British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted restrictions on restaurants, pubs, hairdressers and other non-essential retail shops across the United Kingdom on April 12, in line with the scheduled reopening plan set by the government. While speaking at a news conference, Johnson said that the criteria for approving the second phase of lifting coronavirus restrictions had been met.
Johnson promised that he would visit a pub himself on April 12 when they opened for business. However, he warned citizens against letting down their guard as restrictions ease. “We can’t be complacent. We can see the waves of sickness affecting other countries and we have seen how this story goes… We still don’t know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise, as I’m afraid that they will, and that’s why we are saying please get your vaccine – or your second dose – when your turn comes,” Johnson said in a statement.
The following changes were implemented on April 12:
- Members belonging to the same household are allowed to go on holidays, within England, provided they stay in a self-contained accommodation.
- Weddings are allowed with a limit of 15 people attending the event.
- For funerals, up to 30 people are allowed to attend the functions, while for wakes, the limit has been set to 15.
- In care homes, up to two visitors are allowed per resident.
- Kids are allowed to attend indoor children’s activities.
The government’s target date of April 15 to offer vaccination to all citizens ages 50 years and above was met ahead of schedule on April 12. The next tier, ages 45 years and above, is now eligible. While vaccination is voluntary in the UK, over 32 million people have opted to receive at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot.
As of April 9, everyone in England is eligible for two rapid COVID-19 tests every single week. The tests will be conducted with lateral flow kits that take 30 minutes for results. They will be free of charge and can be done at pharmacies and other testing sites throughout the country.
With a significant portion of the adult population now vaccinated, the government is apparently calculating that a system of rapid tests and COVID-19 certification will help keep the worst effects of the pandemic at bay. “Massive efforts have been made by the British public to stop the spread of the virus… As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine program and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted,” Johnson said in a statement.
The Prime Minister refrained from clearly stating whether Britain will issue COVID-19 passports for international travel. He said that such passes are something that “all countries are looking at,” and admitted that it might become a part of how people deal with the pandemic. Johnson completely dismissed the idea that the British will be asked to show passports when visiting shops or restaurants.
Several airlines asked the Prime Minister to do away with the ban on international travel by May 17. Such travel can attract fines of up to 5000 pounds ($6,900). Under the current reopening plan, these restrictions are not expected to be lifted until mid-July.