UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday confirmed that almost all remaining coronavirus restrictions will be lifted by July 19, but urged the public to remain cautious as cases continue to surge across the country.
At a televised news conference, Johnson said the onus in protecting society and preventing the spread of the virus was now on the public themselves and that people will have to make their own decisions when it comes to social distancing and the wearing of masks in public spaces.
"We are tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning. We must all take responsibility so we don't undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS,” Johnson said.
“While the phenomenal vaccine rollout has offered every adult some protection against the virus, and the crucial link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths is weakened, the global pandemic is not over yet. Cases will rise as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear. Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS,” the prime minister added.
He said the vaccine rollout and the high intake among all adults had weakened the link between infections, hospital admissions and deaths but warned that cases will continue to rise in the coming months after having surpassed 30,000 – the highest since the beginning of this year when the nation was in the grip of a second wave.
Defending the government’s decision to reopen the country, new Health Secretary Sajid Javid argued at parliament that such a reopening could only take place due to the UK’s “successful” vaccination program.
“As I set out to the House last week, this will be a major milestone for this country, taking us another step closer to the life we all used to live. It means carefully removing more of the restrictions that have governed our daily lives. Like how many people you can meet how many people can attend weddings and how many visitors can see loved ones in care homes,” Javid said.
Cases on the rise
The health secretary, however, admitted that cases will continue to rise due to the Delta variant that has become the most dominant strain in the UK and has warned people to be cautious of their approach in the coming months. Moreover, Javid said that if the current spike turns out to be worse than previous spikes, then restrictions could return.
As part of the mass reopening next week, the two-meter distance rule will be scrapped, the limits on the number of people allowed to mix indoors from different households will be removed, and the mandatory wearing of masks will be lifted.
Furthermore, theatres and cinemas will be able to return to full capacity, crowds will be able to gather at sports and entertainment events, including festivals, concerts and gigs and nightclubs will also be allowed to open their doors for evening entertainment.
The mass easing of the lockdown has made England the most unrestricted country in Europe in regards to the pandemic. The government’s move has attracted mass criticism and bewilderment from the scientific community who argue that such moves will allow for more deadlier variants to take hold and spread.
On Monday, 34,471 people tested positive of the virus and between July 6 and 12, the country reported 228,189 virus cases. This is an increase of 28.1% when compared to the previous week’s data.
Six deaths were also reported on Monday. Between July 6 and 12, the UK reported 200 deaths – a 56.2% increase when compared to the previous seven days.
Meanwhile, the number of vaccinations continues to increase as young adults are eligible to get the jab. By the end of July 11, nearly 46 million people were administered their first dose of the vaccine with over 34 million people receiving their second.
The R range for the UK stands at 1.1 to 1.3, with the current growth rate at +2% to +5% per day. The R number is a mechanism used to rate the virus’s ability to spread, with R being the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to.