British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, visits a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility during a visit to northeast England on February 13, 2021.
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LONDON – 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” to gently ease the lockdown on Monday morning. The Prime Minister will table the proposals in Parliament later that afternoon before holding a television press conference that evening.
Johnson is expected to release the latest data on infection rates, hospital stays and deaths, as well as early data on coronavirus vaccine effectiveness.
He is also expected to confirm schools in England will reopen on March 8th and provide further details on other restrictions that are due to be lifted.
The government said in a statement that the lifting of the country’s third lockdown since early January “will aim to balance health, economic and social factors with the latest epidemiological data and advice.”
Data, not data
Johnson has repeatedly said that the easing of measures will be cautious and “data, not data” driven. However, he also said he wanted the lifting of restrictions to be “irreversible” as he was being pressured by members of his Conservative Party to reopen the economy.
Still, the government has claimed that the easing must be gradual to avoid spikes in infection rates.
“Today I’m going to set up a roadmap to carefully get us out of lockdown,” Boris Johnson said in comments posted ahead of the announcement on Monday.
“Our priority has always been to get children back to school who we know are critical to their education, mental and physical well-being, and we will also prioritize ways that people can be safe with loved ones can come together. “
Patients arrive in ambulances at the Royal London Hospital in London on January 5, 2021. The British Prime Minister made a national televised address on Monday evening, announcing that England would take action against the Covid-19 pandemic for the third time. This week, the UK recorded more than 50,000 new confirmed Covid cases for the seventh straight day.
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“Our decisions are based on the latest data at every step, and we will be careful with this approach so that we do not see the progress made so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to save yourself and yourself cancel.” others sure, “he added.
Four key tests
Johnson said the government has set four key tests that must be passed before Britain can go through each step of the plan. These are:
- That the vaccine delivery program will continue successfully.
- There is evidence that vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospital stays and deaths among those vaccinated.
- The infection rates do not risk an increase in hospital stays that would not put sustained pressure on the national health service.
- That the assessment of the risks will not be fundamentally changed by new, questionable coronavirus variants.
The government said the first step in lifting lockdown restrictions will be on March 8 as the four tests are currently being met. The government has already announced that nursing home residents will be able to have a visitor from this date.
After schools reopened, the government has signaled that further measures could be eased to allow limited outdoor socializing and sports.
The BBC reported Monday that as of March 29, outdoor gatherings of six people or two households are expected and that outdoor sports facilities like tennis or basketball courts could reopen. The broadcaster added, “People are also believed to be able to leave their areas again – although leadership will likely continue to recommend staying on-site and overnight stays are not allowed.” It is uncertain when pubs, restaurants and non-essential stores will be allowed to reopen.
Variants and vaccinations
One silver lining in Britain’s experience with the pandemic has been the vaccination response. It was the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, the candidate from Pfizer and BioNTech, and passed the shot down to the oldest members of the population, nursing home workers, and health and hospital workers in early December.
Subsequently, the AstraZeneca / University of Oxford vaccine was approved and administration started, a cheaper vaccine made in the UK and easier to transport and store than competing vaccines, which allows for an enviable vaccination rate to be maintained.
Since then, the rollout has expanded to include more priority groups, such as those classified as clinically vulnerable, and plans to vaccinate every adult UK citizen before the end of July with a move towards this target from September. As of Saturday, more than 17.5 million adults had received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with over 600,000 having received both doses, according to government figures.
Florian Hense, chief economist at Berenberg, told CNBC on Monday that “the rest of the world is looking to the UK” to see how the restrictions are lifted.
“There are a number of issues as to why the UK should do reasonably well over the next few months as it has cut infections so much … and there is more news on how effective the vaccines are. But of course it goes on for a few months to get back to normal, “he said.
Ed Davey, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, told CNBC that the government was right to prioritize children’s return to school, but questioned the logic of all students returning at the same time, which has also been raised by teachers and unions .
“If there was a fourth lockdown because the prime minister got it wrong again, it would be a disaster for our schools and businesses,” he said. “So the Liberal Democrats are saying that we of course welcome a reopening, but let’s do it so that a fourth lockdown is prevented and avoided.”
The data show that new infections are on the decline. Previous studies show that coronavirus vaccines also help prevent transmission of the virus and prevent serious illness.
77,432 new cases of coronavirus have emerged in the UK in the past seven days, a 16.2% decrease 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 days. Hospital stays are also decreasing.