British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is slated to announce that the lifting of most remaining Covid-19 restrictions in the UK will go ahead on 19 July despite warnings from health experts against doing so.
Government scientific advisers have warned that the move would be like building new “variant factories”.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is also calling for the continued use of face masks and new ventilation standards to stave off a potential new wave of the deadly pandemic.
The BMA argues this is “crucial” to protect the National Health Service (NHS), general health and education amid what it says is an “alarming rise in cases”.
However, in a Downing Street press conference on Monday afternoon, Johnson is set to press ahead with the final stage of unlocking in two weeks.
He will announce that, with 86% of adults in the country having had at least a first coronavirus shot, the government will stop relying on legal curbs to control people’s behavior and let individuals make their own decisions.
Fully vaccinated adults will now be able to travel to amber list countries without needing to self-isolate when they return, according to the new changes to be announced.
Also, apart from in hospital and other healthcare settings, wearing face masks will be voluntary and fully vaccinated adults will not need to self-isolate if they have come into contact with an infected person.
In addition, the school bubbles system which requires students quarantine at home if someone in their bubble tested positive will also be dropped.
Furthermore, pub and restaurant customers will no longer have to scan an NHS QR code.
Prof. Susan Michie, the director of the Center for Behavior Change at University College London (UCL), who sits on the same subcommittee, said, “Allowing community transmission to surge is like building new ‘variant factories’ at a very fast rate.”
The new Covid approach was backed by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, who claimed it would be impossible to eradicate the virus and that the country would have to “find ways to cope with it”, as with flu.
Javid also noted the health arguments for opening up were “compelling,” however, he conceded dangerous new variants could emerge that current vaccines were not effective against.
Stephen Reicher, a professor at the University of St Andrews who is also a member of the government subcommittee advising on behavioral science, said, “It is frightening to have a ‘health’ secretary who still thinks Covid is flu. Who is unconcerned at levels of infection. Who doesn’t realize that those who do best for health also do best for the economy. Who wants to ditch all protections while only half of us are vaccinated.”
Covid cases have risen to their highest level since January 2021. The UK recorded 24,248 new cases on Sunday – up from 15,953 on the same day the previous week. There were a further 15 deaths.