Liberal Democrats: Keep masks mandatory on public transport a little while longer

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to keep masks mandatory on public transport after 19th July.

Munira Wilson MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, believes it would be a small price worth paying to protect others:

Many people, especially the vulnerable, do not yet feel confident enough to travel on crowded public transport. There are millions who have still not been double jabbed, and are therefore at greater risk of both becoming ill themselves and spreading the virus to others.

Keeping masks mandatory on public transport which can often become overcrowded is the right thing to do.

We have all made tough sacrifices throughout this pandemic, and asking people to wear masks on public transport a little while longer to protect others, is a small price worth paying.

I fear that the Government’s desire to remove all restrictions on the 19th July is driven more by internal battles within the Conservative party rather than sound scientific advice.

The Health Secretary is too busy trying to appease members of his own party who have been determined to put an early end to restrictions no matter the costs to the public’s health. He should stop prioritising politics over science.

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77 Comments

  • It seems to be an absolutely basic requirement IMO if we are to continue with further opening up of society.

    With very few exceptions, it’s no hardship to wear a face covering on buses and trains, which many people have no choice in using and it will help more to feel confident at leaving the car at home.

    I’d like to see them remain a requirement in shops too, and I’ll be able to relax more at the cinema or theatre if most people are using them there too.

  • Steve Trevethan 5th Jul '21 - 3:13pm

    Thank you for your article.
    Alas, the situation is far worse than it is presented here and in the M.S.M.
    Please look at and consider the verified scientific data in this attachment.
    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2021/07/05/the-uk-is-a-dangerous-experiment-that-is-a-threat-to-the-rest-of-the-world/
    Might our party take a prominent principled stand on what is a life and death matter?
    There were thousands of avoidable deaths at the start of this plague because H.M.G adopted a “Herd Immunity” policy.
    It is now returning to this policy by reducing/removing safety measures for doctrinaire reasons and purposes, against scientific data and advice.
    Might our leadership make these dangers obvious to our fellow citizens and their children?

  • Helen Dudden 5th Jul '21 - 3:30pm

    Steve Trevethan. I can only agree with you. Last week my dental appointment was cancelled because the daughter of a staff member tested positive. I had gone privately, after waiting a year with several broken teeth due to a health condition.
    I don’t feel comfortable.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Jul '21 - 3:38pm

    This is complete sense from Munira. Excellent responsive comments too.

    The govt is pushing a fake narrative about this virus, the fall of Matt Hancock, his own doing, but a regret as he at least understands this virus.

    This country is moving into fantasyland.

  • Helen Dudden 5th Jul '21 - 3:43pm

    On the 8th July I understand there to be a discussion in the House on debt. We all know about the difficulties many have faced.

  • Jenny Barnes 5th Jul '21 - 4:16pm

    Removing the remaining restrictions makes no sense with cases rising as they are. I predict that cases will continue to rise and we’ll be into another lockdown by October. Madness, homicidal psychopathy.

  • John Marriott 5th Jul '21 - 4:27pm

    Whatever happens on 19 July my wife and I will continue to wear a mask when entering a shop or restaurant, in fact any other enclosed space. Heavens knows what the infection rates will be after another week of soccer and tennis.

    We had better get used to living with COVID. The kind of life we led pre pandemic is unlikely to return in a hurry, if at all. I can’t say I’m unhappy with that.

    PS to Helen Dudden: MY dental checkup was cancelled in April last year and I was told I would be given another later. I’m still waiting. Mind you, I was an NHS patient. Now, if I had been ‘private’.

  • The i website today :

    “Professor Steve Reicher, who advises the government as part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), hit out at the Health Secretary after said the UK public must learn to live with Covid, “as we already do with flu”. The Government has signalled face masks and the one-metre plus rule will be dropped as part of “freedom day”.

    Professor Reicher, a social psychologist at the University of St Andrews, said: “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”.

  • Nonconformistradical 5th Jul '21 - 4:52pm

    27334 new cases in UK reported today

  • Brad Barrows 5th Jul '21 - 5:11pm

    @Jenny Barnes
    I have to disagree with you. The whole point of the lockdowns was to ‘protect the NHS’ so that lives would be saved that would otherwise have been lost. Now that everyone has had an opportunity to have at least a first dose of a vaccine, there is no longer a justification for restrictions to remain in place. Rising cases numbers are not leading to the overwhelming of the NHS – people must now take their chances and get on with their lives.

  • Good stuff from Munira. I begin to wonder if the PM includes Betfred (the “responsible gambling” people) amongst his advisors.

  • Nonconformistradical 5th Jul '21 - 5:39pm

    @Brad Barrows
    “The whole point of the lockdowns was to ‘protect the NHS’ so that lives would be saved that would otherwise have been lost.”
    In today’s briefing – quoting from the Guardian:
    Q: Are you confident hospitals can cope?

    Whitty says the NHS is an emergency service. So it will cope with anything.

    But if admissions continue to double, then before too long you can get to large numbers.
    @Brad again
    “Now that everyone has had an opportunity to have at least a first dose of a vaccine, there is no longer a justification for restrictions to remain in place.”
    Everyone? Really?
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/who-can-get-the-vaccine/
    “Who can get a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine
    People in the groups below can get a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.

    People aged 18 and over
    You can get the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re aged 18 or over.”

    This particularly infectious variant seems to be spreading rapidly in schools. I wonder how many shcool students will pick it up, take it home and pass it to a vulnerable relative who for one health reason or another can’t be vaccinated. Are such people expendable?

  • Barry Lofty 5th Jul '21 - 6:00pm

    How can you go from sensible restrictions to our lives to counter a very contagious virus to ” Freedom Day” overnight? Typical over optimism by Johnson and his government, I agree with John Marriott, my wife and will continue to be cautious.

