Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Monday

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Monday. Delta surging in many areas, variant now present in more than 100 countries. People wearing protective face masks walk along a platform at King’s Cross Station, in London on Monday, ahead of an announcement about reopening from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. All remaining lockdown restrictions in England will be lifted in a week despite a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Monday as he urged people to “proceed with caution” and continue to take steps to stay safe.

Johnson said although risks of the pandemic remain, legal restrictions will be replaced by a recommendation that people wear masks in crowded places such as public transit. Nightclubs and other venues with crowds should use vaccine passports for entry “as a matter of social responsibility,” he said.

“This pandemic is not over. This disease … continues to carry risks for you and your family. We cannot simply revert instantly from Monday, July 19 to life as it was before COVID.”

The final stage of easing England’s lockdown means that all restrictions on social gatherings will be removed and physical distancing measures will be scrapped. Nightclubs can reopen for the first time since March 2020, and there will no longer be limits on people attending concerts, theatres, weddings or sports events.

Earlier, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it was the right time to allow Britons a chance to return to normal life, and that the government’s decision balances the harms brought by COVID-19 and damage done by continued restrictions.

Javid told Parliament the successful vaccine rollout means that nine out of 10 adults in the U.K. now have antibodies against the virus. The government is on track to meet its target of offering all adults a first vaccine dose by July 19, the day when all remaining lockdown restrictions, including mandatory mask-wearing, are set to be lifted.

Javid said while new infections could reach 100,000 a day later in the summer, two doses of the vaccine offer effective protection against serious illness from the virus and officials believe the surge in cases will not put “unsustainable pressure” on hospitals. Waiting any longer to lift restrictions will risk having the virus spread peak in the winter, when hospitals are most likely to be overwhelmed, he said.

“There will never be a perfect time to take this step, because we simply cannot eradicate this virus — whether we like it or not, coronavirus is not going away,” he said.

Many of the recent infections have occurred among younger people, many of whom have yet to receive a first dose of vaccine. The government has no plans yet to offer vaccines to children under 18.

Jonathan Ashworth, the health spokesperson for the opposition Labour Party, said Javid’s plan was akin to “pushing his foot down on the accelerator while throwing the seatbelts off.”

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Public health officials and scientists have also been voicing concerns, saying ditching masks and physical distancing altogether could be dangerous.

Prof. Peter Openshaw, a member of a group that advises the government on new and emerging respiratory viruses, said it was vital to keep some protective measures in place, such as wearing masks.

“I really don’t see why people are reluctant to wear face coverings. It is quite clear that they do greatly reduce transmission,” he told BBC Radio. “Vaccines are fantastic but you have to give them time to work. And in the meantime, keeping up all those measures which we have learned to reduce the transmission is to me really vital.”

The British government, which enforced one of the longest lockdowns in the world, has lifted restrictions for England in a series of steps that began in March. The fourth and final stage was delayed last month to provide time for more people to be vaccinated amid the rapid spread of the delta variant.

Other parts of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are following their own, broadly similar road maps out of lockdown.

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