The British government officially lifted pandemic restrictions on daily life in England as of midnight on Sunday, AFP reported.
Nightclubs are now able to reopen and other indoor venues allowed to run at full capacity, while legal mandates covering the wearing of masks and working from home have been scrapped.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson—who is self-isolating after his health minister was infected—urged the public to remain prudent and for any laggards to join the two-thirds of UK adults who are now fully vaccinated.
He defended the reopening—dubbed “freedom day” by some media—despite scientists’ grave misgivings after daily infection rates in Britain topped 50,000, behind only Indonesia and Brazil.
“If we don’t do it now, then we’ll be opening up in the autumn, the winter months, when the virus has the advantage of the cold weather,” the prime minister said in a video message.
This week’s start of summer school holidays offered a “precious firebreak”, he added.
“If we don’t do it now, we’ve got to ask ourselves, when will we ever do it? So this is the right moment, but we’ve got to do it cautiously,” said Johnson.
Johnson announced last week that all remaining lockdown restrictions in England will be lifted despite a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
The British Prime Minister said at the time it was "the right moment to proceed" as schools close for summer vacation but urged people to "proceed with caution."
Jonathan Ashworth, the opposition Labour party’s health spokesman, said on Sunday the government was being “reckless”, echoing experts who say the reopening endangers global health.
“We are against opening up without any precautions in place,” Ashworth told BBC television, attacking in particular the government’s plan on masks.
Senior Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt, a former health secretary, said the government should learn from Israel and the Netherlands, which have been forced to reverse recent relaxations.
“The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing amber, it is flashing red,” he was quoted as having told BBC radio.