LONDON – Few in England could have imagined such a sad “Freedom Day”. Today is the day when all restrictions are finally abolished: the mask will no longer be mandatory even indoors; the rules on social distancing will be abolished; all venues, including discos, will be able to reopen; there will no longer be the obligation to work from home.
According to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans, this day should have marked the return to normalcy almost eighteen months after the first lockdown. But the prime minister, and most of the citizens, found little to celebrate. Johnson set aside his usual triumphalism and warned the citizens: “Please, please, please be careful. Approach the next phase with the right prudence, respect for others and the risks that this disease continues to present ”. The premier released his video message from the country residence of Checkers, where he was forced to self-isolate after being the victim of the controversial tracking system that is doing enormous damage to the country.
“We have to ask ourselves, if we don’t reopen now when?”Boris Johnson
Despite the insistence of companies and conservative hawks, who forced him to rush the reopening in the first place, the premier refused to anticipate the abolition of the ten-day self-isolation rule for anyone who comes into contact with a case. positive. This rule will only be filed on August 16 when the vaccinated will have to show a negative swab to be exempt. Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had initially proposed taking part in a “pilot project” – which includes precisely this ploy – to avoid self-isolation. But after being harshly accused by the public of having preferential treatment, they backtracked and decided to obey the rules.
Many observers note that this tracking system could have been fine during the lockdown, when the priority was to limit the spread of Covid, but it is proving problematic since the government decided to reopen everything at the cost of free circulation of the virus. Britain records around 50,000 positive cases a day and, according to the Daily Mail, this means that 1.7 million people are currently in self-isolation. This phenomenon, which has been renamed “pingdemic” – from the sound of the message on the mobile phone that informs about the contact with the positive – is creating enormous difficulties for companies that find themselves short of workers, so much so that the main associations British class asked Johnson to back down.
So far, the government has exempted nurses and health workers from self-isolation, as their mass absence would have risked short-circuiting British hospitals. Among the many rumors that have asked for this system to be closed there is also former Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair who in an editorial in the Daily Mail claimed that the “pingdemic” risks bringing the British economy to its knees.
For the government there is no good news even from the health front. Many scientists have criticized Johnson’s reopening so much that Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist-star who persuaded the government to call for the first lockdown, told the BBC that “inevitably” 100,000 infections will be recorded in the coming weeks – 200,000 in the worst case scenario – and a thousand hospitalizations a day.
The conjunction between the “pingdemic” and the growing infections explain why many British do not want to take advantage of the newfound freedoms. The risk of having to isolate themselves for ten days has discouraged most young people, many of whom have not yet received the second dose of the vaccine, from going back to dancing indoors. According to a YouGov survey, 73 percent of those who attended nightclubs before Covid do not feel safe doing the same under current conditions. Furthermore, around 60 per cent of Brits (up 5 per cent from last week) fear the end of the restrictions.
Of course there are those who celebrated the “day of freedom”, at their own risk. Last night some clubs in London were back packed as they hadn’t been for a long time, and they counted down to midnight to celebrate a moment they had been waiting for months. But the silent majority of England went to bed early.