UK must learn to live with Covid, says Johnson ahead of scrapping measures

Boris Johnson, in a televised news conference, signaled the replacement of mandatory preventive measures to be transformed into a matter of personal choice after July 19.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday indicated a shift in his earlier stance and said that the country would “learn to live with this virus” as he is expected to unveil mandatory measures as a personal choice. Johnson, who has said Covid-19 is an enemy to be vanquished, is expected to scrap mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing in England in two weeks, despite the surge in the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections owing to the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus.

Boris Johnson, in a televised news conference, signaled the replacement of mandatory preventive measures to be transformed into a matter of personal choice after July 19, the date called “freedom day” by Britain’s populist press. “As we begin to learn to live with this virus, we must all continue to carefully manage the risks from Covid and exercise judgment when going about our lives,” AP quoted Johnson as saying.

While the message is expected to be welcomed by lockdown-sceptic lawmakers in Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, public health officials and scientists have urged caution against such scrapping of measures. They have said that the scrapping of preventive measures is dangerous.

Psychologist Stephen Reicher, a member of the UK government’s scientific advisory committee, said “proportionate mitigations” against the spread of the virus should remain put, as per an AP report. “I think we need very clear messaging and I think in certain spaces — crowded, badly ventilated spaces — masks are crucial mitigation,” Reicher told BBC, as per AP.

The government said Boris Johnson will address a news conference on Monday to announce the plans for rules on social distancing, wearing of masks and working from home after July 19, which is the date set for the removal of remaining restrictions on business and daily life.

The government said in a statement that Covid-19 would “become a virus that we learn to live with as we already do with flu. This means that hospitalisations, serious illness and deaths from Covid will continue, albeit at a much lower level than before the vaccination program.”

The British government, which imposed the longest lockdown in the world, has eased restrictions for England in a gradual manner beginning from the reopening of schools in March. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following their own process of unlocking.

According to public health officials, the vaccination program in Britain has weakened the link between infections and fatalities. To date, 86 per cent of UK adults have received the first dose of the vaccine and 63 per cent of the adults are fully vaccinated.

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