Despite the surge in cases, UK plans on lifting COVID restrictions

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference in London on Monday. | POOL / VIA REUTERS

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, announced on Monday that most of England's coronavirus restrictions, including masks and social separation, will be lifted on July 19, emphasizing personal responsibility above government decree.

Johnson had hoped to reopen fully on June 21 but was forced to postpone the date due to an outbreak of the extremely dangerous delta strain.

Infection rates have increased, causing concern. That variety now accounts for nearly all new COVID-19 cases in Britain.

However, mass immunizations have prevented an increase in hospital admissions or deaths as a result of the outbreak.

“This pandemic is far from over, and it will most likely not be over by the 19th,” Johnson warned. “Unfortunately, we will have to accept more COVID-related deaths.

“There is only one reason why we can consider going ahead... in circumstances where we would normally be locking down even more, and that is because the vaccine rollout continues to be effective.

“We will free people from legal constraints and allow them to make their own informed decisions,” he stated.

Around 86 percent of British adults have received their first coronavirus vaccine, and 63 percent have had their second.

The decision to ease limitations was greeted positively by right-wing media.

The Sun projected a "big bang reopening," while The Daily Telegraph said that Johnson "rips up COVID restrictions."

Scientists, on the other hand, are concerned that if the delta variety goes rogue or other strains arise, hospitals and medics would be stretched even farther.

“Letting people make their own decisions on this effectively gives control of the safety of such spaces to the least informed, least caring, and indeed the most callous members of society,” Peter English, past chair of the British Medical Association Public Health Medicine Committee, stated.

Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, said he would continue to wear a mask "in any situation that is indoors and crowded" or "if someone else is uncomfortable as a matter of common courtesy."

“Ministers decide, advisers advise,” he said at a news conference, implying a potential conflict between scientists and ministers.

Meanwhile, according to a recent YouGov poll, 71 percent of Britons say face masks should remain necessary on public transportation.

Johnson was warned by opposition lawmakers that he was moving too quickly.

Keir Starmer, the Labour Party's leader, warned journalists that the decision "to remove all protections at the same time while the infection rate continues to rise is reckless."

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London and a Labour Party politician stated that “further discussions” with public transportation companies were planned concerning mandated mask-wearing, claiming that this “gives Londoners confidence to travel.”

With over 128,000 coronavirus deaths, Britain has the biggest death toll of any European country behind Russia but has been progressively transitioning out of its third lockdown established in January.

In England, the remaining restrictions include social distancing and wearing masks in public, as well as bans on most outdoor major events and recommendations for people who work from home.

The government has already eased the prohibition on major events, allowing 60,000 football fans to see the European Championship semi-finals and final at London's Wembley stadium, which seats two-thirds of its maximum.

The first semi-final is on Tuesday, and the England team plays in the second on Wednesday – despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel telling Johnson last week that allowing so many fans was too risky.

Meanwhile, the British government is poised to announce measures later this week to allow fully vaccinated Britons to travel to “amber” nations, which include most of Europe, without having to undergo a 10-day quarantine upon their return.

However, Germany and other European countries are showing no signs of loosening their own laws to allow limitless numbers of British tourists to visit this summer.

As a result, most Britons will have to make do with staying at home for their vacations, while summer music festivals will be more appealing thanks to the scheduled relaxation.

They can also look forward to the end of social distancing in pubs, the reopening of nightclubs, and the elimination of the obligation to register their personal information each time they visit a pub or restaurant.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, told parliament that the strategy also includes loosening regulations on contact tracking in schools and pupils establishing "bubbles."

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom's other nations, have their own health policies and are advancing more slowly.

Publish : 2021-07-06 11:08:00

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