Johnson Eases Lockdown But Foreign Travel on Hold for U.K.

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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed restaurants, pubs and shops will open again as England’s lockdown is eased next week, but the ban on foreign travel may remain for longer.

The earliest date for resuming non-essential international travel will be May 17 and officials warned Monday that a further delay could be required if coronavirus infections continue to surge elsewhere in the world. A decision will be taken nearer the time, they said.

“We can’t be complacent -- we can see the waves of sickness afflicting other countries, and we’ve seen how this story goes,” Johnson said at a press conference in London on Monday. “We still don’t know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise, as I’m afraid that they will.”

Johnson Eases Lockdown But Foreign Travel on Hold for U.K.

In England, falling hospitalization and death rates and the successful rollout of vaccines, which has seen more than 31.5 million people given at least one dose, means the country is on course to continue gradually lifting restrictions that have been in place since early January.

That means from April 12 non-essential stores will resume trading, pubs and restaurants will serve customers at patio tables again, personal services such as hairdressers will return, and outdoor attractions including zoos will reopen to visitors.

As the government makes plans for living with the virus in the longer term, a new system of Covid passports is being developed and everyone in England is being urged to take free, rapid virus tests twice a week.

Ministers hope Covid status passports will eventually make it easier for events with live audiences to resume and to ease travel restrictions and social-distancing rules for thousands of businesses. Some pandemic measures may be needed beyond the end of the government’s current roadmap for easing lockdown, officials said.

The prime minister set out the plans alongside interim findings from four policy reviews at a press conference in London on Monday. They said:

Foreign Travel

The document confirmed Bloomberg’s earlier reports of a possible delay to the planned reopening of international travel on May 17, given the worsening pandemic situation in Europe, and a new “traffic light” system coming into force to code countries based on virus risk.

The government “hopes” summer holidays will be possible this year but is advising the public not to book “until the picture is clearer.” For now, non-essential foreign travel is illegal, officials said.

The traffic light risk ratings -- coding countries red, amber or green -- will take account of a nation’s vaccination program, infection rate, virus strains, and sequencing capacity.

Arrivals in the U.K. from green countries won’t need to isolate, but will have to take tests before departing and after arriving. Quarantine and isolation rules will apply to passengers entering the country from places on the red and amber lists.

Covid certification will be crucial to potentially allowing travel to resume more quickly, according to officials.

Vaccine Passports

The document says it is “right” for the government to develop a way of “easily demonstrating” a person’s Covid status, even though ministers are facing a backlash from members of Parliament over the plans. Certification aims to show a person has natural immunity having tested positive for the virus, has received vaccines, or has recently tested negative.

The status could be displayed either through a smart-phone app or a paper document to enable rules on social distancing to be relaxed to help businesses resume operations and audiences to return to events.

A pilot program for mass events will test different approaches to social-distancing rules, ventilation, test-on-entry protocols and Covid passports. Initially, the certification will only involve testing but that will evolve to include vaccine status and natural immunity.

A review of social distancing will consider when families will be allowed to hug each other again, and whether Covid passports could see distancing rules lifted.

Unlocking Timetable

DateMeasure
April 5
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson to provide an update on international travel, Covid passports, testing
April 12 at earliest
  • Non essential retail and personal care businesses such as hairdressers, nail salons to reopen
  • Libraries, museums, other public buildings to reopen
  • Most outdoor attractions, including zoos and theme parks to reopen
  • Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and pools to reopen
  • Hospitality to reopen for outdoor service only
  • Attendance at weddings, wakes rises from 6 to 15
April 15
  • Government target for vaccinating all over-50s
May 17 at earliest
  • The earliest date at which foreign travel can resume
  • Most outdoor social contact rules lifted, but gatherings of more than 30 people in parks and gardens remain illegal
  • Indoor mixing allowed for two households of any size or 6 people from more than two households
  • Indoor hospitality, hotels and bed and breakfasts reopen
  • Entertainment venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas re-open
  • Indoor performances and sporting events can host crowds of up to 1,000 people or be half-full, whichever is lower
  • Outdoor venues and sporting events can host crowds of 4,000 or be half-full, whichever is lower. The largest outdoor venues, such as the biggest soccer stadiums, can host 10,000 people or be a quarter full, whichever is lower
  • Up to 30 people can attend weddings, receptions, wakes, funerals and other life events such as bar mitzvahs and christenings
Before June 21
  • Review to report on whether Covid status certification can play a role in reducing restrictions on social contact and reopening the economy
  • Review to report on social distancing measures, including on use of face masks, working from home
June 21 at earliest
  • All limits on social contact to be lifted
  • Final sectors of the economy, such as night clubs, allowed to reopen
  • Restrictions lifted on large events and performances
  • Restrictions lifted on attendance to weddings and other life events

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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