  • The under 18’s…

    I see on tonights CoViD update Johnson clearly backpedalling on vaccinations for school children, thinking that more testing is the solution to the schools CoviD problems, when the commonsense and obvious solution is to drive the vaccination programme so that all those of pre-school age and older are vaccinated by the beginning of October – a wholly achievable target given the rate of vaccination of the adult population.

    As for the risks to children, remember we already require junior school children to have the MMR vaccine, of which only the Measles component is of direct and immediate benefit to the individual child; MUMPS and Rubella are about protecting others in thefirsdt instance and in the second instance the child in their future adult life – sounds like the CoViD vaccines…

  • John Marriott 5th Jul '21 - 6:07pm

    @Brad Barrows
    I wish I had your confidence that “there is no justification for restrictions to remain in place”. Here’s just one scenario. All restrictions are lifted, including the wearing of face masks. The virus lets rip. However, the vaccines cope with the Delta variant and severe illness is kept to a minimum, with less pressure on the health services. Then, as the virus finds it easier to do its job, it continues to mutate and a variant comes along which is not resistant to the current vaccines available. In fact, it decides to switch its attack to the very young, and not so young, who are largely unvaccinated and find social distancing much more difficult.

    I know that I am conferring human characteristics on what is after all an organism, like many others circulating with which we have learned to live. However, it’s an organism that also wants to survive and will do what it takes for this to happen. Unfortunately it’s not sophisticated enough just to make people slightly sick. It retains the capacity to make some people VERY sick. Given a free rein it might very well evolve on these lines.

    Let’s not forget that most of the world remains unvaccinated. That’s probably where things could really kick off. So, I shall at least be keeping hold of my face mask and shall continue to use it at my discretion.

  • Helen Dudden 5th Jul '21 - 6:23pm

    John. Marriott. I had surgery as such, it’s just checks. Being lucky enough to fit in the surgery over a few weeks.
    This has got out of hand with flights coming from red zones. If this was such an emergency, why was there not a joining together from all parties.
    There has been double standards with most things, all the way along, many lost lives.
    We still have the on going cladding issues, but we should only expect empty promises.
    On, one plus point this week, John Lewis is to build properties for the rented sector. Even furniture could be an option. I’m not into over priced wallpaper, but I do like this idea if it becomes an option.
    I feel the party should stand up for the principle of transparency and freedoms.

  • Brad Barrows 5th Jul '21 - 6:35pm

    @John Marriott
    I agree that there remain risks going forward – indeed I think it is very likely that more deadly mutations will develop (probably elsewhere in the world where far less have been vaccinated) and that these will spread to all parts. Does that mean we should continue to live with restrictions for ever? I think not. The race between mutations of covid and vaccine development will be ongoing but while that race plays out we need to be freed to return to our normal lives.

  • John Marriott 5th Jul '21 - 6:42pm

    Sorry, that sentence on the mutation should have read “which is largely resistant to the current vaccines available”.

  • All virus have the potential to mutate. So logically we will have to keep restrictions until the virus is completely eradicated, or we can get on with life.
    I understand those with health issues who are nervous but all of us of a certain age have had two jabs, I’m already ten years older than my father when he dropped down dead and a chap at work has had his prostate removed, so something will get me one day and I’m not inclined to spend the rest of my life in hiding.

  • Johnson summed it up well by saying “if not now then when?”. Now is as good a time as any other to return to normality.

    The vaccines (and immunity) have largely broken the link between cases and severe illness. Not 100% but sadly that’s not possible.

    Coronaviruses don’t mutate that much compared to say influenza viruses so we shouldn’t get too hung up on variants either.

    There are few reasons to continue with restrictions that are themselves harmful. Masks might not be harmful but they don’t make much difference unless you’re in a very crowded train carriage etc.

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Jul '21 - 7:25pm

    It really does look as if vaccination has broken the link between infection and death in comparison to the last wave. Also today’s figure for infections is less than last Monday and we may be seeing the peak of this wave (touch wood). So I don’t think we need to panic over the infection rate, if the death rate stays similar to seasonal flu. I would keep masks on public transport. But we need to get rid of these bubbles in schools imo because a whole generation is being damaged by lack of education.

    However the disease is spreading most in populations resistant to getting vaccinated, and this is in fact the big problem all over the world. Countries (and probably pharma companies) rubbishing each other’s vaccines is not helping.

    Meanwhile Darwinian selection would point to Covid becoming more infectious (and more resistant to vaccines) but less dangerous, like its cousin the common cold. That is my hope anyway, because if the opposite happens we are in big trouble, and endless lockdowns are not a solution to anything

  • Nonconformistradical 5th Jul '21 - 7:28pm

    @Chris Cory
    “I’m not inclined to spend the rest of my life in hiding.”
    Granted. However, while living your life ‘out of hiding you’ might still be putting other people at risk. You might still be unlucky enough to pick up the virus and maybe pass it on to someone vulnerable who hasn’t been vaccinated.

  • I get that businesses need to get back to normal and we at least need to try during the Summer months, however, I think it is madness and utter irresponsible to ditch the masks on public transport and in shops.

    There are still millions of people who are still vulnerable to covid because vaccines are ineffective for them due to weakened immune systems, or those who can not have vaccines at all due to a medical condition.
    What are these people supposed to do? lock themselves up and shut themselves away from society for ever more? We have abandoned these people and in my opinion that is discriminatory.

    It would not have been to difficult to require people to wear masks for a while longer on public transport and in shopping centres where these people need to access as safely as possible.

    The Governments attitude is people have to assess their own risk and take responsibility for themselves. That is fine, said people can chose not to go to a pub or restaurant or cinema if they feel it is unsafe for them, but the same people cannot chose not to eat or use public transport if that is their only mode of transportation to get to where they need to go.

    This goes against the first rule of Liberalism in my opinion and we are abandoning and discriminating against a significant proportion of the population.

  • The numbers are interesting with *some* indication in the last few days that covid cases *might* not be translating into deaths.

