Monday briefing: A second shot at freedom

·9 min read
<span>Photograph: Yui Mok/PA</span>
Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Top story: ‘Essential we give ourselves more time’

Good morning to you all, Graham Russell here kicking off the week in news.

Boris Johnson is today expected to announce a delay to England’s “freedom day” in a bid to tackle the rise of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which now makes up more than 90% of new infections across the UK.

A delay of four weeks would probably prevent thousands of hospitalisations because it would buy enough time for millions more people to receive their second vaccine shots and ease peak demand for medical care, modelling released today shows. The NHS is already creaking under the strain, with one consultant at Oxford University hospitals NHS trust saying emergency departments were busier now than during the first and second waves of the virus.

“To my mind it’s essential we give ourselves more time to get vaccination rates up,” said Prof Peter Openshaw, a member of an advisory group that feeds into Sage. “It’s not good enough, where we are.” About 44% of UK adults are not yet fully vaccinated and more than 2 million of these are aged 50 or over.

In Cornwall, concerns are growing of a spike in cases in the wake of the weekend’s G7 summit. Five venues in St Ives have closed or limited operations, and two police have tested positive, while one Extinction Rebellion protester is isolating.

The knock-on effects of the Covid crisis – in the form of cancelled or delayed appointments, prescriptions and procedures – have emerged in analysis of 12 major UK studies. Women, older people and minority ethnic groups were most likely to be affected, researchers found.

You can follow live coverage of the pandemic here.

Watch: COVID-19 - Boris Johnson set to delay lockdown easing by four weeks - as fears expressed about 'devastating' Freedom Day delay

* * *

G7 summit – The gathering of rich nations on the Cornish coast has ended with persistent acrimony over the Northern Ireland protocol, disappointment all round from climate and poverty campaigners and an underwhelming pledge on Covid vaccines. The final communique contained no early timetable to eradicate coal-fired emissions, offered only one billion extra coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poor over the next 12 months and made no new binding commitments to challenge China’s human rights abuses. Boris Johnson said as the summit closed that he hoped it had lived up to optimistic predictions. He said he knew “the world was looking to us to reject some of the selfishness and the nationalistic approaches” to tackling the pandemic. The prime minister also vowed to “do whatever it takes to protect the territorial integrity of the UK” amid the simmering row with the EU over Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Gordon Brown writes in the Guardian today that the summit “will be remembered only for failing to honour Johnson’s pre-summit promise to vaccinate the entire world”.

On the plus side, there was a sense that global cooperation was possible once again in a post-Trump world, our political editor Heather Stewart says, but Johnson’s bilateral meetings were persistently overshadowed by Northern Ireland.

* * *

Euros – An investigation has been launched after a football fan fell from the stands at Wembley just after kick-off in the England-Croatia game on Sunday. The spectator received medical attention at the stadium before being taken to hospital in a serious condition. A Wembley spokesperson said: “We will continue to work with Uefa to ensure the matter is fully investigated, and we are continuing to monitor the situation.” You can read about the match in the sports section below.

* * *

‘Recipe for disaster’ – Four years after the Grenfell Tower disaster, survivors have accused the government of failing to fix hundreds of thousands of high-rise homes with similar fire safety defects. Ed Daffarn, a 16th-floor resident who predicted the Grenfell disaster eight months earlier, said: “If they don’t get this stuff off the buildings there will be another Grenfell.” 

More than 200 high-rise residential buildings found to have ACM cladding have still not been completely fixed, with works yet to start on 36 blocks. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands more flats have other fire safety defects that have left leaseholders facing bills of up to £100,000 each. The government has made £5bn available to help, but MPs estimate the bill is three times higher.

The bereaved and survivors will mark Monday’s anniversary of the fire, in which 72 people died, by lighting up churches around London in a green glow.

* * *

‘New days’ for Israel – World leaders have congratulated Naftali Bennett after he was sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister, ousting Benjamin Netanyahu. The term of Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, ended after opposition leader Yair Lapid won a confidence vote 60-59 in the Knesset. Bennett said on Sunday night the country was “at the outset of new days”, adding “citizens of Israel are all looking to us now, and the burden of proof is upon us.” Joe Biden pledged to deepen cooperation with Israel, while other figures including Dominic Raab urged efforts to forge a path to peace in the region. Here is a profile of “King Bibi”, as Netanyahu was known by all, and also one of Bennett, a hardline religious nationalist.

