The United Kingdom government has announced a four-step plan to ease coronavirus restrictions, expressing a hope that life could get back to normal by the end of June.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a “gradual and cautious” approach to lifting curbs in England, starting with the return of pupils to schools from March 8, and non-essential retail from April 12.
Some fans could be able to attend sporting fixtures from May 17, with all social distancing restrictions removed from June 21, all subject to change and depending on scientific data.
The United Kingdom has been hit hard by the pandemic, recording more than 120,000 deaths – the world’s fifth-highest official toll – and suffering its biggest fiscal crash in more than 300 years.
Overall daily coronavirus cases hovered around 11,000 a day last week, compared with a high of over 80,000 in late December after the so-called Kent variant, which scientists say is more transmissible and deadly than the first-wave original strain, raced through the UK.
For the UK to return to normalcy hopes lay largely on the inoculation programme, which has so far given more than 17.5 million people, a third of the adult population, the first of two doses of vaccine.
The aim is now to give every adult a shot of vaccine by the end of July, and to protect those over 50 and the medically vulnerable by getting them a first vaccine jab by April 15.