Covid-19 in Bristol: How have things changed since ‘Freedom Day’?

The past few weeks have been a reminder of what life was like during some of the more unpleasant days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many people spent Christmas without seeing their family after testing positive, even if the festive season was not marked by the same legal restrictions on social mixing that we saw in 2020.

And a real sense of caution has returned in the political approach to the virus too, with governments in the countries of the United Kingdom re-introducing restrictions not seen in months in an effort to stop the unprecedented rise in cases caused by the Omicron variant.

READ MORE: The areas of Bristol with Covid rates as high as London

In England, plan B has seen the return of mandatory face coverings in certain indoor settings, while Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have taken much tougher approaches.

In Bristol and across England, the introduction of plan B marks the first time since July 19 that we have had to follow rules on face masks and other things which are specifically designed to curb the virus’ spread.

On that day, which was billed by some as “freedom day”, the vast majority of restrictions on our lives were lifted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

For the first time since the initial lockdown in March 2020, there were no limits on how many people you could meet at one time, while nightclubs reopened and pubs and restaurants no longer had to stick to table service.

It was also the first time since July 2020 that people were no longer required by law to wear face coverings inside indoor public spaces.

For some, the day was a cause for celebration, as freedom was enjoyed after more than a year of lockdowns and restrictions.

At Bristol nightclub Lakota, hundreds of ravers attended the venue’s first full capacity club night since March 2020, and the owner told Bristol Live that his club’s reopening was a “fantastic event that we have waited a long time for”.

The queue to get in Lakota as ‘Freedom Day arrives’
(Image: Ross Millen)

However, others urged caution, including mayor Marvin Rees, who said that the approach of national government “could have been a little bit more sober and a little bit more measured”.

And some Bristol businesses chose to continue to ask people to wear masks and respect social distancing.

Since that day, cases of Covid have risen dramatically – on July 19 in the UK, 46,882 tested positive, while yesterday (December 29) that figure was 183,037.

And in Bristol cases have more than doubled since “freedom day”, rising from 486 on July 19 to 1,084 yesterday.

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Deaths have also increased – on “freedom day”, 23 people died within 28 days of a positive Covid test in the UK, while yesterday there were 57 deaths.

But in the same period, vaccine coverage has also increased significantly in Bristol and across the country – on July 19, 45.9 per cent of people in our city had received two doses of a Covid jab, while that figure is now 77.1 per cent, and the number of people getting their third booster jab is continuing to rise.

And for now, the English government has given no indication that more restrictions will be introduced, meaning that a return to life in lockdown remains off the table.

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