England’s vaccination program was extended to people under age 50 on Monday as lockdown restrictions were further eased in Scotland and Wales.
In England, those aged 44 and above are now eligible for a vaccine, with invitations being sent to around 500,000 people.
Over two-thirds of those aged 45-49 have already been vaccinated, opening the door to people who are 40 and above. The government will make an announcement for those aged 40-43 in the next few days.
England has seen 63.8% of its population over the age of 18 receive a first dose of the vaccine.
As the vaccination campaign continues, the government has launched a new advertising campaign to encourage people under age 50 to get vaccinated and for those who have received their first dose to get their second.
“Vaccines are helping us get back to doing the things we have missed – they protect you and those around you,' said British Health Secretary Matt Hancock. “... Every vaccination gives us hope and I urge everyone to take up the offer of a vaccine when it comes, as we continue on the path back to normality.”
- Lockdown eases
Lockdown restrictions were eased in Scotland and Wales, with England and Northern Ireland to follow suit soon. Travel between England, Scotland and Wales is also now allowed, boosting the beleaguered tourism sector by allowing travel accommodation to receive visitors again.
In Scotland, non-essential retail was allowed to reopen, as were significant sections of the hospitality sector including cafes, restaurants, outdoor been gardens, gyms, libraries, art galleries, and museums.
Scots can meet in public spaces in groups of six drawn from two households. Hospitality will have to close at 8 p.m. local time, however, and alcohol can only continue to be served outside until 10 p.m. From May 17, pubs will be allowed to open indoors until 10.30 p.m.
Driving tests can also resume again, and weddings and funerals can take place with up to 50 guests.
In Wales, cafes, restaurants, and bars, as well as other hospitality venues can reopen outdoors, where up to 30 people can meet for organized outdoor activities. Otherwise, the limit on generally meeting outdoors is in groups of up to six people.
Outdoor entertainment venues, tourist attractions, and drive-in events have also been reopened.
In Northern Ireland, cafes and pubs can reopen outdoors from April 30 and indoors from May 24.
In England, most restrictions for outdoors will be lifted on May 17.
Over the past 24 hours, there were 1,712 more infections across the UK, bringing the total to over 4.4 million. There were also a further 11 deaths, bringing the total to 127,434.
As of April 24, some 33.6 million first doses, and nearly 12.6 million second doses of the vaccine have been administered.
By Karim El-Bar