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Thursday, July 1, 2021

crowds pile at Edgbaston

Covid has crippled the economy and shattered people.  The Tamil Nadu government might extend the lockdown, which is in force in the state by one more week, with Chief Minister M.K. Stalin likely to make an announcement on this either later  today or Friday morning.  Mr Stalin had conducted meeting of health officials and top bureaucrats today  and experts in public health, who were present, recommended the government extend the lockdown by another week. As many as 11 districts have higher number of cases and in several rural areas of the state new clusters have formed giving a major headache to the state government.

Today, Tamil Nadu recorded 16,813 fresh cases, bringing the state tally to 23,08,838. Among these, Chennai reported 1,223 positive cases, bringing the city’s total to 5,220,52. Two lionesses of the Arinagar Anna Zoological Park in Tamil Nadu have tested positive for COVID-19, while a lion was found to have contracted distemper virus, the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) Bareilly said Thursday.

Elsewhere this is the Cricket stadium as thousands entered Edgbaston today to watch England play New Zeland in the Second test. The hosts are under pressure after debutant Ollie Robinson was suspended for his old racist and sexist tweets raked up a controversy which later became bigger after some other English players’ old tweets went viral. Meanwhile, the visitors are playing this crucial game without their regular skipper Kane Williamson because he is resting his injured elbow.  NZ has made wholesome changes to the side – 6 in all – from the Team that played the 1st Test :  Kane Williamson, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee are out, replaced by – Will Young, Tom Blundell (wk), Daryl Mitchell, Matt Henry, Ajaz Patel & Trent Boult .. ..

Edgbaston Cricket Ground,  home to Warwickshire County Cricket Club is in Birmingham. Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. By 1791 it was being hailed as "the first manufacturing town in the world".  The modern Birmingham is a major international commercial centre, It possesses three universities and two university colleges make it the largest centre of higher education in the United Kingdom outside London.  Edgbaston traditionally has a reputation for being one of the most highend, upmarket and/or affluent parts of Birmingham.  Warwickshire County Cricket Club is one of the 18 major county clubs which make up the English and Welsh domestic cricket structure; its home is Edgbaston Cricket Ground.  This is a historic ground in existence for over a century.  Edgbaston's first test match was the first in the The Ashes series against Australia in 1902.


Today, nearly 20,000 unmasked cricket fans have piled into Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham  to watch the England vs New Zealand Test match, even though coronavirus is surging across the country again and Cabinet ministers are considering extending lockdown beyond June 21. Downing Street has allowed the stadium to operate at 70 per cent capacity today, meaning 18,000 spectators are currently watching the action without following social distancing measures at the first mass sports event without the most severe restrictions since the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.

All fans are required to present a negative lateral flow test ahead of the match, join a 'human snake' to take the 20-minute walk to the stadium from Birmingham city centre to avoid public transport, and use an app to present their tickets as well as for ordering food and drink in the grounds. Stadium operators will also lay on extra buses on busy routes to avoid overcrowding by using postcode analysis of spectators' home addresses. However, fans are not required to wear masks when seated.  Meanwhile, Euro 2020 matches at Wembley Stadium will be given an exemption from lockdown rules even if the Prime Minister extends lockdown, after the Football Association was required to give UEFA a commitment that at least 22,5000 fans will attend each of the seven games hosted in London.

The scenes are reminiscent of those seen at Cheltenham in March last year, when thousands flocked to the Gloucestershire racecourse as the pandemic took grip in the UK. Though ministers were encouraging social distancing even then, they were blamed for not preventing the deaths which followed.  With coronavirus surging a third time, Downing Street is likely to face fierce criticism from those who are calling for an extension of lockdown. SAGE adviser Professor Neil Ferguson, famous for breaking the shutdown rules which he effectively designed, has warned that it will be three weeks before reliable data becomes available that will help ministers decide whether the easing needs to be halted.

The Prime Minister is understood to be considering implementing a so-called 'mix and match' unlocking on June 21, with face coverings, work-from-home guidance and the rule of six all likely to remain mandatory into July but the 30 guest cap on weddings to be dropped.  He hinted that lockdown could be extended yesterday after saying that 'everybody can see cases and hospitalisations are going up', after Department of Health bosses posted another 7,540 positive coronavirus tests in the biggest week-on-week increase since February.

Currently, no event can have more than 25 per cent stadium capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 people, as part of step three in the government's roadmap out of lockdown. Step four could take place as soon as June 21 when all social distancing may be lifted, provided the spread of the virus remains under control and the vaccination programme continues to roll out.  

But the scenes at Edgbaston are likely to fuel panic among certain pockets of the Government, as SAGE advisers call for an extension of draconian curbs on liberty and the economy.

Britain in chaos !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

10th June 2021 

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