UK

SAGE versus Sajid: Doom-monger lashes new Health Secretary’s ‘frightening’ plans to scrap lockdown

A SAGE psychologist lashed out at Sajid Javid’s ‘frightening’ plan to ditch all lockdown measures by July 19 despite more than half of adults in England having received both vaccines – after the new Health Secretary urged people to live with coronavirus ‘as we already do with flu’.  

Professor Stephen Reicher, who has been advising the Government on its response to the pandemic, wrote on Twitter today: ‘It is frightening to have a ‘Health’ Secretary who still thinks Covid is flu, who is unconcerned at levels of infection, who doesn’t realise that those who do best for health also do best for the economy, who wants to ditch all protections while only half of us are vaccinated.

‘Above all, it is frightening to have a ‘Health’ Secretary who wants to make all protections a matter of personal choice when the key message of the pandemic is ‘this isn’t an ‘I’ thing, it’s a ‘we’ thing. Your behaviour affects my health. Get your head around the ‘we’ concept”.

The Department of Health has been approached for comment. 

The broadside from the University of St Andrews academic comes after Mr Javid, who replaced disgraced Matt Hancock last weekend after the former Health Secretary was caught flouting lockdown with his mistress, called the health reasons for lifting restrictions ‘compelling’.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the new Health Secretary says the UK is ‘on track’ to escape almost every vestige of lockdown on July 19, adding: ‘We will have a country that is not just freer, but healthier, too.’

But he makes no secret of the challenges he faces as Health Secretary, admitting that he has ‘the biggest in-tray I’ve had at any department – and I’ve run five’. 

In a further shift in tone in messaging after Mr Hancock sensationally quit government and ditched his wife of 15 years, Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick today announced that wearing face masks will no longer be compulsory after the so-called Freedom Day later this month.   

The Housing Secretary said the latest coronavirus data is ‘very positive’ as Boris Johnson prepares for the final stage in his lockdown exit roadmap. Speaking to Sky News, he said ‘the state won’t be telling you what to do’ after rules are eased and there will be a shift in emphasis towards ‘personal choice’ and judgement.  

The Prime Minister is preparing to announce a raft of measures to come into force from July 19 which will ‘make Britain the most open country in Europe’. 

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that under plans expected to be signed off by the Cabinet tomorrow: 

  • The Prime Minister is ‘determined’ that fully vaccinated Britons will be able to travel to amber-list countries including Spain and Greece without having to self-isolate when they return;
  • Wearing face masks will become voluntary everywhere – including on public transport – with the exception of hospitals and other healthcare settings; 
  • Those who have received two doses of a vaccine will not be required to self-isolate or take Covid-19 tests if they are alerted that they have come into contact with someone with the virus – but tests will still be available for all those who want them; 
  • The school ‘bubbles’ system that has seen hundreds of thousands of pupils being forced to self-isolate at home will be axed and replaced with daily testing; 
  • Restaurants, pubs and shops will no longer have to demand that customers provide their personal data or sign in with a ‘QR’ code. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid

SAGE psychologist Professor Stephen Reicher (left) lashed out at ‘frightening’ Sajid Javid’s ‘bonkers’ plan to ditch all lockdown measures by July 19 after the new Health Secretary (right) called the health case for scrapping restrictions ‘compelling’ and urged people to live with coronavirus ‘as we already do with flu’

Professor Reicher wrote on Twitter today: 'It is frightening to have a 'Health' Secretary who still thinks Covid is flu, who is unconcerned at levels of infection, who doesn't realise that those who do best for health also do best for the economy, who wants to ditch all protections while only half of us are vaccinated'

Professor Reicher wrote on Twitter today: ‘It is frightening to have a ‘Health’ Secretary who still thinks Covid is flu, who is unconcerned at levels of infection, who doesn’t realise that those who do best for health also do best for the economy, who wants to ditch all protections while only half of us are vaccinated’

More than half of English residents have now had both coronavirus vaccines as daily cases rise by 161 per cent in a fortnight

More than half of English residents have now had both coronavirus vaccines as daily cases rise by 161 per cent in a fortnight

More than HALF of Brits have now had both Covid jabs – as daily cases rise by 161% in a fortnight to 24,248, but deaths drop to just 15 

More than half of English residents have now had both coronavirus vaccines as daily cases rise by 161 per cent in a fortnight.

A total of 66,220,122 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between December 8 and July 3, according to NHS England data, including first and second doses.

NHS England said 37,981,485 were first doses, a rise of 121,588 on the previous day, while 28,238,637 were second doses, an increase of 165,665.

On Sunday, 137,389 first dose Covid vaccinations and 196,209 second doses were administered.

The positive vaccination figures come amid a sharp rise in daily cases.

As of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 24,248 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the Government said.

The figure is the highest in 24 hours reported since late January. It is a rise of 63 percent on last Sunday and 161 per cent compared to a fortnight ago.

The Government said 15 more people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday.

