England Eyes Freedom: PM Johnson To Set Out Lockdown Easing
Reuters reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out plans for the final step of easing COVID-19 lockdown in England on Monday, including guidance on social distancing, face coverings and working from home.
After imposing the most onerous restrictions in Britain’s peacetime history to battle the novel coronavirus, Johnson is preparing to lift most restrictions in England on July 19 with a final decision due on July 12.
Data suggests that cases will continue to rise as restrictions are eased, the government said, but the link to hospitalisations and deaths has been weakened by the vaccination programme.
People will learn to live with COVID as they do already with flu, Johnson is expected to say, meaning that hospitalisations, serious illness and deaths will continue but at a much lower level than before widespread vaccination.
“Thanks to the successful rollout of our vaccination programme, we are progressing cautiously through our roadmap,” Johnson said in a statement released by his office.
“But I must stress that the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks.
“As we begin to learn to live with this virus, we must all continue to carefully manage the risks from COVID and exercise judgement when going about our lives.”
The take-up of vaccines in Britain has been strong, with 86% of adults receiving a first dose and 64% receiving two doses as of Sunday, government data shows.
However, cases of COVID-19 have risen in recent weeks, driven by the now-dominant Delta variant, and the final step of lockdown easing was delayed by four weeks to enable more people to be vaccinated.
Data from Public Health England shows that vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalisation from this variant, the government said.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Sunday face masks would no longer be mandatory after the final step in lockdown easing.
“We’re going to be shifting much more to an approach which is where there is guidance, but you take personal responsibility, you make a common sense judgment, about what is the right thing to do to protect yourself and others,” junior health minister Helen Whately told Sky News.