On Monday, the UK government lifted almost all pandemic-related restrictions. Boris Johnson has used as a rationale for this action that there has been a relatively high rate of vaccination in the UK when compared to other European nations, with 87.9% having received at least one dose and early 68% receiving two doses.
England has lifted most of its domestic COVID-19 restrictions, marking a milestone as the country moves into a new phase of pandemic life — what some have dubbed “Freedom Day.”
Young people gathered at nightclubs just after midnight to celebrate the return of crowds to raucous indoor spaces. “This is what life’s about,” one clubgoer said.
The move to phase four of the country’s reopening plan means there are no limits on the size of social gatherings or events, and social distancing is no longer required. The government still recommends meeting outdoors when possible.
Requirements to wear face coverings have been lifted, though masks are still recommended in crowded areas such as public transport. They are required on the London Tube. And the government is no longer instructing people to work from home if possible, though it anticipates a gradual return to the office.The odd thing is that it did this at the very time when it is an outlier in terms of the rising number of covid-19 cases, outstripping in absolute terms even the US, India, and Brazil, the countries that have the most total number of cases, despite those countries having much larger populations. And the UK numbers are rising faster too.
But the problem is that in the UK, the current new cases per day is over 47,000, up from a low of just 1,500 in mid-May, an increase of a whopping factor of 30. It is approaching the previous peak of 60,000 per day back in January. By comparison, in the US the numbers rose from a low of around 11,300 on June 23 to 37,000 today. India and Brazil’s numbers today are similar to those of the US.
The number of infections has affected a lot of UK life.
Johnson was just one of many Britons pushed into isolation after pings on their cellphones informing them they’d been exposed to someone positive for the coronavirus. Businesses across the U.K. faced labor shortages due to more than half a million people in a week receiving such pings and the recommended self-isolation measures.
Meanwhile France is also seeing a rapid rise in infections but in contrast to the UK, it has increased restrictions in response.
A COVID health pass is from Wednesday required to visit leisure and cultural venues across France as the country battles a new surge in infections.
The pass attests that the holder has either been fully vaccinated, has tested negative over the previous 24 hours or that has recovered from COVID during the previous six months.
The new measure was announced last week by President Emmanuel Macron in a bid to boost vaccinations. The pass will also become mandatory to visit bars, restaurants, shopping centres, nursing homes as well as to travel on public transport for long-distance trips come early August.
Its roll-out comes a day after the country recorded 18,181 new infections in 24 hours — more than double the figure from just a week ago.
Health Minister Olivier Véran told French MPs on Tuesday afternoon that “we were yesterday at 18,000 contaminations over 24 hours only” when fewer than 7,000 were observed a week ago.
Véran attributed the rise to the Delta variant, which was first detected in India.
“This means that we have an increase in the circulation of the virus of the order of 150% over a week: we have never experienced this, neither with (the original strain of) Covid, nor with the English variant, nor with the South African nor with the Brazilian one,” he said.
Vaccines do not provide 100% protection and so one should not assume that anything goes as long as one is vaccinated. One still needs to exercise some restraint and judgment. This website enables you to calculate the relative risk of being infected in a variety of situations.
As a result of concerns with the rising rates in the US of the Delta variant, I have now started wearing a mask when playing bridge at the bridge center because of the fairly large number of people present (about 30), even though everyone is required to show proof of vaccination before being allowed to enter the large ventilated room. It is a bit of a nuisance but I think we all have to do our part to try and curb the rates of infections.