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Health Highlights: May 4, 2021

By Robert Preidt HealthDay Reporter

U.K. to Ease Lockdown Measures by June 21

Social distancing rules in the U.K. could be lifted by June 21, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday.

The number of new daily infections has fallen to below 2,000 and about 52% of the British population has received at least one vaccine dose, while roughly a quarter have received two shots, the Associated Press reported.

"You are seeing the results of that really starting to show up in the epidemiology," Johnson told reporters. "That is still dependent on the data, we can't say it categorically yet, we have got to look at the epidemiology as we progress. But that's what it feels like to me right now."

On May 17, the government plans to further ease restrictions, including allowing people to go into pubs and restaurants and permitting some foreign travel, the AP reported.

June 21 is the target date for lifting all other limits on social contact -- including requiring people to stay at least 1 meter (3 feet) away from anyone outside their household -- as long as other protective measures such as mask wearing and meeting outdoors are followed.

Johnson noted that the path to easing restrictions is dependent on "data, not dates," the AP reported.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said Johnson's comments give the hospitality industry hope of returning to normal.

"Given pubs are financially unviable under the current restrictions they face, being able to reopen without any restrictions at all from June 21 is going to be vital to their survival," she said. "Our recovery only begins when the restrictions are removed."

NYC, NJ and Connecticut to Ease Capacity Restrictions, Florida Ends All Restrictions

Shops, restaurants, theaters and other businesses in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will be allowed to operate at full capacity starting May 19 as long as there is space for people to maintain 6 feet of social distance, the three states announced Monday.

"It's a smart reopening. It's a measured reopening," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, CBS News reported.

Also on Monday, Florida ended all COVID-19 restrictions.

Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended all local COVID-19 emergency mandates immediately and issued an executive order to outlaw all local COVID-19 emergency mandates in the state, effective July 1. He noted that the supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the state has now exceeded demand.

"What I'm going to do is sign the bill, it's effective July 1," DeSantis said. "But then to bridge the gap between then and now, I am going to suspend, under my executive power, the local emergency orders as it relates to COVID. I think that's the evidence-based thing to do."

But while many parts of the United States are opening back up, nearly half of Oregon was shut back down by Gov. Kate Brown due to one of the largest increases in infections nationwide, CBS News reported.

Brown declared 15 counties an "extreme risk" and banned all indoor dining and limited gyms and indoor entertainment spaces to six people at one time.

"This virus is like a sucker punch. You never know when it's going to get you," Brown said, CBS News reported. "Right now, it's truly a race between the variants and the vaccines. Obviously the variants are winning. But over the next couple of weeks, I'm confident we can beat it back," Brown said.

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