Comment Editor Samuel Pennifold on the UK Government’s decision to go ahead with the easing of all Covid-19 restrictions on July 19.
The UK’s Conservative government seems determined to restart the hellish cycle that has existed for the last 18 months—ignoring scientific advice and following bold but foolish political plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions far too early.
Sajid Javid, who just over a week ago replaced the disgraced Matt Hancock as UK Health Secretary, has arguably currently the second most important position in the cabinet after the Prime Minister right now, seems determined to back Boris Johnson’s road map to remove all but a few Covid restrictions on the July 19—including the mandatory wearing of face masks on public transport, checking into bars and restaurants, and other measures designed to enforce social distancing and keep people safe.
Johnson had previously promised that this latest batch of restrictions would be removed last month – until they were postponed due to a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases being attributed to the Delta variant, which current vaccines are markedly less effective against. Johnson has now said we will need to “learn to live” with Covid-19 and “exercise judgment”.
A sentiment echoed by various other government ministers like Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick who said we would need to use “personal responsibility” despite the end of the legal requirements to wear masks and alike.
Many scientists have suggested that the dropping of all restrictions, especially mask-wearing, could turn the UK into one big factory for new variants of Covid-19 to take hold. The government though having already promised to ease all restrictions, remains unwilling to lose political face by heeding the warning of scientists to slow down the easing of restrictions or to keep some in place, such as the most obvious one: the wearing of masks.
The government seems to believe returning to its very first Covid-19 policy of simply doing nothing and allowing the disease to pass through society unchecked is the best answer to our worries. Though, this time, the government is relying heavily on the positive effect of vaccinations, as just over 50% of the UK population is fully vaccinated. However, looking at the data in more detail shows the majority of new cases are in the younger generations, where vaccination rates remain much lower than in older generations. Most young people have only just had the opportunity to get vaccinated.
Whilst there is a strong economic case for the release of many restrictions, such as the rule of six for indoor seating, there needs to be a safer balance between economic concerns and the possible dangers of allowing this third wave of infections to run through the country. This balance has been routinely missed by the Prime Minister and his cabinet.
At first, the government did not lock down soon enough, and since then has proven to be all too keen to ease restrictions, causing subsequent nationwide waves of infection. The government should be looking to make sensible changes where possible, allowing larger groups for entertainment and so on, but, quite frankly, it is ridiculous to ease restrictions on social distancing in public spaces and the wearing of masks at this stage.
As the number of cases and the nationwide R-rate remains on the rise thanks to the Delta variant, it is nothing short of a political move from the government to stop making the wearing of masks in public spaces mandatory.
The government will live to regret again easing restrictions far too early as it creates a generation of young people whom will suffer from long-covid and as more people die.