LONDON: England lifts virtually all of its coronavirus restrictions on Monday, setting it at odds with the three other nations of the United Kingdom and sparking concern among scientists.
The decision leaves a patchwork of freedoms and restrictions in different parts of the country. Here is what will be allowed where and when:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Health Secretary Sajid Javid have announced that all coronavirus curbs will be removed in England on Monday, despite opposition from experts.
The final phase of the gradual easing of restrictions in England — population 56 million — was delayed from June 21, because of concern about spiralling infection rates.
Most conspicuously, along with the scrapping of social distancing rules, all mandatory facemask-wearing will end.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, though, has said masks will still be required on public transport and the UK’s biggest supermarket groups will also retain Covid-19 safety measures and encourage customers and staff to keep wearing face coverings.
As the government pursues a transition from enforceable rules to personal responsibility, nightclubs and other venues like theatres, cinemas and galleries will be allowed to reopen to maximum capacity.
Workers will also go back to offices, although many businesses are planning a staggered return.
The whole of Scotland, home to 5.5 million people, also moves to “Level 0” of the devolved government in Edinburgh’s five-tier system of restrictions on Monday.
But some measures will remain in place until August 9 when virtually all Covid-19 regulations are expected to be scrapped.
Under the new rules, indoor gathering restrictions will be relaxed and up to 10 individuals from four households will be able to meet in public indoor spaces like pubs and restaurants.
Plans for workers to return to offices have been postponed until August 9.
Nightclubs will also remain closed and indoor bars have been given a mandatory midnight closing time until that date.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated mandatory mask wearing in Scotland could remain in place after August 9, drawing a clear distinction between her approach to face coverings as a way of protecting the clinically vulnerable and the rules south of the border.
Wales, where 3.1 million people live, has said almost all coronavirus restrictions in the country will be lifted on August 7.
But the compulsory face coverings will remain after that date in many indoor settings and on public transport, the government in Cardiff has said.
The country on Saturday moved to a lower “Alert Level 1” footing, which means currently six people will be able to meet indoors in private homes and holiday accommodation.
Under the rules, organised indoor events will be able to take place with up to 1,000 people seated and up to 200 standing.
Northern Ireland is due to unlock a further level on July 26 with an end of social distancing requirements for outdoor activities and a reduction of social distancing in indoor settings to one metre.
All of the measures, including the scrapping of social distancing requirements in venues like theatres and galleries, and increasing limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, will be voted on by the country’s devolved assembly on July 22.
The country’s power-sharing government will meet on August 12 with a view to further lifting restrictions on August 16, during which requirements for face coverings for the province’s 1.9 million people will be discussed. –AFP