A Freedom Day of sorts arrives in Scotland and England tomorrow, not with a bang but a ping. The “pingdemic” has been born.

The opening of a new chapter in our battle against Covid will not be met with air-punching jubilation but expressions of confusion - given the hotch-potch of restrictions with some being lifted in some places but not in others - and anxiety - given the surge in infections.  

While limits on social gatherings will be eased with greater freedom for hospitality venues, legal obligations on social distancing and mask wearing as well as recommendations about working from home will be different in different parts of the country.

And while on Monday, double-jagged people from amber list countries will no longer have to self-isolate on their return, the UK Government on Friday night unhappily announced the self-isolation rule would still apply to the thousands coming back from France because of fears about the beta variant, which is more resistant to the vaccines.

The unnerving back-drop to Freedom Day’s arrival is that infection rates are not falling but rising - dramatically.

More than 50,000 daily UK cases have been reported for the first time since mid-January. It seems to be only a matter of time before the record daily high of 68,053 of January 8 is surpassed.

Last week, the unflappable Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, gave a startling warning when he said the number of Covid patients in hospital could reach “quite scary” levels within weeks.

“I don’t think we should underestimate the fact we could get into trouble again surprisingly fast,” he declared before adding, reassuringly: “We are in much better shape due to the vaccine programme and drugs and a variety of other things.”

Indeed, the vaccination programme will likely be our salvation. What would have happened without it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Yet Professor Whitty’s warning was by no means the most frightening remark to be uttered by a scientist.  

More than 1,200 of them wrote a letter to the Lancet warning how Boris Johnson’s strategy to lift virtually all of England’s pandemic restrictions in one go was a threat to the world because it would provide fertile ground for the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants.

They pointed out Britain’s position as a global transport hub would mean any new variant here would rapidly spread around the world. “The Government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on July 19,” said the experts.

However, Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Edinburgh University, who advises both the UK and Scottish Governments, begged to disagree.

“It’s widely accepted the number of cases would increase, we’ve known this would happen when we unlocked for many months now….So, ‘dangerous, unethical experiment’ seems to be a very inaccurate description of what’s going on.”

He added: “It’s not an experiment but it’s an unprecedented situation because we’ve got a new pandemic here and the UK is in a particularly interesting position because we have such a successful vaccine programme.”

But as infection rates rise, the worry is it could mean the economy grinding to a halt as millions of folk across the public and private sectors are told to self-isolate for 10 days.

Last week, the number of those pinged by the NHS Covid app rose by 340,000 to 520,000, an all-time high and 10 times the number a month ago.

From the NHS to hospitality, from transport to entertainment, all have expressed alarm at the numbers of staff self-isolating thanks to the “pingdemic” and the devastating impact on their sectors.

Lord Bilimoria, the CBI President, noted: “The cases have already crossed 50,000 a day. If they cross 100,000, instead of 500,000, people isolating, we will go up to, some people have estimated, 4.5, five million. So, you are opening up on the one hand, you are closing on the other.”

Unlike those people contacted by phone, the instruction to self-isolate via the app is not a legal requirement, just a polite request. There are reports of people now deleting the app.

But a failure to isolate would lead to a vicious circle of greater transmission, higher infection rates, more hospitalisations and more deaths.

Not surprisingly, appeals have been made for the UK Government to bring forward its plan - operational from August 19 - for those fully immunised not to have to self-isolate.

So far, it’s not budging, much to the disgruntlement of Tory backbenchers, who have branded the Government’s position “madness”. One stressed: “It might as well do something now rather than wait until the whole country collapses.”

Jeremy Hunt, the former UK Government Health Secretary, who now chairs the Commons Health Committee, said yesterday the warning light on the NHS dashboard was not flashing amber but red.

“Covid hospital patients are doubling every two weeks. That means we are heading for 10,000 Covid hospital patients by the end of August, which is about 20 times higher than this time last year. It is a very serious situation.”

He suggested action was needed and if infection rates continued to rise when schools returned, then governments across the UK would have to “reconsider some very difficult decisions”.

Mr Hunt argued, given people were deleting the NHS app, the UK Government had to make changes to it.

“The risk with that app is it is beginning to lose social consent and so we should either make it less sensitive or move to a system where you have to get a test when you are pinged. The risk is if people are deleting the app, then you can’t even ping them to ask them to have a test.”

Our leaders should learn from previous delays and act quickly to start exempting key sectors like the NHS, transport and food production from self-isolation if they have tested negative; Freedom Day would be a perfect opportunity.

If our governments lose the consent of the people, they’re no longer governing.