Freedom for the faces of millions of the United Kingdom’s loyal subjects is near.
Following a sharp fall in new coronavirus infections., it is expected the wearing masks in shops and offices as well as social distancing will be relaxed starting on June 21.
First, the UK will attempt some lockdown easing on Monday, May 17 that will include dining and drinking indoors and reopening movie theaters. In addition, going mask-less will get its first test at secondary schools and colleges where students will no longer be required to wear face coverings in classrooms or communal areas.
An insider told The Sun: “The current thinking points to social distancing going and mask-wearing only in limited settings like buses, trains and the Tube. Obviously, this is all dependent on final sign-off but the data is looking good and the political will is there for a proper lift-off.”
Since the lockdown started to be eased in recent weeks as part of a plan the government insists is being driven by “data, not dates,” the mixing of households was only allowed outdoors, such as in a garden or restaurant patio, provided that social distancing was followed.
As part of next week’s easing, Johnson said that six people, or two households even if the total is higher, will be able to mix inside homes as well as in pubs and restaurants. The limits on outdoor gatherings have been raised to 30 people. Besides movie theaters adult group sports, exercise classes and hotels are also allowed to reopen.
Although the U.K. has recorded Europe’s highest coronavirus death toll, with more than 127,500 dead, new infections have dropped dramatically. The U.K. is now recording around 2,000 new coronavirus cases a day, compared with a daily peak of nearly 70,000 in January.
In addition, the success of Britain’s vaccine rollout has raised hopes that the current easing in May and June will not see the same virus resurgence that happened last fall following a lifting of restrictions during the summer.
Around 53% of the British population have received one dose of a vaccine while more than a quarter have had two jabs — one of the speediest vaccine rollouts in the world.
Though the coronavirus backdrop is clearly much improved, there are concerns that the government is being overly hasty with lifting the restrictions on social contact at a time when some parts of the world, such as India, are in the midst of a huge resurgence of the virus, and the vaccine rollout still has a way to go.
A return to office work is also imminent as Johnson noted towns and cities “depend on people having the confidence on going to work.”
He added: “That is certainly our intention, provided we stay on track. I want to be sure we are able to say that with more clarity, a bit later on. We must be guided by what is happening with the pandemic.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.