After more than a year of lockdowns and stringent Covid-19 rules, England has lifted most remaining restrictions.
Although many members of the public were ecstatic to reclaim some normality after months stuck indoors, experts and NHS medical professionals have condemned “Freedom Day” and shared concerns over rising case numbers and pressures on health staff.
Oxford-based palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a radio interview, saying it was “ludicrous” that people were able to go to nightclubs on Monday (Tuesday NZ time) but in September they would need vaccination passports to be able to enter these venues.
Defending the reopening on July 19, Johnson said that “this is the right moment, but we’ve got to do it cautiously”.
He argued that mass-vaccination had weakened the link between infections and severe illness and deaths in England, and that easing restrictions now would avoid a rise in cases in peak-winter, while also helping to get the economy back up and running.
Following the reopening, Johnson announced that from September full vaccination would be a condition of entry to clubs and other venues with large crowds.
In a tweet online, Clarke said Johnson had “given up”.
“There isn’t a person in the country who doesn’t long for this nightmare over. Everyone has lost so much. Loved ones. Jobs. Homes. Peace of mind. Social contact. Confidence. But we can’t make it go away by closing our eyes [and] declaring ‘Freedom’.”
A number of other NHS staff posted on Twitter reminding the public to wear their masks because Covid-19 “is not over” and cases were rising.
The UK Doctor’s Association also said online that the disease would not simply disappear on ‘Freedom Day’. “Covid-19 will remain a significant risk to the public’s health and healthcare workers.”
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Clarke said that they were treating unvaccinated people in their 20s and even teenagers who were in ICU with the virus. She begged people to get vaccinated, saying it took just minutes to protect yourself.
England Public Health reported on Monday (UK time) that there were 39,950 new Covid-19 cases, and 19 deaths within 28 days of a positive test reported across the UK.
The day prior, there were 48,161 new cases, and 25 deaths within the 28 day period.