While the number of daily deaths remains low, the figure is a 25 per cent increase on last Sunday’s total.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 153,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Setting out his priorities in a column for the Mail on Sunday, Mr Javid writes: ‘The first is how we restore our freedoms and learn to live with Covid-19. The second is to tackle the NHS backlog – something that we know is going to get far worse before it gets better.

‘We are on track for July 19 and we have to be honest with people about the fact that we cannot eliminate Covid. We also need to be clear that cases are going to rise significantly… But no date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad and balanced view.’

Mr Javid says an estimated seven million fewer people than normal approached the NHS for treatment during the pandemic.

He added: ‘The steps we took saved countless lives but also led to the build-up of a vast elective backlog – checks, appointments and treatments for all the less urgent, but often just as important, health issues.’

Figures released in April showed the number of people waiting for hospital treatment in England exceeded 5 million for the first time since records began in 2007, prompting the Royal College of Surgeons to call for specialist hubs to carry out delayed routine operations such as knee and hip replacements.

Mr Javid – who quit as Chancellor last year after clashing with No 10 aide Dominic Cummings – also acknowledges that lockdown has ’caused a shocking rise in domestic violence and a terrible impact on so many people’s mental health’.

Senior sources said that Mr Javid has ushered in a new approach towards handling the pandemic, following Mr Hancock’s strong support for lockdown and coronavirus restrictions. ‘Sajid has pushed down on the accelerator,’ said one.

Mr Jenrick told Sky News this morning that the nation is ‘now reaching a different phase in the virus’. 

‘We are not going to put the Covid-19 virus behind us forever, we are going to have to learn to live with it,’ he said. 

‘But thanks to the enormous success of our vaccine programme the fact that now we have got to the point where 83 per cent of adults in this country have had at least one jab, we should be able to think about how we can return to normality as much as possible.

‘The data that we are seeing that the Prime Minister is reviewing at the moment ahead of his decision point on the road map looks very positive.

‘It does seem as if we can now move forward and move to a much more permissive regime where we move away from many of those restrictions that have been so difficult for us and learn to live with the virus.

‘That does mean that we are going to have to treat it carefully, we are going to have to keep on monitoring the cases and we are going to have to ensure that every adult gets double-vaxxed because that is the key to keeping the virus under control as we move into the autumn and the winter.’

Some scientific experts have called for the rules on wearing face masks in shops and on public transport to be retained.  But Mr Jenrick said wearing face coverings will be made a matter of choice and personal responsibility. 

He said: ‘Like many people I want to get away from these restrictions as quickly as I possibly can and we don’t want them to stay in place for a day longer than is necessary. 

‘We are going to, I think, now move into a period where there won’t be legal restrictions, the state won’t be telling you what to do, but you will want to exercise a degree of personal responsibility and judgement. So different people will come to different conclusions on things like masks for example.’

Asked directly if he will ditch his mask should he be permitted to do so, the Housing Secretary said: ‘I will. I don’t particularly want to wear a mask. I don’t think a lot of people enjoy doing it. We will be moving into a phase where these will be matters of personal choice and so some members of society will want to do so for perfectly legitimate reasons.

‘But it will be a different period where we as private citizens make these judgements rather than the Government telling you what to do.’

It comes as  more than half of English residents have now had both coronavirus vaccines as daily cases rise by 161 per cent in a fortnight. A total of 66,220,122 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place between December 8 and July 3, according to NHS England data, including first and second doses.

NHS England said 37,981,485 were first doses, a rise of 121,588 on the previous day, while 28,238,637 were second doses, an increase of 165,665. On Sunday, 137,389 first dose Covid vaccinations and 196,209 second doses were administered.

The positive vaccination figures come amid a sharp rise in daily cases. As of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 24,248 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the Government said.

The figure is the highest in 24 hours reported since late January. It is a rise of 63 percent on last Sunday and 161 per cent compared to a fortnight ago. The Government said 15 more people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday.

While the number of daily deaths remains low, the figure is a 25 per cent increase on last Sunday’s total.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 153,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

On Sunday, Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said that after July 19, the wearing of face masks will become a personal choice

On Sunday, Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said that after July 19, the wearing of face masks will become a personal choice

More than half of English residents have now had both coronavirus vaccines as daily cases rise by 161 per cent in a fortnight. Pictured: A man receives a vaccine in Doncaster on June 27

More than half of English residents have now had both coronavirus vaccines as daily cases rise by 161 per cent in a fortnight. Pictured: A man receives a vaccine in Doncaster on June 27

It follows reports that Mr Javid has ruled out Tory peer Dido Harding, the former head of NHS Test and Trace, as the next chief executive of NHS England. 

A senior Government source told The Times last night that while she deserved ‘credit’ for building the Covid-19 testing programme, ‘people don’t think she is the right person to lead the NHS as we enter a new phase’.

