Buoyed by promising results for a British-led coronavirus vaccine and signs of a slowdown in the infection rate, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday laid out a plan to lift England’s nationwide lockdown next week. But he warned of strict regional restrictions that would last until next spring.
Mr. Johnson’s “winter plan” is designed to give his exhausted country hope for better times ahead while preparing it for several more months of mostly shuttered pubs and restaurants, and limitations on social gatherings.
“We have turned a corner, and the escape route is in sight,” Mr. Johnson declared to the House of Commons via video from 10 Downing Street, where he was still isolating after being exposed to a Conservative lawmaker who tested positive for the virus. But he added, “the hard truth is we’re not there yet.”
Under the new plans, England will return to a system under which the country is divided into three tiers of restrictions, though the government has yet to announce which regions will be under the different sets of curbs.
When the current lockdown expires on Dec. 2, gyms, stores and hairdressers nationwide will be allowed to reopen, and religious services, weddings and outdoor sports can resume. But in the worst affected areas of the country, pubs and restaurants will stay closed except for takeout service.
For Mr. Johnson, whose popularity has suffered because of his government’s erratic handling of the pandemic, the announcement was yet another chance to regain his footing. He also expressed optimism about the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, noting that it “has the makings of a wonderful British scientific achievement.” He said the government had ordered 100 million doses and 350 million vaccine doses overall, including two American-led vaccines.
On Tuesday, the British government said that people traveling to England would no longer have to quarantine for two weeks if they receive a negative test five days after arriving.