Most of the UK is taking a big step towards normalcy on Monday as restrictions on coronaviruses are relaxed, despite concerns about the spread of a more communicable variant of the disease.
Across England, Wales and most of Scotland, domestic hospitality in pubs, restaurants and cafes is making a comeback and cinemas, museums and sports halls are due to open for the first time since. months.
But the easing will not come until May 24 for Northern Ireland.
Individuals and families may also face some restrictions inside private homes and international travel will resume in some countries, including Portugal.
“Together we have taken a new step in our road map out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a strong dose of caution,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday.
“We are closely monitoring the spread of the variant identified for the first time in India and acting quickly where infection rates are increasing,” he added.
While leaving Monday’s easing in place, Johnson warned last week that the full lifting of Covid-19 measures on June 21 could be jeopardized by a more transmissible variant that was first detected in India. .
– Accelerated vaccinations –
Johnson said on Sunday that government data did not show the National Public Health Service (NHS) under too much pressure.
He added that second doses of the vaccine would be brought forward to protect those over 50 and clinically vulnerable people as the measures were lifted and a new variant spread.
Britain, one of the worst affected countries in the world with more than 127,000 deaths, has also seen a rapid deployment of vaccines with more than 20 million people now fully vaccinated.
According to government data, the variant that first appeared in India is spreading in Britain with strain cases rising from 520 to 1,313 last week, centered around the northern towns of Bolton and Blackburn.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government could “stay the course” with a “high degree of confidence” that the vaccines would withstand the strain.
He also said the “vast majority” of people hospitalized in Bolton with the new variant were eligible for the vaccination but had not come forward.
-‘Spill like a fire’-
Hancock warned the new strain could “spread like wildfire among unvaccinated groups” and did not rule out localized restrictions.
The city of Glasgow in the west of Scotland and the north-east region of Moray are maintaining existing restrictions due to an increase in cases.
Last week, Johnson pledged to conduct a full and independent public inquiry into his government’s handling of the coronavirus.
He was accused of hesitating during a third nationwide lockdown in early January, as the surge in Covid-19 infections increased hospital admissions and death rates.
Experts and opposition politicians have also criticized Johnson for failing to restrict travel from India earlier as cases of Covid-19 have spiked there.
But the popularity of the Conservative government has benefited from a “vaccine rebound” from the rollout of jabs, with a strong performance in local elections in England.
Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday that “one of the highest vaccination rates in the world” had been crucial for rapid progress.
© 2021 AFP