions, the inescapable conclusion is that it is to be never. If they are to be requirements now, in the middle of summer, how will they not be in the autumn and winter when the number of Covid and flu cases will rise? Some scientists, indeed, have argued that distancing and face coverings should be made permanent.

In the Commons, the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, confirmed the new tone, saying that next Monday would not be a terminus after all but another step on the road back to normality, though with no indication of when that might be.

If there are good public health reasons for this circumspection then let ministers say so and produce the evidence to justify it. If, however, the four tests set for a full reopening have been met – as Mr Javid told MPs they had been – then let it happen. Worryingly, however, the pledge of an “irreversible” course out of lockdown is no longer being heard.

It is, of course, to be welcomed that Stage 4 of the road map will be implemented next Monday. But for as long as ministerial pronouncements seeking to influence how we should behave stay in place, “Freedom Day” will remain some way off.

The Telegraph‘s Sherelle Jacobs wrote an excellent editorial on the subject: ‘Boris Johnson has lost his nerve and condemned us to Covid no-man’s land’.

She points out that, despite the stellar vaccine rollout, the Government’s response to the virus is essentially the same as it was early in 2020:

I do not envy the Prime Minister. He is having to make decisions in the face of violent resistance from scientists who have strayed far beyond their proper roles as apolitical advisers. It is, however, astonishing that 16 months and 45 million vaccinations later, our basic approach to Covid is still no more sophisticated than it was in March 2020.

She sees the NHS as the tail wagging the British dog, which, by the way, is also true in the devolved nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland):

No 10’s priority appears to remain to “protect the NHS” at all costs. Restrictions are still deemed to be a vital tool to prevent ICUs becoming overwhelmed. Far from Britain breaking free, one can only conclude that our liberties will be tethered to ICU capacity indefinitely, with the Government loosening and tightening the reins as Covid fluctuates with the seasons.

The Government may think that it has public opinion on its side. Recent polling suggests that a sizeable proportion of the population would be happy for some restrictions to remain forever, even once the threat of Covid has faded …

The only answer is reforming the NHS:

There is one obvious way out of this. If the NHS is so precious that it is in danger of being overwhelmed even after one of the most comprehensive vaccination programmes in history, then the priority now must be to reform the service to make it fit for purpose. Germany, for instance, with its insurance-based model, has more than four times as many critical care beds per capita as Britain.

The NHS has become the new secular national religion in Britain.

Applauding it last year over so many Thursday nights at 8 o’clock has put it on a pedestal it might not wholly deserve:

The NHS has become Britain’s all-consuming project, the millstone around its neck and the cloying source of confected national pride. Its hold over the country is so powerful that even a so-called libertarian Conservative PM decided this week to risk sacrificing our ordinary freedoms rather than dare to reform it.

She adds an interesting fact about NHS financing in 1948, when it was founded:

As noble as the idea behind the NHS might have been, it is founded on delusions about Britain’s finances. (Indeed Westminster initially partly bankrolled it with foreign money, splitting 1940s Marshall aid between its domestic healthcare dreams and ailing colonial dominions).

We cannot go on like this forever, even though some would like to do so:

the downsides of lockdowns are becoming too enormous to ignore. Their effectiveness is limited in free Western countries plagued by widespread low-level non-compliance and inadequate infection control in care homes and hospitals. Contrastingly, the damage lockdowns cause is limitless – from decimating mental health to destroying children’s education. It is extraordinary that, even now, Johnson only pays lip service to this inescapable truth.

The biggest problem for the foreseeable future will be masks, especially as the Government says they are ‘expected’ in crowded, enclosed spaces. What does that really mean?

Another Telegraph article, by The Spectator‘s Anglo-American Kate Andrews, offers a suggestion to make things clearer:

Boris Johnson’s message last night was that he ‘expects and recommends’ that people continue to wear masks in ‘crowded’ and ‘enclosed’ spaces, or where you come into contact with strangers: a vague, yet seemingly large request. The message could be far more simple: be aware of your surroundings and make an informed decision. This would be a real breakaway from our Covid lifestyles, and a return to the notion of personal responsibility.

The continuation of masks and compliance in this regard could be interpreted in a sinister way:

Perhaps the mask debate playing out now is the one we should have had in the first place. After the Government’s most senior medical and scientific advisers spent months last spring telling the public not to buy or wear masks, the rule changed to mandate them on public transport, punishable by fines. Did we need to criminalise people for not wearing a mask, or might guidance have done the trick? But even now, the push for guidance often reveals itself as a push to keep emergency laws — not to be clearer with the public, but to be harsher.

There has been consensus throughout the pandemic that the British public have been wonderful: thoughtful and willing to uphold their social contract to strangers, to protect the lives of the vulnerable and elderly. Now, as their freedoms are set to be returned, that consensus is breaking. It seems when some were praising the public, they were really praising the rules that hovered over them.

Perhaps so. It is a sobering thought.

In any event, July 19 will not be Freedom Day by any stretch of the imagination. It will certainly not affect me personally, especially if I am still expected to wear a face covering.

I had been looking forward to going out for a long, languorous, maskless lunch in London next month. That will have to wait, probably until 2022.

My post yesterday discussed the analysis of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid might announce on Monday, July 5, with regard to England’s Freedom Day, pencilled in for July 19.

Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle wanted to ensure that both men gave their announcements at the same time:

Boris Johnson’s coronavirus briefing

Rev.com has a transcript of Boris’s televised coronavirus briefing.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Boris acknowledged that cases would continue to rise for the time being, however, the highly successful vaccine rollout would mitigate the dangers to the general public:

As we predicted in the roadmap in February, we’re seeing cases rise fairly rapidly. There could be 50,000 cases detected per day by the 19th, and again, as we predicted, we’re seeing rising hospital admissions, and we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from COVID. In these circumstances, we must take a careful and a balanced decision, and there’s only one reason why we can contemplate going ahead to step four in circumstances where we’d normally be locking down further, and that’s because of the continuing effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.

Reopening now, in mid-summer, will be safer than waiting until autumn or winter, when demand for the NHS will be much higher for respiratory disease. As such, the only alternative would be not to reopen at all this year:

… we must be honest with ourselves that if we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks, when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and by the school holidays, then we must ask ourselves, when will we be able to return to normal? And to those who say we should delay again, the alternative to that is to open up in winter, when the virus will have an advantage, or not at all this year.

The Government and SAGE will look at the latest data on July 12, which will determine a final decision on July 19.

Boris laid out his five-point plan. First, the vaccine rollout is being ramped up:

without preempting the decision on the 12th of July, let me set out today our five point plan for living with COVID, in the hope that it will give families and businesses time to prepare. First, we will reinforce our vaccine more, reducing the dose interval for under 40s from 12 weeks to eight, so that everyone under 18 should be double jabbed by the middle of September, in addition to our autumn program of booster vaccines for the most vulnerable.

Secondly, nearly all restrictions will be lifted, including working from home:

Second, we will change the basic tools that we have used to control human behavior, we’ll move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus. From step four, we will remove all legal limits on the numbers meeting indoors and outdoors. We will allow all businesses to reopen, including nightclubs. We will lift the limit on named visitors to care homes, and on numbers of people attending concerts, theater, and sports events. We will end the one meter plus rule on social distancing, and the legal obligation to wear a face covering, although guidance will suggest where you might choose to do so, especially when cases are rising and where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed spaces, such as obviously crowded public transport.

It will no longer to be necessary for government to instruct people to work from home. So, employers will be able to start planning a safe return to the workplace. There will be no COVID certificate required as a condition of entry to any venue or event. Although businesses and events can certainly make use of certification, and the NHS app gives you a COVID pass as one way to show your COVID status.

Thirdly, test-trace-isolate will continue, and the Government will plan something different for schools in future:

Third, we will continue from step four to manage the virus with a test, trace and isolate system that is proportionate to the pandemic. You will have to self-isolate if you test positive, or are told to do so by NHS test and trace. But we’re looking to move to a different regime of fully vaccinated contacts of those testing positive, and also for children. And tomorrow, the education secretary will announce our plans to maintain key protections, but remove bubbles and contact isolation for pupils.

The fourth point involves maintaining ‘tough’ border controls (hmm):

Fourth, from step four we will maintain our tough border controls, including the red list, and recognizing the protection afforded by two does of vaccine, we will work with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully vaccinated arrivals to isolate on return from an amber country, and the transport secretary will provide a further update later this week.

The fifth, and final, point is to do everything possible to avoid a winter lockdown:

Last, we will continue to monitor the data and retain contingency measures to help manage the virus during higher risk periods, such as the winter. But we will place an emphasis on strengthened guidance and do everything possible to avoid reimposing restrictions, with all the costs that they bring.

The rest of the transcript covers the latest data, which Sir Patrick Vallance presented, and answers to the press from Prof Chris Whitty, both of whom are SAGE members.

The BBC’s Vicki Young asked the three men about mask wearing.

Boris said that people should start taking personal responsibility for their own decisions:

On your question about will I personally wear a mask, I think that, as I said earlier on, it will depend on the circumstances. I think that what we’re trying to do is move from a universal government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility.

Boris doesn’t need to wear a mask, as he’s already had the virus. However, he probably wants to set an example for the nation.

Chris Whitty threw a spanner into the works with his answer:

In terms of wearing a mask, I would wear a mask under three situations and I would do so particularly at this point when the epidemic is clearly significant and rising. And the first is in any situation which was indoors and crowded or indoors with close proximity to other people. And that is because masks help protect other people, this is a thing we do to protect other people, as it’s by far its principle aim. The second situation I’d do it is if I was required to by any competent authority, I would have no hesitation about doing that and I would consider that within a reasonable and sensible thing if they had good reasons to do that. And the third reason is if someone else was uncomfortable if I did not wear a mask, as a point of common courtesy of course I would wear a mask. So under all those circumstances I would do so.

Sir Patrick confirmed Whitty’s response:

… just a reminder masks are most effective at preventing somebody else catching the disease from you. They have some effect to prevent you catching it as well. And the situation you’re most likely to catch COVID in is indoors crowded spaces. So that’s the obvious place where mask wearing becomes an advantage.

Tell me that will not cause mask rage on and after July 19.