    The average weekly increase in deaths is, as of today, 16% (although it peaked at 50% on 29th June – and *may* of course go up again). The corresponding increase in cases is 50%.

    That’s if you compare cases with deaths approx. three weeks later.

    But since the lowest point in cases in May – the increase in deaths have only been tracking on average about 6% lower than the increase in cases.

    The average number of deaths to *reported* cases is running at about 0.25%. This compares to about 2% at the January peak and at around 0.33% in May about a drop of a quarter since then and obv. 8 times less than in January.

    That’s the good news.

    The bad news is that the weekly increase in cases is running at about 50% since the beginning of June. If that carried on for another 4 weeks that would be a fivefold increase – around 1 million cases a week – compared to 5 million total reported cases in the UK to date. And at 0.2% death rate that’s 2,000 deaths a week.

    Now I don’t now what you do with those figures as a matter of public policy.

    The difference from before is that we have the increasing vaccinations and this will begin to burn itself out – as you are either dead, protectively vaccinated or had covid.

    And you have to weigh 2,000 deaths a week against other deaths that might arise from less growth in the economy, cost to the public purse (although we can stick on the national debt at zero interest rates).

    In general though I wouldn’t be starting from here – we wouldn’t be here if we had had effective quarantine against the Indian/Delta variant and had got covid down to very, very low levels – near zero – in the spring.

    And so far in hindsight the best policy has been to do more earlier!

    —-

    Note: These calculations are in round numbers and the “average” weekly deaths etc. is the 7 day running total for the last 7 days – averaged.

  • James Fowler 5th Jul '21 - 9:32pm

    We are unlikely to see the zero, or harmless, covid for many years. The virus is present, and probably mutating, right across the world. Our government has next to no control over that, and never will. After 18 months it’s time for pro-lockdowners to have the courage of their convictions make the case for an indefinite ban on foreign travel and an indefinite continuation of serious restrictions. Endlessly declaring that we are ‘not quite there just yet’ with no realistic intention of ever arriving is deeply, deeply dishonest. If, on further reflection, people don’t feel able to justify indefinite restrictions, they need to revisit the reasons why. However, I suspect that truthfully many of them are very happy with the status quo. If so, they should have the courage to declare that openly too.

  • A few days ago I did a 6-hour train journey involving several changes of train. One thing that struck me is that there were times during the journey when a mask was appropriate, but there were also a lot of times when wearing a mask was pointless: Such as, waiting on a fairly quiet platform outside in the open air – but I uselessly wore the uncomfortable mask at those times because it’s still a legal requirement. Unfortunately the law can’t really distinguish those cases – which seems to me to be quite a good argument for leaving it up to personal judgement, now that most people are vaccinated. It’s always a balance of risk vs. letting people get on with their lives, but the risk does now seem to be vastly lower than it was a few months ago.

  • Well I was in favour of Boris putting India on the red list 2 weeks and 20000 arrivals from there before he did. Probably accounts for the spike in infections. I wear a mask because it’s not much of a hassle likewise the social distancing. I don’t like the all or nothing idea. There’s probably a need for special measures to react to circumstances. I’m glad that I don’t have to commute if no mask on transport becomes the norm so good input Munira.

  • John Marriott 5th Jul '21 - 10:27pm

    There could be 50,000 new cases per day within a fortnight if restrictions are completely lifted. Is that acceptable, especially if these cases are less serious? Maybe. However, what happens if a new super variant emerges somewhere, possibly in a place where the majority of the population is unvaccinated? How could you keep it out?

    We now have the highest new COVID cases in Europe. All this means that people with other illnesses may have to wait even longer for treatment. And the government really wants to let go completely? Before, restrictions were only lifted when infection levels were going down. Besides our having the vaccine, with cases increasing, what is so different about now? I see that airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet will continue to insist on passengers wearing face masks. I hope that more businesses may follow their example. We have achieved so much this far. Why risk the possibility of it all going wrong now?

  • @James Fowler

    “After 18 months it’s time for pro-lockdowners to have the courage of their convictions make the case for an indefinite ban on foreign travel and an indefinite continuation of serious restrictions.”

    In over 25 comments, point to one commentator who has argued for “indefinite serious restrictions” You can’t as they haven’t, I hardly call making a case for mask use to continue for a while longer on public transports and shops as being a serious restriction.
    I have been very pro lockdown throughout this pandemic, however, even I acknowledge that now we have vaccinated a majority of the adult population, businesses have to be able to get back to normal, mask wearing does not affect that.

    As for foreign travel, we do have to be careful about importing new variants, we also can not afford to be dropping out guard and failing to learn lessons from this pandemic, history has taught us that you need to be vigilant and you need to act fast when a new virus emerges, and lets not kid ourselves that this is not going to happen again sometime in the near future with a new virus possibly another corona virus.

    I am deeply wanting to open up foreign travel again, I lost my father in law in Australia a few months ago and we were unable to go back to the funeral due to Quarantine rules in Australia, my partner is struggling to come to terms with this and is experiencing a huge amount of guilt. We have not been to see family in over 2 years and have no idea when we will be able to again and you worry about the other parent.
    Millions of people have experienced this same trauma and it is awful on every level, but we accept public health has to come first as tough as that is…..
    The world needs to realise that when a new pathogen arises, that country has to lock down and isolate until its bought under control and not allowed to spread.
    That is going to require better cooperation and surveillance, because as I said earlier, its only a matter of when for the next one

  • Peter Davies 6th Jul '21 - 7:04am

    It’s all about the R rate as they used to tell us. If you can keep that below 1 then the level of infection in the community keeps going down. For any any level of variants and immunity there is a level of restriction that keeps it below 1. Herd immunity is the level of immunity at which the R rate falls below 1 with no restrictions. Vaccination creates higher and longer lasting levels of immunity than actually having the disease so I can’t see any logic in the idea that putting off opening up is merely delaying the surge until the flu season. If we put off opening up until herd immunity is achieved through vaccination then we don’t have to have a surge at all.

