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Coronavirus 1) Scientists advise further lockdowns “unlikely to be needed”

“Lockdowns are unlikely to be needed again, government scientific advisers have said, as official figures showed a clear fall in coronavirus cases. Data from the Office for National Statistics, considered the gold standard for infection rates, confirmed the first clear drop outside of lockdown. Even normally cautious scientists said that the time of draconian restrictions had probably passed. An increase in cases in September is widely expected as workers return to offices and school and university terms begin, but there is growing confidence that this can be managed without a return to compulsory social distancing. In an interview with The Times, Professor Neil Ferguson, once nicknamed “Professor Lockdown” and the first to call for repeated periods of restrictions, said the epidemic was “going to transition quite quickly in a few months to be more something we live with and manage through vaccination rather than crisis measures”….Members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) are also optimistic. ” – The Times

  • Even Johnson didn’t believe relaxing the lockdown rules could go so well – The Times
  • Interview with Professor Neil Ferguson – The Times
  •  Those who put the panic in Covid pandemic must apologise for the cock-ups which blighted the lives of millions – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Contingency plans are still in place – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 2) Infection levels fall to one in 75

“Coronavirus infection levels have fallen in England, figures have revealed, reflecting a recent decline in cases while questions have emerged over levels of the virus in vaccinated people. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, based on swabs collected from randomly selected households, an estimated one in 75 people in England had Covid in the week ending 31 July, down from one in 65 the week before. The survey suggests infection levels have also fallen in Wales and Scotland, although Northern Ireland has seen a rise.” – The Guardian

Coronavirus 2) PM will not isolate after staff member tests positive

“Downing Street says Boris Johnson will not self-isolate, after a member of his staff tested positive for Covid during a trip to Scotland. No 10 said the visit was carried out in line with Covid protocols, and the prime minister has not been in close contact with a positive case. But one source told the BBC that Mr Johnson had been close to the person who tested positive. Labour accused the PM of “cooking up a reason to be above the rules”. Mr Johnson visited Scotland on Wednesday and Thursday, travelling to the central belt and the north east.” – BBC

Coronavirus 3) Wales lifts most restrictions

“Wales has moved to Covid alert level zero, meaning social distancing rules and most other restrictions have now come to an end. Almost 17 months after Wales’ first lockdown, nightclubs are allowed to reopen and meeting indoors is permitted. Face masks are still required in most public indoor places, but not in pubs, restaurants or schools. But First Minister Mark Drakeford has warned against a “free-for-all”. The decision was confirmed on Thursday following weeks of declining case rates which “helps create the conditions in which we can move forward”, Mr Drakeford said.” – BBC

New £2 million facility to be built in Dover to process migrants

“A multi-million pound facility to process migrants is being built to cope with the crisis. The Home Office has been given permission to convert a disused welding site into an Intake Unit.  Officials expect to have the centre at Dover in Kent operational by May. Insiders claim it will cost taxpayers an estimated £2million and many more millions to run. One source said: “This is a clear sign this problem is not over. It shows there is no end in sight for the boat crossings.” Tory MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke said: “This sends the wrong message entirely. It’s time to bring an end to these illegal and dangerous journeys.” Some 43 employees will work shifts at the site, which will be open 24 hours a day. Priti Patel revealed the plans in a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee.” – The Sun

  • Storing migrant boats has cost the taxpayer £500,000 in a year – The Times

Energy bills to rise by £139 for an average household

“Energy prices will rise for millions of people across the UK in October, right at the start of the cold weather. Regulator Ofgem said the price cap for default domestic energy deals would be raised to cover suppliers’ extra costs. The typical gas and electricity customer is likely to see their bill go up by £139 to £1,277 a year. Charities warned the timing would hit struggling families hard, who already face losing an extra £20 a week from Universal Credit in October.” – BBC

  • Ofgem was always shamefully feeble at reining in greedy energy giants – and nothing has changed – Leader, The Sun
  • Tories need a green plan that makes energy clean, plentiful and, yes, cheap – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • The best way to help consumers is to press for competition rather than intervene in the market – Leader, The Times
  • Johnson declines to apologise for joke about coal mine closures – Financial Times
  • Demands that Alok Sharma, the COP26 president, “quarantine in a hotel like everyone else” – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Sorry, Prime Minister – Thatcher was not even responsible for shuttering most of Scotland’s coal mines

