British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, visits a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility on a visit to the North East of England on February 13, 2021.
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce on Monday how and when lockdown restrictions will be lifted in England.
Government ministers are expected to discuss details of the “roadmap” for gently easing lockdown Monday morning. The prime minister will present the proposals to parliament later this afternoon, before holding a televised press conference at 7pm. London time.
Johnson is expected to publish the latest data on infection rates, hospital admissions and deaths, as well as early data demonstrating the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines.
He is also expected to confirm that schools in England will reopen on March 8, and reveal more details on other restrictions that will be lifted.
The government said in a statement that the lifting of the country’s third lockdown, which has been in effect since early January, “will attempt to balance health, economic and social factors with the very latest epidemiological data and advice.”
Data, not dates
Johnson has said repeatedly that the relaxation of measures will be prudent and driven by “data, not data”. However, he has also said he wants the lifting of restrictions to be “irreversible” as he comes under pressure from members of his Conservative party to reopen the economy.
Nonetheless, the government has insisted that the relaxation should be done in stages to avoid jumps in the infection rate.
“Today, I will draft a roadmap to gently get us out of the lockdown,” Boris Johnson said in comments released ahead of Monday’s announcement.
“Our priority has always been to get children back to school, which we know is critical to their education and to their mental and physical well-being, and we will also prioritize ways for people to reunite safely with loved ones.”
Patients arrive in ambulances at the Royal London Hospital on January 5, 2021 in London, England. The British Prime Minister gave a nationally televised address on Monday evening to announce that England will enter its third conclusion to the Covid-19 pandemic. This week the UK registered more than 50,000 new confirmed Covid cases for the seventh day in a row.
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“Our decisions will be made every step of the way based on the latest data, and we will be careful with this approach so that we can keep track of the progress we’ve made so far and the sacrifices each of you have made to preserve yourself keep, not undo others safe, “he added.
Four important tests
Johnson said the government has instituted four key tests that must be met before Britain can go through every step of the plan. These are:
- That the vaccination program will be continued successfully.
- There is some evidence that vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospital admissions and deaths in vaccinated individuals.
- Infection rates are not at risk of increasing hospital admissions, which would put unsustainable pressure on the National Health Service.
- That her assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new coronavirus variants that are worrying.
The government said that as the four tests are currently underway, the first step to lift the lockdown restrictions will be taken from March 8. The government has already said that residents of care homes can have one visitor from that date.
After the schools reopened, the government has indicated that more measures could be taken to allow for limited social contacts and outdoor sports.
The BBC reported on Monday that from March 29, outdoor gatherings of six people or two households are expected to be allowed, and outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts can be reopened. The broadcaster added that “it is also clear that people will be able to travel out of their area again – although the escorts will likely still recommend staying local and overnight stays will not be allowed.” It is uncertain when pubs, restaurants and non-essential stores will reopen.
Variants and vaccinations
A silver lining in the British experience of the pandemic was the vaccination response. It was the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, the candidate of Pfizer and BioNTech, and rolled out the shot to the oldest members of the population, nursing home and healthcare and hospital staff in early December.
It then approved and began administering the AstraZeneca / University of Oxford shot, a cheaper vaccine produced in the UK that is easier to transport and store than rival jabs, allowing it to maintain an enviable vaccination coverage.
It has since expanded its rollout to more priority groups, such as all those deemed clinically vulnerable, and plans to vaccinate every adult UK citizen by the end of July, bringing that target forward from September. As of Saturday, more than 17.5 million adults have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, of which more than 600,000 have received both doses, according to government data.
Data shows that new infections are on the decline, and early studies indicate that coronavirus vaccines also help prevent transmission of the virus and prevent serious illness.
In the past seven days, the UK has seen 77,432 new cases of the coronavirus, a 16.2% drop from the previous weekly count. The number of deaths in the past seven days, 3,414 deaths, is also 27.4% lower than the previous seven-day count. Hospital admissions are also covered.