UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said a national lockdown would end after December 2, with the UK switching to a regional three-tier system. He noted that new vaccines meant "the scientific cavalry" was on the way.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that England's current tough coronavirus restrictions would not be extended after December 2.
Addressing lawmakers in Parliament, Johnson confirmed that his government plans to lift the stay-at-home instruction, which had been introduced early this month to curb a new surge in coronavirus cases.
The loosening of rules only applies to England, as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have their own restrictions.
"The breakthroughs in treatment, in testing vaccines mean that the scientific cavalry is now in sight," the prime minister said.
"We know in our hearts that next year we will succeed. By the spring these advances should reduce the need for the restrictions we've endured in 2020," he added.
"We have turned a corner and the escape route is in sight," Johnson emphasized.
He said that after December 2, England would re-enter a tiered system of toughened regional restrictions, bolstered by major testing programs in areas with the highest infection rates.
Britain has seen more than 55,000 deaths from some 1.5 million cases of coronavirus, one of the worst rates in the world.
Under the new easing of restrictions, people will be allowed to leave their homes for any purpose, with public religious ceremonies and certain leisure activities continuing once again.
Johnson said shops, gyms, personal care businesses and leisure facilities will be allowed to reopen, and collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume under lower restriction tiers.
The UK has yet to release up-to-date data to show which regions would be required to impose which restriction tiers. However, the government says most of the country is likely to remain in the two highest levels.
In the top tier, pubs and restaurants will still be closed except for takeout and delivery, while households will be barred from mixing indoors.
But Johnson said a "time-limited" exception for families to gather for Christmas would be granted, though he warned that "Christmas cannot be normal and there's a long road to spring."
"We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it," he said. "What we don't want is to throw caution to the wind and allow the virus to flare up again," Johnson added. "Families will need to make a careful judgement about risk of visiting older relatives."
Despite the support for vaccination as a solution to the crisis, Johnson said that the government will not force people to have vaccinations against COVID-19.
"We think it (vaccination) is a good idea, and you know I totally reject the propaganda of the anti-vaxxers, they are wrong," he said. "Everybody should get a vaccine as soon as it is available."
However, the UK prime minister said there will be "no compulsory vaccination."
"That's not the way we do things in this country," Johnson said.
jcg/dj (Reuters, AP)