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UK Covid live: Zahawi says Covid pass could be compulsory for large events; 618,903 people ‘pinged’ last week UK Covid live: record 618,903 people ‘pinged’ in England and Wales; Covid pass could be mandatory for big events
(32 minutes later)
Latest updates: vaccines minister says venues can use pass as condition of entry; record numbers in England and Wales ‘pinged’ by NHS Covid app Latest updates: record numbers ‘pinged’ by NHS Covid app last week; vaccines minister says venues can use pass as condition of entry
And this is what Downing Street said about Boris Johnson’s called with the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, about the Northern Ireland protocol this morning. (See 12.21pm.) A No 10 spokesman said: Here are the main points from the No 10 lobby briefing.
UK nationals who had their vaccinations overseas and find themselves unable to register for domestic Covid passes, or obtain other double-jabbed benefits like avoiding quarantine when returning from amber list countries, should see this change soon, Nadhim Zahawi has said. Downing Street has said that no extra money will be available to the NHS to fund the 3% pay rise for most staff announced yesterday. A No 10 spokesman said the pay rise would be “funded from within the NHS budget”, but he said this would not affect funding already earmarked for the NHS front line.
No 10 has renewed its claim that the EU has been taking a “purist” approach to the Northern Ireland protocol. Asked why the UK was effectively trying to renegotiate a deal it agreed last year, the spokesman said:
But, when challenged to say if the UK was accusing the EU of breaching the terms of the agreement, the spokesman would not go as far as making the claim.
Doubtless in the EU they would argue that what No 10 describes as a “purist” approach to implementing the agreement just means: implementing the agreement.
The spokesman said that the government was launching a consultation today on slashing “Brexit red tape”. But, when asked if this meant that the government was accepting that Brexit caused red tape, the spokesman did not accept this, and the news release about the initiative suggests this is more a case of careless phrasing than an admission that Brexit has increased the regulatory burden (even though for exporters it has). That is because of how No 10 describes the consultation, which follows on from the publication of the report by the independent Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR). No 10 said in its news release:
And this is what Downing Street said about Boris Johnson’s call with the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, about the Northern Ireland protocol this morning. (See 12.21pm.) A No 10 spokesman said:
UK nationals who had their vaccinations overseas and find themselves unable to register for domestic Covid passes, or obtain other double-jabbed benefits like avoiding quarantine when returning from amber-list countries, should see this change soon, Nadhim Zahawi has said.
Asked about the issue in the Commons by Labour’s Rupa Huq, Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister for England, said:Asked about the issue in the Commons by Labour’s Rupa Huq, Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister for England, said:
The contact with a GP was necessary to ensure their vaccine was one of those approved for use in the UK, Zahawi added.The contact with a GP was necessary to ensure their vaccine was one of those approved for use in the UK, Zahawi added.
He also said moves for afoot for reciprocal recognition of 33 other countries’ vaccination proof schemes, so non-UK nationals jabbed overseas could also have the benefits. This “will happen very soon”, he added. He also said moves were afoot for reciprocal recognition of 33 other countries’ vaccination proof schemes, so non-UK nationals jabbed overseas could also have the benefits. This “will happen very soon”, he added.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, has reaffirmed the EU’s intention not to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol. She posted this on Twitter after a call with Boris Johnson on the topic.Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, has reaffirmed the EU’s intention not to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol. She posted this on Twitter after a call with Boris Johnson on the topic.
Her language is almost identical to what her colleague Maroš Šefčovič said yesterday when he issued the EU’s first formal response to the government’s publication of its command paper on the protocol.Her language is almost identical to what her colleague Maroš Šefčovič said yesterday when he issued the EU’s first formal response to the government’s publication of its command paper on the protocol.
The government “risks losing social consent” for its test and trace programme if it does not immediately allow fully vaccinated people to avoid isolation, the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said. My colleague Aubrey Allegretti has the story here.The government “risks losing social consent” for its test and trace programme if it does not immediately allow fully vaccinated people to avoid isolation, the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said. My colleague Aubrey Allegretti has the story here.
In a written ministerial statement, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has announced the government is going to review its long-term plans for major road and rail schemes (its “national policy statement for national networks”) in the light of the pandemic, and how that might change transport use. He said:In a written ministerial statement, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has announced the government is going to review its long-term plans for major road and rail schemes (its “national policy statement for national networks”) in the light of the pandemic, and how that might change transport use. He said:
As my colleague Jennifer Rankin reports in her analysis of the UK government’s command paper on the Northern Ireland protocol published yesterday, the EU is exasperated by Boris Johnson’s objection to complying with a deal that he agreed only last year.As my colleague Jennifer Rankin reports in her analysis of the UK government’s command paper on the Northern Ireland protocol published yesterday, the EU is exasperated by Boris Johnson’s objection to complying with a deal that he agreed only last year.
EU leaders may be even more unhappy when they hear how Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, described the protocol in an interview this morning. Speaking on Sky News, Kwarteng, a strong supporter of Brexit in 2016, claimed the protocol was always intended to be flexible. He said:EU leaders may be even more unhappy when they hear how Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, described the protocol in an interview this morning. Speaking on Sky News, Kwarteng, a strong supporter of Brexit in 2016, claimed the protocol was always intended to be flexible. He said:
According to the latest weekly test and trace figures (pdf), 259,265 people in England tested positive for coronavirus between 8 July and 14 July - a 33% increase compared to the previous week. That is the highest weekly figure since the week ending 20 January.According to the latest weekly test and trace figures (pdf), 259,265 people in England tested positive for coronavirus between 8 July and 14 July - a 33% increase compared to the previous week. That is the highest weekly figure since the week ending 20 January.
