Many young people will dance the night away at Freedom Day parties from London to Liverpool. This is the day when most coronavirus restrictions in England will be lifted. Face masks won't be required legally, and there will be no restrictions on attending big events or theater performances.
Nightclubs that have been closed since March 2020 can now reopen without any restrictions on occupancy or testing. Many of the parties that were scheduled for the reopening sold out days in advance.
Tristan Moffat is the operations director at The Piano Works in London. He said that it's "the moment that we've been waiting, and that our customers have been anticipating."
He said that the business was keen to reopen its doors after having lost about 40,000 pounds ($55,000 per month) during the pandemic. The "Freedom Day" celebration begins Sunday with a countdown until midnight. Staff members will cut a ribbon and serve free prosecco to customers at the dance floor.
While ravers and entertainment companies are celebrating, others are worried about the British government's decision not to mandate masks and fully reopen the economy. This is at a time COVID-19 cases have been on the rise. On Saturday, more than 54,000 cases were confirmed, which is the highest number of new cases since January. However, reported deaths from virus have remained low.
Officials repeatedly stated their confidence that the U.K.’s vaccine rollout -- 67.8%, or just under half of the population, have received two doses of the vaccine -- will not pose a threat to public safety. However, leading international scientists described England's "Freedom Day", which was Friday, as a threat for the entire world. 1,200 scientists supported a letter to The Lancet criticizing the government's decision.
Julian Tang, a clinical virusologist at the University of Leicester, stated that "I can't imagine any realistic positive scenario to come from this strategy, I am afraid." "It's really a measure of how terrible it's going be."
Chris Whitty (Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief medical officer) warned that "we could get in trouble again surprisingly quickly." Johnson, however, downplayed the talk of freedom and said that life would not instantly return to pre-pandemic levels.
Johnson will not be doing business as usual Monday. Rishi Sunak, the Treasury chief and prime minister, are self-isolating in 10 days' time after contacting Sajid Javid (Health Secretary), who was positive for COVID-19 Saturday.
Tang said that vaccines aren’t foolproof and are not immune to new variants of the flu. This is especially true if people mix them without taking precautions in the summer. He added that a flu resurgence during the winter months could spell "a winter with very serious proportions."
Tang stated that nightclubs are a powerful spreading ground because many of their core customers, ages 18-25, became eligible for a first vaccination through the National Health Service last month, but have not yet received the second shot to boost immunity.
"This population is not fully vaccinated. They are not hiding. He said that they are in close contact and shout loudly, dance with other people, and are heavy breathing. This is the ideal environment for the virus' spread and even the creation of new variants.
Johnson urged nightclubs with large crowds to obtain COVID-19 status certification. He said that it was a matter social responsibility to only admit people who are double-jabbed or have had a negative test result.
However, there is no legal requirement that they do so. According to Michael Kill (chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association), 83% of 250 clubs and bars polled last week said that they wouldn't ask people about their COVID-19 status. Many business owners view the passes as a major turnoff for customers, and accuse government officials of "passing on the buck" to them.
Kill stated that "we've heard people will protest businesses who adopt this." After months of closure, the last thing we want is to be hampered in terms of our ability to trade. You can either mandate it or not. This puts an excessive amount of pressure on our shoulders."
Russell Quelch, the operations director at REKOM UK (the largest U.K. operator of late-night bars/clubs), called the government's COVID-19 pass stance "unworkable" as well as unfair.
Johnson's decision not to enforce the requirement that face coverings be worn in public indoor spaces has caused confusion and split opinion.
Sadiq Khan, London's Mayor, stated that masks should be worn in indoor areas, but they are not mandatory.
Waterstones bookstore chain said that they encourage customers to wear masks. Many believe that implementing such policies without the support of the law will prove difficult, much like COVID-19 status passing.
Monday's end of restrictions in England will mark a crucial moment in Britain’s response to the pandemic that has claimed more than 128,000 lives in the UK. This is the largest death toll in Western Europe. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are also taking cautious steps to lift lockdown.
Esther Alvero, a salsa instructor, is one of many who admit they are excited but afraid. Alvero is a co-founder of Cubaneando. This company ran salsa classes, nights and performances for gala events. Alvero claims that she has barely earned any income over the past year. Alvero's savings are gone and her dancers must survive by working part-time as cleaners or Amazon delivery drivers.
"To be sincere, we cannot wait to get back there. Alvero stated that it is scary in some ways, but not all at once.
She added, "I am scared, but we must survive." We have no choice, as the economic consequences could prove to be even worse than COVID.