LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to confirm on Monday that schools in England will reopen on March 8th and that people will be able to socialize outdoors on March 29th. These are the first steps in a long-awaited reopening plan following a nationwide lockdown triggered by a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus.
Mr. Johnson’s “roadmap” is intended to provide a path back to normal for a depleted country after a dire period in which infections skyrocketed, hospitals were overflowing with patients, and the death toll rose above 100,000. At the same time, the UK launched a remarkably successful vaccination program, with 17 million people injecting their first doses.
That milestone, coupled with a sharp decline in new cases and hospital admissions, paved the way for Mr. Johnson’s announcement. However, the prime minister has repeatedly insisted that he intends to slowly reopen the economy and that he wants this lockdown to be the last the nation will endure.
According to the government’s plan, pubs, restaurants, retail stores and gyms in England will remain closed for at least another month – which means that daily life will practically not change much for millions of people.
“Our decisions are made based on the latest data at every step,” said Johnson in his office’s remarks on Sunday evening. “We will be careful with this approach so as not to undo the progress made so far.” . ”
The specific timing will depend on four factors: the continued success of the vaccine introduction; Evidence That Vaccines Reduce Hospital Admissions And Deaths; no new spike in infection rates to weigh on healthcare; and no sudden risk from new variants of the virus.
Mr Johnson is due to present the plan to Parliament and the nation in an evening press conference Monday afternoon, along with data intended to show how the vaccination program has affected the spread of the virus. That will end days of speculation.
But it will likely spark a new round of discussion on whether the government is easing restrictions fast enough.
With pubs and restaurants not expected to be allowed to offer indoor service until May and participation in sporting events not allowed until June, some members of Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party are likely to revive their pressure campaign to get the measures lifted sooner.
However, Mr Johnson appears determined to avoid repeating his chaotic reopening of the economy last May after the first phase of the pandemic. The government’s message was mixed up – workers were told to return to their offices but not use public transport – and some initiatives – such as subsidizing restaurant meals to strengthen the hotel industry – looked reckless with hindsight.
In November, the cases climbed again and the government reluctantly announced another lockdown. The British saw more mixed signals ahead of Christmas when Mr Johnson pledged to ease restrictions so families could party together, only to retreat amid a new surge in infections.
In January, after a variant first discovered in Kent, south-east England, spread like wildfire across the country, Mr Johnson hastily imposed an even harsher nationwide crackdown and ordered people to stay home, all but substantial Activities. Schools that reopened after the holidays were abruptly closed.
On Monday, Mr Johnson will at least address this issue.
“Our priority has always been to get children back to school. We know this is vital to their education and to their mental and physical well-being,” he said in the comments released by his office. “We’ll also prioritize ways people can safely get together with loved ones.”