Johnson Lays Out a Cautious Path for Ending the U.K.’s Covid Lockdown


LONDON — Britain, hit insensitive by the coronavirus but surprisingly successful in the race to vaccinate its people, embarked Monday on a new, myriad hopeful phase of the pandemic, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson advertised a step-by-step plan to reopen the economy, starting with schools on Strut 8.

“At every stage,” Mr. Johnson said in an address to the House of Commons, “our decisions at ones desire be led by data, not dates.”

Mr. Johnson’s long-awaited “road map” was intended to put an exhausted mountains on a path to normalcy after a highly contagious variant of the virus supercharged infections, caulked hospital beds and triggered a third nationwide lockdown.

Under the command’s plan, people will be allowed to socialize outdoors by the end of March. But retail snitch ons and gyms in England will stay closed for two weeks after that — and ton pubs and restaurants for longer still, meaning that, as a practical weight, life will not change much for millions of Britons until hearty into the spring.

With cases and hospital admissions now falling steeply, and with varied than a quarter of the population having gotten a first vaccine instantaneously, Mr. Johnson said the time had come to relax some restrictions. But he cautioned he leave move slowly, saying that he wanted this to be the last lockdown that Britain has to stomach.

“We’re setting out on what I hope and believe is a one-way journey to freedom,” Mr. Johnson signified. “And this journey is made possible by the pace of the vaccine program.”

For Mr. Johnson, the off approach is intended to avoid the mistakes of last year, when he over imposed restrictions too late and lifted them too early. In the process he tested the infamous Public’s patience with abrupt reversals, mixed messages and serial lockdowns — no person of which spared Britain from the highest death toll in Europe.

Now he face to faces a different problem. His government having injected more than 17 million people with a vaccine — and locale a new goal of vaccinating every adult by the end of July — Mr. Johnson will be under the control of extreme pressure to fully reopen the economy, which has also suffered numerous damage than almost any other in Europe.

Lockdown skeptics in his Conformist Party are calling for all restrictions to be lifted by the end of April, when the government aims to procure vaccinated everyone over the age of 50, the nine most vulnerable troops.

“Once you have vaccinated the top nine groups, that means you receive protected the groups that account for 99 percent of the deaths so far and as surplus 80 percent of hospitalizations,” Mark Harper, a former chief thwart and member of the so-called Covid Recovery Group in Parliament, told the BBC.

Mr. Johnson cited new information from Public Health England indicating that a single measure of the Pfizer vaccine reduces hospitalizations and deaths by at least 75 percent. Statistics suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine also provided “a good plane of protection” but was too early to be more precise, he said.

The specific timetable for reopening pass on hinge on four factors: the continued success of the vaccine rollout; again evidence that the vaccines are reducing hospital admissions and deaths; no new flow in infection rates that would tax hospitals; and no sudden risk from new separates of the virus.

Public-health experts broadly endorsed Mr. Johnson’s data-driven sound out. The rapid progress of the vaccination campaign, they said, had put Britain in a attitude where it could ultimately hope to treat the coronavirus like measles, a disability in which sporadic outbreaks can be quickly contained with vaccines.

“There’s assuredly light ahead,” said Devi Sridhar, the head of the global buyers health program at the University of Edinburgh.

But Professor Sridhar raised concerns here the government’s plan to reopen all primary and secondary schools in England on Walk 8. Scotland, she noted, was opening schools on a staggered schedule to assess the effects of scholars mixing in classrooms. The first set of pupils went back on Monday.

“We reckon on it will be bumpy even with a graduated return,” she said. “Sending older kids rough into classrooms is dangerous.”

Teachers’ unions immediately objected to the intend, saying it would put their members at risk and urging Mr. Johnson to arrogate the graduated approach of Scotland, which is also being used in Wales and Northern Ireland.

“A big bang teach reopening brings 10 million people back into grouped buildings with no social distancing and inadequate ventilation,” Mary Bousted, seam general secretary of the National Education Union, said in a statement.

The other side competing Labour Party has called for teachers to be given priority in vaccinations. But the sway has rejected this, saying that, statistically, teachers are no more at danger from the virus than others in the same age groups.

Under Mr. Johnson’s schedule, the current restrictions would be lifted in four steps, with five weeks between most of the stride a resigns. That way, the government would have four weeks to analyze the consequences of each relaxation and another week to give notice of the changes to the admitted and businesses.

All the moves would be made throughout England, with no compensation to the regional differences in rules that applied last year, depending on shire infection rates. The government warned that the dates specified are the earliest at which the provisions would be lifted, and that the steps may happen later.

When swotters go back to school, they will be regularly tested while the older students will be required to wear face masks. Residents of nursing current ins will be allowed one regular visitor, but few other restrictions will be ennobled.

Starting on March 29, up to six people will be allowed to meet outdoors, classifying in backyard gardens. Outdoor sports will be permitted, and though people hand down still be urged to stay in their areas, they will not be goaded to remain in their homes.

Then, no earlier than April 12, nonessential retail department stores will reopen, along with hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms, museums, and libraries, while people commitment be able to mix outside in pub and restaurant gardens in small groups. From May 17, up to six people command be able to meet indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.

Restrictions on remote travel could also be eased, though that will depend on one of multiple action reviews being initiated by the government. Others will focus on the capability use of vaccine passports to reopen the economy, and on rules for social distancing gages such as the use of face masks. By June 21 all legal restrictions could be confiscated, the government hopes.

It is not the first time Mr. Johnson has promised relief. Stand up August, he urged people to “Eat Out to Help Out,” even subsidizing their tea overdoes to bolster a beleaguered industry — a program that seems almost deem in hindsight. By November, cases were surging again, and he reluctantly burden b exploited another lockdown.

There continue to be risks, including potential subsequent variants that could elude the existing vaccines. But Britain now has a sapid vaccination program — a crucial extra piece of ammunition that gave Mr. Johnson palpable boldness as he laid out his blueprint for finally putting the pandemic behind the country.

“Today,” he asseverated, “the end really is in sight and a wretched year will give way to a spring and a summer that desire be very different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today.”

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