Pubs and restaurants across much of the U.K. opened for indoor service for the first time since early January on Monday, even as the prime minister urged people to be cautious amid the spread of a more contagious COVID-19 variant.
The latest step in the gradual easing of restrictions imposed in England also includes the reopening of theatres, sports venues and museums, raising hopes that the economy may soon start to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic.
But the rapid spread of a variant first discovered in India is tempering the optimism for pubs and hugs amid memories of how another variant swept across the country in December, triggering England’s third national lockdown.
Public health officials and the government are urging people to continue to observe physical distancing and hygiene guidance, even though they say the situation is different now because almost 70 per cent of the adult population has received at least one dose of vaccine.
“Please, be cautious about the risks to your loved ones,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a video posted on Twitter. “Remember that close contact such as hugging is a direct way of transmitting this disease, so you should think about the risks.”
Scotland and Wales are also making changes to restrictions as of Monday, while Northern Ireland is set to loosen its restrictions next week.
The next phase in England’s reopening is scheduled for June 21, when all of the remaining restrictions are set to be removed. Johnson has said a big surge in COVID-19 cases could scuttle those plans.
Both confirmed new cases and coronavirus-related deaths have risen over the past week, though they remain well below the peak reported in late December and early January.
New infections averaged about 2,300 per day over the past seven days compared with nearly 70,000 a day during the winter peak, according to government statistics. Deaths averaged just over 10 a day during the same period, down from a peak of 1,820 on Jan. 20.
The United Kingdom has recorded almost 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest figure in Europe.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 12 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
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As of 12 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 1,331,303 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 69,250 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 24,960.
Ontario on Monday reported 2,170 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 1,320, with 779 people in ICU due to COVID-related illness.
In Quebec, health officials reported 551 new cases — the province’s lowest daily increase since Sept. 23 — and eight new deaths.
Across the North, Nunavut on Monday reported no new cases, with Premier Joe Savikataaq saying the number of active cases in the territory stood at 65. Health officials in the Northwest Territories and Yukon had not yet provided updated figures.
In Atlantic Canada on Sunday, Nova Scotia reported 126 new cases of COVID-19. In New Brunswick, health officials reported 11 new cases, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported nine new cases — all travel-related. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island.
In the Prairie provinces on Sunday, Manitoba reported 534 new cases of COVID-19 as well as four new deaths among virus patients.
In Saskatchewan, health officials reported 167 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional virus-related death.
Alberta reported 1,140 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said there are 647 people with COVID-19 in Alberta hospitals, including 186 in intensive care.
In British Columbia, health officials will provide updated figures later Monday.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 12 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Monday afternoon, more than 163.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 3.3 million.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is calling on Pfizer and Moderna to make COVID-19 vaccine doses available to the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility earlier than planned due to a supply shortfall left by Indian export disruptions.
COVAX, which supplies doses to poorer countries, relies heavily on exports by India’s Serum Institute of the AstraZeneca jab, but many of these are instead being used by the country as it battles a massive second wave of infections. The shortfall is estimated at 140 million doses by end of May.
In the Asia-Pacific region, for the first time in weeks, India’s daily cases dropped below 300,000, continuing a decline. The health ministry said around 280,000 cases and 4,106 deaths were confirmed in the last 24 hours. Both numbers are almost certainly undercounts.
Hong Kong’s government says the start of a proposed quarantine-free travel bubble with Singapore has been postponed following a spike in untraceable cases in the Southeast Asian city-state.
In Africa, South Africa has started its mass vaccination drive with the goal of inoculating nearly five million citizens 60 and over by the end of June. The country has nearly one million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, after receiving a delivery of 325,260 doses on Sunday night.
In the Americas, Trinidad and Tobago will impose a state of emergency from midnight to contain an increase of cases and related deaths.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia said foreign visitors arriving by air from most countries will no longer need to quarantine if they have been vaccinated.
In Europe, the Dutch government will further relax the nationwide coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday, allowing zoos and theme parks to reopen. The government said Monday that decreases in hospital admission numbers of COVID-19 patients allowed the easing to go ahead.
–From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 12 p.m. ET
Published at Mon, 17 May 2021 12:15:18 +0000