UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation on Sunday and announced a phased plan to ease the lockdown imposed due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
In a televised address, Johnson said that schools and shops could begin opening from June 1, provided that infection rates remain low. He also announced plans to quarantine those arriving in Britain by air.
"This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week," said the Prime Minister, who himself had the virus and recovered.
As part of the "conditional plan" to ease measures, here are some things that will be allowed -
- The government will be "actively encouraging" people to return to work where they cannot work from home, for example in the manufacturing or construction industries
- Unlimited outdoor exercise would be allowed from Wednesday, May 13, with sports such as golf, tennis and fishing permitted as long as they only involved members of the same household
- People can also leave home as many times as they like for exercise or to sunbathe in parks
- People in England would also be able to drive to other destinations
- In the second phase, nurseries and children up to the age of 11 could start to return to school from June 1 at the earliest
- Some non-essential shops could also be allowed to reopen from June 1
By July, "we will hope to re-open at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places" that could enforce social distancing, for example cafes in parks, added Johnson.
The UK has had over 31,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus - a tally that is the highest in Europe and second only to the United States globally.
Johnson also announced a new COVID-19 alert system, which will build upon existing moves to ramp up testing and contact tracing and will closely monitor infection rates.
"If there are outbreaks, if there are problems, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes," said Johnson. "We have been through the initial peak, but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous."
Johnson’s plan was met with a mixed response from leaders in the UK. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that infection rates in her country were too high to ease any restrictions.
The Wales health minister Vaughan Gething also said that the advice to "stay at home" in Wales would remain unchanged.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have powers over their own lockdown restrictions.
Prime Minister Johnson on Monday is expected to give further details on his plan to ease the lockdown as well as on quarantine measures from those coming in from other countries.