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The pandemic

Bye-bye summer, you’re cancelled

Brits are usually an obedient bunch, says Simon Kelner in the I newspaper. But our “inalienable right” to fly away on a summer holiday is in existential peril. With travel to most of Europe demanding quarantine and expensive Covid tests, and Portugal being unceremoniously yanked off the green list after just three weeks, “another stay-at-home season” is on the cards. Mixed messages from the government aren’t helping. Toeing the line made sense at the height of the pandemic, but with more than half of British adults fully vaccinated, and low infection rates in many continental holiday spots, even “the most pliant layman” might bend the rules for a spot of “sun, sea and sangria”.

Things at home aren’t too rosy, says Christina Pagel in The Guardian. Our “leaky and inefficient border policy” couldn’t keep out the Indian (now Delta) variant, which is thought to be 60% more transmissible than the Kent (Alpha) one. The former accounted for 0.2% of Covid cases in early April. Now it makes up 91% of new infections. Daily cases are at their highest level since February and a delay of up to four weeks for full reopening looks inevitable. Good thing too: the latest research shows that protection against Delta from two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine “may wane significantly” after a few months.

The third wave has already begun, says Philip Thomas in The Spectator. And it might even prove bigger than January’s: the ultra-contagious Indian variant looks set to rip through the two-thirds of under-40s who haven’t yet been vaccinated. With the surge will come the usual “worrying headlines” and “cries to lock down again”. But the trajectory of the third wave means tinkering with restrictions and easing dates won’t make much difference. And, crucially, the NHS should be fine: most older people have been vaccinated, so those hospitalised with Covid are mostly younger and healthier, and thus out the door sooner. The peak in daily deaths could be less than a quarter of that in January. Unlock now and we’ll get the third wave over with before schools – and flu – return in autumn.

In the meantime, staycations present their own problems, says Giles Coren in The Times. Hamas and Netanyahu made Tel Aviv a no-no, so we recently went to Wales – about the same size as Israel, “but wetter and less bomby”. It was great. Rather than camping like “post-exam teenagers on a spliff and chlamydia tour”, we stayed in a lovely cottage in Pembrokeshire and sampled some wonderful restaurants. But motorway gridlock meant getting to Cardiff took as long as it would to visit that other legal holiday option, Australia. Beaches, rivers, fields – it was “pitched tents as far as the eye could see”. The real problem this summer isn’t holidaying in Britain, it’s that “everyone else is too”.