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Happy 'Freedom Day': Stats suggest many in England don't want it or think it's a terrible idea

Coronavirus restrictions lifting, but to what cost?

Police and anti-lockdown protesters are clashing outside the Houses of Parliament with tempers boiling over in Westminster just as "Freedom Day" in England hits the half-day mark. And according to the ONS, their concerns seem to be shared by those less likely to chuck a bottle too.

The Reg has seen reports of a road being blocked as glass-flinging demonstrators took to the streets today, when many Covid restrictions are due to be relaxed as a precursor to life returning back to normal. The snag is, for many people, it simply doesn't feel like it.

The official line is that across the country – to a greater or lesser extent depending on where you live, work or travel – many restrictions are being lifted with a shift of emphasis onto greater personal judgement and responsibility.

We note that in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, restrictions still apply, as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned Scots this morning.

But according to the latest weekly Opinions and Lifestyle Survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the gradual unlocking of the nation is likely to be slow and cautious with more than half (57 per cent) saying they are worried about the plans to lift legal restrictions that have shaped people's lives for the last 18 months.

Happily, nine in 10 people said they "felt" wearing a mask and keeping distance from strangers was helping to slow the spread of COVID-19, with two-thirds (64 per cent) of those quizzed saying they still planned to cover their faces in shops.

If you're travelling on public transport, there's bad news. Just two-thirds of respondents said they planned to continue to wear masks on buses and trains, while six in 10 people said they planned to avoid crowded places.

Transport for London has said people would still be required to wear a face covering on public transport unless they are "exempt".

South Western Railway – which runs services into London Waterloo – said it has "removed advice about social distancing and expects passengers, out of respect for others, to wear face coverings in crowded places."

Track and trace ping-demic: BoJo and co slow vaccine rules no-go

All of this comes amid continued concerns over the NHS track-and-trace app. Last week, more than 500,000 people were "pinged" and instructed to self-isolate – including Prime Minister Boris Johnson among other senior politicians – prompting yet more confusion as business leaders called for clarity and leadership.

"Yet again the reopening of the economy is being impeded by poor communication and mixed messages," said Dr Roger Barker, Policy Director at the Institute of Directors.

"The latest guidance for businesses clearly states that, by law, businesses must not allow a self-isolating worker to come to work. But, at the same time, ministers are briefing the media that the app is merely advisory."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak also came under heavy fire at the weekend after suggesting they themselves would take part in a "pilot scheme" where they would be allowed to continue working and avoid isolation. This went down like a bag of sick with citizens as the country's industries continue to be hit by staff shortages caused by self-quarantine rules, dubbed by English press as the "pingdemic".

The pair U-turned after the backlash and promised to self-isolate. No one mention Barnard Castle, eh? ®

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