British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that his government plans to abolish laws requiring face masks and physical distancing later this month, although he acknowledged lifting the restrictions would result in an even larger increase coronavirus cases.
Johnson said legal checks will be replaced by individual “informed decisions” when the country moves to the final stage of its roadmap to lifting the lockdown. This is expected to happen on July 19, although Johnson has said a final decision will come on July 12.
The change means people can throw away the masks after months of forced face covering, although businesses and transit operators may still need them, and they will still be recommended in some confined spaces.
Removing physical distancing rules will allow nightclubs to reopen after 16 months of forced closure and customers to re-order drinks from a pub bar. Customers will no longer have to scan a phone app to provide their contact details when entering a restaurant or bar.
The government will also stop ordering people to work from home if they can, leaving employers free to bring staff back to offices.
The changes apply in England. Other parts of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are following their own, broadly similar, roadmaps out of lockdown.
Britain has recorded more than 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest death toll in Western Europe, and confirmed infections are increasing due to the highly transmissible delta variant.
Confirmed cases have risen from around 2,000 a day earlier this year to 25,000 a day last week. But the number of deaths is broadly stable, at less than 20 per day.
Public health officials say Britain’s vaccination program has weakened the link between infections and deaths, without breaking it. So far, 86 percent of UK adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 64 percent are fully vaccinated. The government aims to give both vaccines to anyone over the age of 18 by mid-September.
Johnson has acknowledged that infections, hospitalizations and deaths will all increase once the remaining restrictions are lifted.
“I want to stress up front that this pandemic is far from over,” he said, predicting cases could reach 50,000 per day by July 19. “We have to come to terms, unfortunately, with more deaths from COVID.”
Johnson said Britain should “learn to live with this virus” – a major change in tone from a leader who previously described COVID-19 as an enemy to be defeated.
– From The Associated Press and CBC News, latest update 1:45 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of 2 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 1,417,395 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 5,992 were considered active. A CBC News death tally stood at 26,363. More than 39.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date across the country.
In the Atlantic provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, 12 of which were crew members aboard a ship anchored in Conception Bay.
Health officials in both New Brunswick and New Scotland reported a new case of COVID-19 on Monday. Health officials in Prince Edward Island had not yet provided new information.
In Quebec On Monday, health officials reported one additional death and 176 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday.
Ontario Monday reported one additional death and 170 new cases of COVID-19. The update came just hours after the province opened eligibility to all 12 to 17 year olds for an accelerated second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Across the North on Monday, Nunavut has not reported any new cases of COVID-19. Health officials in the Northwest Territories and Yukon, who has had to deal with a growing number of cases, had yet to provide updated details for the day.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported one additional death and 65 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.
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Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 27 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.
Health officials in Alberta and British Columbia are expected to provide updated figures covering the weekend later Monday.
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated 2 p.m. ET
What is happening in the world
As of Monday morning, more than 183.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Database, which collects information from around the world. The death toll worldwide was over 3.9 million.
In the Asia Pacific region, Indonesia has ordered oxygen makers to prioritize medical needs amid rising demand from COVID-19 patients, the government said on Sunday, after more than 60 deaths at a hospital where the supply was almost exhausted.
Australia’s New South Wales on Monday said the next two days would be “absolutely critical” in deciding whether a two-week anti-coronavirus lockdown in Sydney, which is due to end on July 9, will need to be extended in the middle of the month. increase in cases of delta variants.
In Europe, parts of Spain are reinstating restrictions on nightlife just weeks after they were abandoned, in an attempt to stem a growing number of coronavirus infections among unvaccinated young people.
Fearing the outbreak of the virus could weigh on health services, health officials in several parts of the country are also rushing to vaccinate those under 30. The strict roll-out of vaccination in Spain has so far focused on older and more vulnerable groups.
On Friday, the 14-day contagion rate among 20-29 year olds was nearly three times the national average.
Health Minister Olivier Veran urged as many French people as possible on Sunday to get vaccinated against COVID-19, warning that France could be heading towards a fourth wave of the pandemic by the end of the month due to of the highly transmissible delta variant.
In Africa, the resurgence of COVID-19 in South Africa sets a record number of new cases every day, centered in Johannesburg and driven by the delta variant that was first found in India. According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, more than 26,000 new cases were reported on Saturday, up from 24,000 the day before, exceeding the highest number of new cases in previous waves. The official death toll in South Africa exceeds 63,000,
In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates has approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, the fifth vaccine to receive such approval by the Arab Gulf state, the health ministry said in a statement on Sunday. state news agency WAM.
In the AmericasU.S. President Joe Biden celebrated the nation’s 245th birthday on Sunday by opening the doors of the White House and calling on Americans to do their part to end the COVID-19 pandemic once and for all.
“This year, July 4th is a special day of celebration as we emerge from the darkness of… a year of pandemic and isolation, a year of pain and fear and heartbreaking loss,” Biden said during a White House party open to around 1,000 people, including military families and workers involved in the COVID-19 response. “We never want to be where we were a year ago today.”
– From The Associated Press and Reuters, latest update 11:05 am ET