AFP, published on Sunday, July 18, 2021 at 7:39 p.m.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, contact case and in isolation, called on Sunday for “caution” on the eve of the lifting of restrictions linked to the pandemic in England, in the midst of the outbreak of contaminations.
The Covid-19 has killed more than 128,600 people in the United Kingdom where contamination has skyrocketed for weeks, with a total of more than 585,000 cases recorded since July 1. The country is the most affected in Europe in number of cases, exceeding the threshold of 50,000 new daily contaminations on Friday and Saturday.
Boris Johnson nevertheless assured Sunday that it was the “right time” to proceed with this major step in deconfinement, renamed “Freedom Day”, while calling on the population to be vigilant.
“Please be careful,” he pleaded in a video posted to his Twitter account in which he points to the “extreme contagiousness” of the Delta variant of the virus.
The Prime Minister is forced to self-isolate until July 26 after being in contact with Minister of Health Sajid Javid, who announced on Saturday that he was positive for Covid-19.
Boris Johnson “will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely” from Checkers, the country residence of heads of government, north-west London, the Downing Street spokesman said.
This spokesperson had initially indicated that Boris Johnson and his Minister of Finance Rishi Sunak, also contact case, would escape complete isolation because of their participation in a “pilot program of daily screening” which “allows them to continue to work from Downing Street “.
However, in the face of the outrage over the announcement, with the opposition denouncing a government “above the law”, Downing Street backed down and finally announced that the two men will observe their period of isolation.
Labor Party leader Keir Starmer on Twitter denounced a government in “chaos”, sending conflicting messages on the eve of the lifting of almost all remaining restrictions in England, including the requirement to wear masks or social distancing.
Boris Johnson justifies this step by the success of a vaccination campaign carried out vigorously since December – more than two thirds of fully vaccinated adults – which has “strongly weakened” according to him the link between illness, hospitalizations and death, allowing the public system health to cope. There are currently some 550 Covid-19 patients in intensive care compared to more than 4,000 at the peak of the second wave, in January.
From Monday, teleworking will no longer be the norm. Performance halls and stadiums will reopen at full capacity, discotheques will once again be able to accommodate the public, bar service will again be possible in pubs and the number of people allowed to assemble will no longer be limited.
The mask will no longer be compulsory but recommended in transport and shops.
– “Undermining the efforts” –
This great relaxation is considered “reckless” by the Labor opposition, faced with the rise in contaminations due to the Delta variant, which is particularly contagious. The number of daily contaminations could reach 100,000 within a few weeks, by the admission of the Minister of Health.
A group of influential international scientists on Friday called on the government to reverse its decision which “risks undermining efforts to control the pandemic not only in the United Kingdom, but also in other countries”.
In addition to the infected people, millions of people, in case of contact, were asked to stay at home for ten days.
Pressure from business circles is mounting for the application used by the public health service to be revised due to the large number of people contacted, which raises fears of staff shortages preventing certain services from functioning. On Saturday, a London Underground line had to be interrupted for lack of sufficient staff in the control room.
At the borders, an easing comes into effect Monday for certain destinations.
People fully vaccinated in the UK and coming from countries classified as “orange”, including many tourist destinations like Italy or Spain, will no longer need to observe quarantine on arrival in England.
The arrivals from France will have to continue to observe a quarantine because of the “persistent presence” of cases of the Beta variant, which worries the government because of its resistance to the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in the United Kingdom.