Will Freedom Day really be free?

By Aimee Howard

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is shortly expected to confirm that the final easing of lockdown rules in England will go ahead on 19 July. Dubbed ‘Freedom Day’, it’s been billed as the end of pandemic restrictions in the UK and a return to normality.

The move to ‘stage four’ is set to mark the end of legal restrictions related to COVID 19, including limits on social gatherings, the reopening of large hospitality venues such as nightclubs and the end of face coverings being mandatory in shops, schools, hospitality or on public transport. Moreover, the social distancing rule will be revoked, other than in locations such as border control.

However, in the past 24 hours, Johnson has already begun to draw back on the plans. Warning “caution is absolutely vital”, guidance around facemasks will reportedly remain in place, particularly on public transport and in busy locations. Notably, he is also expected to advise that people remain working from home, if able to do so, and that businesses decide themselves whether to enforce social distancing.

Indeed, with COVID 19 cases approximately 30,000 a day and rising, and events such as last night likely leading to a future rise in cases, Johnson is playing with fire. Even countries such as Israel, an undeniable COVID 19 success story, are re-establishing rules, in the face of the Delta variant, for the first time since January. 

Again, it appears Johnson is hoping the rising levels of infections will soon peak, leading to a form of herd immunity and rates declining. However, he’s now talking about guidance rather than rules and that is a recipe for confusion.