It’s been a few weeks since Boris Johnson jibed Keir Starmer with his alliterative soundbite of choice: “we vaccinate, they vacillate!” And given the past week of wibbly-wobbly, hokey-cokey pronouncements from him and his government, it’s perhaps fitting that the PM has laid off that particular attack line. In a dizzying few days of dithering, Johnson exempted himself from isolation rules then isolated himself, his ministers contradicted him on the need to obey Covid ‘pings’ and key policy on critical workers changed by the hour. The National Insurance rise to pay for social care was on and then off. The NHS pay rise was off and then on. Compulsory Covid passports were revived from the dead, just weeks after being quietly euthanised by Michael Gove. At times, the PM looked like Gromit desperately trying to lay new track in front of his train of state as it sped towards the parliamentary recess. But although getting over the line of the summer break may stop backbenchers from gathering in grumbly groups in the Commons tea room, ministers know there are gruelling weeks ahead. At the heart of the problem lies a fundamental confusion in Johnson’s pandemic strategy. He (backed by Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, to be fair) has decided England will become the first country in the world to open up a country from lockdown precisely at the point when cases are soaring.But instead of honestly admitting that his objective is a form of herd immunity - ie “hybrid immunity” stemming from infections and vaccinations - the PM is telling the public to be cautious and “slowly” take full advantage of all the freedoms he has now granted.There’s an easy answer to the “if not now, when?” question about full unlocking: mid-September, when all of the adult population has been offered a second jab. The PM counters that keeping restrictions in place until then would simply delay the covid wave, not suppress it. And a wave in summer is easier for the NHS to cope with than a wave in winter, he adds. Yet on that logic, being cautious and not “tearing the pants out of it” simply delays the wave too. Isolating after “ping” from the App delays the wave. Wearing masks delays the wave. Meeting outdoors delays the wave. But the PM says he doesn’t want to delay it. It’s hard to think of a more confused and chaotic public health policy, especially during a pandemic.It would be more honest if Johnson admitted he wants the maximum number of infections this summer, just short of tipping the NHS into a serious crisis. And helpful if the department of health told us just what level of infections it thinks the NHS can cope with before lurching into that meltdown.The other objective for opening up fully is to help ease the pain of businesses and all those who work in them. But if you’re then effectively telling the public not to use those businesses, because they should be “careful”, what is the point? That’s why, whenever Johnson was asked to define what tearing the pants out of it meant, he struggled with specifics.It’s possible that the real, unstated reason for Freedom Day was not just “hybrid immunity”, but because ministers can see that young people simply aren’t going to be double jabbed in big numbers by mid-September anyway. Take-up rates are worryingly lower than older age groups, so if government waits for the magic 80% double-jabbed figure, it could be waiting indefinitely.I suspect that’s what really lies behind Johnson’s drive for compulsory Covid passports. They will drive up jab rates, while giving attendees of nightclubs, football matches, music gigs (and cinema and theatre goers, and maybe indoor pub goers?) the security that they will be mixing with similarly protected people. Compulsion will also drive demand for booster jabs over the winter.The big issue however over coming weeks will be just when restrictions are reintroduced. Johnson has already tried to soften up opinion this week by saying he merely “hoped” his roadmap would be “irreversible”. Would it make sense to have a roadmap back into lockdown, just as he had one out of lockdown? I used to think so, as it would allow individuals and businesses to plan their next steps.But the problem may fundamentally be that the virus doesn’t respond to graduated steps. If you really want to flatten (not delay) a sombrero of cases, a hard and fast lockdown may be the only answer. Just reimposing masks and working from home may not cut it.Yet given how confused and contradictory the current policy is, it wouldn’t be surprising if the policy that replaces it is similarly incoherent. Learning to “live with Covid” is obviously where we need to end up, but that requires maximum vaccinations for genuine herd immunity. It also requires more honesty from government about what its real strategy is.The latest data on Friday suggests the third wave may, just, be peaking. But I’ve genuinely no idea if that’s what No.10 wants, or if it wants to ride the wave for a few more weeks.Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam this week repeated his advice to avoid places with the ‘3 Cs’ overlapping: closed settings, with crowds and close contacts. Unfortunately, the real ‘3 Cs’ that have defined Johnson’s policy are chaos, confusion and contradiction.
Yvette Cooper has said Labour must set out an “optimistic” vision for the country if it wants to win back voters.In an interview with HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast, the senior Labour MP said the party was “working our way back step by step” from its 2019 general election defeat but still had “a long way to go”.Cooper, the chair of the home affairs committee, said the party needed to now offer a “credible” message to the country and did not rule out a future leadership bid.Over the summer Cooper said she wanted to see Labour “shouting a lot more” about supporting children in the wake of the Covid pandemic. “Children have had the roughest of years and we need everybody to come together to get kids back on track because otherwise we will be facing a crisis in a few years time,” she warned.“Children are so resilient, they are so amazing, they can all do wonderful things in the future, but they need that support.”Cooper, the MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford in West Yorkshire, said it was “completely wrong and unfair” for the government to not properly fund programmes to help children recover from lost education.Sir Kevan Collins, the education catch-up commissioner, quit his role in June over the government’s proposal of a £1.4 billion fund to help children recover missed lessons – he had proposed a £15 billion recovery package.Heading in to the summer, Keir Starmer’s Labour is trailing Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party in the polls.Cooper said it had been “an odd” and “unique” year in politics due to the pandemic.“But look, we have to say Labour has got to do a lot more, we’ve all got to do a lot more,” she said.“We are working our way back step by step from what was a very difficult defeat for us and we’ve got to earn votes back. I think we have to do it through optimism.“We can be angry about injustice, we can be angry about the utter chaos, the bumbling nature of the prime minister who doesn’t just like division he actually likes chaos and being able to mess around like a child.“We instead need to be the ones who want to pull the country together, but with that optimism.”Asked if she believed the party had been too downbeat in recent years, Cooper said: “I think in the 2019 election there were flashes of optimism, but people didn’t believe in them because it wasn’t credible. You’ve got to have credible optimism.“I think you have that sense of pride in the country and optimism about what more we can do who we can be.“It’s got to be practical. It can’t be pie in the sky because people are fed up of that.”A recent poll by Sky News showed Cooper was the most popular leadership candidate among sitting MPs, should Starmer face a contest.Asked if she would stand for leader at some point in the future, Cooper, who stood in the 2015 leadership race, said: “I think we have probably had quite enough leadership contests for a while. I think we have to get on with things.”Cooper said while Labour’s defeat at the Hartlepool by-election earlier this year was in part due to the popularity of local Tory mayor Ben Houchen, the result revealed deeper issues.“There is a wider thing it reflects, which is actually Labour has still got a long way to go.“People are very frustrated, whether it was by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership they didn’t support, or because of the second referendum policy, there are a lot of those things that caused big problems in a lot of areas across the north. We have to recognise that.”Cooper, who did not support holding another Brexit vote added there was “basically a failing on all sides” after the referendum. “I always thought a customs union was the best ways to do it,” she said.“Brexit has happened, Brexit is done,” she added. ”Our issue now is, what is our role in the world?”Related...Six Things You Might Have Missed The Government Announce This WeekDawn Butler Ordered To Leave Commons For Calling Boris Johnson A Liar
