UK leader to end England’s coronavirus lockdown on Dec. 2


UK leader to end England's coronavirus lockdown on Dec. 2
A testing staff member completes a lateral flow test swab, mandatory before opening to the public, at Rhydycar leisure centre in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. where mass coronavirus testing begins following a two-week “firebreak” lockdown. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to end an England-wide lockdown as scheduled on Dec. 2 and will announce a return to regional restrictions as statistics show that coronavirus infections have stabilized.

Johnson’s office also confirmed plans to begin a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program next month, assuming regulators approve a vaccine against the virus. The government also will increase mass testing in an effort to suppress the virus until vaccines can be rolled out.

Johnson’s office said late Saturday that the government plans to return to using a three-tiered system of localized restrictions in England, with areas facing different lockdown measures based on the severity of their outbreaks. More communities are expected to be placed in the two highest virus alert categories, it said.

The government put England under a four-week lockdown that started Nov. 5. The Cabinet is to discuss the plans Sunday, and the prime minister aims to give Parliament the details on Monday, according to the statement.

The U.K. as a whole has the worst virus death toll in Europe, at over 54,700 deaths.

Johnson announced the lockdown in England on Oct. 31 after public health officials warned that an exponential rise in new daily coronavirus infections was threatening to overwhelm the National Health Service as the winter flu season approached. The lockdown closed non-essential business like many shops, gyms, bars, restaurants—although takeout was permitted. It also banned most social gatherings but schools remain open.

UK leader to end England's coronavirus lockdown on Dec. 2
Cyclists ride along a quiet Oxford Street, London, where the majority of shops are closed as England continues a four week national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

New known cases of COVID-19 have started to drop across the U.K., with the number of positive tests during the past seven days falling 13.8% from the week before. Some 2,861 COVID-related deaths were reported over the last 7-day period, 17 fewer than a week earlier. Still, the infection rate remains high, at 244 cases for every 100,000 people.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told reporters Friday that the lockdown has been successful in slowing the spread of the virus, though he stressed that people needed to keep following the rules to keep cases down.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the government’s deputy chief medical officer, warned that any gains from the November lockdown could be quickly lost to a virus that takes “just seconds” to spread.

People should “keep up the pressure on this virus and push down on it as much as we can right to the end of the period (of lockdown),” he said.

  • UK leader to end England's coronavirus lockdown on Dec. 2
    A member of staff displays a lateral flow immunoassay diagnostic device which shows the presence of SARS-CoV-2, before it is used on the public, at Rhydycar leisure centre in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. where mass coronavirus testing begins following a two-week “firebreak” lockdown. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
  • UK leader to end England's coronavirus lockdown on Dec. 2
    Testing staff members complete lateral flow test swabs, mandatory before opening to the public, at Rhydycar leisure centre in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. where mass coronavirus testing begins following a two-week “firebreak” lockdown. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
  • UK leader to end England's coronavirus lockdown on Dec. 2
    In this Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020 file photo, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, to attend a weekly cabinet meeting at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, in London. Boris Johnson’s office said late Saturday Nov. 21, 2020, there are plans to end the England-wide lockdown as scheduled on Dec. 2 and to announce a return to regional restrictions as statistics show coronavirus infections have stabilized. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
  • UK leader to end England's coronavirus lockdown on Dec. 2
    Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a media briefing on coronavirus in Downing Street, London, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (Trevor Adams/Pool Photo via AP)
  • UK leader to end England's coronavirus lockdown on Dec. 2
    Shoppers loaded with bags and an umbrella to protect against the falling rain, in the centre of Cardiff, Wales, Friday Nov. 20, 2020, where shops are open and people are out in numbers taking advantage of buying nonessential items in the run-up to Christmas. Restrictions across Wales have been relaxed following a two-week “firebreak” lockdown to stem spread of the coronavirus. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
  • UK leader to end England's coronavirus lockdown on Dec. 2
    People wearing face coverings outside a Christmas Shop in Stirling, Scotland, Friday Nov. 20, 2020. This shop will close later Friday along with other non-essential shops, bars, restaurants, hairdressers and visitor attractions whilst schools remain open, due to the latest government restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

The government’s scientific advisory group, known as SAGE, is expected to publish reports on Monday showing that Johnson’s earlier three-tiered strategy wasn’t strong enough and recommending tougher restrictions when it returns.

Under that system, a “medium” alert level requires restaurants and pubs to close at 10 p.m. and prohibits residents from mixing in groups larger than six. The “high” level prevents people from gathering indoors with anyone not in their household or extended “support bubble.”

In areas under a “very high” alert, pubs and bars only can remain open and serve alcohol only if it comes with a hearty meal. People are advised not to travel in or out of those areas.


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UK leader to end England’s coronavirus lockdown on Dec. 2 (2020, November 22)
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