Johnson said on Monday that the “sustained effectiveness” of the vaccine rollout allows England to consider loosening restrictions rather than tightening restrictions as cases rise.
“I want to emphasize from the outset that this pandemic is not over yet,” Johnson told a news conference. “It certainly won’t end [July] 19th,” he said.
“We are seeing that the cases are increasing quite rapidly,” Johnson said. “By 19, 50,000 cases per day could be detected, and again as we predicted we are seeing increasing hospital admissions, and we should find ourselves grieving for more deaths from Covid.”
Johnson’s announcement comes two weeks before the scheduled date for the lifting of all restrictions in England. The prime minister said the final decision on unlocking would be taken on July 12 after considering the figures.
Johnson said that as part of the lifting of the restrictions – dubbed “Independence Day” – there would be a move away from legal restrictions to personal responsibility.
This meant removing laws on face coverings, social distancing and instructions on work from home.
“I don’t want people to please the crowd,” Johnson said. “It’s still far from finished.”
But he said the timing of this reopening was on balance, given the summer season and school holidays.
“If we can’t open in the next few weeks… when can we?” Johnson said.
According to government figures, about 86% of the UK adult population has received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and more than 63% have received the second dose. On Sunday, the UK recorded 24,248 new cases and 15 coronavirus-related deaths.
Current restrictions include maintaining a distance of “one meter plus”, the use of face coverings on public transport and inside enclosed public spaces, a cap on the number of attendees at weddings and funerals, the continued closure of nightclubs, and scans. includes doing. Outside cafes and restaurants.
‘A personal choice’
As a new wave of infections continues to rage in the UK, there is growing concern among health care experts about the impact of the relaxation of pandemic measures.
Deepti Gurdasani, an epidemiologist and senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, said the government’s decision to go ahead with the unlocking of England was “astonishing” and that many more people were exposed to the “long Covid”, apart from being at hospitals. will once again exert significant pressure. ”
“The government has consistently ignored advice and prioritized short-term economic gains,” Gurdasani told CNN. “Even at current rates, we are in trouble, and of course further opening up greatly increases those risks. Not only would I say that we really need to open it up more until more people get vaccinated, but This also has to be dealt with by the current wave.”
Gurdasani described the government’s plan as “highly unethical” and dangerous, adding, “We know that long-term COVID is common among young and healthy people.”
“It is not the flu, as suggested by Sajid Javid,” Gurdasani said. “Please tell me when the flu has caused 400,000 people of chronic disability in a 16-month period… why do we want to expose our population to herd immunity through natural infection when we have safe and effective Vaccines may be given to them in the coming weeks.”
Gurdasani urged the government to adopt smart policies such as continuous mask use in schools and workplaces and investment in ventilation, while allowing more time for greater vaccination coverage before the measures are lifted.
The move to protective measures as the country emerges from a restrictive lockdown is a view echoed by the British Medical Association (BMA), calling on the government to “not throw away progress” and some targeted methods to limit the spread of COVID-19. urges to maintain. July 19.
Dr. Chand Nagpaul, president of the BMA council, said in a statement that “there is simply no point in removing the restrictions completely in more than two weeks” and urged ministers not to rush to meet their own deadlines. called upon.
“We have made excellent progress in the last 18 months with both the vaccination campaign and individual action of people across the country, and the government should absolutely not throw it away at this critical juncture,” he said.
Nagpaul said that although the number of hospitalizations was not as high as with previous peaks, rising levels of community transmission “provide a fertile ground for developing new, potentially vaccine-resistant forms.”
He also said that evidence suggests that one in 10 people suffer from the long-term effects of covid, even if they have only had a mild infection, and that an estimated 2 million people in England have long-lasting symptoms. were living.
“These factors can have serious consequences for the NHS and public health teams, as well as for business, education and the wider society – so stopping the spread of the virus in the community with a range of manageable, targeted measures should be a priority right now,” Nagpaul said.
‘Abandonment of responsibility from the government’
Stephen Griffin, an associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said in a statement to the UK’s Science Media Center (SMC) that vaccines provide “a clear path” out of the pandemic.
He added, however, that “the impatience with which restrictions are to be eased is, in my view, likely to greatly increase the number of infections caused by the delta variant, and therefore unnecessary losses down this road.”
Griffin said Johnson’s plan, which effectively shifts responsibility for safeguards from the government to individuals, represents an “abdication of responsibility from the government.”
But not all medical professionals agree, with others saying the argument for removing all restrictions was compelling.
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said in the same SMC statement that “there is a general consensus that Covid will never go away” and that lifting restrictions in the summer – when schools were out – was the right move.
“While the case numbers are currently increasing quite rapidly, possibly as a result of gatherings around the Euro [soccer tournament], I still think it would be safer to lift the ban now than in the fall. The disease burden associated with a large peak during summer is likely to be less than one during winter,” he said.
“Of course we have seen new cases emerge during this pandemic and so no one can be sure about the challenges in the coming months, but we will eventually come to a balance with this virus as we have all the other endemics. There are respiratory infections.”