MPs have now left Westminster for the summer and will return in early September.As is tradition, the government slipped out a few announcements in the final week in what is often seen as an attempt to “hide” the bad news. Here are six of the best - or perhaps worst. No new money for NHS pay rise The government announced on Wednesday that NHS staff in England will get a 3% pay rise, after having previously said it would be limited to just 1%.The Department for Health and Social Care said the “average nurse” will receive an additional £1,000 a year, while many porters and cleaners will get around £540.But not only have unions branded the 3% increase “disappointing” given the work put in by NHS staff during the pandemic, the government also confirmed that there will be no new money to fund it.No.10 admitted the rise – thought to cost £2.2 billion – would come out of the existing health service’s budget.A pay freeze for policePriti Patel revealed this week that police officers earning more than £24,000 will have their pay frozen. Those earning less will be given an annual rise of £250.In an announcement made on Wednesday in a written ministerial statement, the home secretary said the freeze was to ensure “fairness between public and private sector wage growth”.The move prompted an angry response from the the Police Federation of England and Wales, which said it no longer has confidence in Patel and branded it the “the final straw”.A pay freeze for teachersGavin Williamson also slipped out a pay freeze for teachers on Wednesday.In a written ministerial statement on Wednesday, the education secretary said it was part of the pause to headline pay rises for the majority of public sector workforces in 2021-22.Under the plan teachers earning less than £24,000 will get a £250 pay increase.Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said it was a “real-terms pay cut” for the vast majority of teachers and was “an insult after the heroic work they have done to keep children safe and learning throughout the pandemic”.Asylum seekers ‘failed’ by Home OfficeThe government has finally published a report that condemned the Home Office for housing asylum seekers in former military bases that were “impoverished, run down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation”.Nearly 200 people at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, contracted Covid-19 during a major outbreak earlier this year.The report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration accused Priti Patel’s department of “failures of leadership and planning”.The home secretary had previously blamed asylum seekers for the Covid cases, rather than the cramped conditions they were forced to live in.Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons home affairs committee, said the report showed “a complete failure by the Home Office to follow public health advice or meet basic standards of competence and safety”“Ministers have clearly attempted to hide it by releasing it on the last day of the parliamentary session.”Tax rises for social careDowning Street did not deny on Tuesday that National Insurance contributions could be increased to fund a new social care plan, a move that would break a Conservative manifesto pledge.Boris Johnson is reportedly considering plans to raise National Insurance payments by one percentage point for employers and employees to raise £10 billion a year to help support the ageing population.There had been widespread expectation that a plan would be put forward before the summer, but the three main players who would be involved in the decision – the prime minister, chancellor and health secretary – are all self-isolating.Compensation for postmastersThe government has agreed to fund interim compensation of up to £100,000 for each postmaster who has had their conviction overturned in the scandal over the Horizon computer system.Earlier this week the Court of Appeal cleared 12 more former subpostmasters who were wrongly convicted of offences, bringing the total number of judgements overturned to 57, but hundreds more are hoping for similar decisions.Between 1999 and 2015, they were sacked or prosecuted after money appeared to vanish from accounts at their branches.The problems were caused by the Horizon computer system in Post Office branches which turned out to be flawed.Some subpostmasters were imprisoned after being convicted of stealing money.Related...Dawn Butler Ordered To Leave Commons For Calling Boris Johnson A LiarJust Because Vaccinated People Are Getting Covid Doesn't Mean The Jabs Don't Work
Connoisseurs of parliamentary proceedings will know that while ministers use an opening statement to set out broad policy, the devilish detail is often held back until their answer to their opposition shadow. And for anyone interested in the scale of the government’s planned ‘Covid passports’, today was a perfect example.In answer to Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth, vaccinations minister Nadhim Zahawi gave a very strong hint that it was not just nightclubs that would require the NHS Covid pass as a condition of entry. He said indoor music venues, as well as “large unstructured outdoor events such as business events”, “music and spectator sport events” were “the ones that we are most concerned about”.That will ring alarm bells among Labour’s party conference organisers I suspect (it’s due to have a full in-person conference in Brighton, whereas the Tories have pointedly planned a hybrid event and the LibDems a fully online one), as well the UK’s huge but struggling events business. Football matches, gigs, all sound like they’ll need a passport for entry.And despite suspicions that the nightclub plan for late September was just a bluff to get young people jabbed, it looks like it really is going ahead. One of the few areas where business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng stuck to the script on Thursday was when he said that instead of a specific vote for nightclub passes, there might be “a general vote on the concept”. “I’m very confident we can pass the legislation we require,” he added.With many Tories worried that a blanket Covid ‘ID card’ could be used for entry to pubs (and with Labour going for the populist line that it would be “unfair” on pubs and pubgoers), Kwarteng’s confidence will be subjected to a serious stress test when the Commons returns after its summer break.But given Zahawi’s detailed hints, the PM’s own line on Monday - “some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination” - now feels like it’s not a threat but a promise. Zahawi also put Covid passports at the heart of the government’s strategy to be the first country in the world to “transition” from pandemic to endemic, “from pandemic to manageable menace”.Vaccination does remain the best hope of getting there (new stats showed it had prevented 52,600 hospitalisations), yet there are real worries in Whitehall at the slowing uptake among under-30s. Some 34% of 18-29s have not had their first jab. And as NHS England warns hospitals they may be entering the “most difficult period” of the pandemic for more than a year, it also said high rates of admissions are ”closely linked” to low vaccine uptake.Just as worrying, the surge in Covid cases has a direct impact on the vaccination programme because anyone infected has to wait 28 days until they can be given the jab. PHE said a total of 1154.7 infections per 100,000 people were recorded among those aged 20 to 29 - the highest figure recorded for any age cohort since the beginning of the pandemic.In a bitter twist on the PM’s line this week that he’s “turning jabs, jabs, jabs into jobs, jobs, jobs”, the pingtastic third wave is forcing young people to not only delay vaccination but also forcing them to stay off work, with all the consequences for the economy that entails.One subject that Zahawi didn’t want to touch in any detail on Thursday was NHS pay. He ignored both Ashworth and Jeremy Hunt when they asked just where the £2.2bn needed to fund the 3% rise was coming from. Downing St confirmed for the first time the cash would come from the DHSC budget but not from money “earmarked for the NHS front line”.The cash will probably come from a mixture of the extra emergency Covid funding for this financial year for the NHS (although trusts are still waiting for the post-September half of that), plus the long term plan. But given the massive £37bn earmarked for Test and Trace over two years, I wonder if Sajid Javid will see that as a target?Few people realise that Test and Trace actually reported a huge, 39% underspend of its 2020-21 budget of £22bn, mainly because the lockdown earlier this year meant “cancelled activity”. That’s a cool £4.3bn, more than double the pay rise bill.The Treasury will probably just bank the underspend, but politically just imagine what a win-win it would be to hand cash from a failing service to pay the wages of the tired, heroic staff of the NHS?