  • Jenny barnes 6th Jul '21 - 7:34am

    “How many deaths will it take till they know
    That too many people have died?
    The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind”
    Bob dylan

  • Nonconformistradical 6th Jul '21 - 7:38am

    @James Fowler
    “The virus is present, and probably mutating, right across the world. Our government has next to no control over that, and never will. ”
    But it might have some control over the chances of new mutations entering our country if the risks associated with international travel of importing such variants were studied properly, understood and measures put in place to monitor and control arrivals from overseas.

    As it is – it seems to me that our so-called government has been extremely cavalier about restricting international arrivals from countries having already high or increasing rapidly levels of new cases.

    James – will you please be honest and declare what restrictions, if any, you think could/should remain in place or be introduced in future? Otherwise, if you won’t do so, are you saying that vulnerable people who for one reason or another cannot be vaccinated are expendable?

  • @Peter, I think the concern is that as the Delta variant is so much more infectious than previous versions that we may still not have herd immunity with ‘full’ vaccination. By full I mean everyone who wants one. There’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not 12-17 year olds should be vaccinated, and I think it’s fair to consider the risk-benefit balance for that group, but it becomes more complex if we are relying on the inclusion of that group to get vaccine related herd immunity. Then there’s the argument that we’d be better off diverting those vaccines to poorer countries who have virtually no protection.

    What’s less ambiguous is the government’s attempts to turn this into a binary issue. They give the impression that in order to open up we must ditch masks, or that ditching masks is related to helping the NHS get back to treating cancer patients. Javid was just asked on BBC Breakfast why we had to end so many remaining COVID restrictions in one go. He completely dodged it, and acted as if the question was suggesting we stay in full lockdown.

    That said, people claiming that Javid thinks COVID is the same as flu are being disingenuous. It was unhelpful for him to mention flu whilst talking about ‘living with COVID’, but we are going to be living with COVID. It’s how we live with COVID which needs discussion.

  • The Covid data that is not available (or the Government is keeping quiet about) is the number of people who test positive for Covid after having been vaccinated without going to hospital, and the proportion of these who go on to have long Covid.

    When the theatres reopened with social distancing, masks and reduced capacity, I immediately booked tickets for shows that I had wanted to see before lockdown. The rate of Covid infections has more than doubled since then, and is continuing to rise exponentially, and social distancing is to be abandoned. I will not know until I take my seat whether my neighbours will volunteer to wear a mask. I doubt if I will want to return to the theatre for some time to come after “Freedom to Infect Day”.

    Is that the sort of ‘return to normal’ that the Government wants?

  • Peter Davies 6th Jul '21 - 9:03am

    @Fiona I think we have sufficient evidence to say that the Delta variant can be got to an R rate below 1 with all over 18s who want it vaccinated twice. We should also be adding in teenagers with their consent and younger children with their parents’. It is possible though that a future variant might beat even this.

    We should therefore be looking at ways we can cut transmission levels by measures that don’t have serious impact on freedom or the economy.

    Test, trace, isolate and compensate is one weapon that needs to stay and greatly improve.

    Keir Starmer is currently dropping the word ‘ventilation’ into every other sentence. It’s not as easy a win as it sounds but virus transmissibility within public enclosed spaces is certainly something to look at.

    A recent study in Wales suggested a third of deaths were from Covid caught in hospitals. Add in care homes, surgeries, clinics and visiting health and care workers and the medical and care sector clearly has room for a significant reduction in transmission rates.

    Housing is a win-win area. Over-crowded housing has a very high correlation to transmission rates. In particular, allowing a much greater number of young people to move out of their parents home would be a good thing on many levels.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '21 - 9:15am

    “There is no such thing as society” Margaret Thatcher 1987

    The modern Tory party has at times seemed to want to distance itself from such comments as it sought to detoxify its own brand. But, the facemask issue shows this is what they really think. Look after number one and forget about the rest.

    The reason for wearing a face covering is mainly to protect others. The removal of the requirement on wearing one is the removal of the requirement that we should all look out for others. That, somehow, there is a fundamental “human right” to infect someone else with a virus we may be carrying.

    The Lib Dems are, as usual, being ultra timid. There’s much more to an effective anti Covid strategy than wearing a face mask for “a little while longer”. The Covid crisis is not over yet.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '21 - 9:40am

    @ Peter Davies,

    “I think we have sufficient evidence to say that the Delta variant can be got to an R rate below 1 with all over 18s who want it vaccinated twice…..”

    Do we?

    The R0 rate of the Delta variant is reported to be around 6. This means that in an open population (ie one which is completely unvaccinated with no natural resistance) and with no restrictions we can expect that, on average, one infected person will infect six others. So, to reach ‘herd immunity’ or R<1 we would have to have a perfect vaccine and vaccinate 5 out of 6 people. Including children. This is 83% of the population. The vaccine is at best 90% effective so we would have to add another 10% margin or another 8% of the population.

    This brings us up to needing a 91% take up. We are nowhere near this, even if we allow for some naturally acquired immunity in children and others, and won't be anytime soon.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul ’21 – 9:15am:
    “There is no such thing as society” Margaret Thatcher 1987

    To understand her point it is necessary to read the quotation in context.

    She actually meant the exact opposite of what you think she meant…

    ‘There is no such thing as society’:
    https://iea.org.uk/blog/there-is-no-such-thing-as-society

    A comment from a Woman’s Own interview in 1987 is often repeated, but rarely in context: ”There is no such thing as society”. Its relevance was made explicit with the publication of the second volume of Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography in 1993:

    “they never quoted the rest. I went on to say: There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then to look after our neighbour. My meaning, clear at the time but subsequently distorted beyond recognition, was that society was not an abstraction, separate from the men and women who composed it, but a living structure of individuals, families, neighbours and voluntary associations.“

    ‘Interview for Woman’s Own (“no such thing as society”)’:
    https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/106689

    …they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour…
    […]

    There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.