Earlier that day, Guido Fawkes reported that Labour’s big city mayors all want to keep a mask mandate, as do union bosses (emphases in the original):

Labour mayors Sadiq Khan, Andy Burnham, Dan Norris and Steve Rotheram all seem reluctant to bin the masks. As such it’s unclear whether masks will continue to be mandated on public transport – which is under the remit of mayors. If Khan had his way, Guido suspects that no one would be boarding the freedom train any time soon…

Unite the union are also calling on ministers to keep face masks mandatory on public transport, writing that optional face coverings would be “an act of gross negligence by the government”

However, a Conservative MP is rightly vexed by the ambiguity of the Government’s upcoming guidance on the matter:

Huw Merriman, Tory Chairman of the Commons Transport Committee has slammed the government’s “confusing” policy arguing that scrapping mask laws whilst simultaneously recommending they be worn is a “cop out.” He says guidance should be scrapped in its entirety… 

I couldn’t agree more. Why squander the success of the vaccination programme?

Sajid Javid

In his statement to the House of Commons, Sajid Javid said much the same as Boris.

He explained that hospitalisations and deaths are decreasing:

As such, even if cases continue to increase over the coming weeks, there will be less pressure on the NHS (the original reason for lockdown in 2020):

We cannot live like this ‘forever’. Furthermore, because of the pandemic, we have other challenges that need to be addressed:

Social distancing will go, except at ports of entry for travel and for medical settings:

Javid did warn that flu might be a problem this winter:

School bubbles will also be abolished:

It was then the turn of Shadow (Opposition) Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth to respond.

Not surprisingly, Ashworth wants masks to continue:

These photos are from Javid’s statement and the ensuing debate. Clockwise from top left are Jonathan Ashworth, Sajid Javid, Father of the House (longest serving male MP) Peter Bottomley and the SNP’s Dr Philippa Whitford:

On Tuesday, July 6, Javid returned to the Commons to make a statement on self-isolation, which will be relaxed in certain circumstances:

He reiterated the need for personal responsibility to begin, as there are other looming health issues that have gone unaddressed:

Jeremy Hunt (Con), his predecessor (before Matt Hancock), is rightly concerned about delays to cancer treatment:

Gavin Williamson

On Tuesday, Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson, laid out his plans for schools after Freedom Day.

Bubbles and isolation at home have been causing a lot of disruption. They will be abolished for test and trace:

Isolation will be mandated only when there are positive test results. Staggered starting times for schools will go, and there will be no restrictions on universities:

I watched the debates with interest.

My original suspicion from last year still holds true; only the Left want restrictions to continue.

More on that soon.

One year ago, July 4 was England’s Independence Day from coronavirus.

Shops and restaurants re-opened, albeit with requirements for masks.

One year on, and it’s Groundhog Day. After a prolonged period of restrictions from Christmas 2020, England awaits Freedom Day, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Cabinet ministers assure us will be on July 19.

On Monday, July 5, 2021, when the Duchess of Cambridge began self-isolating for ten days and her husband Prince William attended an NHS service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, Boris gave a coronavirus briefing about what we can expect on Freedom Day. Health Secretary Sajid Javid gave Parliament a briefing at the same time.

All being well, tomorrow, I will report on the details of what they had to say.

It was largely good news, except for some ambiguity about masks, which could lead to mask rage once restrictions are relaxed.

Below is relevant analysis aired and published before Boris and Saj (as he is now known) delivered their remarks.

Masks

The most contentious lifting of restrictions concerns masks.

Masks are the new Brexit referendum. They have divided England enormously, as Matthew Lynn wrote in the Telegraph on July 5 (emphases mine):

Maskers and anti-maskers look set to become the new Remainers and Leavers (with almost, if not quite, the same tribes in both camps). Very few people on either side of that bitter debate were actually very interested in the finer points of tariffs on citrus fruits, or what the European Commission’s plans for the digital transformation of European industry might be this week. They wanted to say something about themselves.

He is not wrong. Anti-maskers, for the most part, appear to be Leavers. Pro-maskers are Remainers.

The Sunday news shows seemed to bear this out.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Trevor Phillips on Sky News that he would stop wearing one as soon as restrictions are lifted:

By contrast, Prof Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) told Phillips that he would continue to wear his mask ‘indefinitely’:

Finn is a man who manages to travel to holiday locations on taxpayer’s money. Here he is in Coimbra, Portugal. Nice work if you can get it. Wouldn’t Portugal have been on the amber list at the time of this interview? Interesting. Another case of ‘For me, but not for thee’.

So, how exactly will this mask dilemma play out in real life? This is what Matthew Lynn foresees:

London mayor Sadiq Khan, a man who never saw a cynical political gesture without wanting to give it a big hug, is reportedly toying with demanding that masks continue to be worn on public transport in the capital, whatever the Government decides. If he goes through with it, it can surely only be a matter of seconds before Wales’s Mark Drakeford and Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon follow suit, saltire or dragon optional, while every grandstanding local politician will soon be jumping on that bandwagon.

Likewise, businesses will be coming up with their own rules, based on what they see as their core demographic. A sports bar in Chelmsford, decked out in England flags? My feeling is it won’t require masks. A vegan cafe in Islington or Bristol? You will have to wrap up your face before ordering that soyamilk fair trade latte.

There was a time — at the height of the pandemic in Spring 2020 — when we had no masks. Somehow, the vast majority of us did not catch coronavirus.

Lynn reminds us of the absurdity of the rules:

We can also all argue about whether masks were ever necessary. The scientific evidence was always shaky, which was why most governments in Europe, as well as the US, were reluctant to impose them in the first place. The rules governing masks have become increasingly bizarre, too. Why the virus doesn’t spread while you are eating a meal at a restaurant, for example, but does while you walk to the lavatory, defies any rational explanation.

