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UK policy contagion is driving Irish Covid infections

Colm McCarthy


Britain ditched its last health restrictions in July and now has the worst infection rates in Europe, so why have we taken the risk of following suit?

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Nitza Sarner as she awaits a Pfizer booster vaccination in London last Friday. Picture by Matt Dunham/Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Nitza Sarner as she awaits a Pfizer booster vaccination in London last Friday. Picture by Matt Dunham/Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Nitza Sarner as she awaits a Pfizer booster vaccination in London last Friday. Picture by Matt Dunham/Reuters

After a premature reopening at Christmas — before the vaccination programmes had gathered pace — severe lockdowns in Ireland and the UK were needed to cut the incidence of cases, hospitalisations, and death. The measures took effect quickly, and both countries saw all three indicators fall well below the typical European experience through the March to June period. Neither government was shy about noting their Europe-leading numbers at the time.

This superior performance has now reversed: the UK has gone from best to last, with the infection rate now four times the EU average. The rise in infection has been attributed by British experts to the decision to lift virtually all restrictions on July 17  or ‘Freedom Day’, as described by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The British government has abandoned the habit of comparing the UK’s performance to developments elsewhere in Europe.


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