U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to detail on Monday in Parliament the path to gradually lift COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions in England, depending on the continuing success of the continuing vaccination campaign.
- The government is ready to reopen primary and secondary schools on Mar. 8 after a two-month, post-Christmas closure, according to plans widely leaked in the British press on Monday.
- Nonessential retail shops would be allowed to reopen toward the end of April but pubs and restaurants will remain closed unless they can offer outdoor dining, according to newspapers briefed by government officials.
- Restrictions on outdoor meetings and indoor socializing, as well as on children’s sport, would be gradually lifted from the end of March.
- Further liberalization will, however, depend on the continued decline of new infections, evidence showing that vaccines are reducing hospital admissions and deaths, and the absence of new vaccine-resistant variants.
- More than 26% of the U.K. population has received a first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, second only in the world to Israel (82%) and the United Arab Emirates (55%). That compare with less than 6% of the European Union population.
- Restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are matters for the regional, devolved governments to decide.
A study by executive agency Public Health Scotland showed on Monday that the Pfizer–BioNTech
The outlook: Johnson’s caution seems to show he has learned from last year’s trials, when the U.K. was the European country worst-affected by the coronavirus disease. Now he can use the success of the vaccination campaign to provide reasonable hope that the U.K. might see the end of the tunnel at last.
Whatever caution he insists on, the risk is that the prime minister might raise expectations to the point where compliance with the current restrictions weakens in the coming weeks, compromising the early results of the vaccination campaign.