England parties as restrictions are lifted on ‘Freedom Day’
Thousands of people around England partied last night as almost all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic were lifted from midnight, as nightclubs reopened to celebrate what is being called "Freedom Day", despite the increase in infections, which worries many scientists and politicians.
From midnight, venues and stadiums can reopen with full capacity, nightclubs can again accept the public, pubs can resume bar service and there is no longer a limit on the number of people who can meet. In addition, the masks will stop be mandatory but recommended in transport and shops.
The above image was at a club called Fibre in Leeds, which like hundreds around the country, opened to partygoers who could enjoy a restrictionless night out for the first time in months, drinking and dancing into the early hours of the morning.
The change in regulations also means no quarantine from today for residents of England who have been fully vaccinated by the NHS or by having PCR tests, when returning from amber list countries, including Spain and the Canary Islands, something which is hoped will be a boost for tourism as airlines have increased the number of flights they are operating to and from holiday destinations.
Covid-19 has caused more than 128,700 deaths in the UK, where infections have skyrocketed for the last few weeks. The country is the most affected territory in Europe by number of cases and has exceeded 50,000 new infections a day for two days in a row. Among those infected is Health Minister Sajid Javid, who was forced to isolate himself after testing positive on Saturday.
The day the country leaves the mandatory mask and social distancing rules behind, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Minister of Economy Rishi Sunak, contact cases of Javid, are serving a period of isolation. Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, denounced a "chaotic" situation.
Despite the growing number of infections, Boris Johnson confirmed the lifting of almost all remaining restrictions in England from today Monday, preferring to rely on "individual responsibility" to fight against the virus. Johnson is counting on the success of the vaccination campaign that began in December with more than two-thirds of adults now fully vaccinated, which has "greatly weakened" the link between disease, hospital admissions, and deaths, allowing the public health system to cope with the situation.
He said he also believes that the summer period is the right time to relax the rules, as authorities fear that other viruses, such as the flu, could worsen the situation in autumn. However, in a video posted to Twitter yesterday (Sunday), the prime minister appealed to the public to act, underlining the "extreme contagiousness" of the Delta variant. "Please be careful," he said.
The other nations of the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have adopted a more prudent calendar than England and maintain the obligation to wear a mask in closed public places and in transport.
The Labour opposition says the government is "reckless" in the face of increasing infections from the highly contagious Delta variant. The number of daily infections could reach 100,000 this summer, according to the Minister of Health himself.
A group of influential international scientists called on the British government to reverse its decision, which "runs the risk of undermining efforts to control the pandemic not only in the UK but in other countries." Even on Boris Johnson's own conservative side, there are critical voices.