AS the skies begin to open for foreign holidays, millions of us could be left dreaming of sun-kissed beaches from our self-isolation at home, thanks to the current raging infection rates.

Only in Britain, it seems, is a government intent on throwing off the Covid shackles so freely just as the country hits another wave of the killer virus. Nicola Sturgeon yesterday noted how Boris’s plan for England was “something of an exception,” which almost certainly means she won’t be following it.

The question is: will the Prime Minister’s big gamble to unleash Freedom Day on July 19 pay off?

It was curious to see how this week Sir Patrick Valance, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, explained how the link between the virus and hospitalisations and deaths had been “weakened,” yet 24 hours later Mr Johnson was boldly telling MPs it had been “severed”. Which is clearly not the case.

Sajid Javid, England’s new Health Secretary, blithely suggested infection rates could hit 100,000 a day soon south of the border. But, worryingly, the Conservative Government refused to say what the official estimate was for the consequent hospitalisations and deaths from this projected rate, raising fears about the Government’s so-called “free-for-all” strategy.

Some countries, like Israel, which have loosened restrictions on issues such as mask-wearing, have been forced to backtrack. Last month, Holland lifted most of its lockdown measures as cases fell and vaccinations increased, but within a fortnight, with bars, restaurants, and nightclubs reopened, new cases doubled.

As the global death-toll from Covid 19 passes the grim four million mark, the balance, as ever, between keeping people safe and opening up the economy is a very difficult one to strike.

The question being asked in Whitehall about lifting restrictions is: if not now, when; given the low number of people in hospital and deaths compared to the beginning of the year and that almost nine in 10 people across the UK have now had their first jag and two-thirds both doses.

Yet it does seem strange to allow infection rates to let rip when scientists tell us such increased rates could result in the biggest danger of all: a new vaccine-resistant variant. Should this nightmare happen, it would undo all the good work done thus far and plunge us back into Covid’s long night of misery.

This week, Professor Susan Michie, Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London[UCL] warned: “Allowing community transmission to surge is like building new ‘variant factories’ at a very fast rate.”

However, other top scientists appear sanguine about the Government’s strategy.

Her UCL colleague Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling helped lead to the first restrictions, described Boris’s plan as a “slight gamble” and that it was “justifiable,” adding: “I’m reasonably optimistic.”

But there are other serious concerns about rapidly rising infection rates.

Firstly, MPs warned of the risk of many more people suffering from the “devastating impact” of Long Covid.

The latest official statistics revealed some 962,000 people across the UK have Long Covid, of which 385,000 have had the condition for one year or more; 242,000 were under the age of 34.

Secondly, non-urgent elective operations have started to be cancelled. A number of hospitals in Scotland and England have reached capacity and reported a “code black status”.

Thirdly, as society opens up, more infected people will just stop self-isolating. Indeed, there are already reports of people deleting the NHS trace app from their phones and laptops.

Yesterday, figures showed the number of exposure alerts sent to users of the NHS Covid-19 app in England had risen by more than 60%.

While most of the remaining lockdown restrictions south of the border are set to end on July 19, changes to self-isolation rules will not come in for another four weeks.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has warned the plans to end restrictions could lead to a “summer of chaos and confusion” as businesses feared “carnage” with the loss of staff to isolation and people having to cancel social plans. Not only that, if infection rates do mean millions of people having to self-isolate, then this could affect the running of public services, most notably hospitals.

There is also the threat of social tensions as some people continue to social distance and wear face-masks while others do not.

Ms Sturgeon is worried England’s Freedom Day could spark some confusion among Scots over which restrictions remained in place in Scotland. She spoke about her concern that the “domination of coverage” from England could “confuse the message here”.

The hope must surely be, as most people get doubled-jagged and with a growing number of those infected having antibodies, the virus will have nowhere to go and, as in previous pandemics, will become much less of a threat.

If the PM’s strategy is right and the vast majority have their two Covid doses by September, then come the autumn, the level of coronavirus infections should fall off a cliff.

The problem for public health might be a resurgence of winter flu. Professor Chris Whitty, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, admitted he would be “surprised” if there was a return to a pre-pandemic normality before spring. He predicted a “difficult winter” ahead.

Meanwhile, research from ICL has suggested men are becoming more exposed to the Delta variant because of crowds gathering to watch the Euro 2020 football tournament. This weekend, 60,000 people will be at Wembley and many more crowded together at venues across the UK.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, hardly inspired confidence when he declared: “We’re managing the risk” but then added: “I’m confident there won’t be a big outbreak but we can’t guarantee that now.”

There was, for some, even more unwelcome research, which suggested a link between coronavirus and erectile dysfunction. One more gamble to ponder when watching the England vs Italy final on Sunday night.