When London’s Science Museum reopens next week, it will have some new artifacts: empty vaccine vials, testing kits and other items collected during the pandemic, to be featured in a new COVID-19 exhibition. Britain isn’t quite ready to consign the coronavirus to a museum—the outbreak is far from over. But there is a definite feeling that the UK has turned a corner, and the mood in the country is jubilant, the AP reports. "The end is in sight," one newspaper front page claimed recently. "Free at last!" read another. Thanks to an efficient vaccine rollout program, Britain is finally saying goodbye to months of tough lockdown restrictions. Starting Monday, all restaurants and bars in England can fully reopen, as can hotels, theaters, and museums. And Britons will be able to hug friends and family again in public, with the easing of social distancing rules that have been in place since the pandemic began.
It’s the biggest step yet to reopen the country following an easing of the crisis blamed for nearly 128,000 deaths, the highest reported COVID-19 toll in Europe. Deaths in Britain have come down to single digits in recent days. It’s a far cry from January, when up to 1,477 deaths a day were recorded amid a brutal second wave driven by a more infectious variant first found in Kent, in southeastern England. Since then, British health officials have raced to get ahead of the virus by vaccinating hundreds of thousands of people. As of this week, about 35.7 million people—or approximately 68% of the adult population—have received their first dose. Over 18 million have had both doses. It’s an impressive feat, and many credit Britain’s universal public health system for much of the success.
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