People in the United Kingdom could be wearing face masks and working from behind plastic screens for longer than many expect, a Cabinet minister has warned.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that, while the nation is “very close now to really turning the corner” in its fight against the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes, some restrictions will likely stay in place beyond the anticipated June 21 end of the road map out of current limitations.
Raab said: “We want to get to the position at the end of June when we can get life back as close to normal as possible, but there will still need to be some safeguards in place.”
He said they could include some social distancing rules being retained.
The Daily Telegraph Newspaper said members of the hospitality industry reacted to Raab’s comments with dismay.
Many had been hoping the end of the government’s road map out of restrictions would have meant life returned fully back to normal.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, told The Daily Telegraph: “With restrictions in place, hospitality is not viable and does not break even … There are certain industries for which it is mission critical to get those restrictions removed, and others that could live with a lot of other controls for longer.”
The government has consistently said its road map timings are contingent on a range of variables that include infection rates and number of deaths.
But with both measures improving fast in the UK and with the nation’s vaccination program working well, some politicians and lobbying groups have called on the government to speed up the removal of restrictions.
One restriction, the limitation on the number of people who can attend a funeral, will be eased from May 17, the government said on Monday, with families and friends set to be allowed to attend such gatherings in unlimited numbers.
Currently, a maximum of 30 people can attend a funeral, which is significantly up from the 10 who were allowed to do so this time last year.
The BBC quoted Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick as saying people had made “huge sacrifices” during the worst of the pandemic but that the “deeply painful” restrictions on funeral attendance could be ended.
Many people in the UK are hoping a similar relaxation will be extended to foreign holidays from May 17, when the next round of relaxations is due, but a group of lawmakers drawn from all major political parties has said the government should discourage people from taking trips overseas, even if it does relax the rules.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus said in a report published on Monday that airports are “a breeding ground for infection” and that the government should “discourage all international leisure travel” because of the risk of importing dangerous new variants.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat member of Parliament who chairs the group, said the government should also focus on helping border guards detect fake virus test certificates.
The Guardian Newspaper said the group complained the planned “traffic light” system that will see nations ranked as either green, amber, or red, according to their risk level, may not adequately keep variants out.
The lawmakers also called for more financial support for the travel industry, restrictions on overcrowding at travel hubs, and better testing.
The UK government is set to unveil its green list of nations, from which people can travel without quarantine, on Thursday or Friday.
Experts have said very few nations are likely to be on that initial green list. Most are set to be on the amber list, which will require a 10-day home quarantine period.