Coronavirus UK news – Lockdown RETURN feared with govt ready to bring back tough rules but July 19 will go ahead for now

THERE are fears Britain could be back in lockdown within a matter of weeks as cases continue to surge around the country.

With millions of Brits desperate for a return to normality, one minister admitted the government is ready to reintroduce tough lockdown rules should covid hospitalisations and deaths begin to creep out of control.

Saying Monday's so-called 'Freedom Day' was the right thing to do, Solicitor General Lucy Frazer admitted that the government was "of course" ready to reimpose lockdown if the Covid third wave becomes "unacceptable".

Solicitor General Lucy Frazer insisted "now is the time" to ditch the legal restrictions of the past 17 months, saying: "If we don't do it now, when?".

But with 63 deaths yesterday – the highest since March – and with a prediction of 2,000 new hospital admissions every single day at the peak of the third wave in late August, experts say a return to lockdown is likely.

Reintroducing such measures would be a humiliation for Boris Johnson, who repeatedly described Freedom Day as "irreversible" – messaging that has been dropped in favour of more cautious language in recent weeks.

Read our coronavirus live blog below for the latest updates…

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    QUEEN'S STAFF TO STILL WEAR COVERINGS

    The Queen’s Royal Sandringham Estate in Norfolk will continue to ask visitors to wear MASKS after coronavirus restrictions are eased on Monday (July 19).

    The estate said staff would continue to wear face coverings in Sandringham House and visitors should do the same.

    It said they would also be encouraging the continued use of masks in the toilets, gift shops and catered areas.

    It said in a statement: “The safety and wellbeing of our visitors and staff remains our priority and we are therefore taking a cautious approach to lifting any further Covid safety measures.”  

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    WEST MIDLANDS STAFF FORCED TO ISOLATE

    West Midlands Railway said it had seen the number of staff having to self-isolate quadruple in recent weeks.

    Staff absences have resulted in trains being cancelled at short notice, and fewer carriages being available on some services.

    The company is asking passengers to keep wearing face coverings, unless exempt, from Monday despite the easing of Covid restrictions, and is also warning rail users to expect more short notice cancellations as increasing numbers of staff are "pinged" by the Test and Trace app.

    Jonny Wiseman, West Midlands Railway's customer experience director, said: "We are keeping up the extra high standards of cleaning on our trains and stations that we implemented at the start of the pandemic.

    "Even though Covid restrictions are easing from Monday, the message is, in crowded spaces, wear a face covering out of respect for others."

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    TWO-THIRDS ADULTS WILL STILL WEAR FACE COVERINGS

    Almost two thirds of adults say they will continue wearing face coverings in shops and on public transport when this is no longer a legal requirement, figures show.

    Some 64% of the public said they plan to keep wearing face coverings following the removal of most legal restrictions in England next Monday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

    Its poll found that most adults believe that measures such as wearing a face covering when shopping (90%) and social distancing (88%) to stop the spread of coronavirus are important.

    And more than half (57%) of adults said they were worried about the Government's plan to lift legal restrictions when it moves to Step 4, including a fifth who were "very worried".

    From July 19, it will no longer be a legal requirement to wear a face covering in most settings in England, but the Government has said it "expects and recommends" that people continue to do so in crowded areas.

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    FACE MASKS FOR LONDON MARKET

    Customers and traders at a historic food market in London will have to continue wearing face masks next week despite restrictions being eased by the Government.

    Borough Market in south London, which contains produce stalls and restaurants, said it will be enforcing mask-wearing under by-laws passed by its Trustees.

    The decision comes after it surveyed visitors this week and found a "clear majority" are "in favour of mask-wearing beyond the Government's lifting of restrictions" in England next Monday.

    People will be able to remove face masks while eating and drinking in the market's hot food areas, which is the case under the current rules in restaurants and bars.

    It echoes the decision made by London Mayor Sadiq Khan that travellers on the capital's transport network must continue to wear masks from next week and beyond.

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    CALLS ISSUED TO PREVENT A 'SURGE' IN KEY WORKERS BEING FORCED INTO ISOLATION

    Fresh calls have been issued to prevent a "surge" in workers and medics being forced into self-isolation over coronavirus contacts when most restrictions end on Monday.

    Medics are among the critics calling on the Government to rethink the month-long delay between so-called "freedom day" and the quarantine rules being eased for the double-jabbed.

