Lockdown Further Eases in UK

The lockdown in Britain was further eased on Monday across the state in spite of concerns over risks posed by Coronavirus variants, especially the one first detected in India.

As at Monday, pubs, bars and restaurants in England would be permitted to open indoors, while indoor entertainment resumed, including cinemas, museums and children’s play areas.

Millions in England were allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people, and meet indoors in groups of up to six or as two households.

Meanwhile, all remaining accommodation including hotels, hostels and B&Bs can also reopen.

People were also allowed to travel abroad to a number of green-list countries without having to quarantine upon return as the ban on foreign travel has also been lifted.

In Scotland, except in Glasgow and Moray, due to spikes of cases, people can meet indoors in groups of six from up to three households while pubs and restaurants can serve alcohol indoors until 22:30 BST (2130 GMT).

In Wales, pubs and restaurants can reopen indoors and customers can meet in groups of up to six from six households. Northern Ireland would review lockdown rules on May 20 and could lift some restrictions on May 24.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had urged the public to continue to play their part in stopping the spread of Coronavirus.

“We have reached another milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution.

“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 freedom today in order to keep the virus at bay,’’ he said in a statement.

The latest development came in spite of the concerns over the spread in Britain of the variant first detected in India.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock had warned that the Coronavirus variant first detected in India can “spread like wildfire’’ among those who haven’t had a jab.

The variant is “becoming the dominant strain in some parts of the country’’ such as Bolton and Blackburn, he told Sky News.

On a more positive note, he said there was a “high degree of confidence” that the current vaccines were effective against the variant.

He described the current situation as “a race between the vaccination programme and the virus’’, with the new variant having given the virus some extra legs in that race’’.

Another 1,926 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of Coronavirus cases in the country to 4,450,777, according to official figures released on Sunday.

The country also reported another four Coronavirus-related deaths.

The total number of Coronavirus-related deaths in Britain stood at 127,679.

These figures only included the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

More than 36.5 million people in Britain had received the first jab of the Coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.

British experts were warned that the lockdown easing across the country should be approached with utmost caution.

Richard Jarvis, co-chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) public health medicine committee, said key segments of the population were still not vaccinated.

“It is a real worry that when further measures lift on May 17, the majority of younger people, who are often highly socially mobile and could therefore be most at risk of a more infectious strain, are not yet vaccinated,’’ he told the BBC.

Jeremy Farrar, a member of the British government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said the lifting of the rules was the most difficult policy decision of the last 15 months or so.

“I think we will see an increase of cases and infections over the coming weeks as some of the restrictions were lifted.

“But the key question is whether we have decoupled increased transmission in the number of people who do get infected from the number of people who get ill and need to go to hospital.”

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Russia, the United States as well as the European Union have been racing against time to roll out Coronavirus vaccines. 

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