first shut down last year, even the prime minister sounded shaken.

“I do accept that what we’re doing is extraordinary,” Mr. Johnson said last March. “We’re taking away the ancient, inalienable right of freeborn people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub.”

Days earlier, Mr. Johnson’s recommendation that the public voluntarily stay away from pubs and other social venues was not universally well received. His own father said: “Of course I’ll go to a pub if I need to go to a pub.”

It was not just pubs that suffered under lockdown. Retail stories, too, struggled to survive.

The flagship store of the British retailer Topshop on Oxford Circus, once a destination for fashion-hungry young adults, permanently shut its doors after its parent company filed for bankruptcy last year. And plywood boards now cover the front of Debenhams, another retail chain that floundered during the pandemic.

The two companies crumbled within days of one another, as the country bounced from one lockdown to the next and the pandemic hastened the end of British high-street brands that were already teetering on the edge.

But now, those stores that have survived are hoping for a heyday, after the worst recession in decades.

Retailers hope that there will be a splurge in spending by people who have amassed a record amount of savings, nearly $250 billion according to government estimates, roughly 10 percent of Britain’s gross domestic product.

Plastered in big letters on the shop front of John Lewis, a British department store, there was an invitation coupled with a fingers-crossed prediction: “Come on in London, brighter days are coming.”

Marc Santora and Megan Specia reported from London and Eric Nagourney from New York.

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Johnson Announces Free Covid Tests and Status Certificates for England

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered Britons their first detailed glimpse of what a post-pandemic society might look like on Monday, announcing free twice-weekly coronavirus tests in England and Covid status certificates that would allow people with immunity into crowded nightclubs and sporting events.

The plans were the next step in the British government’s cautious reopening of the economy, and its first effort to tackle thorny questions about how to distinguish between people who are protected against the virus and those who are still vulnerable, as the country edges back toward normalcy.

“I will be going to the pub myself and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips,” Mr. Johnson said at a news conference at 10 Downing Street, as he listed the next round of relaxed restrictions.

Trying to strike a balance between public health and personal liberties, he said Britain would design a system to certify the Covid status of anyone seeking to enter higher-risk settings. While pubs and nonessential shops might be allowed to demand proof of Covid-free status, they will not be required to do so.

With more than 31 million people having gotten at least one vaccine jab, and the country still largely in lockdown, Britain has dramatically driven down its new cases, hospital admissions and deaths from the virus. As a result, Mr. Johnson’s focus has shifted to managing a steadily more open society.

Among his most ambitious plan is to offer free rapid testing kits to the entire population, so people can test themselves routinely. The kits, already used by hospitals and schools, will be available by mail or at pharmacies.

Public health experts applauded the gradual pace of government’s measures, which they said were appropriate for a country in which the virus was still circulating, even with declining death rates and a rapid vaccine rollout. But they expressed skepticism about the testing program, questioning whether people would have the incentive to put themselves through a test twice a week.

“Testing only works if people isolate, based on a positive result,” said Devi Sridhar, head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh. “But if they can’t go to work and will lose income, what’s the incentive to get tested?”

Britain’s experience with testing and tracing has been among the most abysmal parts of its pandemic performance. Even now, experts said, it only isolates between a quarter and a half of those who come into contact with people who test positive for the virus.

“There’s still no proper effort at supported isolation, and an obsession with testing rates with no apparent understanding of the purpose of testing,” said David King, a former chief scientific adviser to the British government who has been an outspoken critic of its response to the pandemic.

While Professor King credited the government with finally becoming more cautious, he said, “the level of the virus in the country is so high that there is no reason to think we are out of this yet.”

The announcement on Covid certification follows weeks of contradictory signals. In February, Nadhim Zahawi, the minister responsible for the vaccine rollout, described its use for anything other than foreign travel as “wrong and discriminatory.” Last month, Mr. Johnson suggested it might be up to individual pubs to decide whether to require Covid passports before serving customers.

Under the government’s current thinking, the certification would apply to people who are vaccinated, who recently tested negative for the virus, or who can prove natural immunity from having recovered from Covid.

