'Freedom Day' In England As Virus Ramps Up In Asia
London, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 19th Jul, 2021 ) :England lifted most pandemic restrictions Monday despite surging infections and dire warnings from experts, as the Delta variant sweeps parts of Europe and Asia, where new cases are threatening to scupper the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
As England celebrated so-called "freedom day", Vietnam locked down much of its population, while Indonesia clocked daily record deaths and in France lawmakers were set to toughen vaccine to battle rising cases.
The highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, is driving new outbreaks along with a relaxation of measures as countries seek to kickstart virus-battered economies.
In Britain, daily infections have climbed, averaging more than 50,000 since last week, with Delta taking hold in many areas.
- 'Moral emptiness' - Nightclubs in England reopened their floors to dancing at the stroke of midnight for the first time since March 2020, while sports stadium, cinemas and theatres can now run at full capacity.
"I thought, well, we missed New Year's, so why not come out and celebrate?" said Nicola Webster Calliste, 29, outside a club in Leeds, northern England.
"It's like a new chapter." Alex Clarke, 40, was at the front of the queue outside a club in north London.
"There's a bit of apprehension and uncertainty about the protocols," Clarke said. "But as long as everyone is sensible, then it'll be alright." Covid-19 travel rules and self-isolation for close contacts remain in place.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson -- who is self-isolating after his health minister was infected -- has defended the move, dubbed "freedom day" by some media, but urged people to remain prudent.
The government says thanks to a rapid vaccination programme, the risks to the healthcare system are manageable.
And in France, cabinet members were expected on Monday to approve stricter vaccination rules requiring people to show either proof of full vaccination or a recent test to enter public venues such as restaurants, bars, shopping centres, long-distance trains and cinemas.
There are fears people travelling for the Eid al-Adha festivities could spread the virus further, and authorities in the vast Muslim-majority country strengthened roadblocks on Monday for the start of the holidays.
Vietnam ordered about a third of its 100 million people to stay at home in several provinces as it battles new outbreaks -- with a record 6,000 new daily infections reported.
Melbourne extended a lockdown, meaning roughly 12 million Australians will remain under some form of stay-at-home order.
In Myanmar, where hospitals are empty because of a long-running strike against the military junta, volunteers are going house-to-house to collect bodies for burials.
"We are running our service without resting," Than Than Soe told AFP at the bustling office of her volunteer group.
- Olympics dampened - And as organisers finalised preparations for the 2020 Olympics -- set to open Friday with no spectators and with Tokyo under a state of emergency after a surge in cases -- four virus cases were confirmed in the athletes' village.
And on Monday a female American gymnast tested positive at an Olympic training camp, while another team member is self-isolating.
The cases put a damper on the upcoming games, which have failed to secure much public support in Japan.
The latest Asahi Shimbun newspaper poll found a majority of respondents, 55 percent, were against holding the Games this summer, with 33 percent in favour.