Boris Johnson announces further lifting of lockdown rules
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The Prime Minister said his roadmap out of lockdown remains on track as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to fall. In an upbeat message to the nation, Mr Johnson said the UK was fighting back against the pandemic.
“I want to thank you particularly because your efforts have so visibly paid off,” he told a televised Downing Street coronavirus briefing.
“It’s precisely because of your efforts that I can confirm today that we’ve met our four tests for further easing the lockdown in England.”
Pub, bars and restaurants can re-open indoors from May 17 and indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas and museums will also be allowed to welcome customers back.
Meanwhile, international travel will no longer be illegal and venues such as sports stadiums and theatres will also be allowed to re-open to the public.
Hugs will be allowed again for the first time since the start of the pandemic (Image: GETTY/SKY)
In a significant milestone, the guidelines on social distancing will also ease, with friends and family members no longer being urged to avoid social contact.
Instead, the Prime Minister said Brits must learn to live with the virus and now was the time for people to use their own personal judgement when it comes to social contact.
The announcement is the first time since the start of the pandemic that the Government has said it is now possible for families to embrace.
However, in a word of caution, Brits have been reminded close personal contact remains one of the most direct ways of transmitting coronavirus.
He said: “From next Monday we are updating the guidance on close contact between friends and family, setting out the risks for everyone to make their own choices.
“This does not mean we can suddenly throw caution to the winds.
Coronavirus in numbers latest (Image: EXPRESS)
“In fact, more than a year into this pandemic, we all know that close contact, such as hugging, is a direct way of transmitting this disease.
“So I urge you to think about the vulnerability of your loved ones – whether they have had a vaccine, one or two doses, and whether there has been time for that vaccine to take effect.”
Social distancing and mask wearing rules in public settings such as pubs and supermarkets will remain in place.
Ministers signed off on the easing of restrictions at a Cabinet meeting this morning.
In full, the easing of restrictions means from next Monday:
- People in England can meet outdoors in groups of up to 30, or indoors in groups of up to six, or as two households
- Indoor entertainment venues can re-open alongside indoor hospitality
- Outdoor arenas will be able to host live events with reduced attendances
- Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can resume and saunas and steam rooms re-open
- Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can start accepting guests again
- Weddings and other life event ceremonies can take place with up to 30 people, and the cap on funerals will be lifted
- Secondary school pupils will no longer need to wear face masks in classrooms, and all face-to-face university teaching can resume
- International travel to green list countries will be permitted
- Social contact guidelines will be removed with Brits allowed to hug close contacts again
- Care home residents will be allowed up to five named visitors
The reopening will apply to England only, with the semi-autonomous governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales setting out their own rules.
Ministers gave their consent for England to proceed to the next stage of the roadmap after the four chief medical officers of the UK downgraded the Covid-19 alert level from four to three.
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Boris Johnson announced the changes at a televised briefing from Downing Street (Image: PA)
The Prime Minister urged caution when hugging loved ones (Image: PA)
It means the virus is in “general circulation” but transmission is no longer deemed to be high or rising exponentially.
The latest data shows infection rates are at their lowest level in nine months, and deaths and hospitalisations are at their lowest rate since July.
In the past 24 hours 2,357 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed with a positive test.
Meanwhile, a further four deaths were recorded, a drop of over 33 percent in a week.
At the same time, more than 35 million Brits – over two-thirds of all adults – have now received at least one coronavirus vaccine.
Over a third of the population has also received the second dose necessary to provide full protection.
A joint statement from Professor Chris Whitty and his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said: “Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director agree that the UK alert level should move from level 4 to level 3.
“Thanks to the efforts of the UK public in social distancing and the impact we are starting to see from the vaccination programme, case numbers, deaths and Covid hospital pressures have fallen consistently.
“However Covid is still circulating with people catching and spreading the virus every day so we all need to continue to be vigilant.
“This remains a major pandemic globally.
“It is very important that we all continue to follow the guidance closely and everyone gets both doses of the vaccine when they are offered it.”
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