    “No such thing as society”?
    https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/no-such-thing-society

    Ipsos MORI tested two versions of Margaret Thatcher’s famous “no such thing as society” interview, each with representative samples of the population – one with just that simple statement, and one with a much longer excerpt from the interview. And there is a dramatic difference in results.

  • Richie and Reicher are not part of a nebulas scientific class called “experts”. Their training is in the psychology of crowds, not epidemiology or virology. They were employed to work out the most effective way of getting people to comply with rule by edict. I doubt very much that those defending Richie would do so if her political background was on the totalitarian far right rather than on the totalitarian far left. Especially as the rules we are living with were pioneered by the deeply unpleasant totalitarian CCP. Her politics mark her out as an obvious statist extremist and it does suggest her views on the “benefits” of continuing the centralised governmental control of the individual’s right to make judgements for themselves are far from impartial.
    Also “just a little more” is an evasive how long is a piece argument. Other countries are opening up. It is long overdue that we do the same.

  • David Garlick 6th Jul '21 - 10:07am

    I am making a mask with a comment to Boris on it. Not quite sure what to say but it will not be complimentary.

  • neil James sandison 6th Jul '21 - 10:10am

    As some one who was shielded and had my second jab I will continue to wear my visor in crowded places like local shops and picking my grand daughter up from school regardless of the weak advice from government .This virus has hit all sections of our society and is now in a variant form that makes younger people more vunerable common sense says be cautious in crowded venues and keep your distance where practical .

  • Chris Perry 6th Jul '21 - 10:13am

    Removing the requirement for social distancing and wearing masks is the opposite of freedom and will restrict the liberty of many who were prepared to go shopping and use public transport knowing everyone would be wearing a mask and keeping their distance. These measures were more for the protection of others than oneself and the removal may mean that those people who act responsibly and consider others will no longer feel safe to go out whilst the selfish inconsiderate people will show them no respect. This is the very opposite of “freedom” and will further restrict the liberty of many.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '21 - 10:31am

    @ Jeff,

    Margaret Thatcher is with us no longer so we can leave what she really meant to the historians. In the public perception it wasn’t that “It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then to look after our neighbour.”

    This would be a perfectly reasonable thing for any politician to say in the current context but it isn’t the message the present generation of Tories are now giving. We do have a duty to look after ourselves and our neighbours. One simple and effective way we can do that is to wear a face mask. There are many more and all opposition parties should be speaking out on the wider issues.

  • Peter Davies 6th Jul '21 - 11:17am

    @Peter Martin. Yougov currently put the proportion of the population who say they would refuse the vaccine at 6% and those who might at 5%. Both figures are falling and history suggests that each age group shows a significant reduction in hesitancy as they are offered it. If your figure of 91% is correct then 18 would be about the break even point. Add in a significant level of natural immunity amongst the unvaccinated it looks fairly safe. I’d still go for vaccinating younger people to bring it down faster.

  • Nonconformistradical 6th Jul '21 - 11:25am

    “We do have a duty to look after ourselves and our neighbours.”
    Seconded.

    Bearing in mind the parable of the Good Samaritan – I wonder what Jesus might have had to say about relaxing Covid restrictions in the present situation.
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke%2010:25-37&version=NIV

  • Each year people die because of the flu. Why is this OK? Certainly a lot of people are ill because of the flu. Why is this OK?
    Why is it OK that we have poorly ventilated buses or trains which aid the spread of infections? Surely as a public health measure the solving of this problem should be a priority in terms of research.
    This would mean that when the next viral infections turn up we would have one less problem to worry about.
    Of course we could look at the implications of the relationship between poverty and illness. And eliminate poverty. We might then design a more healthy society for all.

  • Steve Trevethan 6th Jul '21 - 1:38pm
  • Jenny Barnes 6th Jul '21 - 3:23pm

    50k cases by 19/7 100k by end July..500k by end Aug. Next lockdown by end October.
    Jenny “Cassandra” Barnes
    Me , I’m staying away from other people, maskless covid spreaders, public transport, etc.

  • A lot of people do seem to want to shift the goalposts here.

    The original and only rationale for social distancing, masks etc was to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed i.e yes most people get mild symptoms and yes it may only be slightly more virulent than viruses we live with but as it is new, if too many people get ill at once the NHS won’t be able to cope.

    That threat has now passed so we are left with a virus mild enough to live with normally.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '21 - 4:07pm

    @ Jenny,

    It’s probably not going to be quite this bad this quickly. The schools will break up for the holidays shortly and this, plus a spell of good weather, will help slow the spread of the virus and cases won’t rise as quickly as you suggest.

    The danger, as last year, will be when the schools resume in September, plus the cooler weather which will drive us all back indoors.

  • If it is going to be Government policy to allow the virus to rip like this with no mitigation, then I would like to see this party making the case for those who have underlying medical conditions ie people who are immune suppressant for whom the vaccine is not entirely effective or those who cannot take a vaccine at all, to be financially supported through disability benefits system if they chose not to work.

    I heard the health secretary say today that those who are immune suppressant should evaluate their own risks and take the same precautions that they do in the winter with Flu. That is not good enough as far as I am concerned, there is a whole world of difference between having take more caution for a couple of months in winter with flu and having to do it 365 days a year with covid because the Government policy is to allow it to rip and to end mandate use of masks which puts said people at risk.

    These people, who might be able to work in “ordinary” circumstances may feel that the risk to them is now to severe without adequate protections in place and it would be disgraceful for the DWP to deny them benefits as they are deemed are “capable” of work without taking into consideration the considerable risk to them.

    This is something we should be championing and sticking up for the vulnerable and showing the Government up for the nasty party that they are for abandoning these people.

