Apr 5, 2021 - World

England to open nonessential businesses for first time since December

Boris Johnson at a garden store

Johnson visiting a garden store last week. Photo: Scott Heppell/WPA Pool/Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Monday that England will proceed on April 12 with phase two of its four-step roadmap to reopening its economy, announcing that all nonessential shops, hairdressers and gyms can reopen and that pubs and restaurants will be permitted to serve customers outdoors.

Why it matters: It's a reflection of the continued success of Britain's vaccine rollout, which has been among the best in the world. The U.K. last year suffered the worst coronavirus death toll in Europe and its biggest economic contraction in 300 years.

Driving the news: Johnson also announced Monday that the government will offer every citizen in England two at-home rapid COVID-19 tests a week as the gradual easing of restrictions continues.

  • Rapid tests are less accurate than PCR diagnostic tests, but Johnson has insisted that the free tests will help “stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy."

The big picture: The U.K. has administered nearly 37 million vaccine doses, with 47.2% of the population having received at least one dose as of Monday, according to Bloomberg's vaccine tracker.

  • The U.K. on Sunday reported a seven-day daily average of about 3,400 new cases and 35 deaths, after peaking at a daily average of nearly 60,000 new cases and 1,200 deaths in January.

What to watch: The following dates are the earliest that the U.K. government has said the next phases of reopening can begin, assuming that certain criteria are met:

  • April 12: Gyms, libraries, salons, outdoor hospitality, all retail and indoor children's activities will be permitted.
  • May 17: Indoor entertainment and attractions, indoor organized sports, 30-person limit outdoors, some large events with capacity limits, and international travel (subject to review) will be permitted.
  • June 21: No legal limits on social contact — nightclubs will reopen and larger events will be permitted.

What they're saying: "On Monday, April 12, I will be going to the pub myself and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips," Johnson said at a press briefing Monday.

  • He added that the government will not yet lift international travel restrictions and advised British citizens to hold off on booking summer holidays abroad "until the picture is clearer."
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