I will consider the statistics first tonight before reporting on the Government’s plans to remove most of the lockdown restrictions and requirements on 19th July.
The number of daily tests remains around 1.2 million tests. Today there were 27,334 positive tests reported. Over the weekend figures were lower at around 24k. per day. Looked at over the last week the rate is continuing to rise and the rate is now 229.9per 100k of the population. There is no sign of the third peak slowing yet.
With the problems of recording deaths at weekends, it is difficult to assess the statistics. However, over the last 7 days, there have been 128 deaths, just 6 more than the previous week.
The hospital data has not been updated since 1st July. I anticipate the figures will be released tomorrow and will show a slow but steady rise in figures, but nowhere near as high as the number of new cases.
45.31 million first doses have been given, that is 86.1% of those over 18. 33.76 million second doses or 64% of adults have had a second dose.
The Prime Minister and his usual two senior scientists gave a briefing tonight. I should stress that this relates to England alone. The devolved nations will announce their own plans in due course.
The Prime Minister made it very clear that the rules may go but the risks will not. In fact, he suggested that the number of new cases may rise to fifty thousand per day by the 19th of July when he plans to remove most of the restrictions. A final decision will be made on 12th July.
The vaccine has proved most effective and we can try to get a lot more done by July 19th. The PM wants every adult over 18 to have had one jab and 2/3rds having a second one as well. At our current rate of progress, this is achievable.
Having been effective in preventing the disease with vaccination and having significantly reduced hospitalisations and deaths, we now need to achieve a balance. These restrictions have taken a large toll on our well-being. It is better to do it now with a large part of summer ahead of us, rather than wait any longer. It may prove more difficult in the winter or autumn.
So the plan is to push on with immunisation, reducing the gap to 6 weeks for everyone. No decision has been made about children yet. The JCVI are very carefully assessing the available data from all around the world. It is finely balanced, benefits v risks. They will be very cautious before making recommendations.
I did not hear anything about booster doses tonight but know the jury is still out working out how and when boosters will be offered.
The plan is to remove restrictions and allow all shops, night clubs and events to go ahead without restriction. There will be no requirement to socially distance by at least 1+m .
Masks will no longer be required but will be an optional choice to protect the wearer and to protect those around them.
The Education Minister will shortly be briefing on the subject of school children and social bubbles. Family bubbles will no longer be required as you can have as many people in the house as you want.
Reporting Covid status will not be a legal requirement but may be required to gain access to some private events.
The rules about self-isolation if in contact with a case remain in place. This is a fundamental rule in all infectious diseases and is likely to remain for some time. The traffic light system for travel will remain for the moment and much more work is being undertaken with the travel industry to improve conditions.
I purchased a further supply of facemasks today and I am sure I will need them.
I will wear a mask in the following situations:-
In a small overcrowded shop, or meeting place, with those I do not know.
In an over crowded bus, tube train or railway carriage but not if almost empty.
If clinically appropriate when dealing with patients.
If someone is anxious and nervous about catching Covid from me I will happily wear a mask for their reassurance. Or if I am close to someone I know to be very vulnerable I will wear one.
I will not routinely wear a mask when shopping in large supermarkets, travelling with space on public transport, or where there is plenty of good ventilation. I will always prefer the outdoors.
I believe many people will be terrified of July 19th, we must treat them kindly and with great compassion. Many feel this is too early and feel very vulnerable.
For the people of Scotland, it may be even more difficult as the WHO has announced today Scotland has the highest number of cases in Europe.
It is very much a case of balance. On balance I can agree with tonight’s plan but remember, cases and deaths are going to rise a lot more yet. Deaths will also very slowly rise. It is so vital that everyone is immunised. Please do not be hesitant. It is not just your life at risk but others around you.
Over the weekend 33 covid patients died when the hospital ran out of oxygen. There have been far too many incidents like this. This incident was in Indonesia.
A new variant, the Lamda variant, has been announced. It is labelled C37. It was first found in Peru and has spread to 30 countries. 6 cases have been found in the UK, mostly from abroad. It consists of an “unusual set of mutations”. There are seven different mutations on the spike protein, one of the variants is very similar to one seen in the Delta variant. This is therefore believed to be more infectious than the original virus. So far with 82% of cases confined to Peru, it is not a major concern for us in the UK.
The Dutchess of Cambridge has had to go into isolation after coming into contact with a positive case. Sadly she is not likely to see any more of Wimbledon this year.
Large numbers of children have beaten the system as they have found a way to make their lateral flow test go positive so they and their class friends can get sent home. I understand it's simple to do and just involves adding a soft drink to the test.
Finally, remember relaxing the rules does not mean you have to as well. If you want to still wear your mask when out shopping or on the bus of course you can. I certainly will not be desperate to break the 1.5m rule, but perhaps a good thing is I need not feel guilty if I do.
It’s not gone away, so stay safe and nothing will change until 19th July.