Opposition comes both from defenders of civil liberties on the left and libertarians on the right. Last week, more than 70 lawmakers last week signed a letter opposing the “divisive and discriminatory use” of Covid passports. They included more than 40 Conservative lawmakers who are part of the Covid Recovery Group, a caucus of lawmakers that has criticized lockdown measures.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Graham Brady, who chairs an influential group of Conservative backbenchers, argued that Covid passports make little practical sense because many young people will probably not have been offered a vaccination by the time the government plans to reopen much of the economy. Fundamental principles were also at stake, he said.

“At the beginning of last year, patient confidentiality was a sacred principle and the idea that other people could inspect our medical records was anathema,” Mr. Brady wrote. “Now the state is contemplating making us divulge our Covid status as a condition of going to the pub or cinema.”

Given the skepticism of the Labour leader, Mr. Starmer, the government knows that if it goes too far, it could lose a vote on the measure in Parliament.

Still, some see the civil liberties arguments as more evenly balanced. Adam Wagner, a human rights lawyer and expert on Covid-related laws, said the government needed to tread carefully because of privacy issues and because “a system such as this could put them on collision course with anti-discrimination laws, for example for people who cannot get vaccinated because of a disability.”

But he added that there was nevertheless a valid civil liberties argument for introducing vaccine passports.

“Lockdown is a very serious imposition on everyone’s liberties and increasingly a hammer to crack a nut,” Mr. Wagner said. “One way to reduce the possibility of lockdown is to allow people who are not infectious, or are less likely to be infectious, to do more of the things that people normally do than those who are infectious or who are more likely to be infectious.”

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150,000 Painted Hearts, Each for a Life Lost to Covid-19 in Britain

LONDON — Paula Smith couldn’t hold back her tears as she faced a sea of hand-painted red hearts covering a wall along the River Thames, each unique, each representing someone who died of Covid-19 in Britain.

With the tears welling in her eyes, Ms. Smith got back to work painting dozens more hearts on the memorial wall as passers-by stopped to watch. One heart was larger than the others, and on it she wrote in black letters: “Frank Stevens 1941–2020” — a tribute to her 78-year-old father, who died last April.

“Look at how many people we’ve lost,” said Ms. Smith, 49, who was wearing a vest that read The National Covid Memorial Wall, as she took a step back to look at her work, sobbing behind her protective mask. “We keep talking about numbers, but each heart is a person.”

As European countries crossed the one-year anniversary of the first coronavirus deaths and lockdown restrictions in recent weeks, memorials have sprung up across the continent to pay tribute to those lost to Covid-19.

studied how people have paid tribute to those lost to Covid-19.

Mr. Johnson has promised a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic, and opposition politicians have called for it to start as soon as lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted in coming weeks. But Mr. Johnson has refused to set a date.

At the memorial, several volunteers expressed anger at the government’s response to the pandemic. Ms. Rumball, who lost her grandmother, said she had felt ignored by Mr. Johnson’s government. Her mother painted hearts next to her in silence.

Ms. Smith said too many mistakes had been made, and that she had felt let down by the National Health Service, whose workers have often been lauded by many in the public and the media as heroes. “No one was a hero to my dad,” she said.

Britain is slowly emerging from a monthslong lockdown and Mr. Johnson has promised a “great summer” ahead. Outdoor sports resumed this week, and as groups of six are now allowed to gather outside, crowds have flocked to parks in London to bask in the sun.

Numbers of new infections and deaths have plummeted in recent weeks, raising hopes that some return to normalcy would come soon. With more than 30.5 million people having received a first dose of the vaccine — 45 percent of the country’s population — Britain has rolled out one of the fastest vaccination campaigns in the world.

Yet health authorities have warned that the third wave of coronavirus infections that has swept through continental Europe may also reach Britain.

And bereaved families said returning to normal would be impossible.

“For those of us who lost someone during the first wave, last spring, we’re reliving everything now,” said Ms. Goodman. “Last night I couldn’t sleep because exactly a year ago I learned that my father had Covid, and he died days later, so looking forward to going back to normal is so difficult for us.”

