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KT edit: Did England let its guard down too soon?

Filed on July 19, 2021
Reuters


There is a pandemic fatigue the world over. For good year and a half, we were forced to socially distance, wear masks at public places and sanitise. Today, while the number of cases has gone up, the availability of vaccines has led to new rules and regulations, many of which allow you to roam around without a mask. Despite the severity of cases and harsh lockdowns last year, the fanfare following the ease of restrictions in England doesn’t inspire joy but evokes fear. As the nightclubs opened on Monday, young revellers could be seen hitting the dance floors with an urgency that defied normative behaviour. The masks were gone, as was social distancing. The media has been quick in nomenclating this moment as ‘Freedom Day’, which by association adds a touch of romance to the idea of being able to move around freely, but could be misleading given that there are still 50,000 cases being reported on a daily basis.

England stands at a different juncture today. Work from home is no longer mandatory, social distancing rules have been eased, and there are no restrictions on number of people attending public events at theatres or clubs. While it has surely been good for the business (most clubs in London were packed with revellers), it has also birthed a fear among some who fear contracting the virus should they step out. Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson requested the public to exercise caution. Johnson himself spent ‘Freedom Day’ quarantining after coming into contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid-19 recently. He had earlier proposed that he would take daily tests instead, but following a mass outrage, decided to self-isolate.

The situation on the ground is far from normal. As the Delta variant rears its ugly head, newer challenges have presented themselves. With the number of cases not coming down, staff shortages in various sectors have become common, with not only the infected but those who come into contact with them following social distancing norms. The enormity of the problem at hand can bring enterprises and institutions to a standstill. This may beg a larger question — was it premature to lift restrictions? According to the World Health Organisation, the number of cases and deaths are both on the rise, and the new variants are proving to be more fatal. Pandemic fatigue or not, it is imperative that the guard is not let down until there is a steady decline in the number of cases globally. This will require concerted effort from governments as well as populations to follow the protocols and act responsibly.





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