England, we are told, is free. On Monday, the government lifted the country’s remaining Covid restrictions – on social distancing, on face masks, on the number of rallies, the lot – effectively leaving protection against the coronavirus to vaccinations and, uh, to the goddess of chance . (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the decentralized nations, have wisely chosen to retain some restrictions.)
The timing was impeccable: In the previous week, 332,170 people tested positive for the coronavirus – the highest number since January – as the Delta variant rolls out across the country. New cases of Covid-19 are expected to increase, possibly reaching a staggering 100,000 a day later in the summer. The number of hospitalizations, much lower than in previous waves of infections due to the vaccination program, continues to increase. Deaths are increasing.
Details, details. It was freedom day, as the government and the right-wing press reminded us emphatically. The time when the English, after more than a year of sacrifices, could give up everything: drink in a crowded room, go out to a club, have everyone come. No need for masks. But really, it was Confusion Day, a monument to chaos, anxiety and the unknown. We have no plan.
Questions around the Covid-19 vaccine and its deployment.
Rightly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, lover of freedom (especially his own) and architect of the “plan”, could not rejoice; he was self-isolating. He had been in contact with Sajid Javid, the Minister of Health, who was doubly vaccinated and tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday. (The English are finding, to their dismay, that vaccines are not invincible.) Mr Javid is new to the business: he was installed last month after former Health Minister Matt Hancock was pictured kissing a counselor in his office. He had to resign for breaking social distancing rules with his tongue.