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Minister defends removal of UK curbs

By JULIAN SHEA in London and REN QI in Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-02 10:55

Britain's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab speaks at the daily digital news conference on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, May 18, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has defended the easing of lockdown measures in England from Monday, insisting it is a "cautious" evidence-based step.

On Monday, the country's status moved from level four, which involves enforced social distancing, to level three of five, meaning measures in place since March can begin to be relaxed.

The government's lockdown measures have been in the spotlight for all the arguably wrong reasons for the past week, after it emerged Prime Minister Boris Johnson's closest adviser Dominic Cummings had been caught breaking them.

The announcement of imminent relaxation came just before one of the hottest weekends of the year, prompting large crowds to gather at open spaces across the country, raising fears of a second wave of infection.

"Because we have made that progress, steadily, slowly, surely, week in, week out, we can very gradually, very carefully, take the steps that we are taking (on Monday)," Raab told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. He also said there would be "targeted" measures in place for areas that saw a rise in infections following the latest move.

Another 113 COVID-19 patients have died in Britain in the latest 24-hour period, taking the total coronavirus-related deaths in the country to 38,489, British Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick said on Sunday.

Across Europe, the novel coronavirus had infected 1,951,284 people and claimed 173,613 lives as of Monday, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Tourism reopening

Elsewhere, Greece has announced that it will open up its hugely important tourist industry in two weeks' time to visitors from 29 countries, including many European Union member states and China-but not the United Kingdom.

Tourists from countries including Germany, Austria, Denmark, Australia, South Korea and Lebanon can visit, with more countries to be added by the end of June, but borders will remain closed to visitors from badly-hit countries, including the UK, France, Italy and Spain.

"Our aim is to be able to welcome every tourist who has overcome their fear and has the ability to travel to our country," said Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis.

Denmark and Norway will permit travel between their countries from June 15, but that freedom does not apply to Sweden, which relied upon citizens to practice social distancing rather than enforcing lockdown, and has recorded the highest death toll in Scandinavia.

In Russia, residents of Moscow can leave their homes to take a stroll for the first time in nine weeks on Monday under a partial easing of a tough lockdown regime following a fall in coronavirus cases.

The Russian anti-coronavirus crisis center reported 9,035 new cases for the 24 hours ending on Monday morning, taking the total tally in the country to 414,878.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Monday that he and his family members have contracted the virus.

Pashinyan said it's highly likely that he contracted COVID-19 during a working meeting. Now, he has been self-isolated.

Chen Yingqun in Beijing, Xinhua and Agencies contributed to this story.

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