UK pubs to re-open but Boris urges travel ‘caution’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday (local time) confirmed pubs and restaurants could reopen to serve outdoors in a week's time, as COVID restrictions are lifted, but sounded a note of caution on international travel resuming.
Speaking at a televised press conference, Mr Johnson said criteria for moving forward with a second phase of easing coronavirus restrictions in England had been met.
From April 12, non-essential retail, gyms, hairdressers and outdoor hospitality will reopen in England, Mr Johnson confirmed.
"I will be going to the pub myself and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips," joked the British PM, who emphasised caution when he first unveiled the plans in February.
"We think that these changes are fully justified by the data," Mr Johnson added, while warning against "complacency".
However, Mr Johnson gave little information on the resumption of non-essential international travel from Britain despite massive pent-up demand for overseas holidays.
Mr Johnson said he was "hopeful" but would not commit to a tentative May 17 deadline to restart trips, saying Britain should not "underestimate the difficulties that we're seeing in some of the destination countries".
The government's Global Travel Task Force is to announce more detail on the UK's travel road map this week, after the UK unveiled a "traffic-light" system for testing or quarantine after travel to different nations over the weekend.
Currently people arriving in the UK from abroad are required to self-isolate for 10 days.
British nationals who arrive from a banned "Red List" of high-risk countries face costly quarantine in government-approved hotels.
The government urged people not to book summer holidays, saying it was "too early to predict" which would be the green-lit countries.
London has also announced it will allow a number of people to attend public events such as football matches from this month in trials of a virus certification system.
But Mr Johnson refused to be drawn on whether Britain will issue "virus passports" for all international travel or as a blanket tool for attending events or accessing services, an idea backed by many tourism-dependent countries and airlines but opposed by more than 70 UK MPs.
The prime minister said there was "absolutely no question" of people being asked to provide Covid certification to go to shops or restaurants in seven days, but left the door open to vaccination passes being used for travel in future.
Passes were "something that all countries are looking at" and "I do think that's going to be part of the way people deal with it" Johnson said.
The UK has already given out more than 31 million first vaccine doses and over 5 million second doses, a pace that has far outstripped popular holiday destinations such as France.
This has boosted the public mood after more than 126,000 people died from the virus in the United Kingdom, the highest toll in Europe.
On Monday in Scotland, where the devolved government in Edinburgh has set its own coronavirus restrictions, hairdressers and some non-essential retail were allowed to reopen for the first time in four months.
In Glasgow, salon owner Anne Ferguson told reporters it was "fantastic" to return to work, adding that she was flooded with appointments.
"Getting into the space and making it come alive again. That's just a huge, huge thing. It's just been very strange," she said.
From Thursday, those living in England will be able to access two free rapid virus tests per week, a measure aimed at curbing symptom-free virus spread.
This will make such tests far more accessible than currently.
"More cases will be detected, breaking chains of transmission and saving lives," the government said on Monday.
FRENCH INQUIRY OVER 'CLANDESTINE' COVID DINNERS
A report by a French television channel alleging "clandestine" luxury dinners in Paris despite the pandemic has sparked an investigation and public furore over claims the nation's political elite were brazenly ignoring rules they themselves had set.
The M6 private channel broadcast a reportage based on footage recorded with a hidden camera purportedly from a clandestine restaurant in a high-end area of Paris where neither the staff nor the diners were wearing masks.
All restaurants and cafes have been closed in France for eating in for the last five months. The country this week began a new limited nationwide lockdown to deal with surging COVID-19 infections.
The hashtag #OnVeutLesNoms (We Want the Names) went viral on Twitter, as speculation swirled over who may have attended such dinners.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said that a criminal probe had been opened into putting the lives of others at risk.
The investigation would assess "if these evenings were organised in defiance of health rules and to determine who were the possible organisers and participants."
The report showed staff at the venue proposing an evening menu from 160 euros ($A247) per head but said that the most expensive option went for 490 euros ($A756), including a bottle of champagne.
Removing the face mask was not just possible but obligatory, it said. "We don't wear a mask here. Once you pass through the doors, COVID no longer exists. We want people to feel at ease," a staff member told the undercover team.
INDIA'S INFECTIONS HIT NEW RECORD
India's worst-hit state ramped up its coronavirus restrictions as nationwide the daily infections exceeded 100,000 for the first time on Monday.
The United States is the only nation that has regularly registered so many cases in one day. Brazil recorded triple digits once in March.
In India, hopes at the start of the year that the outbreak may be subsiding in the vast nation of 1.3 billion people have been dashed in recent weeks as a fresh wave pushed the national total to 12.5 million infections and 165,000 deaths.
Maharashtra, the worst-hit state and home to India's financial and entertainment capital Mumbai, recorded nearly 60,000 cases in the last 24 hours.
Struggling state authorities on Sunday tightened the evening curfew to allow only people involved in essential services out of their homes from 8:00pm to 7:00am.
The region of 110 million people will also see weekend lockdowns, with gatherings of over four people banned and places of worship and restaurants shut.
In Mumbai over the weekend, one of Bollywood's biggest stars, Akshay Kumar, became the latest celebrity to test positive.
On Monday, shooting of the religious epic Ram Setu that Kumar was making was halted after 45 crew members also tested positive.
"How long shooting remains halted depends on Akshay Kumar's recovery. We can replace all our crew members, but we cannot replace the star of the film," Ashok Dubey from the Federation of Western India Cine Employees told reporters.
Kumar, 53, tweeted meanwhile that he had been hospitalised "as a precautionary measure under medical advice".
"The economy will be hit very hard and it won't be good for all of us. We can't afford to disrupt our economic recovery as so many jobs depend on it," Mr Bindlish told reporters.
"The cases have risen because the people outside became too lax about the entire situation. If fines are increased and there is strictness in their implementation, things will improve," he said.
India has so far administered almost 80 million vaccine shots. Last week, it opened up vaccinations to all those over 45 years old to speed up its flagging national inoculation drive.
India is using two shots for its drive, a locally produced version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and Covaxin, which was developed by domestic firm Bharat Biotech.
On Monday, New Delhi-based Panacea Biotec said it had reached an agreement with the backer of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to produce 100 million doses in India each year.
The new deal brings Sputnik V's total production agreements in India to 852 million doses.
Originally published as UK pubs to re-open but Boris urges travel 'caution'