I think it’s the opposite of tone deaf. And yes, I realize the reason Boris Johnson is dropping restrictions right now is because he’s neck-deep in political trouble, having been caught breaking COVID laws at various points during the pandemic. He’s gambling that freeing the public from pandemic restrictions will make them resent his own illicit freedom less.
Still the right move, though.
The new plan means that, starting Thursday, routine contact tracing will end and those who test positive will no longer be legally obliged to isolate themselves, although they will be urged to do so.
The supply of free tests, which are currently available widely, will end on April 1 for all except the most vulnerable, effectively forcing people to pay to find out whether or not they are infected. Enhanced sick pay to support those suffering from the coronavirus will end in late March…
Some on the libertarian wing of Mr. Johnson’s would like the government to withdraw its current guidance to wear face coverings in crowded and confined spaces, given the falling case numbers, though the government did not announce that step on Monday.
Dropping free tests while keeping mask mandates in place seems like an odd compromise to me. If England is now pivoting to endemic COVID, top priority should be making it as easy as possible for people to confirm that they’re infected so that they can self-isolate. And meanwhile, everyone else should dispense with the most visible vestige of the pandemic era.
Either way, it’s not “tone deaf” to ditch (most) rules while the queen is under the weather. To the contrary, what better way to signal that infection is no longer cause for dramatic interruptions in daily life than to drop restrictions while the sovereign herself is afflicted? If you want people to get it through their heads that COVID is here to stay and they should keep calm and carry on, plowing ahead while the 95-year-old queen is fighting a bout with it is a dramatic way to do so.
And really: If not now, when? Here’s the case curve in the UK over the last three months.
They peaked around January 1 at over 200,000 cases per day, a staggering number equivalent to a million infections in the U.S. per capita. As of today they’re down to 51,000, a 75 percent decline. Note the death curve since the start of the pandemic as well:
Measured by cases, the UK’s recent Omicron wave was easily its worst episode of the pandemic. Before December 2021, their peak in confirmed infections came a year earlier at around 60,000 per day. In other words, they saw *three and a half times* as many cases on their worst day during this recent surge than they did on their worst day in previous surges. However, their recent peak in daily deaths is a shadow of what it was during earlier waves. In January 2021 they recorded upwards of 1,300 fatalities per day. During the Omicron wave they peaked at fewer than 300 deaths per day, less than a quarter of the earlier record.
That’s the sort of post-vaccination “decoupling” between cases and deaths that we expected in the U.S. but didn’t achieve to the same extent during our own Omicron wave. The UK is more vaxxed than we are, with 66 percent boosted and 85 percent having received two doses, and may well have as much natural immunity as we do by dint of their previous waves, if not more. By some estimates they enjoy the most total immunity of any country in the world. If anyone’s primed to drop restrictions, they are.
I mean, even the queen allegedly has only a mild case. If she ends up recovering, it’ll be a singular advertisement to Brits that there’s nothing to fear so long as you’ve had your shots and are in reasonably good health.
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER LIFTS COVID RESTRICTIONS: As Queen Elizabeth recovers from COVID, the U.K. took a big step in returning to pre-pandemic life when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the end to all COVID restrictions — #TheView co-hosts react. https://t.co/kYbym5ATfM pic.twitter.com/VT1fJSnoC2
— The View (@TheView) February 22, 2022