* * *

‘I don’t think she’d be insulted’ – Joe Biden clearly hit it off with the Queen during a spot of tea at Windsor castle, saying the monarch reminded him of his mother, “in terms of the look of her and just the generosity”. However, mum wasn’t the word as to their conversation topics, with the US president breaking with the tradition of confidentiality to reveal she asked about Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Biden also invited her to the White House, which she first visited during the days of Eisenhower.

The Queen and Joe Biden during their meeting at Windsor Castle.
The Queen and Joe Biden during their meeting at Windsor Castle. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

* * *

Today in Focus podcast: What went wrong with the Covid-19 response in the US?

Author and journalist Lawrence Wright has been writing about pandemics for decades. So when Covid-19 struck the US, he was ideally placed to report on the political response.

Lunchtime read: ‘I’m not so fragile that I care what you think’

Caroline Hirons
Caroline Hirons

In the world of skincare, Caroline Hirons is a big deal, with a devoted following, the power (reportedly) to make or break a product – and a low tolerance for marketing hype. In a sea of extremely young social media beauty influencers, she is the middle-aged matriarch who made it. Here, Emine Saner talks to her about self-confidence, online abuse and criticising Gwyneth Paltrow.


Gareth Southgate paid tribute to Raheem Sterling after the winger’s first goal at a major tournament gave England a 1-0 win against Croatia in their opening game at Euro 2020. Midfielder Kalvin Phillips was quietly excellent in the game at Wembley, writes Jonathan Liew, with a performance that offered England something new and hopeful. Denmark’s Christian Eriksen had a cardiac arrest and “was gone” before being swiftly resuscitated on the pitch, the team doctor, Morten Boesen, has revealed.

Novak Djokovic won his second French Open, and 19th grand slam in total, after rallying from two sets down to win a thrilling final against Stefanos Tsitsipas at Roland Garros. The women’s champion, Barbora Krejcikova, earlier became the first player since Mary Pierce in 2000 to back up a singles title with a doubles crown. Joe Root has backed the players whose failures with the bat ushered England towards a crushing Test defeat against New Zealand at Edgbaston that ended with laughter from the Edgbaston stands. Saracens have all but secured their return to the Premiership after a thumping eight-try victory at Ealing Trailfinders in the first leg of the Championship final. And Tottenham are set to appoint Paulo Fonseca as their new manager this week on an expected three-year deal.


A joint venture between Rishi Sunak’s billionaire in-laws and the internet retailing giant Amazon is in a multimillion-pound dispute with the Indian tax authorities, a Guardian investigation has found.

WhatsApp is launching an advertising campaign in defence of privacy, months after a user revolt forced it to delay updating its terms of service and saw millions flock to its rivals. Head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, criticised the government’s attacks on end-to-end encryption, likening them to demands for an Orwellian telescreen in every living room. Separately, the government has admitted ministers are allowed to communicate using self-deleting messages, drawing concerns about “government by WhatsApp”.

The pound is buying €1.166 and $1.411.

Watch: Sir Keir Starmer - Government's pathetic border policy to blame for possible lockdown ease delay

The papers

The Guardian highlights the benefit of a delay to “freedom day”, with the chance to get more people fully vaccinated, and gives the main picture to Raheem Sterling, as many do, after the player gave England a flying start in the Euros. The Daily Mail contrasts the same two topics, along with the headline “Ecstasy and agony”, highlighting concerns the lockdown will continue indefinitely.

The Daily Telegraph seeks to inspire a little more communal spirit, with the headline: “One last heave to freedom, PM urges”. It also carries Emmanuel Macron’s spat with Johnson, and the new chief constable of Greater Manchester criticising “woke” policing.

The Times goes straight with “Easing of lockdown delayed by four weeks”, plus a picture of the Bidens and the Queen. The Daily Mirror says “Wait four it”, saying experts have backed the delay. The i reports on the creation of a coronavirus “vaccine library” that can tweak existing vaccines to tackle more dangerous variants within weeks.

The FT leads on the G7 and Biden’s efforts to build a coalition to contain China’s rising influence, and covers the ousting of Netanyahu alongside a picture of Bennett whispering behind his back. The Sun riffs off Sterling’s recent MBE honour for services to racial equality, with the headline: “Magic Boots of England”.

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