  • Steve Trevethan 6th Jul '21 - 5:23pm
  • Barry Lofty 6th Jul '21 - 5:46pm

    Just when we need a government to attempt, at least, to heal the divisions in our country, and to govern with some degree of inclusiveness in these very difficult times, we get Johnson and his band of right wing populists! Happy Days.

  • James Fowler 6th Jul '21 - 6:02pm

    @matt: ‘In over 25 comments, point to one commentator who has argued for indefinite serious restrictions.’ You are quite right, they have not – which was precisely my point. Instead, there have been the usual arguments for yet another ‘temporary’ deferral because it is ‘too risky right now’. If the truth is that it will always be too risky for you, or that it will be too risky for many years for you, you need to stand up and say so. Other people deserve to know the conditions under which you think they should live, and for how long. @Nonconformistradical. You’ve challenged me, fairly, to state what I think is an acceptable level of harm from COVID. I say ‘harm’ because I want encompass not just deaths but the entire gamut of social destruction caused by any measure or activity, including solutions like lockdown. As simple examples, smoking, drinking and driving are things that we allow and enjoy. They cause a lot of social damage – and not just to the people who pursue them. Until harm from COVID exceeds those I would question long term restrictions.

  • @James Fowler

    I think I was quite clear in my post, I said I support the opening up of businesses to allow them to get back to normality as we at least need to try this in the Summer months when their is less risk, however, I believe that masks should still be mandated on public transport and shops. Masks tend to be more effective at limiting the spread of covid particles in those that are infected rather than protecting those that are wearing them, so given that so many people are still vulnerable to covid because of being immune suppressant and vaccines not working well for them or not being able to have a vaccine at all.
    Some examples of people who are at risk of this are
    People suffering from MS, Chron’s Disease and other IBD conditions, People using certain steroids to manage COPD, Psoriasis, blood cancers, to name just a few, there are many many more conditions that relate to being immune compromised.
    Now is that being unfair in order to protect these vulnerable people to ask people to wear masks for a while longer on Public Transport and in shops so they are able to go about their business as safely as possible, or should they just “evaluate” their own risk assessment and lock themselves away indefinitely if they so wish???

    I am not arguing for clubs to be shut, or Businesses to have to limit numbers in order to socially distance , as I do believe people can make their own “risk assessment” on visiting these venues, however, going to a supermarket, medical appointment or using public transport is a necessity for some of these people and they must be allowed to do it as safely as possible for them. Are you saying that is a unreasonable ask?????

  • Nonconformistradical 6th Jul '21 - 6:21pm

    @James Fowler
    Are you saying that vulnerable people who for one reason or another cannot be vaccinated are expendable?

    That they must live their lives in perpetual seclusion?

    That if they are poor and cannot afford to exclude themselves from normal activities such as working – that’s OK? Even if they are denied benefits by the DWP?

  • @Peter Martin –
    The danger, as last year, will be when the schools resume in September and the Universities…

    Aided and abetted by the government…
    Once again no mention of vaccination for the under-18’s – only that they would only be required to isolate (ie. stop attending school) if they get a positive test result.

    I would not be surprised if the government starts closing down the vaccination programme at the end of July, rather than complete the job; particularly given they are currently of a mind not to vaccinate the 12~17 age group, even though vaccines have been approved and the line of argument they are using doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. So expect CoViD to still be big issue in schools this time next year… and that if CoVid is anything like historical plague, we will see a recurrence in circa 20 years…

    So if the LibDems really want to be heard, perhaps they need to be asking questions about completing the vaccine rollout – something that is within the grasp of the government if they actually want to do it…

  • John Waller 6th Jul '21 - 8:17pm

    I am in Denmark where my daughter lives. On June 14 masks were no longer required to be worn and social distancing was scrapped.
    Yesterday I went with her into a small town pharmacist. There were 7 others there all unmasked.
    Every day since May LAST YEAR I have recorded John Hopkins University new cases for Europe and major world countries.
    Today the total new cases for Denmark for the last 7 days had DOUBLED.
    Since May 17, when restrictions in the UK were relaxed the new cases per 100,000 has increased from 27.32 to 388.01. Germany’s have fallen from 107.88 to 6.87.

  • James Fowler 6th Jul '21 - 8:41pm

    @Matt. Your position is (to me) more reasonable than many others I’ve seen. However, I remain generally very distrustful of calls for repeated delays on ever shifting grounds which I strongly suspect to be endless.

    @nonconformistradical. Lockdown also ‘expends’ people. It will continue to do so for as long as it remains. This debate has always been about a balance of harms. You think that the claims of potential COVID victims outweigh the claims of potential Lockdown victims, and I think the opposite. That’s fair enough. But there’s no axiomatic moral high ground here, just a difficult, messy reality.

  • Those who are arguing for wearing masks to be mandatory after July 19th – how long do you think they should be mandatory for? It seems clear to me that mask wearing needs to end at some point – otherwise we are asking most of the population to put up with something that most people find pretty unpleasant indefinitely. But what plausible change of circumstances that’s likely to happen in the coming months would represent the end point? Off the top of my head, I can’t see one, other than the fact of most of the population being vaccinated, which is roughly what a July date corresponds to.

  • @James Fowler

    “@Matt. Your position is (to me) more reasonable than many others I’ve seen.”

    James, I openly declare that I have been very pro lockdown throughout this pandemic, I do not think the Government went anywhere near fast enough or far enough which I believe has cost more lives than it needed to, but also has done far more economic damage in the long run and has damaged public health as a whole for decades to come.

    However, even I can no acknowledge that once all the over 50,s elderly and vulnerable who can have the vaccine have been double dosed and all remaining adults have had at least 1 dose, it is time to open up the economy fully, we have to try it in the summer months, however, as I keep harping on, that does not mean that we should abandon the mask use on transportation and shops as these are vital services that vulnerable people need to use who either cannot be vaccinated or vaccines are not wholly effective. As a society we have a duty to protect these people as much as possible, they have a right to leave their homes also.

    But……..

