Coronavirus cases across the UK have fallen by nearly 40 per cent in a week, dipping below 30,000 for the first time in two weeks, as another 28 deaths are recorded today.

Official figures released by Public Health England this afternoon show there were 29,173 new cases recorded, in what is the fifth day cases have fallen in a row. It is the first time cases have fallen below 30,000 since July 11, when there were 29,985 – and the lowest number since July 10 at 27,843.  

There have been a total of 46,563,452 first doses of a vaccine administered and 37,160,659 second doses. Last Sunday 60 new deaths within 28 days of testing positive were recorded, meaning today’s figure of 28 is a drop of more than 50 per cent.

But it comes amid mounting fears this week of a resurgence of the virus, as more than 600,000 people across the UK were ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app and doomed to 10 days of house-arrest, causing disruption to the economy and bringing the country to a halt.

Nearly one in five Metropolitan Police officers are currently absent from duty after being forced to self-isolate, while the Government on Thursday published a list of exemptions for key workers in energy, waste, water, and food supply and production amid pandemic chaos.

Industry bosses have warned how an emergency plan to tackle the impact of the so-called ‘pingdemic’ on the UK’s food supply network has been an ‘absolute disaster’ and has done ‘more harm than good’.

Food industry leaders claim they are yet to receive further details from the Government about which workers will be allowed to skip isolation rules if they are ‘pinged’ by the app. They also say hundreds of businesses which are to be allowed to take part in the scheme have not yet been briefed on the full details.

Meanwhile, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham called on ministers to scrap the app once the pandemic ends, as she warned the Government against developing it into a more permanent feature of life in the UK amid fears of ‘mission creep’ as the Covid crisis subsides.

Earlier today, Health Secretary Sajid Javid – who has recently completed 10 days of self-isolation after he tested positive for the virus – apologised for a tweet suggesting people should not ‘cower’ from Covid after bereaved families called his comment ‘deeply insensitive’.

In other coronavirus developments: 

  • Summer holiday plans for nearly six million Britons could be ruined if Spain and Greece follow France onto the ‘amber plus’ list, according to new figures; 
  • Taxpayers will pay the price of Covid for decades to come with the cost of Government measures already surpassing £370 billion, MPs have warned;
  • The UK’s privacy tsar has today called for the Government to scrap the NHS Covid-19 app once the pandemic eases – as she vowed ‘we’ll be watching its evolution very carefully’;
  • Nearly one in five Metropolitan Police officers are currently absent from duty after being forced to self isolate amid pingdemic chaos;
  • The NHS is ‘quietly disintegrating’ under the pressure of a 5.3 million-strong waiting list, a palliative care doctor has warned.

Also read: Britain’s daily Covid cases fall for a fourth day in a row – with a 41% drop on last week

There have been a total of 46,563,452 first doses of a vaccine administered and 37,160,659 second doses. Last Sunday 60 new deaths within 28 days of testing positive were recorded, meaning today's figure of 28 is a drop of more than 50 per cent

There have been a total of 46,563,452 first doses of a vaccine administered and 37,160,659 second doses. Last Sunday 60 new deaths within 28 days of testing positive were recorded, meaning today’s figure of 28 is a drop of more than 50 per cent

Holidays could be ruined for six MILLION Brits if Spain and Greece join France on ‘amber plus’ list – meaning even double-jabbed people will have to quarantine for ten days

Summer holiday plans for nearly six million Britons could be ruined if Spain and Greece follow France onto the ‘amber plus’ list, according to new figures.

Ministers are though to be consider putting the two countries – which pre-pandemic attracted more than 21 millions Britons to their shores – on the ‘amber plus list’ due to fears over the spread of Covid variants.

The list effectively strips back Freedom Day rules, which allow holidaymakers to return from amber list countries without having to face a mandatory period of self-isolation.

But, just days before the new rules were to be announced, the Government through tens of thousands of holidays into doubt by revealing that double-jabbed Britons returning from France would still have to quarantine.

Now Greece and Spain, both of which are currently on the amber list, could now follow France onto the so-called amber plus list.

But, according to figures released by Labour, that could leave an estimated 5,857,558 people facing the prospect of last-minute quarantine requirements – plunging the holidays into ‘chaos once more’.

