As the long-awaited day of returning to normality slowly arrives in England, Professor Chris Witty has noted that the coronavirus pandemic is still clutching on the country, and people should always be cautious. Monday is expected to be a vibrant day for England’s citizens because they will once again have a taste of ‘normal living’ since their government decided to lift covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Such a day promises to spark a hive of activities with people flooded outside to enjoy life outdoors after being cooped up indoors for too long. But some stakeholders are worried about people’s behaviour to be conscious enough in staying safe and upholding covid-19 preventive measures.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously addressed the nation with a new plan on dealing with the pandemic. Boris’s main line of argument was the need for a balance between the risks of covid-19 and “the risks of continuing with legally enforced restrictions that inevitably take their toll on people’s lives, livelihood, health and mental health”. 19 July is a set date in England on which coronavirus pandemic restrictions will be removed as a way of allowing residents’ return to normality. According to the PM, UK is heading into summer, which is much hot and warm, so it is the perfect opportunity for them to restore their livelihoods amid the crisis.
He argued there is never going to be another chance for opening their economic, business and sporting activities. The PM’s new strategy was also relying on the vaccination program, which has been successful in the nation, and he projected that by September this year, all persons above 18 would have been fully jabbed. Adequate doses are being acquired from different manufacturers to enhance the vaccination programs. During the address, the chief medical officer Witty outlined that keeping the restrictions in place will only delay another wave of infections and deaths but not necessarily reduce them. Professor Witty did not hide his fears about the cases surging at the press conference if the restrictions are lifted. The government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance agreed with the medical chief and highlighted the importance of keeping the cases lower [Source].
With about 2 days left before the ‘grant return’ to normality in England, the medical officer has aired out concerns over doubling numbers of Covid-19 hospitalisations per three weeks, which might reach “scary numbers” in the coming weeks. He believes that the UK is still under severe threat, and more deaths might be experienced. In response to these utterances, Solicitor General Lucy Frazer concurs with the view that cases will rise and agrees with Boris in terms of deadly consequences that were to be incurred “for not opening up”. She further warned the citizens saying, “Of course, if we get into a situation where it is unacceptable, and we do need to put back further restrictions, then that, of course, is something the government will look at” [Source].
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in England shows an estimated 577 700 people infected with coronavirus in the week ending 10 July, which translates to one in 95 people, and the UK had about 50 000 new cases on Thursday with this figure becoming the highest number of cases since January. The NHS recorded half a million+ self-isolation alerts during the first week of July, and it is a 46% rise from the previous week. The surging of cases is happening with the restrictions in place, so Professor Whitty is worried when the restrictions will be lifted on Monday, and he noted that the UK might go back to a covid-19 hotspot quickly. He also said, “I think saying the numbers in hospital are low now, that does not mean the numbers will be low in hospital in five, six, seven, eight weeks’ time” [Source].
In an online seminar on Thursday hosted by Science Museum, the chief medical officer emphasised how the pandemic might reign for a long time among Britons, especially after all the legal restrictions on social contact are removed. He further explained that “We’ve still got 2 000 people in hospital, and that number is increasing. If we double from 2 000 to 4 000 from 4 000 to 8 000, 8 000 and so on, it doesn’t take many doubling times until you’re in very, very large numbers indeed”. Monday will see the opening of nightclubs, restaurants, sporting stadiums without any limitations of people entering these places. The 1m-plus distancing rule is removed while the legal requirement to wear a face mask would have expired [Source].
This is a bold strategy taken by England. But Professor Whitty also highlighted the various variants coming through, such as the Delta and Lambda, making the vaccines obsolete. However, he believes that vaccines through scientific research have done quite well for the people.
Ultimately, as a chief medical officer, he has warned people that removing restrictions is not a signal of victory against the pandemic; hence the fight against covid-19 goes on, so everyone must be cautious at all times, and it should not surprise them if the restrictions are enforced again after cases rise and deaths increase in the coming weeks.