A Labour MP has been ordered to leave the House of Commons after refusing to withdraw claims that Boris Johnson has “lied to the House and the country over and over again”.Dawn Butler was told to withdraw from the chamber by temporary deputy speaker Judith Cummins following her remarks in a Commons debate.It is not considered within the boundaries of parliamentary etiquette to call another member a liar.Butler had said: “Poor people in our country have paid with their lives because the prime minister has spent the last 18 months misleading this House and the country over and over again.”She highlighted disputed claims made by the Prime Minister, including that the link between Covid-19 infection and serious disease and death had been severed.She added: “It’s dangerous to lie in a pandemic.“I am disappointed the prime minister has not come to the House to correct the record and correct the fact that he has lied to the House and the country over and over again.”I have been thrown out of Parliament for saying what we all know: Boris Johnson has lied to the House of Commons and the country over and over again.But I’ve got news for the Tories, I will never stop speaking truth to power! pic.twitter.com/JtBdhOSXuY— Dawn Butler MP✊🏾💙 (@DawnButlerBrent) July 22, 2021Cummins intervened and said: “Order! Order! I’m sure that the member will reflect on her words she’s saying and perhaps correct the record.”Butler replied: “What would you rather – a weakened leg or a severed leg?“At the end of the day the prime minister has lied to this House time and time again.“It’s funny that we get in trouble in this place for calling out the lie rather than the person lying.”Cummins intervened again and urged Butler to “reflect” on her words and withdraw them.Butler replied: “I’ve reflected on my words and somebody needs to tell the truth in this House that the prime minister has lied.”Cummins then read out a statement in which she ordered Butler to “withdraw immediately from the House for the remainder of the day’s sitting”.Butler left her seat and exited the chamber.Related...Labour Will Oppose Boris Johnson Plan for Compulsory Covid Passports For NightclubsCan Boris Johnson Win His Game Of Covid Chicken Over Vaccine Passports?NHS Pay Rise 'Shambles' As Government Flip Flops On Announcement
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“Do you want me to have another go?” Boris Johnson’s plaintive plea in PMQs was directed at the Speaker, as a Zoom glitch cramped his usually combative style. David Cameron famously once said his Christianity was like “Magic FM in the Chilterns, it comes and goes”, and the PM’s volubility suffered similarly from his remote access to the Commons.The erratic nature of Johnson’s contributions turned out to be uncannily apt as it matched yet another chaotic day for the government. Keir Starmer was relentless about ministerial mixed messaging on use of the NHS app. He also ridiculed No.10’s failure to define which “critical workers” (clearly the PM wasn’t one of them) would be exempt from being pinged into isolation.Johnson tried to hit back by stressing that his own forced quarantine in Buckinghamshire just proved how important it was to comply with requests to stay at home, even if not everyone has use of a country home.But while the PM was playing Chequers, Starmer was playing chess. His attack on Johnson’s WhatsApp messages (joking about leaving the over-80s to die from Covid) prompted the PM to let slip that “we were thinking in those ways” last year - damning admission that is sure to haunt him in any public inquiry.Starmer also put the opportunist into Opposition, seizing on Tory backbench unease about Johnson’s U-turn over Covid “passports” by ridiculing his previous vow to eat any ID card he was forced to carry. Later, Labour announced it would not support compulsory use of double-jabbed certificates for entry to nightclubs, creating the prospect of a government defeat on any such legislation.It was perhaps that realisation that prompted the PM to later tell the backbench 1922 Committee that basically his threat on nightclubs was all about jolting the young into getting vaccinated. If enough came forward, he wasn’t ruling out ditching the plan. Playing a game of chicken with the under-30s seems to be where his pandemic policy is right now.What Johnson didn’t do was read the riot act to those MPs, like Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, who opted not to wear face masks in PMQs. At one point I counted only a quarter of Tory MPs following the Speaker’s clear guidance, and at most just under half. With his backbenches restive over other Covid curbs, that suggested who is really calling the shots right now.With more non-mask wearers on trains and buses this week despite government “encouragement”, the sight of senior MPs doing the same is yet another corrosive bit of message indiscipline. The bare-faced cheek of both is the public health equivalent of tailgating on the Tube, when fare dodgers ride the slipstream of those who do the right thing. The division and resentment it can breed can only get worse.The Speaker is likely to be even more unhappy about the farcical way in which the 3% NHS pay rise was non-announced to parliament, before being announced finally in the form of a press release. Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan, who is a part time A&E doctor, could hardly contain her anger as health minister Helen Whately said the pay rise was merely “considering” the rise.Perhaps taking to heart the PM’s request to have “another go” at things, the department of health took just three hours to reveal the 3% was indeed happening after all. I understand the reason for the delay was not an admin error or anything to do with the fact that Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak are themselves isolating. It feels like there was serious tension over where and when the funding might come from.With non-NHS staff like police and teachers being told their pay was frozen (a tactic perhaps designed to make nurses think their deal was a king’s ransom in comparison), the overall impression was not one of end-of-term good news for key workers who were once clapped for their public service in the pandemic.And it’s that U-turn, the U-turn in sentiment towards those who helped everyone else over the past year, and the suspicion that a pay rise has been dragged out of him for the NHS and is non-existent for others, that could cause the government serious trouble. The Tories are still ahead in the polls but there’s a sense that the ‘vaccine bounce’ may be coming to its natural end.The upside of the vaccine programme is it touched nearly everyone. The downside of the ‘pingdemic’ is that it too appears to be touching nearly everyone. Calmer heads in government think the sense of disruption, confusion and chaos can’t last much longer. But as MPs head for the metaphorical beaches this summer, some Tories worry that the PM’s flip flops may linger in the public memory.
