U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a four-step roadmap on Monday to "remove all legal limits on social contacts" in England by no earlier than June 21, assuming certain tests are met.
Why it matters: The U.K. has the worst coronavirus death toll in Europe and saw its economy contract by 9.9% in 2020 — the biggest drop in output in more than 300 years.
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Johnson's government imposed a nationwide lockdown for the third time in January as cases surged due to the emergence of a new, more infectious coronavirus variant.
But the country's vaccine rollout has been among the best in the world — with 26.1% of the population vaccinated as of Monday — resulting in a substantial drop in infections and optimism that the outbreak will be curbed in the coming months.
Details: Before taking each step, the government will review infection data and ensure that the following four steps are met:
The vaccine deployment program continues successfully.
Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalizations and deaths in those vaccinated.
Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalizations that would put unsustainable pressure on the National Health Service.
The government's assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new virus variants.
If those tests are met, the phased lifting of lockdown restrictions will begin no earlier than the following dates:
March 8: Schools and universities will open for all students.
March 29: Outdoor sports and mixing in groups of six will be permitted.
April 12: Gyms, libraries, salons, outdoor hospitality, all retail and indoor children's activities will be permitted.
May 17: Indoor entertainment and attractions, indoor organized sports, 30-person limits outdoors, some large events with capacity limits, and international travel (subject to review) will be permitted.
June 21: No legal limits on social contact — nightclubs will reopen and larger events will be permitted.
What they're saying: "There will be many people worried we are being too ambitious and it is arrogant to impose any kind of plan upon a virus. But I also believe the vaccination program has dramatically changed the odds in our favor and it is on that basis that we can now proceed," Johnson told members of Parliament on Monday.
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