Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Boris Johnson presents a “cautious” deconfinement plan


Boris Johnson, February 17, 2021 in Bridgend. – Alastair Grant / AP / SIPA

Is the United Kingdom finally seeing the end of the tunnel after the strong tensions linked to the Covid-19 epidemic? Prime Minister Boris Johnson must in any case present this Monday a cautious and very gradual deconfinement plan for England. First flagship measure: schools must reopen on March 8.

Country in Europe hardest hit by the coronavirus with more than 120,000 dead, the United Kingdom confined itself for the third time in early January in the face of an explosion of the epidemic due to a more contagious variant that appeared in Kent, that has brought hospitals to the brink of submersion. The effects of containment and the mass vaccination campaign 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 press conference in the evening.

Reopening of schools, not pubs

The government has already, through Secretary of State for Immunization Nadhim Zahawi, confirmed the reopening of all English schools on March 8. “It’s ambitious but it’s also prudent and data-driven,” Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC. Then from March 29, outdoor gatherings limited to six people or two different households may be allowed, according to the government’s plan. Non-essential stores, hairdressers, pubs, restaurants, cinemas and museums will have to wait.

The deconfinement will be “careful” and “progressive”, 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 head of the Conservative government 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 risks of transmission are considered lower.

One in three adults vaccinated

Boris Johnson said 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. 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.

The vaccination campaign launched in December is in full swing: one in three adults has already received a first dose. By mid-April, those over 50 should all have received a first dose of the vaccine. The government has promised that all adults will be offered a first injection of the anti-Covid vaccine by the end of July, advancing a deadline initially set for September. Scientists estimate that vaccines provide protection about three weeks after being injected.

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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