Boris Johnson’s plans to force nightclubs to make Covid ‘passports’ a condition of entry are hanging in the balance after Labour came out against the idea.The PM’s proposal, which would from the end of September restrict entry to people who have been double-jabbed, has met with a backlash from club owners.It is already opposed by a number of Tory MPs, who fear it would open the way for similar curbs on pubs, and Labour’s opposition now means that the government cannot be sure of getting it passed by parliament.Even though the PM has a majority of more than 80, more than 40 Tory MPs have come out against the idea of compulsory ‘Covid passports’ at a time when most other restrictions have been lifted.Keir Starmer prefers a rival plan to immediately mandate clubbers to get a negative Covid test before entry, believing it would offer better health protection at a time when the Delta variant of the virus is ripping through younger age groups.Labour believes that proof double-jabbing is no guarantee that people don’t carry the virus, as the forced isolation of health secretary Sajid Javid underlined last weekend.“We oppose the use of Covid vaccination status for everyday access to venues and services. It’s costly, open to fraud and is impractical,” a spokesperson for Starmer said.“Being double-jabbed doesn’t prove you aren’t carrying the virus. Testing for access to venues would be more efficient, and would give people and businesses more certainty.”Under surprise plans announced by the PM on Monday, the day when most restrictions were lifted in England, nightclubs have until the end of September to comply with a new scheme to restrict entry to the double-jabbed.So far, some 42 Tory MPs have signed a cross-party declaration by the Big Brother Watch lobby group, which states they are against “Covid status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs”.Several Conservatives are furious because ministers ruled out the idea of compulsory ‘Covid passports’ after a review by Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office.But this week, neither the PM nor No.10 ruled out introducing mandatory passports for other crowded indoor venues such as pubs – even though Johnson said he was ”keen” to avoid the need to provide “papers for a pint”.Labour believes that waiting until the end of September means the risk of clubs acting as ‘super spreader’ venues is too high and it wants immediate testing as a condition of entry.The issue surfaced in prime minister’s question time, when Starmer pointed out that the PM had once promised to “eat an ID card if he ever had to produce one”.“When it comes to creating confusion, the Prime Minister is a super spreader. Why is it okay to go to a nightclub for the next six weeks without proof of a vaccine or a test, and then from September it will only be okay to get into a nightclub if you’ve’ got a vaccine ID card?”Johnson hit back: “Everybody can see that we have to wait until the end of September, by which time, it is only fair to the younger generation when they will all have been offered two jabs before we consider something like asking people to be double jabbed before they go into a nightclub.“That is blindingly obvious to everybody. It is common sense, and I think most people in this country understand it. Most people in this country want to see younger people being encouraged to get vaccinations.”Shadow domestic violence minister Jess Phillips told TimesRadio: “I just don’t think it will work. I just don’t think that businesses - like your local nightclub or local pub - would be able to police it, and I don’t think it’s fair on them.”Downing Street confirmed that legislation would be needed to make the passports compulsory.In a clue to government nervousness over the forthcoming vote on the plans, PoliticsHome reported that cabinet minister Simon Hart had on Wednesday pleaded with rebels to back the PM.“As far as a rebellion is concerned, if I was in a position to talk to colleagues who are uncomfortable about these proposals [I’d say] that absolutely none of these things are ever done with any degree of enthusiasm or glee,” the Welsh Secretary said.“It’s always done with the heaviest of hearts and on the basis of what we think is really compelling advice and evidence. I very much hope that if we get to a vote on this that we can take as many colleagues with us as possible.”Starmer was himself forced to enter self-isolation after one of his children tested positive for coronavirus around the time he was in the Commons for Prime Minister’s Questions.The Labour leader tested negative on Wednesday morning ahead of his appearance in parliament where he grilled Johnson over his isolation policy.Related...Vaccine Passports Could Make People *Less* Likely To Get JabbedWorried About Keeping Covid-Safe? Remember Japan's 'Three Cs'Why Is Boris Johnson Singling Out Nightclubs For A Covid Crackdown?
