Despite warnings from scientists and opposition, the British government has lifted almost all Corona restrictions on England. The decision came into effect Monday night, removing such things as mandatory masks and distance rules. Discotheques are also allowed to reopen, and theaters and sports stadiums are allowed to fill all seats. The recommendation on home offices was also lifted. Experts fear a new big Corona wave in view of rising case numbers.
Exceptions apply in London, where Mayor Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party wants to maintain a stricter Corona course than the central government. In the provinces of Wales and Scotland, which are independent in health policy, the previous restrictions also remain in place for the time being.
The government of conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson had justified the highly controversial opening step with the high vaccination rate in the country. More than two-thirds of adults are already fully vaccinated.
On the eve of “Freedom Day,” Johnson defended the opening move in a video message posted on Twitter. “If we don’t do it now, we have to wonder when we ever will,” the government leader said. “So this is the right moment, but we have to approach it carefully.”
Already, the highly contagious delta variant of coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the United Kingdom. Most recently, the number of new daily infections exceeded 50,000.
In the meantime, the UK has recorded significantly fewer deaths than in previous Corona waves. Nevertheless, a sharp rise in case numbers would put pressure on the NHS health service, according to medical experts. Currently, about 550 Covid 19 patients are being treated in intensive care. At the peak of the second wave in January, there were more than 4,000.
The government’s decision is highly controversial. The opposition Labour Party’s health spokesman, Jonathan Ashworth, called it a “reckless” move. “We are opposed to openings without precautions,” he told the BBC.
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London warned the U.K. could soon be seeing 100,000 new cases a day because of the rapid spread of the delta variant. “The real question is whether we get to double that or even higher. And that’s where the crystal ball starts to fail,” he told the BBC.
The government’s decision was marked by “moral vacuity and epidemiological stupidity,” said health expert Gabriel Scally of the University of Bristol as well.
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