Covid-19: England lifts restrictions despite concerns

“Day of freedom” or leap into the unknown? England is throwing off the mask and removing virtually all restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, a move that worries the scientific community and policymakers.

The Covid-19 has killed more than 128,700 in the United Kingdom, where contamination has skyrocketed for weeks. The country is the most affected in Europe in number of cases and has exceeded 50,000 new daily contaminations two days in a row.

Among those infected is the Minister of Health, Sajid Javid, forced to self-isolate after testing positive on Saturday.

As the country abandons the mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing, the head of government Boris Johnson and his finance minister Rishi Sunak, contact case, are also observing a period of isolation.

Keir Starmer, leader of Labor, the main opposition party, denounced a “chaotic” situation.

Despite the wave of cases which continues to grow, Boris Johnson confirmed the lifting of almost all remaining restrictions in England on Monday, renamed “Freedom Day”, preferring to rely on the “individual responsibility” of each.

It builds on the success of a vigorous vaccination campaign since December – more than two-thirds of fully vaccinated adults – which has “greatly weakened” the link between illness, hospitalizations and death, allowing the public health system to to face.

In a video posted on Twitter on Sunday, Boris Johnson, however, called on the population to take action, stressing the “extreme contagiousness” of the Delta variant. “Please be careful,” he implored.

This major stage of deconfinement was scheduled for June 21 but was delayed by four weeks in order to vaccinate millions of additional people and save time in the face of the advance of the virus.

Passers-by by the Thames in London on July 16, 2021 (AFP / Archives – Tolga Akmen)

Since midnight, auditoriums and stadiums can reopen at full capacity, discotheques can once again welcome the public, bar service is again possible in pubs and there is no longer any limit to the number of people allowed to visit. to gather.

The mask is no longer compulsory but recommended in transport and shops.

Scotland and Wales, responsible for health, for their part retain the obligation to wear a mask in public places indoors and transport.

– Up to 100,000 new cases –

For the Labor opposition, the government is “reckless” in the face of the rise in contaminations due to the Delta variant, which is particularly contagious. The number of daily contaminations could reach 100,000 this summer, according to the Minister of Health.

A group of influential international scientists has called on the UK government to reverse its decision which “risks undermining efforts to control the pandemic not only in the UK but in other countries as well.”

Even in the conservative camp of Boris Johnson, the concern is piercing. Former Health Minister Jeremy Hunt said the situation was “very serious” with an increasing number of hospitalizations which could lead the government to reimpose restrictions, as was the case in Israel or the Netherlands.

There are currently some 550 Covid-19 patients in intensive care in the United Kingdom compared to more than 4,000 at the peak of the second wave in January.

Queue to be tested for Covid-19, in Kendal (United Kingdom), June 21, 2021 (AFP / Archives - Oli SCARFF)
Queue to be tested for Covid-19, in Kendal (United Kingdom), June 21, 2021 (AFP / Archives – Oli SCARFF)

In addition to the contaminations, millions of people, in case of contact, were asked to stay at home for ten days.

To prevent health services from facing understaffing, the government has announced that in England fully vaccinated caregivers who are identified as contact cases could now go to their workplaces where they will be screened daily instead. than to observe strict isolation among them.

At the borders, an easing also comes into force on Monday.

People fully vaccinated in the UK and coming from countries classified as “orange”, including many tourist destinations like Italy or Spain, will no longer need to observe quarantine on arrival in England. France is however an exception because of the “persistent presence” of cases of the Beta variant, which worries the government because of its resistance to the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in the United Kingdom.

Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by

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