NHS staff in England are to receive a 3% pay increase after a day of confusion ended with an announcement that the Government had accepted recommendations from the pay review body.The government had earlier been branded an “utter shambles” after it failed to announce the pay rise as expected. It was understood that Helen Whately, the care minister, had been due to make the announcement in the Commons on Wednesday afternoon.But despite delivering a statement to MPs, it did not include details of any pay rise.However, a few hours later the Department for Health and Social Care issued a press release saying a 3% rise will be paid, backdated to April when the increase was due.The government had triggered a backlash after suggesting NHS staff would only be given a 1% increase.Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow health minister, said earlier that given the expectation the “contempt the government holds for this House is unacceptable”.“Less than an hour ago there were competing briefings on what the deal was going to be, but it’s turned out to be nothing,” she told MPs.“Our NHS staff deserve better than this. They have worked incredibly hard throughout this pandemic.“The personal sacrifice is astounding. Their hard work never stops. Our NHS staff deserve better than this.”Justin Madders, also a shadow health minister, tweeted: “Government say they cant afford to offer NHS staff more than 1%, see the backlash so brief they are going to give 3% but then come to parliament to make a statement on it .... and say nothing at all.“What an utter shambles.”Unison said it was pleased the Government had moved from its initial recommendation of a 1% pay rise, but added that staff deserved more.The government sparked anger in March by saying it could only afford a 1% increase despite the extraordinary efforts of NHS staff to deal with the pandemic.Boris Johnson defended the plan and former health secretary, Matt Hancock said the decision to recommend such a small increase was due to an assessment of “what’s affordable as a nation” following the Covid crisis.The NHS Pay Review Body made its recommendation weeks ago, leaving unions to question why a pay rise is still being delayed.Pat Cullen, the interim general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the treatment of NHS workers was “shameful”.“Ministers are holding them in contempt and we have no choice but to condemn this behaviour,” she said.“With tens of thousands of nursing vacancies and thousands more considering their future in the profession, the government is sending the worst possible signal with this political gameplaying.“Ministers need to stop the wrangling and come clean about the pay rise they believe NHS staff deserve. Nursing staff will only accept this pay award if it’s significant, consolidated and fully funded with additional monies.”With files from PA MediaRelated...Boris Johnson Delays Social Care Plan Until Autumn After Key Ministers ‘Pinged’ For CovidDominic Cummings Says It's 'Perfectly Reasonable' To Think Brexit Was A Mistake
In 2019, when astronomers captured the first image of a black hole’s shadow — a bright orange doughnut-shaped halo created by the black hole’s intense gravity bending light around it — it was rightly hailed as a breakthrough. Now, I have joined the Event Horizon Telescope team in following up on their earlier achievement, by creating a new image showing jets of plasma being ejected from the core of a different supermassive black hole, at the center of the galaxy Centaurus A. Centaurus A’s black hole is about 120 times less massive than that of M87, the galaxy where the…This story continues at The Next Web
Keir Starmer will be self-isolating after one of his children tested positive for Covid.The announcement came shortly after the Labour leader appeared in the Commons chamber for prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.It will be the fourth time he has had to enter quarantine since the pandemic began.A spokesperson for Starmer said: “One of Keir’s children tested positive for Covid this lunchtime.“In line with the rules, Keir and his family will now be self-isolating.“Keir was already doing daily tests and tested negative this morning. He will continue to take daily tests.”During PMQs, several Conservative MPs sat in a tightly packed group, many not wearing face coverings, while social-distancing was observed by the Labour benches.Boris Johnson is already self-isolating after coming into contact with health secretary Sajid Javid, who has tested positive. The PM took part in PMQs virtually from his country retreat of Chequers.Related...Boris Johnson Appears To Admit He Dismissed Deaths Of Over-80s
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You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.Just before a parliamentary recess, governments often embark on a Take Out The Trash Day. A raft of written ministerial statements will suddenly appear, stuffed full of announcements or data that ministers hope will get buried amid the pile of departmental black bin bags.Thursday will still inevitably see that mass of information dropped on Westminster, but today the government seemed intent on a different kind of trash talk: soiling its own public health policy with yet more muddied messaging.In the apparent absence of a coherent pandemic plan for the third wave, both ministers and No.10 fuelled the suspicion that they are simply making things up as they go along. The day after ‘Freedom Day’ felt like free jazz day, with different bits of government riffing and soloing discordantly.Business minister Paul Scully kicked things off by suggesting the public could make their own “informed decisions” about isolation after being pinged by the Covid app, adding it was ultimately “up to individuals and employers”. Within minutes, No.10 had a not so gentle slapdown, stressing it was “crucial” people isolated when told to by the app. It’s worth saying that Scully was absolutely correct that there is no legal requirement to obey the ping, and it’s only if you’re directly contacted by Test and Trace that you need to stay at home. But his natural attempt to stress the needs of business contrasted with Downing Street’s emphasis on the needs of the healthcare system.Unfortunately, No10 added to the air of confusion by failing to come up with clarity on exactly which ‘critical workers’ would be allowed an exemption from isolation. There will not be any list of individual sectors that qualify, because “we’re not seeking to draw lines specifically around who or who is not exempt”, the PM’s spokesman said. That sounded less gov.uk than confused.com.Worse still, it appears there will be a fantastically bureaucratic system whereby individual firms have to apply to individual Whitehall departments to seek exemptions for individual staff (though even that is unclear, as the spokesman later talked of “groups of individuals in specific sectors”). Unlike the clear definitions used last year for exemptions for overseas travel in the first wave, there is no definition at all. And in what appears to be a form of state planning beloved of Soviet East Germany, civil servants will use a ‘case by case’ approach, with no clue so far as to how long each application will take. No wonder business has said the plan is “unworkable”. No.10 is hoping to launch some fresh public health messaging later this week, but I don’t envy them. Instead