Nonetheless, Lynn sees masks and lockdowns as yet more tools of social division:

We might have hoped that Covid-19 would soon be behind us. There seems little chance of that now. The divisions lockdowns have opened up and exacerbated will run for years.

Hope amidst ambiguity

The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley wrote ‘The British must reject fear and dump their masks’.

He began by saying:

Hope, at last! The Government has indicated that all legal lockdown restrictions will end in England on July 19 and that even masks will become a question of choice, in which case I choose to burn mine. I’ve only worn the wretched thing “to make others feel comfortable”, and my heroes are the religious cranks and anti-social yobs who refused to play along.

He is pinning his hopes on new Health Secretary Sajid Javid:

Javid, one hopes, has taken a fresh look at the data and concluded that cases are rising significantly but hospitalisations and deaths are not, which suggests the emergency is under control.

Stanley says we must adjust our outlook towards coronavirus:

We need to shift from disaster containment to threat management. Think of it as living in an earthquake zone: you’re conscious of the risk and prepare for the worst, but you don’t walk around acting like an earthquake is happening right now, with your knees bent, holding onto the furniture. Nor should we act as if Covid will kill us all, because it won’t.

He has two suggestions for the Government in order to make things clear to the public and avoid ambiguity:

The Government needs to get two things right. One is consistency: if adults are free, children should be too. It makes no sense whatsoever that they are isolating from school, or even routinely tested, if this disease doesn’t pose a direct threat to them and the vulnerable are double-jabbed. If we keep this silly regime going on in schools, it would both be unjust and sow confusion and fear: how are we supposed to feel safe if kids are treated like unexploded bombs?

And, second – this is so crucial – the Government mustn’t allow legal restrictions to be replaced with ongoing “advice” or “guidance”, because we’ve never got to the bottom of which is what, and the result – if trains or supermarkets are still advising us to distance and people assume they have to comply – will be de facto lockdown.

SAGE and communitarianism

SAGE continue to try to make the UK a communitarian, authoritarian society with their rules and restrictions.

Sorry, we are not the Far East, and most of us do not want to transform Britain into that type of society.

Here is a good example of SAGE-think. On Sunday, July 4, the Telegraph reported:

Prof Stephen Reicher at the University of St Andrews, a member of the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science, said it was frightening to have ministers “who want to make all protections a matter of personal choice when the key message of the pandemic is “this isn’t an ‘I’ thing, it’s a ‘we’ thing.”

No, it is not a ‘we’ thing. It never should have been.

Reicher gets a lot of airtime on the BBC, especially in Scotland.

Prof Stephen Powis, the NHS medical director for England, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday that we must continue to protect the NHS by getting vaccinated twice. He said that the link between infection and hospitalisation is ‘severely weakened’ but not yet broken:

When asked about masks, he said:

Some people may choose to wear face masks in particular circumstances, such as crowded environments, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those habits to reduce infections are a good thing to keep.

Millions of us would disagree.

As for official figures in England:

Official figures showed there had been 24,248 Covid cases in the last 24 hours, up 161 per cent on a fortnight ago and highest daily figure since January, but only 15 more people had died as more than half English residents have now been double-jabbed.

These scientists must be from SAGE:

Some UK scientists warned however, that the lifting of all Covid-19 restrictions was like building new “variant factories” at a very fast rate.

If it were up to them, we, the great unwashed, would never see freedom again.

A new ‘broom’, a new outlook

We are fortunate to have a new health secretary who is a new broom, so to speak, with a new outlook.

Sajid Javid is on the same page as Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Boris himself.

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson explained the alliance for the Telegraph on Thursday, July 1:

Unlocking on July 19 now looks a near-certainty, but so does the surge in Covid cases. So the Prime Minister will need to explain to a nervous country why, all of a sudden, people should be relaxed when the virus rises. Javid will need a version of the “live without fear” theme that Sunak was developing last summer. To say that most of these cases are now among the under-25s, so hospitalisations should be low, posing no serious threat to the NHS. And it’s best to get this “exit wave” over with now, rather than wait for the winter.

This will be the next battle: whether Covid-style techniques (self-isolation, classroom closures) should be used to fight back whatever winter brings. This is perhaps where a Sunak-Javid alliance will really come into play. Last summer, the Treasury vetoed an NHS plan to expand hospital capacity on the (now laughable) logic that Test and Trace would quash any second wave. Extra capacity is needed now. Lockdowns, of course, hurt the economy and hit future ability to pay for the NHS.

When the vaccines were first proven to work, Johnson’s first thought was that this meant things should be over quickly. Surely they’d only need to protect the over-50s, he thought, then life could then get back to normal. It all turned out very differently, and he ended up caught in a Whitehall war. In Sunak and Javid, he now has two of his most senior ministers committed to an irreversible reopening.

They might not succeed. But this time, he can’t say he lacked the support that he needs.

I hope the plan for July 19 works, especially as it would send a clear message to SAGE about the direction of the future for the UK. A data review will take place on Monday, July 12.

On Thursday, July 1, news emerged that some British schoolchildren are creating false positives on their lateral flow tests in order to avoid school.

i News reported that videos have been circulating on TikTok since April, causing disruption in certain schools:

Yes. I thought they were tested in school. It comes as a surprise to find out they can self-test at home.

The problem is that other students in the same school bubble must also self isolate:

The videos are still on TikTok:

Whole bubbles and whole classes have been broken up around the country this year. Pupils and students must self-isolate for ten days.