Mr Javid on Sunday deleted the tweet, saying it ‘was a poor choice of words and I sincerely apologise’. In the message, posted a day earlier, he announced he had made a ‘full recovery’ and said his symptoms ‘were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines.’

‘Please, if you haven’t yet, get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus,’ he added.

But Mr Javid was forced to apologise after Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice joined MPs in branding his ‘cower’ remark as insulting to people who have shielded and those who stayed at home to protect society.

On Sunday, he tweeted: ‘I was expressing gratitude that the vaccines help us fight back as a society, but it was a poor choice of word and I sincerely apologise. Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimise its impact.’

Co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Jo Goodman had said Mr Javid’s original comment was ‘deeply insensitive on a number of levels’.

She said: ‘Not only are they hurtful to bereaved families, implying our loved ones were too cowardly to fight the virus, but they insult all those still doing their best to protect others from the devastation this horrific virus can bring.

‘Words matter and the flippancy and carelessness of this comment has caused deep hurt and further muddied the waters of the Government’s dangerously mixed messaging,’ she said.

The group has welcomed Mr Javid’s remarks while urging him to join them for a visit to the Covid memorial wall in London to ‘understand the hurt and insult’ caused by his ‘poor choice of word’ remains, Sky News reported.

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy questioned use of the word ‘cower’, as did Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner. Mr Lammy wrote: ‘129,000 Brits have died from Covid under your Government’s watch. Don’t denigrate people for trying to keep themselves and their families safe.’

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Munira Wilson said Mr Javid’s tweet was ‘outrageous’ while thousands remain in UK hospitals with Covid-19. ‘His careless words have insulted every man, woman and child who has followed the rules and stayed at home to protect others,’ she said in a statement.

‘He owes them all, especially the millions who are shielding, an apology.’

Public health expert Devi Sridhar said his remarks would be ‘painful to read for those who were severely ill’ and those who lost loved ones to Covid-19. The professor at the University of Edinburgh wrote: ‘It wasn’t because they were weak, just unnecessarily exposed to a virus.

‘And wanting to avoid getting Covid isn’t ‘cowering’ – it’s being sensible & looking out for others.’

Mr Javid, who has received two doses of the vaccine, received a positive test result on July 17 for a coronavirus infection that ultimately sent Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak into isolation as his close contacts.

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid has apologised for a tweet suggesting people should no 'cower' from Covid-19, after bereaved families called his comment 'deeply insensitive' [File photo]

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid has apologised for a tweet suggesting people should no ‘cower’ from Covid-19, after bereaved families called his comment ‘deeply insensitive’ [File photo]

On Sunday, he tweeted: 'I was expressing gratitude that the vaccines help us fight back as a society, but it was a poor choice of word and I sincerely apologise. Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimise its impact

On Sunday, he tweeted: ‘I was expressing gratitude that the vaccines help us fight back as a society, but it was a poor choice of word and I sincerely apologise. Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimise its impact

Mr Johnson’s quarantine in his Chequers country residence is expected to finish at the end of Monday, as is Mr Sunak’s. The pair initially tried to avoid isolation by saying they were taking part in a testing pilot, but backed down in the face of widespread public criticism.

Mr Johnson’s quarantine in his Chequers country residence is expected to end late on Monday.

Mr Javid’s recovery follows junior health minister Jo Churchill announcing on Thursday that she was pinged by the NHS coronavirus app and will be required to quarantine.

Labour leader Keir Starmer is also isolating for the fourth time after one of his children tested positive for coronavirus.

Mr Javid replaced Matt Hancock as Health Secretary last month when the scandal-hit predecessor stood down amid public outrage after leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing an aide in breach of coronavirus social distancing rules.

It comes as industry bosses warned an emergency plan to tackle the impact of the ‘pingdemic’ on the UK’s food supply network has been an ‘absolute disaster’ and has done ‘more harm than good’.

