Boris Johnson announces three-stage lockdown lift plan
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announce three-stage plan to exit lockdown
- Pubs, bars and restaurants in England could reopen in April and May
- UK lockdown lift plan will only go ahead if scientific evidence says it is safe to do
- Scotland’s First Minister, Nicole Sturgeon, condemns Boris Johnson for ignoring lockdown rules
The UK has been subjected to the third’s lockdown rules for almost a month. The UK government decided to impose a third national lockdown due to an exponential rise in coronavirus cases triggered by the rapid spread of new COVID strains.
Although cases across the country appear to be plateauing, some experts, officials and scientists have suggested that the UK government may need to impose stricter lockdown restrictions to drive the infection rate lower.
The Prime Minister tightened travel restrictions earlier this week in a bid to reduce the risk of new COVID mutations entering the UK’s borders. Travellers arriving into the UK from “red list” territories, including South Africa, Portugal and all countries on the South American continent will be forced to quarantine in designated accommodation for ten days.
Halo understands that arrivals from these countries will have to cover accommodation costs, which is believed to start at GBP 1000. Home Secretary Priti Patel has also threatened to punish rule breakers with fines ranging from GBP 800 to GBP 6400.
It comes as Britain reports an additional 25,308 daily positive cases of COVID-19, which is significantly lower than record 81,533 cases reported on December 29th. However, the figure is an increase in the number of infections confirmed the previous day.
The UK’s seven-day death toll also remains stubbornly high despite the country’s rapid vaccine rollout and, as a result, the NHS continues to struggle.
However, with the seven-day case average more than 28% lower, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hopes to begin easing COVID restrictions as early as March, under a three-stage plan.
Boris Johnson unveils three-stage lockdown lift plan
Boris Johnson has said his lockdown lift plan would only go ahead if experts are confident that relaxing measures will not negatively impact the death toll or number of COVID-19 hospitalisations and vaccination distribution continues on its current trajectory.
According to Mr Johnson, the first stage of the plan would focus on reopening schools, with March 8th set as the target date for when this should commence.
During a televised COVID-19 update aired earlier this week, the Prime Minister commended parents “heroic” efforts at home schooling and said reopening schools is his number one priority.
However, he said it is in the interest of public health that the government does not rush to lift lockdown restrictions and that he cannot make a firm decision until scientific data proved it was safe to do so.
Although the UK’s COVID-19 curve is declining, Mr Johnson noted that there “is still a very high prevalence of the virus, which will continue to put pressure on the country’s health services.”
Coronavirus cases in London remain stubbornly high, with 2.8%, or approximately 1 in 35 people in the capital city, believed to have been infected in the week ending January 22nd.
Amid concerns that reopening schools could trigger the third wave of COVID-19, Mr Johnson said the government would be taking a staggered approach, which would see lockdown restrictions lifted month by month so that the effects can be closely monitored.
According to newswire reports, non-essential stores would reopen after schools in April, while pubs, bars and restaurants could follow in May.
However, the PM has come under pressure from Tory MPs over his more cautious approach. Some have insisted that the whole economy should reopen once all the UK’s four priority groups have been vaccinated in February.
Labour party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, is against reopening the whole of the economy and favours the phased approach, stating reopening schools should be the UK government’s priority. He urged Boris Johnson to ensure all teachers and support staff are inoculated during the February half-term to reopen classrooms in March.
However, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock believes that March is too early to reopen schools and suggested that classrooms remain closed until April at the earliest due to uncertainty over vaccine efficacy against new COVID strains.
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, advised grandparents not to visit their grandchildren until “tens of millions” of people have been vaccinated in the UK, and the infection rate decreases significantly.
Despite a bitter row between the UK and the EU over vaccine supply, Boris Johnson said the UK is on track to vaccinating all four or its priority groups by the February 15th target date.
Providing that the target is hit, a select government team will review COVID vaccine and infection rate data and present a lockdown lift plan to MPs on February 22nd.
Boris Johnson travels to a COVID-19 lab in Scotland
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under fire over a planned visit to Scotland today to the Lighthouse Laboratory, which develops coronavirus test kits.
According to Tory MPs, Boris Johnson travelled to Scotland to show UK solidarity in fighting the crisis amid growing speculation that Scotland wants to become an independent nation.
Nicola Sturgeon, who has imposed strict lockdown restrictions in Scotland, previously threatened to hold an independence referendum in the act of defiance against Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party.
Although Mr Johnson was wearing full PPE, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the trip to Scotland was not essential and that the Prime Minister should follow the same lockdown rules as the rest of the public.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove hit back at claims that the trip was non-essential, stating: “Boris Johnson has a responsibility to make sure the UK’s vaccination programme is proceeding appropriately. And to thank those on the front line, NHS professionals and those in the British Army who are making sure things work well.”
Ms Sturgeon also received backlash from Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who called the Scottish First Minister “Moanalot” and described the Prime Minister’s visit as “something to be proud of”.
Even Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, supported his visit. Simultaneously, Downing Street said the Prime Minister must remain visible during the crisis as he is the “physical representative” for the UK government.
Downing Street’s spokesperson also stressed Scotland’s importance to the UK and said that Westminister had delivered over 1 million COVID tests to Scotland and is funding testing cities across the nation in a plea for unity.