U.K. PM unveils easing of COVID-19 lockdown in England

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled on Tuesday a significant easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England, saying pubs, restaurants and bars can reopen from July 4 and people can meet more friends and family.

Johnson said that any changes to the country’s quarantine policy would be based on public health guidance and not a desire to open up the economy.

“We will have a policy on air bridges that is based on public health,” he told Parliament. Britain has a 14-day quarantine policy in place for arrivals into the country from abroad, but the government has said it is looking at “air bridges,” which would allow restriction-free travel between countries with low infection rates.

Here are the main measures the prime minister announced:

  •  Where it is not possible to stay two metres apart, people are advised to keep to a physical distance of “one metre plus,” with the plus referring to other mitigation efforts, such as installing screens, facing away from each other, putting up handwashing facilities and wearing masks on public transport.
  • The advice for gatherings indoors, which includes visits to pubs, restaurants or holidays in paid accommodation, is that one household can meet one other household at a time, including staying overnight, while observing physical distancing. There is no limit on the size of those households and no exclusivity. Different households can mix at different times.
  • Outdoors, people can congregate in a park or garden in a group of up to six people drawn from up to six different households while observing physical distancing. Two households of any size can also meet outdoors — e.g. for two large families or households there would be no limit on the size of that gathering.

A sign requesting people stay two metres apart is displayed in Kingston upon Thames, southwest London, on Monday. (Matt Dunham/The Associated Press)

Johnson said the move had been allowed by a decline in the number of new infections and the belief that currently there is no risk of a second peak.

“The number of new infections is now declining by between two and four per cent every day,” he told Parliament.

“This pandemic has inflicted permanent scars and we mourn everyone we have lost … While we remain vigilant, we do not believe there is currently a risk of a second peak of infections that might overwhelm the NHS.”

More to come.

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