U.K. Announces Plans to Leave Lockdown Beginning March 8

The U.K. will begin reopening its economy in five phases, beginning with schools, on March 8, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday. According to The New York Times, Johnson said in his address to the House of Commons, “Our decisions will be led by data, not dates,” meaning nothing is set in stone but presumptive dates have been set. A period of five weeks, if all things go according to plan, will spread out most of the phases.

As part of the plan, people will again be allowed to socialize outdoors by March 29. Up to six people will be allowed to meet outdoors, including in backyard gardens; outdoor sports will be also permitted. Two weeks later (and no earlier than April 12), nonessential retail shops will reopen, along with hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms, museums and libraries. At this time, people will also be able to dine in small groups outside at pub and restaurant gardens. On May 17, people (in groups up to six) will be able to meet indoors, including at pubs and restaurants.

But what about travel? Restrictions on international travel could also be eased, the Times reports; however, this would depend on one of multiple policy reviews by the U.K. government. Ideas being mulled over include vaccine passports and rules for social distancing measures and the use of face masks. No specific date it set yet. 

The Times reports that hospital admissions in the U.K. are “falling steeply” and that more than one-quarter of the population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, Johnson said now was the right time to begin relaxing restrictions, while trying to ensure that this would be the last lockdown for the country.

In conjunction with the reopening plan, Johnson set a new goal of vaccinating every adult by the end of July. 

The timetable for reopening, according to The Times, will rely on four factors: The continued vaccine rollout; further evidence that the vaccines are reducing hospital admissions and deaths; no new surge in infection rates that negatively impact hospitals; and no sudden risk from new variants of the virus.

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