LONDON: Two events, meanwhile, dominate in the UK— the Euro 2021 Football Final against Italy (11 July), and Freedom Day (19 July). Football, the great patriotic unifier coalesces European nations behind Italy, unites the British in a fever other sports cannot reach.
In a strange irony and post-Brexit join-up of loyalties, across the UK Remainers and Brexiteers support the England team and Europeans club together to support what is derived from the Roman sport Harpastum, although the Greeks have some claim to this too via Episkyros, both of which seem likely to have morphed into European mob football in the Middle Ages until rules became more standardised in England in the early C19th.
The origins of soccer go back to the Han dynasty more than two millennia ago, the Chinese military practised CUJU as a training discipline and the sport became favoured by Emperors. General Secretary of CCP and President of China Xi Jinping is known to be a soccer fan and has popularised the sport hoping one day to host a FIFA World Cup in China. Realigning China’s earlier focus from investing in international football which did not pay off, domestic investment has proliferated and foreign investment in Chinese soccer has begun. Xi has introduced nationwide long-term directives and reforms across China’s professional leagues and facilities for young people— there are currently 70,000 soccer pitches across China, with a goal of 140,000 by 2030. FIFA ranks China’s men team at 76th in the world rankings, not yet a soccer superpower, England is 4th and Italy is 7th. Much as the British love Italian culture during the match this evening British sporting nationalism will kick in to support Captain Harry Kane and the England Team at Wembley.
The new Health Secretary seems diametrically opposed to the previous one, whereas Matt Hancock was all about protecting the NHS and enforcing the lockdown and the “hands, face, space” regulations; Sajid Javid is freeing up society and getting the NHS to focus on priorities other than Covid-19 crisis. For 16 months, Covid-19 has exclusively dominated hospitals, television news, and media; Javid is focussing on the medical casualties of Covid, namely cancer, mental health, and heart disease, a backlog that now totals a staggering 7 million. Javid has said that we can not live in a world where the only thing we think about is Covid, the government must address education and the economy in addition to health. Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Javid seem to be on the same page regarding this. Javid lost no time in publishing the new Health and Care Bill to Parliament, which addresses additional powers for the Secretary of State and the government for integration with the NHS, future procurement, regulations around data collection and sharing, preventative healthcare specifically obesity: including a watershed for and prohibition of paid-for advertising of less healthy food and drink, (obesity is a pre-existing condition that contributed to the Covid-19 deaths).
The government’s vaccinations roll-out driven by Nadhim Zahawi (the Johnson Iraqi-Kurd loyalist who might have been an alternative contender for the Health Secretary), has reduced hospital admissions and fatalities.
Javid has said folks will have to take personal responsibility for protecting themselves and others, all social distancing limits and work from home regulations will be revoked from 19th July. Javid said summer infections might still reach up to 100,000 a day, but in a “risk-based approach” he has suggested that self-isolation and quarantine for the double vaccinated will be postponed from 19 July until 16 August, to be replaced by PCR tests.
This chimes with the current sentiment that the majority of society in England wants to go back to work.
Covid-19 is no longer a good excuse to stay at home unless you have a positive test. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has ended the temporary £20 uplift in the social welfare payment (Universal Credit) from September and the remaining furlough schemes will be terminated at the end of September, this is a clear signal that Boris Johnson’s “Build Back Better” initiative has begun.