Two people embrace in the middle of the dance floor at Egg London nightclub in the early hours of July 19, 2021 in London, England. Starting Monday July 19 at 12:01 p.m., England will lift most of its remaining social restrictions from Covid-19, including wearing masks indoors and restrictions on group gatherings.
Rob Pinney | Getty Images News | Getty Images
LONDON – England is taking a step into the unknown on Monday, lifting almost all remaining restrictions on public life at a time when coronavirus infections are high and rising.
As of Monday, there will no longer be any restrictions on indoor gatherings. Nightclubs can reopen, the 1-meter social distancing rule will be lifted, and face masks will be largely voluntary, although some airlines and transport companies have announced that they will retain mask requirements.
In essence, most of the legal restrictions have now been lifted and replaced with an emphasis on ownership as infections continue to rise.
There was no mention of “Freedom Day,” as the Monday, July 19, earlier, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged caution as the country moved to “Step 4” of its roadmap to lift restrictions.
“Please, please, please be careful. Take the next step tomorrow with the right care and respect for other people and the risks that the disease continues to pose,” Johnson said in a statement released on Sunday evening Downing Street was released.
The lifting of restrictions had already been postponed from June 21st to allow more vaccinations amid a surge in cases caused by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
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 vast majority of infections currently affect younger age groups who are not yet or only partially vaccinated. Recent events such as the 2020 European Football Championship, which saw England fans gathering in pubs and bars across the country, have also been blamed for the rise in cases.
At the same time, the government is pushing ahead with vaccinations. To date, 87.9% of UK adults have received a first dose of a vaccine and 68.3% of UK adults have received both doses. Taking both doses of a vaccine greatly reduces the risk of infection and hospitalization from the coronavirus.
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However, experts warn that hospital admissions could increase significantly in the coming weeks, and scientists have criticized plans to relax almost all Covid-19 restrictions, calling it unethical and dangerous for the entire planet.
Others have defended the move, saying that staying incarcerated has many harmful consequences, from the economic and livelihood effects to mental health.
In a statement on Sunday evening, the UK government admitted that cases continued to rise, but noted that the link to hospital admissions and deaths from the vaccination program had been “significantly weakened” as all adults were asked to come forward for both doses of the vaccine.
Watch the world
Analysts say the world will be watching Britain with interest to see what happens.
Deutsche Bank research strategist Jim Reid stated Monday that “the world will be watching the British experiment with great interest. It could show a way back to normal or warn even heavily vaccinated countries that Covid will be a problem for a decent time. “
“Before that symbolic day, new cases in the UK fell below 50,000 after two days yesterday (Sunday). However, the weekly growth rate is still strong. When you break down the numbers, the largest area of growth over this period was men ages 15 to 40. It is the first time in the pandemic that there has been any notable gender segregation. It strongly suggests the impact of the millions of soccer fans watching the European Championship soccer final in various locations across the country. “
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Kallum Pickering, senior economist at Berenberg Bank, told CNBC on Monday that the economic impact of the reopening was uncertain as consumer behavior could be affected by the reopening, with some consumers more nervous about the lifting of restrictions like wearing masks .
“I doubt we will see any recovery, but I think we will see continued growth in economic activity … but some of those uncertainties are certainly great. We need to look at some of the high-frequency data, ”mobility statistics, and the like, to see what the real impact of the uncertainty of opening and removing masks is actually keeping people away from the high street and into restaurants and supermarkets go, “he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe.
Government defends reopening
Johnson, who is self-isolating after coming into contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who is ill with Covid, defended the reopening on Monday.
“If we don’t do it now, we have to wonder when are we ever going to do it? This is the right moment,” Johnson said in a video statement.
“But we have to do it carefully. We have to remember that unfortunately this virus is still out there. The cases are increasing, we can see the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant.”
Johnson said there was “immense comfort and satisfaction” that Covid vaccines “have severely weakened the link between infection and hospitalization, and between infection and serious illness and death.”
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The government said it would continue to review all data. It said it will “strengthen vaccine defense” by shortening the dosing interval of Covid vaccines for all adults from 12 to 8 weeks, continuing to use its testing, tracking and isolation system, and maintaining border controls, including quarantine for all travel from a country on the red list and for countries on the yellow list, unless persons are double vaccinated.
“The data is continuously evaluated and contingency measures are maintained during times of higher risk if necessary, but restrictions are avoided where possible,” the government said.