Set for July 19, ‘Freedom Day’ is due to mark the end of the UK’s harshest restrictions including compulsory face masks, social distancing, and customer caps that have crippled the nation’s economy for over a year.
This announcement comes despite Covid and its new Delta variant continuing to move through the UK with 128 deaths recorded in the last month.
Johnson has been under pressure from residents and business owners to ‘live with’ rather than eradicate Covid.
With economic damage threatening to cause irreversible harm, Johnson has decided to terminate most government medical mandates and instead offer advice, something which many in parliament have been calling for from the start.
“We will change the basic tools that we have used to control human behaviour. We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus,” said Johnson, speaking at Downing Street on Monday.
“There will be no Covid certificate required as a condition of entry to any venue or event, although businesses and events can certainly make use of certification and the NHS app gives you a Covid-Pass as one way to show your Covid status.”
Johnson’s previous intention to extend or permanently impose new restrictions on businesses appears to have been dropped after heated discussions in what is being considered a great win for civil liberties.
Australia is a long way behind the UK.
With no Covid deaths recorded since April, state Premiers continue to frequently impose compulsory mask mandates, business restrictions, and state-wide lockdowns with only a handful of cases.
Isolationist countries like Australia and New Zealand who chose to quarantine themselves from Covid, now have to decide how to rejoin the world and face the virus or risk being left behind. It will require a difficult change in political rhetoric to integrate Australians back into an open global society after living under some of the strictest Covid regulations for more than a year.
The decision by National Cabinet to commit Australia to a Covid-Zero environment has proved unsustainable. With hotel quarantine facilities leaking cases and the national economy suffering without the safety net of JobKeeper, Prime Minister Scott Morrison released his Four Phase Plan to move Australia towards ‘Covid-normal’.
This comes as a blow for those who were looking for a return to ‘actual-normal’.
Unlike Johnson’s plan for opening up as swiftly as possible, Morrison’s Phase One will see Australia’s international arrives reduced by half with the option to quarantine at home for 7 days. This measure is intended to salvage the struggling quarantine system.
Phase Two involves eased restrictions for vaccinated Australians and possible exclusion from lockdowns. Phase Three states that there will be no lockdowns, caps on travellers, or domestic restrictions – on vaccinated residents.
While the UK is doing its best to avoid a two-tiered rights system for its citizens, Morrison’s roadmap appears to hinge on withholding rights from those who do not wish to be vaccinated. This is not helped by criticism regarding a slow vaccine roll-out in Australia hindered by EU politics and often contradictory health advice coming from Premiers and Chief Health Officers.
Morrison estimates that Australia will enter Phase Two sometime in 2022.
“It’s hard to give you a definitive answer because we haven’t set what that [vaccination] target is,” said Morrison on Monday. “I hope we would be going into that second phase next year.”