Busy bars and restaurants on Old Compton Street, Soho, London in April 2021.
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LONDON – Britain further eased restrictions on its economy and social contacts on Monday, but the spread of the Covid variant, which first appeared in India, threatens to lift the measures altogether.
Blocking measures were eased in England, Wales and most parts of Scotland on Monday, meaning pubs, bars and restaurants now have the right to serve customers inside; museums, cinemas and theaters can reopen; and indoor exercise and sports can be resumed.
In addition, up to six or two households can now socialize indoors and gathering up to 30 people is allowed outside, although rules vary slightly from country to country in the United Kingdom of Northern Ireland is expected to ease its restrictions on indoor hospitality from May. 24.
International travel can resume on Monday, and people can go on foreign holidays. Countries are included in a “green”
While the resumption is a relief for the hospitality, entertainment and travel industry, the lifting of the restrictions has been mitigated by an increase in Covid cases due to a variant of the coronavirus that first appeared in India.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson called for a cautious approach to the resumption, warning that the spread of the new option could threaten further relief on June 21, when he hoped all restrictions on social contacts would be lifted.
Speaking on Friday, Johnson said there was currently no evidence that the option would avoid Covid vaccines, which are deployed across the country, but that the new option “could create a serious disruption to our progress … And I must stress that it will do what is necessary to maintain public safety. “
He said the option seemed more portable than other strains, but warned that it was not clear how much. England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, spoke with Johnson,, he added that there was “confidence” that the strain was “more portable” than other options already circulating in the country.
Increase in cases
The new version is believed to be more transmissible than the version that first appeared in the UK last fall. This has become the dominant strain in the country, along with the United States and parts of Europe.
On Sunday, the UK reported just over 1,900 new cases, bringing the total number of registered infections in the UK to 4,450,777. As of Sunday, 15,918 cases had been reported in the previous seven days, up 8.6% from 3-9 May, according to government figures.
This increase in cases has led to a change in the government’s vaccination strategy, with people over the age of 50 and the clinically vulnerable ready to receive their second doses eight weeks after the first dose, rather than 12 weeks according to the previous immunization strategy.
It was announced on Friday that the United Kingdom will provide vaccinations and surge tests in areas where the new version of Covid, first discovered in India, is being distributed.
To date, almost 70% of the British adult population has received the first dose of coronavirus vaccine, while just over 38% have received two doses. That UK hit a milestone on Sunday after giving 20 million people a second dose of Covid.
British Health Minister Matt Hancock said the government would decide on June 14 whether to proceed with the final lifting of restrictions a week later. Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Hancock said the options were one of “the biggest risks to this discovery.”
“Because of the speed of transmission of this, it can really spread like wildfire among unvaccinated groups – so we need to get as many people as possible, especially among those who are most vulnerable to hospitalization.”
– Matt Clinch of CNBC contributed to the reporting of this story.