Johnson Is ‘Hopeful’ U.K. Can Avoid Another Pandemic Lockdown
(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. is on track to lift pandemic restrictions entirely over the next three months and is “hopeful” he will not need to put the country into lockdown again.
With infection rates at their lowest in six months, there is nothing in the data so far to suggest the government will need to keep restrictions in place for longer than planned, the premier said at a televised press conference Monday.
But Johnson and his chief pandemic advisers warned that the biggest threat to the U.K.’s return to normality is that new, vaccine-resistant strains of coronavirus emerge and be imported from other countries.
Under the government’s “roadmap” for lifting the U.K.’s third lockdown, people can now meet in larger groups outside and resume outdoor swimming and organized sport. From April 12, non-essential retail will reopen while pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers at tables outside. By June 21, ministers aim to end all curbs and social distancing guidelines.
“I’m hopeful,” Johnson said. “I don’t see anything in the data right now that would cause us to deviate from the roadmap. But, you know, we’ve got to remain humble in the face of nature, and we’ve got to be prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the British public -- which has been our approach throughout.”
The U.K. has now vaccinated more than 30 million adults, including almost all of the most vulnerable groups. The inoculation program is far outpacing other countries in Europe. Johnson announced a plan to further boost British vaccine self-sufficiency, amid tensions with the European Union over supplies.
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said it is “inevitable” that infection rates would rise as more restrictions are lifted.
The return of children to England’s schools on March 8 is likely behind the slowdown in the drop in cases in recent days, he said. Officials will examine the data in detail next week before deciding on whether the next stage of lockdown easing can go ahead.
|April 12 at earliest|
|May 17 at earliest|
|Before June 21|
|June 21 at earliest|
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