of ‘Hands, Face, Space’, it seems we now have ‘Plans: Case By Case’.The sense of chaos was underlined with new figures showing a million schoolchildren were sent home to isolate in England in the past week. The numbers of under-5s in nurseries affected is high too, with all the knock-on effect on working parents. Some 10% of parliament’s armed police officers have been pinged, highlighting the scale of this third wave caseload.Another alarm bell ringing is the Guardian’s revelation that Border Force staff are so overwhelmed that they have been told they need no longer check negative test or passenger locator forms for airport arrivals from amber list countries. I suspect Keir Starmer may want to add that to his PMQs list on Wednesday. While Channel crossings of migrants alarms ministers, the Covid crossings at airports could end up much more concerning. In one early ‘Take Out The Trash’ move, the DWP slipped out its response to a consultation on statutory sick pay tonight and was swiftly accused of reneging on its promise to reform it. Citing the pandemic, the department said now “was not the right time to introduce changes to the rate of SSP or its eligibility criteria”. With increasing numbers asked to isolate, fear of losing income makes this a very live issue again.As if all that were not enough, there’s new Tory unease at the idea of U-turns on both Covid passports and jacking up national insurance to pay for social care (neither of which may get a Commons majority). They may well ask whether 2019 manifesto pledges being taken out with the trash too. Despite the backbench morale boost of an expected 3% pay rise for NHS staff, in some ways it’s probably a good thing Boris Johnson will not be physically present for his end-of-term session at the despatch box, or at the 1922 Committee. With Tory backbenchers, as with Covid, remote control is often no control at all. Still, Dominic Cummings could once again ride to the PM’s rescue, though this time not exactly as he intended. Tory MPs’ sheer loathing of the former adviser has gone off the scale after he told the BBC he discussed a ‘coup’ to oust Johnson within days of his 2019 election.There could be no better way of getting backbenchers to back their leader. But if the PM continues to upset his troops by breaking his word, they may even start to think Cummings has a point. The right messaging matters to your own party as well as the public.Related...Dominic Cummings Says It's 'Perfectly Reasonable' To Think Brexit Was A MistakeKeir Starmer Expels Far-Left Jeremy Corbyn Supporters From LabourBoris Johnson Delays Social Care Plan Until Autumn After Key Ministers ‘Pinged’ For Covid
Boris Johnson’s long-awaited social care plans have been delayed until the autumn after he and key cabinet ministers were forced to self-isolate for Covid.Negotiations between the prime minister, health secretary Sajid Javid and chancellor Rishi Sunak over the shape of a deal had progressed so well that an announcement was close to being announced to parliament this week.But with Javid testing positive for coronavirus at the weekend, and the PM and Sunak having to quarantine, the final stage of the talks has been dramatically disrupted and a decision has been taken to hold off until later this year.Downing Street refused to deny that a 1% rise in national insurance (NI) could be used to fund the expected £10bn annual cost of the plan, even though any such tax hike would be in breach of the Tory manifesto pledge in 2019.Critics lined up to warn that increasing national insurance would be doubly unfair on younger workers because pensioners do not pay the tax and because the cash raised would be spent on the older age group.The prime minister’s official spokesperson said he would not engage with “continued speculation” about the possible NI rise. “The process for agreeing our proposals is still ongoing. We will set that out before the end of the year,” he said.Javid and Johnson met in person last Friday in Downing Street but the following morning the health secretary tested positive and the PM and chancellor were subsequently forced to go into isolation as they were “close contacts” of their colleague.Johnson is quarantining in his country residence in Chequers, Sunak is at home in his Downing Street flat. Javid has also been forced to work from home.Given that any major announcement on social care would require an update to parliament, neither the PM nor his cabinet colleagues will be able to physically address the Commons now before it rises for its summer break this Thursday.Senior government sources said that the social care plans were “well progressed” and there had been hopes of getting an agreement over the line this week. Although ministers keep in touch via Zoom and the phone, the forced isolation of the three key players “hasn’t helped” with getting a final deal, they added.Any rise in national insurance could spark a backlash among some Tory MPs, whose votes would be vital in passing the measure if Labour opted to oppose the funding plan. The last Conservative manifesto explicitly ruled out rises in NI and income tax.Labour’s shadow treasury minister Pat McFadden warned on Tuesday that his party’s test would be whether the plan was “fair to people of all ages, and all income groups”.Torsten Bell, of the Resolution Foundation think tank, said the NI increase was a “terrible idea”, declaring “it’s a tax disproportionately loaded onto younger people and lower-paid workers (compared to a fairer rise in income tax) who have borne the brunt of this recession”.Paul Johnson, the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told The Times: “Funding social care just from National Insurance would be very inequitable.“It would be a continuation of a long-term policy of hitting those of working age while protecting pensioners even for something designed to benefit people well over pension age. It’s a question of fairness.”Nearly two years ago, when he took office for the first time, Boris Johnson said on the steps of Downing Street that he would “fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”.Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said: “After more than a decade in power – and two years after the Prime Minister made a clear promise on the steps of Downing Street, we are still no closer to seeing a plan to ‘fix the crisis in social care.’“Every day the government delays their plans for fixing the crisis in social care is another day that staff don’t get the pay and training they deserve, another day that thousands of people go without the basic help they need, to do things like get up, washed, dressed and fed, and another day that families are pushed to breaking point.”Related...Minister Wrong To Suggest People Can Ignore NHS Covid App, Says No.10Vaccine Passports Could Make People *Less* Likely To Get Jabbed
