By Lina Saigol
People living alone will be able to form ‘support bubbles’ with one other household from Saturday, the British prime minister has announced, in a move aimed at helping people cope with loneliness during lockdown.
Boris Johnson said single adult households in England can mix with one other multi-person household, meaning they can stay the night and don’t have to observe social distancing rules by staying two meters apart.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Johnson said the measures are a “targeted intervention” to help those who are most lonely. The support bubbles apply to single adult households or single parents with children under 18.
Once a single adult household has formed a bubble, it must remain exclusive. Johnson stressed that the new policy was “not designed for people who don’t qualify to start meeting inside because that remains against the law.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said another 245 coronavirus deaths have been recorded in the U.K., taking the total to 41,128.
The Prime Minister also announced that zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas will reopen from June 15, as part of plans to loosen lockdown measures and help kick-start the economy.
On Tuesday, Business secretary Alok Sharma confirmed plans for non-essential shops, such as clothing retailers, to reopen on Monday but said pubs and restaurants would have to wait until wait until July 4 “at the earliest,” despite reports ministers were lining up June 22.
Johnson said this had been the most challenging period for shops in history, the vast majority of which have been shut since March 23 when citizens were ordered to stay at home to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
“It’s now been 82 days since we asked shops to close their doors and I know the toll this has taken,” Johnson said.
For many, the new measures have come too late. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned that the U.K. is likely to be the hardest hit by Covid-19 among major economies.
In its twice-yearly global economic forecast published on Wednesday, it said Britain’s economy is likely to slump by 11.5% in 2020, slightly outstripping falls in countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy. The economy could contract by as much as 14% If there were a second peak in the pandemic, the OECD said, adding, “The crisis will cast a long shadow over the world.”
The Restaurant Group /zigman2/quotes/207518837/delayed UK:RTN +0.17% became the latest victim of Britain’s lockdown when it announced that it would close 125 of its diners which include some Frankie & Benny’s, Garfunkels and Chiquito brands, as it looks to cut costs and rent, putting as many as 3000 jobs at risk as a result of the move.
At the Wednesday briefing, Johnson was also forced to defend his decision to allow children to visit zoos but not go back to school until at least September after the government scrapped plans for all primary school children in England to return to the classroom before the summer break.
“The disease is “not right down far enough” to allow schools to go back,” Johnson said, adding that a “huge amount” of catch up will be organised for schools.