Despite the fact that the Delta Covid variant cases have been surging in England during the last few weeks, and although only around half of the adult population has received two doses of the vaccine, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that coronavirus restrictions will be lifted on July 19.
The Lifting of Covid Restrictions Announced on NHS 73rd Anniversary
On July 5, the UK National Health Service (NHS) marked the 73rd year of its inception. At a ceremony commemorating the occasion, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that coronavirus restrictions and the mandatory use of face masks will end on July 19. The UK government has said it is aiming to vaccinate the entire adult population by mid-July, so that coronavirus restrictions can eased in the same month. Nightclubs and bars will open with no capacity limits. Mass events and festivals will be held and church gatherings will be permitted with no limitations on the number of people attending weddings and funerals. Scanning QR codes in gyms and restaurants will no longer be required and house gatherings will no longer be limited to a few people. By removing the restrictions, the social distancing rule of one-metre plus will also end in the country. School children who have been in contact with Covid positive people will have to take a PCR test and self-isolate if they are tested positive. Secondary and college students must take two tests a week at home and two tests on-site until the policy is reviewed.
July 19 is Freedom Day Amid Covid Infection Surge
Easing restrictions on July 19 on the one hand, and a surge in Covid infection cases during recent days on the other, have raised fears that there could be more deaths in the country after July 19.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed in the Commons that restrictions will be eased on July 19. He stated that people should learn how to live with Covid and added that people should learn to cope with it just as they did with the flu. Some scientists have warned that when the health secretary thinks that the coronavirus is the same as the flu, it is worrying and frightening.
Javid has emphasised on the responsibility of the people to reduce Covid-19 risks after restrictions are lifted. He did not mention the government’s responsibility and that it is its duty to arrange for proper nationwide conditions to safeguard people. On July 19, or so-called Freedom Day, restrictions will be lifted while 86% percent of the adult population have already received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and around half are fully vaccinated.
The Spread of the Delta Variant May Be the Result of Lockdown Freedoms
Ahead of removing Covid restrictions, some scientists have warned that easing limitations could mean new variants of Covid-19 and there can also be new waves of infections around the country. The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said the decision was a political choice at the price of high infection rates.
Also, more than 100 scientists and doctors signed a letter on July 8 and criticised the government for setting up a “dangerous and unethical experiment” by lifting coronavirus restrictions. This group of doctors has urged the government to review its plans for removing all coronavirus restrictions. Nevertheless, different parts of the country have recently reported a surge in Covid-19 infections.
The rapid rise of new Covid-19 cases in the UK is concerning, but many medical experts believe double-vaccinated people are less likely to get infected and if they get Covid-19 variants, they are less likely to infect other people. Moreover, the prime minister has stated that the government will do its best for those under 40 to get vaccinated sooner and vowed every UK adult will have two jabs by mid-September.
Scientists Oppose Removing Coronavirus Restrictions
In the letter signed by 122 scientists and doctors, the UK government is accused of abandoning all coronavirus restrictions and tolerating a high level of new infections. Keir Starmer, leader of Labour Party, has called Johnson’s decision to remove the restrictions a “party management, not in the public interest” movement. Starmer called for a reconsideration of coronavirus restrictions removal. He mentioned that all people prefer the restrictions to be lifted and added that, eventually, people will find a way to live with the virus and cope with it.
The Labour Party indicated that the people of Britain need an appropriate plan by the government to do away with all protection and said it is reckless to remove the restrictions while the infection rate is still going up. To keep the virus under control, the Labour Party called for a balanced approach by the Conservative government.
NHS representatives criticised the prime minister’s announcement as well and said the disease will not disappear on July 19. According to the director of the Royal College of Nursing, available vaccines are not 100% effective and public mask-wearing is useful, especially in crowded places.
Coronavirus Restrictions to be Reimposed if New Variants Are Dangerous
Different investigations by experts in England and Scotland published last week suggested that although there are new variants of Covid that might resist the existing vaccines, receiving two doses of the vaccine will protect people considerably against severe infection and hospitalisation. It is also suggested that those who have received the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines are at a lower risk of severe illness and death.
The UK has benefited from a fast, widespread vaccination programme compared with other European countries, but the fact remains that it is not clear whether this is enough to stop severe infection after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted and social behaviours are no longer limited. Based on an official document, it is said that if there is a danger of new Covid variants spreading in the country, UK ministers will use their powers to reimpose restrictions. Similarly, Boris Johnson at a press conference said if “heaven forbid”, there is a new variant of Covid-19 that does not respond to the vaccines, the government will take necessary measures to protect the public from the awful impact of the disease.
The UK has experienced one of the worst Covid-19 casualty rates and some of the highest numbers of infections in the world with more than 128 thousand deaths and around 5 million total cases. The UK government was among the pioneers in starting Covid-19 vaccinations in Europe; more than half of the UK adults have had second jabs and more than 85% have had at least the first jab so far. But novel variants of Covid-19 are being recognised among the new infected cases around the world, which makes the officials wary of fully removing coronavirus restrictions in different countries.
The UK government on the 73rd anniversary of the NHS announced that England will remove coronavirus restrictions fully on July 19 and public places and events will perform like the time before the pandemic hit the country. The new health secretary confirmed the decision and stated that it is the people’s responsibility to behave properly to avoid being infected. The Conservative government has suffered an economic recession during the pandemic and is promoting the idea of accepting and living with Covid, while it has recorded a sudden increase of new cases. Although they stick to the belief that vaccination will protect people from death or severe illness, scientists and doctors warn about the possible unexpected consequences of removing Covid restrictions.
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