BRITS are facing a new “stealth lockdown” as the Pingdemic condemns millions to self-isolation despite remaining Covid restrictions being lifted today.
Furious Tory MPs have warned Boris Johnson his long-awaited Freedom Day risks turning into a damp squib because of the huge numbers being forced to quarantine.
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They have dubbed the new normal “FINO” – Freedom in Name Only – and argue many families are now worse off than before curbs were ditched.
A senior lockdown sceptic warned the PM the rank and file will hold his feet to the fire to make sure he sticks to his promise of a return to normal.
Covid Research Group chair Mark Harper said: “I had hoped that we’d sort of be able to go ‘job done’, we can all focus on other things.
“However, I fear that isn’t the case. We’ll have to keep a watching brief on it.”
Veteran backbencher John Redwood added: “Will the government use freedom day to adapt its self isolation guidance to something more sensible and less damaging to the economy?”
It comes after worried ministers struck a downbeat note as almost all remaining restrictions are binned in England today amid rising cases.
Boris urged people to “please, please, please be cautious” even as social distancing measures are dropped.
He said: “Go forward into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people and the risks the disease continues to present.”
And vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi praised transport firms, local mayors, and supermarkets that are ordering people to carry on wearing masks.
He said: “We have to be careful, we have to remain vigilant, our border controls remain in place.
“Our expectation and recommendation is that people continue to wear masks and take both personal and corporate responsibility.
But he said “I’m confident that we’re doing the right thing” in lifting restrictions despite being urged by many scientists not to press ahead.
He added: “It’s right that we now move on from Government by diktat because we’re wanting to get our lives back, get back to normality.”
The PM is also facing pressure to bring forward the exemption for double-jabbed Brits from self-isolation.
Currently everyone except NHS and care staff will have to wait until August 16 before the requirement is dropped.
But business chiefs have warned the system is crippling the economy and there are even fears of food shortages because so many drivers are being pinged.
One Cabinet minister fumed: “This ‘pingmageddon’ is getting ridiculous. We have got to get out of this mess and return to normality.”
Mike Cherry from the Federation of Small Businesses added: “Government should urgently review the delay to changing self-isolation rules for the fully vaccinated to August 16.
“It could expand the pilot scheme that ministers currently enjoy to those at the frontline of the economy.”
No 10 has said now is the best time to lift curbs because the school holidays and good weather should help suppress case numbers.
But officials have privately conceded that millions of Brits will catch Covid over the next few weeks.
And one minister told Politico: “I just can’t escape the feeling that this is all about to go terribly wrong.”
Mr Zahawi said he’s “confident” that the vaccination programme means we won’t have to go back into lockdown this Autumn.
Prof Neil Ferguson warned containing the pandemic to 100,000 cases and 1,000 hospitalisations a day this summer would now be a “success”.