The United Kingdom will begin easing lockdown restrictions this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday during a prerecorded telecast.
The leader announced several steps in reopening, contingent on keeping the transmission rate (R) below 1.
Johnson urged residents to continue to work from home if they can, but people who can’t, such as those in construction or manufacturing, should go to work this week, Johnson said. He encouraged those workers to avoid public transportation and instead travel by car, walking or bicycle.
Starting Wednesday, residents will be able to participate in “unlimited amounts” of outdoor activity, Johnson said, including sunbathing and playing sports with members of their own household. People must continue to obey social distancing guidelines; fines for breaking the rules will be increased, Johnson said, though he did not specify the amount.
By June 1, the U.K. may be in a position to begin reopening shops and schools, starting with reception, year 1 and year 6, Johnson said. Secondary pupils facing exams next year will get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays.
Some of the hospitality industry and other public places may open by July at the earliest, Johnson said.
“Throughout this period, over the next two months, we will be driven not by mere hope or economic necessity. We’re going to be driven by the science, the data and public health,” Johnson said. “All of this is conditional. It all depends on a series of big ifs. It depends on all of us, the entire country, to follow the advice and observe social distancing and to keep that R down.”
The prime minister also announced a new COVID alert system determined by the transmission rate and the number of cases. Level 1 indicates COVID-19 is no longer present in the U.K., while level 5 indicates there is a risk of the virus overwhelming the National Health System. The U.K. is currently at level 4, Johnson said.
“That COVID alert level will tell us how tough we have to be in our social-distancing measures,” Johnson said. “The lower the level, the fewer the measures. The higher the level, the tougher and stricter we will have to be.”
The U.K.’s transmission rate is “potentially only just below 1,” Johnson said, somewhere between .5 and .9.
The prime minister also said the U.K. will enact a quarantine on people traveling into the country, but did not say when that would start.
The U.K. recorded an additional 269 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the country’s death total to 31,855, according to the Department of Health and Social Care. There have been 219,183 who have tested positive in the U.K.