The UK relaxed social and economic restrictions on Monday despite the looming threat of the Indian Covid-19 variant.
From 17 May, pubs, bars and restaurants are allowed to serve customers inside. Museums, cinemas and theaters are reopening and indoor sports are also allowed to resume.
Small gatherings of up to six people are permitted in homes and gatherings of up to 30 people outside.
The UK government also announced that international travel can resume but countries have been placed on different lists depending on the infection rate and travellers will have to observe varying quarantine rules upon return to the UK.
However, the spread of the Covid variant that first emerged in India is threatening a planned full lifting of measures in June.
Three days before, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a cautious approach to the reopening.
He said that there was no evidence that the vaccines would not be effective on the variant but that it could still disrupt progress and that the government would do whatever it took to prioritise the public’s safety.
According to England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, there was “confidence” the strain is “more transmissible” than other variants already circulating in the country.
Hence, it was also announced that the UK would deliver surge vaccinations and testing in areas where the new Covid variant first detected in India was spreading.