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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (file photo) PA Images
Downing Street

Boris Johnson confirms that non-essential retail and gyms will reopen next week

However, he warned against complacency in the fight against Covid-19.

LAST UPDATE | 5 Apr 2021

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has confirmed that Covid-19 restrictions will be eased in England as planned next week.

In a press conference from Downing Street this evening, Johnson confirmed that non-essential retail, gyms, hairdressers, libraries and zoos will reopen from next Monday, 12 April.

Pubs and restaurants will also be allowed to serve customers outdoors from next week.

Confirming the next step on the roadmap out of lockdown, so-called Stage 2, Johnson told reporters he was looking forward to a pint of beer in a week’s time.

However, he said the difficulties facing countries in Europe illustrated the risks still posed by the pandemic.

Johnson said: “We can’t be complacent. We can see the waves of sickness affecting other countries and we have seen how this story goes.

“We still don’t know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise, as I’m afraid that they will, and that’s why we are saying please get your vaccine – or your second dose – when your turn comes.”

Johnson said the easing of restrictions was “fully justified by the data”.

“And on Monday the 12th I will be going to the pub myself – and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips.”

His comments came as the UK government published the latest findings from its reviews of Covid status certification – so-called “vaccine passports” – and international travel.

2.59009919 PA Graphics PA Graphics

The review suggested a certification scheme could have an “important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure” – but Johnson faces opposition from MPs on both sides of the Commons who are concerned about the civil liberties implications.

A certificate could cover whether someone had received a vaccine, had a negative coronavirus test or had contracted and recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months.

The global travel taskforce review warned “the state of the pandemic abroad, and the progress of vaccination programmes in other countries” meant it was impossible to say yet whether foreign holidays would be allowed from 17 May, the date earmarked as the earliest possible for the resumption of international trips.

It confirmed that the government is examining a traffic-light system for countries, with travel to green list nations requiring no quarantine on return to the UK – although tests will still be required – although it is too early to say which destinations will be in that category.

Lateral flow tests

Johnson also encouraged people to use free NHS tests as part of the drive to identify cases without symptoms.

The UK government has promised to supply everyone in England with two quick-result lateral flow tests each week in a bid to cut the chain of transmission as the lockdown eases.

It would appear that Johnson is pinning his hopes on mass testing to help boost confidence and encourage people to check whether they have Covid-19 before venturing to the shops or the pubs.

The lateral flow tests, which are being widely used in schools, can provide results in as little as 30 minutes, with the two-tests-per-week available from 9 April.

Health Minister Edward Argar would not put a precise figure on how much the testing will cost, but said the cost would be covered by the two-year £37 billion (€43.5 billion) NHS Test and Trace budget.

With reporting by Órla Ryan

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