Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The last confinement in England? Boris Johnson presents his exit plan


The whole country was again confined at the beginning of January to fight against the Covid-19 epidemic which has killed more than 120,000 in the United Kingdom and brought hospitals to the brink of the crisis.

The effects of confinement and vaccinations being felt, with a drop in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Boris Johnson can outline deconfinement measures. He will present them to parliament in the afternoon before a televised press conference in the evening.

The vaccination campaign launched in December is in full swing, with one in three adults having already received a first dose of the vaccine. The government has promised that all adults will receive a first injection of the anti-Covid vaccine by the end of July, advancing this deadline initially set for September.

Despite the progress, the deconfinement will be “cautious” and “progressive”, however warned Boris Johnson.

“Our priority has always been to get children back to school, which is crucial for their education as well as for their mental and physical well-being,” the leader said in a statement.

He also wants to allow people to “find their loved ones safely” after months of isolation, by allowing reunions outside, where the risk of transmission is considered lower.

Boris Johnson said that any decision would be taken on the basis of the scientific evidence at his disposal, and with caution “so as not to undo the progress” made and the “sacrifices” made.

Schools could reopen from March 8.

Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer said he hoped “ideally” for schools to reopen on that date, but stressed the need to act “cautiously” on Sky News on Sunday.

Tighter border controls

The government has already announced that from March 8, residents of nursing homes will be able to welcome a visitor inside, provided they test negative for Covid-19 and wear a mask.

This good news comes after the success of the first phase of the vaccination campaign, with 15 million people having received a first dose in mid-February, including residents of nursing homes.

Since then, the campaign has extended to over 65s and “clinically vulnerable” people. By mid-April, those over 50 should all have received a first dose of the vaccine.

Scientists estimate that vaccines provide protection about three weeks after being injected.

While families hope to see a light at the end of the tunnel, some economic sectors particularly affected by the pandemic, such as hotels and restaurants, may have to wait a few more weeks, to the dismay of pub owners.

“The pub has always been more than just a place to drink. This is where we go to connect, to form a community,” said Emma McClarkin, Executive Director of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), pleading for their reopening.

The Labor Party defends the reduction of VAT to help this sector. “We must make sure to support companies” to ensure their “survival”, insisted Keir Starmer.

In the United Kingdom, each of the country’s four nations decides on its strategy for deconfinement. Schools in Scotland and Wales are gradually reopening from Monday, starting with the smallest primary grades.

While preparing for deconfinement, the government has tightened border controls to prevent the importation of variants. Since last Monday, British residents and Irish citizens arriving in England from 33 countries classified at risk must observe ten days of quarantine in a hotel, at their expense.



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