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Climate minister and Cop26 president Alok Sharma has been accused of flying to some 30 countries in the past 30 months – six of them on the UK’s travel “red list” – without isolating upon his return, in a move branded “bizarre and dangerous” by Labour.
Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics estimates that some 34,000 children are living with long Covid in the UK – experiencing symptoms that have persisted for a period of four weeks or longer, such as fatigue, headaches, or loss of smell.
It comes amid concerns that the vaccination of 16 and 17-year-olds is coming too late to stop the spread of the virus in schools from September, with scientists criticising the “unnecessary delay” in jabbing that age group. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) changed its policy to advise offering vaccines to over-16s on Wednesday.
Experts are also fearful that children will be left vulnerable to infection and persistent symptoms upon their return to school next month unless the vaccine rollout is expanded to children aged 12 and above – with some warning that any hope of achieving herd immunity is dependent upon inoculating that age group.
Man opposed to Covid vaccines dies with virus nine days after saying it is ‘nothing to be afraid of’
A healthy man who died of Covid after refusing to get the vaccine made a “terrible mistake”, his partner has said.
The 58-year-old died at his home in Bournemouth on 2 July, after downplaying his symptoms and declining to go to the hospital.
His long-term partner, who was severely ill with the virus at the time, said he believed the vaccines were too “experimental” and put his family at risk. My colleague Zaina Alibhai has the full story:
Leslie Lawrenson’s partner says he ‘paid ultimate price’ for making a ‘terrible mistake’ over jab
Pride in London cancelled because of Covid restrictions
This year’s Pride in London parade has been cancelled because of social-distancing measures, my colleague Jane Dalton reports.
More than 35,000 people had been expected to attend the flagship LGBT+ event, which had been postponed from June to 11 September.
Executive director Christopher Joell-Deshields said risk assessments had shown the parade could not be held while meeting government guidelines.
‘This goes against everything that we want Pride in London to be,’ says organiser
Government accused of ‘failing to protect armed forces’ from Covid
The UK armed forces have recorded their largest increase in coronavirus cases this year, with MPs warning that the rise threatens national security and shows the government is failing to protect troops.
Ministry of Defence figures show the number of positive cases of Covid-19 among the military increased by 1,474 in the two weeks to July 23 – the highest number in any two-week period in 2021.
“These shocking figures show the government is failing to protect our armed forces, who have played such an important role on the front line of this pandemic,” said Labour MP Clive Lewis, vice chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus.
“Neglecting them and allowing Covid to ravage through their ranks threatens not only the fight against the virus, but also our national security.
“Ministers must urgently set out a plan to boost vaccine uptake in the armed forces and prevent cases from rising further.”
Vaccine uptake among young people highest in Wales
Coronavirus vaccine uptake among young people in Wales is the highest in the UK due to encouragement – instead of an approach that “threatens” or offers prizes, first minister Mark Drakeford has suggested.
The latest statistics show the uptake for first doses in Wales among 18 to 29-year-olds is 75 per cent, while it is 72.8 per cent in Scotland, 69.3 per cent in England, and 63.9 per cent in Northern Ireland.
While young people in England have been offered discounted taxi journeys and meals as incentives, and told they will not get into nightclubs unless they are double jabbed, Mr Drakeford said young people in Wales are simply being told they have “a contribution” to make.
“Our appeal to young people is not one that either threatens them by saying you won’t be able to do things or tries to induce them by offering them prizes, but just says to them, ‘you have a contribution to make, you can keep yourself but also other people who matter to you safe’,” Mr Drakeford told the Today programme.
‘We’ve been very blase about infection in children’, expert says
Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said he would support the vaccination rollout being extended to younger teenagers “down throughout secondary school”.
He told Times Radio: “We’ve been very blase about infection in children, but they can get very ill with acute Covid. They also have quite serious or similar odds of getting long Covid.
“Think how devastating that is for children who might be going into their GCSEs or A-levels to simply zone out and not be able to function. It’s a horrible thing to do to children and we do need to take it seriously and, if nothing else, that would be a reason to be rolling out the vaccines, as we are now.”
Covid vaccine buses and Instagram influencers could help get teenagers jabbed
Ministers are reportedly considering deploying vaccine buses to big events and paying social media influencers to encourage teenagers to get jabbed against Covid, my colleague Lamiat Sabin reports.
Celebrities such as former Love Island contestant Dr Alex George could be paid thousands of pounds to put out the public health messages to people aged 16 and 17-years-old, according to The i newspaper.
Mobile vaccination centres could reportedly also be sent to events such as the upcoming Premier League games, festivals, and concerts, so teenagers can get their jabs on-the-spot without the hassle of having to book an appointment for the future.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health released a new video campaign on Friday urging young people to not “miss out” on the chance to go out socialising and clubbing, and shows an image of people enjoying themselves at a crowded live music event.
New government campaign urging young people not to ‘miss out’ on clubbing by getting jab
Wear a mask to ‘communicate a sense of responsibility’, social psychologist says
Wearing a face covering has been politicised – and, as a result, a key reason to wear one is now to communicate a sense of responsibility to others, a social psychologist advising the government has said.
Speaking to LBC, Professor Clifford Stott, of Keele University, said: “We know, obviously, wearing masks, particularly in crowded, poorly ventilated environments, has a big impact on the levels of transmission that can take place.
“But also I think, particularly now, wearing a mask is also communicating to others about a sense of responsibility, and I think that’s a key issue in mask-wearing now, unfortunately.”
He added that the decision by the government to drop the face coverings mandate in England is “communicating that transmission no longer matters”.
Mark Drakeford refuses to rule out future lockdowns
Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford has said he does not “expect” lockdown restrictions to be reinstated in Wales but added that his government will act to protect people’s lives again if needed.
“The success of our vaccination programme really does mean that the link between falling ill on the one hand and being so ill that you have to be in a hospital has been really eroded,” Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales. “It’s not been eliminated, but it’s been radically eroded.
“While the vaccine programme goes on giving us that defence, I don’t expect that we will have to return to the sorts of restrictions that we saw at the beginning of this year.
“But nobody can rule out the surprises, the awful surprises that this virus has had up its sleeve, and, if there were to be a sudden change for the worse that we can’t anticipate, then of course the Welsh Government would act again to protect the lives of people in Wales.”
Wales to scrap most restrictions – but face coverings to remain
Wales is set to move to alert level zero on Saturday, allowing all businesses to reopen and all legal limits on meeting people in indoor private spaces to be removed.
However, first minister Mark Drakeford stressed that the change should not lead to a “free-for-all” as baseline measures such as indoor face coverings will remain to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
On mask-wearing, Mr Drakeford said: “It’s a simple precaution. It doesn’t cost us very much to wear a mask for the brief time that we are in a shop, and we’re making our contribution in doing so.
“In other parts of the world where mask-wearing was lifted, it’s having to be reintroduced again, as it was last week in the United States of America.”
My colleague Conrad Duncan has the details:
Welsh first minister warns easing of measures should not lead to ‘free-for-all’ without safeguards
Here are the prime minister’s latest comments on foreign holidays in the second summer of Covid:
During the same visit, the prime minister also sparked anger with a claim that Margaret Thatcher’s closure of the UK’s coal mines had given the nation a head start on tackling climate change.