Many of us are looking forward to the freedom we’ll be able to experience again following the final easing of COVID19 guidelines on 21st June. This week, it might be a smart idea to understand arguments for and against reopening the country later this month.
Earlier this year, the government set out a roadmap that detailed how England will go about returning to normalcy following lockdown.
Currently, we are in the third stage of the aforementioned roadmap. Indoor entertainment services such as cinemas and theatres have opened up as well as indoor seating in restaurants and bars, albeit with hospitality guidelines in place. Venues such as arenas and stadiums are able to hold events for a small percentage of a crowd. Additionally, travel is allowed to countries on the green list, though restricted and banned to countries on the amber and red list.
The transition to stage four of the roadmap laid out by the government would mean easing all social contact measures and minimal social distancing measures implemented. The government stated that large events will be reviewed at a later time.
However, there’s much to consider before getting our hopes up that the road to freedom will be smooth-sailing from here on out.
There’s certainly a case for either side on if things should go ahead as planned.
Firstly, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced delays in easing of restrictions and says this is “a pause” and not a step backwards. However, on 2nd June, the UK Prime Minister said that there is “nothing in the data ” that would suggest a need for moving away from the given June 21st date. This is because on June 1st, for the first time since the pandemic began, the UK recorded zero COVID19 related deaths – a milestone that is being welcomed by ministers and health professionals with caution.
It is important to note that although there were no COVID19 related deaths, according to the latest data, there are 923 coronavirus patients in UK hospitals at this time. This is a stark difference in comparison to the peak number of cases in January 2021 – during which there were nearly 50, 000 new COVID19 cases on 7th January alone.
Another positive sign that is favourable for the smooth reopening on 21st June as planned is the fact that 72% of adults have received their first dose of a COVID19 vaccine. Similarly, over half of all adults in the UK are fully vaccinated.
On the other hand, health experts and government officials are wary of warning signs of an incoming third wave benign induced by what is now known as the Delta Variant and other variants such as one originating in Nepal. Vaccine rollout is combatting more transmissible variants of the virus, such as the Delta Variant, though for strong immunity two doses of a COVID19 vaccine are essential. As mentioned, only half of UK adults have received two doses of a vaccine so it is important to still take care as this new variant may spread easier and quicker as restrictions are eased.
Government advisors have come forward against government guidelines and say it is risky to let up against the virus. Professor Ravi Gupta, of Cambridge University, warns of a potential ‘super mutant virus’ strain. Additionally, Professor Andrew Hayward of UCL warns that the UK is already in the early stages of a third wave. Additionally, some experts such as Professor Christina Pagel of UCL went so far as to say that restrictions should be applied for a further month or two – or until more of the population have received both doses of a COVID19 vaccine.
Other government insiders echo the same thoughts. The general consensus is that the data is unclear and stresses that there are still days to go before the 14th – when the Prime Minister is due to announce whether step four of their roadmap will go forth as planned.
At this time, as the number of cases is currently low, it appears we are in a wait-and-see period. This is because though recorded cases are on the decline, the virus is constantly mutating so vaccine producers are under pressure to effectively create vaccines that provide immunity to current and future mutations.
It is also expected that cases will only increase as restrictions ease. Though there are restrictions organisations have to legally follow, recently there have been protests organised by the public. Protests against COVID19 guidelines have caused a significant disturbance. Protests in support of Palestine have also been ongoing for a number of weeks now, generating 100, 000s people in attendance weekly. Such protests generate concern for COVID19 to easily spread within large gatherings, consequently spreading their circle, so and so forth.
Having said all this, though this is not the general consensus of the public, it is becoming increasingly clear that experts believe it best to wait it out with restrictions still in place. As June 21st looms nearer, it is still undecided whether this will be the case.