The political and economic programmes of the United Kingdom coincided with the breakout of Covid-19, and the virus seems to have been a serious obstacle to Britain achieving a post-Brexit political and economic revolution. Now, the Tories are in political and economic turmoil and want to end the restrictions as soon as possible so that the country can return to a normal situation. But on the other hand, the coronavirus with its mutations is an obstacle to normalisation in England.
Removal of Covid-19 Restrictions in the UK
Large indoor venues in England will be urged to check the Covid status of their customers on entry this summer, while prevalence of the virus is high, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced.
Speaking to MPs, the health secretary confirmed the government’s plan on 19 July to lift almost all the remaining legal restrictions put in place during the pandemic, including those covering mask-wearing and the size of social gatherings. But his tone was noticeably more downbeat than a week ago, when he told MPs, “Freedom is in our sights once again”.
Javid told the House of Commons: “This is not the end of the road. It’s the start of a new phase of continued caution, where we live with the virus and manage the risks … as we make these changes, it’s so important that people act with caution and personal responsibility.”
He said people should “return to work gradually if working from home, meet people outside where possible and it’s expected and recommended that people should wear face coverings, unless they’re exempt, in crowded, indoor settings like public transport.” Some Conservative MPs pushing for a reopening suggested the government was still being too cautious, urging him to scrap isolation requirements for contacts of Covid cases sooner that 16 August.
Also, critics have called the decision highly risky, noting that it could have significant health consequences. Ultimately, though, the decision of when to lift restrictions is a political one that has to consider many competing views and interests, of which public health concerns are just one. Balancing the harms and benefits of lifting restrictions sooner rather than later is difficult. There will always be trade-offs. By disrupting education, employment, healthcare and social activity, lockdowns and other limits on behaviour have negative health effects in turn. Further delays to hospital treatments, the psychological impact of restrictions, and the pervasive consequences of unemployment all need to be factored in. But equally, there are concerns that now is not the right time. Infections are rising fast, with more than 27,000 new cases being reported each day. And lifting restrictions will certainly lead to further rises in cases – the health secretary has said they could exceed 100,000 a day over the summer.
There were 1,177,716 tests reported on 15 July 2021. This shows a decrease of -1.8% compared to the previous 7 days. Between 9 July 2021 and 15 July 2021, there have been 7,165,070 tests. A confirmed case is someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. 54,674 new people had a confirmed positive test result reported on 17 July 2021. Between 11 July 2021 and 17 July 2021, 300,302 people had confirmed positive test results. This shows an increase of 40.6% compared to the previous 7 days. Vaccines are currently given in 2 doses, at least 21 days apart. 46,227,101 people had been given a first dose by the end of 16 July 2021. 35,732,297 people had been given a second dose by the end of 16 July 2021. Some people with coronavirus have to go into hospital. 740 people with coronavirus went into hospital on 13 July 2021. Between 7 July 2021 and 13 July 2021, 4,313 went into hospital with coronavirus. This shows an increase of 39.4% compared to the previous 7 days.
There were 3,964 patients in hospital with coronavirus on 15 July 2021. Some people in the hospital need to use a special device called a mechanical ventilator to help them breathe. There were 551 coronavirus patients in hospital beds with a mechanical ventilator on 15 July 2021. There were 41 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus reported on 17 July 2021. Between 11 July 2021 and 17 July 2021, there have been 284 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. This shows an increase of 47.9% compared to the previous 7 days.
In addition, the delay in easing restrictions came as the Delta Covid variant, originally discovered in India, spread throughout the country. While infection rates have risen, hospitalisations and deaths have not surged (although there has been a slight rise in these two latter sets of data) indicating that coronavirus vaccines are working to prevent severe infection.
The Financial Situation in England During the Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the economy in many ways. From lockdown restrictions shutting down many businesses to limits on mobility, the economic impact has been severe. The magnitude of the recession caused by the pandemic is unprecedented in modern times. GDP declined by 9.8% in 2020, the steepest drop since consistent records began in 1948 and the most in over three hundred years on some estimates.
During the first lockdown, UK GDP was 25% lower in April 2020 than it was only two months earlier in February. Economic activity picked up over the spring and summer, reflecting the opening of the economy and pent-up demand from the first lockdown.
This was followed by a further short-lived lockdown in November, leading to another monthly fall in GDP. Restrictions were eased briefly in December. As a new variant of the virus drove up Covid-19 infection rates, stricter lockdowns were again introduced across the UK by early January 2021. This contributed to another fall in GDP. Economists, however, noted that the economy has adapted well to the lockdowns, with a much smaller decline in economic activity recorded in early 2021, when GDP fell by 2.5% in January, than in the lockdown of spring 2020. The level of GDP was 6% lower in March 2021 than before the pandemic.
As the economy has gradually reopened, economic indicators suggest a strong recovery is underway. This has led to upgrades to forecasts for GDP growth in 2021.The average forecast among economists is for GDP growth of 6.5% in 2021, up from 4.8% two months ago. The latest Bank of England forecast from early May is for a GDP growth of 7¼% in 2021. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts a GDP growth of 5.5% in 2021, although this was published in early March.
The UK’s public finances have been hugely affected by the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic. The government’s budget deficit reached a peacetime record in 2020/21 as tax revenues fell and government spending increased. The measures the government has taken to support businesses and households are costing around £340 billion across 2020/21 and 2021/22.
Due to the poor economic situation in the UK and the high costs it has incurred since Brexit, the only solution is to lift the restrictions. But despite extensive Covid vaccine inoculations, many tests have been positive again and mortality is still reported in the UK. The British government is trying to normalise the fact that the virus exists and must be lived with. Despite warnings from the British government about the outbreak of the Delta variatn, the government is prepared to lift the restrictions so that it can recoup costs and boost the economy.