Last week, the Office for National Statistics estimated that one in 60 people in England had the virus, one of the highest levels seen in Britain during the pandemic.
In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government lifted all the legal restrictions that had been imposed more than a year earlier to slow the spread of the virus, including face coverings indoors and social distancing rules. Nightclubs and other crowded venues were allowed to open at full capacity, and people were no longer advised to work from home if they could.
Some modellers feared a big spike in cases after the reopening. That did not occur, but infections remained high, and recently have begun to increase.
So have hospitalisations and deaths, which are averaging more than 100 a day – far lower than when cases were last this high, before much of the population was vaccinated, but still too high, critics of the government say.
Some say Britons have been too quick to return to pre-pandemic behaviour. Masks and social distancing are gone in most settings in England, including schools, though other parts of the UK remain a bit more strict. Even in shops, where masks are recommended, and on the London transit network, where they are mandatory, adherence is patchy.