The use of masks in England will no longer be compulsory, except in medical establishments, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced. The measure will take effect from July 19, when virtually all social restrictions in place to contain the pandemic will be lifted, although the UK faces an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases. However, barriers to entry and exit of travelers from the country are still in place.
The use of a face shield will be recommended and is no longer required. There will no longer be restrictions on built-up areas in public or private spaces. Companies will no longer be obliged to have part of their teams work remotely. A vaccinated person who comes into contact with an infected person will no longer need to undergo mandatory isolation. It is also no longer necessary to scan QR Codes to go to restaurants and pubs, which were used to track down possible contagions.
Fully vaccinated people will be able to travel to Amber List countries without having to self-quarantine upon return. Brazil and all of South America are on the red list and remain restricted.
The changes announced by Boris will only apply to England. Other parts of the UK, such as Scotland and Northern Ireland, decide on measures separately.
The United Kingdom is the seventh country with the most deaths from Covid in the world, with 128,000 deaths, out of a population of 66 million. At the start of the pandemic, Boris was slow to adopt restrictive measures. He eventually caught the disease himself and was admitted to intensive care in April 2020. He recovered and put his denial aside.
The British government imposed strict containment in early January 2021. The measure began to be relaxed at the end of March. Gradually, schools, non-essential stores, cinemas, museums and restaurants have reopened. It only remained to free up spaces for nighttime entertainment, remove the obligation for some companies to continue working remotely and allow large events, such as mega-shows.
Authorities had already relaxed the ban on mass events to allow 60,000 fans to attend Wembley Stadium in London for the European Cup finals. This number corresponds to two thirds of its capacity.
The first semi-final, between Spain and Italy, will take place on Tuesday (6), and England will face Denmark on Wednesday (7). The large influx of audiences has raised concerns about the emergence of what the European press has called the “UEFA variant”.
The almost complete reopening is made possible by the advance of vaccination, which has reduced the number of serious cases and deaths. The UK is one of the countries with the highest vaccination percentage in the world: 86% of adults had received their first dose on Sunday (4), and 64% are already fully vaccinated.
Last year the UK government made a major effort to boost vaccine production and the country was the first in the world to launch the vaccination campaign, in December 2020. Demand grew rapidly, as a large part of Europe is facing several delays, due to lack of doses and logistical problems.
However, the UK has recently seen an increase in the number of cases. On Sunday (3), the United Kingdom had 24,248 new cases, nearly 10,000 more than a week earlier. Deaths are at a low level: the average is 18 per day. The worsening is attributed to the advancement of the delta variant, which is more contagious and has become common in the country. The arrival of this strain has pushed back plans to reopen for four weeks.
The government said vaccines applied in the country ensure protection against the delta variant and the health system is ready to deal with a possible high number of cases after reopening. Boris said people will have to learn to live with Covid like they do with the flu. “I must stress that the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to increase in the weeks to come. As we begin to learn to live with the virus, we all need to continue to carefully manage the risks of Covid.” , did he declare.
In an article published this weekend, Sajid Javid, the British Minister for Health, argued that anti-Covid measures should seek a balance between health and the economy, a speech also cited by the British. “There are still cases, but few people seem to suffer from it. The economy and people’s mental health suffer a lot more,” Mandy Suiter, 50, secretary, told Reuters.
The relaxation of the rules, in particular on the use of masks, has been questioned by experts and politicians. “It doesn’t make sense to stop wearing a mask in closed public spaces, like transport,” said Chaand Nagpaul, director of the British Medical Association, which brings together doctors across the country.
Critics of the change said the new policy confuses people about the need to use it, while scaring more vulnerable people into the streets. “July 19 could be the day of the loss of freedom for the vulnerable,” said Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester and member of the Labor Party, which opposes Boris.