LONDON, England: The new easing of Covid restrictions will allow the British public to be served inside pubs and even permit "cautious hugging" between individuals.
The easing of restriction is part of Britain's four-step program to return to pre-Covid ways of life. This follows the rapid administering of Covid vaccinations nationwide, with the corresponding reduction in infections.
Under Step 3 of the program beginning May 17, the public will be allowed to gather in groups of up to six people or two full households.
While safety measures will remain in place, pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors. Also, indoor entertainment, such as cinemas and sports locations, will reopen.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office said the latest data on COVID-19 vaccinations, infections, hospitalisations and deaths, and on the risk posed by new variants, were all weighed prior to moving to this latest reduction in Covid restrictions.
"The data reflects what we already knew - we are not going to let this virus beat us," Johnson said in a statement.
"The roadmap remains on track, our successful vaccination programme continues - more than two-thirds of adults in the UK have now had the first vaccine - and we can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly."
The public is also awaiting new instructions about social distancing with friends and family.
The new rules will apply only to England, with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales setting their own rules.
Meanwhile, Nadine Dorries, Minister of State for Mental Health, warned that the easing of restrictions must be done cautiously, to guard against resurgences of Covid variants.
Britain has suffered 127,605 deaths from Covid. To date, two-thirds of adults in the United Kingdom have had a first vaccine and one-third have had both doses.