Dutch U-turn on lockdown easing puts Boris Johnson's gamble in focus: The Yorkshire Post says

With scientific modelling showing that the peak of the third wave of Covid infections in England is not expected before mid-August and could lead to up to 2,000 hospital admissions and 200 deaths per day, it is entirely understandable that many people are feeling considerable anxiety about what the next few weeks will bring after legal restrictions end on July 19.

Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid pictured in 2019. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid pictured in 2019. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

There is also a warning for the Government from the experience of The Netherlands, which eased restrictions three weeks ago, only for Prime Minister Mark Rutte to be forced into a u-turn, reimpose curbs on bars, restaurants and nightclubs and apologise for an “error of judgement” after daily cases climbed above 10,000 per day.

Given that cases are already at twice that level in England and millions are yet to be fully vaccinated, the ending of social distancing and mandatory face mask use from Monday may well come back to haunt Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid.

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Mandatory mask wearing is being dropped in favour of an “expectation” that people will wear them in crowded areas whilst almost four million people classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” are now being advised to meet people outside, go shopping at quieter times of the day and ask visitors to take a lateral flow test before visiting them, which charity bosses say is effectively an unofficial return of the shielding programme.

In addition, confusion reigns on whether the organisations being “encouraged” to ask for vaccination passports as a condition of entry include pubs - putting landlords in a tricky ethical position that is likely to cost them customers whatever they choose.

Yet ministers are correct in that there are no easy answers on ending restrictions but the reality of so-called Freedom Day is that the Government is giving us much more responsibility for our prospects against Covid-19 than it has previously.

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