England lifts Covid curbs as scientists warn of surge in cases

The British government on July 19 lifted pandemic restrictions on daily life in England, scrapping all social distancing in a step slammed by scientists and opposition parties as a dangerous leap into the unknown.

From midnight (2300 GMT Sunday), nightclubs were 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 were 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 U.K. 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 said.

"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."

Jonathan Ashworth, the opposition Labour party's health spokesman, said 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.

After the success of the vaccination programme - which has now offered at least one dose to every adult in Britain -- the government says any risks to hospital care are...

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