In another i News article, one father expressed his frustration. Matthew is not his real name (emphases mine below):

Matthew*, a parent in the Greater Manchester area, was dismayed when his 14-year old son was sent home from school earlier this week after a friend faked a positive test reading after following videos she’d come across on TikTok.

“We were told our child has been in close contact with someone who’s had a positive result, a girl who’s one of his close friends. He said that she’d faked it and that she’d seen it on TikTok, that there were loads of videos on how to fake it,” he told i.

As she wanted to fake the result as an easy way to stay off school, it meant around 10 of their close friends were all told to stay at home. I’d say around half of them don’t care, they’ll get to stay in bed all day.

“You are going to get kids who can exploit this. In the general scheme of things, their whole education has been fairly screwed up, so it’s annoying when it’s intentional and one person can have such a big effect on their immediate friends.”

Matthew said he had asked the girl to explain to her mother that the test wasn’t legitimate and to do a PCR test to confirm she didn’t have the virus after a second lateral flow test conducted in front of a teacher returned a negative result

While Matthew’s son is supposed to be off school until 8 July, it’s not currently clear when he’ll be able to return to school.

“Her mum has agreed to ring the school and lie and said she’d had a negative PCR test, but we’re not sure when my son will be able to go back,” he said.

“We know that he’s off because of this person, but because of data protection, we can’t prove it. There’s a chance it could be someone else who’s genuinely positive, but it’s all very murky.

“For my son, this is an inconvenience because if he’s told to stay inside for 10 days, we’ll make him stay inside for 10 days, other parents maybe aren’t as bothered. He’s the one that’s been pushing for her to come clean, which has been controversial because some of the other friends are just happy to have the 10 days of extra holiday.”

‘Lost children of lockdown’

On Sunday, June 27, the Mail reported that nearly 100,000 children have dropped out of full-time education since lockdown began last year:

Analysis of official figures by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has identified 93,514 pupils who were mostly absent between September and December – more than the capacity of Wembley stadium.

The figure for those off school more often than they were present has rocketed by more than 50 per cent on the previous year, with a particularly ‘alarming’ rise in primary schools, as the chaos caused by Covid made it easy for vulnerable youngsters to slip through the net.

It is feared many will end up being expelled or simply drop out of education altogether after the disruption of the past year, putting them at risk of being drawn into a life of crime

CSJ chief executive Andy Cook said: ‘When a child disappears from our school system, their future often disappears with them …

These are the lost children of lockdown. Charities working with these children are telling us there’s now a real risk of children being picked up by street gangs.’

These figures are on top of those missing class because someone in their bubble tested positive:

These absences were additional to the 33 million days lost because of Covid, which saw children either fall ill or forced to stay at home because a classmate tested positive. Bradford, Knowsley in Merseyside and Newcastle upon Tyne had the highest absence rates.

It is unlikely that parents of the ‘lost children of lockdown’ will care about advice from the Department for Education:

The Department for Education said it had acted swiftly to help minimise the impact of the pandemic on pupils’ education and provided extensive support for schools, colleges and early years settings.

Its guidance makes clear that parents have a legal duty to ensure children of compulsory school age attend school regularly, but schools should authorise absences due to illness, related to both physical and mental health.

It’s time to bring back truant officers rather than hire Covid marshals.

Conservative MPs have been vexed over this situation, and Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, has been a milquetoast about depriving so many children of their education.

MPs did not know about the TikTok videos at the time of the debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday, June 30.

Williamson’s responses, such as the following, are unhelpful:

… more than 50 million tests have already been conducted across schools and colleges. We are very much aware that testing has been an important part of getting schools reopened, and we continue to work with colleagues in the Department for Health and Social Care and in track and trace to ensure that testing is available to all pupils and their families …

I do not want to pre-empt the decision across Government on the next stage, but our direction is very clear about lifting the restrictions and ensuring that children are not in a situation where they have to bubble. That is very much part of the course of the road map, and of course we would very much expect that our children would not be facing that in September

On July 2, the Mail had an article about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government plan on bubbles, which might not be lifted before schools close for the summer on July 19:

Mr Johnson is under pressure after it was revealed that 375,000 children had been sent home because a member of their ‘bubble’ had tested positive for Covid.

They have to isolate for ten days if another pupil in their group gets the virus. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has suggested that school bubbles will end when classes return after the summer holidays in September.

He has also indicated that the changes could happen when the next stage of easing restrictions takes place on July 19.

But this is the date that many schools are due to break up for summer, making it a meaningless promise in practice.

Conservative MPs are up in arms:

Senior Tories told the Telegraph today that the PM’s remarks had fallen ‘on stony ground’

The former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson joined the clamour for a swifter release from the bubbles today … 

Tim Loughton, a Tory MP and former children’s minister, told the Telegraph: ‘Common sense has been thrown out the window, they just need to get rid of all these bubbles asap.

The whole Department for Education operation has lacked a sense of urgency and the children have been the collateral damage.’

Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith is among 48 MPs to have signed a letter to the Prime Minister warning that the current policy is ‘disproportionate’ and ‘unsustainable’.

They said it was essential that schools ‘go back to normal’ when lockdown is lifted, even if it is ‘just for the last few days of term’.

‘This will send an important signal ahead of the autumn that the route to freedom is a ”one-way road”,’ the letter said.

It added that pupils have suffered ‘unnecessary and significant disruptions’ in order to keep the rest of the country safe.

