UK PM Boris Johnson has preemptively declared restrictions on outdoor sports matches for even the lowest-risk areas ahead of the second lockdown’s scheduled end. He hasn’t specified the requirements for the fans willing to attend.
Johnson announced a 4,000-fan limit to outdoor sporting events on Monday, to be implemented following the purported December 2 end date to the UK’s second national lockdown. The move doesn’t bode well for those Brits hoping the end of the nationwide shutdown implied some semblance of returning to normal.
The attendance limit would apply to only the lowest “tier” in the intensified three-tier system the PM is expected to reinstate starting December 3, in which “non-essential” businesses will be permitted to open but pubs and restaurants and other social gathering-places will face steep restrictions. Sporting events in tier two regions will only be allowed 2,000 fans, while tier three areas won’t be allowed spectators at all, according to the new rules.
The House of Commons is expected to vote on Johnson’s proposal later in the week. The PM also confirmed on Monday that gyms, shops, and personal care businesses will be able to reopen after December 2. At least one football club has sent out a distress call at the prospect of being refused paying guests – Tottenham said it would suffer “an irrecoverable loss of income” of £150 million or more if fans were barred from its expensive new stadium, which seats over 62,000 people and cost £1.2 billion.
Even if Johnson follows through with permitting severely downsized crowds at sporting events, it’s not clear if they will be expected (or required) to obtain the so-called “freedom passes” which officials are dangling as an enticement to healthy individuals to get tested for the virus. Such passes will be stored on users’ smartphones, possibly in the form of a QR code, according to government sources, and doled out as a reward to individuals who test negative twice in one week.
The strategy is based on the Slovakian model in which the government managed to test a whopping 97 percent of its population in less than three weeks by offering “immunity certificates” as a reward that allowed the bearer to escape curfews and other Covid-19 restrictions.
While the scheme appears to have a broad base of support within the government, Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that “it’s too early in the science of the immunity that comes from having had the disease” to tell how long immunity lasts and how long people with antibodies are “safe” from catching or transmitting the virus – if indeed repeat infection is possible.
Despite his initial resistance to nationwide economic shutdowns in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, Johnson has become an enthusiastic supporter of the quasi-totalitarian control measures beloved by Hancock and the rest of Britain’s health authorities. He opted to self-isolate earlier this month after supposedly coming into contact with a Covid-positive individual, despite having already suffered through a bout of the virus during which he was briefly hospitalized.
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