After the disappointment of Freedom Day being delayed from 21st June to 19th July, many people have been eagerly awaiting the day when nearly all Covid restrictions will end. However, just days before Freedom Day, the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, has warned that the country could be in for another lockdown within weeks.
The prevalent Delta variant has led to soaring cases over recent weeks, and this has now started to translate into a spike in deaths. Yesterday, the nation saw its highest daily death rate since March, with the number of Covid-related fatalities rising to 63. In addition, nearly 50,000 new cases were recorded, which is the highest figure since January.
Speaking at an online seminar hosted by the Science Museum, Professor Whitty said numbers were worrying and that more people could end up being hospitalised in a matter of weeks. The situation is believed to have been worsened by Euro 2020, which saw vast numbers of fans gathering at venues and stadiums.
The Chief Medical Officer said, “Of course, if we get into a situation where it is unacceptable and we do need to put back further restrictions, then that of course is something the Government will look at.”
Combination of factors blamed for surge
A combination of factors has been blamed for the surge in Covid virus cases and deaths. Some experts said the rise is due to some restrictions already having been eased; others have put the blame squarely on Euro 2020.
In recent weeks, since the tournament kicked off, there has been a disproportionate rise in infections among younger men compared to women. Last week, more than ten thousand more men than women caught the virus, and this is a gap that has widened since the start of the tournament.
Last week, more than 33,000 people per day were catching the virus. When most remaining restrictions are scrapped on Monday, this figure could increase rapidly. According to Professor Whitty, this could leave the nation facing 'scary numbers again', leading to new restrictions being brought in within weeks.
The added worry is that despite the success of the vaccination drive, there is still a risk of variants emerging against which the jabs are not effective. This could be a devastating blow to the UK and could mean that freedoms from the easing of restrictions are very short-lived.
Previously, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had stated the easing of lockdown rules was 'irreversible' and gave reassurances to businesses and the nation that there would be no further lockdowns after Freedom Day.
However, in recent days, he has been reiterating that people should not go wild once restrictions are eased on 19th July and that they should avoid becoming ‘demob happy’.
Huge further impact on businesses
If there is another tightening of restrictions over the coming weeks, it will cause huge disappointment and frustration among the public. However, the impact on businesses could be devastating after what has been a difficult 16 months.
Many businesses are already struggling to get back on track, with many others having already closed down during the pandemic. Further restrictions could have a substantial negative effect on the many businesses that have been gearing up for Freedom Day.