British PM Outlines End to COVID Restrictions

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britons will no longer be required by law to wear face masks indoors once the government lifts coronavirus restrictions later this month.  Johnson confirmed Monday that the government aims to end its latest lockdown on July 19 despite a growing number of coronavirus cases caused by the highly transmissible delta variant. However, he said a final decision on the reopening date would take place next week. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing on coronavirus in Downing Street, London, July 5, 2021.Johnson said the social distancing requirement would also end, but said businesses could still mandate them along with face masks.  “We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus,” Johnson said during a news conference in London. The prime minister said that infections and deaths would likely rise once the government restrictions are lifted.  “We must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from COVID,” he said. The spread of the delta variant, first identified in India, has led to a jump in cases in countries around the world, including in South Korea. Health officials in Seoul reported 711 new cases in the county on Monday, the third consecutive day of over 700 cases. The majority of cases came from the populated Seoul metropolitan area. Indonesia said Monday that it is seeking more oxygen supplies as it battles a surge of COVID-19 cases, fueled by the spread of the delta variant. The government said it is asking oxygen producers to allocate their entire supply for use by COVID-19 patients and said it will import more oxygen if needed. A man wearing a protective mask queues to refill oxygen tanks as Indonesia experiences an oxygen supply shortage amid a surge of coronavirus cases, at a filling station in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 5, 2021.In Luxembourg, officials said Monday that Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is in serious but stable condition after contracting COVID-19 and will remain hospitalized for now. Bettel was admitted to the hospital on Sunday after testing positive for the virus following a two-day EU summit in Brussels. Britain’s royal palace said Monday that Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is self-isolating after coming into contact last week with someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus. U.S. pollIn the United States, a Washington Post-ABC News poll has found a large difference between Democrats and Republicans as it relates to COVID-19 vaccination. The poll found that while 86% of Democrats have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, only 45% of Republicans have.  In addition, the survey found that while only 6% of Democrats said they would probably decline the vaccine, 47% of Republicans said they would probably not be inoculated.   The poll also found that 60% of unvaccinated Americans believe the U.S. is exaggerating the dangers of the COVID-19 delta variant, while 18% of the unvaccinated say the government is accurately describing the variant’s risks.  However, 64% of vaccinated Americans believe the government is accurately describing the dangers of the delta variant.  Iran ‘fifth wave’In Iran, President Hassan Rouhani warned Saturday the country is on the brink of a “fifth wave” of a COVID-19 outbreak. The delta variant of the virus is largely responsible for the rising number of hospitalizations and deaths in Iran, officials say.  All non-essential businesses have been ordered closed in 275 cities, including Tehran, the capital. Travel has also been restricted between cities that are experiencing high infection rates.  Reports say only about 5% of Iranians have been vaccinated.  Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported Monday that there are 183.9 million global COVID cases. The United States has the most with 33.7 million, followed by India with 30.6 million and Brazil with 18.8 million. Johns Hopkins said more than 3 billion vaccine doses have been administered.   This report includes information from the Associated Press and Reuters.