Ministers were made aware of scientists’ concerns about reopening nightclubs and other crowded, close-contact and poorly ventilated venues without testing or other checks in place.
On Monday Boris Johnson made the surprise announcement that Covid passports will be required for such settings – but not until the end of September, in two months’ time.
“What we are seeing is a decision by the government to get as many people infected as possible, as quickly as possible, while using rhetoric about caution as a way of putting the blame on the public for the consequences,” said Prof Robert West, a health psychologist at University College London who participates in Sage’s behavioural science subgroup.
“It looks like the government judges that the damage to health and healthcare services will be worth the political capital it will gain from this approach,” West said, adding that ministers appear to believe the strategy is now sustainable – unlike last year – because of the vaccine rollout.
The shadow health secretary, Jon Ashworth, said:
“Abandoning all precautions and allowing infections to climb not only risks further restrictions in the future, it condemns thousands to long-term illness and places huge pressure on the #NHS. Rising Covid admissions are helping exacerbate a summer NHS crisis, with operations cancelled and increasing waiting times. It means we are heading into another difficult winter and high levels of virus circulating could see a vaccine-evading variant emerge. This is an utterly reckless strategy from Boris Johnson.”
Data from the Office for National Statistics show that coronavirus in England is now largely an infection among young adults.
- Cases in 11-to-16-year-olds are nearly four times more common than in 50-to-69-year-olds
- Cases in 16-to-24-year-olds nearly six times more common than in 50-to-69-year-olds.
While generally at low risk from the disease, young people still develop long Covid and help fuel the epidemic, which drives up cases in those who are more vulnerable.