The fourth and final step out of the lockdown against coronavirus is being implemented today in England, with the removal of all legal restrictions and obligations, even those of using a mask indoors or keeping a distance.
The so-called “Freedom Day” comes, however, in a period of growing concern and warnings from scientists due to the continuous large increases in daily cases, which on Saturday exceeded 54 thousand and on Sunday 48 thousand.
On a seven-day rolling basis, cases have increased by more than 43%, having returned to mid-January levels.
At the same time, the restoration of British freedoms finds Prime Minister Boris Johnson beginning his ten-day solitary confinement at the Checkers, having been alerted to the implementation of the NHS tracking program as a close contact by Health Minister Sajid Taz. On Saturday, he announced that he had been diagnosed positive for the coronavirus.
The ten-day isolation requirement for close contacts with confirmed bodies is the only legally binding measure that remains in force and will be abolished for fully vaccinated and minors.
The isolation of the Prime Minister reinforces the voices of those who say that the return to normalcy is evolving into a “farce”, as in the first week of July alone more than 530,000 citizens who had come in contact with a body were forced to isolate, leaving huge gaps in many businesses and sectors of the economy.
However, the biggest concern is the insistence on lifting restrictions amid a new wave of pandemics. Well-known Imperial College professor Neil Ferguson said on Sunday that 100,000 cases in one day over the next seemed “inevitable” and that the question was whether we would be talking about twice that number, up to 200,000 in a 24-hour period.
He predicted that the peak of the current new wave of the pandemic, which is due almost exclusively to the Delta variant in the United Kingdom, will come sometime between mid-August and mid-September.
Many scientists, both in Britain and abroad, have warned that the expected further spread of the virus after the measures are lifted favors the emergence of a new, more resistant vaccine variant.
Prime Minister Johnson, however, insisted on Sunday that if the measures were not lifted now, with the additional shield of vaccines, then there would be a risk of the new wave peaking in the fall or winter, at a more difficult time for the NHS health system.
And hospitalizations in the last seven days have increased by almost 40%, although in absolute numbers the number of patients, about 4,000 at the moment, corresponds to 1/10 of the number of patients in mid-January, when the country again counted around 50,000 cases. Respectively comparatively low is the number of deaths recorded every day, specifically 25 on Sunday compared to 1,200-1,800 on a daily basis in mid-January.
That's why, in a message late Sunday, Boris Johnson made “strengthening vaccine defense” the primary goal of a “five-point plan” to “make the country live with Covid.”
The second dose will now be offered to all adults eight weeks after the first and not after 12 weeks as was the case, at least for the younger ones, with Mr Johnson stressing that “the vaccination program has significantly weakened the link between infection and hospitalization or death “.
The British Prime Minister also stressed the “personal responsibility” that must be shown by all from now on, defended the maintenance of the obligation of isolation for contact contacts, said that the measures will be maintained at the border for incoming foreigners and noted that the re-imposition of restrictions avoids “if possible”, downplaying the previous rhetoric of “irreversible” exit from the lockdown.
It is noted that as of today, the obligation of ten days of home isolation for fully vaccinated and minor residents of the United Kingdom returning from countries of the orange travel list is also lifted, with a last minute exception concerning arrivals from “orange” France due to of the large dispersion of the Beta variant in the country.