On January 19 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed parliament and announced the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in England.
Face coverings in public places and COVID passports will no longer be required. The government also dropped its advice that people should work from home.
“From now, the government is no longer asking people to work from home and people should now speak to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office,” Johnson said. “And having looked at the data carefully, the Cabinet concluded that once regulations lapse, the government will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere.”
Face coverings will still be suggested, Johnson said. “But we will trust the judgement of the British people and no longer criminalize anyone who chooses not to wear one.”
Johnson’s comments come at a time when other government leaders are ratcheting up COVID-19 restrictions. (For example, Delaware’s Governor John Carney recently reinstated a mask mandate—see page 21).
The World Health Organization said that the pandemic will not end when omicron subsides, warning that high levels of infection will likely lead to new variants of the virus.
Despite that warning, the WHO recently suggested that travel restrictions be loosened. In a report produced by the Emergency Committee, the WHO says that countries should “lift or ease international traffic bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress experienced by State Parties.”
England is not alone in calling for a different approach. In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is calling on citizens to consider treating COVID-19 like the flu.
In an interview with Sky News, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said, “We need to learn to live with it.”
“Sadly, people die of flu as well: in a bad flu year you can sadly lose about 20,000 lives, but we don’t shut down our entire country,” Javid said.