A man shops in a store on Main Street in East Ham on November 14, 2020 in London, England.
Hollie Adams | Getty Images News | Getty Images
LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that a nationwide lockdown in England will be lifted next week, but the easing will come with conditions.
Johnson told Parliament that the country's coronavirus lockdown will end on December 2, almost a month after that second lockdown was imposed. He is due to address the country later that afternoon.
"For the first time since this pathetic virus began, we can see a way out of the pandemic," he said as he unveiled his "winter plan". "We know in our hearts that we will be successful next year."
He announced that England would return to a "tiered system" of restrictions, with different rules being imposed on areas of the country depending on the number of coronavirus infections. However, he stressed that the levels will be stricter than before the second lockdown.
"I'm afraid the scientific advice is that the stairs will have to get tougher as we get out," he added. Johnson said he hopes to announce which areas will fall below which levels on Thursday.
He also announced a so-called "large community testing program".
"If it works, we should be able to offer fewer restrictions to those who test negative," said Johnson.
Coronavirus case numbers are stabilizing
The government introduced a second lockdown in early November to contain a second wave of infections. It was said at the time that it hoped to lift the restrictions on December 2, although it would be based on Covid case numbers.
The UK has registered over 1.5 million coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. This makes it the third highest number of registered infections in Europe after France and Spain. There have been reported 55,120 coronavirus-related deaths.
However, there are signs that the number of new infections in the country has gradually stabilized. The final R number (the number of people an infected person can be expected to pass the virus on) has dropped to 1 to 1.1, with the daily infection growth rate ranging from 0% to + 2% as of Friday, government data show .
As of Sunday, 18,662 new cases were reported in the UK and there have been 142,747 confirmed cases in the past seven days. However, that was almost 20% fewer cases than in the seven-day period from November 9th to 15th.
The UK government is under pressure to get business back to normal sooner rather than later given the economic damage. The UK economy grew 15.5% in the third quarter, according to preliminary figures released in early November, after falling 19.8% in the previous quarter after the first national lockdown. The country's second lockdown is likely to result in growth in the last three months of the year.
Politicians have also come under pressure to detail the planned restrictions on the holiday season. Decentralized governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to work with England on a common plan for families across the UK to meet.