One month after further relaxations of coronavirus restrictions, England and Wales are seeing deaths from the virus rise steadily to their highest level since March.
In both countries, the majority of restrictions have been lifted, allowing venues such as bars and nightclubs to open. Although this has proved popular with some party-goers, there are also local reports that packed-out venues are breeding grounds for infections.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded a total of 571 deaths in the week 13-20 August. In mid-March this figure was at 719 deaths in Wales and England. Thereafter deaths dropped significantly, which paved the way to a subsequent relaxation of restrictions.
New cases flared up again in June and July, caused mainly by the spread of the Delta variant that has now swept over Europe. Mercifully, the death rate did not climb as steeply as the rate of infections and is still far below the all-time highs at the end of January where over 1200 deaths per week were recorded.
However, the latest rise in deaths reflects a rise in infections and hospital admissions has likely been exacerbated by measures being relaxed in England and Wales (individual nations in the UK decided their own changes to Covid-19 regulations).
In July, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson vaunted the relaxations as a step forward for individual freedoms and the economy. 19 July – the day when clubs were reopened in England – was dubbed “Freedom Day”. Johnson was criticised for being irresponsible in the face of rising cases and deaths but insisted on pushing ahead with the proposed changes.
Significantly, only UK visitors who have been vaccinated in England or Wales can currently have their vaccine certificates recognised by Belgium’s COVIDSafe app, increasing the likelihood of the virus being transmitted between the UK and mainland Europe.
The UK is currently classified as a red-listed country by Belgium but travel between the UK and Belgium has risen significantly in recent weeks.