England’s Restrictions to End This Month, Johnson Expected to Say

Written by Marisol

The British government is due to announce on Monday that it will lift the last of its coronavirus restrictions in England on July 19, after laboring through one of the longest lockdowns in the world.

The expected announcement was met with both hope and trepidation. Although emerging variants have caused the number of infections in the country to rise in recent weeks, so far that has yet to be followed by a commensurate rise in hospital admissions or deaths.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will address the public on Monday evening, signaled the pending changes in a government briefing. He said people in the country had to “learn to live with this virus.”

“Thanks to the successful rollout of our vaccination program, we are progressing cautiously through our road map,” Mr. Johnson said in the government briefing. Stressing that the pandemic was not over, he said that people would have to “exercise judgment.”

The full reopening had been scheduled to take place last month, but was delayed because of worries over the more contagious Delta variant. The number of infections in the country has risen in recent weeks — primarily among younger people, who have only recently become eligible for vaccination. But 86 percent of adults in England have received at least one vaccine dose, among the highest rates in the world.

Organizers of nightlife and live events, which have largely fallen silent during the pandemic, had lobbied against further delays. Though many venues remain closed, Wembley Stadium will host the semifinals and finals of the European Championship soccer tournament in the coming days, with as many as 60,000 people allowed to attend if they show proof of vaccination or a negative virus test.

There are concerns, however, that the large gatherings will lead to further outbreaks. More than 2,000 people in Scotland tested positive for the virus last week after watching a Euro 2020 game at a stadium, fan zone or pub, according to National Health Scotland — nearly two-thirds of which were linked to a Euro 2020 game in London.

With England’s full reopening, restaurants and pubs will be able to serve more patrons, and limits on gatherings like weddings will be removed.

Britain reported over 24,000 new daily cases on Sunday, the highest number since early February, though the rates of hospitalizations and deaths remain low. And medical experts have urged officials to maintain some regulations, including mandatory face coverings and guidance on social distancing.

“It’s not a binary decision of all or nothing,” said Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the British Medical Association Council, adding that such measures would minimize the impact of rising infections.

England has accelerated efforts to vaccine younger people in recent weeks, and officials said they were working on a program to offer booster shots to people over 50 and other vulnerable people this coming winter.

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