Johnson says restrictions to ease, UK should dwell with virus | Enterprise

LONDON (AP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Monday that his government plans to repeal laws requiring face masks and social distancing later this month, despite admitting the lifting of restrictions is still the rising coronavirus cases will continue to drift.

Johnson said legal controls will be replaced with “personal responsibility” as the country moves into the final stage of its lockdown roadmap. That is set to happen on July 19, although Johnson said a final decision will be made on July 12.

The change means that after months of forced face-covering, people can throw away masks, although businesses and transport companies may still need them and are still recommended in some enclosed spaces.

The repeal of the social distancing rules will allow nightclubs to reopen after 16 months of forced closure and guests will be able to order drinks from the bar in a pub again. Customers no longer need to scan a phone app to enter their contact details when entering a restaurant or bar.

The government will also stop directing people to work from home when possible, leaving employers free to bring employees back to the offices.

The changes apply in England. Other parts of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are following their own largely similar road maps out of the lockdown.

The UK has recorded more than 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest number in Western Europe, and infections are on the rise due to the highly transmittable Delta variant of the virus. Confirmed cases have increased from about 2,000 a day this year to 25,000 a day last week. But the death toll is broadly stable at less than 20 per day.

Public health officials say the UK vaccination program has weakened but not severed the link between infections and deaths. To date, 86% of adults in the UK have received at least one dose of vaccine and 64% are fully vaccinated. The government intends to give both vaccinations to everyone over the age of 18 by mid-September.

Johnson admitted that infections, hospital admissions and deaths will increase once the remaining restrictions are lifted.

“I want to stress from the start that this pandemic is far from over,” he said, predicting that by July 19, 50,000 cases a day could occur. “Unfortunately, we have to come to terms with more deaths from COVID.”

Johnson said the UK must “learn to live with this virus” – an important change of tone from a leader who previously described COVID-19 as an enemy to be defeated.

That message is welcomed by lockdown-skeptical lawmakers in Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party, who say the economic and social harm of the restrictions outweighs the public health benefits, and the UK populist press calling July 19 “Freedom Day “Has designated.

But public health officials and scientists have urged caution, saying that masking off and social distancing could be dangerous overall. Stephen Reicher, a member of the government’s scientific advisory committee, said psychologist Stephen Reicher said “reasonable attenuations” against the spread of the virus should be maintained.

“I think we need very clear messages, and I think in certain rooms – crowded, poorly ventilated rooms – masks are a crucial weakening,” he told the BBC.

The UK government, which imposed one of the longest bans in the world, lifted restrictions on England in a series of moves that began with the schools reopening in March. The fourth and final phase was postponed last month to give more people time to vaccinate, while the Delta variant, first discovered in India, is spreading rapidly.

Jonathan Ashworth, health spokesman for the opposition Labor Party, said the government should be more cautious.

“We’re not out of the woods,” he said. “We want the lockdown to end, but we need life-saving measures to contain it. We still need sick pay, local contact tracing, continued wearing of masks, ventilation and support for children to prevent serious illnesses. “

Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said it makes sense to relax restrictions in the summer, when schools are closed, people spend more time outdoors, and other respiratory infections are at low levels.

“The burden of disease associated with a larger peak in summer would likely be less than in winter,” said Hunter.

Richard Tedder, virologist at Imperial College London, said, however, that easing it while infections are still rampant “carries the very real risk of facilitating the escape of variants that are even more resistant to vaccines and potentially more contagious.

“Not realizing that is playing with fire,” he said.


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