United Kingdom | A controversial « freedom day »


The warnings did nothing. Despite the sharply rising cases of COVID-19 and despite scientific advice, Boris Johnson has decided to conclude his deconfinement plan in England.

Jean-Christophe Laurence

Jean-Christophe Laurence

Since Monday, the discos are open, there is no more gauge for the gatherings and the wearing of the mask is no longer required. A day that the British have dubbed “Freedom Day”.

Mr Johnson’s Conservative government justifies its decision on the grounds of the success of its vaccination program, which has completely vaccinated 68% of adults and 54% of the British population. Over 87% of people have received at least one dose.

« If we don’t do it now, then when? » Boris Johnson pleaded at a press conference, stressing that the moment was more favorable than in cold weather, when students return to school.

But these arguments do not convince scientists, who deem this choice premature, as cases of COVID-19 skyrocket in the United Kingdom. Two weeks ago, 1,200 scientists signed an open letter in the medical journal The Lancet to denounce the government’s unconsciousness and demand that the lifting of restrictions be postponed.

The United Kingdom recently recorded 50,000 cases of contamination daily, due to the Delta variant, more contagious and now ubiquitous in the country.

The number of deaths remains even lower than during the winter, due to vaccines. But the deaths dropped from 10 to 40 a day between June and last week. Figures that can make you dizzy if you start playing the game of projections.

“The new cases are mainly people who are younger or less at risk. But if we say that between 1% and 5% of these cases are likely to need medical attention, then we could end up with 500 people in the hospital after a day, 3,500 after a week and more than 10,000 after a month. We can imagine that this could flood their health system, ”emphasizes Dr.r Donald Vingh, infectious disease specialist-microbiologist at the McGill University Health Center.

« It is certain that by opening everything, we reduce the protection of the population, especially if we have not yet at least 75% of the population fully vaccinated », adds for his part Roxane Borgès Da Silva, of the School of Public Health of the University of Montreal.

« Personally, I would have expected to maximize the vaccination rate and I would not have removed the mask, because it is a light measure, easily applicable and which, all in all, has a protective effect which is not negligible », she said, unconvinced by the “libertarian” decision of the British Conservative government.


From midnight on Sunday, nightclubs were able to reopen in the United Kingdom, and wearing a mask is no longer compulsory inside establishments.

Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, competent in matters of health, have not followed Mr Johnson across the board, and continue to require the wearing of the mask in indoor places .

BoJo, like everyone else

At a press conference on Monday, the man nicknamed BoJo admitted that he could not « guarantee » the « irreversible » nature of the lifting of the restrictions. « We must be humble in the face of nature, » he said, urging the population to take their own responsibilities.

Ironically, his intervention comes while he himself is in administrative segregation, after having been a « contact case » of his Minister of Health, Sajid Javid, who received a positive result for COVID-19 on Saturday.

Mr Johnson and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, also a ‘contact case’, tried to escape quarantine, instead granting themselves a daily COVID-19 test – an option generally not available in the UK , with a few exceptions. But in the face of the outcry and howls of the opposition, who accused them of free play, they backed down.


Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, on videoconference from his second home in Checkers

“We briefly thought about being part of this pilot project… but I think it’s much more important that everyone keep the same rules,” Mr Johnson repented, in a video released from his second home in Checkers. , where he will have to retreat until July 26.

It must be said that tolerance for the Johnson government is at an all-time low. Despite a successful vaccination campaign, BoJo is criticized for its initial mismanagement of the pandemic, which has claimed more than 128,000 lives in the UK, the highest death rate in Europe.

In June, his health minister was also pinched for kissing an assistant, and for not respecting the rules of physical distancing, which forced him to resign.

A sanitary pass in the fall

The lifting of restrictions will come with new imperatives, however, Mr Johnson said.

As in France, the British government wants to introduce in September a « health pass » proving a complete vaccination against the coronavirus to access establishments welcoming a large public, such as discotheques.

« A negative test will then no longer be sufficient », declared the head of the Conservative government.

The vaccination campaign will now also extend to young people aged 12 to 15, but only those who are vulnerable.

Story to follow.

With Agence France-Presse

In numbers

53.8%: Percentage of the English population fully vaccinated
87%: Percentage of the population of England who received only one dose

128 127: Number of COVID-19 deaths in the UK 113,000: Number of COVID-19 deaths in England alone

Source: UK government


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