The Prime Minister’s confirmation that almost all lockdown restrictions will end on 19 July has received mixed reactions.
The Government announced last week that it expected to be able to drop almost all restrictions including social distancing and mask wearing from 19 July, and gave official confirmation of this yesterday.
The ending of the vast majority of restrictions will come almost 16 months after lockdown measures were first implemented in March 2020.
Some have argued that now is the right time to give people back freedoms and employ personal responsibility, with some agreeing with the Government’s mantra of “if not now, when?”
However, plans for the ceasing of restrictions have been slammed by some politicians and medical professionals as ‘reckless’ and ‘irresponsible’. There are concerns that easing restrictions now could lead to large swathes of the population being told to isolate and some people becoming seriously ill.
At present, large numbers of people are being told to isolate by the NHS COVID-19 app, resulting in the closure of businesses and damage to the economy. Re-opening remaining closed businesses could help boost the economy – though reopening could also lead to more cases and more people isolating.
The Council Chair of the British Medical Association Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that easing restrictions on 19 July was “perilous”, adding, “The BMA has repeatedly warned of the rapidly rising infection rate and the crippling impact that COVID-related hospitalisations continue to have on the NHS, not only pushing staff to the brink of collapse but also driving up already”
According to the latest modelling, there could be 1,000 – 2,000 coronavirus-related hospital admissions each day by the middle of next month, while the number of daily COVID deaths is expected to rise into the hundreds.
Around 87% of UK adults have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while around 66% have had two doses. One concern is that dropping restrictions and allowing unregulated mixing could lead to the creation and spreading of new variants of COVID-19, which could potentially be somewhat resistant to existing vaccines.
Some have accused the UK Government of mixed messaging, with advice to wear face coverings remaining, despite legal rules requiring them as mandatory being dropped. Meanwhile, other parts of the UK including Wales will still require the wearing of face coverings in some settings by law – meaning differing restrictions in different parts of the UK.
A number of venues are unhappy with the government’s messaging on other protective measures. The use of COVID-status certification is being recommended as a possible measure to control infections, though this won’t be legally required after 19 July. According to reports, many nightclubs are set to reopen at full capacity without coronavirus-related entry requirements, though are expected to still have hand sanitising stations and similar measures in place.
On Monday, a further 34,471 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the UK, as well as 6 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.