It may be called ‘Freedom Day’ in England, but some people who have compromised immune systems regard Monday as a day of fear, as the country moves ahead with its plan to lift nearly all COVID-19 restrictions.
“I’m feeling really hard and there’s definitely anxiety,” Hal Cohen, a double kidney transplant recipient, told CBC.
“It’s really, really hard to know what to do in this situation and for how long to keep ourselves apart from the rest of the world.”
England is scrapping restrictions such as limits on the number of people who can meet at one time, physical distancing rules and a blanket mandatory mask mandate. This comes even as the number of daily infections with the new coronavirus in the UK topped 50,000 – the highest levels since January. On Friday, there were 51,870 new cases.
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that 1 in 95 people (or 1.06% of people living in the community) had COVID-19 in the week ending July 10, up from 1 in 160 in the previous week, which is Re-emergence in cases fueled by the more contagious delta variant.
Despite the data, nightclubs have also been allowed to reopen, and bars and restaurants can return to work normally without restrictions on tables or required face coverings, although Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently urged people to opt for a mask in crowded indoor spaces.
Scotland and Wales have not gone as far as England in lifting pandemic restrictions, making the latter one of the first countries in the world to lift legal restrictions while it was in the midst of a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Cohen, 39, received a second transplant just months before the outbreak of the Corona virus pandemic, and spent most of the beginning of last year confined to his home in north London, even staying at a distance from his wife and two young daughters, before gradually resuming outdoor activities.
He has been fully vaccinated but is unsure if he is protected, given the medication he is taking and which suppresses his immune system. Cohen underwent antibody tests, which recorded no response to the COVID-19 vaccines he received.
“I have to go on the grounds that I have no protection at this point,” he said, adding that the latest government data shows that 40 percent of non-immunized transplant recipients who contracted COVID-19 have died.
This means that removing the mandatory mask mandate across England is particularly worrying for him and others who are immunocompromised, a figure estimated at 500,000 by the charities working with them.
More calls for help
There has been a massive increase in calls to the UK Leukemia charity’s helplines from leukemia patients who are most at risk of hospitalization after contracting coronavirus, even at this late stage of the epidemic when many have received a jab. They are concerned about what the easing of restrictions means for them.
We were totally overwhelmed by the mind,” said Kate Keatley, the charity’s head of support services. “We’ve probably gotten three or four times as many calls in the past two weeks than we’ve been getting throughout the pandemic.”
Most worrying, she said, is that a number of people who come into contact with them are only hearing that the vaccine is likely to be less effective for them than it is for the general public.
Watch | Fears in England ahead of Freedom Day:
Keatley said Freedom Day means more freedom for all for leukemia survivors. “They feel less safe and less free than they have for a long time now.”
Cohen feels the same, especially when he considers how easy it is for the UK government to maintain the mandatory mask rule in public.
“We forgot a bit,” Cohen said, noting the government’s focus on personal choice rather than forced mask mandates.
“You need certain rules,” he said. “Things like masks in public transport and in stores, are really a minor nuisance to people.” “I don’t really see them being an issue of people’s freedom and then protecting other people like me.”
This is the correct date.
Johnson changed his tune a week ago, stressing the need for caution in the face of the virus that is not yet over, even as he insisted that England must reopen on July 19.
Johnson said removing legal restrictions on distance and wearing masks was not a license for people to have a “great jubilee”. [or] Freedom from any kind of precaution or restraint.”
The justification, repeatedly given by his government, is that Britain’s high vaccination rate, with two-thirds of the adult population fully injected, has weakened the link between coronavirus infections and hospitalization, even with the massive rise in vaccination-related cases. delta variable.
“I think what the scientists are saying is [that] “This is the right date or any other time to do that,” Johnson said during a news conference on July 12.
‘careless and reckless’
This is not a scientific consensus, according to Depti Gordasani, a clinical epidemiologist and lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, who called the move “completely careless and reckless.”
She is one of the signatories to a letter from more than 100 scientists and doctors, published in The Lancet, that called the government’s reopening plan a “dangerous and unethical experiment.”
It’s also set to be a confusing experience for those trying to navigate the rules. London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced last week that he would retain the mandatory mask mandate for the city’s tubes, buses and trams, and other mayors across England are considering similar steps for local services.
Gordasani said other countries should look with shock at what she called England’s “no rip” policy, fearing the threat it could pose to global infection rates.
“This is herd immunity to infection for about half of the population,” she told CBC, noting that a sharp increase in infections, even if it did not lead to such a number of deaths, would certainly lead to a higher number of infected people. COVID-19, a condition doctors still know little about.
“Why on Earth we expose our youngsters to those risks is so hard to understand or justify from any perspective, be it ethical or scientific.”