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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."

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Apr 5, 2021 - Health

Vaccines may limit the damage from coronavirus variants

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Many public health experts are optimistic that the fourth wave of the coronavirus that the U.S. has entered won't be as bad as the other three — but emphasize that it will still be important to take precautions.

Why it matters: A more transmissible, deadlier variant of the virus the one that originated in the U.K. — is becoming increasingly prevalent across the country, but the U.S.'s extraordinary vaccination effort may blunt the worst effects of this most recent wave of cases.

Doctors and nurses can be great vaccine messengers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

One of the most important messages vaccine-reluctant Americans could hear is that their doctors trust the COVID vaccine, so they should too.

The big picture: Vaccine takeup among doctors and skilled nurses is high — and they’re among the messengers Americans trust most.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
Apr 5, 2021 - Economy & Business

Pandemic fuels staggering teacher shortages across the U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The pandemic has pushed teachers out of the workforce in droves, and many schools don't have a strong safety net to fill the gaps as children come back into classrooms.

Why it matters: Teaching has been one of the toughest pandemic-era jobs, with pivots to remote learning and then risk of infection with school reopenings.