UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out his plan to lift most of England’s remaining coronavirus restrictions by mid-July, despite warnings from some experts that the current surge of Delta variant cases across the country means such a move is premature.
Johnson said Monday that the “continuing effectiveness” of the vaccine rollout allows England to consider loosening restrictions, rather than tightening them, as cases rise. “I want to stress from the outset that this pandemic is far from over,” Johnson told a news conference. “It certainly won’t be over by [July] the 19th,” he said. “We’re seeing cases rise fairly rapidly,” Johnson added. “There could be 50,000 cases detected per day by the 19th, and again as we predicted we’re seeing rising hospital admissions, and we must reconcile ourselves sadly to more deaths from Covid.”
Johnson’s announcement comes two weeks before the planned date for lifting all restrictions in England. The prime minister added that a final decision on unlocking would be made on July 12, after considering data. As part of the lifting of restrictions — dubbed “Freedom Day” — there would be a move away from legal restrictions to personal responsibility, said Johnson. This meant lifting of laws on face coverings, social distancing, and instructions to work from home. “I don’t want people to get de-mob happy,” said Johnson. “This is still far from over.” But he added that this was on balance the time to reopen, given the summer season and school holidays.”If we can’t open in the next few weeks … then when can we?” Johnson said. Meanwhile the number of infections is predicted to rise if measures are rescinded, but the government believes its vaccination campaign has weakened the link between cases and hospitalizations and death.