    Transport unions said there will be "dire consequences" next week when staff are "pinged" with instructions to self-isolate over close contacts as the level of infections rise.

    Employers have warned of a looming staffing crisis, which could compound pressure on the NHS with some staff already having been asked to put holidays on hold due to the rising number of patients.

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    COVID ANXIETY

    Older people experienced the greatest rise in anxiety during the first national coronavirus lockdown and should be prioritised for mental health support as restrictions are eased, research suggests.

    The study by UK and US researchers, believed to be the largest of its kind, found "wide-ranging positive and negative effects" on the UK population's mental health and wellbeing.

    More than 379,000 people took part in the Great British Intelligence Test, promoted by the BBC, prior to the pandemic in January 2020 and between May and June 2020, during the first national lockdown.

    The study is a collaboration between Imperial College London, King's College London, the University of Cambridge, the University of Southampton, the University of Chicago, and the NHS foundation trusts of Southern Health and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

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    NHS APP CAUSING 'CHAOS'

    NEIGHBOURS are being forced into isolation – because the NHS Test and Trace app is 'pinging' people through walls.

    A record half a million people in England were forced to stay at home after getting Covid alerts in the first week of July alone.

    And with businesses, schools and transport services brought to a standstill, it's been claimed there's a 'pingdemic' caused by the overly-sensitive app.

    Some of those contacted by the app were forced to self-isolate for 10 days despite never having come into face-to-face contact with an infected person, the Telegraph reports.

    That's because the Bluetooth signal used is strong enough to penetrate walls – meaning neighbours are sending each other alerts by accident, source told the publication.

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    99 PER CENT COVID CASES ARE DELTA

    A total of 253,049 confirmed and probable cases of the Covid-19 Delta variant have now been identified in the UK, according to the latest figures from Public Health England – up by 36,800 from 216,249 cases in the previous week, a rise of 17%.

    Of the 253,049 cases, 209,926 have been in England, 32,708 in Scotland, 5,601 in Wales and 4,814 in Northern Ireland.

    The Delta variant continues to account for approximately 99% of confirmed cases of coronavirus across the UK.

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    'WHISTLEBLOWERS SHOULD BE GETTING MEDALS'

    Britain's data watchdog was hit by a furious backlash last night after they raided homes in their hunt for the Matt Hancock scandal whistle-blowers.

    The former Health Secretary quit after The Sun last month revealed CCTV of his office clinch with aide Gina Coladangelo, which broke lockdown rules.

    Yesterday the Information Commissioner’s Office seized computers and other devices after searching two properties in the south of England.

    But their “overkill” probe was branded a menace to the free Press by MPs, campaigners and the public — who said the tipsters should be “given a medal”.

    The Information Commissioner’s Office was accused of behaving like the East German Stasi.

    Plasterer Craig Wells said: “The whistleblowers should be getting medals for this.”

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    SLOWLY DOES IT

    Professor Adam Finn, from the JCVI, said the country must go slowly when restrictions ease in England on July 19.

    He told Sky News he will "continue to use a mask indefinitely, particularly if I have symptoms, in order to protect other people, particularly in enclosed spaces and so on.

    "I think what we're hearing and seeing here is a readjustment in the rhetoric, partly because of the continuing rise in number of cases and this is a balancing act that we've got going on at the moment, and partly also in reflection of the fact that it seems clear that quite a large proportion of the public are actually very concerned about the relaxation.

    "It's not as though everyone's throwing their hands up with glee and saying 'thank goodness it is all over', and people are recognising that it's not all over and that things are still really quite dangerous out there.

    "I think there's a political readjustment to that reality and that public attitude.

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    'CONSEQUENCES OF BEING PINGED'

    Sir Jonathan Montgomery, former chair of the ethics advisory board for the NHS Test and Trace app, said he would not change the function of being "pinged" by the app but rather what is required afterwards.

    The professor of healthcare law at University College London told LBC: "We need to think about the consequences of being pinged.

    "When the app was designed, we didn't have the ability to reliable home test, we didn't have very many people jabbed, and the big worrying thing about this virus is that you can pass it on before you know you have it.

    "So, I wouldn't be changing the pinging but I would be changing the consequences of being pinged."

