UK on course to ditch social distancing rule in June, Johnson says

Covid-19 restrictions ease as early 50 million vaccine doses administered in UK

The next phase of the UK's unlocking plans is May 17th, when restrictions on foreign travel are expected to be eased slightly. Prime minister Boris Johnson said that the social distancing rule requiring people to stay at least one metre apart could end in June as well. Video: Reuters

 

Britain is on course to ditch the Covid-19 social distancing rule requiring people to stay at least one metre apart towards the end of next month, prime minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.

Mr Johnson’s government has set out a roadmap to end lockdown restrictions in stages as widespread vaccinations help to suppress infections.

June 21st has been set as a date when social distancing could end.

Asked about that possibility during a visit in northern England, Mr Johnson said: “I think we’ve got a good chance, a good chance, of being able to dispense with one-metre plus.”

The one-metre plus rule means people need to stay at least that distance apart and take other mitigating measures to prevent the spread of infections. It has been heavily criticised by the hospitality industry.

According to government data, 49.8 million vaccine doses have been administered in the UK, with 35.5 million of those being first doses.

The next stage of the government’s unlocking plans is May 17th, when restrictions on foreign travel are expected to be eased, but not lifted.

Mr Johnson struck a cautious tone ahead of that deadline. “We do want to do some opening up on May the 17th, but I don’t think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else. I certainly don’t. We’ve got to be very, very tough, and we’ve got to be as cautious as we can.”

Pilot music festival

Thousands of revellers without face coverings danced shoulder to shoulder to live music for the first time in more than a year at a pilot music festival in Liverpool.

About 5,000 people packed into Sefton Park on Sunday for the outdoor gig, which included performances from Blossoms, the Lathums and Liverpool singer-songwriter Zuzu.

Pictures and videos showed people packed together, arms in the air, dancing to the music at the event, which has been hailed as a milestone towards getting live events running again.

Everyone had to produce negative coronavirus tests to enter the event but did not have to wear face coverings or follow social distancing rules.

It is hoped that test events like this will pave the way for festivals and venues across the UK to reopen for mass gatherings again.

Speaking to Liverpool city council after the gig Zuzu said: “Indescribable, it was actually unreal.

“The energy was just unbelievable, it really was. I got emotional and I cried on the way out. Fully next level amazing.”

Festival Republic, which hosted the event, said that it was “incredible” to see the lucky 5,000 ticket holders arrive at the venue after showing their negative Covid test results.

UK culture minister Caroline Dinenage said: “Today is a momentous occasion to celebrate as fans get their first taste of a music festival for more than a year – and all in the name of science.

“Today’s event is a milestone, with thousands of people coming together to test how we can kick-start things safely through the Government’s events research programme.”

Tickets were only available to those living in the Liverpool city region aged 18 or above when they went on sale.

Ticket holders were required to take a rapid lateral flow test before entry, and were also be asked to take a test after the event to gather further evidence on the safety of outdoor settings, reduced social distancing and the removal of non-pharmaceutical mitigations like face coverings, the UK department of digital, culture, media and sport said.

They will also have to provide contact details for NHS test and trace to ensure everyone can be traced in the event of a positive test, it added. – Reuters and PA