England lifted most pandemic restrictions overnight, dubbed, “Freedom Day”, despite surging infections and dire warnings from experts, as the Delta variant swept parts of Europe and Asia and new cases in the Olympic Village threatened to mar the upcoming Tokyo Games.
In Britain, daily infections have climbed, averaging more than 50,000 since last week, with Delta taking hold in many areas.
But despite accusations of recklessness, the UK government lifted legal mandates on social distancing, wearing masks and working from home, urging personal responsibility instead.
Just under 70 per cent of the eligible population are fully vaccinated in England.
SA based epidemiologist Dr Emma Miller from Flinders University told the ABC the decision was “astonishing” and was critical of the choice.
“It really is rather astonishing at a time when they’re getting tens of thousands of cases a day,” she said.
“It’s true, there hasn’t been the same sort of rise in hospitalisations and deaths, but we know that those occur later.”
As lockdown fatigue hits NSW, Victoria, South Australia and most recently, NSW’s Central West, questions are being asked at what point should states open up?
In NSW, the vaccination target is 80 per cent of the eligible population, while it is reported national cabinet is working with scientific modelling to determine the number of residents needed here to make a similar move.
ABC presenter Patricia Karvelas questioned: “Do we have to be prepared for the consequences of letting the virus in, that as long as every one has the chance of vaccination, that people may get sick, they may even die, that that’s a reality check that we may need to be talking about that?”
Mr Sharma said “experience overseas” suggested the population needed to be “north of 50 per cent” vaccinated “and it seems to be the consensus among experts it’s somewhere around 70 or 80 per cent”, he added.
“Ideally where we get to is Covid-19 becomes no more dangerous, no worse than the common communicable disease.
“I hope that’s the point we get too, we just have to be cautious.”
Mr Sharma said both politicians and the public will need to decide how much risk they are willing to accept.
“The UK is basically conducting a pilot for us now as we speak, they’ve removed nearly all their restrictions, they’re opening right up.
“My understanding is in Australia we would not be comfortable, the public and government, with a death rate of 15 or 16 people dying each day of Covid-19.”
“I think we’re going to have to see how does this play out in countries that are further down the track than we are and what is our level of public comfort.
“That’s a decision that we all need to take collectively.”
The UK government says thanks to a rapid vaccination program, the risks to the healthcare system are manageable, but the approach is marked by “moral emptiness and epidemiological stupidity”, said University of Bristol public health expert Gabriel Scally.