    If rising infections leads to increased hospital admissions and deaths that put NHS resources under stain again resulting in elective surgeries having to be cancelled again, I will be the first to to start shouting for lockdowns again and I wont pretend otherwise…. Hospitals are breeding grounds for covid as we now know and some of the people who are immune compromised who desperately need treatment are cancer patients, we need to keep covid hospital admissions low so cancer patients can receive their treatments and operations safely. Anti lockdowners use arguments about cancer patients having treatment delayed, whilst failing to acknowledge that one of the greatest risks to Cancer Patients is actually contracting Covid, so having high levels of community transmission and infections in hospitals puts them at greater risk

  • @Simon R

    “Those who are arguing for wearing masks to be mandatory after July 19th – how long do you think they should be mandatory for?”

    In my opinion, as long as is necessary. If there are millions of people in society who are going to be at very high risk due to being immunosuppressant and vaccines not working for them, then we should keep masks for public transport and shopping as these are vital resources that they need to access.
    What is your answer, throw them on desert island somewhere and air drop them food??
    We have a duty as a society to protect the vulnerable, and besides, what do you think will happen to the NHS if all these people start falling sick with severe covid and taking up ICU BEDS again which results in more elective surgery being cancelled.???

    If people are going to argue that their civil liberties and rights NOT to wear a mask trumps protecting the most vulnerable people in society and public health as a whole then I fail to see how they can identify themselves as a liberal

  • @matt “In my opinion, as long as is necessary” – What does ‘necessary’ mean in this context? You’re never going to eliminate the risk either from Covid or from other diseases entirely – we do at some point have to just learn to live with Covid circulating in the population, just as we have always done with flu etc., and I assume you’re not arguing for masks to be mandatory forever? So what’s the specific condition that you think would justify masks becoming optional again?

  • @Simon

    As long as necessary means exactly that, it could be 3 months, it could be 6 months, it could be 12. It is impossible to put a time frame on it.

    You can hardly compare covid to flu when flu tends to be seasonal where as covid is 52 weeks of the year. It is one thing to ask people with compromised or suppressed immune systems to take precautions during a winter flu season, it is an entirely different ask with covid when the risks are all year round and covid being that much more transmissible and virulent.

    It is hoped that covid will become less virulent given a bit more time, like Spanish flu, so by that calculation, spring next year things could look better.

    What is your answer to all those millions of people who are immune compromised? Withdraw from society or take your own risks, because we as a society are not prepared to treat you with any equality whatsoever by wearing a mask on public transport or in shops because our liberty is more important than your life????? Because that is what this boils down to.

    What if covid does the unthinkable and mutates into a far more deadlier virus towards young children, are we still going to take the same attitude and put our personal freedoms and Liberties above all else? I cant see society being sustainable in the long term like that.

    Most pro lockdowners acknowledge now that we have reached a point where the economy needs to open up fully, yes there are still some risks to vulnerable sections of society, but this needs to happen and these people will have to make informed decisions on how much interaction they have and within which settings, they can chose not to go to the pub, club, cinema, bingo hall etc, however, these people should be able to expect to be able to use public transport to visit shops and medical centres and to reach safe open spaces, in as safe a way as possible as these are not choices but necessities and therefore it is not unfair to expect others to play their part and keeps these people safe by wearing a mask on public transport and in shops. and yet here we have the same anti-lockdown protestors who are arguing against everything and not prepared to give an inch.
    Like I said, I question how anyone can see that as being liberal

  • Nonconformistradical 7th Jul '21 - 7:22am

    @James Fowler
    “You think that the claims of potential COVID victims outweigh the claims of potential Lockdown victims”
    Not what I said. I did not imply one sort of claim outweighed the other.

    I am merely asking you to be upfront and honest on how to protect vulnerable people who are at a disadvantage compared with less vulnerable people.

    How would you protect the vulnerable while allowing them to live the same kind of normal life as the less vulnerable

  • Nonconformistradical 7th Jul '21 - 7:28am

    @Simon R
    “I assume you’re not arguing for masks to be mandatory forever?”

    Long before Covid-19 arrived I recall it being quite common to see on news videos from Japan in particular, large numbers of people using public transport – trains – wearing masks.

    Maybe it will become commonplace to see people wearing masks routinely on public transport elsewhere?

  • Peter Martin 7th Jul '21 - 7:45am

    “He should stop prioritising politics over science.”

    Yes. He should also stop prioritising his dodgy economics over the needs of the real economy. If Covid has taught us one thing, which we should have known already, it is that the economy is not self regulating. It can’t be relied upon to tick along on its own and reach the sweet spot of a natural equilibrium.

    Government, as the currency issuer, is an integral part of the economy. It has to “do what it takes” to keep the economy from veering off course and crashing. They’ve made a reasonable job of it so far and there’s no reason why they can’t continue to do this for a while longer. However, it goes against the the Tories’ right wing neoliberal ideology. This explains their desire to try to prematurely declare the Covid pandemic to be over.

    It goes much further than mandatory wearing of masks of course.

  • The Guardian is reporting on its live blog today Prof Laurence Lovat, epidemiologist and clinical director at WEISS Centre at UCL as saying “I do wonder whether [not wearing masks is] a wise thing to be doing.”

    PA report he told Sky News: “There is no doubt that face masks have an enormous impact on the transmission of droplets – these tiny aerosols that sort of float around in the air.

    “And one thing we really don’t want to be doing is to have a major spike of patients coming into hospitals again just as hospitals are starting to settle down and get back to routine work

    “And face masks are a really simple way to prevent people from transmitting disease to others.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2021/jul/07/coronavirus-live-news-china-reports-highest-cases-since-january-russia-reports-record-deaths

  • Nonconformistradical 7th Jul '21 - 10:02am

    I note from today’s Guardian blog that there is concern in Australia about the impact of the Delta variant on younger people.
    “Epidemiologists are warning the Delta variant can have a more pronounced effect on younger Australians than other strains of Covid, with people aged under 55 accounting for an increasing share of hospitalisations during Sydney’s current outbreak.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jul/07/nsw-covid-update-sydney-lockdown-extended-one-week-as-state-records-27-new-cases
    “‘Wake-up call to young people’
    The NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said 37 people had been admitted to hospital during the outbreak, with eight of those under the age of 35, including one person in their 30s in intensive care.

