British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday to aim for a return to almost normal for the summer, presenting a deconfinement strategy that he wants “cautious”, but “irreversible” and which will begin with the reopening of schools in early March.
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Do not rush to avoid having to tighten the screw: so far accused of a chaotic management of the coronavirus pandemic, by confining too late and deconfining too quickly, the leader has detailed a plan to end the crisis in four major steps .
“We cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that weaken our economy, our mental and physical well-being, and the life opportunities for our children,” Boris Johnson told MPs. “This is why it is essential that this roadmap be prudent, but also irreversible”.
The most bereaved country in Europe with nearly 121,000 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 that appeared in the south from England, which brought hospitals to the brink of submersion.
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 drop in contamination, hospitalizations and deaths.
In England, the most populous nation with 56 million people, schools will be the first to reopen on March 8, with regular testing in secondary schools.
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 can meet indoors.
If the health situation allows it, the restrictions on social contacts will be lifted on June 21 at the earliest, as will the teleworking instruction.
According to the Prime Minister, any decision to relax the restrictions will be made based on the scientific data at his disposal, such as the effectiveness of anti-COVID vaccines, the decline in hospitalizations and the appearance of new variants.
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, more than 17.7 million people. By mid-April, those over 50 should have all been partially vaccinated, then all adults by the end of July.
“I fundamentally believe that the immunization program has been a game-changer in our favor,” said Boris Johnson.
According to a Scottish study on Monday, the Pfizer / BioNTech and AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccines currently administered have reduced hospitalizations after one dose by 85% and 94% respectively.
Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer, however, called on the leader to resist calls from MPs from his own Tory camp to quickly relax restrictions.
“In the past, we have emerged without being careful enough (…) We cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes, this must be the last containment,” he said.
Faced with the severe economic impact of the pandemic, Boris Johnson pledged to continue supporting employment, stressing that measures would be detailed when the budget was presented on March 3.
But while praising the “clarity” of her plan, Helen Dickinson, patron of the Federation of British Traders (BRC), called for more “flexibility”, warning that “every day a store has to remain closed increases the risk. that it will never reopen ”.
Like her, the travel industry has called for financial support from the executive, which is expected to vote in mid-May on restrictions on foreign travel.
Border controls have indeed been tightened to prevent the importation of variants, and a hotel quarantine is now mandatory for residents from 33 countries classified at risk.
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