Britons Urged to Stay Safe as England Takes Step Out of Lockdown

Britons are being urged to follow the rules or risk a resurgence of the coronavirus as England takes a much-anticipated step toward exiting restrictions that have pummeled the economy and curtailed civil liberties.

Starting Monday, six people, or two households, can gather outdoors and outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts will be allowed to reopen. It’s the second in a series of steps the government hopes will see all lockdown curbs removed by June 21.

But the move comes with risks. Despite a world-beating immunization program, more than 40% of the adult population has yet to receive a first dose of a vaccine, and a steady decline in Covid-19 cases appears to be leveling off after schools reopened on March 8. Meanwhile, concerns are growing about the third wave of infections gripping the European continent.

Starting April 6, foreign hauliers traveling to England for more than two days will be required to take a coronavirus test within 48 hours of their arrival, followed by another test every 72 hours, the government announced on Sunday.

The general order to people to stay home expires Monday, with households allowed to meet outdoors in larger numbers. An information campaign launched by the government will remind people to enjoy their new freedoms “safely” by refraining from indoor gatherings and avoiding physical contact with people from other households.

“As we see from rising cases in Europe, this virus still poses a very real threat,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement. “We have come so far thanks to the vaccine rollout and that progress must be protected.”

The government also announced a new initiative to improve the health of the nation by tackling obesity, improving mental well-being and promoting physical activity.

Moderna Doses

More than 30 million people in the U.K., around 57% of all adults, have now had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, the latest figures show. In a further boost, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Sunday said the government expects to receive the first of 17 million doses of the Moderna Inc. vaccine in April, heralding the expansion of the immunization drive to the under-50s.

The U.S.-made vaccine will add to the BioNTech/Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca shots currently being used, at a time when the European Union is toughening restrictions on exports and Britain faces a reduction in supplies next month due to a delayed delivery from India.

Dowden said Boris Johnson’s government is on track to offer first doses of a vaccine to all over-50s by the middle of April and to the rest of the adult population by the end of July. There is also no danger of people unable to get their second dose of the same jab within 12 weeks, he said.

The program is critical to reopening an economy that had its deepest contraction for more than three centuries last year after swathes of activity was closed down. Around 4.7 million employees were still furloughed as of the end of February, and many of them will inevitably be let go when government support expires later this year.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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