Nadhim Zahawi has revealed that Boris Johnson will share the government’s latest Covid data with the nation tomorrow, as well as guidance on social distancing after 19 July.
Appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, which is currently being covered by Trevor Phillips, the vaccines minister said he was “confident” England would proceed to stage four of the roadmap out of lockdown on the so-called “terminus date”.
Speaking briefly about what the government’s plans for the next few weeks will include, Mr Zahawi said people would still be “expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed places” – even though the legal requirement to do so would be dropped.
It comes after Sajid Javid warned that NHS waiting lists could rise to 13 million in the coming months as the health service grapples with the Covid third wave on top of a huge backlog of treatment. In his first interview since taking over as health secretary, Mr Javid said he was “shocked” by the growing numbers waiting for non-Covid care.
Video: Marr questions Zahawi on PM saying link between infections and death ‘severed’
‘Panic’ as Test and Trace recruits thousands ahead of summer wave
The government’s Test and Trace service is “panicking” in a rush to fill thousands of vacant contact tracing positions – just months after making thousands of clinical staff redundant – amid fears a summer wave of coronavirus will see a 100,000 infections a day.
Under the plans, the new recruits will have no clinical training and be paid at substantially cheaper rates compared to the nurses and other clinical staff who were made redundant en masse in May, as test and trace bosses said demand on the service had reduced.
Another 8,000 contact tracing staff were let go with just one week’s notice in March, as the service cut its workforce from 22,000 to 14,000 after the January surge had passed. The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed it was now recruiting staff again to meet the increase in infections being seen across the country.
Follow our health correspondent Shaun Lintern’s exclusive story here:
Link between infection, hospitalisation and death ‘weakened’ but not severed – prof
The UK’s national statistician has said the link between infections and being admitted to hospital, having serious disease and even dying has been “severely weakened”.
Professor Sir Ian Diamond told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News: “We have a younger cohort of people being hospitalised at the moment and while hospitalisations are going up, they are now a long way from some of the levels we have seen before.
“And so I’m very hopeful that we have really made a strong break, but at the same time, I would have to say at the moment all the evidence allows me to say severely weakened.”
It comes after Boris Johnson claimed last week the link between Covid infection and serious disease and death was “severed”, though Sir Ian was quick to differentiate his answer from the PM’s.
Bill and Melinda Gates among those stepping in to cover UK foreign aid cut
Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to reverse his government’s multibillion-pound cut to foreign aid, after a group of charities and super-rich philanthropists pledged to help plug the gap with emergency funds.
Criticism of the government’s cut, which equates to a shortfall of £4bn a year, came from Labour and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The donation by the charities – including the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation and Open Society Foundations – is to target projects tackling preventable diseases and offering family planning, according to a report in The Sunday Times.
Lamiat Sabin reports:
Wave of Covid cases over summer ‘inevitable,’ says statistician
Back to Prof David Spiegelhalter Now. The University of Cambridge statistician also told Andrew Marr it is “absolutely inevitable” there will be a “big wave” of coronavirus cases as restrictions are lifted.
Health secretary Sajid Javid already said this week case numbers could reach 100,000 per day in the summer as measures are eased.
Sir David told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “Frankly, you know, unless tomorrow an immediate lockdown is announced – which I think is pretty unlikely – there’s bound to be a big wave of cases coming up, absolutely inevitable. It was predictable right from the start of the road map announcement back in February.
“Of course it’s been made worse by the Delta variant. And I would guess that, you know, 100,000 a day is quite possible, and relaxing everything at once on 19 July will only make that more likely.”
He added it will be “mainly young cases”.
Burnham and Khan to enforce mandatory masks post-19 July – Labour
London and Manchester could continue to enforce mandatory mask wearing on tubes and trams, according to the Labour Party.
Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, said “from what she understood” Labour mayors Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan were planning to take this decision after 19 July.
“I hope they will and I believe, I think I’m right in saying, that Andy has already indicated that here in Manchester, that’s what he will do,” she said.
“I certainly think that having travelled regularly on both the Tube and the tram all through the pandemic when I was allowed to, that wearing masks and seeing others wearing masks is a source of great reassurance and people want to do it.”
The Welsh government confirmed over the weekend that Wales would continue to require face masks in some public places until Covid-19 is no longer a public health threat.
Labour criticises move to drop masks – and ‘worrying’ NHS Covid app
The shadow education secretary said today Labour supported coronavirus restrictions lifting on 19 July if the data supported it, but that some measures should stay in place.
Kate Green told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “What we don’t want is to lift the restrictions without keeping mitigations in place that would enable that to happen more safely. So for example, that’s why we’ve said that the mandatory mask-wearing should continue in public places.”
She continued: “So yes, we do want to see the restrictions lifted if the data confirmed that that’s the right thing to do, and I hope, and the indications seem to be that it will do. But we want that with the mitigations kept in place.”
Ms Green later repeated her sentiments on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, where she went on to criticise the NHS Covid phone app.
“I have to say, Andrew, I was pinged recently and told to isolate for five days – why five when it’s supposed to be 10?” she said, adding: “Well it’s because the system couldn’t identify me for 10 days which is really worrying.”
Vaccinated adults ‘20 times safer than unvaccinated ones,’ says professor
Talking about the likelihood of catching coronavirus, a leading statistician has said you are “probably at least 20 times safer [after a jab] than if you aren’t vaccinated”.
Speaking to Andrew Marr on Sunday, Prof David Spiegelhalter said that he, a 67-year-old who is “double vaxxed to the eyeballs”, was still more at risk from dying of Covid than an “unvaxxed 30-year-old”.
Sir David also moved to stress the importance of receiving a jab, saying it “can’t be underestimated”.
Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has all the details on Nadhim Zahawi’s face mask remarks here:
Face masks will be encouraged but not legally required, clarifies Zahawi
A bit more on face masks now. Nadhim Zahawi said new guidance issued on Monday would still say people were expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces, although the legal requirement to do so would be dropped.
“I think it’s important that we remain cautious and careful and the guidelines that we’ll set out tomorrow will demonstrate that, including guidelines that people are expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces,” he told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday.