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People must continue to play their part in stopping coronavirus, Boris Johnson has said, as lockdown rules ease in England, Wales and most of Scotland.

Millions can now socialise indoors in limited numbers, hug loved ones and visit pubs and restaurants inside.

The ban on foreign travel has also been lifted and replaced with new rules.

Mr Johnson said: "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."

The rule changes come as the variant first identified in India continues to spread in the UK, with mass testing rolled out to hotspots including Bolton in Greater Manchester and parts of London and Sefton.

Mr Johnson said the government was keeping the variant "under close observation" and "taking swift action where infection rates are rising".


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Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was "very confident" the government would be able to lift England's remaining restrictions on 21 June "but can't guarantee that".

He said: "There is flexibility here because we have another five weeks till the reopening and we will be revisiting the data.

"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 the 21st, we will take the decision."

Mr Kwarteng said he did not want to "stigmatise people" over vaccine hesitancy, but added: "We're not exactly where we want to be among certain communities but I think the take-up has been much greater in the last few months, and more and more people are convinced that this is the way to keep themselves and their families safe."

'Finely balanced'
Scientists believe the variant does spread more easily, but early data suggests vaccines still work. However, the exact impact on vaccine efficacy - if any - is still to be firmed up.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the government's independent scientific advisory group Sage, said the lifting of the rules was the "most difficult policy decision of the last 15 months or so."

He told Today: "It is very, very finely balanced".

Sir Jeremy said the variant "is becoming dominant in parts of the UK, and yet vaccination across the country has been extraordinary successful".

"I think we will see an increase of cases and infections over the coming weeks as some of the restrictions are lifted, but the key question is whether we have decoupled increased transmission in the number of people who do get infected from the number of people who get ill and need to go to hospital."

The British Medical Association - which represents doctors - said it was a "real worry" that the easing was still going ahead while the Indian variant was spreading and many younger people were not vaccinated.

While lockdowns are easing across England, Scotland and Wales, the changes are different in each nation. Two areas of Scotland - Glasgow and Moray - will not have their rules eased after a spike in cases.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "This is a long awaited moment but remember that the virus still poses a big threat, so please continue to be cautious & very careful."

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