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Britain significantly eases COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, businesses

Patrons raise their glasses on Monday at the Fox on the Hill pub in London, Britain, on the first day of significantly relaxed coronavirus restrictions, including those that barred large social gatherings indoors and outdoors. Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE
Patrons raise their glasses on Monday at the Fox on the Hill pub in London, Britain, on the first day of significantly relaxed coronavirus restrictions, including those that barred large social gatherings indoors and outdoors. Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

May 17 (UPI) -- Britain considerably eased COVID-19 restrictions for most places nationwide on Monday, allowing people to gather, socialize, eat and attend pubs indoors.

Residents in England, Wales and most of Scotland are now able to meet in groups of 30 people, see schools, colleges and universities in person and attend gyms, indoor sports facilities, swimming pools, saunas and steam rooms.

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Bans on foreign travel have also been lifted with certain restrictions for countries that continue to struggle with COVID-19 transmissions, like India.

"We have reached another milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, according to BBC News.

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Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government should be able to lift all restrictions by June 21 if coronavirus transmission rates continue to decline.

"There is flexibility here because we have another five weeks till the reopening and we will be revisiting the data," Kwarteng told BBC Radio. "There will be different data -- the variant will spread, perhaps, in different ways, we will have more information about the efficacy of the vaccine rollout, and then a week before [June] 21st, we will make the decision."

New guidance from the British government on Monday encourages residents to continue working from home for now, if possible, but it also allows all vacation businesses like hotels and bed and breakfast facilities to open.

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Venues for live performances, sporting events and business events can also open outdoors and indoors, with capacity limits.

Officials in Northern Ireland said they will review their restrictions on Thursday before deciding if they should remove them on May 24.

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