The figures also show that 475,465 people were identified as close contacts of people testing positive between 8 July and 14 July - a 25% increase on the previous week.The figures also show that 475,465 people were identified as close contacts of people testing positive between 8 July and 14 July - a 25% increase on the previous week.
Back in the Commons Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, asked Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister, if the government was confident it had enough PCR testing capacity, with new cases expected to reach 100,000 per day this summer.Back in the Commons Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, asked Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister, if the government was confident it had enough PCR testing capacity, with new cases expected to reach 100,000 per day this summer.
Referring to PCR capacity, Zahawi replied: “It’s 640,000 per day as of the latest data I looked at.”Referring to PCR capacity, Zahawi replied: “It’s 640,000 per day as of the latest data I looked at.”
Up to a quarter of staff at some food and drink firms are isolating because they have been pinged, according to Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation. He told Sky News:Up to a quarter of staff at some food and drink firms are isolating because they have been pinged, according to Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation. He told Sky News:
Fraud and hacking soared during the pandemic as criminals “took advantage of behavioural changes”, while reports of domestic abuse-related offences also rose, PA Media reports. PA says:
The businessman Lex Greensill was given “extraordinarily privileged” access to government while the government’s process for managing lobbying is insufficiently transparent and allows access to a “privileged few”, a report into the Greensill lobbying scandal commissioned by the prime minister has concluded. My colleague Rajeev Syal has the story here.
NHS figures show that a record 618,903 alerts were sent to users of the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales in the week to 14 July telling them they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus, PA Media reports.
Jo Churchill, the public health minister, has been pinged, she has revealed on Twitter.
Zahawi says the country has taken a step forward this week, with the move to step 4 in England.
But he says people need to be cautious.
Today a new campaign is being launched encouraging people to carry on taking steps to stay safe, like wearing masks in crowded places, ensuring rooms are well ventilated, and getting tested regularly.
He says, after a successful trial, the government has rolled out the NHS Covid pass. This allows people to demonstrate their Covid status, whether proof of vaccination, test results or natural immunity. Anyone can access this through the NHS app, the NHS website or by calling 119 and asking for a letter, he says. He says venues can use this as a condition of entry.
And if large numbers of people are likely to go to a venue or event, then organisers should use the pass, he says. He says the government reserves the right to make its use compulsory in the future.
He also confirms that MPs will get a vote on the plans to use Covid passports.
He says new data suggests the vaccination programme has prevented 52,000 hospitalisations. The protection offered by the vaccine wall is getting stronger, he says.
He confirms that the government intends to go ahead with making being vaccinated a condition for entry to nightclubs from September.
UPDATE: Here is the direct quote from Zahawi.
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister, is about to make a statement to MPs on coronavirus.
But before he starts Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, says he was surprised a health minister, Helen Whately, made a statement to MPs yesterday without confirming the pay rise for NHS staff. He says the Commons should have been told first.
Zahawi apologises for what happened.
He refers to the department’s “inability” to make a statement yesterday. But he does not explain why Whately did not mention the pay rise.
The Road Haulage Association says lorry drivers should be included in the list of critical workers allowed to use testing as an alternative to isolation coming out today. Referring to shortages in shops, partly caused by drivers not being available, Rod McKenzie, the RHA’s managing director of policy, said:
And another food industry executive told the Today programme this morning that he is telling staff told to isolate by the NHS Covid app to take a test and carry on working if they are negative.
This is contrary to government advice, which is that people pinged by the app should isolate.
Andrew Selley, chief executive of Bidfood, a food distribution company, said that he considered his staff critical workers. He told the programme:
When it was put to him that this policy was contrary to government advice, Selley replied:
As PA Media reports, Selley said 100 staff from around 20 depots across the country were off isolating yesterday, presenting a “real challenge” with deliveries arriving late, or even the next day.
Richard Walker, managing director of the supermarket firm Iceland, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that although there is not a widespread problem with food shortages in stores now, the problem could soon get worse unless the government addresses the “pingdemic”. He said:
Good morning. On Monday Boris Johnson said that some critical workers would be allowed to use testing as an alternative to isolation after contact with someone testing positive, to save them from the “pingdemic”. But he refused to give details. No 10 said a bit more at lobby on Tuesday, but at PMQs yesterday Sir Keir Starmer said he had read the briefing several times and “I haven’t a clue what it means”.
This morning Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, was doing the morning interview round for No 10 and he said that today guidance will be published saying which critical workers will be exempt from the current isolation rules. He said:
But, when asked on the Today programme if the food industry would be exempt, he refused to say. And earlier, in an interview on BBC Breakfast, he said the list of people exempt would be “very narrow”. He said:
If the food industry is not included on the critical workers list, retailers will be disappointed. With supermarkets under increasing pressure, partly because of the pingdemic, to keep their shelves stocked, retailers want an exemption. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, told BBC Breakfast this morning:
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS publishes the latest quarterly crime figures for England and Wales.
10.30am: Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister, makes a statement to MPs.
11am: NHS test and trace publishes its latest performance figures.
After 1.30pm: MPs begin a backbench debate on the public administration and constitutional affairs committee report (pdf) making recommendations for the Covid inquiry.
2pm: Public Health England publishes its latest weekly Covid surveillance report.
Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently and that will probably be the case today. For more coronavirus developments, do follow our global Covid live blog.
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