COVID-19: Boris Johnson to reveal final stages of UK lockdown easing
- New UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid says COVID-19 cases could hit 100,000 a day by August 2021.
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reveals ‘Big Bang’ plan to lift coronavirus restrictions from 19th July 2021.
- Doubts over the future of the NHS test and trace app
- The Duchess of Cambridge is self-isolating after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus
- Walk-in COVID test centre opens up in Norfolk.
- A report finds that adults in poorer areas are more likely to die from COVID-19.
- Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged for COVID passports to be mandatory for nightclub and festival entry.
Yesterday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed his ‘Big Bang’ plan for the UK to see a full lifting of coronavirus restrictions on the 19th July 2021. From this date, wearing face masks in public places could become voluntary and social distancing measures scrapped. Although the upcoming ‘Freedom Day’ signifies a return to normality for the UK, coronavirus restrictions will likely see a rapid rise as a result.
New UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted that the easing of coronavirus restrictions could lead to a significant rise of new COVID-19 cases by as much as 100,000 a day come August 2021. However, whilst Mr Javid stated that the prospect was uncharted territory, he highlighted that COVID-19 related deaths and hospital admissions had reduced rapidly due to coronavirus vaccines.
It’s been reported that the waiting period between the first and second dose of coronavirus vaccines will be reduced to eight weeks to help speed up the programme. The previous waiting period was 12 weeks for under 40s as the UK government aims for all UK adults to be vaccinated by mid-September.
The latest UK government figures reveal 27,334 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, 358 hospital admissions and 9 deaths within 28 days of receiving a positive COVID test.
Mr Javid said he hoped that COVID restrictions would not need to be reinstated, but future progressions remain unclear. The UK Health Secretary highlighted the possibility that new COVID variants could appear in the future, which could be resistant to vaccines. Should this situation arise, the UK would not have a wall of defence, meaning that the UK must remain vigilant when Freedom Day arrives.
Professor Neil Ferguson stated that the UK government’s plans to ease COVID restrictions was a gamble but were nonetheless justifiable, given the increased protection from coronavirus vaccines.
The Professor noted that during the UK’s second wave of coronavirus infections, 50,000 cases a day would have equated to around 500 deaths. This time around 50,000 coronavirus cases would lead to approximately 50 deaths.
However, Professor Ferguson also noted that the large numbers of coronavirus infections each day could still pose a threat to the NHS. The concerns follow comments from Stephen Powis, the National Medical Director for NHS England, who stated that the NHS are now used to dealing with the pressures of COVID-19.
Doubts over the future of the NHS test and trace app
With COVID restrictions on course to be lifted on the 19th July 2021, many have questioned what the future holds for the NHS test and trace app. The app has predominantly been used for individuals to check into hospitality venues, with the app able to detect if you have been near someone that has tested positive for COVID-19.
On Freedom Day, this action will no longer be a requirement in the UK, but health advisors have urged the UK government to continue with the app, believing it to be a valuable asset.
However, over recent weeks, many businesses have complained that the app has sent out an excessive number of unnecessary alerts telling employees to self-isolate, forcing them to be sent home.
The news comes as the Duchess of Cambridge was yesterday told to self-isolate after contacting someone who had tested positive for coronavirus. The Duchess was due to attend two celebrations to mark the 73rd anniversary of the NHS.
Professor Alan Woodward acknowledged that the app could be an annoyance but was designed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The NHS app has come under intense criticism, with many arguing that the GBP 35 million set aside to build the app was a waste of funds. Professor Woodward, however, stated that the app had prevented around 600,000 COVID-19 cases and believed the funds were worth it.
Across England and Wales, over 1 million positive COVID test results have been uploaded to the app, and 2.5 million alerts have been triggered, advising individuals to self-isolate.
During April 2021, there were less than 6,000 self-isolation alerts sent each week. However, by late June 2021, that number had soared to around 220,000 a week, and COVID-19 cases continue to soar.
Scotland has its own version of the app, Protect Scotland, but usage has significantly declined over the past year, with the app not containing a QR code scanner.
Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, recently Douglas Ross, echoed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s comments that Scotland must learn to live with COVID-19. Mr Ross has urged First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon to lift all COVID restrictions and allow Scotland to return to normality.
A report finds that those from poor areas are more likely to die from COVID-19
Research from the Health Foundation has found that adults who live in Britain’s poorest areas are four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those living in wealthier areas. The report highlights the unequal burdens of the coronavirus pandemic, with the mortality rate being 3.7 times higher for under-65s who live in the poorest 10% of UK neighbourhoods.
The report outlines that 6 out of 10 people who passed away from Covid-19 between January and November 2020 were disabled and that 40% of UK deaths during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic were care home residents. The research also indicates that black African males are more likely to die from coronavirus than white males, while Bangladeshi men appeared to be five times more vulnerable to catching coronavirus during the UK’s second wave of infections.
Various factors were outlined as impacting people’s life expectancy during the coronavirus pandemic, including employment type, housing conditions and financial support. These factors not only contribute to the likelihood of coronavirus exposure but can also impact people’s mental health.
The report also found that males in their 50s and 60s living in poorer areas were twice as likely to have a pre-existing health condition such as lung disease or diabetes. The report’s authors highlighted that the coronavirus pandemic has clearly exposed how health and wealth are intrinsically linked.
The approaching Freedom Day has caused alarm amongst those with pre-existing long-term illnesses. Individuals with other underlying long-term conditions are considered clinically vulnerable and are concerned that face masks in public places will become voluntary. The lifting of COVID restrictions will lead to many vulnerable individuals potentially having to shield for longer.
Walk-in COVID test centre opens in Norfolk
Individuals not experiencing coronavirus symptoms can get tested at a new COVID walk-in test centre in Norfolk. There is no need to book appointments to receive a coronavirus test, with asymptomatic individuals able to turn up unannounced.
One in three people with coronavirus is said not to display any symptoms, meaning they could be spreading infection without knowing.
Over recent weeks, there has been a rise in walk-in COVID test centres across the UK, freeing up pharmacies and negating the need to wait for PCR COVID home tests to be delivered.
Further walk-in COVID test centres will likely be required over the coming months as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Recent data reveals that there are just four areas in the UK currently seeing a reduction in COVID-19 cases, with the five fastest-growing areas all located in the North East. The highest area in the UK for coronavirus cases is currently Tamworth in the West Midlands, with 561 new cases in just seven days, equating to 731.5 per 100,000 people.
Tony Blair urges for COVID passports to be mandatory at mass events
As the UK prepares for a full lifting of COVID restrictions on 19th July 2021, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has asked for COVID passports to become mandatory when attending nightclubs or other mass events such as festivals.
The former UK Prime Minister stated that COVID passports could help prevent around 10,000 COVID related deaths in the UK. UK citizens can currently request a COVID passport two weeks after their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
During yesterday’s announcement, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that COVID passports would not be mandatory for entering pubs and restaurants, although businesses may impose their own schemes if necessary.
Ian Mulheirn, UK policy director at TBI, said that NHS COVID passes could help individualise restrictions when coronavirus spreads most rapidly. Mr Mulheirn added that the passes could help boost the UK economy, providing individuals with the confidence to return to mass events.
A recent report from Imperial College London proposes that the use of COVID passports for mass events would only be a temporary measure and during periods of high infection rates.