UK vaccine minister confident of COVID-19 rule easing from July 19

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The UK government is confident that plans to lift a range of COVID-19 restrictions will go ahead on July 19 in England but mask-wearing in indoor enclosed places will be expected, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson detailed proposals earlier this week to eliminate a series of rules on mask-wearing, social contact and the instruction to work from home. He is expected to give the final go-ahead on Monday.

Some scientists and critics of the government have expressed concern that it pressing ahead to lift restrictions even as coronavirus infections are rising. The government has argued that the high rate of vaccinations in Britain means the link between infections and serious illness or death has largely been broken.

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“I am confident that we can proceed to step four,” Zahawi told Sky News.

“It’s important that we remain cautious and careful and the guidelines that we’ll set out tomorrow will demonstrate that, including guidelines that people are expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces.”

Johnson’s government sets health policy for England, but not for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Asked about a Sunday Times report that the gap between administering the first and second COVID-19 jab is set to be halved to four weeks, Zahawi said: “I’m slightly puzzled where that story has come from.”

“The real-world clinical data suggests that actually the eight-week interval offers that additional fortification in terms of protection with the two doses much better than having that interval shortened any further.”

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