With the pandemic still raging, the hand-painted hearts opposite Parliament may continue spreading for weeks, even if at a slower pace. Still, Mr. Fowler said he hoped this would stop soon.

“When this is done, please, no more hearts,” he said.

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Upbeat Official Report on Race in Britain Draws a Swift Backlash

LONDON — British cities echoed last year with the cries of Black Lives Matter protesters, demanding a racial reckoning in Britain similar to that convulsing the United States in the wake of multiple killings of Black Americans by the police.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded by releasing a government-commissioned report on the state of racial discrimination in Britain that concluded that the country “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries.” The backlash was swift and scathing.

Critics accused the Conservative government of whitewashing racial injustice by arguing that discrimination is more a result of socio-economic disparities than skin color. By discouraging use of the term institutional racism, they said, the report sought to turn back the clock on how Britons talk about race.

While the document, compiled by a 10-member Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, acknowledged the enduring nature of racism — “graffiti on someone’s business, violence in the street or prejudice in the labor market” — it came to an upbeat conclusion about the progress of British society as a whole.

“level up” prosperity between wealthy London and the white, working-class strongholds in the Midlands and the north. While the commission is independent, and all but one of its members are ethnic minorities, critics said they were chosen because their views generally align with that agenda.

“The argument is that the real victims of racism are the white working class,” said Kehinde Andrews, a professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University. “The reason they have asked these Black and brown people to do this report is to legitimize their position.”

pulling down the statue of a notorious 17th-century slave trader, Edward Colston, in Bristol. Critics faulted its advocacy of a “new story” about the slave trade, one that focused less on the suffering it caused and more on how “culturally African people transformed themselves into a remodeled African/Britain.”

Macpherson Report, which grew out of an inquiry into the racially motivated killing of a Black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, in 1993. That document found evidence of institutional racism in the botched investigation of the crime, a provocative new concept that transformed the debate over racism in Britain.

With hate crimes being reported to the police at a greater rate, the new report argues that the term institutional racism should no longer be used so liberally and without evidence to support it — a subtle point that critics say is nonetheless damaging.

“Reverting to the idea that we’re going to focus on racism only as overt hostility and hatred takes us back to the more simplistic ways we talked about racism,” said Matthew Ryder, a lawyer who worked on racial issues as a deputy mayor of London. “It undoes the progress we’ve made in the last 20 years in this country.”

Even before its release, critics complained that the report’s conclusions were handed to selected journalists before publication as part of a media strategy shaped more by politics than a desire to expand the discourse over race.

Afzal Khan, a Labour lawmaker, said the document was “based on a Conservative ideology that seeks to place the blame on individuals rather than addressing its root cause” and was a “blatant and transparent attempt to kick start a culture war.” The report came out against programs, like unconscious bias training for employees, which are often targeted by critics on the right.

There was also criticism from David Lammy, another Labour lawmaker and the author of a 2017 study on how the criminal justice system treated minorities. Mr. Johnson’s approach to the Black Lives Matter movement had “let an entire generation of young white and Black British people down, Mr. Lammy said on LBC, a talk-radio station on which he recently debated patiently with a caller who argued that his Afro-Caribbean heritage meant he could not be considered English.

“This report could have been a turning point and a moment to come together,” Mr. Lammy said. “Instead, it has chosen to divide us once more and keep us debating the existence of racism rather than doing anything about it.”

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Cautiously, Britain Begins Relaxing Strict Lockdown Rules

This time, Britain’s latest reopening is unfolding in steps — the first of which was a return to schools — followed by several weeks to measure the impact of each relaxation on the spread of the virus. In early April, Mr. Johnson plans to outline his latest thinking on travel and “Covid passports,” a form of certification for those who are inoculated or have recently tested negative.

Further reinforcing Britain’s vaccine rollout, Mr. Johnson announced that the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline had agreed to manufacture up to 60 million doses of a vaccine developed by Novavax, a biotechnology company based in Gaithersburg, Md., at a factory in northeast England.

Scientists and public health experts generally backed the government’s latest easing, given that it is incremental and encourages mixing outdoors, where the risk of transmission is far lower than in confined spaces.

