Opinions are deeply divided over the British government's announced policy of lifting almost all of the current COVID restrictions in England.
The removal of the measures including some quarantine requirements was outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this past Monday and take effect respectively on July 19th for social restrictions and August 16th for quarantine.
As of July 19th face masks will no longer be legally required and distancing rules will be scrapped at the final stage of England's Covid lockdown roadmap, Boris Johnson has confirmed.
The rule of six inside private homes will be removed and work-from-home guidance abolished including access to restaurants, nightclubs and other public venues.
From August 16th persons who have had two vaccinations - double-jabbed - will not have to quarantine upon returning to the UK from an amber listed country.
School children will also no longer need to isolate unless they test positive for Covid after August 16th. That ends a controversial bubble system that forces entire classes into isolation if one student tests positive.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that from July 19th wearing a face mask will become a matter of "personal choice".
That contrasts with the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) which says that mask-wearing should continue to be mandatory in crowded places.
The government’s new strategy coincides - some observers say it was accelerated - with the appointment of a new Health Secretary, former Chancellor (Finance Minister) Sajid Javid, who has replaced the disgraced Matt Hancock.
Mr Hancock has resigned over a scandal in which he was caught on camera in his office kissing and cavorting with one of his aides in an extra-marital affair.
Mr Javid’s more aggressive stance on reopening contrasts with the comparatively cautious approach of Mr Hancock, according to some observers.
The new Health Secretary has admitted that the move to unlock the economy was taking the country into what he called “uncharted territory”, but argues that it is critical to prevent further economic decline.
The pace at which the government is now pushing through lifting the restrictions and opening up the economy, especially as cases of the “hyper-contagious” Delta variant continues to rise, has met with reservations inside and outside the country.
This new strategy has deepened the political rift between the government and the opposition Labour Party over the management of the pandemic.
Mr Johnson said the decision to end most of the restrictions in England was due to the success of the vaccine rollout weakening the link between cases and deaths.
His remarks that "we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid" has triggered outrage by the opposition Labour Party and others who have accused the Prime Minister of being playing politics with people’s lives.
During the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) this past Wednesday, the leaders of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of being “reckless”.
But Mr Johnson countered, saying the reopening is being done “in a controlled way” and that the strategy was “cautious and prudent”.
He said they were giving the public more say in making their own decisions by removing legal restrictions.
However, his stance on giving people what he called "personal choice", contrasts with the advice of the World Health Organization(WHO) which says that mask-wearing should continue to be mandatory in crowded places.
And while the British government is removing the restrictions in England, some European countries are refusing to accept British tourists due to the increasing Delta-driven Covid cases in the UK.
UK government officials have already projected that case numbers could hit up to 100,000 over the summer.
Mr Johnson himself has warned cases were predicted to rise to 50,000 a day from as early as later this month.
However, even though hospitalisations are increasing, the government points to the continued success of the UK’s vaccination campaign. However, this comes against the concern that the mutations of the virus could threaten the efficacy of the current regime of vaccines.
Official data shows that hospitalisations from COVID-19 are on the rise again in the UK - up by 38% in the past week, the fastest rate since October 2020.
Concerns have already been raised about the huge crowds - although not at capacity - allowed into major UEFA football events which some experts worry could be superspreader events.
It is felt that despite efforts to ensure a safe environment, this could still result in potentially hundreds, possibly thousands, of people having to isolate, being off work and jeopardising the hopes for an economic recovery.
To boost vaccine numbers, people living in London - which has the lowest vaccine uptake in the country - have been offered free tickets to the Euro 2020 cup final at Wembley Stadium this Sunday if they book a Covid-19 vaccination appointment.