England to Reopen Slowly

Starting March 8, 2 people will be allowed to meet up outdoors
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 22, 2021 6:45 PM CST
England to Reopen Slowly
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on Monday in London.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Children in England will return to class, and people will be able to meet a friend outside for coffee in two weeks' time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday as he laid out a slow easing of one of Europe's strictest pandemic lockdowns. But those longing for a haircut, a restaurant meal, or a pint in a pub have almost two months to wait, the AP reports. And people won’t be able to hug loved ones they don't live with until May at the earliest. Johnson said the government's plan would move the country "cautiously but irreversibly" out of lockdown. "We are now traveling on a one-way road to freedom," he said at a televised news conference. But it's a road, not a highway. In fact, Johnson said there is “no credible route to a zero-COVID Britain, or indeed, a zero-COVID world," even with vaccines. Britain has had Europe's deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 120,000 deaths. The nation has spent much of the winter under a tight lockdown, the third since March 2020.

That will begin to change, slowly, on March 8, when children in England go back to school, and people are allowed to meet one friend or relative for a chat or picnic outdoors. Three weeks later, people will be able to meet in small groups outdoors for sports or relaxation. Shops and hairdressers will reopen April 12. So will pubs and restaurants, though only outdoors. Indoor venues such as theaters and cinemas, and indoor seating in bars and restaurants, are scheduled to open May 17, and limited crowds will be able to return to sports stadiums. It is also the earliest date Britons may be allowed foreign holidays. The final stage of the plan, in which all legal limits on social contact are removed and nightclubs can reopen after being shuttered for 15 months, is penciled in for June 21. The government says the dates could all be postponed if infections and hospitalizations surge. The measures being announced apply to England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have slightly different lockdowns in place.

(More England stories.)

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