Restrictions imposed to prevent the Omicron wave in the UK are being lifted.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Covid restrictions in the country would be relaxed on January 27th. Johnson, speaking in the House of Commons after a cabinet meeting yesterday, reminded that isolation-related arrangements are in place until 24 March and said he did not expect them to be renewed again. “Soon the practice of people quarantined themselves will be completely lifted,” Johnson said.
The measures implemented under the name Plan B included applications such as the requirement for masks indoors, a Covid certificate for entry to certain activities, and work from home. It’s all coming up.
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Thus, britain, in the words of Health Secretary Sajid Javid, becomes the most open country in Europe. And is it too early for such a step?
While infection levels have fallen, they are still well above last winter’s peak.
There are also differences between regions in terms of progress made. Despite the overall nationwide drop in hospital admissions due to Covid, in the Midlands, North East and Yorkshire regions, this decline has not yet been seen.
Therefore, some scientists and public health experts express concern that the relaxation of the measures may be too much and that there is a risk that the number of cases will climb again.
The impact of political calculations should also be taken into account in the removal of the measures. Non-cabinet MPs of the Conservative Party are known to be not even in the right to continue the measures in part.
But in the end, the judgment on what is reasonable and proportionate in these decisions is also important.
A comparison is required between the costs of such restrictions and the benefits they bring.
Since the heaviest part of the Omicron wave is almost over, the benefits seem to have diminished.
The UK is one of the countries best protected against the virus, thanks to its high vaccination rate and immunity to Covid.
According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, more than 97% of the population has created antibodies to the virus.
As a result, the virus now causes milder diseases, and as our immune systems become more effective in fighting Covid, the mortality rate of infected people has also decreased significantly.
The data pointing out that Omicron is lighter is also effective in this outcome, of course.
All this has helped keep the death toll in recent weeks at a much lower and more severe level than in previous waves.
This is the best result in terms of scenarios put forward after this variant was first detected in South Africa.
Because at the peak of the virus, the number of hospitalizations was just over 2,000 per day. However, the modelling predicted that in the worst-case scenario it could reach 3-4 times that, and even the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the government, said hospital admissions could reach 3,000 a day.
But the virus is still putting huge pressure on the National Health Service (NHS). More than 15,000 people in the UK are hospitalized due to Covid. However, about 45 percent of them appear to have been admitted for other reasons, rather than serious illnesses caused by the virus.
Therefore, there are many reasons why government officials and advisers should support the loosening of the measures.
Isolation, the most effective restriction on preventing the spread of the virus, will continue.
The abolished “Plan B” measures have a relatively marginal effect.
Among them, working from home was the most effective measure that scientists who advised the government found; There was uncertainty about the exact effectiveness of the others.
For example, data from the Ministry of Education pointed to complex implications for the effects of masking in classrooms on reducing the spread of the virus. On the other hand, the data shows that the use of masks can harm communication and learning.
Meanwhile, Omicron’s escalation meant that the effectiveness of two doses of the vaccine in preventing infection was significantly reduced, weakening the argument for requiring Covid certificates for activities indoors.
Instead, many experts now believe that the behavior of the public will be very important.
Just because the government is removing the measures and giving people more freedom doesn’t mean everyone will be back to normal immediately.
The experience throughout the pandemic showed that. Even after the UK lifted all restrictions on July 19, people did not return to pre-pandemic levels, where they made contact with an average of 10 people a day, a stance that helped largely keep the virus under control until Omicron’s arrival.
At the end of December, as the Omicron wave reached its peak, daily contacts were actually close to the levels seen during the first period of restrictions, which prevented the spread of the coronavirus.
Now the public is again being asked to weigh the risks themselves, and this will be the behavior that will determine the course of the pandemic in the coming weeks.