Overall, despite the risk of new coronavirus strains, there is a lot of optimism. For example, here in the US, coronavirus cases have decreased significantly, and deaths are also starting to decline significantly (albeit with a delay of several weeks, as expected).
In addition, the most at risk are largely vaccinated, which gives many of us hope that there will be some semblance of normalcy in the next few months.
Great Britain has been locked since early January
While the US didn’t have a national lockdown, other countries did. The UK has been on lockdown since early January this year, banning all types of non-essential travel (although these restrictions have not been very well enforced).
Well, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson today outlined plans to reopen. The current relaxation of restrictions is specific to England, although I envision that Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales could adjust policies over time.
On the plus side, I appreciate the general concept of a timeline that things could open up again with. Unfortunately, the timeline is pretty bleak and all of this is the “best case scenario.”
The UK’s reopening roadmap
The UK government’s plan has four steps. With each step, certain activities become possible again.
Step 1 takes place on March 8-29, 2021 and includes the following, which are again permitted:
- Schools and colleges
- Rest or exercise outdoors with another person
- Funerals (up to 30 people), guards (up to six people), and weddings (up to six people)
After that, the timeline becomes a bit more questionable. Step 2 takes place at least five weeks after Step 1 and on April 12, 2021 at the earliest. With step 2, the following is again permitted:
- Indoor leisure (including gyms)
- Two households can meet outdoors
- Outdoor attractions
- Libraries and Community Centers
- Personal care facilities
- All retail
- Outdoor hospitality
- All activities for children
- Domestic overnight stays in households
- Independent accommodation
Step 3 takes place at least five weeks after Step 2 and at the earliest on May 17, 2021. With step 3, the following is again permitted:
- Indoor entertainment and attractions
- 30 people outdoors
- Domestic overnight stays
- Organized indoor adult sport
- Most important life events (up to 30 people)
- Remaining outdoor entertainment, including performances
- Remaining accommodations
- Some major events with capacity limits of 25-50%
- International travel, subject to review
Step 4 will take place at least five weeks after Step 3 and no earlier than June 21, 2021. Step 4 would remove virtually all restrictions, including the following:
- No legal limits for social contact
- Night clubs
- Major events
- No legal limit on all life events
As you can see, those in the UK will not be allowed to travel internationally until May 17th at the earliest. And to be clear, that is absolutely the best scenario, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the UK’s quarantine on foreign visitors would be relaxed at all.
The UK Global Travel Taskforce is expected to provide an update on plans to resume international travel on April 12, 2021 – both Britons can travel abroad and those from abroad who can travel to the UK.
The UK has set out how to ease restrictions after the country was locked in in early January. The UK won’t start easing travel restrictions significantly until May 17th at the earliest, although it may do so much later.
The number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the UK has fallen sharply, and besides, the country is doing a good job with vaccinations, only trailing Israel and the United Arab Emirates in terms of vaccination per capita.
I know many are getting impatient with the UK’s current lockdown. Sometimes bans feel almost like airline fuel surcharges – they’re added when the situation is extreme, but rarely removed when circumstances change. Obviously, maintaining the lockdown helps keep cases down, but at what cost? At least that’s the argument …
What do you think of the UK’s reopening plans?