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Government gives go-ahead for Covid restrictions to be lifted in England as planned on July 19 – but PM urges caution

13th July 2021 about a 3 minute read
“If not now, when?” Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid

Stay cautious is the government’s key message in its guidance for England to move to the final stage of the Covid-19 unlock roadmap on 19 July.

Health and Care Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons it was the “most responsible decision” the Government could take.

Despite SAGE predictions that cases could reach 100,000 a day in the summer, which could lead to 2,000 hospital admissions a day, Mr Javid said delay would not achieve a great deal.

“If not now, when?” asked Mr Javid, who repeated his recent concerns about the knock-on effects of Covid restrictions on people’s mental health. (Sign up for FCC’s upcoming webinar Mental Health Care: Technology and Transformation – register here now for free).

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth called the approach “fatalistic”, highlighting cases of cancer surgeries being cancelled in Leeds and growing NHS waiting lists.

When asked by Health and Social Care Committee Chair Jeremy Hunt if the Government would take decisive action to avoid another lockdown, Mr Javid said they wouldn’t hesitate to take action if the “risk-matrix” changed.

Announcing details of the new guidance at a Downing Street press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if they delayed the 4th step in the Covid roadmap until September or later then they would be re-opening as the weather got colder and the virus acquired a greater natural advantage.

“We know we’re going to see more hospitalisations and more deaths from Covid. But we also know that this wave was clearly foreseen by our scientists when we first set out that roadmap in February” said Mr Johnson.

It was thanks to the success of the vaccine programme and that four tests had been met that the restrictions were being lifted. They were:

  • continued progress in the vaccine roll-out
  • evidence that vaccination is reducing hospital admissions and deaths
  • infection rates that do not risk unsustainable pressure on the NHS
  • no new variants of concern which change the risks.

The guidance says while cases are high and rising, everybody needs to continue to act carefully. It recommends people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces such as on public transport.

Key protections will stay in place, including the test, trace and isolate system.

It says COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so people must learn to live with it and use their personal judgement in managing the risk to themselves and others.

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, warned: “There is a real risk that dropping the restrictions including to wear masks, especially in health care settings and to socially distance will lead to a significant COVID-19 surge which will place even more strain on a system struggling to cope.

“This will have a direct and immediate impact on the care the NHS can provide to patients.”

Future Care Capital has previously warned workforce burnout and the need to promote resilience in the NHS and social care are pressing issues for everyone in the sector.