England lifting COVID-19 restrictions despite increasing number of cases

London : Almost all COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in England on Monday as part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, this despite an ongoing surge in coronavirus cases.

The move to the so-called Freedom Day, when face masks and social distancing are no longer compulsory in public transport and crowded places and any number of people can gather indoors and outdoors, was delayed in June so that more adults could be vaccinated, amid a surge in infections triggered by the Delta variant.

The grim scenario prompted scientists and political opponents to advise the government to further postpone the easing of restrictions, but UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that this is the right time to reclaim normality.

“If we don’t do it now we’ve got to ask ourselves, when will we ever do it? This is the right moment,” Johnson said on Sunday in a video message recorded at Chequers, the country residence where he is self-isolating after being in contact with his health minister Sajid Javid, who tested positive for coronavirus a day earlier.

According to Johnson, opening up in the fall and winter, “when the virus has the advantage of the cold weather” and people stay at home longer, would be worse.

However, Labour lawmaker Jonathan Ashworth, accused the Conservative government of “throwing the caution to the wind.”

“I suspect the government will have to look again at these decisions today and they will have to keep all of these decisions they’ve taken today under constant review,” Ashworth, who is the opposition party’s counterpart of the health minister in the shadow cabinet, told the Sky News broadcaster.

The Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has said that he will continue enforcing face covering on the city’s public transport, despite the central government’s new guidance.