England is set to see all but the latest coronavirus restrictions lifted as cases of the deadly virus skyrocket.
Tomorrow, in what some half-full of glass has dubbed Freedom Day, England will reach stage four of the government’s lockdown exit plan.
After a four week delay, July 19 will mark the end of almost all legal restrictions on daily life.
Nightclubs will reopen, social distancing will be removed and the use of face coverings will be a matter of “personal choice.”
When he announced the roadmap for getting out of confinement in winter, Boris Johnson said it was “cautious but irreversible”.
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Whether this is indeed the case or not – with the number of coronavirus cases rising across the country to reach levels last seen in January – remains to be seen.
Tonight, the Prime Minister, locked in solitary confinement in the Checkers public country mansion, detailed a five point plan he hopes future lockdowns will be distant.
- Strengthen vaccine defenses by reducing the dosing interval from 12 to 8 weeks for all adults.
- Emphasize caution and personal responsibility as cases continue to increase.
- The testing, tracing and isolation system will remain, with all positive cases legally required to self-isolate. Contacts of positive cases must self-isolate until August 16, after which adults who have received two doses of the vaccine and anyone under the age of 18 will be exempt.
- Border controls will be maintained, including quarantine for all those traveling from a country on the red list, and for countries on the orange list, unless they are doubly vaccinated.
- Data will be continuously assessed and contingency measures will be retained if necessary during high risk periods, but restrictions will be avoided if possible.
While the plan to lift restrictions in England has been in place for many months, it is coming true at a precarious stage in the pandemic.
Today, 48,161 new cases have been reported in the UK, a 50% increase in just one week.
Professor Neil Ferguson has warned the country could soon experience 200,000 coronavirus infections a day.
Although the government insists that the link between cases and hospitalizations and deaths is “significantly weakened due to the vaccination program”, concerns remain.
“If you have enough cases you can still have a pretty big burden on the health care system … a major disruption of services and the cancellation of elective surgery and the growing backlog of the NHS,” said Professor Ferguson, whose initial modeling helped shape Britain’s coronavirus lockdown strategy.
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The huge number of cases could also see several hundred thousand more people starting to suffer from Long Covid.
Earlier this week, 1,200 scientists around the world said letting cases tear apart among a highly vaccinated population, like that of England, could lead to the emergence of dangerous and vaccine-resistant mutations.
It was against this murky backdrop that Johnson issued a warning to the public.
Speaking in a video posted on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: “Move forward tomorrow into the next step with all due caution and respect for others and the risks the disease continues to present.
“And most importantly, please, please, please, when you’re asked to get that second jab and get your jab, please go ahead and do it.” . “
The plea came after Johnson invoked the fury of tens of thousands trapped inside on the hottest day of the year so far by making one of the government’s most abrupt U-turns to this day.
This morning, No.10 announced that Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak will continue to work at Downing Street while taking daily tests, after coming into contact with coronavirus-positive Health Minister Sajid Javid.
They planned to do so as part of a program tested in 20 public and private sector organizations, including Border Force and Network Rail, as well as the Cabinet Office and No.10.
What appeared to be an exclusive program reserved for those with a hand in the levers of power seemed deeply unfair, triggering a fierce backlash that then prompted leaders to back down quickly.