London, Jul 13 (PTI) Lockdown restrictions will be lifted across most parts of the United Kingdom from next Monday, with devolved regions of the country adopting a different approach to face masks than in England where they will no longer be mandatory.
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday that while the region will move to so-called “Level 0” of lockdown restrictions, face masks will remain 'mandatory' for 'continued caution'.
Under the devolved powers, Wales had already announced plans to keep face coverings for indoor settings compulsory and Northern Ireland is to review its position on the matter only next month.
On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed a Downing Street briefing to confirm that England will move to the last phase of its lockdown roadmap from next Monday but urged people to continue to exercise caution as the “pandemic is not over”.
“We will stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions and to lift social distancing, but we expect and recommend that people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don’t normally meet, such as on public transport,” said Johnson.
“We cannot simply revert instantly from Monday 19th July to life as it was before Covid… we’re removing the government instruction to work from home where you can but we don’t expect that the whole country will return to their as one desks from Monday,” he said.
The UK prime minister said that by next Monday, two-thirds of adults in the country will have received a second dose and every adult will have been offered a first dose – the reason for delaying the previous June 21 timeline for an end to England’s lockdown measures.
“We have cases rising significantly - with more than 30,000 per day. And we can see what is happening across Europe as the Delta variant takes hold among our friends,” Johnson said.
“We know we’re going to see more hospitalisations and more deaths from COVID. But we also know that this wave was clearly foreseen by our scientists when we first set out that roadmap in February,” he said.
However, he has come under criticism from doctors and medical experts who fear a blanket lifting of legal restrictions would add considerable pressure on the National Health Service (NHS).
'It's irresponsible – and frankly perilous – that the government has decided to press ahead with plans to lift the remaining COVID-19 restrictions on 19 July,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Council Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA).
“The BMA has repeatedly warned of the rapidly rising infection rate and the crippling impact that COVID-related hospitalisations continue to have on the NHS… The Prime Minister repeatedly emphasised the importance of a slow and cautious approach. But in reality the government is throwing caution to the wind by scrapping all regulations in one fell swoop – with potentially devastating consequences,' he said.
The UK recorded a further 34,471 coronavirus infections on Monday, a daily figure that has remained above 30,000 over the past few days. PTI AK MRJ MRJ