LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to detail the final steps in the easing of England’s lockdown rules on Monday.
New guidelines on the 1-meter social distancing rule, face coverings, care home visits and working from home will be announced, the government said Sunday. One government minister told the BBC this weekend that some rules, such as mask-wearing, would become a matter of personal choice when restrictions were eased.
Johnson is expected to reiterate that Covid will become “a virus that we learn to live with as we already do with flu,” Downing Street said in a statement released Sunday night.
“Freedom Day” — or “Step 4″ in the government’s long-term plan to ease restrictions — will take place on July 19 if the government’s “four tests” for easing Covid restrictions are met, Johnson will also note.
The tests include looking at data to confirm that the vaccine rollout is continuing successfully, and that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalizations. These will be assessed on July 12, the government said, following a review of the latest data.
The lifting of restrictions in England had previously been slated for June 21 but was delayed as the highly transmissible delta variant spread throughout the U.K.
While infection rates have risen, hospitalizations and deaths have not surged, indicating that coronavirus vaccines are working to prevent severe infections.
The British government has previously signaled a reluctance to keep restrictions in place any longer than is strictly necessary. This is despite some concerns among medical experts and opposition politicians that restrictions could be lifted too soon as the variant spreads in the U.K., Europe and beyond.
In comments released Sunday, Johnson acknowledged that “the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks.”
“We must all continue to carefully manage the risks from Covid and exercise judgement when going about our lives,” he said, adding that “thanks to the successful rollout of our vaccination programme, we are progressing cautiously through our roadmap (to lifting lockdown). Today we will set out how we can restore people’s freedoms.”
Britain’s Covid immunization program has been one of the fastest in the world, with 86% of the adult population now having received a first dose of a vaccine, and 63.8% having received two doses, government data shows.
The prime minister will announce the details of the lifting of lockdown rules in England in a press conference Monday afternoon, slated to start around 5 p.m. London time. Health Secretary Sajid Javid will present the plans to Parliament at the same time.