England started Monday enjoying once again all pre-pandemic freedoms after the reopening had been postponed earlier this year due to the appearance of new coronavirus variants.
Venues and stadiums may open at full capacity, clubs accept people, pubs can resume bar service, there is no longer any limit to the number of people who can meet and telework is no longer the norm. In addition, the face mask has ceased to be mandatory, although it is recommended in transport and stores.
But starting in September, proof of vaccination will be required to access places hosting large gatherings and negative tests shall not be enough, it was announced.
COVID-19 has killed more than 128,700 people in the UK, where infections have skyrocketed for weeks. The country is the most affected in Europe by several cases and exceeded 50 thousand new infections a day for two days in a row.
Among those infected is Health Minister Sajid Javid, who was forced to isolate himself after testing positive on Saturday, forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Finance Minister Rishi Sunak to observe an isolation period after having been in close contact with Javid.
Despite the growing wave of infections, Boris Johnson confirmed the lifting of almost all remaining restrictions in England this Monday, the so-called Freedom Day (Freedom Day), preferring to rely on individual responsibility to fight against the virus.
Johnson is counting on the success of the vaccination campaign which started in December, with more than two-thirds of adults fully vaccinated, and which has greatly weakened the link between disease, hospital admissions, and deaths, allowing health care practitioners to deal with the situation.
The Prime Minister also believes summer is the right time to relax the rules, as authorities fear other viruses, such as the flu, could worsen the situation in the fall.
However, Johnson launched an appeal through a video released through Twitter to take every precaution in light of the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant.
This key stage in the deconfinement process in England was scheduled for June 21 but was delayed four weeks to vaccinate millions more.
The other nations of the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have not joined the measure, which Johnson's Labour opponents have deemed reckless.
However, Johnson said Monday that beginning at the end of September, proof of vaccination will be required to enter nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be enough, Johnson told reporters Monday in London.
The rising case numbers have led hundreds of thousands of Britons to be told to self-isolate, which in turn has caused businesses to sound warnings about the economy.
Businesses have dubbed the event a pandemic because of the large numbers of people receiving notifications on their phones from a government tracing app, telling them to self-isolate because of possible contact with an infected person.
Grocery stores, retailers, and rail operators are among the industries saying that without enough employees they will need to cut back on services.
The government said Monday it would allow workers in critical roles, including air traffic controllers and train signalers, to continue working despite being notified by the tracing app as long as the workers have been fully vaccinated.
Also Monday, Britain's government said it has decided against giving COVID-19 vaccinations to most children under age 18. Today's advice does not recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at this point, Javid said in a statement.
The coronavirus lockdown is also being lifted in Bangladesh, where the government has paused its restrictions for eight days so people can celebrate the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha. Health experts have criticized the move, as it comes at a time when Bangladesh is facing a surge of infections caused by the more contagious delta variant.
People in Bangladesh have developed an admiration for Argentine footballer Lionel Messi. They took to the streets to celebrate Argentina's Copa América victory earlier this month but no reports were indicating those large gatherings resulted in a growing number of cases.