European country hardest hit by the pandemic with more than 120,000 dead, the United Kingdom hopes for a return to normal by the end of June. From March 29, the instruction to stay at home will be lifted.
Briton Boris Johnson said on Monday that he hoped for a return to near-normal by the end of June in England, presenting his strategy for exiting confinement that he wanted to be “cautious” but “irreversible” and which will begin with the reopening of schools early March.
Country in Europe hardest hit by the coronavirus with more than 120,000 dead, the United Kingdom confined itself for the third time at the start of the year in the face of an explosion of the epidemic due to a more contagious variant appeared in the South of England, which brought hospitals to the brink of submersion.
Reopening of schools
According to a schedule decided in each of the nations, the country is now preparing to loosen the screw a little, the restrictions and the massive vaccination campaign having led to a decline in contaminations, hospitalizations and deaths.
“We cannot go on indefinitely with restrictions that weaken our economy, our mental and physical well-being,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs, presenting a four-step plan for England. “This is why it is essential that this roadmap be prudent but also irreversible”.
In England, the most populous nation with 56 million people, schools will be the first to benefit from the relaxation of restrictions, with a reopening scheduled for March 8. From March 29, the order to stay at home will be lifted and outdoor gatherings, limited to six people or two different households, will be authorized.
Non-essential stores, hairdressers, pubs – but only outdoors – and museums will have to wait until April 12. Cinemas, hotels, stadiums (with a maximum of 10,000 people), hotels and restaurants (indoors) will follow on May 17, the date on which members of different households will be able to meet indoors.
If the health situation allows it, the restrictions limiting social contact will be lifted on June 21 at the earliest, as will the teleworking instruction.
Vaccines have “changed the game”
Boris Johnson said any decision would be made based on the scientific evidence at his disposal, such as the effectiveness of anti-Covid vaccines and the decline in hospitalizations.
The government based its crisis exit strategy on the vaccination campaign, launched in early December, which is in full swing. One in three adults has already received a first dose, or more than 17.5 million people, and by mid-April, those over 50 should all have been partially vaccinated.
The government has promised that all adults will be offered a first injection of the anti-Covid vaccine by the end of July. “I fundamentally believe that the immunization program has been a game-changer in our favor,” said Boris Johnson.
“We must ensure that businesses are supported”
Even before these announcements, some economic sectors particularly affected by the pandemic, such as the hotel and catering industry, however regretted that they could not reopen more quickly.
“The pub has always been more than just a place to drink. This is where we go to connect, to form a community, ”defended Emma McClarkin, Executive Director of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), pleading for their reopening.
The Labor opposition defends the reduction of VAT to help this sector. “We must ensure that businesses are supported” to ensure their “survival”, Labor chief Keir Starmer insisted on Sunday.
In the United Kingdom, each of the country’s four nations decides on its deconfinement strategy. Schools in Scotland and Wales gradually reopened 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 as “at risk” must observe ten days of quarantine in a hotel, at their expense.
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