Archbishop of York criticises “metropolitan elite” for making patriotism taboo

“The Archbishop of York has criticised the London “metropolitan elite” for treating people who are proud to be English as “backwardly xenophobic”. The Most Rev Stephen Cottrell has called for “an expansive vision of what it means to be English” and for the country to rediscover a sense of “national unity”. Writing exclusively in The Telegraph, below, the Archbishop of York, who is currently the most senior leader in the Church of England, also questioned why it had become taboo to be patriotic. His comments come in the wake of a visit to Scotland by the Prime Minister aimed at boosting support for the Union, and after last month’s European football championships revived debate around English patriotism.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The English have an identity, too – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • UK government spends more than £163,000 on union flags in two years – The Guardian

University entry to be “more competitive” this year due to inflated grades

“Entry to universities will be “more competitive” than ever thanks to inflated grades and a lack of courses, according to the official applications body. With days until A-level results, UCAS said students going through clearing are likely to find it tougher to get on to the courses they want.Applications chief Clare ­Marchant warned that “for those most selective courses at the most selective institutions, it is likely to be more competitive”. There will be around 90,000 students aiming to join different courses, with many trying to switch after doing better than expected thanks to teacher-graded A-levels. Ms Marchant believes a record number of students will still take up places through clearing, but she warned there will be “hotspots” where it could be much more competitive this year.” – The Sun

>Today: Danny Bowman on Comment: Suicide isn’t the only test of whether there’s a mental health crisis. There is – not least among young people.

Poland should not stay in EU at ‘any price’, minister says

“Poland should not stay in the EU “at any price”, the country’s justice minister has said, amid a legal stand-off between Warsaw and Brussels that he called attempted “blackmail” by the bloc. The European Commission has given Poland until August 16 to comply with a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against a key part of Poland’s overhaul of its judicial system. Brussels has threatened to impose fines if Warsaw does not comply. Zbigniew Ziobro insisted on Friday that Poland should not back down, accusing the ECJ of having a “colonial mentality”. He argued that if Warsaw made concessions in the battle over its judicial changes, it would eventually be forced into concessions in other areas such as gay rights. “I am completely against giving in to the illegal blackmail by the EU which is being carried out via the ECJ,” he told the newspaper Rzeczpospolita.” – Financial Times

  • German anger at their contribution to the EU budget increasing to £16.4 billion – Daily Express

US unleashes B-52s in bid to stem Taliban advance

“American B-52 bombers and Spectre gunships have been sent into action against the Taliban to try to stop the insurgents’ march on three key cities. The return of the B-52 “stratofortress” after at least a year’s hiatus is the clearest sign yet that the Pentagon is being forced to intensify daily sorties, not only to halt the Taliban but also to help the struggling Afghan air force. The Taliban yesterday overran Zaranj in Nimroz, a southwest province bordering Iran, making it the first provincial capital to fall since foreign troops began their withdrawal, while in the capital, Kabul, the insurgents assassinated Dawa Khan Menapal, the government’s chief media officer.” – The Times

Neil: SNP has nothing to be proud of

“After 14 years in power, the SNP has really nothing to boast about. Between the financial crash of 2008 and the onset of the pandemic, the Scottish economy grew at only half the rate of the rest of the United Kingdom. Oil and banking, until recently the bright, shining jewels of Scottish business, are shadows of their former selves…Scottish schools, once the envy of the world, are mired in mediocrity. A study published yesterday shows that the life-expectancy gap between the richest and poorest areas of Glasgow is now wider than it was 20 years ago. At 295 per million of the population, Scotland’s annual drug-related death rate is the highest in Europe, almost four times worse than the UK average, seven times worse than Ireland, twice as bad as when Sturgeon became First Minister seven years ago and three times worse than when the SNP took power in 2007.” – Andrew Neil, Daily Mail

Moore: Politicians need their own networks – despite the risks

“Raising money for a large political party in a country which – rightly – refuses state funding for such purposes cannot be done without networks, and networks are Ben Elliot’s life. If your network includes the heir to the throne (whose nephew by marriage you are) and the Prime Minister, and glamorous persons such as the Goldsmith clan, this will turn many rich people’s heads. That, indeed, is its business model. The purpose of a network is to connect. It institutionalises conflicts of interest. All leaders need the backing of networks. Without them, they succumb to civil-servant control and consequent loss of purpose….But they also need internal warning systems against danger. Some of them do not like these.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • Tory donors use PR firm part-owned by chief fundraiser Ben Elliot – Financial Times
  • Clients of Tory chairman’s PR business gave the party £1.2 million – The Times

News in brief

  • Johnson’s miners joke reveals his contempt for the working class – Claire Fox, The Spectator
  • Covid rules are trumping decency and common sense in the NHS – Alys Watson Brown, CapX
  • My fight for free speech – Paul Embery, Unherd
  • The England riots: Ten years on. Did we learn any lessons? – Rakib Ehsan, The Critic
  • Time to deter the Butcher of Teheran from choosing the nuclear option – Daniel Johnson, The Article