‘They have lost physical fitness, suffered mental health damage, and experienced catastrophic learning loss,’ it said.

Other signatories include former cabinet minister Esther McVey and Commons education committee chairman Robert Halfon.

I could see this happening last year. Education ministers said that the most vulnerable would be able to continue to go to school with children of necessary workers. Who would make vulnerable children attend? Certainly not their parents, in most cases.

How the UK will recover from this disaster is anyone’s guess at the moment.

 

 

On the evening of Saturday, June 26, many Britons were relieved that Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed a new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care so soon after Matt Hancock’s resignation.

Although lockdown supporters say that Sajid Javid has no experience in health, that is why many of us think he is a good choice. He will give the department a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective, one that isn’t tied to SAGE or ‘our NHS’, which has become a cult religion over the past 16 months (March 2020 – June 2021).

Since the pandemic began, it has become very difficult being able to see a general practitioner (GP) in person.

The Telegraph‘s Ross Clark wrote (emphases mine):

… many patients struggle to get a doctor to see them even at the surgery. Hancock’s vision of us all consulting medical staff via smartphone app doesn’t allow for the fact that, according to Ofcom, only 55 percent of the over-65s – ie those who need the NHS the most – use a smartphone. Even if it did, it ignores the views of cancer specialists who have warned that cancer is often diagnosed via subtle changes in a patient’s appearance – something you can’t capture by uploading a photograph of a spot.

Hopefully, the new health secretary will bring a keen eye to Hancock’s failures and won’t shy away from tackling vested interests so that we can a real doctor, in real life, when we need to.

GB News covered the appointment on their Sunday morning programme:

TalkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer also thought Javid’s appointment was good news:

Mark Harper MP of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) in Parliament tweeted his congratulations:

The Sunday Times said that Carrie Johnson, who once worked for Javid in government, was influential in getting him the job:

The Mayor of London appeared on Andrew Marr’s show on Sunday to congratulate a fellow son of a bus driver (video here):

This confused Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner, who also said ‘fragrant’ instead of ‘flagrant’ in an interview this week:

Later that day, Times journalist Steven Swinford was told that the security camera in Hancock’s former office — now Javid’s — had been turned off:

Monday’s front page of the Telegraph reported a positive outlook from the new Health Secretary:

That morning, Javid gave an interview to Sky News expressing his desire for a quick lifting of coronavirus restrictions:

However, as Guido Fawkes pointed out, Javid has voted with the Government on continuing restrictions (emphasis in the original):

Co-conspirators will be relieved to hear that given hitherto he has voted in favour of every lockdown. Javid also confirmed the notorious camera lurking in his new office has now been disabled, though not by him personally…

Late Monday afternoon, Javid delivered his first statement in Parliament as Health Secretary. Excerpts from Hansard follow, emphases mine.

He stated the positives about the vaccine rollout, beginning with a brief tribute to Hancock:

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), who has worked hard throughout all these testing times. He achieved a great amount in the work that he did, and I know that he will have more to offer in public life. I wish him the very best.

There remains a big task ahead of us to restore our freedoms—freedoms that, save in the gravest of circumstances, no Government should ever wish to curtail. My task is to help to return the economic and cultural life that makes this country so great, while, of course, protecting life and our NHS. That task has been made all the more difficult by the delta variant, which we now know makes up some 95% of new cases in the UK. Not only does it spread more easily, but the evidence points to a higher risk of those who have not been vaccinated needing hospital treatment, compared with the previously dominant alpha variant.

This narrowing of the race between the virus and the vaccine led to this Government’s difficult decision to pause step 4 on our road map until 19 July. We are using this extra time to protect as many people as we can. When the Government took that decision on 14 June, more than 4.3 million over-40s had had a first dose but not a second. The figure is now down to 3.2 million people over 40. We can all be reassured by how many more people are getting the life-saving opportunity that a vaccine offers.

At this two-week review point, I want to update the House on our progress on our road map to freedom. Our aim is that around two thirds of all adults in this country will have had both doses by 19 July. We are bringing forward second doses, and bringing forward our target for first doses too, so we can meet that 19 July goal. Vaccine uptake remains sky-high. We have seen that age is no barrier to enthusiasm for getting the jab: as of this weekend, more than half of adults under 30 have taken up the chance to be vaccinated—including, in the past couple of weeks, all three of my own adult children.

Our vaccines are working, including against the delta variant. The latest modelling from Public Health England shows that they have saved more than 27,000 lives and have prevented more than 7 million people from getting covid-19. We know that, after a single dose of vaccine, the effectiveness is lower against the new delta variant, at around a 33% reduction in symptomatic disease, but two doses of the vaccine are just as effective against hospital admission with the delta variant as with the alpha variant.

The jabs are making a difference in our hospitals, too. In January, people over 65 who were vaccinated earlier in our programme made up the vast majority of hospital admissions; the latest data shows that that group now makes up less than a third. While cases now are ticking up, the number of deaths remains mercifully low, and we will continue to investigate how our vaccines are breaking that link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths. I am also encouraged by new data just today from Oxford University’s mix and match trial, which shows that a mixed schedule of jabs, such as getting the AstraZeneca jab first and the Pfizer second, could give our booster vaccination programme more flexibility and possibly even some better immune responses

I spent my first day as Health Secretary—just yesterday—looking at the data and testing it to the limit. While we decided not to bring forward step 4, we see no reason to go beyond 19 July because, in truth, no date we choose comes with zero risk for covid. We know we cannot simply eliminate it; we have to learn to live with it. We also know that people and businesses need certainty, so we want every step to be irreversible. Make no mistake: the restrictions on our freedoms must come to an end. We owe it to the British people, who have sacrificed so much, to restore their freedoms as quickly as we possibly can, and not to wait a moment longer than we need to.

