UK's Johnson voices optimism over lockdown easing route

Full Screen
1 / 4

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson wears a Welsh flag face mask during a visit to Barry Island, Wales, as part of the Welsh Conservative Party's Senedd election campaign, Monday, May 3, 2021. (Matthew Horwood/PA via AP)

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday there's a “good chance” that social distancing rules in England will be scrapped on June 21, a potential boon to hard-hit pubs and cinemas.

Johnson told reporters in the north England town of Hartlepool where he is campaigning before a special election on Thursday that the government's lockdown easing plans remains on track. That's due to sharp fall in new coronavirus infections — down to below 2,000 a day from nearly 70,000 a day at the peak of the second surge in January — and the rapid rollout of vaccines.

On Monday, the National Health Service delivered its 50 millionth vaccine, with around 52% of the British population having received at least one dose and around a quarter having received two jabs.

“You are seeing the results of that really starting to show up in the epidemiology," Johnson said.

Under its road map to ease restrictions — which Johnson insists is dependent on “data not dates” — the government is set to lift further restrictions on May 17, such as allowing people to go inside a pub and restaurant and to allow some foreign travel.

On June 21, all other limits on social contact will be potentially lifted, including the rule that requires people to be at least 1 meter (3 feet) away from anyone outside their household, provided other protective measures are in place, such as mask-wearing or meeting outdoors. This is known as the “1 meter-plus” rule.

Johnson said there's “a good chance” the rule will be ditched beginning June 21.

“That is still dependent on the data, we can’t say it categorically yet, we have got to look at the epidemiology as we progress," he said. "But that’s what it feels like to me right now.”