COVID-19: England aims for a return to normal at the end of June

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said he was aiming for a return to near-normalcy for the summer, presenting a deconfinement strategy that he wants "prudent", but "irreversible", and which will begin with the reopening of schools at the beginning Of March.

Do not rush to avoid having to tighten the screws: so far accused of a chaotic management of the coronavirus pandemic, by confining too late and deconfining too quickly, the leader has detailed a plan to end the crisis in four major steps .

We cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that weaken our economy, our mental and physical well-being, and the life prospects for our children.Boris Johnson explained to MPs. This is why it is essential that this roadmap be prudent, but also irreversible.

The most bereaved country in Europe with nearly 121,000 dead, the United Kingdom confined itself for the third time at the start of the year, in the face of an explosion of the pandemic due to a more contagious variant that appeared in the south of England, which has brought hospitals to the brink of overflow.

According to a schedule decided in each of the nations, the country is now preparing to loosen the screw a little, the restrictions and the massive vaccination campaign having led to a drop in contaminations, hospitalizations and deaths.

Four dates to remember

In England, the UK's most populous nation with 56 million people, schools will be the first to reopen on March 8 and secondary schools will have regular tests.

From March 29, the order to stay at home will be lifted and outdoor gatherings, limited to six people or two different households, will be authorized.

Non-essential stores, hair salons, pubs – but only outdoors – and museums will have to wait until April 12, however. Cinemas, hotels, stadiums (with a maximum of 10,000 people), hotels and restaurants (indoors) will follow on May 17, the date on which members of different households can meet indoors.

If the health situation allows it, the restrictions on social contacts will be lifted on June 21 at the earliest, as will the teleworking instruction.

According to the Prime Minister, any decision to relax the restrictions will be made based on the scientific data made available to him, such as the effectiveness of anti-COVID vaccines, the decline in hospitalizations and the appearance of new variants.

A man watches a nurse prepare a syringe for administration of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccination campaign is in full swing in England.

Photo: Getty Images / OLI SCARFF

The government has based its crisis exit strategy on the vaccination campaign, launched in early December, which is in full swing. One in three adults has already received a first dose, more than 17.7 million people. By mid-April, people over 50 should have all been partially vaccinated, and then all adults by the end of July.

I fundamentally believe the immunization program was a game-changer in our favor, stressed Boris Johnson.

Don't repeat the mistakes of the past

According to a Scottish study on Monday, the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines currently administered have reduced hospitalizations after one dose by 85% and 94% respectively.

Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer, however, called on the leader to resist calls from MPs from his own Tory camp to quickly relax restrictions.

In the past, we have emerged without being careful enough (…) We cannot afford to make the same mistakes again, this must be the last lockdown.

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labor Party

Faced with the major economic impact of the pandemic, Boris Johnson pledged to continue supporting jobs and stressed that measures would be detailed when the budget was presented on March 3.

While greeting the clarity of her plan, Helen Dickinson, the patron saint of the British Traders' Federation (BRC), nevertheless demanded more flexibility and argued that every day a store has to stay closed increases the risk that it will never reopen.

Like her, the travel industry has called for financial support from the executive, which is expected to vote in mid-May on restrictions on overseas travel.

Border controls have indeed been tightened to prevent the importation of variants, and a quarantine at the hotel is now mandatory for residents from 33 countries classified at risk.

Note that the deconfinement plan presented by Prime Minister Johnson on Monday only concerns England. The other three UK nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) will present their own plan at a later date.

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