Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: UK authorities ease COVID-19-related restrictions in Northern Ireland May 18. England, Wales, Scotland continue to follow separate plans.

This alert affects United Kingdom

This alert began 19 May 2020 10:01 GMT and is scheduled to expire 01 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant business and travel disruptions

The Northern Ireland Executive began the first stage of its five-stage coronavirus disease (COVID-19) recovery plan May 18. As of this date, individuals in Northern Ireland who cannot work from home are encouraged to return to work, up to six individuals from different households may gather outdoors, some outdoor sports are allowed, and garden centers are permitted to reopen. In all cases, social distancing of two meters (6.5 feet) must be observed and all businesses must adhere to strict hygiene practices. The Executive has not provided a schedule for the remaining stages of the coronavirus recovery plan; restrictions will be eased as authorities assess it is safe to do so.

The UK government began easing restrictions in England May 13, allowing unlimited outdoor exercise, permitting outdoor gatherings of two individuals from different households, and encouraging those who cannot work from home to return to work. Authorities in Scotland and Wales are not currently encouraging nonessential workers to return to work, though they have lifted limits on outdoor exercise. Additional movement and business restrictions in England are currently slated to be lifted June 1 and July 4, contingent upon the Joint Biosecurity Centre's (JBC) disease activity assessment. The JBC could also advise that restrictions be lifted or reintroduced in particular local jurisdictions within England throughout the recovery effort. Authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are due to review and ease further restrictions by May 28, dependant upon the evolution of disease activity.

Authorities throughout the UK continue to instruct citizens to remain home except to perform essential tasks. Most educational facilities and nonessential businesses remain closed, including cafes and restaurants. Preliminary reports indicate that travelers arriving in the UK from abroad may be asked to self-isolate for 14 days in the future.

All restrictions are subject to amendment at short notice in response to government reviews and may receive updates or extensions in the coming days.

Background and Analysis
The measures implemented by the UK are similar to actions taken by other European governments in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

The UK's JBC is a newly formed agency tasked with analyzing disease activity in England and setting the "COVID-19 Alert Level," a five-tier system that will inform the government's decisions on easing and reintroducing restrictions. The JBC can set different alert levels for different parts of the country, creating the possibility for varying restrictions based on locality in the future.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Arrive at the airport early to prevent your seat being reallocated to a standby passenger. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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