Europe, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19: England prepares major reopening

Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls on populace to enjoy freedoms, urges caution against risks

Muhammad Mussa   | 12.04.2021
COVID-19: England prepares major reopening

LONDON

England on Monday is set to enter the second stage of the government's roadmap out of the country’s third nationwide lockdown.

Marking the major step in combatting the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on people across the country to responsibly enjoy their newfound freedoms as non-essential services including shops, hairdressers and gyms reopen.

"Today is a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom as venues such as shops, hairdressers, nail salons, outdoor attractions, and pubs and restaurants open once again," Johnson said in a statement.

"I'm sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it's a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed," he added.

Although hospitality services such as restaurants, cafes, and pubs will open their doors to the public, they will only be allowed to serve customers in an outdoor setting and as such, those establishments that do not have a garden or outdoor area will remain closed until May 17.

Johnson also reminded the public to be cautious and not take risks when going out and meeting people outside their social bubble, urging "everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember 'hands, face, space and fresh air' to suppress COVID as we push on with our vaccination programme."

Buoyed by the prospect of increased consumer spending, the English economy is also expected to rebound, with the Centre for Economics and Business Research forecasting a £317 million ($436 million) spending spree in the week ahead.

The beginning of stage two out of lockdown comes after just seven deaths related to COVID-19 were recorded on Sunday -- the lowest since September 2020. Moreover, the UK's vaccination program is continuing apace despite concerns over shortages and possible links between the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine and blood clots, though rare.

Nearly 40 million people have been inoculated with their first and second doses of the vaccine, amounting to 48% of the population.

Experts, however, have said coronavirus cases are inevitably bound to rise again as the country gradually eases out of lockdown, but are hopeful that with the pace of the vaccination program, any major increase could be prevented.

Speaking to the Times Radio, Peter Horby of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group said: "The modelling, which is now pretty good, does show that we can expect some kind of rebound. It's not clear exactly when or how big it will be but there is, I think, inevitably going to be a bit of a rebound in the number of cases when things are relaxed."

"Hopefully it won't translate too much into hospitalizations and deaths because of the vaccine program, but there will be some of that. Now, the extent of it really depends on how well we comply with the ongoing restrictions, so we really have to take this step by step," he added.

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