Confusion by Boris Johnson’s government over planning and making executive decisions regarding the Delta variant of Covid-19 peaked last month. Experts and the general public in the UK have lost confidence in the government’s resilience to control the new crisis.
Lifting Restrictions in the Midst of the Delta Crisis
From Monday 19 July, most of the general quarantine and Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in the UK. There is now no need to wear masks, observe social distancing in public spaces, and work from home. Restrictions on the number of people in cinemas, clubs and gatherings have been lifted, and the government has only recommended that people have a health certificate to prevent coronavirus outbreaks; however, this is not mandatory.
Despite rising cases and hospitalisations, Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, Nadhim Zahawi, citing the success of the vaccination programme, told ITV News that removing many of the remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England was the “right step to take at this time”.
Covid-19 Statistics in England
Restrictions have been lifted while the daily infection rate is rising. The figure for daily infection rates is now over 50,000, with a daily death toll of over 50. The last time the infection rate reached 55,000 was on 15 January 2021, which made Britain the record holder in Europe. The British health secretary states that daily infection cases may rise up to 100,000 during the summer of 2021.
43% of Covid-19 death cases have been reported to be in vaccinated individuals. This statistic is from 25 June, when out of 117 deaths, 50 cases were seen among vaccinated people.
According to another report from the British Centre for Public Health (PHE), between 1 February and 21 June, out of 257 Covid-19 deaths, 163 cases had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
This indicates that about 60% of deaths are vaccinated individuals. Experts explain that due to the lack of 100% vaccine efficacy and the dominance of the Delta strain, these figures are expected and do not indicate that the vaccine is ineffective. It must be noted that given the number of vulnerable people among those who have been vaccinated, this death rate is not unusual.
What Scientists Say?
Senior doctors warned of “potentially devastating consequences” when Johnson asserted that he will lift most remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England on 19 July. Just a week before Freedom Day, more than 1,200 British scientists signed a letter to the prime minister calling for a halt to the government’s decision to lift Covid-19 restrictions. They pointed to the increase in the number of patients and said that removing the regulations means putting millions at risk. They called England’s move to lift its Covid-19 restrictions on 19 July “dangerous and premature.”
This group of scientists called the government’s decision a “miserable mistake.” They added that this policy would put severe pressure on the healthcare network and lead to the death of many people due to underlying chronic diseases (such as cancer).
In its decision, Boris Johnson’s government refers to the individual responsibility of citizens to observe safety issues. Speaking to MPs, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons: “This is not the end of the road. … It’s so important that people act with caution and personal responsibility.” The scientists believe that “While we are dealing with an airborne infection, individual responsibility is not adequate.” According to them, prevention of infectious diseases requires collective observance and responsibility. They describe the government’s decision as a “dangerous and immoral experiment.”
Mark Ryan, a senior World Health Organization official, warned countries to lift their coronavirus restrictions slowly so as “not to lose the gains that [they] have made”. He considers the Boris Johnson’s move as “epidemiological stupidity”.
Boris Johnson announced that the disease has not disappeared. However, observing health regulations is not mandatory and is left to the individual. The British government intends to make the use of “vaccine passports” mandatory for the use of public services and spaces.
An ITV chief analyst, Robert Poston, says that the government’s decision is a political one. According to him, the government has no training or advice for people with the disease. Currently, its only recommendation is to quarantine yourself and call the helpline if you see any clinical signs of Covid-19, and not to go to a doctor or health centre at all. Some believe the government is deliberately putting too much pressure on healthcare services to leave things to the private sector after it collapses.
Lifting Restrictions: A Huge Gamble
Despite the fact that scientists and health officials have issued warnings over the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, Boris Johnson declared 19 July as “Freedom Day” and lifted Covid-19 restrictions. The key question is: Will Jonson become the hero of Covid-19 vaccinations? Or will he cause more Covid-19 deaths and tragedy in a losing gamble? The passage of time will reveal the consequences. Boris Johnson will have to take responsibility for his decision and actions.