Thursday briefing: UK recovery slows amid ‘pingdemic’

·9 min read
<span>Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP</span>
Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

Top story: Potential for more Delta disruption

Hello, I’m Warren Murray, and I got in early to have this waiting for you.

Britain’s recovery from the pandemic slowed in June as shortages of goods supplied to factories, building sites and shops began to take their toll and the “pingdemic” forced workers to isolate, according to the Guardian’s monthly economic snapshot of economic developments. The slowdown could drag on if the Delta variant continues to hamper business activity. Construction companies reported a second month of declining activity, worsened by EU staff leaving because of Brexit. Retail sales increased by 0.5% in June, but only after a surge in purchases of food and drink to accompany the European football championships.

Analysts say the Bank of England’s rate-setting MPC is likely to maintain its base rate at the historic low of 0.1% over fears that the virus could flare up again. Writing in the Guardian, the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, said: “The UK had the worst economic performance in the G7 last year and isn’t bouncing back the way others are. The US has already reached pre-crisis levels of GDP per capita. The latest OECD outlook suggests Japan will be there in the autumn, and Germany early in the new year. The UK will not catch up until this time next year.”

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‘Deeply saddened’ – A coroner has ruled that Andrew Devine, 55, who has died 32 years after suffering severe brain damage in the Hillsborough stadium crush, was unlawfully killed and is legally the 97th victim of the disaster. Devine’s family, who had cared for him ever since, said they welcomed the coroner’s ruling. “In the intervening years, Andrew has been a much-loved son, brother and uncle. He has been supported by his family and a team of dedicated carers, all of whom devoted themselves to him.” In a tribute, Liverpool football club said they were “deeply saddened” by Devine’s passing. Ninety-five men, women and children died immediately or very shortly after they were trapped in the crush on 15 April 1989. Tony Bland, who suffered irreparable brain damage, died in 1993.

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Warning over quarantine waiver – Letting people enter England from the US and Europe without quarantine could bring in new Covid variants and jeopardise the lifting of restrictions, ministers have been warned. From next Monday, arrivals will be deemed fully vaccinated if they had their shots in the US or most of Europe – though notably not France, which remains on the “amber plus” list for another week. Arrivals will still have to test negative before their trip and within two days of arriving. The move has given a boost to aviation and tourism firms. Scotland announced it would follow suit but keep the situation “under close review”, while the first minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, gave reluctant backing to the change. In daily Covid figures, the number of new cases in the UK has risen by more than 4,000 – ending seven days of falling numbers. Daily deaths dropped by 40 to 91. Hospitalisations grew, but at a slower rate, to 6,021.

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‘Baseline of our climate is changing’ – The government will spend a record £5.2bn on reducing flooding in England over the next six years, as the climate crisis increases the risk to homes and businesses. It comes as scientists warn that extremes of weather will strike the UK more frequently, with data showing that last year was one of the warmest, as well as one of the wettest and sunniest, on record. “We see a continuing emerging pattern of more high temperature and more rainfall extremes,” said Mike Kendon, senior climate scientist with the Met Office National Climate Information Centre. “The baseline of our climate is changing and what we regard as normal is changing.”

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Swamped GPs call for rescue – Doctors are warning that their clinics risk cracking under the pressure of “unsustainable” workloads unless the government ramps up recruitment of medical staff and takes steps to reduce burnout. The Royal College of GPs is calling on the government to introduce an emergency rescue package, including recruiting 6,000 more GPs and 26,000 additional support staff such as nurses and receptionists by 2024. A health department spokesperson said the government had invested £270m to expand GP capacity “and we are committed to increasing the number of training places available to 4,000 a year to grow the primary care workforce”.

Amanda Pritchard, the new chief executive of NHS England
Amanda Pritchard, the new chief executive of NHS England. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Separately, Simon Stevens’ deputy, Amanda Pritchard, has been confirmed as his replacement as the head of NHS England after months of speculation that the job could go to the head of test and trace, Dido Harding. Pritchard is the first female NHS head since its creation in 1948.

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‘You will be missed greatly, amigo’ – Dusty Hill, bassist for ZZ Top, has died at the age of 72. Hill, who had recently suffered a hip injury, died in his sleep, as confirmed by a statement from bandmates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard. “We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo.