But they warned about potential vulnerabilities, like the South African variant of the virus, which is fueling the latest wave of infections in Europe and shows signs of resistance to the AstraZeneca vaccine, the one most commonly used in Britain.

“If we didn’t have the variants, I would see us as being in a very strong position,” said Devi Sridhar, head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh. “But we have an Achilles’ heel because if a variant develops among vulnerable people, we could be back in a very precarious situation.”

Part of the problem, she said, was Britain’s patchy approach to travel. The government has placed 35 countries on a “red list,” which requires travelers to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days. But it has stopped short of adding France, a high-risk country, because of the headache of dealing with truck drivers transporting freight across the channel.

“Either do all countries, or do no countries,” Dr. Sridhar said. “This selective approach is a little silly because you’re only delaying the problem.”

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Could the Pandemic Spell the End of U.K.’s High Speed Rail?

STEEPLE CLAYDON, England — A chorus of bird song gives way to the roar of a chain saw and then the creaking and splintering of timber. A 50-foot tree sways, wobbles and finally crashes to the ground, while protesters shout and jeer.

The construction of the British government’s largest public works project — a high-speed rail line known as HS2 — has long been promoted as helping to save the environment. But it is under growing challenge from those who accuse it of doing the exact opposite.

They have waged a mostly fruitless fight against the project, a grand scheme to cut air and road travel by connecting the north of England to the more prosperous south with trains traveling at up to 225 miles per hour.

Now, with the pandemic prompting a surge in working from home and a slump in train travel, the opponents believe the argument is finally tilting their way, eroding the already shaky rationale for an effort that could cost more than $140 billion.

thought to have cost the project around £50 million already. Activists caught the authorities by surprise when they occupied tunnels dug near Euston Station in London, where the line starts and where Larch Maxey, a veteran of such protests, spent three weeks underground despite suffering from claustrophobia.

“I was living in an incredibly confined space, but it got better in the second and third weeks and it became an empowering experience,” he said in an interview. He described the project as “a 20th century scheme foisted on the 21st century,” adding, “The business model for HS2 was always shaky — it was based around the expected growth of business travel — and that has disappeared.”

At a protest camp at Jones Hill Wood, about 25 miles from Steeple Claydon, activists have built tree houses and other shelters on a landscape that inspired the writer Roald Dahl, and where tree felling was scheduled last year.

They say they have worked hard to monitor wildlife, including the location of badger dens and bat colonies, to hold officials to their promises to protect some species. But construction work is going on behind a green metal fence erected by security guards who take video footage on their phones of anyone who approaches.

Sitting around a campfire, Ross Monaghan, an activist who has spent a year here, much of it sleeping in a treehouse 80 feet above the ground, said it was “a victory that Jones Hill Wood is still standing, but we haven’t won that battle yet.”

To prevent more felling, he said, “people are going to have to step forward, put their bodies on the line, put their freedom on the line, and I think you will see that happen.”

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U.K. Government, Sensing an Opportunity, Wraps Itself in the Flag

LONDON — It started last week when the host of the BBC’s morning show mocked a cabinet minister, Robert Jenrick, for the Union Jack hanging conspicuously behind him, next to a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The flag, the host cracked, was not “up to standard-size government interview measurements.”

The host, Charlie Stayt, and his co-host, Naga Munchetty, who chuckled along, were quickly in hot water. After the BBC came under fire for disrespecting the British flag, both were reprimanded. Ms. Munchetty apologized for liking “offensive” Twitter posts that joined in the mockery of the minister’s flag.

Never one to duck a culture-war skirmish, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has seized on the flag flap to try to keep opponents on the defensive and the dissolution of the United Kingdom at bay.

On Wednesday, it decreed that, henceforth, the Union Jack should fly on all government buildings every day of the year, rather than simply on designated days. The only exception will be regional holidays when, say, the Scottish flag, the Saltire, would fly in Scotland on St. Andrew’s Day.

revised guidance on flags, noted that in the United States, the Stars and Stripes flies year-round, not just on federal buildings but also at schools and in front of polling places. Likewise in Australia, the national flag can be flown every day of the year from federal and state parliaments.

