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Opinion | England Has Its ‘Freedom Day,’ but Does It Have a Covid Plan?

England, we are told, is free. On Monday the government lifted the country’s remaining Covid restrictions — on social distancing, on face masks, on numbers for gatherings, the lot — effectively leaving protection from the coronavirus to vaccinations and, er, the goddess of chance. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the devolved nations, have sensibly chosen to retain some restrictions.)

The timing was immaculate: Over the previous week, 332,170 people tested positive for the coronavirus — the most since January — as the Delta variant courses around the country. New Covid-19 cases are expected to rise, perhaps reaching the dizzying figure of 100,000 a day later in the summer. The number hospitalized, much lower than in previous waves of infections because of the vaccination program, is steadily increasing. Deaths are creeping up.

Details, details. This was Freedom Day, as the government and the right-wing press insistently reminded us. The time when the English, after more than a year of sacrifices, could let it all out — drink in a crowded room, go clubbing, have everyone over. No need for masks. But really, it was Confusion Day, a monument to chaos, anxiety and the unknown. We have no plan.

Opinion Conversation
Questions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.

Fittingly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, lover of liberty (especially his own) and architect of the “plan,” couldn’t celebrate; he was self-isolating. He had been in contact with Sajid Javid, the health minister, who was double-vaccinated and tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday. (The English are discovering, to their alarm, that vaccines are not invincible.) Mr. Javid is new to the job: He was installed last month after the previous health minister, Matt Hancock, was photographed kissing an adviser in his office. He had to resign for breaking social distancing guidelines with his tongue.

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