LONDON: The British government was on Thursday reviewing lockdown measures introduced to combat the coronavirus outbreak, with a partial easing expected to be announced this weekend.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Cabinet colleagues, with predictions that unlimited exercise and picnics will soon be allowed as part of the first step of easing restrictions.
“We’ll want if we possibly can to get going with some of these measures on Monday. I think it would be a good thing if people had an idea of what is coming,” he said Wednesday.
Pubs and cafes with gardens may also be allowed to open but people would be required to remain two meters (six feet) apart.
But the government and its scientific advisers have warned not to expect a return to normality for months, with Britain’s mortality figures the highest in Europe.
“The messaging will evolve from stay at home to be careful when you’re out,” an unnamed minister told the Daily Telegraph.
Offices will have to stagger arrivals and separate staff with screens, while meetings will continue to take place remotely when possible, according to the paper.
“In engineering, car manufacturing, textiles and construction, where social distancing can be implemented, then workers will be encouraged back to the factory floor,” a minister told the paper.
Britain has now recorded 30,076 deaths from coronavirus, the highest in Europe, although each country has a different method of recording its official toll.
Broader data, however, puts the number at above 32,000.
Johnson said last week that Britain had past the peak of the outbreak, the daily death toll was falling and the infection rate dropping below one – meaning each person with the disease is passing it on to less than one person.
But he also warned against the risk of a “second spike,” and hinted at a gradual rollback of restrictions.
Schools will only open “when the time is right,” minister Robert Jenrick said Wednesday, with pupils studying for major exams expected to be the first to return.
Families could also be allowed to see each other using “bubble” arrangements, the Telegraph said, under which people would meet with a small number of chosen friends and family.
The system has already been floated by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who sits on the emergency contingencies committee that decides country-wide policies.
The government has said testing will form a crucial plank of easing lockdown measures but is facing questions after failing to hit its 100,000 a day target for four days in a row.
Johnson said on Wednesday that “capacity currently exceeds demand,” and set a new target of 200,000 a day “by the end of this month.”