UK scraps all COVID restrictions while Biden doubles down on mask campaign and vaccine mandates

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has refused to speculate when Americans might follow the UK and finally get back to normal by ditching masks and COVID passports, despite a slowdown in cases. 

Asked on Fox News’s America’s Newsroom on Thursday whether the US could expect to follow the UK’s example by scrapping COVID restrictions, Psaki said ‘we want to get back to a point where we’re not wearing masks’ but went on to describe the current situation in the US as ‘the height of a pandemic’.

A day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that England will scrap all restrictions, including mandatory isolation – she refused to be drawn on a timeline for when Americans might expect to experience the same hope of normalcy. 

Emphasizing the importance of vaccination, Psaki went on to say: ‘We don’t want to live like this. You heard the president say ‘we don’t want to live like this forever.

‘We want to get back to a point where we’re not wearing masks, of course. Where we are not worried about our kids being in school… That’s where we want to get to, and what we’re trying to do is continue to fight at the height of a pandemic to get to that point.’ 

According to data derived from global scientific online publication Our World in Data, for every million residents, the UK has seen an average of approximately 1,400 positive COVID cases per week as of January 19 – .1 percent. 

The U.S. is also seeing a slowdown in cases that spiked when the mild, but highly transmissible Omicron variant caught on in December. The US has nearly twice as many weekly infections for each million residents as the UK, with a reported 2,233 cases, but Omicron is already burning out and deaths, mostly attributed to the older Delta variant, have remained steady. States that were once leaders in case growth last month are recording the largest drops.  

While the English being told by their leaders that they no longer need wear masks and by the end of March will no longer be forced to isolate in the event of a positive COVID test, the US government is about to start dishing out free N95 masks to its citizens and finally launched its long-promised program to distribute millions of free test kits – a tardy move that critics have said should have come before the peak of the Omicron wave. 

Jen Psaki appeared on America’s Newsroom Thursday. She told hosts Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer:  ‘We want to get back to a point where we’re not wearing masks, of course. Where we are not worried about our kids being in school… That’s where we want to get to’ but refused to be drawn on a timeframe for a return to normalcy

The UK is no longer asking people to work from home. Across the Atlantic, however,  companies are doing the opposite and are actively telling staff to remain remote.  

From today, secondary school pupils in the U.K. will not have to wear face coverings in classrooms. The requirement to wear masks in corridors and other communal areas will end next Thursday, January 27.

In the U.S., children are required to wear masks in classrooms across the country, and the nation’s premiere health agency has urged citizens to double-mask and don the more effective N-95 mask as opposed to other, less effective cloth masks.  

In the U.S., mask and social distancing rules have been mandated on a state-by-state basis while the Biden administration’s efforts to take sweeping nationals actions are bogged down in the courts.  

The US, meanwhile, boasts nearly twice as many weekly infections for each million residents, with a reported 2,233 cases, despite stricter guidelines from the government

According to data derived from global scientific online publication Our World in Data, for every million residents, the UK has seen an average of approximately 1,400 positive COVID cases per week as of January 19, suggesting the Omicron surge may be starting to level off

From next Thursday, the U.K. Government will no longer legally mandate the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport. But they will continue to suggest masks should be worn in enclosed and crowded places where people could come into contact with those they do not normally meet. The Prime Minister said this meant the Government will ‘trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalize anyone who chooses not to wear one’.

In the U.S., the White House has pledged that it will soon ship 400 million N95 masks to U.S. pharmacies and community health centers to be given away – a move that was blasted by scientists who believe it comes too late to be effective against the recent Omicron surge. 

In the U.K., proof of vaccination or a recent negative test will no longer be needed to enter nightclubs and large venues from next Thursday. But businesses will still be free to use the NHS Covid Pass if they want.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., most restaurants and large venues across the nation require proof of vaccination.

The U.K. has allowed residents to order up to seven tests delivered to their door daily, but free Covid lateral flow tests look set to be scrapped by July. People will be pointed towards an online ordering system to purchase the tests, which cost £30 for a pack of seven.

The U.S. response to COVID has reportedly been defined as slow on mandating tests and masks from many in the scientific community. Officials only recently ruled that it would send four take-home tests to every domicile across the country, amid a national shortage and as scared citizen line up in droves to see if they are positive.

Critics have blasted the Biden administration’s response as being far behind that of European nations, many of which are rolling back guidance and mandates as the world approaches the two-year mark of living with the virus.

‘By the time the masks and tests get there, the surge will probably be over,’ said Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases doctor at the University of California San Francisco.  

In October, as the Delta variant began its rampage, the White House reportedly rejected a plan to manufacture and distribute at-home rapid tests for the winter holidays. 

A tale of two countries: The UK announced their roadmap to ending COVID restrictions which will see an end to WFH, masks in public spaces and COVID passes by the end of next week. The US government is finally sending masks and tests to citizens. 

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday that the U.K. will scrap virtually all national COVID restrictions in March, just as U.S. President Joe Biden has announced plans to ramp up efforts with masking and vaccination to contain the Omicron variant in America

Experts cited three key elements in the U.S. government’s slow response to the Omicron – which was first identified in South Africa late last year and was reported in the the US in December – including an over-reliance on vaccines, a failure to develop other plans and American experts battling on what the appropriate response should be.

‘I think the Biden transition team saw the first, highly promising vaccine efficacy results from Pfizer in fall 2020 and decided against making serious investments in so-called ”non-pharmaceutical interventions” from the beginning,’ Harvard social epidemiologist Justin Feldman told Vox.

‘This vaccine-only strategy was never a good idea, but there were wake-up calls that were missed.’    

While most experts agree vaccines are still the best weapon against the virus, many believe the Biden administration’s slow move to take more proactive steps has put America behind the eight ball when trying to catch up with Omicron.

‘When it comes to public health overall, I think there is a relentless tendency to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good,’ Harvard epidemiologist Hanage told Vox.

‘When you are facing an exponentially growing wave of infections, we do not have the time to identify and demonstrate which policies are optimal, and that means we are caught out over and over again.’ 

The U.S. is currently logging an average of 739,234 new cases every day – a six percent drop for the 787,887 deaths being averaged this time last week. On Wednesday, the nation recorded 979,920 cases. While it is a higher total than some previous Wednesdays, some lagging cases from the holiday weekend are still trickling in.

Daily deaths are up eight percent over the past week, from 1,717 deaths last week to 1,867 as of Wednesday.

A potential decrease in cases and deaths in the coming weeks has been on the cards as U.S. experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, have predicted that daily cases in the country would eventually recede as the rapidly spreading Omicron variant would eventually run out of people to infect.

Data from the UK and South Africa shows that the Omicron surge will likely rapidly decline after reaching its peak.  Cases in the UK have slashed since reaching their peak in early January – down from around 180,000 cases per day to 100,000.   

In the US, mask and social distancing rules have been mandated on a state-by-state basis while the Biden administration’s efforts to take sweeping nationals actions are bogged down in the courts

In the UK, Johnson told lawmakers Wednesday that come March, the country will largely do away with mask mandates, explaining that restrictions were being eased because scientists say the surge of infections prompted by the contagious variant ‘has now peaked nationally’

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