- Norberto Paredes
- BBC News
The streets and lanes in central London seem to have returned to the pre-epidemic busy scene: busy traffic, traffic jams, shops open to welcome customers, and people are everywhere at a glance.
This is the street atmosphere on the eve of “Freedom Day”, commonly known in Britain.
Although the United Kingdom is still facing a surge in cases caused by the more infectious Delta mutant strain, on July 19, England’s remaining epidemic prevention restrictions were almost completely lifted.
Nightclubs in various places have reopened, social distancing requirements have been cancelled, and public events no longer have a cap on the number of people; masks are no longer required in most public places, but the London bus system will continue to require passengers to wear masks.
British Prime Minister Johnson said before that England could “take another step” due to the high level of vaccination.
He also said that more COVID-19 patients will be hospitalized and die, but considering all factors such as vaccines, seasons, etc., “Now is the time. If you don’t unblock it at this time, when will you wait?”
Critics in the UK say that the current practice of unblocking the ban is “irresponsible,” “dangerous,” and “crazy gambling.”
Although some analysts believe that Prime Minister Johnson’s political bet this time is quite high, some analysts also pointed out that the main reason for his daring to make up his mind is the high vaccination rate.
A surge in confirmed cases
Recently, the number of confirmed cases of the new crown in the UK has increased rapidly.
Looking back at January of this year, it is estimated that 1 in every 10 confirmed cases of new crown in the UK will be severe enough to require hospitalization, and 1 in every 60 confirmed cases will die.
Now, the risk of hospitalization is estimated to be 1 in 40-50 cases, and death is one in a thousand.
In the UK, 87% have admitted to receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, and two-thirds have completed the vaccination.
Britain was originally scheduled to unblock it on June 12, when the Conservative Party government decided to postpone it for one month in order to speed up the promotion of vaccination.
At the time of unblocking, Prime Minister Johnson said that the epidemic is “not over yet” and that “caution is essential.”
“Untie the seat belt and slam on the brakes”
But critics say that although the Prime Minister’s tone is slightly softened, the risk of unblocking the plan is still quite high.
Opposition Labor MP Jonathan Ashworth described the government’s approach as “unbelt and slam on the brakes”.
The “United Labor Union”, which represents workers in the transportation industry, said that the removal of the instruction to wear masks on public transport is “serious dereliction of duty” because masks can prevent the spread of the virus and increase the safety of passengers and staff.
Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), said that unblocking is “dangerous” and “may lead to serious consequences.”
Previously, Dr. Nagbauer criticized the government for misleading the public, “looking forward to returning to the society before the new crown, no one needs to take any measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Dr. Duncan Robertson of Loughborough University described the unblocking as “removing the control rods from the nuclear reactor.” “The situation will get worse than it is now, and we don’t know when the epidemic will reach its peak.”
Julian Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester, said the government overestimated the effectiveness of the vaccine. He pointed out that vaccines cannot prevent everyone from being infected or getting sick. In addition, variant strains may also affect the effectiveness of vaccines.
He said, unblocking should be more careful, “you don’t have to do it in one step.”
“We have no freedom”
In the past few weeks, many people–especially those with weak physiques–say that for them, “Freedom Day” means more worry and fear.
74-year-old Rosie Duffin suffers from secondary breast cancer. Although she has completed the vaccination, she said that she felt “very scared” to hear that people don’t need to wear masks.
“It’s terrible. The freedom of others not to wear a mask will inevitably limit my freedom to participate in daily life.”
“It may be freedom for others, but certainly not for us.”
However, the British government believes that it may be more difficult to postpone the lifting of restrictions again. For example, in autumn, the flu virus may begin to make a comeback.
Javid, who has recently served as the Minister of Health, said that the UK should “learn to coexist with the new crown, just like the flu”.
BBC health reporter Terrigal said that no other country has done what England is doing: unblocking in the face of a surge in cases, “but there are not many other countries that have such high immunity from vaccines and natural infections. “
Dr. Alejandro Madrigal from the University College of the United Kingdom said that economic and social factors have also affected the British government’s options for epidemic prevention.
“The promise that the epidemic will end soon has been made many times. It is not difficult to understand that any country hopes to get out of the public health crisis as soon as possible.”
Will the British government’s “gambling” bring substantial gains or greater losses? It may be too early to draw conclusions.
Madrigal said, “We may have to wait another 6 months to 1 year to know how this pandemic will be completely tamed.”