Places of Worship, Restaurants to Reopen as England Eases Social Distancing

LONDON (Reuters) -
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, Tuesday. (Reuters/Toby Melville)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that restaurants and hotels could reopen in England early next month when the social distancing rule is relaxed to one metre, providing “mitigations” were in place.

The changes will allow two households to meet in any setting, places of worship can reopen, and most leisure facilities and tourist attractions such as theme parks. However, indoor gyms and swimming pools will stay closed.

Britain’s economy has been hammered by the lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19 and although nonessential retailers were allowed to reopen last week, many businesses, particularly in the hospitality and leisure sectors, have remained closed.

By relaxing the rule on social distancing from two metres to one metre as long as they took mitigation such as wearing of masks and the use of protective screens, Johnson said many businesses could reopen from July 4.

“Given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus we can change the two-metre social distancing rule from the 4th of July,” Johnson told Parliament.

He said not all restrictions could be lifted at once and people would need to remain vigilant and use common sense.

Britain has one of the highest death tolls in the world from COVID-19, but the number of cases has been steadily falling in recent weeks. Health officials on Monday reported 15 new deaths, the lowest rise since mid-March.

The daily tally of deaths peaked in April, when the toll exceeded 1,000 in nine days.