Dusty Hill in 2019.
Dusty Hill in 2019. Photograph: Larry Marano/REX/Shutterstock

His recent injury had meant that Hill was forced to miss performances as part of the band’s summer tour. ZZ Top’s first single was released in 1969 – they are best known for hits including 1983’s Gimme All Your Lovin’ and 1984’s Legs. In 1984, Hill also accidentally shot himself.

Today in Focus podcast: No relief for the reef

The successful campaign to keep the Great Barrier Reef off Unesco’s in-danger list has been greeted with dismay – and gloom about the Australian reef’s chance of recovery. Graham Readfearn explains the fierce global effort to deny the impact of the climate crisis on a prized natural asset. This episode includes explicit language.

Lunchtime read: Can lab-grown meat save us all?

If cellular agriculture is going to improve on the industrial system it is displacing, it needs to grow without passing the cost on to workers, consumers and the environment, write Jan Dutkiewicz and Gabriel N Rosenberg.


It’s been another busy day on and in the water in Tokyo, with Team GB’s double Olympic champion Helen Glover failing to repeat her past success in her comeback in the coxless pairs. She was fourth (yet another GB rowing near miss) with partner Polly Swann behind New Zealand’s women, who claimed their country’s first gold of the Games. Ireland won their first gold since 2012 with victory in the men’s lightweight double sculls. In the pool, GB’s Duncan Scott is the second-fastest qualifier for tomorrow’s 200m medley final, and ditto Luke Greenbank in the 200m backstroke. Mallory Franklin has a medal chance in the C1 slalom starting around now, and gymnastic twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova are in action in the women’s all-around final from around midday.

Simone Biles has thanked everyone for messages of support after her withdrawal from two events in Tokyo. The USA’s double world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks is out as well after testing positive for Covid. It’s forced the Australian athletics team into precautionary isolation because of possible contact. Follow all the latest on this and other stories at our live blog, and check out the Games schedule at our interactive.

Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou suggested he might not have been forceful enough in his demands for new signings after his team crashed out of the Champions League against the Danish side Midtjylland. Ole Gunnar Solskjær believes Raphaël Varane and Jadon Sancho will make a “huge difference” to Manchester United’s title credentials this season. Three Portsmouth academy players have been released because of discriminatory messages sent in a group chat. Lions scrum-half Conor Murray reckons South Africa’s Twitter gameplan is “a weird subplot” ahead of Saturday’s second Test. Warrington came out of their Covid lockdown to beat Wigan with a controversial try.


The number of cars built in the UK last month slumped to the lowest June level in almost 70 years, as car manufacturers were hit by shortages of both staff and semiconductor chips. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said just over 69,000 cars were produced. The shortage of chips – every new car contains about 1,500 of them – could mean 100,000 fewer cars are built in the UK this year than previously forecast. A pound is worth $1.392 and €1.174 at time of writing and the FTSE offers little in the way of excitement, set to open flat to a few points down.

The papers

Our Guardian print edition splashes with “Queen’s lawyers secretly lobbied ministers for climate law waiver”. Palace lawyers secretly lobbied Scottish ministers to change a draft law to exempt the Queen’s private land from a major initiative to cut carbon emissions, documents reveal. It means one of the largest landowners in Scotland is the only person in the country not required to facilitate the construction of pipelines to heat buildings using renewable energy.

The Daily Mail greets Covid border relaxation news with “Britain’s back in business”. Like the Guardian, its front page shows Charlotte Dujardin, who cemented her place in the history books as the most decorated British female Olympian of all time, winning a bronze in the individual dressage – her sixth Olympic medal. A similar look for the Express with the splash headline “Welcome back! Britain opens up for business”. The Times has “Fears over health risk from amber travellers”, sounding that note of caution about the vaccine waiver for many arrivals.

The Telegraph seeks reciprocity with “US urged to scrap travel ban on Britons”. “Doubley jabbly” is not one of the Metro’s best efforts. “Travel hope as UK open borders with EU and US”, says the Independent. The Mirror has plenty of Team GB glee on the front while leading with the story of a woman, 60, who pulled off a jewel con: “£4.2m gran larceny”. The Sun wants us to know “Cowell wields axe” with the X presented as the emblem of his TV show, which the paper says he is going to can (presumably in favour of something quite similar). And the Financial Times has “Flawed $22tn US debt market a threat to stability” – a story that in the reading has some alarming echoes of the 2007-08 global financial crisis …

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