Covid UK: Self-isolation will not be dropped for the double-vaccinated until ...

Covid UK: Self-isolation will not be dropped for the double-vaccinated until ...
Covid UK: Self-isolation will not be dropped for the double-vaccinated until ...

Millions more healthy people face putting their lives on hold after Sajid Javid revealed the requirement for the double-jabbed to self-isolate will not be dropped until August 16.

The Health Secretary said the 'protective wall' thrown up by the vaccine drive meant that ministers can 'look afresh' at rules when people are 'pinged' for contact with an infected individual.

From the middle of next month people who have received two doses - with the second administered at least two weeks previously - can take PCR tests rather than self-isolating. Under-18s will also not be subject to the restrictions from the same date.

But the timetable is far slower than many had hoped, and potentially means huge numbers of people will be caught after 'Freedom Day' on July 19. Mr Javid told the Commons that he had looked at changing the system earlier, but was 'more comfortable' waiting until even more people are vaccinated.  

The dramatic news came after Mr Javid admitted coronavirus cases could top 100,000 a day by the summer as the government pushes ahead with the unlocking. 

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He gave the grim figure as he insisted Boris Johnson is right to continue with the dramatic endpoint on July 19, saying the hospitalisations and deaths were what mattered.

The PM was also given a boost this morning as 'Professor Lockdown' Neil Ferguson said he is 'optimistic' the 'gamble' of releasing restrictions will work - although he cautioned that cases could hit 200,000 a day and they might need to be reimposed if vaccines are slightly less effective than hoped and deaths surge. 

Mr Javid said that by 'Freedom Day' he expects daily cases to reach 50,000 - nearly double the current level. 

'As we ease and go into the summer we expect them to rise significantly and they could go as high as 100,000 case numbers,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'We want to be very straightforward about this... but what matters more than anything is hospitalisation and death numbers. That is where the link has been severely weakened.'

Last night Mr Johnson signalled a 'big bang' end to lockdown on July 19, saying it was now or never for a return to normality despite the pandemic being 'far from over'.

He claimed further delay would run the risk of trying to reopen in autumn or winter when 'the virus has an edge'. 

And at a sombre Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson warned against going 'demob happy' at the ending of most coronavirus restrictions on July 19.

And he toned down previous pledges that the path out of lockdown would be 'irreversible' – with restrictions potentially returning and 'contingency' powers kept in reserve. A final decision on whether to press ahead on July 19 will be taken at the start of next week but seems almost certain to be approved.

In other twists and turns in the crisis today:

Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced the use of bubbles in schools will come to an end;  Labour has branded the PM's unlocking 'reckless' and insisted masks should still be compulsory on public transport;  The gap between vaccine doses has been cut from 12 weeks to eight for the under-40s to give more people the protection of a second jab; Britain recorded another 27,334 cases of the virus yesterday, but only nine more Covid-related deaths; London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he would work with transport providers to keep mask rules in place; An official review of social distancing warned keeping the 'economically disruptive' one metre-plus rule in place would constrain the recovery; The PM said he hoped to lift quarantine restrictions on fully vaccinated holidaymakers returning from amber list countries – but did not say when; Downing Street said social distancing would remain in airports, amid concerns about the virus spreading in arrival halls.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the 'protective wall' thrown up by the vaccine drive meant that ministers can 'look afresh' at the contact tracing rules

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the 'protective wall' thrown up by the vaccine drive meant that ministers can 'look afresh' at the contact tracing rules

Neil Ferguson

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson (right) was given a boost this morning as 'Professor Lockdown' Neil Ferguson (left) said he is 'optimistic' the 'gamble' of releasing restrictions will work

Sajid Javid today admitted coronavirus cases could top 100,000 a day by August as the government pushes ahead with 'Freedom Day' - but insisted the 'wall of defence' from vaccines can hold

Sajid Javid today admitted coronavirus cases could top 100,000 a day by August as the government pushes ahead with 'Freedom Day' - but insisted the 'wall of defence' from vaccines can hold

Sir Patrick Vallance Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, Chris Whitty, attend Downing Street Covid press conference

Sir Patrick Vallance Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, Chris Whitty, attend Downing Street Covid press conference

Javid plans to carry a mask around for 'the foreseeable future' 

Sajid Javid has said he plans to carry a mask 'for the foreseeable future' after the Government announced their use would become voluntary at the next stage of the road map.

The Health Secretary said it was a 'responsible thing for anyone to do' as he confirmed he would continue to wear a face covering in certain situations in public.

The legal requirement to wear face masks will be lifted in England on 'freedom day' – expected on July 19 – although guidance will suggest people might still choose to do so in crowded places.

Experts remained divided on the issue, but the Health Secretary said it marks a move towards individuals exercising personal responsibility rather than laws regulating how they live their lives during the pandemic.

Mr Javid told Sky News: 'For the foreseeable future I will be carrying a face mask with me, I think that's a very responsible thing for anyone to do. As I have said, the pandemic is not over.

'If I'm in a crowded or enclosed space, I will wear a face mask. In fact I will wear one if I was next to someone or near someone that felt uncomfortable with others not wearing face masks.

'And that's what I mean by personality responsibility.'

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Professor Ferguson said 'policy will have to remain flexible' after coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

The Government adviser told Today: 'At the peak of the second wave 50,000 cases would translate into something like 500 deaths, but that's going to be much lower this time, more like 50 or so.

