Nightclubs elated, but doubts cloud England’s ‘Freedom Day’ – .

Nightclubs elated, but doubts cloud England’s ‘Freedom Day’ – .

LONDON – Sparkling wine, confetti, midnight countdown: it’s not New Years Eve, but it might as well be for English clubbers. After 17 months of empty dance floors, nightclubs across the country are reopening in style.

As of Monday, face masks will no longer be required by law, and with the social distancing rules removed, there will be no more limits for people attending theatrical performances or large events.

Public health officials fear the celebrations could trigger a major hangover, as greater social diversity drives up already rising coronavirus infection rates in Britain.

From London to Liverpool, thousands of young people plan to dance the night away on ‘Freedom Day’ parties after midnight Sunday, when nearly all coronavirus restrictions in England are to be lifted. The nightclubs, closed since March 2020, can finally reopen.

London nightclub The Piano Works plans to kick off their ‘Freedom Day’ party on Sunday with a countdown to midnight, when staff members plan to cut a ribbon on the dance floor and serve free. prosecco to customers.

“I think it’s going to be the most magical moment, when you have people who couldn’t dance and sing and who are just normal, all rush to the floor at midnight and come back to what we love”, said Daisy Robb, the club’s sales manager.

But as entertainment companies and ravers gloat, many others are deeply concerned about the UK government’s decision to remove restrictions at a time when COVID-19 cases are on the rise. More than 54,000 new cases were confirmed on Saturday, the highest daily number since January, although reported virus deaths have remained relatively low so far.

Officials have repeatedly expressed confidence that the rollout of the vaccine in the UK country – 68.3% of adults, just over half of the total population, have received two doses – will maintain the threat to public health at a distance. But leading international scientists on Friday described England’s “Freedom Day” as a threat to the whole world, and 1,200 scientists backed a letter to British medical journal The Lancet criticizing the Conservative government’s move.

“I don’t see any good realistic scenario out of this strategy, I’m afraid,” said Julian Tang, clinical virologist at the University of Leicester. “I think that’s really a measure of the gravity of the situation. “

Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has warned that “we could be in trouble again surprisingly quickly”. Johnson himself played down talks about freedom and stressed that life would not instantly revert to what it was before the pandemic.

Monday will certainly not be business as usual for Johnson. Prime Minister and Treasury Chief Rishi Sunak both self-isolate for 10 days after contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday despite being fully vaccinated.

They are among hundreds of thousands of Britons who have been ordered to self-quarantine because they have been near someone who tested positive. The situation is causing staff shortages in restaurants, car manufacturers and public transport.

One concern, Tang said, is about “super variations” that could surface after people are allowed to mix without precautions over the summer. Add a flu resurgence in the colder months and that means “a winter of very serious proportions,” he said.

Nightclubs in particular are powerful breeding grounds, Tang said, as their main clientele – people between the ages of 18 and 25 – only became eligible for a first dose of the vaccine last month and did not. still received the second injections needed to strengthen immunity.

“This population is not fully vaccinated. They do not hide. They are in very close contact, breathe heavily, shout very loudly to the music, dance with different people, ”he said. “It’s the perfect mixing vessel for the virus to spread and even for generating new variants. “

Johnson urged the public on Sunday to show “caution and respect for others and the risks the disease continues to present.” He wants nightclubs and other crowded places to use COVID-19 status certification “as part of social responsibility” and only admit customers who can show they are double-bitten, have a result of test negative or have recovered from the disease.

However, there is no legal obligation for them to do so. In a flash poll of 250 late-night bars and clubs by the Night Time Industries Association last week, 83% said they would not ask people about their COVID-19 status, according to Michael Kill, chief executive of the professional body. Many owners view passes as a huge drag on customers and accuse the government of “passing the buck” to businesses.

“We’ve heard people boycotting companies that embrace this,” Kill said. “The last thing we want after months of closure is to be hampered again in terms of trade capacity. Either the mandate or the not mandate. It puts undue pressure on us. “

Johnson’s decision to remove the legal requirement for face masks in indoor public spaces has also caused confusion. Days after the Prime Minister said masks would still be “expected and recommended” in crowded but not mandatory indoor locations, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that passengers on the capital’s subways and buses should continue to travel. wear them.

Some retailers, like the Waterstones bookstore chain, have said they will encourage customers to keep their masks on. But many believe that implementing such policies will be tricky without the backing of the law.

The end of restrictions in England on Monday will be a critical moment in Britain’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 128,000 in the country, the highest death toll in Europe after Russia. Other parts of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are taking slightly more cautious steps to come out of the lockdown.

Salsa instructor Esther Alvero is one of the many people who say they are excited but fearful. Co-founder of Cubaneando, a company that hosted salsa parties, classes and performances for gala events before the pandemic, Alvero says she has had virtually no income in the past year. His savings were gone and his dancers had to survive by taking part-time jobs as Amazon cleaners or delivery drivers.

“I’m scared but we have to survive,” she added. “We have no option because the economic consequences could be worse than COVID itself. ”


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