Healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) exits ambulance outside Southend University Hospital, as hospital admissions for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) rise in the United Kingdom, in Southend-On-Sea, Great Britain, on December 31, 2020.
Image credit: Reuters

I am not a fan of Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. But I would hate to be in her shoes at this point.

Earlier this week, Johnson and his cabinet made a decision to lift all restrictions put in place to fight the coronavirus pandemic as of July 19. Come ‘Freedom Day’ as some have dubbed it, it will be a comeback to life as before COVID -19 took hold and claimed the lives of nearly 130,000 people in the UK according to the UK’s own figures. government.

It is a wise or reckless decision, depending on your personal perception of the glass as half empty or full.

Either way, liberating the good English people is no easy task – and certainly not at a time when the Delta variant, first discovered in India, has seen the rate of new cases of coronavirus infections reach the 27,000 mark per day. A month ago, new infections were below 2,000. The government’s own advisers estimate that the infection rate is doubling every nine days, and as of this July 19 there are as many as 100,000 cases per day. .

So, is now the right time to lift the restrictions?

Come Freedom Day, England will drop legal restrictions on gatherings such as weddings and funerals, remove social distancing rules in most scenarios, and there will be mandatory end-to-end coverage. People will also return to work, no more pecking at computers in their pajamas, and people will no longer need to check in at pubs and restaurants using their National Health Service (NHS) locator app on smartphones.

The day after Johnson announced his decision, his Education and Health Secretaries also announced the end of other restrictions. Only students who have COVID-19 will need to self-isolate – not their entire class or bubble, depending on how the school has set things up, and there will be more need for isolation when returning from trips to abroad for as long as you have had. both injections of three vaccines approved for use in the UK.

The concept of mandatory national COVID-19 certification for large events, known as ‘vaccine passports’, has also been dropped, and a new regime for fully vaccinated contacts of those who have tested positive, as well as for children, will also be dropped. be introduced.

“We must be honest with ourselves that if we cannot reopen our company in the next few weeks, when we will be helped by the arrival of summer, and by the school holidays, we must ask ourselves when can we? return. Normal? ”Johnson said.

In essence, the Prime Minister has said that we will just have to learn to live with COVID-19, just like we have learned to live with the flu.

I admit that the prospect of Freedom Day is really very attractive. How wonderful it will be to be able to experience “normalcy” again – but the memories of so many horrible and dark days, as well as family, friends and former colleagues lost to the coronavirus will not go away.

Also, with an upsurge in cases, how happy can Brits be?

Johnson said he would continue to wear a mask in crowded places when meeting people he didn’t know to protect others, “out of courtesy.”

While face masks will no longer be needed on public transport, a YouGov poll conducted after Johnson’s announcement found that some 70% still support their use on public transport. These are clearly respondents who know what it’s like to shake, shake and ride regularly on the crowded London Underground, where Mind the Gap has taken on a whole new meaning since the advent of the coronavirus and the distancing rules. social. The same poll found that 60% think they should be mandatory when shopping.

The fact that at present two-thirds of UK adults are fully vaccinated and 85 percent with at least one dose, made possible the decision to go ahead with Freedom Day.

But it is also at odds with the approaches of other nations. Also last week, the United Arab Emirates became the world leader in per capita immunizations, but it is more cautious than the laissez-faire approach taken by the Johnson government.

“Of course, the pandemic is not over,” Health Secretary Savid Javid – he has been called “Jab-id” in some London tabloids – told the Commons. “The virus is still with us, it has not disappeared. The risk of a dangerous new variant remains real… but we cannot put our lives on hold forever. “

There is also the danger that by easing restrictions in England, Johnson will be at odds with the rulers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where health is a delegated power. It may seem appealing to drop the restrictions, but if cases multiply in Scotland and Wales, where nationalist sentiment is skyrocketing, then he will open up to allegations of abandonment and ignore the needs of other nations in the world. UK.

Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said her government would be “driven by data … rather than artificially set political deadlines” during a briefing after the UK measures were announced.

The Scottish government has set a much later target date of August 9 to remove most restrictions and said face coverings will remain in face coverings after that date as well.

Personally, I’m excited about the prospect of being able to move around freely – I’m doubly trapped – but I’m also cautious about increasing those Delta rates.

We cannot live in a bubble forever. But popping it seems so daring. Perhaps the coronavirus has infected all of us with a loss of confidence.


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