Nearly 750,000 people in England were infected with Covid last week as the epidemic grew by 28 per cent. The Office for National Statistics' weekly surveillance report estimated that one in 75 people had the virus in the seven days to July 17

Nearly 750,000 people in England were infected with Covid last week as the epidemic grew by 28 per cent. The Office for National Statistics’ weekly surveillance report estimated that one in 75 people had the virus in the seven days to July 17

 

Government data shows that 14 per cent fewer tests were carried out compared to last week, which may be partly behind the fall

Government data shows that 14 per cent fewer tests were carried out compared to last week, which may be partly behind the fall

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy questioned use of the word 'cower', as did Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy questioned use of the word ‘cower’, as did Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner

Public health expert Devi Sridhar said his remarks would be 'painful to read for those who were severely ill' and those who lost loved ones to Covid-19

Public health expert Devi Sridhar said his remarks would be ‘painful to read for those who were severely ill’ and those who lost loved ones to Covid-19

Food industry leaders claim they are yet to receive further details from the Government about which workers will be allowed to skip isolation rules if they are ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app.

They also say hundreds of businesses which are to be allowed to take part in the scheme have not yet been briefed on the full details.

It comes after the Government bowed to growing pressure from the industry by allowing a key-worker exemption for food supply chain workers. Instead of being forced straight into isolation when ‘pinged’, food supply chain workers, along with a handful of other key workers, will instead be allowed to take part in daily testing.

Up to 10,000 staff, from across 500 different sites, are expected to qualify for the scheme. However supermarket workers are not included. Testing sites are due to be set up at 15 ‘crucial’ supermarket depots as of Monday.

The move came after it was revealed how more than a million adults across the UK have been forced into isolation in the last week – 600,000 of which have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app.

The sheer number of workers being forced into isolation – even if they never end up having Covid – has sparked fears of a disruption to the food supply chain and empty supermarket shelves in some areas.

But plans by ministers to fix the issue have today come under fire by industry leaders, who have criticised the Government over a ‘lack of communication’.

James Bielby, of the Federation of Wholesale Distribution, which supplies food to outlets other than supermarkets, told the Observer newspaper that the industry still had no idea who is  on the list of exempted groups.

He also said that of the 500 businesses supposedly included, only 3 per cent had actually been notified.

Mr Bielby said: ‘It’s total chaos. There are 15 businesses who were part of the initial run through [of the scheme] on Friday, but there’s supposed to be 500 businesses in total, it’s entirely opaque.’

Meanwhile, Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, the organisation representing companies that move frozen and chilled foods, said: ‘Several days after the prime minister told us the food supply chain was critical and would be exempt, we still don’t have a definitive list of who will be exempt and what is required of them.

‘Businesses are fighting to keep food on shelves, and I regret that despite the best intentions in some places, government has done more harm than good.’

It comes as frontline businesses and services paralysed by pingdemic chaos will get access to 200 new testing sites from Monday.

Food industry leaders claim they are yet to receive further details about which workers will be allowed to skip isolation rules if they are 'pinged' by the NHS Covid-App. Pictured: Empty soft drinks shelves in Tesco in Cardiff on Friday

Food industry leaders claim they are yet to receive further details about which workers will be allowed to skip isolation rules if they are ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-App. Pictured: Empty soft drinks shelves in Tesco in Cardiff on Friday

The Government's emergency plan to tackle the pingdemic's impact on the food supply industry has been an 'absolute disaster' and has done more harm than good, industry bosses have today claimed. Pictured: A shopper walks past a row of empty shelves in ASDA Cardiff on Friday)

The Government’s emergency plan to tackle the pingdemic’s impact on the food supply industry has been an ‘absolute disaster’ and has done more harm than good, industry bosses have today claimed. Pictured: A shopper walks past a row of empty shelves in ASDA Cardiff on Friday)

Some 200 new test centres are going to be set up throughout the country to try and stem the chaos caused by the pindemic

Some 200 new test centres are going to be set up throughout the country to try and stem the chaos caused by the pindemic

The Government on Saturday said in a statement that an expected initial extra 200 testing sites would be opened so that daily contact testing could be ‘rolled out to further critical workplaces in England’.

But it came as it was claimed the system causing the problem could not be stopped – because there is not enough testing capacity to allow the ‘test and release’ method to take over.

The chaotic situation sparked harsh words from some sectors over the lack of clarity from the authorities.

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, added: ‘We desperately need this detail and need it quickly. The last we heard, communication could be coming on Monday, so we have a long weekend to get through yet. We need a sense of urgency here.’

