July 20, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

Although England lifted most COVID-19 restrictions from yesterday, the reality of life in the country appears to be not all that free, as the UK Government continues in its determined effort to live with the virus.

As there is still a requirement to isolate for those who come into contact with a positive case and with cases continuing to rise in the UK – there have been 322,170 cases identified in the last week – millions are thought to be currently self-isolating due to exposure to COVID. High rates of isolation are also possibly due to the sensitivity of the UK’s COVID-19 Test and Trace app, which pings many of those who are required to isolate.

Official data had 840,000 students self-isolating last week and an analysis from The Guardian estimates that altogether 1.6 million people in Britain have been told to self-isolate in a single week.

The knock-on effect of mass isolation has included schools closing early for the summer or moving to online learning, the opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella being cancelled in London after a cast member tested positive and nervousness from iconic retailer Marks and Spencer that they may have to change their stores’ hours due to staff shortages.

Ironically, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also in isolation after contact with a positive case as restrictions eased yesterday.

High rates of vaccination across the UK are the rationale for lifting restrictions, with 87.9 percent of adults having received at least one vaccine dose and 68.5 percent being fully vaccinated. Even with those figures, 296 people died with COVID in the last week in the UK – up 48 percent on the previous week – and 4,317 people were admitted to hospital, up 39.5 percent.

The requirement for those who have been fully vaccinated to isolate after coming into contact with a positive case is set to be dropped from August 16.