I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Why did Pret a Manger feel strangely different when I popped in on Monday lunchtime to buy a sandwich? Then it dawned on me. The protective plastic screens separating customers from workers had been removed. Now we could happily breathe all over each other. Except of course, we didn’t. Everyone in Pret was wearing a mask, as the vast majority of people in and around London EC4 are continuing to do. This was Freedom Day, but with Terms & Conditions.
Even the markets were subdued. It’s hard to feel a sense of jubilation when the long-awaited exit from lockdown, and the lifting of all legal curbs on social contact was such a shambles. The pandemic has been joined by the 'pingdemic' as the NHS app means hundreds of thousands of workers are forced to self-isolate. The CBI reckoned that by the end of last week up to 20 per cent of the workforce was self isolating.
The position on returning to work has been watered down too – the government wants people to return to their workplaces but there’s no rush. It might even become mandatory for nightclubs to ask for proof of vaccination, although that may not be a bad idea. When nightclubs in the Netherlands reopened about a month ago with no restrictions, the daily infection rate was at 400. Now it’s at 10,000 a day.