Britain has announced the gradual easing of one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson laying out the step-by-step plan.
Faced with a dominant virus variant that is both more transmissible and more deadly than the original virus, the country has spent much of the winter under a rigid lockdown — the third since March 2020.
Children will return to class and people will be able to meet one friend for coffee in a park in two weeks, Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka report from London. But people longing for a haircut, a meal at a restaurant or a drink in a pub will have to wait for another two months, and people won’t be able to hug loved ones that they don’t live with until May at the earliest.
Britain has had Europe’s deadliest outbreak, with more than 120,000 deaths. Under the new plan, schools reopen March 8, while shops and hairdressers can reopen April 12, along with pubs and restaurants, though only outdoors.
Hopes for a return to normality rest largely on Britain’s fast-moving inoculation program that has given more than 17.5 million people, a third of the country’s adults, the first of two doses of vaccine. The government aims is to give every adult a shot of vaccine by July 31.
Vaccine Study: Two U.K. studies showed that vaccination programs are contributing to a sharp drop in hospitalizations, boosting hopes that the shots will work as well in the real world as they have in carefully controlled studies. Preliminary results from a study in Scotland found that the Pfizer vaccine reduced hospital admissions up to 85% four weeks after the first dose, while the AstraZeneca shot cut admissions up to 94%. In England, preliminary data from a study of health care workers showed that the Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of catching COVID-19 by 70% after one dose, a figure that rose to 85% after the second.
Deadened Senses: A year into the pandemic, doctors are striving to better understand and treat patients who lose their sense of smell. Called anosmia, the condition is a common symptom of COVID-19. It is non-lethal but terribly vexing for long-term sufferers who many weeks after infection still cannot taste food or smell the things they love.
In the southern French city of Nice, virus olfactory disorders are being studied by medical researchers who were previously using scents in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. They have also used fragrances to treat post-traumatic stress in children after a terror attack and now lend their expertise to help post-virus patients recover their sense of smell. John Leicester reports from Nice.