England Eases Restrictions, Boris Johnson Says Hugs Should Be Given Using Common Sense

 England eased its lockdown restrictions on Monday as the United Kingdom’s COVID alert level was brought down to a three, allowing people to move about more freely while keeping some guidance in place.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that human contact will be allowed as the country begins to loosen its restrictions in the midst of a drop in new coronavirus cases. Johnson said that people should use common sense due to the fact that social contact is the main method of transmitting the virus.

According to the government’s website, reopening in the third step of its Roadmap will involve a number of measures.

The website explained:

From Monday 17 May indoor hospitality can reopen and indoor entertainment can resume, including cinemas, museums, and children’s play areas.

Up to 6 people or 2 households will be able to meet indoors and up to 30 people outdoors.

All remaining outdoor entertainment can reopen, such as outdoor cinemas and performances. Some larger events will be able to take place, including conferences, theatre and concert performances, and sports events. Restrictions on the number of attendees will remain as set out in the Roadmap.

Guidance on meeting family and friends will be updated. The public can make informed, personal decisions on close contact, such as hugging, with their friends and family. Close contact continues to carry a risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, and people must consider the risk to themselves and to others. COVID-secure rules remain for the workplace and businesses, such as in shops and hospitality.

The Associated Press reported, “[Johnson] also said people should remain vigilant to unexpected changes in the coronavirus data and the spread of new variants that could bypass some of the immunity provided by Britain’s successful vaccination campaign.”

The outlet reported that around 53% of the British population have gotten one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and over 25% have had two shots. Britain’s vaccine rollout is reported to be one of the fastest in the world.

“This unlocking amounts to a very considerable step on the road back to normality and I am confident we will be able to go further,” Johnson said at a briefing from Downing Street. “This doesn’t mean that we can suddenly throw caution to the wind … I urge you to think about the vulnerability of your loved ones whether they have had a vaccine, one or two doses, and whether there has been time for that vaccine to take effect.”

CNBC reported that when Johnson was asked about hugging, he said, “People should do it if you think it’s appropriate, if you think the risks are very very low.”

“But you should exercise care and common sense. And clearly with unvaccinated people there must be a greater risk of transmission than with those who have had vaccination,” he added.

“Whoever I hug, I can assure you, it will be done with caution and restraint,” Johnson said, adding that the “1 metre plus” social-distancing rule in businesses might be done away with in the next period of loosening restrictions on June 21.

As reported by Reuters, the reopening measures will only apply to England, while Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales will decide their rules. The chief medical officers in all of the nations in the U.K. came to an agreement to drop the COVID alert level in the country to a three. A COVID alert level three means that the epidemic is in general circulation rather than a level four, which holds that the transmission of the virus is high or increasing exponentially.

“Thanks to the efforts of the UK public in social distancing and the impact we are starting to see from the vaccination programme, case numbers, deaths and COVID hospital pressures have fallen consistently,” the U.K.’s four chief medical officers said in a joint statement.

“However COVID is still circulating with people catching and spreading the virus every day so we all need to continue to be vigilant. This remains a major pandemic globally.” 

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