Published in El Pais, 22 January 2022.
If we look at the new cases of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19, it seems that we have reached a point of cost-effectiveness in several countries. In many countries, the number of new cases is quite high, but the death toll is very low or already falling relative to the previous waves. It seems that the danger is gone. The result is that people are calling to lift the restrictions that were put in place to control the virus. In the United Kingdom, as of January 27, it will no longer be mandatory to wear a mask, work from home or show the vaccination (or recovery) QR code to enter events or specific places. They are also considering removing the obligation to be in quarantine after you are tested positive with COVID-19.
On the one hand, we could say that it is quite irresponsible because there are still 2,000 deaths per week in the UK caused by COVID-19. But on the other hand, the UK has 800 thousand new cases every week, but the fatality rate is much lower compared to the first waves. This number is probably even lower because most already have the vaccine or the new dose of the vaccine and therefore if they get COVID-19 they don’t even realize they are infected. Looking at it this way, perhaps the decision of the United Kingdom is not so irresponsible. Especially if we consider that people have sufficient access to vaccines and other measures. Everyone can get vaccinated, everyone can wear a mask, work from home, or take other preventive measures. In other words, the responsibility is on the people’s side.
The reason the UK has gotten to this point is a combination of an intensive vaccination campaign, measures, and luckily Omicron appears to be less lethal. The advantage is that the economy can return to normal without limitations. The immediate and long-term cost of closing stores, canceling events, online education, and working from home is far more than we can imagine. The interesting part is that now people, knowing that there is still a health impact, are still asking for the restrictions to be lifted.
Well, restrictions are being removed, but it does not mean crazy life without thinking. There is a virus circulating, which kills people. The difference now is that the government leaves all the responsibility to the people.