You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.Predictions in politics are a dangerous game, as everyone has hopefully learned in recent years. But predictions in pandemics can be uncannily accurate, and today’s latest figures on the number of Covid cases in the UK are bang in line with forecasts.The 51,870 cases recorded on Friday bear out Boris Johnson’s own sombre warning just under two weeks ago. “We are seeing cases rise fairly rapidly,” he told us. “There could be 50,000 cases detected per day by the 19th.”Of course our fantastic vaccine rollout means the key chart to watch is the number of hospitalisations. But the number of infections (cases) is now close to outstripping the number of injections (jabs). And while hospitalisations are nowhere near the levels of January, they are still very concerning. On Thursday, Chris Whitty said those hospital admissions were doubling every three weeks and could hit “scary numbers” soon. Well, as self-styled ‘Covid centrist’ maths prof Oliver Johnson points out, we are now looking at a doubling of hospitalisations every two weeks. Which is scary indeed.For some, July 19 is a distraction from the fact that most of the damage was done several weeks ago. It’s arguable that if the borders had been closed earlier to India, the UK would have bought time to get to mid-September with every adult double jabbed and case still low. Labour has yet to convince the public of that so far.The key thing is that Whitty and chief scientist Patrick Vallance have given their blessing to the Monday’s unlocking, albeit with the need for strong warnings for the public not to ditch masks or working from home. Moreover, NHS England’s medical director Stephen Powis recently gave the PM a dose of political inoculation by saying the NHS could cope even with this third wave.It’s the sheer number of forced isolations from the NHS App that is really causing a headache for No.10. With soaring numbers of schoolchildren, factory and health workers ordered to quarantine, the trigger appy virus is disrupting the economy and education. The school holidays offer some respite but with cases and isolation on track to keep soaring, even summer breaks within the UK will be cancelled. Overseas trips look iffy too. It all went Pete Tong for young people banking on a Balearic beat this week, as Majorca and other islands were put back on the government’s amber list.Tonight’s news that double-vaccinated British travellers returning from France will still face a 10-day quarantine from Monday will add to the gloom.The armed forces are among the latest casualties, with 5,200 personnel “pinged”. But most importantly of all, some hospitals are now on their knees because of Covid admissions but because of NHS staff (most of whom were double jabbed ages ago) told to isolate after contacts with others. Although there has been talk about exempting staff if patient care is at risk, no hospitals have been sent explicit guidance on those lines. The Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine today urged an exemption, but their sense of urgency is so far not matched by any government announcement.Lots of people would like to bring forward the August 16 date when double-jabbed people can avoid self-isolation if they test negative. Yet it’s worth remembering that the very reason that date was pencilled in was because of fears of a lack of PCR tests to cope. That fear was made real this week as many areas simply ran out.Test and Trace’s lack of capacity, given the many billions spent on it, could end up being the real cause of a ruined summer, not just for the double jabbed but also those who end up with long covid or worse. Commons science and tech committee chairman Greg Clark tells me on this week’s Week In Westminster (aired on Saturday) that the latest blunder is unacceptable. With Dido Harding no longer around to blame, will ministers start pointing the finger at her replacement Jenny Harries? Or will they perhaps take on some of the responsibility themselves?With some MPs and staff pinged in recent days (the Press Gallery too, my own office was officially ‘closed’ with Covid today), SW1 is not immune from the “pingdemic” either. Given all the disruption, it will look rather odd next week if MPs cram into the Commons chamber hugger mugger, simply to give Boris Johnson a rousing send-off at the last PMQs before recess. The current disruption was not just predictable, but predicted. That doesn’t make it any less painful politically, even with the backing of the scientists. Claiming the mantle of Captain Foresight may therefore backfire on the PM, if the public abandons the forgiving mood it has held to date.All it takes is for one minister to blurt out that a certain number of long Covid cases or even deaths were ‘a price worth paying’ for wider immunity, and it could be a cruel, cruel summer indeed.Related...Some Tory MPs Backed Aid Cut After 'Smell Of A Job', Says Andrew Mitchell
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Some Tory MPs who voted to cut the UK’s aid budget, which will take “food off the plates of starving children”, did so because they were given the “smell of a job” in government, Andrew Mitchell has said.On Tuesday Boris Johnson saw off a Tory rebellion over its decision to slash overseas aid spending from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income.In an interview with HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast, Mitchell, a former Conservative international development secretary, said the cut would do “great damage” to the party’s electoral chances.Mitchell praised the 25 Tory MPs who voted against the government as “heroes” after they “stood firm and stood up for Britain’s international reputation” and “for the poorest people in the world”.But he accused many of the backbenchers who had switched sides and voted with the government as having been won over by the “seduction” of career advancement.“Some of them agonised,” he said. “Some of them just slipped away and hoped no one would notice.”Mitchell, who was also previously Tory chief whip, said: “I‘ve been poacher and gamekeeper.“You prey on the frailty of human nature, you offer people who you know whose principles will be overridden if they have the smell of a job.“I think countless new ministers for paperclips will no doubt shortly be announced.”He added: “You prey on people’s insecurities and you know what people’s weaknesses are and that’s how you get the others on board.”Mitchell said the cut in aid spending meant the UK had “broken our word” to the world.“We’ve trashed Britain’s reputation,” he said. ”Literally taking food off the plates of starving children. “After the war, Britain kept rationing so the famine would not develop and take off in Germany. That’s what Britain is like, after a war.”Mitchell also warned that as well as having a severe impact on the world’s poor, the move would also hurt the Tories in the polls.“It will do great damage to the Conservative Party,” he said.“David Cameron taught us that you don’t get an overall majority, and the Tories didn’t get an overall majority between 1992 an 2015, without being a broad church,” he said.“Why did we get a majority in 2015? Because we won all those Lib Dem seats.“Why did we win them? Because socially liberal conservatives, like me, care a lot about this and they felt it was safe to vote for David Cameron’s Conservative Party. “They felt comfortable and happy in the Conservative Party. Many of those people won’t feel like that after what has now happened.”He said: “Boris has been brilliant at adding on the red wall seats and it’s produced some extremely able new colleagues. He has done very well on expanding the Tory DNA in that respect.”But Mitchell added the party had to be careful not to “lose off the other end” of vot that “won’t be voting for a party” that cut aid when it “didn’t have to”.Related...Will Boris Johnson Ever Level With The Public That ‘Levelling Up’ Is A Soundbite Without A Policy?
