I apologise for this report being posted later than usual, this is because, like many of you, I have been listening to the Prime Minister’s Briefing. It came as no surprise to anybody that the so called Freedom Day of 21st of June has been postponed for 4 weeks. This has been widely leaked from many sources over the last few days and brings to an end the widespread speculation about how the Government would proceed. The Prime Minister looked very tired and somewhat jaded tonight. He stumbled and rambled in some of his responses. By contrast Chris Whitty, the CMO, had very slick and concise factual answers.
I think I have intimated clearly over the last 10 days I fully support this decision based on the 4 key tests we have used through this pandemic. Almost all scientists agree that there are significant risks with the new variant or Delta Covid which have changed the situation. There still remains the possibility of yet more difficult variants to come along, that are even more transmissible and more infectious, with the vaccine being less effective. The Prime Minister said that as the lockdown has been eased, it was inevitable that new cases would rise. What has made matters worse is the dominance of the Delta variant. We were shown a slide by Chris Whitty which clearly showed a decline in the original Alpha variant with considerable growth of the Delta virus, such that in the UK now some 90% of cases are of the Delta virus. In some parts of the UK numbers are doubling every week.
The PM warned us that we are going to have to live with this virus in the future and that double vaccination for all adults is our best protection. It does not provide 100% protection but as things stand around 90% protection. Because many in the younger age groups have not had both immunisations, the number of new cases can rise considerably.
He also explained that the link between new cases and pressure on the NHS has been weakened, it has not been completely severed.
Between now and the 19th of July, all immunisations will be ramped up. Those aged 23-24 will be called tomorrow and steadily every few days lower the age to 18. All second jabs will be accelerated with a second jab offered before the 19th of July to as many as possible. This should mean 18 year olds should be able to have both jabs before they go up to university at the end of September/ beginning of October.
One significant and very welcome concession was for weddings. Guests will have to respect social distancing, but numbers will not be restricted to 30, any restriction will now be based on the capacity of the venue. The same changes also apply to wakes. Social distancing and masks in doors must apply in both events.
The weekend data shows an average of about 1 million tests done each day with an average of over 7,500 new cases every day and 7,742 today.
Deaths fortunately remain low . There have been 6 in the last 7days. Hospital data has not been published over the weekend or today. This I find most unsatisfactory. I appreciate it is difficult to collate but was vital to understanding how the Health Service is coping. There is evidence that numbers have been slowly rising with 187 daily admissions, the last figure 6 days ago. There are over 1,000 in hospital beds and the use of ventilators is rising again slowly. 161 are using a ventilator on 13th June.
The number of immunisations show 41.69 million 1st doses have been given and 29.97 second doses.
There is a report from Delhi that the number of new cases are reducing now and some restrictions are being lifted . All shops, malls and restaurants can open but Schools and Colleges are to remain closed. They have taken a different view to the UK over the priority to keep children in school . What do you think the reason for this is?
Asked a question about theatres the Prime Minister expressed some sympathy with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s position with regard to his new show , Cinderella. He expressed some sympathy for him and hinted that ways were being sort to allow this to perhaps go ahead in some way. We must watch this space to see if a way is found. If the football and the snooker can go ahead with safeguards in place I would have thought that with goodwill a way round this can be found. Musicians generally, especially those playing in orchestras are very badly hit by the current restrictions.
Our Government have been forced into a difficult choice. Risk it or ride it out for a few more weeks. We can no longer meet the 4 tests so we must pause. The question of booster jabs was raised during the questions but the PM and the scientists carefully sidestepped offering any comment. I suspect details have still to be worked though and are unlikely to appear before September. The other issue not really answered was whether we are going to immunise the 12-17 age group. It was made clear that safety was the first priority and that much work continues on this and data is being collected and analysed. It was clear no decision has yet been made. A lot can change quickly. Very vulnerable children will be immunised in due course but adults remain the priority.
So for now the rules of today still apply, with some relaxation over weddings and funerals. Night clubs and theatres must remain closed and you are still restricted to 6 visitors in your home. Your masks are still necessary when on public transport and when shopping. I am sorry for those disappointed , but for the majority the safety of everyone means this is necessary.
Stay safe everyone.