    “The fact that 37 patients have been admitted to hospital should indicate to the community the fact that Covid, including the Delta strain, is not a mild disease….”

    “Of the seven people in ICU, one is in their 30s, a bit of a wake-up call to young people.”

    Young people – including those people not vaccinated on grounds of age….

  • James Fowler 7th Jul '21 - 10:22am

    @nonconfirmistradical: ‘I did not imply one sort of claim outweighed the other’. But of course you did – and it’s challenging this kind of (widespread) dishonesty that encouraged me to write my initial post. Lockdown is a measure that because of its severity, universality and duration – all of which pro-lockdowners have loudly called for more of – has harmed some more than others. Supporting it means you’ve prioritised the lives of those who have been saved by Lockdown over those who are now dead because of it. Reality is messy, forget about the moral high ground.

  • Well, to be honest, It looks like the lockdown and mask consensus collapsed along Matt Hancock’s career and marriage. The demands for masks on public transport and such as like seem like a last spasm of rapid eye movement as the the new normal fades upon awakening. It was a dream to some. To others a nightmare. We lockdown heretics can afford to be kinder to our opponents.

  • @James Fowler

    ” Supporting it means you’ve prioritised the lives of those who have been saved by Lockdown over those who are now dead because of it.”

    Some of those you refer to as being dead because of lockdown are the ones that I was referring to, people who were awaiting Cancer Treatment or Organ transplants for instance. These people have supressed immune systems and having high rates of Covid in the community and in hospitals put these people at risk.
    The NHS desperately needs to catch up on delayed operations and treatments and that requires lowering the Covid Transmission rate, which obviously means mandated mask use on public transport and shops needs to stay.
    I dont understand how those apposed to every lockdown restrictions fail to grasp this.

  • Andrew Melmoth 7th Jul '21 - 12:30pm

    If you wanted to breed a vaccine resistant variant then the best way to do it would be to vaccinate half the population then lift all the restrictions at once and let the infection rate soar. And this is, unbelievably, exactly what we are doing.

    We seem stuck in loop endlessly making the same mistakes over and over again. In part because we appear mesmerised by this false dichotomy between being pro or anti lockdown. Continuing with sensible precautions like mandating face coverings on public transport reduces the risk of needing another lockdown in the autumn. And contrary to what some people appear to believe nobody ever died from wearing a mask on a bus.

  • @matt: I wasn’t asking you for a timeline for easing the mask requirement, I was asking what circumstances you propose should exist before masks become optional. It seems to me that if you’re not able to give a rough idea of the (reasonably achievable) circumstances for ending mandatory masks, then you’re really arguing for mandatory masks *forever*.

    Personally, I very much supported mask-wearing over the last year – as a temporary measure in order to reduce transmission while the pandemic and threat to NHS capacity was so serious. But requiring masks permanently is not a sustainable solution because so many people find masks very unpleasant to wear – apart from anything else, eventually you’d just drive very large numbers of people off public transport and into cars, just so they could avoid having to wear masks.

    “Like I said, I question how anyone can see that as being liberal” That’s unfair. As I understand it, being ‘liberal’ implies (amongst other things) not wanting to restrict people’s lives unnecessarily. But in practice, there’s always a balance of risk vs. benefit and making a judgement call about restricting one person’s freedom where that freedom impinges on someone else – and that’s really what the argument about compulsory mask wearing is about. I’m pretty sure you can be liberal on either side of this debate – you simply have a different sense of where that balance lies.

  • @Simon R

    I thought my reply was pretty explanatory. Imo Masks need to be retained for as long as covid remains this virulent towards millions of immune supressed people. As I said, covid is nothing like a seasonal flu, this is a 365 day a year problem, so it is immoral to ask these people to isolate themselves away indefinitely or run the risk of infection and possibly death.
    This is a new virus and it is hoped that like other coronaviruses it will become less virulent over time, now that could be until Spring 2022, it could be longer.

    As nonconformist asked you “I am merely asking you to be upfront and honest on how to protect vulnerable people who are at a disadvantage compared with less vulnerable people.” is it really to much to ask for masks to continue on public transport and shops so these people can access them safely???

    All I hear is arguments from anti lockdowners about their liberties and freedoms, but nothing in relation to the freedoms of vulnerable people, do they not have a right to access public transport and shops safely? or to be able to reach wide open spaces for a walk in a park or countryside or the beach? is this not a fundamental freedom, my god they are having to sacrifice so much already by not being able to go to pubs, restaurants, cinemas etc as it possibly to dangerous for them, is it really to much to ask for mandated mask use on transport so they can have some freedom??????

    “As I understand it, being ‘liberal’ implies (amongst other things) not wanting to restrict people’s lives unnecessarily.”
    I hardly call it unnecessarily when we are talking about a Virus that can be deadly to immune compromised people for whom either can not have a vaccine or vaccines are not effective enough to prevent hospitalisation or death. And remember we are talking about allowing the virus to rip here with 100,000 infections a day.
    If vaccines are only 90% effective at keeping people out of hospital, that is an awful lot of daily hospital admissions, most likely vulnerable people, which will again make hospitals breeding grounds for covid meaning more and more cancer patients for example having treatment delayed.

    So tell us, whats your answer to this???

  • Steve Trevethan 7th Jul '21 - 6:23pm

    What a clever virus to let Mr. Johnson live to get thousands upon thousands infected with itself!

  • Helen Dudden 8th Jul '21 - 11:39am

    Steve Trevethan. that’s a thought.

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