London, April 5 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out plans to reopen the economy and eventually relaunch international travel on Monday when he updates the coronavirus roadmap, aided by one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world.
As much of Europe enters new lockdowns to tackle surging cases, Johnson will give an update on his staggered plan to ease restrictions in the coming months, a huge boost for one of the worst-hit countries during the pandemic.
Johnson is expected to confirm that non-essential retail, outdoor hospitality and hairdressers can reopen on April 12 in England, while he will also give more details on vaccine passports and international travel.
Airlines are fighting for survival after a year of nearly no travel, and the government’s plan to use a traffic-light system for countries based on infection and vaccination levels gives a glimmer of hope that some form of holidays could take place.
Under the current plan international travel will not resume until May 17 at the earliest. The Financial Times said Johnson was not expected to set out a specific timeframe.
The gradual relaxation of rules will also be aided by an increase in testing availability, with everyone in England entitled to take a rapid COVID-19 test twice a week to prevent outbreaks and find those people not displaying symptoms.
“As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted,” Johnson said in a statement.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following their own, similar paths out of a strict lockdown that was imposed at the beginning of this year.
Britain is able to pursue a recovery after it gave AstraZeneca and Pfizer shots to more than half the adult population. A reopening of schools in March has also not yet led to a spike in cases, despite a ramp-up in more testing.
But the United Kingdom has been badly hit by the pandemic. With almost 127,000 deaths, it has the fifth highest toll in the world behind the United States, Brazil, Russia and India.
In 2020 its gross domestic product fell by 9.8%, the most in more than three centuries and one of the deepest contractions in the world. Households have saved however, and sterling has gained against the euro ahead of the reopening.