Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced July 4 as the date for removing many restrictions associated with covid-19. He has done so under significant political pressure from business groups and members of the citizenry. Because the changes are tailored to accommodate the desires of people in lockdown, they are unlikely to keep the UK’s caseload on a downward trend.
Johnson, after contracting the virus himself, extended the restrictions beyond what had been expected and in so doing helped to drive down the infection rate. The UK’s shift to a comprehensive nationwide lockdown resulted in the past day showing only 958 new cases and 15 deaths across the entirety of the United Kingdom, down from an average of more than 4000 cases and 1000 deaths per day in early April.
The lockdown started on March 23. The peak of cases happened almost two weeks after, as people who’d contracted the virus had it incubate within them and symptoms fully developed.
The new rules will call for restaurants, bars and hotels to open, with businesses required to keep a list of all patrons in order to aid contact tracing in the event of an outbreak. Two households of any size will be able to gather indoors or outdoors. Six people who are not from the same household will be able to gather independently. Places of worship can open, as can libraries, theme parks, community centers, arcades, museums, and other indoor or outdoor entertainment or educational gathering facilities.
In a nod to continued concerns, nightclubs, live theatre, children’s “bounce house” type play facilities and public pools will remain closed.
All schools are expected to open in September.
Key to many of these business openings is a reduction in the social distancing rules, which will now call for one meter to be the minimum standard. People will still be encouraged to maintain two meters of distance, but will not be required to do so.
It is worth recognizing that the two meter (six foot) mark is not arbitrary but based on research indicating the distance that droplets disperse in a dangerous quantity during casual conversation is just over five feet. Face masks are compulsory, but only on public transportation.