Boris Johnson confirms major easing of England’s restrictions

Prime minister urges caution as theatres, cinemas and indoor hospitality reopens

Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, attends a virtual press conference to announce changes to lockdown. Photograph: Dan Kitwood-WPA Pool/ Getty

Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, attends a virtual press conference to announce changes to lockdown. Photograph: Dan Kitwood-WPA Pool/ Getty

 

Boris Johnson has confirmed a major easing of coronavirus restrictions in England from next week, with indoor hospitality, theatres and cinemas reopening and up to 30 people allowed to meet outdoors. The British prime minister told a press conference in Downing Street that family and friends would be able to hug one another again but urged people to exercise caution and common sense.

“We’re taking a step toward that moment when we learn to live responsibly with Covid, when we cease eventually to rely on detailed government edicts and make our own decisions based on the best scientific advice about how best to protect our families and those around us,” he said.

“This doesn’t mean that we can suddenly throw caution to the winds. We all know that close contacts such as hugging is a direct way of transmitting this disease. So I urge you to think about the vulnerability of your loved ones.”

There were no coronavirus deaths reported in the latest figures from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, although four deaths were recorded in Wales. But Mr Johnson appeared to reject calls to accelerate the roadmap towards ending restrictions, saying it was important to monitor the impact of each easing before moving on to the next.

From next Monday, six people or two households can meet indoors and stay overnight and up to 30 can meet outside. Bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues can reopen indoors, along with museums, theatres, cinemas, concert halls, sports stadiums and children’s play areas.

Hotels and other accommodation can reopen and holidays abroad to a small number of designated countries will be allowed. All third-level students can return to in-person tuition, and schoolchildren and college students will no longer be required to wear face masks in class.

Some social distancing measures will remain, including the “one metre plus” rule and only table service will be allowed in bars and restaurants.

“This unlocking amounts to a very considerable step on the road back to normality and I am confident that we will be able to go further,” the prime minister said.

“We are announcing the single biggest step on our roadmap, and it will allow us to do many of the things that we’ve yearned to do for a long time.”

Vaccines

More than 35 million people in the UK have received their first vaccine dose and almost 18 million have received their second. Chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said Britain’s fast vaccine rollout had made a great impact on the spread of coronavirus and the seriousness of the illness it caused.

“Everything is pointing in the direction that the vaccines are producing very effective reductions in hospitalisations and death. We know that they are also reducing onward transmission. All of that points to this now being a much smoother path, it points to a lower increase than you might have otherwise expected with another wave. Things, if they carry on without variants, are definitely pointing in the right direction,” he said.