In a statement given during the first anniversary of the coronavirus lockdown, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised citizens that the United Kingdom will exit lockdowns once and for all, and that the plan will not change despite the fact that a third wave of infections is spreading from Europe. He offered condolences to people who lost their loved ones to the pandemic, and admitted that the last 12 months had taken a severe toll on the region.
“We have all played our part, whether it’s working on the front lines as a nurse or carer, working on vaccine development and supply, helping to get that jab into arms, home schooling your children, or just by staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus… It’s because of every person in this country that lives have been saved, our NHS was protected, and we have started on our cautious road to easing restrictions once and for all,” Boris said in a statement.
Britain’s lockdown easing initiative started earlier this month, on March 8th, when outdoor activities in schools were allowed and a single person from households was allowed to meet with a member from another household. On March 29, six people from separate households will be allowed to meet outdoors.
Instead of the slogan ‘stay at home,’ the government will promote ‘stay local,’ indicating relaxed pandemic restrictions. However, people will still be encouraged to travel only when necessary, and work from home whenever possible. Later on, from April 12th, the hospitality industry will be allowed to resume operations. By June 21, all social distancing rules are scheduled to be lifted.
Boris’ plan to slowly ease the lockdown has won the support of the Parliament, with members recently voting 484-76 to extend the government’s coronavirus emergency powers. The slow easing of restrictions has attracted criticism from several Tory MPs who want the process to be accelerated. Many conservatives have argued that the lockdown restrictions severely curb civil liberties and damage economic prospects.
Several ministers have pointed to the rise in infections in Europe as a reason for moving cautiously with regard to lifting lockdown restrictions. Health Secretary Matt Hancock noted that infections among younger people have been rising of late, mostly due to the reopening of schools.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents hundreds of retail groups, has urged the government to avoid a potential fourth lockdown, pointing out that 67,000 retail jobs were lost just in the past year. Almost 600,000 retail workers are currently on furlough, a number that has risen by 200,000 since December.
Meanwhile, there has been heavy criticism directed at British social media influencers for traveling to other countries amidst the coronavirus pandemic and posting about their travels on the platforms.
Some influencers, like Hollywood star Gwyneth Paltrow who promoted the idea of eating superfoods like kimchi to combat COVID-19, have received condemnation for spreading misinformation about the infection.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel, recently stated that many social media influencers are “showing off” by posting photos in sunny places and emphasized that people should not be traveling amidst the viral outbreak.
As a result, influencers have dialed down on posting photos of their vacations. Keith Herman, CEO of Trending Travel, makes use of influencers to promote travel destinations around the world, but said recently that he has asked influencers to not post content while abroad.
“We realized quite early on that every time anybody posted, they were getting absolutely slaughtered on a sensitive subject… I think some of them are more naive than anything else … We just said to all of the influencers that we had out (in holiday destinations): please don’t post,” he told CNN.