England’s easing of Covid restrictions could go either way


A Yeoman Warder in the Tower Of London leads one of the first Yeoman Warder-led tours of the Tower in 16 months after the last legal coronavirus restrictions in England were lifted on Monday 19th July.

Victoria Jones – PA Pictures | PA pictures | Getty Images

Criticism of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his administration for their decision to continue lifting Covid-19 restrictions in England this week is mounting as the world now watches which direction the country’s health crisis is headed next.

As of Monday, there will be no more restrictions on indoor gatherings, meaning nightclubs can reopen and bars and pubs will no longer have to offer table-only service.

In addition, the 1-meter social distancing rule has been lifted and face masks have largely become voluntary, although some airlines and transport companies have announced that they will retain the mask requirement.

However, fanfare around a day previously touted as “Freedom Day” has been dampened by the government as it occurs amid a surge in Covid infections caused by the Delta variant. The government has called for caution and responsibility on the part of the people with regard to their regained freedoms.

The lifting of restrictions had already been postponed from June 21st to allow more vaccinations amid the surge in infections.

The number of cases remains high across the UK with 316,691 reported cases in the past seven days, an increase of around 43% over the previous seven day period. Hospital admissions are low but insidiously higher, with 4,313 people hospitalized in the past seven days, government data shows. 283 people have died in the past seven days.

The lifting of the restrictions has criticized many medical experts and opposition politicians, fearing that hospital admissions and deaths, although currently relatively low, could rise rapidly if cases continue to rise.

“Big Bang” game of chance?

Ed Davey, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats in the UK, criticized the move, calling it a “gamble” by the Conservative government.

“We want our freedoms back, of course we want them all back, but we have to be sensible. I’m particularly concerned about clinically vulnerable people, the fact that the government doesn’t make wearing masks on public transport means that” Many of these clinically vulnerable people will have no freedom at all … because they will not feel safe on public transport, ”he said.

“So that’s the compensation for people’s freedom to go to nightclubs. As much as everyone wants to have fun, one takes away freedom from others. I just fear this big bang, this gamble that Boris Johnson “takes, doesn’t get that balance right”.

David Miles, a professor of financial economics at Imperial College and a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, told CNBC that the situation could now go either way.

“Everything now depends on how the infection develops across the country. You can think of different scenarios. In an optimistic case, the infection rates, which are very high, will level off and then start falling again when we move.” until the fourth quarter the infections go back sharply … confidence increases and we get [a] very strong economic recovery. “

“That is certainly possible and if it works like that, then people will say the government was absolutely right, “he said.

But on the other end of the spectrum, Miles remarked, “The number of people infected keeps climbing to … 100,000 a day and hospital admissions are starting to go up, they’re already going up, and the death rate is starting to go up too.” and because of that people remain very nervous … and at the end of the year we are in a very difficult situation again and an economic recovery is going to the opposite. “

Miles said he didn’t know which scenario was more likely. “I think it is extremely difficult for the government to see the right strategy here,” he said.

An exciting day for others

While experts have concerns about the lifting of restrictions, for many people, loosening the rules is a sigh of relief after months of lockdown, job insecurity and, in many cases, loneliness. Proponents of lifting the restrictions point out that staying in lockdown has many deleterious consequences, from economic and livelihood effects to mental health.

Lifting restrictions in the summer could also take the pressure off the National Health Service when winter comes, the government hopes. Johnson has repeated the “if not now then when” mantra many times lately regarding the lifting of restrictions, urging the public to “learn to live with the virus.”

Companies that have been severely affected by lockdowns will surely welcome the removal of the restrictions in the hopes of increasing customer footfall.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a member of the opposition Labor Party and often a vocal critic of the government’s actions during the pandemic, said Monday was an “exciting” day for London’s businesses.

“Today is exciting because many of the restrictions that we have struggled with in the past 16 months are being relaxed and this is very important not least because many of our companies – especially in the hospitality, culture, retail and in the night pub – this rely on the cadence have really struggled. “

“But what we say to Londoners and those who come to London is ‘please be careful’. For example, if you can’t keep your social distance indoors, consider wearing a face mask and following normal rules like good hygiene. “

Khan noted that more than 9.9 million vaccine doses were given in London and more than three-quarters of all over 40s were double-vaccinated, with younger people now the main target for immunization.

In the UK, 87.9% of adults received a first dose of a vaccine and 68.3% received both doses. Taking both doses of a vaccine greatly reduces the risk of infection and hospitalization from the coronavirus.