The decision to reject her candidacy is one of Mr Javid’s first major decisions since he took over as Health Secretary. The news comes after well-placed sources said that Amanda Pritchard, the chief operating officer of the NHS, is in prime position to take over from Sir Simon Stevens.

One insider described her as ‘very highly rated’ and said a ‘two-horse race’ between her and Baroness Harding has now just left her in the running.

The former chief executive of TalkTalk had vowed to use her private sector experience, along with her existing links with ministers, if she were to get the NHS role.

There were also fears that her stewardship of the £37billion Test and Trace system would create future political problems for the Government. It was branded the ‘most wasteful and inept public spending programme of all time’ by the former head of the Treasury. 

The decision over who will be appointed is expected shortly as Sir Simon has ruled out staying in the job beyond the end of July after his seven-year tenure.

Ms Pritchard, previously chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, is said to have impressed Ministers as efficient and highly capable. She has a much lower profile than either Lady Harding or Sir Simon, although it is understood this is seen as a positive attribute.

A source said: ‘She is almost the anti-Simon Stevens. She is the person who delivers quietly rather than making a big song and dance about it.’

Sajid Javid has ruled out Tory peer Dido Harding (pictured) as the next chief executive of NHS England, according to reports

Sir Simon Stevens

Sajid Javid has ruled out Tory peer Dido Harding as the next chief executive of NHS England, according to reports. The news comes after well-placed sources said that Amanda Pritchard, the chief operating officer of the NHS, is in prime position to take over from Sir Simon Stevens

Ministers have final sign-off over the appointment. In a letter to colleagues announcing his resignation, Sir Simon described being in charge of the NHS through ‘some of the toughest challenges in its history’ as a privilege.

Sir Simon – who has been in charge for seven years – has served through three elections and the Covid pandemic. According to the NHS England annual report for 2019/20, the chief executive’s salary was between £195,000 and £200,000.

The report stated that Sir Simon had, during that year, voluntarily taken a £20,000 annual pay cut for the sixth year in a row. The decision is expected shortly as Sir Simon Stevens, pictured, has ruled out staying in the job beyond the end of July after his seven-year tenure 

Lady Harding was heavily criticised during her stint in charge of the country’s contact tracing programme. A report earlier this year said T&T had ‘minimal impact on transmission’ despite receiving £37billion of funding.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said in March there was no evidence the tracing scheme had made a dent in Covid transmission, despite its ‘unimaginable’ budget.

Last year No10 spent £22billion on Test and Trace and the Chancellor promised to throw another £15billion at it in 2021, bringing the total cost to £37billion. The PAC report said the Government was treating British taxpayers ‘like an ATM machine’.

Sir Nicholas Macpherson, a member of the House of Lords and former permanent secretary at the Treasury, also waded into the row. He posted a cutting tweet that added: ‘The extraordinary thing is that nobody in the government seems surprised or shocked. No matter: the BoE will just print more money.’

Lady Harding’s leadership of Test and Trace last year prompted senior backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the Liaison Committee, to join Labour in suggesting she be replaced.

At one point in October last year, ahead of the second lockdown which came in in November, the system hit a record low with just 59.6 per cent of the contacts of people who tested positive for the disease being successfully contacted and told to self-isolate.

Sir Bernard, who chairs the Liaison Committee of senior MPs which questions the Prime Minister twice a year, said the peer should be given a ‘well-earned break’ so she and others could ‘reflect on the lessons learned so far’.

Last September she was ridiculed when she claimed nobody was ‘expecting’ to see the ‘really sizeable increase in demand’ for Covid checks ahead of the start of the school year.

Lady Harding’s comments, which come despite the return of schools and more people heading back to work, sparked outrage as she told MPs ‘none of the modelling’ had suggested there would be such a steep uptick in requests. 

She blamed the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) for seemingly getting its predictions wrong as she said testing capacity had been built based on the panel’s recommendations.

There were also numerous reports of staff at deserted walk-in testing centres turning people away if they didn’t have an appointment or weren’t showing obvious coronavirus symptoms.

Baroness Harding was appointed CEO of TalkTalk in 2010, serving in the role for seven years, during which the company was the victim of a cyber attack that saw the personal and banking details of 157,000 customers accessed by hackers.

She was subjected to repeated blackmail attempts after the hack, with demands for Bitcoins in exchange for stolen data, which included customers’ names, email addresses, mobile numbers, home addresses and dates of birth.

In the aftermath, TalkTalk was fined a record £400,000 for security failings which allowed the data to be accessed ‘with ease’ in one of the biggest data breaches in history.

TalkTalk is thought to have lost £60million from the fallout with an estimated 100,000 angry customers leaving, mainly to BT, while 2015 profits halved to £14million and shares lost nearly two-thirds of their value.

Baroness Harding faced repeated calls to step down over the breach, but stayed on until 2017, when she resigned to focus on her ‘public service activities’. Later that year, she was appointed chair of NHS Improvement, responsible for overseeing all NHS hospitals.


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