'The challenge is, there's still the potential of getting very large numbers of cases and so if we get very high numbers of cases a day, 150,000 or 200,000 it could still cause some pressure to the health system.

'This is a slight gamble, it's a slight experiment at the moment, and I think it's justifiable and I'm reasonable optimistic, but policy will have to remain flexible.

'If we end up in something close to the worst-case scenario we and other groups are looking at, which I think is unlikely but can't be ruled out, then yes there will need to be some course direction later.'

In a downbeat assessment slipped out in documents alongside the briefing last night, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said that even if hospitalisations and deaths remained low, there were major risks in letting cases surge.

The group warned that should a 'variant of concern' arrive that threatened immunity, lockdown restrictions would need to reimposed for much longer. 

Sage warned that some 'baseline measures' may have to stay, with 'sustained behavioural change' necessary.

Experts said self-isolation when ill would remain 'critical' and working from home was a 'highly effective' long-term option. And in a grim sign that Britons face a return of some curbs in the near future, Sage added: 'Stronger measures may be desirable for autumn and winter.'

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth struggled to explain how Labour would do things differently as he toured broadcast studios this morning.

Told on ITV's Good Morning Britain that he only seemed to be complaining that masks were being made voluntary, Mr Ashworth insisted there was a wider problem. 

'Yes I would've been happier. But it's not just the masks, it's things like sick pay,' he said.

'Sick pay is really, really important; if you're on really low pay, or in a temporary work or zero hour contact, you've not been able to access sick pay throughout this whole crisis.

'Some people have been forced to make use of their annual leave to go on the sick, that's not on, that's not fair. So I really want that resolving as well.'

Mr Johnson's decision to defy gloomy warnings from scientists and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was warmly cheered by business chiefs and Conservative MPs.

However there was confusion over quarantine for summer holidays, the end of mandatory mask wearing and the future of working from home.  

Mr Johnson's leading scientific advisers appeared cautious at the press conference, with chief medical officer Chris Whitty saying the third Covid wave was 'significant and rising'.

Labour condemns mask move but refuses to say how many Covid deaths would be acceptable  

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth struggled to explain how Labour would do things differently as he toured broadcast studios today.

Mr Ashworth complained that case levels were too high, but refused to say what numbers of deaths might be acceptable to revive the economy. 

Told on ITV's Good Morning Britain that he only seemed to be complaining that masks were being made voluntary, Mr Ashworth insisted there was a wider problem. 

'Yes I would've been happier. But it's not just the masks, it's things like sick pay,' he said.

'Sick pay is really, really important; if you're on really low pay, or in a temporary work or zero hour contact, you've not been able to access sick pay throughout this whole crisis.

'Some people have been forced to make use of their annual leave to go on the sick, that's not on, that's not fair. So I really want that resolving as well.'

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And the updated roadmap document makes clear that options are being kept open for renewing the curbs. 

'The Government will maintain contingency plans for reimposing economic and social restrictions at a local, regional or national level if evidence suggests they are necessary to suppress or manage a dangerous variant. Such measures would only be re-introduced as a last resort to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS,' the document said.

'The Government will also maintain the current regulations until 28 September that enable local authorities to respond to serious and imminent public health threats. The Government will also publish an updated COVID-19 contain outbreak management framework for local areas in due course.' 

Sage scientific advisers published documents saying there was a 'significant risk' in allowing cases to rise – and that restrictions might need to return this winter. And in a sign that the political consensus over Covid was fracturing, Sir Keir branded Mr Johnson's announcement 'reckless'.  

At last night's briefing, Mr Johnson warned cases were predicted to rise to 50,000 a day later this month and that 'we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid'.

But he declared: '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?'

He said a further delay would 'run the risk of either opening up at a very difficult time when the virus has an edge' in the autumn or winter or 'putting everything off to next year'.

Chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance said Covid cases were doubling every nine days and hospitalisations were also rising, albeit at a slower rate. 'The vaccines have weakened the link, not broken it,' he said. 

Both he and Professor Whitty said they would continue to wear face masks in busy settings. Professor Whitty acknowledged there were 'some advantages' to reopening in the summer and Downing Street denied a claim from Dominic Cummings that the Prime Minister had overruled his scientific advisers.

In a bold shift despite daily Covid cases rising a fifth in a week to 27,000, Boris Johnson told a Downing Street briefing that the government will no longer issue 'top down' orders after July 19 and people must use their common sense to manage the risks

Boris Johnson pushed the button on a 'big bang' Freedom Day unlocking tonight with social distancing rules, mask laws and the work from home order set to go

Boris Johnson pushed the button on a 'big bang' Freedom Day unlocking tonight with social distancing rules, mask laws and the work from home order set to go

Cases on rise but 'the NHS will cope' 

The NHS will meet the challenge of rising Covid cases and 'learn to live with' the virus, health leaders insisted yesterday.

Professor Chris Whitty said that there is likely to be a surge in hospital admissions as Britain unlocks and the health service will also face a 'very tricky winter'. But he added that the NHS 'will cope with anything'.

There are currently 1,905 Covid-19 patients in NHS hospitals. This is double the number of one month ago, but down from a peak of almost 40,000 in January. Professor Whitty said hospital admissions could reach 'quite high numbers' but are unlikely to be as bad as

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