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UK set for reopening amid concerns over Indian virus variant

We have reached another milestone in our roadmap out of lockdown, says premier

Muhammad Mussa   | 17.05.2021
UK set for reopening amid concerns over Indian virus variant

LONDON

Major sectors of the UK society are set to reopen on Monday as coronavirus restrictions are further eased across England, Wales, and parts of Scotland. Northern Ireland will review its measures later this week.

Despite growing concerns over the spread of highly contagious Indian variant of the virus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to continue with his roadmap out of the country’s third national lockdown, but warned the mutation could make it “more difficult” for England to reach its fourth and final step in June.

“Together we have reached another milestone in our roadmap out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution. We are keeping the spread of the variant first identified in India under close observation and taking swift action where infection rates are rising,” Johnson said in a statement.

“Now everyone must play their part – by getting tested twice a week, coming forward for your vaccine when called and remembering hands, face, space and fresh air. I urge everyone to be cautious and take responsibility when enjoying new freedoms today in order to keep the virus at bay."


What is changing?

Across England, people are now allowed to meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors. Six people or two households can meet indoors and overnight stays can take place.

Weddings, receptions, and other life events are set to resume with up to 30 people allowed to attend.

Care homes have also opened their doors with up to five visitors allowed inside with more freedoms outdoors.

Restaurants, cafes, pubs, and bars have reopened their indoor settings for customers, who were previously only allowed to enjoy a meal or coffee outside.

Indoor entertainment such as museums and cinemas have also reopened and will welcome in customers to enjoy their services. Theatres and stadiums are also reopening their venues.

In Scotland, with the exception of Glasgow and Moray, six people from up to three households can socialize indoors in a private home or indoor public setting.

Up to eight people from eight households can meet outdoors and hospitality venues will also be allowed to serve alcohol indoors until late in the evening. Up to 100 people would be able to attend indoor events.

In Wales, six people from six households can meet outside and customers visiting restaurants, cafes and pubs can meet in groups of up to six people from six households. Holiday accommodation will be allowed to fully reopen as well as entertainment venues and indoor visitor attractions.

International travel across England, Scotland, and Wales will also resume but under a traffic light system that includes a green and red list of countries.


Warning on indoor gatherings

A leading government scientist warned that England’s reopening may have to be reversed, saying that ban on indoor gatherings may need to be re-imposed to stay ahead of the spread of the Indian variant of coronavirus.

“I think it is reasonable to just be sensible about knowing where transmission is occurring – mostly indoors … with lots of different people, different families different communities, and I would just restrict that at the moment, personally,” Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told BBC Radio 4.

“I think we will see an increase of cases and infections over the coming weeks, as some of the restrictions are lifted. The key question is whether we have decoupled increased transmission … from the number of people that get ill and need to go to the hospital. If we’ve decoupled them, then the country can cope with a marginal degree of increase in transmission."

There are growing concerns over the spread of the virus strain, also known as B.1.617.2, in various parts of the country and there are fears it could force the government to delay the reopening of the country despite its insistence that the lockdown will come to an end. By May 12, over 1,300 cases had been detected.

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