Two people hug in the middle of the dance floor at Egg London nightclub in the early hours of July 19, 2021 in London, England. From 12:01 am on Monday 19 July, England will drop most of its remaining social restrictions for Covid-19, such as those requiring mask-wearing indoors and restrictions on group gatherings, among other rules.
Rob Pinney | Getty Images News | Getty Images
LONDON – England takes a step into the unknown on Monday, lifting almost all remaining restrictions on public life at a time when the number of coronavirus infections is high and rising.
From Monday there are no more limits on collecting inside. Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen, the 1-meter distance rule will be lifted and face masks will become largely voluntary, although some airlines and transport companies have said they will enforce the requirements for wearing masks.
Essentially, most legal restrictions have now been lifted and replaced with an emphasis on personal responsibility as the number of infections continues to rise.
There was no talk of “Freedom Day,” as had previously been dubbed Monday, July 19, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged caution as the country moved to “step 4” of its roadmap for lifting restrictions.
“Please, please, please be careful. Take the next step tomorrow with the proper caution and respect for other people and the risks the disease continues to pose,” Johnson said in a statement released by Downing Street on Sunday night.
The lifting of restrictions had already been moved from June 21 to allow for more vaccinations amid a wave of cases caused by the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
The number of cases remains high in the UK with 316,691 cases reported in the last seven days, an increase of about 43% from the previous seven-day period. The number of hospital admissions is low but continues to rise, with 4,313 people hospitalized in the past seven days, government data shows. In the past seven days, 283 people have died.
The vast majority of infections currently occur in younger age groups who are not yet or only partially vaccinated. Recent events such as the Euro 2020 football championships, which saw England fans gathering in pubs and bars across the country, have also been responsible for the rise in cases.
At the same time, the government continues to push through with vaccinations. To date, 87.9% of adults in the UK have received a first dose of a vaccine and 68.3% of adults in the UK have received both doses. Having both doses of a vaccine significantly reduces the risk of infection and hospitalization caused by the coronavirus.
read more: Headache? Running nose? These are among the new top 5 Covid symptoms, study says
However, experts have warned that hospital admissions could rise significantly in the coming weeks, and scientists have criticized plans to relax nearly all Covid-19 restrictions, calling it unethical and dangerous for the entire planet.
Others have defended the move, saying there are many harmful consequences to staying incarcerated, from the impact on the economy and livelihoods to mental health.
In a statement Sunday evening, the UK government acknowledged that the number of cases continues to rise, but noted that the link with hospitalizations and deaths had been “significantly weakened” as a result of the vaccination program as it urged all adults to come forward for both vaccine doses.
watch the world
Analysts say the world will watch the UK with interest to see what happens.
Deutsche Bank Research Strategist Jim Reid noted on Monday that “the world will be watching the UK experiment with great interest. It could show a way back to normalcy or it could even be a warning to even heavily vaccinated countries that Covid will be a problem.” for quite some time yet.”
“Ahead of this symbolic day, new cases in the UK plunged below 50,000 yesterday (Sunday), after two days above it. However, weekly growth is still strong. Breaking down the numbers, the main growth areas in this period are men between the ages of 15 and 40. It is the first time in the pandemic that there has been a remarkable gender division. It strongly refers to the impact of millions of football fans watching the European Championship final in various locations across the country.”
read more: Wearing masks becomes a new battleground in England as Covid rules are relaxed
Kallum Pickering, senior economist at Berenberg Bank, told CNBC on Monday that the economic impact of the reopening was uncertain as consumer behavior could be affected by the reopening, with some consumers more nervous about lifting restrictions such as wearing masks.
“I doubt we’re going to have an uptick, but I think we’re going to have a sustained pick-up in economic activity…but some of those uncertainties are definitely big. We’re going to have to look at some of the high-frequency data, mobility statistics and the like to get actually see the effects of the uncertainty of opening and removing masks and preventing people from actually going to the high street and restaurants and supermarkets,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe”.
Government defends reopening
Johnson, who is self-isolating after coming into contact with Health Minister Sajid Javid, who has Covid, defended the reopening on Monday.
“If we don’t do it now, we have to ask ourselves, when will we ever do it? Now is the right time,” Johnson said in a video statement.
“But we have to be careful. We must not forget that unfortunately this virus is still there. The number of cases is increasing, we see the extreme contagiousness of the delta variant.”
Johnson said there was “tremendous comfort and satisfaction” that Covid vaccines have “very severely weakened the link between infection and hospitalization, and between infection and serious illness and death”.
read more: The Covid delta variant has ‘exploded’ in the UK – and it could be a blueprint for the US
The government said it would continue to review all data. It said it would strengthen vaccine defenses by shortening the dosing interval of Covid vaccines for all adults from 12 to 8 weeks, continue to use the testing, tracing and isolation system and maintain border controls, including quarantine for all those. persons. traveling from a country with a red list and for countries with an orange list, unless people have been vaccinated twice.
“Data will be continuously reviewed and emergency measures retained if necessary during periods of higher risk, but restrictions will be avoided if possible,” the government said.