Freedom Day, It's Now or Never

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an update on relaxing restrictions imposed on the country during the coronavirus covid-19 pandemic at a virtual press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room in central London on July 12, 2021. - Britain's government confirmed Monday it will press ahead with "Freedom Day" next week by lifting most pandemic curbs in England, but urged caution as experts warned that politicians were moving too fast. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / POOL / AFP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an update on relaxing restrictions imposed on the country during the coronavirus covid-19 pandemic at a virtual press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room in central London on July 12, 2021. - Britain's government confirmed Monday it will press ahead with "Freedom Day" next week by lifting most pandemic curbs in England, but urged caution as experts warned that politicians were moving too fast. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / POOL / AFP)

The downbeat mood of today’s press conference highlighted that there are no good options

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It’s official - society in England will finally open up on 19th July with the removal of almost all remaining restrictions. That means mandatory social distancing rules, table service requirements, covid capacity limits, as well as the rule of six are being thrown out the window. Nightclubs can open up again.

Yet at the same time, the government is warning that hospitalisations, serious illness, and deaths will rise as a result.

Government modelling is even said to predict a peak of 100,000 infections a day, 1,000 - 2,000 hospitalisations a day, and 100 - 200 deaths a day.

So why are top experts like Sir Patrick Vallance, Professor Chris Whitty, and even ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson himself going along with what Boris is saying?

Interestingly there is some scientific modelling to suggest that opening up next week rather than any later may in fact reduce our expected death toll.

The downbeat mood of today’s press conference highlighted that there are no good options. Yet opening in the middle of summer is seen as the sweet spot between vaccination coverage and other factors - like better weather and schools being closed – that makes it the least bad time to hit the freedom button.

Opening any later risks the next wave of the virus peaking in the autumn or winter, meaning not only a longer, larger peak but one that takes place when the NHS is under most pressure anyway. Schools will be open, more indoor gatherings taking place, and other winter hospital pressures like flu are likely to be resurgent.

Very valid scientific thinking says that if we’re to open at all, it’s better to get that case rise in the summer than the autumn or winter.

This is what led to Health Secretary Sajid Javid declaring this 19th July restriction abolition “the most responsible decision we can take.”

One week away appears to be an epidemiological ‘goldilocks zone’ between having enough of our population vaccinated on the one hand, and seasonality on the other.

If we’re to remove restrictions, now is the time to do it.