British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday set out his plans to end social and economic Covid-19 restrictions in England within two weeks, in a test to see whether a rapid rollout of the vaccine would provide adequate protection against the highly contagious Delta virus. variant.
Johnson confirmed that the government aims to end the restrictive measures by July 19, with a final decision due next week. He said the move would eliminate formal restrictions on social contact and mandates to wear face masks.
Johnson unveiled a five-point plan for the final step of curb lighting, saying, “We will move away from legal restrictions and empower people to make their own informed decisions.”
Under the plan, nightclubs will be allowed to reopen and there will be no restrictions on the capacity of catering establishments. The guidelines for social distancing are being deleted.
The government will also stop instructing people to work from home if they can, leaving employers free to bring staff back to the office.
Britain has recorded more than 128,000 deaths from the coronavirus, the highest number in Western Europe, and confirmed infections are on the rise due to the highly transmissible Delta strain.
Johnson admitted that “this pandemic is far from over,” Johnson said, “unfortunately we have to come to terms with more deaths from Covid.”
But opening up the economy was necessary, Johnson said. “We have to be honest with ourselves that if we can’t reopen our society in the coming weeks, when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and the school holidays, then we have to ask ourselves when we will be able to go back.” return to normal?” Johnson said at a press conference.
Johnson sets health policy for England, but not for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Britain has suffered the seventh highest death toll worldwide from Covid-19, and Johnson has been accused of being too slow to implement any of England’s three lockdowns.
But vaccine acceptance in Britain has been strong: 86 percent of adults received a first dose from Monday and 64 percent received two doses from Monday, according to government data.
Johnson also said that people under 40 would be invited for their second Covid vaccination from eight weeks after their first dose, rather than 12 weeks, making it in line with the policy for over-40s.
‘We are not out of the woods’
Johnson’s “learn to live with it” message will be welcomed by lockdown-skeptical lawmakers in Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party, who say the economic and social harm of restrictions outweighs the public health benefits, and the populist press of Great Britain. Britain, which has called July 19 “freedom”. day”.
But public health officials and scientists have urged caution, saying discarding masks and social distancing could be completely dangerous. Psychologist Stephen Reicher, a member of the government’s scientific advisory committee, said “proportional measures” against the spread of the virus should remain in place.
“I think we need a very clear message and I think in certain areas – crowded, poorly ventilated areas – masks are crucial mitigation,” he told the BBC.
The UK government, which has enforced one of the longest lockdowns in the world, has lifted restrictions on England in a series of steps that began with schools reopening in March. The fourth and final phase was postponed last month to allow more people to get vaccinated amid the rapid spread of the delta variant, first discovered in India.
Jonathan Ashworth, health spokesman for the opposition Labor party, said the government should be more cautious.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “We want the lockdown to end, but we need life-saving measures. We still need sick pay, local contact tracing, continuing to wear masks, ventilation and support for children to prevent serious illness.”
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said it made sense to relax restrictions in the summer, when schools are closed, people spend more time outdoors and other respiratory infections are low.
“The burden of disease associated with a larger peak in the summer would probably be less than one in the winter,” Hunter said.
But Richard Tedder, a virologist at Imperial College London, said reducing infections while infections are still rampant carries “the very real risk of facilitating the escape of variants that will be even more resistant to vaccines and potentially be more contagious.
“Not acknowledging this is playing with fire,” he said.
( Jowharwith AFP, AP and REUTERS)