England will see all lockdown restrictions lifted on Monday, despite rising Covid cases and a growing ‘pingemia’ that critics say threatens the economy and a real return to normalcy.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is moving forward with long-standing plans to take England to Step 4 – the end of legal lockdown restrictions.
This means the last remaining closed businesses, including nightclubs, can finally reopen – some for the first time since March 2020.
Critics say the strategy will not only result in deaths, but also a long debilitating COVID in many cases, while increasing risks for those who are clinically vulnerable.
Last week, more than 1,000 scientists signed a letter condemning the government’s strategy as “unscientific and unethical.”
Meanwhile, a survey found on Thursday that two-thirds of Britons believe at least some restrictions should remain in place after July 19.
Freedom Day comes amid the surge in Covid cases in England. On Sunday, government data showed there were 48,161 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, with a similar figure recorded on Saturday.
Additionally, it has been predicted that millions of people will be forced to self-isolate due to the so-called ‘pingemia’ – or people ordered to self-isolate through the NHS Track and Trace.
Business leaders have warned that workers facing self-isolation will have a crippling impact on the economy.
The government is under pressure from businesses and unions to tackle the growing crisis of workers’ self-isolation amid warnings that Freedom Day will turn into “Day of Chaos.”
There are fears of transport issues on Monday morning due to the number of workers polled by the NHS Test and Trace app, as well as warnings of shortages of goods in supermarkets and production cuts at factories.
The Railways, Shipping and Transport Union said the closure of the London Underground metro line on Saturday due to key staff being questioned by track and tracing showed how well transport services were ” on the razor wire “.
Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland, said: “We are in the unprecedented position of having to close stores due to staff absences – not because of Covid-19, but because of a Track app. and Broken and disruptive trace.
“Staff absences increased by 50% last week and the trend is clear and rapid, affecting not only our own colleagues, but those in our supply chains and logistics networks. “
Mr Johnson himself will spend so-called ‘freedom day’ self-isolating after being ‘pinched’ by Test and Trace following a meeting with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who has tested positive for Covid-19.
But after a furious outcry with accusations of hypocrisy at a time when staff shortages due to those forced to self-isolate threatened supply chains, the two hastily agreed to do so.
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In a video statement posted to his Twitter feed, Mr Johnson said they had “briefly” considered joining the daily contact testing program which is being tested in the Cabinet Office and a number of other public sector organizations. and private.
However, he added: “I think it’s much more important that everyone follow the same rules and that’s why I’m going to self-isolate until July 26th.
“I know how frustrating this all is, but I really urge everyone to stick with the program and take the appropriate action when the NHS Test and Trace asks you to. “
Mr Johnson acknowledged that a wave of infections when restrictions end and more deaths are inevitable, but said the worst damage would come from keeping the economy closed and a successful rollout of the vaccine has reduces the number of severe cases.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on the eve of the easing of Covid measures in England, Professor Ferguson also warned that half a million more people could develop long Covid in the future.
Responding to questions about the trajectory of the pandemic, he said: “It’s very hard to say for sure, but I think 100,000 cases a day are almost inevitable. “
Professor Ferguson, nicknamed Professor Lockdown last year, pointed out that the easing of the measures coincided with the start of the school holidays, which will likely see contact rates among adolescents “drop”.
While stressing that it was “very difficult to make precise forecasts”, he added: “I think it is almost certain that we will arrive at 1,000 hospitalizations per day.
“It will almost certainly reach 100,000 cases per day. The real question is, can we double that or even more? And this is where the crystal ball starts to fail. We could end up with 2,000 hospitalizations per day, 200,000 cases per day, but it is much less certain.
Professor Neil Ferguson also said that high levels of infection rates could increase the number of people with long Covid.
“We now know that probably about a quarter of people who show symptoms of Covid – show symptoms – have these symptoms for a long time,” he said.