England's 'Freedom Day' comes amid soaring COVID rates
DW, 19 Jul 2021
The British government has lifted most coronavirus restrictions in England in a move that's being heavily criticized by many scientists. The mandate for wearing masks has been revoked and social-distancing rules have been scrapped.
London's transport authority does still have a mask mandate in place and many commuters in London's Victoria station continued to wear face coverings today. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson argues that the UK's high rate of vaccination will protect the population against falling dangerously ill with the virus.
Cases have spiked to their highest level since January. And by the government’s own estimates, lifting the rules could see cases in the UK rocket to 100,000 a day – far exceeding any daily total so far.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson is backing his decision to rip up the rules, pointing in part to the UK's high vaccination rates.
Johnson - who's spending Freedom Day in isolation after UK Health Minister Sajid Javid tested positive for COVID - said the public still need to exercise caution. But asked if not now, when?
This is about ending government-imposed restrictions and allowing the public to make their own choices. How many people do they want to meet. Whether they follow social-distancing guidelines. And whether they choose to wear a mask. But at a time when cases are soaring there are many who see this as a huge gamble.
In an open letter this month scientists and medics warned Freedom Day was dangerous and premature.
They fear climbing hospitalizations. The risk to those not yet double vaccinated. And exposing a population to Long COVID.
Leading author of that letter Dr Deepti Gurdasani fears the risk could also extend beyond the UK.
Unprecedented experiment or calculated risk? Either way, it's a risk many don't feel they can afford.
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