Levels of COVID-19 in England have dropped to their lowest levels since last September, the UK’s Office for National Statistics announced on Friday.
In the week ending March 6, one in 270 people had coronavirus, or 200,600 people. Just the week before this, the level was one in 220, or 248,100 people.
In the week ending Sept. 24, 2020, the figure was one in 470, or 116,600 people.
Last month, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out a four-stage plan for the easing of restrictions across England to gradually reopen the nation following three months of closures.
Stage one will involve the reopening of all schools on March 8 as well as the resumption of sports and outdoor activities where up to two people will be allowed to meet in an outdoor setting. From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or two households will be allowed, including gathering in private gardens.
Stage two will see major sectors of the economy reopening from April 12, including non-essential retail businesses such as hairdressers, museums, and libraries. Restaurants and pubs offering outdoor entertainment will also reopen as well indoor leisure centers such as swimming pools and gyms.
Abolishing the “rule of six,” stage three will begin on May 17, where up to 30 people will be allowed to gather outside and two households can mix indoors. Cinemas, hotels, and the performing arts, as well as sporting events, will reopen with the observance of social distancing.
Stage four will see all legal restrictions on social contact removed on June 21, with the remaining sectors of the economy reopened. These include nightclubs, funeral processions, and wedding events.
Four conditions must be met at each phase of the lockdown easing: the vaccination program continuing as planned, evidence showing vaccines sufficiently reducing virus deaths and hospitalizations, infection rates that do not risk a surge in hospital admissions, and new mutations that don’t change the dynamic of the lifting of lockdown.
Johnson also released new data showing vaccine usage in the UK is reducing the rate of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths and, importantly, is effective against dominant strains of the virus. He warned, however, that it is inevitable that the easing of lockdown will lead to more cases and deaths.
On Thursday, 6,753 people tested positive for COVID-19 across the UK, bringing the total to 4.24 million. There were also 181 deaths, bringing the total to 125,168.
Up to and including March 10, over 23 million first doses of vaccine have been administered, and 1.35 million second doses.
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