COVID-19: England drops most restrictions

COVID-19: England drops essential restrictions


England on Thursday left behind almost all of the latest restrictions in place to combat COVID-19, with which the government hopes people will get used to living as they do made with the flu. 

This wind of freedom is timely for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, more than ever weakened at the head of the government by the holiday scandal in Downing Street in disregard of anti-coronavirus rules.

After ending a week ago the recommendation to work from home for those who can, England is now dropping other restrictions — among the lightest in Europe — introduced in December in the face of the wave of Omicron cases: obligation to wear a mask indoors in public places and a vaccination passport for events with large audiences.

“As COVID becomes endemic, we must replace legal obligations with advice and recommendations,” Boris Johnson told MPs last week.

Opposed to the lifting of the obligation to wear a mask in public transport, the mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced to maintain this measure in the capital.

“It seems that we find London as before “, rejoices Elizabeth Hynes, 71, interviewed by AFP near Saint Paul’s Cathedral, in the heart of the British capital. “We realize how much theater and great shows we missed. »

“Things have to get back to normal”, she adds, explaining that she has melanoma, but never had the coronavirus, “I was lucky, knock on wood”. “We don't know what tomorrow will bring,” she stresses, “we have to enjoy life”.

End of isolation

Lewis Colbyn, a 39-year-old bartender who once had COVID-19 and isn't worried about catching it again, approaches this new phase with optimism and caution: “I'm not a scientist, I don't have all the answers”. “Maybe it's too soon, maybe it's too late, I don't know,” he continues, saying he will continue to wear a mask in transport and in stores.

< p> More reluctant than the rest of the United Kingdom (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) to implement restrictions, England had, for the first time, lifted them almost entirely on July 19, nicknamed the “freedom day”.

But the emergence in the fall of the Omicron variant, even more contagious than Delta, led Boris Johnson's government to launch its “plan B”, despite the opposition of part of its majority.

< p>The purpose of these measures was to strengthen the protection of the population thanks to the recall campaign and to continue trying to convince the recalcitrant to get vaccinated. 37 million booster doses have thus been administered, allowing, underlines the government, to reduce serious cases and hospitalizations and to reduce the pressure on the health system.

According to the latest figures, 64% of the population over the age of 12 have received a third dose.

As the number of cases exploded over the holidays, Boris Johnson had resisted calls to get tough restrictions still in place. He believes the facts proved him right: hospitals held on, the number of patients on ventilators never increased, and cases fell markedly.

However, the United Kingdom, among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic with nearly 155,000 deaths, is still experiencing nearly 100,000 new cases recorded daily.

According to a study published by the Imperial College London, the level of infection remains high especially among children and adolescents. Out of 3,500 participants in this vast study who tested positive between January 5 and 20, two-thirds had already had the virus before.

The Prime Minister even hopes to be able to lift the obligation to isolate themselves in March in the event of a positive test, “just as there is no legal obligation for people who have the flu to isolate themselves”.

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