The UK government plans to lift all restrictions on the coronavirus pandemic in England by June 21. “We are on a one-way street to freedom,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Monday evening. The prerequisite, however, is that the number of infections can be kept under control, the vaccination campaign continues as before and no new virus variant changes the situation.
The conservative politician emphasized that there is no credible way to a UK or a world without Covid-19. “Any loosening of the lockdown measures will lead to more cases and more deaths,” Johnson said in Parliament.
The lockdown is now to be lifted in several steps at intervals of five weeks. The decisive factor is not the planned times, but the data from the pandemic, said the Prime Minister. The way out of the lockdown will be carefully but irrevocably taken. This is thanks to the determination of the British and the success of the vaccination campaign. “With every day that goes by, this vaccination program creates a protective shield around the population,” Johnson said at a press conference that evening. All adults should receive a vaccination offer by the end of July.
Good news from research
Also on Monday, health authorities in England and Scotland published encouraging data on the effectiveness of vaccines used in the UK. Accordingly, the vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer could not only prevent diseases, but also prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2. This could significantly reduce the spread of the virus. So far, it was only known how well the vaccines protect against disease, but not whether they also prevent the virus from being passed on.
Also encouraging: Preliminary data indicate that the vaccinations are as effective against the British virus variant B.1.1.7 as against the previously predominant virus type.
The number of infections in the UK has fallen sharply in the past few weeks. At the same time, more than 17.5 million people in the country have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus with a first dose. Even so, they are still not that low. The number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within a week is currently given as 121. In Austria, the seven-day incidence is 134. Great Britain is one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic in Europe, despite the current success in the vaccination campaign. So far, more than 120,000 people have died with or from Covid-19.
“Spring and summer full of hope”
Johnson said the land was “a spring and a summer of hope.” According to his announcement, all schools in England will reopen on March 8th. The regions of Scotland and Wales, on the other hand, are relying on the gradual opening of schools, which began this week. From the second week of March onwards, social contacts are to be allowed again more than before in England. For example, home residents can receive visitors again.
The next step is to take place on March 29th. Up to six people or two households can then meet again outdoors. Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or golf courses are also allowed to reopen. From April 12th shops, museums and libraries should be allowed to receive visitors again. Pubs and restaurants should then also reopen, if only in outdoor areas.
Going to the cinema and staying at a hotel should be possible again on May 17th at the earliest, as well as indoor club sports. Up to 30 people can meet again for weddings or other important events. International travel could possibly be allowed again. For example, up to 10,000 people could come together in football stadiums.
From June 21st, the government hopes to lift all restrictions. Even the operation of discos and larger events should then be possible again.