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    'FIT AND HEALTHY' 22-YEAR-OLD DIES FROM PNEUMONIA AND COVID

    A "fit and healthy" former rugby player who collapsed and died at home in front of his devastated dad died from pneumonia and Covid – aged just 22.

    Jake Naylor, who was sports-mad and played for several rugby league and union teams, had no underlying health conditions but had been coughing and struggling in the days before his death, in February this year.

    Dad Ash Naylor, 57, a well-known rugby coach, has paid tribute to son – whose life is being celebrated at a memorial rugby game next month – who he described as a "man mountain" who was "liked by everyone".

    “He was 6ft 5, a typical rugby player build. He was liked by everyone, which is such a cliché, but it was true. He was such a nice and pleasant young man. It stuns me still, that he's gone, it doesn't seem real.”

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    APP MAKES 'SIGNIFICANT IMPACT' ON BRITS

    The Government recognises the "significant impact" that the NHS Covid-19 app is having on businesses, said the Solicitor General.

    It comes after more than half a million users in England and Wales received an alert in the seven days to July 7, the highest seven-day total since data was first published in January.

    Lucy Frazer said as well as relaxing self-isolation rules on August 16 for the fully vaccinated, there are pilots being undertaken which could allow people to start a testing regime rather than self-isolate.

    "It (the app) is an important tool because it is important that you do isolate if you do come into contact (with a positive case), but I know this is something the Government is looking at," she told Sky News.

    "In addition to the changes in mid-August, the Government is also carrying out a number of pilots to see whether instead of isolating when you get pinged, you could take a test.

    "The Government is looking at this very carefully, recognising the significant impact this is having on businesses."

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    WATCH: THE 200 POSSIBLE SYMPTOMS OF LONG COVID

    Scientists discover more than 200 symptoms impact the daily lives of people with long Covid

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    MASK UP

    Shoppers have been told by the Government they are expected to continue wearing masks from Monday.

    From July 19 there will no longer be a law on wearing masks but many retail bosses are asking shoppers to still do so.

    All lockdown restrictions are due to end after the weekend but the new Covid policy says the Government “expects and recommends” masks to be worn by workers and customers.

    The advice is for situations especially in crowded, enclosed spaces as the work from home order ends in a few days time.

    Masks are to remain mandatory in Scotland and Wales though.

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    MINISTERS TO INVESTIGATE CLAIMS PPE PURCHASED BY GOVERNMENT WAS MADE WITH SLAVE LABOUR

    Slave labour fears connected to medical gloves bought by the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic are to be investigated by the Government.

    Trade minister Greg Hands told MPs he would “look at the specifics” after Labour raised concerns in the House of Commons about supplies from Malaysia.

    Shadow trade minister Bill Esterson said he has a list of 19 glove suppliers whose factories should be subjected to a “proper audit” by the Government.

    Speaking in the Commons, Mr Esterson said: “The Government is relying on increased trade with Malaysia for three-quarters of the forecast benefits from joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership – the CPTPP.

    “It may explain why ministers have turned a blind eye to the growing use of slave labour in Malaysian factories.”

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    MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE TO FIGHT VACCINE HESITANCY AMONG PREGNANT WOMEN, SAYS EXPERTS

    Maternity experts have warned that more needs to be done to encourage pregnant women to get vaccinated against coronavirus following “confusion” around the jab’s safety.

    The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said they were concerned over a hesitancy among pregnant women to get vaccinated amid infections rising across England.

    The RCOG added that around 58% of pregnant women are refusing the vaccine, according to its internal data.

    Data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS) has shown that one in 10 pregnant women admitted to hospital with symptoms of Covid-19 need intensive care.

    It is also twice as likely that pregnant women with Covid symptoms will give birth to premature babies.

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    HOSPITAL STAFF ‘MAY HAVE ACCIDENTALLY KILLED COVID PATIENTS AFTER ERRORS WITH VENTILATOR FILTERS’ IN PACKED ICU WARDS

    It comes amid claims medics used the wrong filters in a “cluster” of similar incidents involving the life-saving breathing system filters.

    An inquest will now investigate the deaths of two patients at the London Nightingale Hospital in April last year after the East London Coroner issued a warning about the risk of future fatalities.

    It is feared Kishorkumar Patel and Kofi Aning, 66, passed away at the temporary hospital while suffering from Covid after the wrong filters were used inside their intensive care ventilators.