Richard Harrow, chief executive of the Frozen Food Federation, said: ‘The Government announcement last night that parts of the supply chain will be allowed to test and release workers that are pinged by Track and Trace only goes part of the way.

James Bielby, of the Federation of Wholesale Distribution (FWD), which supplies food to outlets other than supermarkets, told the Observer that the industry still had no idea who was actually on the list of exempted groups

James Bielby, of the Federation of Wholesale Distribution (FWD), which supplies food to outlets other than supermarkets, told the Observer that the industry still had no idea who was actually on the list of exempted groups

‘It shows that yet again Government does not understand how connected the food supply chain is.

Only opening part is unlikely to solve the overall issue. Plus, who is in and who is out, who decides and how do they decide?

‘Confusion continues to pervade and I have been advised no list until Monday. This is worse than useless.’

Cornwall Airport Newquay said it was being ‘very much affected’ by staff shortages due to isolation orders and its boss was not optimistic over discussions over exemptions with the Department for Transport.

Managing director Peter Downes told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday: ‘We’ve been told to expect exemptions in very small numbers of people, in ones and twos, rather than large numbers of staff.

‘When we have between a quarter and a third in some cases of individual teams being pinged by the system in one go, and as soon as you get people back you’re often losing others to fresh notifications, we don’t believe that the scheme is going to cater for that.’

One industry not to feature in the exemptions list was hospitality, with its trade association warning the sector will have ‘one hand tied behind our back’ as staff are forced into isolation over Covid-19 contacts during what should be the peak season.

Calling for a ‘more pragmatic solution’, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘We now face a summer of venue closures and reduced service, when we should be at a seasonal peak.

‘The sector will do all it can to provide great service, but it will be with one hand tied behind our back.

‘Those who are fully vaccinated should be able to test after a ping and, subject to a negative result, carry on with their lives. For those not fully vaccinated two negative tests should be sufficient to return to work.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel insisted: ‘Daily testing will keep our frontline teams safe while they continue to serve the public and communities across our country.’

The expansion came after the Government on Thursday announced its programme would allow thousands of workers at up to 500 sites in the food sector to avoid the need to self-isolate if identified as a contact of a coronavirus case, and instead take daily Covid tests.

Discontent with the Government’s self-isolation policy was growing at the weekend as food industry bosses condemned changes to ease the ‘pingdemic’ , hospitality leaders warned of a summer of closures and train operators were forced to cut services.

Pressure has mounted on Downing Street to bring forward the date at which people who are double vaccinated against coronavirus can avoid self-isolation.

Freedom day has prompted an extraordinary onslaught of pings to people following the coronavirus rules still left

Freedom day has prompted an extraordinary onslaught of pings to people following the coronavirus rules still left

There were increasing calls for Mr Johnson to bring forward his wider relaxation of quarantine rules for the fully vaccinated from August 16 as businesses were hampered by staff being told to isolate as coronavirus cases soar.

In a bid to calm the concerns of industry, ministers published a limited list of sectors whose double-jabbed workers are eligible to avoid isolation if they undergo daily testing before the wider easing of rules for England.

Industry leaders said the move did not include sufficient workers but doctors warned the problem is that the Prime Minister has let the virus ‘rip’ and not the ‘pings’ being issued by the NHS Covid-19 app to tell coronavirus contacts to isolate.

The mounting criticism came as data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed Covid-19 cases continued to rise, with around one in 75 people in England infected.

‘When we have between a quarter and a third in some cases of individual teams being pinged by the system in one go, and as soon as you get people back you’re often losing others to fresh notifications, we don’t believe that the scheme is going to cater for that.’

One industry not to feature in the exemptions list was hospitality, with its trade association warning the sector will have ‘one hand tied behind our back’ as staff are forced into isolation over Covid-19 contacts during what should be the peak season.

Calling for a ‘more pragmatic solution’, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘We now face a summer of venue closures and reduced service, when we should be at a seasonal peak.

‘The sector will do all it can to provide great service, but it will be with one hand tied behind our back.

‘Those who are fully vaccinated should be able to test after a ping and, subject to a negative result, carry on with their lives. For those not fully vaccinated two negative tests should be sufficient to return to work.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel insisted: ‘Daily testing will keep our frontline teams safe while they continue to serve the public and communities across our country.’

Post source: Daily mail

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