Asserting that people have to learn to live with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and make their choices, the conservative UK prime minister Boris Johnson declared on Sunday, July 4, that the country will see the end of all restrictions on July 19. The decision has invited sharp criticism from the medical fraternity as the UK is witnessing a fresh surge in cases, the highest since January this year. A significant number of cases are from the highly infectious Delta variant.
Johnson is expected to announce the fourth and final phase of the process out of lockdown calling it “restoration of people’s freedom.” The move will be effective from July 19. It would mean the end of compulsory wearing of masks, social distancing and end of curbs on large scale gatherings. The move would also mean that there would be no need for vaccinated people to self-isolate in case they come in contact with an infected person.
In his statement, Johnson admitted that the end of restrictions does not mean the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the number of cases will keep on increasing. However, he emphasized that we need to “begin to learn to live with the virus.”
The UK imposed a lockdown in late March last year after a surge in cases. The government had tried to ease the restriction last year too. However, following an increase in cases, most of the restrictions were retained. The reopening started last month following large scale vaccination.
On Sunday, the UK recorded more than 24,000 new cases of infection with 15 deaths. It has recorded a total of 490,000 cases and over 128,000 deaths so far. The recent surge has prompted fear of a third wave in the UK.
A third wave of infections is underway in the UK. With hospital admissions currently accelerating and bed occupancy starting to increase, @ActuaryByDay examines the latest data from @NHSEngland in our latest blog.https://t.co/CRRuTxDTDB
— COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group (@COVID19actuary) July 3, 2021
The UK had administered more than 78 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine till July 4. More than 63% of the total population in the UK has received two doses of vaccine already. The government has planned to administer a third additional dose of the vaccine to all over the age of 50 in the coming months.
Sajid Javid, the new health secretary of the UK, asserted that the move to lift restrictions is necessary for the country’s health. He also quoted studies about the lockdown leading to a rise in domestic violence and mental health issues in the country.
The British Medical Association and several scientists have, however, expressed their apprehensions and criticized the move. Some of them called the move an attempt by the government to get rid of its responsibilities in the name of personal freedom, The Guardian reported.
The real problem with Government telling the public to 'assume their responsibiities' is that what they really mean is that they won't assume their own responsibiities to support us to do the right thing… https://t.co/QO5TI4Vv64
— Stephen Reicher (@ReicherStephen) July 3, 2021
Javid is expected to announce the move to the parliament before Johnson’s press conference. However, the Scottish government has asserted that it won’t follow the unlock process followed in England and people will be expected to follow some restrictions even after August 9, its date of the implementation of phase 4 of the unlock.