The British government begins a “dangerous and unethical experiment” when it eases the latest coronavirus restrictions as planned on 19 July. More than a hundred scientists and doctors warn about this in a fierce letter. “It is very unwise to give this virus free rein”, says one of the signatories.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will probably announce an end to the measures on Monday before 19 July. From then on, among other things, people no longer have to keep their distance, do not have to wear a mask if they do not want to, and that nightclubs open again and festivals are allowed again. Only the travel rules remain quite strict.
But according to the medical experts, the complete abandonment of the measures on the so-called Freedom Day can not only lead to more infections, but also to more acute illness, hospitalisations and long-term complaints (long COVID)
At least as disturbing is that it provides a’ fertile breeding ground ‘ for the emergence of new coronavirus varieties against which current vaccines do not protect. These vaccines can be updated, but that will take time and will ‘disproportionately affect underprivileged Britons’.
In particular, the unprotected British youth who have not yet been vaccinated will be affected by the relaxations, scientists and doctors write in the letter published in the Lancet scientific journal. They therefore urge the government to postpone the reopening.
Among the signatories is also one scientist working in the Netherlands, the Italian Valentina Gallo, associate professor of Epidemiology and sustainable health at the University of Groningen.
Gallo, who had worked in the UK for 15 years earlier, is deeply concerned about the easing. “The most important point is that we do not know the long-term effects of a Coronavirus infection. Quite a few of these people get long COVID, which is very limiting. Preventing contamination is therefore always better. It is very unwise to give this virus free rein.”
The number of infections in the UK has been increasing since June due to the Delta variant, which is estimated to be 60% more contagious. Yesterday, more than 32,000 new infections were added, bringing the country back to the december level for vaccination.
Because the British vaccinate in record time, at the beginning of this week more than half of the total population had been fully vaccinated and more than two thirds had had a first coronavirus. As a result, hospital admissions and coronavirus deaths are low, but according to medical experts, an estimated 17 million British are still unprotected against Covid-19.
Therefore, the rapidly increasing number of new infections is alarming, says Gallo.
“When the virus was largely under control in april, it was still justified to relax. But the Delta variant has really changed that. That variant causes many more infections and therefore disease. Being around someone infected already puts you at risk.”
So the increasing numbers can still put a spanner in the works. But what if the promised easing doesn’t happen on 19 July?
Up until now, the British had a clear roadmap that they could stick to. With dates on which they could expect relaxations. But if there is a big wave of infection in September, as is predicted, and the rules need to be tightened up again, then people will become hopeless: where does this end?”
That even though, according to her, many British people feel: it is summer, nice weather and we are allowed to meet again. For example, to follow the national football team – which will play the final at the European Championships on Sunday – together.