England to ease lockdown rules next week

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says England's coronavirus lockdown rules will be further eased as planned, with the reopening of many stores and restaurants next week.

At a news conference on Monday, Johnson cited the decline in infections and steady progress in vaccinations.
Up to 31 million people, or about 47 percent of Britain's population, have already received their first shots.

Johnson said that starting on April 12, hairdressers and non-essential stores can reopen, and pubs and restaurants can serve customers outdoors in London and other parts of England. This will be the first time these businesses can operate in about four months. Indoor dining, cinemas and theaters could reopen next in May or later.

However, Johnson warned people not to let their guard down. He said, "It is by being cautious, by monitoring the data at every stage and by following the rules -- remembering hands, face, space, fresh air -- that we hope together to make this road map to freedom irreversible."

The lockdown rules in England were phased in from late December. Infections in Britain have recently dropped to an average of below 4,000 per day, down from a peak of more than 60,000. Schools reopened last month, and stay-at-home restrictions are also being eased.