British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that the third step of the roadmap out of the COVID-19 lockdown can go ahead, which will allow people in England to hug loved ones, dine in restaurants, and go on holiday abroad from May 17.
Earlier, the chief medical officers of the UK’s four nations agreed to lower the country’s COVID-19 alert level from level four to level three, allowing social distancing rules and other CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus restrictions to be gradually loosened.
“With deaths and hospitalisations at their lowest level since last July and the UK’s four chief medical officers today agreeing a reduction in the alert level, the data now support moving to step three in England from next Monday, May 17,” Johnson told a press briefing at 10 Downing Street.
“This unlocking amounts to a very considerable step on the road map back to normality and I am confident we will be able to go further,” he said, adding that England remains “on track” to end all legal restrictions on June 21.
It remains unclear if some restrictions will remain in place after that, such as the usage of COVID-19 certificates and social distancing. But Johnson said the government will update the public later this month.
“To give business more time to prepare we will be saying more later this month about exactly what the world will look like and what role there could be—if any—for certification and social distancing.”
Despite the further loosening, Johnson urged the public to continue to exercise caution when interacting with family and friends.
“This doesn’t mean that we can suddenly throw caution to the winds. We all know that close contacts such as hugging is a direct way of transmitting this disease. So I urge you to think about the vulnerability of your loved ones,” he said.
He also said people should continue to follow social distancing rules when not with family and friends.
“We only have to look at the very sad situation in other countries to see the lethal potential of this virus and we must continue to fight the spread of variants here in the UK,” he said. “While we have no evidence yet to believe these variants are completely vaccine resistant, we must remain vigilant.”
Also addressing the press conference, Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said he is concerned about the Indian variant of the CCP virus.
“This is actually spreading from very small amounts but it is beginning to spread in certain parts of the country and we need to keep quite a close eye on this,” he said.
PA contributed to this report.