British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced on Monday that England may lift all Covid-19 restrictions on July 19. This will take place if the government’s “four tests” for restriction easing are met.
Following the announcement, the British public are referring to July 19 as “freedom day”. However, scientists and medics have warned the government that this may be a dangerous decision amid rising cases. On the day of the announcement, the UK reported over 27,000 new cases.
“If we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and the school holidays, we must ask ourselves ‘when will we be able to reopen?’” Johnson said. Professor Chris Whitty agreed with the Prime Minister’s decision. “At a certain point, you move to the situation where instead of actually averting hospitalisations and deaths, you move over to just delaying them. So you’re not actually changing the number of people who will go to hospital or die, you may change when they happen,” he said.
Furthermore, the government are planning to lift all mask-wearing and social distancing requirements. Documents released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned that as current measures are lifted, transmission rates will “almost certainly increase”. Lifting the restrictions may also pose a major risk to young people. “I do think it is a big risk and I think it is gambling with people’s welfare.”
“I really do fear that if we were to get up to those high numbers of infections there is a risk of causing huge damage primarily to young people because they’re the ones that aren’t vaccinated,” said Prof Stephen Reicher, scientist and advisor to the government. Many have urged that wearing a mask must remain compulsory, particularly for the sake of those with weakened immune systems.