    The incidents have raised concerns regarding the awareness of ICU staff as they work through packed wards throughout the pandemic.

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    MASK FORCE

    Brits will be “expected” to wear masks in indoors and enclosed spaces, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi revealed yesterday.

    Face coverings will no longer be mandatory from July 19 once all Covid curbs are lifted.

    Boris Johnson is expected to confirm tomorrow that all remaining restrictions will be lifted on Freedom Day.

    Last week, the PM said masks would become a “personal choice” as he tore up laws making them a legal requirement on buses, trains, and in shops and other indoor venues.

    But new guidance to be published on Monday will advise people to wear masks in crowded, indoor settings, Mr Zahawi told Sky News this morning.

    Mr Zahawi said: “I think it is important that we remain cautious and careful and the guidelines that we will set out tomorrow will demonstrate that.

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    MANY WORKERS WORRIED ABOUT RETURNING TO OFFICES NEXT WEEK, STUDY SUGGESTS

    Employers are being urged to remain open to more flexible working arrangements after a study suggested many people are worried about returning to offices.

    Just over half of 1,100 people surveyed by jobs site CV-Library said they felt anxious about returning to work when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted in England on Monday.

    Three out of four said they preferred the flexibility of working from home, while around two in five said they were more productive or did not want to deal with office politics.

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    THOUSANDS OF WORKING PLAN TO HEAD BACK TO OFFICES IN ‘GRADUAL RETURN’ TO THE WORKPLACE – YOUR RIGHTS EXPLAINED

    Thousands of workers will be ordered back to offices from July 19 – but the return will be phased. 

    Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed in the Commons that final stage of his roadmap out of lockdown can go-ahead next week but warned the pandemic is far from over. 

    Mr Javid said: “We have looked closely at the data against these four tests and we firmly believe this is the right time to get our nation closer to normal life.

    “There will never be a perfect time to take this step because we simply cannot eradicate this virus – whether we like it or not, coronavirus is not going away.”

    Read the full story here

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    WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU REFUSE TO WEAR A FACE MASK?

    You could be refused service, entry or the right to travel if a firm enforces a requirement to wear a face covering.

    Companies decide their own health and safety measures and insisting on masks could be a reasonable rule, says Adam Wagner, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers.

    If you took your mask off once inside a building or train, staff would also have the right to ask you to leave.

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    DISCO PASS

    Covid vaccine passports could be made compulsory for pubs and nightclubs after lockdown ends on July 19.

    Boris Johnson tonight confirmed that “freedom day” will go ahead yesterday – but some measures could be introduced to stop the spread of the bug.

    Under current rules, vaccine passports are only encouraged and not legally enforced.

    But new guidance released by the government states: “If sufficient measures are not taken to limit infection, the Government will consider mandating the NHS Covid Pass in certain venues at a later date.”

    It means Brits could need to prove they are double-vaccinated, provide a negative Covid test in the past 48 hours or a positive PCR result within the previous six months.

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    PANDEMIC SET BACK AS COVID CASES AND DEATHS RISE

    Covid-19 deaths and cases are on the rise again globally in a dispiriting setback that is triggering another round of restrictions and dampening hopes for an almost normal summer of fun.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported on Wednesday that deaths climbed last week after nine straight weeks of decline. It recorded more than 55,000 lives lost, a 3% increase from the week before.

    Cases rose 10% last week to nearly three million, with the highest numbers recorded in Brazil, India, Indonesia and Britain, WHO said.

    The reversal has been attributed to low vaccination rates, the relaxation of mask rules and other precautions, and the swift spread of the more-contagious Delta variant, which WHO said has now been identified in 111 countries and is expected to become globally dominant in the coming months.

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    TWO-THIRDS OF BRITISH ADULTS NOW DOUBLE JABBED

    This means 67 per cent of people are now fully protected against severe illness from the bug.

    It comes just days before Freedom Day, with ministers urging everyone to get double jabbed.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Barely 8 months since the first vaccine was given, this is another extraordinary achievement.

    “Thank you again to everyone coming forward, and to those helping others to get jabbed.

    “You are the reason we are able to cautiously ease restrictions next week, and return closer towards normal life.

    “Now let’s finish the job. If you’re over 18, book both your jabs today.” 

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