With the numbers heading in the right direction, all while we protect more and more people each day, 19 July remains our target date. The Prime Minister has called it our terminus date. For me, 19 July is not only the end of the line, but the start of an exciting new journey for our country. At this crucial moment in our fight back against this pandemic, we must keep our resolve and keep on our road map to freedom so that together we can beat this pandemic and build back better. It is a task that I am deeply honoured to lead and one I know will succeed. I commend this statement to the House.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Lab) responded for the Opposition, pointing out that Javid’s optimism might be misguided:

Can I just say at the outset that, despite our fierce political differences, my dealings with the previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), were always courteous, respectful and professional, and I wish him well in resolving his personal difficulties.

I welcome the right hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) to his place and thank him for advance sight of his statement. He will find working with the NHS and social care staff both inspirational and rewarding, and I hope he will agree to make arrangements for them to receive a fair pay rise and not the real-terms pay cut that is currently pencilled in.

Today, the Secretary of State has let it be known that the 19 July reopening will effectively go ahead. He told the news this morning that there is “no going back” and that lifting restrictions will be “irreversible”. A word to the wise: I have responded to a lot of these statements these past 15 months, and I remember Ministers telling us there was “nothing in the data” to suggest that 21 June would not go ahead. I remember children returning to school for one day before the January lockdown. I remember, “It will all be over by Christmas”. I remember, “We will send it packing in 12 weeks”.

Well, we have seen around 84,000 cases in the past week—an increase of around 61%. Today, we have seen the highest case rate since January. If these trends continue, we could hit 35,000 to 45,000 cases a day by 19 July. That will mean more long covid—the Secretary of State did not mention more long covid—and it will mean more disruption to schooling. For some, it will mean hospitalisation, and we know that even after two doses, someone can catch and transmit the virus, so what is he going to do to push infections down? Vaccination will do it eventually, but not in the next four weeks.

I want to see an end to restrictions and our constituents want to see an end to restrictions, but I hope the Secretary of State’s confidence today about 19 July does not prove somewhat premature or even, dare I say it, hubristic. Can he confirm that by “irreversible” he is ruling out restrictions this winter? Has he abandoned the plan that the previous Secretary of State and officials were drawing up for restrictions this winter? …

Javid responded, without addressing possible winter restrictions:

With all the data I saw yesterday—I sat down and discussed it with the experts and my colleagues—it is very clear that we are heading in the right direction, and I am very confident about that date of 19 July

Lucy Allan (Con), who has voiced her scepticism about coronavirus restrictions before, asked about the terminus date:

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that 19 July will mark the end of the road map out of lockdown, that “terminus” means the end of the line, not an interchange, and that it is his intention that all restrictions will be lifted on that date?

Javid replied:

… As she will have heard in my statement, it is absolutely our intention to have step 4 commence on 19 July and to remove restrictions and start returning to normal. She asked me specifically about all restrictions, or which restrictions. It is certainly our intention to remove restrictions, but as we follow the data in the coming days, we will set out more in due course.

Jim Shannon (DUP), a staunch Anglican, asked about loosening restrictions on church worship:

… If we are aiming for progression and moving away from restrictions such as the wearing of masks, may I ask when people will be able to attend worship and sit in churches self-distanced, without wearing a mask, just as diners can sit in a restaurant self-distanced without a mask? If we are going to have parity, then I believe that churches should have parity with restaurants.

Javid gave a reassuring reply:

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I agree with him that as we move towards removing restrictions and step 4, we should take seriously into account what he said about people attending churches and the restrictions that they currently face. That is certainly my intention.

John Redwood (Con) asked whether Javid would look into improvements in ventilation and cleaning for various types of establishments to improve the air flow. Javid said that he would do so.

Theresa Villiers (Con) also asked about church, specifically singing hymns:

Now that thousands of people are allowed to gather together at a football match to shout and cheer as much as they want, is it not time that we allowed congregations in church to sing hymns together?

Javid responded positively, which is more than Hancock ever did when asked similar questions:

I can tell my right hon. Friend that that is certainly what I would like to see and it is certainly my intention to allow that to happen as soon as possible. When it does, I hope we can sing a hymn together.

Richard Drax (Con) asked how long it would take before people could see their GPs in person again.

It looks as if Javid will address that issue, which Hancock did not much care about, insisting that phone and video conferences were highly successful:

My hon. Friend has raised an important issue. Even before I had this job, that issue came up again and again when I was a constituency MP just like him, and I absolutely understand it. It has especially been raised by older members of my constituency; people have brought this issue up where they are perhaps not as familiar with technology and they want that face-to-face meeting. I have already asked for advice on that and I will write to him on it, if I may.

Liam Fox (Con) asked for more data to be made public:

As for the data we get, it is not just about the number of infections—it is about who is infected, what age they are, whether they have pre-existing conditions, and whether they have been offered a vaccine, but have refused. It is not just about hospitalisations and how many people are in hospital. How long have they been hospitalised compared with the figures for previous parts of the pandemic? How many of them require extra care and how many are in intensive care units? We need to understand much better how the Government are reaching their decisions. The British people are not stupid, and Parliament needs to be taken into the Government’s confidence much more. I trust, given the previous examples of how he has conducted himself, that my right hon. Friend can do that.

