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 took a step into the unknown on Monday, lifting almost all remaining restrictions on public life at a time when coronavirus infections are high and on the rise.
There are no longer any limits to the indoor meeting. Nightclubs can also reopen, the 1-meter social distancing rule has been lifted, and masks have largely become voluntary, although some airlines and transport companies have announced that they will retain the mask requirement.
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 July 19 had previously been called. Prime Minister Boris Johnson cautioned 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 on Sunday evening.
People dancing at Egg London nightclub early in the morning on July 19, 2021 in London, England.
Rob Pinney | Getty Images
The lifting of the restrictions had been postponed from June 21st to allow more vaccinations as the number of cases caused by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant rose.
Covid infections remain 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 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
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, the new cases in the UK fell below 50,000 after two days over it yesterday. However, the weekly growth rate is still strong, ”added Reid. “If you break down the numbers, the biggest area of growth over that 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 an upturn, but I think we will see continued growth in economic activity … but some of these uncertainties are certainly great,” he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe. “We need to look at some of the high-frequency data, mobility statistics, and the like to see what impact the uncertainty of opening and removing masks is actually having, and is that actually keeping people from assuming? On the high street and restaurants and supermarkets.”
Government defends reopening
Johnson, who nearly died of the coronavirus in April 2020 and is self-isolating after contact with Covid-infected Health Minister Sajid Javid, 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 also said it will “strengthen immunization” by shortening the dosing interval for all adults from 12 to eight weeks, continuing to use its testing, tracking and isolation system, and maintaining border controls, including quarantine for all who do From traveling to a country on the red list and for countries on the yellow list, unless people 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.