Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday unveiled plans to lift most of England’s coronavirus restrictions, including face masks and social distancing from July 19, urging personal responsibility rather than government edict .
His announcement came when experts in Israel, which led the way in vaccination, expressed concern that the widely used Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine may be less effective against the dangerous Delta variant.
Meanwhile, data collected by AFP showed a record number of cases across Africa, a continent struggling to get vaccine doses.
Last month, Johnson was forced to postpone plans for a full reopening on June 21 due to the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant, which now accounts for almost all new British cases.
But mass vaccinations have left this which translates into an increase in hospital admissions or deaths.
“This pandemic is far from over,” Johnson said. “It certainly won’t end on the 19th.
“We have to reconcile, sadly, with more deaths by COVID.”
But the effectiveness of the vaccination campaign in the UK meant they could move forward with the reduction of restrictions, he said.
“We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions.”
Johnson’s announcement only applies to England, as health issues are transferred to the constituent nations of the United Kingdom. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are lifting restrictions more slowly.
“Delta … amok current”
Experts in Israel, who led the massive coronavirus vaccination, on Monday expressed concern that the rise in cases there suggests the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine may be less effective in preventing mild diseases.
The Israeli health ministry said Monday that its analyzes suggested the vaccine’s effectiveness had dropped to 64% by the time the Delta variant had spread across the country.
But it was still 93% effective in reducing severe COVID diseases and hospitalizations, he added.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned on Sunday that “with the Delta variant underway,” Israel may have to reintroduce some of the restrictions it lifted last month.
Although richer countries have benefited from the massive introduction of vaccinations, other parts of the world are struggling.
Africa has suffered a record number of coronavirus cases over the past week, registering more than 36,000 new infections a day, according to an AFP count based on official figures.
South Africa is the most affected country in Africa, with new daily infections reaching a record high of 26,000 cases over the weekend, fueled by the Delta variant.
Part of the problem is that African countries suffer from a shortage of COVID vaccines.
According to the AFP count, only 3.66 doses of vaccine have been administered per 100 Africans. The figure for the US and Canada is 100.26, while in Europe it stands at 68.3.
Lifting ‘reckless’ UK restrictions
In the UK, around 86 per cent of adults have had the first dose of coronavirus vaccine and 63 per cent the second dose.
But not everyone liked Johnson’s announcement.
The English chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said he would still wear a mask inside and in crowds.
A quick YouGov poll suggested 71% of Britons believe facial masks should continue to be mandatory on public transportation.
And Labor party leader Keir Starmer said the government’s decision to “dismiss all protections” when infections increased was “reckless”.
In the United States, President Joe Biden warned Americans during Independence Sunday celebrations that the battle against the virus there was far from over.
“We have gained the edge against this virus,” he said.
But, he added, “Make no mistake: COVID-19 has not been defeated. We all know that powerful variants have appeared, such as the Delta variant.”
With more than 605,000 dead, the United States has lost more people to the virus than any other country.
Travel still in doubt
Britain has been gradually moving from its third blockade imposed in January.
The government has already relaxed the ban on major events to allow 60,000 football fans to attend the semi-finals and the European Championship final at Wembley Stadium in London, two-thirds of its capacity.
The first semi-final is on Tuesday and the England team plays the second on Wednesday, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week told Johnson she was taking too many risks allowing so many fans.
On Monday evening, just hours after Johnson’s announcement, Germany announced it would lift the ban on travelers from countries affected by variants such as the UK, Portugal and India.
Meanwhile, the UK government is expected to make plans later this week for fully vaccinated Britons to travel to “amber” countries, which include most of Europe, without having to quarantine for 10 days at their return.
© 2021 AFP
Citation: England will lift virus restrictions while Israel raises fears of vaccine (2021, July 6) retrieved July 6, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-07-england-virus-restrictions- israel-vaccine.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair treatment for the purposes of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. Content is provided for informational purposes only.