Tuesday briefing: Defences down against ‘exit wave’


Top story: Freedom mixed with ‘extreme caution’

Morning everyone. This is Martin Farrer bringing you the top stories this Tuesday.

Most of England’s remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted next Monday despite growing warnings from the scientific community that it is a premature step that will lead to a huge rises in infections. Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday that step four of the roadmap to normality would go ahead on 19 July, paving the way for the reopening of nightclubs, the end of social distancing rules and the enforcing of mask-wearing. Although Johnson used his announcement to urge “extreme caution”, the move comes amid warnings that the “exit wave” could result in more than 200 deaths a day and thousands of hospitalisations. NHS bosses say a rise in Covid cases will put the health service under “intense pressure”. People with invisible health conditions are “frightened” that reopening will put them at risk, and campaigners have warned that pregnant women are being given mixed messaging with figures suggesting a “very high” rate of vaccine hesitancy. While reopening will allow face-to-face teaching in universities, many staff believe digital initiatives adopted in a state of emergency should be kept.

In Australia, an apartment block in Sydney is being guarded by police after a number of residents tested positive for the Delta variant as authorities in New South Wales try to contain the spread. Dozens of people have died after a fire in a Covid isolation ward in a hospital in Iraq. You can follow all the developments in the pandemic at our blog here.

PM ‘stoked’ racism – Footballers and politicians have led criticism of Boris Johnson and Priti Patel over alleged hypocrisy over their stance on racism in football. Both the prime minister and home secretary said they were appalled by social media abuse of Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, who missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on Sunday night. But England player Tyrone Mings said the pair had “stoked the fire” by failing to condemn fans who booed the team for taking the knee at the start of games, and Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative peer, told Patel it was “time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division”. Rashford apologised for his miss but said he would “never apologise for who I am”. The FA is launching an inquiry into the chaotic crowd scenes at Wembley on Sunday, including how ticketless fans were allowed to storm security cordons at the stadium. F1 driver Lando Norris said yesterday he was mugged outside the ground.

Amazon ‘gouging’ – Unite has accused Amazon of profiting from pandemic-related “price gouging” on products such as hand sanitiser and face masks in an official competition complaint against the online retailer. Lawyers for the union allege Amazon is guilty of “exploitative abuse of its dominance” and called on the competition watchdog to launch an investigation. Unite says some vulnerable people paid inflated prices on items such as Carex hand wash, which soared from £1 to £26.41.

Zuma riots – South Africa’s president has deployed troops to deal with street violence “unprecedented” in the post-apartheid era which has raged since the former leader Jacob Zuma was jailed for contempt of court. As the death toll from the violence in Guateng and KwaZulu-Nata reached 10, Cyril Ramaphosa said it was with a “heavy heart” that he had sent in soldiers to help police quell the unrest.

Afghan crisis – More than 1,000 Afghan soldiers have fled the country and hundreds more have handed over weapons and equipment to the Taliban in mass surrenders, our correspondent in Kabul reports. The deteriorating security situation has shocked the Afghan government as the last US and coalition forces prepare to leave after 20 years of occupation. The Pentagon fears the Afghan capital could fall back into Taliban hands within months.

US heatwave – The American west is stuck in a cycle of heat, drought and fire, according to experts, as what could prove to be the highest temperature ever reached on Earth was recorded in Death Valley. After weeks of searing heat, the mercury reached 54.4C at Furnace Creek on Saturday. The extreme weather, which has sparked a series of wildfires to rage across California, has prompted scientists to consider whether computer models may have underestimated the impacts of human-caused climate disruption. The dangers were underlined after the discovery of the bodies of 43 migrants in the borderland between Arizona and Mexico.

Facebook Twitter Baby beaver at Holnicote Estate Photograph: National Trust/PA

Beaver boon – A baby beaver has been born on Exmoor for the first time in 400 years after two adults were successfully reintroduced by the National Trust last January. Footage shows the six-week-old kit swimming with its mother in a large enclosure on the Holnicote Estate in Somerset, where two Eurasian beavers were released for the first time in the trust’s 125-year history.

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Lunchtime read: Looking for a new England?

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Gareth Southgate’s England team has revealed the possibility of a united, youthful and instinctively forward-thinking nation, argues the historian David Olusoga. But the events of the past two days reminds us that we have a long way to go to shed the old England of toxic racism and hostility towards outsiders.


An exhausted and disappointed Gareth Southgate says he feels like his “stomach has been ripped out” after England’s Euro 2020 final defeat, but the manager is optimistic about the future of his young squad. Shane Lowry, the defending Open champion, believes firm protocols imposed on players this week at Royal St George’s are worth it in exchange for large galleries. Lewis Hamilton has announced the findings of the commission he created to investigate how to improve diversity in motorsport, citing “far-reaching” problems that need to be addressed.

Tao Geoghegan Hart, the winner of the 2020 Giro d’Italia suffering among the peloton at the 2021 Tour de France, is hoping the final week of the race will be more fruitful for him than the opening fortnight. Alun Wyn Jones is on the verge of completing a miraculous return to the British & Irish Lions squad after a “remarkable recovery” from a dislocated shoulder. Katarina Johnson-Thompson has given Team GB a huge boost ahead of the Olympics by declaring she is 100% fit for Tokyo and targeting a place on the podium. And Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic appears to have no real weaknesses in his game after an improvement in his serve and mixing up his game at vital times.


The post-lockdown unlocking of the economy has seen the fastest quarterly growth on record in shopping in stores and online with sales up 13.1% in June. The British Retail Consortium says warmer weather, people holidaying in the UK and the start of the Euro 2020 football tournament had all reinforced the trend towards higher spending. The FTSE100 is up 0.2% in futures trading this morning while the pound is steady around $1.389 and €1.170.

The papers

Facebook Twitter Photograph: The Guardian

The Guardian leads with “PM lifts restrictions despite fears of ‘exit wave’ and 200 deaths a day”, and the Times concurs on the top story with “Thousands in hospital each day if UK is hasty”. The Telegraph splash is “Johnson urges use of vaccine passports” and the FT has “Johnson shifts onus to companies on imposing Covid restrictions”. The Mail asks “Freedom … but for how long?” and the Express cautions “Green light for freedom day but go easy”. The i’s lead is “3.8 million vulnerable told: avoid people who haven’t had both jabs”. Football is still the lead in the Sun – “We’ve got your back” it tells England’s black stars – while the Mirror focuses on the ugly chaotic crowd scenes at Wembley: “The ugly face of football returns”.

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