Javid replied:

… On his important point about data, I saw the data in the Department for the first time yesterday. I saw the detail that it provides and how granular it is. I was impressed with that data, so I can give my right hon. Friend reassurance that the Government are looking at the data, and are absolutely taking it into account. I would also like to find a way to make sure that we can share as much of that data as possible so that others can benefit from it, and I will certainly look at ways in which we can do just that.

Dr Ben Spencer (Con) asked about winter measures:

… Does he share my concerns regarding this winter, when we predict that an increase in covid hospitalisations may be superimposed on normal NHS winter pressures? Can he confirm that plans and preparations are being put in place now to support our NHS in what may be a very difficult winter indeed?

Javid responded in the affirmative:

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. I can absolutely confirm that plans are being put in place. A huge amount of work was done by my predecessor and, of course, I will continue that work—just yesterday, I had meetings on winter plans. I can give my hon. Friend the absolute assurance, not just on vaccinations but on dealing with the backlog, that there are plans in place, and in due course I will come to the House and set them out.

Huw Merriman (Con) asked about a return to international travel, especially for those who have had two vaccinations.

Javid said:

First, my hon. Friend will know that, in terms of 19 July and the restrictions that will be removed, we are focusing on domestic restrictions. He knows that, separately, we also take very seriously the border controls, the border restrictions and the so-called traffic light system. In terms of making any further decision on that, he will know that it is kept under constant review on a very regular basis, and it is something that I intend to sit down and discuss with my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary as soon as I can.

Mark Harper (Con) pressed Javid with a question on winter restrictions:

… I welcome my right hon. Friend’s tone and his intent to get us back to normal, but let me pick up on his earlier answer to our hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Dr Spencer). There are those in government, from documents that I have seen, who are preparing the ground for the return of restrictions in the autumn and the winter. Will he rule out the use of lockdowns and restrictions in the winter as a mechanism for managing covid, and look at alternatives to ensure that the NHS is able to deal with us getting back to normal?

Javid answered:

I am very happy to meet with him to discuss the issues in more detail and listen to his views. He should know that it is my intention, and the Government’s intention, as I have said from day one on this job, to remove all restrictions as quickly as possible.

Steve Brine (Con) asked about the disruptive self-isolation rules following positive test results, especially for schoolchildren:

I am looking for a change in policy as much as a change in tone. I return him to the subject of education. Estimates suggest that a quarter of a million children are missing school today due to precautionary isolations, the vast majority of them sequential due to the bubbles that they are caught in. Under the current rules, 10 days of isolation is then unavoidable, even with a negative PCR test. Have our young people not suffered enough? Are we really going to continue to do this to ourselves? Is this not an area, given the availability and reliability of testing now, where I might find the change of policy that I am looking for?

Javid replied:

Other hon. Members have rightly raised this very important issue, and my hon. Friend is right to draw attention to it once again. It is something that I have focused on from day one on the job. That is why I have asked for fresh advice on it. As he knows, that decision was made with the data that was available at the time. Clearly, data is changing all the time, and we must ensure that we keep that under review for exactly the reasons that he has just set out. As I say, I have asked for advice on that and will hopefully be able to say more on it as soon as possible.

This is what journalists and the public picked up from that debate.

The Sun‘s Deputy Political Editor Kate Ferguson tweeted about the terminus date …

… and singing in church:

GB News was a bit more cautious:

The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson gave Javid five suggestions for improvement, including sacking SAGE and publishing COVID-19 recovery data with the public:

It was pure speculation by Sage that led to the cancellation of Freedom Day on June 21. Subsequent figures have shown that we are not seeing any sign of hospitalisations for Covid “rocketing” or “surging” as we were warned two weeks ago. On the contrary, NHS England currently has just 1,445 Covid patients (one per cent of all beds). The rolling seven-day average of deaths after a positive test with Covid is 17. Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, says the vaccines are holding up really well against variants. Asked about the large number of “cases”, he said, “This is trivial, actually. Most who test positive are under 30 and they don’t get very sick.” Sir John is clearly far too sane to qualify as a government adviser. Maybe have a word with him?

As for publishing the recovery data:

Matt Hancock promised he would last summer; the slippery eel never did. We are among the only countries in the world not to trust its people with positive information from which they can calculate their own risk. Please stop infantilising us.

The Telegraph‘s Jeremy Warner has hope that, by working together, Javid and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak can turn this parlous situation around:

Like the new Health Secretary, Sunak has always been at the libertarian end of the debate on lockdown, as he must given his interest in a functioning, tax generating economy. So unusually, we for now have a Chancellor and a Health Secretary who are actually on the same page. The Prime Minister should enjoy the harmony while it lasts. The Treasury and Health department are not natural bedfellows.

On the other hand, Bob Moran, the Telegraph‘s cartoonist and a coronavirus sceptic, was unimpressed:

Someone picked up on ‘Build Back Better’:

However, author Carl Vernon, also a coronavirus sceptic, was positive:

I tend to agree with him.

As Sajid Javid has worked for some of the world’s greatest investment banks, I hope that he will cast a gimlet eye over all of the data and ask probing questions of SAGE when they make recommendations on continuing restrictions.

I wish our new Health Secretary all the best.

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