UK lockdown to be further eased from May 17: PM

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the coronavirus lockdown in England will be further lifted from May 17.

Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street on Monday, Johnson announced that from May 17, pubs, bars and restaurants in England will be permitted to open indoors, Xinhua news agency reported.

He added that indoor entertainment will also resume, including cinemas, museums and children’s play areas.

Theatres, concert halls, conference centers and sports stadiums can all reopen, with larger events in these settings being able to resume with capacity limits.

All remaining accommodation including hotels, hostels and B&Bs can also reopen, according to Johnson.

Meanwhile, people in England will be allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people, and meet indoors in groups of up to six or as two households.

People will now “have the choice on whether to socially distance with close family or friends” or not, said the Prime Minister, urging the public to remain cautious about the risks that come with close personal contact such as hugging, which is a way the virus spreads.

“This does not mean we should throw caution to the wind. I must ask you to continue following social distancing, whenever not with friends or family,” he said.

“We must remain vigilant.”

Joining Johnson for the press briefing, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the threats posed by the virus were “significantly reduced”.

But there are still some “residual issues” that need to be kept a close eye on, he said.

Responding to concerns over the virus variant first emerged in India, Whitty said: “It has gone up very sharply (in Britain), that’s a reason to be very careful about it.

“With all the variants, things can come out of a blue sky… At this point in time, our view is that this is a highly transmissible variant, but it is less likely to be able to escape vaccination, but the data is less properly in there.

“We don’t know whether this will cause significant problems in the autumn.”

The UK’s overall coronavirus caseload and death toll stood at 4,452,956 and 127,870.

More than 35.4 million people have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.