Sparkling wine, sparkling wine, and confetti: This is not New Year’s Eve but it could as well be for England’s nightclubbers. After 17 months without any nightclubs, the country’s nightclubs reopened with a bang.
Face masks won’t be required legally starting Monday. Social distancing rules have been rewritten so that there are no restrictions on attending big events or theater performances.
Public health officials are concerned that the celebrations could lead to a hangover due to increased coronavirus infection rates in Britain.
Many young people will be dancing the night away in Freedom Day parties from London to Liverpool after midnight Sunday when nearly all coronavirus restrictions are lifted in England. The closing of nightclubs in March 2020 has been lifted.
The Piano Works, a London nightclub, will kick off its “Freedom Day” bash Sunday with a countdown until midnight. Staff members will cut a ribbon and offer customers prosecco free of charge.
“I believe it will be the most magical moment when you have people who haven’t been able dance and sing and just being normal, all rush onto a floor at midnight to get back to the things we love,” Daisy Robb, head of sales, said.
While entertainment companies and ravers may be ecstatic, others are deeply concerned about the British government’s decision not to remove restrictions at a moment when COVID-19 case numbers are rapidly increasing. On Saturday, more than 54,000 cases were confirmed, which is the highest daily count since January. However, reported deaths from virus have remained low.
Officials repeatedly stated their confidence that the U.K.’s vaccination rollout — which has seen 68.3% of adults receive two doses, or just under half of the population — will not pose a threat to public safety. However, leading international scientists described England’s “Freedom Day”, which was Friday, as a threat for the entire world. 1,200 scientists supported a letter to The Lancet in Britain that criticised the Conservative government’s decision.
Julian Tang, a clinical virusologist at the University of Leicester, stated that “I can’t imagine any realistic positive scenario to come from this strategy, I am afraid.” “It’s really a measure of how terrible it’s going be.”
Chris Whitty (Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief medical officer) warned that “we could get in trouble again surprisingly quickly.” Johnson, however, downplayed the talk of freedom and stressed the fact that life won’t immediately return to pre-pandemic levels.
Johnson will not be doing business as usual Monday. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Treasury chief Rishi Moonak have been placed in isolation for ten days following contact with Sajid Javid (Health Secretary). Javid tested positive for COVID-19 despite having been fully vaccinated.
These are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of Britons told to quarantine after being in close proximity to someone who has tested positive. This situation is creating staff shortages at restaurants, car makers and public transport.
Tang expressed concern about “super variants” emerging after people have been allowed to mix summer and winter without taking precautions. He added that a flu resurgence during the colder months could lead to “a winter of very severe proportions.”
Tang stated that nightclubs are a powerful spreading ground because their core customers, aged 18-25, only became eligible last month for the first vaccine dose and have not yet received the second shot to boost immunity.
“This population is not fully vaccinated. They are not hiding. He said that they are in close contact and shouting loudly, dancing with other people, and are heavy breathing. This is the ideal environment for the virus’ spread and even the creation of new variants.
Johnson appealed to the public to be prudent and respectful of other people and the dangers that the disease continues to pose. He asked for nightclubs to use COVID-19 status certification as a matter “of social responsibility” and to only admit patrons who are either double-jabbed or have had a negative test result.
However, there is no legal requirement that they do so. According to Michael Kill (chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association), 83% of 250 clubs and bars polled last week said that they wouldn’t ask people about their COVID-19 status. Many business owners view the passes as a major turnoff for customers, and accuse government officials of “passing on the buck” to them.
Kill stated that “we’ve heard people will protest businesses who adopt this.” After months of closure, the last thing we want is to be hampered in terms of our ability to trade. You can either mandate it or not. This puts an excessive amount of pressure on our shoulders.”
Johnson’s decision not to enforce the requirement that indoor public spaces have face masks has caused confusion. After Johnson said that masks were still “expected and recommended” for indoor spaces, but not mandatory, Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor, announced that all passengers in the capital’s subways or buses should continue wearing them.
Waterstones bookstore chain said that they encourage customers to wear masks. Many people believe that implementing such policies without the support of the law will prove difficult.
Monday’s end of restrictions in England will mark a crucial moment in Britain’s response to the pandemic that has claimed more than 128,000 lives in the UK. It is the second-highest death rate in Europe, after Russia. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are also taking cautious steps to lift their lockdown.
Esther Alvero, a salsa instructor, is one of many who admit they are excited but afraid. Alvero is a co-founder of Cubaneando. This company ran salsa classes, nights and performances for gala events. Alvero claims that she has barely earned any income over the past year. Her savings are gone, and her dancers must survive by working part-time as cleaners or Amazon delivery drivers.
She added, “I am scared, but we must survive.” We have no choice, as the economic consequences could prove to be even worse than COVID.