- England lifts most COVID restrictions
- Johnson forced into self-isolation after trying to ignore him
- PM calls for caution as number of cases rises to 50,000 per day
- Companies say app is causing isolation chaos
- Clubbers dance until dawn
LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘freedom day’ which ended after more than a year of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in England was marred by an upsurge in infections on Monday, warnings of shortages in supermarkets and his own forced self-isolation.
Johnson’s bet that he can restart one of Europe’s largest economies because so many people are now vaccinated, marks a new chapter in the global response to the coronavirus.
If vaccines prove effective in reducing serious illness and death even as infections reach record levels, Johnson’s decision could offer a solution to the worst public health crisis in decades. Otherwise, other blockages could emerge.
But Johnson’s big day was marred by “pingdemic chaos” as a National Health Service app ordered hundreds of thousands of people to self-isolate – warning supermarket shelves could soon be emptied.
“If we don’t do it now, we have to ask ourselves, when will we ever do it? Johnson said just hours after being forced to abandon a plan to dodge the 10-day quarantine requirement for himself and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak.
“Now is the right time, but we have to do it with caution. We have to remember that this virus is unfortunately still here.”
Britain has the seventh highest death toll in the world, 128,708, and is expected to have more new infections each day soon than it did at the height of a second wave of the virus earlier this year . As of Sunday, there were 48,161 new cases.
But, surpassing European peers, 87% of the UK adult population has received one dose of vaccination, and over 68% have received both doses which provide more comprehensive protection. Daily deaths, currently around 40 per day, are only a fraction of a peak of over 1,800 seen in January.
The FTSE 100 stock index fell to a two-month low on Monday, fearing the economic recovery was in jeopardy. UK-listed shares of cruise line Carnival Plc (CCL.L), airlines easyJet (EZJ.L) and British Airways owner IAG (ICAG.L) fell between 4% and 6.7%. The pound fell to a three-month low. Read more
As of midnight, laws in England requiring masks to be worn in shops and other indoor places lapsed, as well as capacity limits in bars and restaurants, and rules limiting the number of people who can socialize together.
Johnson is setting COVID-19 restrictions for England, with devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland developing their own policies.
As businesses across England faced a shortage of workers due to the NHS enforcement asking people to self-isolate, supermarkets have warned they face tensions.
“It’s a major problem in all industries right now,” said Steve Rowe, CEO of Marks & Spencer. “Our COVID cases are doubling roughly every week and the ping level is about three at one of the COVID cases, so we are seeing that increase exponentially.”
“If there are shortages, we will have to deal with them by changing store hours, reducing hours. Where the industry will see the pain is in the supply chain, because logistics are everything. tight way to be effective. “
UK society appears divided over restrictions: some want tough rules maintained because they fear the virus will continue to kill people and overwhelm hospitals, but others have resented the most onerous restrictions in history peacetime.
Johnson faced an uproar on Sunday when he and Finance Minister Sunak attempted to dodge the quarantine with a special program for senior ministers and officials. He will now go into self-isolation at his country residence in Checkers after Health Minister Sajid Javid tested positive.
As dawn rose over London, clubbers danced the night away at one of the first live music events without rules since the pandemic began last year. Read more
“I haven’t been allowed to dance for what feels like forever,” said Georgia Pike, 31, at the Oval Space in Hackney, east London. “I want to dance, I want to hear live music, I want the atmosphere of a concert, to be surrounded by other people.”
Written by William James and Guy Faulconbridge Editing by Frances Kerry and Giles Elgood
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