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You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.It was Wednesday, just after noon and, in an imposing building overlooking the Thames in Westminster, the questions on football and racism were coming thick and fast.But the venue was not the House of Commons and the speaker was not the prime minister. In the fortified bowels of MI5’s Thames House HQ, director general (aka the ‘DG’) Ken McCallum was answering queries from the media, including yours truly.Whereas PMQs thrives off the bearpit jeers and cheers, DGQs is an altogether more sober affair, befitting its annual rather than weekly schedule. Yet when McCallum was asked about the problems of online extremism and the impact on young black men in the national team, he sounded more eloquent than many politicians.At almost exactly the same moment that Boris Johnson was squirming under Keir Starmer’s prosecutorial glare, the domestic spymaster was unambiguously praising the England football team for their conduct over the past few weeks.And he explicitly compared his own behind-the-scenes team with the one that performed on Europe’s biggest stage last weekend. “As I watched the penalty shootout on Sunday night,” he said, “I was very aware that I’ve got experience, MI5 has got experience, of watching capable, brave young people of all races, giving their all for their country.”He went on to say that racism was strongly associated with extreme right wing terror groups whose activity has in recent years become a daily, significant part of his agency’s work. And he clearly meant it when he declared: “I’m proud of many of the people in MI5 today, working to deal with the terrorist threat that is fuelled in important ways by toxic racism”.Even the most determined culture warrior would find it difficult to argue that McCallum, the youngest DG in the agency’s history, is some kind of “woke” Marxist. The Security Service, just like the England football team, benefits from diversity in a very practical sense as well as a symbolic sense. Looking like the nation it serves is a necessity, not ‘PC gone mad’.But the contrast between the ease with which McCallum spoke about race, and the discomfort of the PM on the same topic just a few hundred yards away, could not have been more stark.As Starmer marshalled the evidence of senior ministers’ mixed messaging on booing players who ‘take the knee’, Johnson could tell his usual “vaccines-vaccillation-remoaner” distraction technique wouldn’t work.With Priti Patel having said booing the team was “a choice”, with No10 having said the PM “fully respects” the right of those booing to “make their feelings known”, even the later U-turn was too late to use as a defence. The real problem was that Johnson resembled the wonky trolley of Dominic Cummings’ image.Drawing a culture war dividing line only works if you don’t keep hopscotching over it yourself. Put another way, “wedge” issues (as the Americans call them) are a bit pointless if they end up giving the instigator a political wedgie (as we British would call it). If they noticed at all, the minority of voters who think booing is ok may have been simply been confused by the PM’s shifting stance.He did have one concrete policy announcement in his back pocket, namely extending football ground banning orders to be triggered by online as well as offline offences. Yet even that welcome development was obscured by the bigger row over the gulf between the Tory party and the England team.And when a Tory MP heckled that footballer Tyrone Mings was a “Labour party member” they managed to undermine rather than help the PM’s case (“I do not want to engage in a political culture war of any kind”). Aside from anything else, failing to praise working class black and white kids who go on to become self-made millionaires sounds a strangely un-Tory thing to do.With key ministers attacking footballers for “gesture politics”, why would any player want to take part in the real gesture politics of visiting No.10 in future? If the whole booing issue and taking the knee issue had not been weaponised by some ministers, Johnson could even have said his own cabinet team mirrored the diversity of the England team and was stronger as a result.Perhaps the most revealing remark of the week however came not in PMQs but in Tory backbencher Natalie Elphicke’s private message to colleagues: “They lost - would it be ungenerous to suggest Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time playing politics.”Note that Elphicke didn’t say “we lost”, she said “they lost”. Despite her subsequent apology, that word “they” was possibly as damaging to the Tory brand as any explicit racist epithet could have been. It exposed a gap between some in her party and the national team in a brutal fashion, just when any normal politician would want to celebrate their achievement.It’s that gap, which is implicitly also a gap between a party and the public, that worries some Conservatives dismayed by the culture war rhetoric. It’s also why any future visit to No.10 of the England team (to promote our World Cup bid, for example) is now freighted with tension. Maybe MI5 down the road could act as a neutral venue.Related...MI5 Chief Praises England Football Team As He Warns 'Toxic Racism' Online Fuelling Far-Right TerrorismPublic Should Treat Foreign Spy Theat As Seriously As Terrorism, MI5 Chief WarnsBoris Johnson On The 'Wrong Side' Of A Culture War He 'Started', Says Keir Starmer
From July 19, life in England will fully unlock for the first time since March 2020. Sajid Javid and Boris Johnson have confirmed that the final stage of easing restrictions – Step 4 in the prime minister’s road map out of lockdown – will go ahead after a previous delay to the original date of June 21.But while people will no longer be legally required to wear face masks or socially distance, the prime minister has urged caution and encouraged businesses and large events to implement so-called “vaccine passports”.Javid confirmed on Monday that businesses operating in “high risk settings” with little indoor ventilation will be “supported and encouraged” to use a certification system to check if customers have either been double-jabbed or had a recent negative Covid test.Though viewed as a controversial and potentially discriminatory idea when it was originally suggested, this certification is seen by governement as both a way to keep down infections and an incentive to the public to get vaccinated.So what are vaccine passports?‘Vaccine passport’ is the term given to a digital certificate that confirms a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus or that they have recently taken a test which shows they are negative.They have been rolled out in certain countries, such as Austria, as a way of making sure people infected with coronavirus are not entering certain venues.In England, the vaccination passport is called the NHS Covid Pass and is being trialled in the form of a personalised and downloadable QR code.Who can get the NHS Covid Pass?If you are aged 16 or over, you can get an NHS Covid Pass depending on your vaccination status or Covid-19 test results. People who have had two doses of the Pfizer, Oxford or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine a minimum of two weeks ago are eligible.Others can get a certificate if they have had a negative coronavirus PCR or lateral test result within the past 48 hours. Or if they have had the virus in the past six months, they can get one after finishing self-isolating.The government has already been offering the passes to people taking part in its Events Research programme, which has been examining the risk of Covid-19 transmission by people attending a series of trial events.Events chosen included the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, the Brit Awards, the World Snooker Championship, the Download music festival and Wimbledon.How do you get hold of your pass?The pass is a digital QR code that you can download from the NHS app or NHS website. You’ll be asked to input your name, date of birth, postcode and NHS number.The digital versions last for 28 days if you are fully vaccinated, then automatically renew, while if you have a negative Covid test result it is valid for 48 hours.You will also be given an option to download it as a PDF or get it sent via email. People who are vaccinated can also have a paper copy sent to them which can be requested online on the NHS website. You do not need a GP referral.What are the pros and cons of the pass?Supporters of the NHS Covid Pass say it will give people more opportunities to do things they may not be able to do otherwise, such as travelling. From July 19, people who have been fully vaccinated in the UK will not need to quarantine upon arrival from amber list countries.Some politicians have also said they could help life resume as normal. During an appearance in front of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) in May, Michael Gove said deploying the passports could help “economic and social life… return more quickly”.However, MPs on the PACAC published a report in June that said Covid passports “disproportionately discriminate” against people based on race, religion, age and socio-economic background.The report said the implementation would “by its very nature be discriminatory” and the MPs found “no justification for introducing a Covid-status certification system that would be sufficient to counter what is likely to be a significant infringement of individual rights”.The passports have also already been subject to fraud, with some fake versions already spotted online.Could they be made a legal requirement?The government has not made them mandatory, saying only that it would “encourage” pub and restaurant owners and organisers of large, crowded events to use them.But it has signalled that ministers could still consider mandating them in future in guidance published on Monday, which said: “If sufficient measures are not taken to limit infection, the government will consider mandating the NHS Covid Pass in certain venues at a later date.”Related...Pubs, NightClubs And Sports Events Urged By Government To Use 'Covid Passports'This Is The Guidance For The Clinically Vulnerable And It Makes Zero SenseYour Ultimate Guide To The Latest Covid Travel Rules7 Places Where You Should Still Wear A Face Mask