UK's Johnson says no reason to change COVID-19 unlocking plans

·1-min read
Britain marks the anniversary of its first coronavirus lockdown

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday said he saw nothing in the COVID-19 data to change his plans for a piecemeal easing of lockdown in England, with the next major steps due to take place next month.

Johnson said he looked forward to getting his hair cut and having a pint of beer in the garden of a pub, among the activities permitted if stage two of his unlocking plan proceeds on April 12. All non-essential shops are also due to reopen from that date.

On Monday, there will be a smaller change, allowing groups of 6 to meet up outside. Foreign travel will be banned until at least May 17, which is also the earliest date indoor hospitality and performance venues might re-open.

Although Johnson has outlined dates at which he plans to ease restrictions, he has been clear that it is "data, not dates" which will determine whether the unlocking can proceed to schedule.

"As things stand, I can see absolutely nothing in the data to dissuade me from continuing along our roadmap to freedom, unlocking our economy and getting back to the life we love," Johnson said in a speech to the Conservative spring conference.

His comments came after data showed a recent steep fall in infections were starting to level off.

Britain's Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Friday said the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England is no longer falling and has levelled off at an estimated 1 in 340 people.

England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said earlier this week that a slowdown in steep drops in infection rates was to be expected after schools reopened on March 8.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Clelia Oziel)