Britons tend to be less demonstrative about their flag than the citizens of their former colonies. Unlike Americans, they rarely hang it in front of their homes. The Union Jack arouses ambivalent emotions among some on the left, who associate it with Britain’s imperial past, and in parts of the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland, where pro-independence feelings run strong.

That, of course, is precisely the point for a government that is desperate to avert another referendum on independence for Scotland after elections there in May in which the Scottish National Party is expected to win a strong mandate.

was taken to task by a Conservative lawmaker, James Wild, for not publishing an image of the Union Jack in the broadcaster’s 268-page annual report.

“Do you find that surprising?” Mr. Wild asked, to which Mr. Davie replied, “No, I think that’s a strange metric.”

A former marketing executive who was chosen because of his ability to get along with the government, Mr. Davie pointed out that the BBC promotes Britain worldwide. The Union Jack, he said, flew proudly from its London headquarters.

Critics on Twitter lost no time lampooning the new reverence for the flag. They coined an off-color hashtag and attributed it to unhealthy nationalism, post-Brexit insecurity or cynical politics.

“This may be very ‘20th Century’ of me,” posted Simon Fraser, formerly the senior civil servant at the Foreign Office, “but I do worry when politicians start getting obsessive about flags.”

he posted.

Clare Hepworth, a trade unionist, quoted Bill Moyers, a broadcaster and former aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who once said of politicians who brandish flags, “They’re counting on your patriotism to distract you from their plunder.”

And, of course, it was another Johnson, Samuel, who in the 18th century famously said, “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

At a time when the government is winning broad public support for its coronavirus vaccine rollout — the country’s largest mass mobilization since World War II — a manufactured row over flags might seem unnecessary.

proposing to air two beloved patriotic songs without their lyrics because they evoked a colonial past that is at odds with the values of the Black Lives Matter movement.

outfitted at a reported cost of 2.6 million pounds, or about $3.5 million. He will be flanked by no fewer than four Union Jacks.

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Johnson Hopes Vaccine Success Can Inoculate Him Against Brexit Critics

LONDON — Britain’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines has revived the political fortunes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Now, Mr. Johnson’s allies hope the stark disparity between Britain’s performance and the European Union’s will do something perhaps even more challenging: vindicate their larger Brexit project.

Pro-Brexit politicians and commentators are casting Britain’s vaccine deployment, which ranks among the fastest in the world, as an example of risk-taking and entrepreneurial pluck that comes from not being shackled to the collective decision-making of the 27 member states of the European Union.

With vaccination rates that are a fraction of Britain’s, threats of export bans on vaccines produced on the continent and churlish statements about British-made vaccines by leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France, the European Union has seemingly done all it can to make it look like Britain picked the right time to leave.

“It is the first serious test that the U.K. state has faced since Brexit,” said Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics at the University of Kent who studies the British right. “Boris Johnson is going to have a vaccine dividend, and that will give him a whole new narrative for the summer and beyond.”

the costs of Brexit since Britain severed itself from the European Union in January — damaging disruptions to cross-channel trade and businesses choking on reams of red tape, among other headaches. And it conveniently ignores the harrowing experience many Britons had with the virus before the first vaccine “jabs” arrived last December.

according to a new survey conducted by Ipsos MORI for the E.U.-U.K. Forum, an organization that promotes cross-Channel dialogue. Only 12 percent said they thought Britain had performed worse while 14 percent thought both had handled things equally well.

For all its early stumbles, said Kelly Beaver, managing director of Public Affairs at Ipsos MORI, “the British public feel that overall, the government has done well compared to its E.U. counterparts, no doubt a halo effect of the vaccination program that has, to date, been incredibly successful.”

Significantly, a slight plurality of those surveyed — 40 percent — said they thought Brexit had helped improve Britain’s handling of the pandemic, while 14 percent said it had made it worse, and 38 percent thought it had made no difference.

Overall, the survey shows that the strength of feeling over Brexit has faded somewhat although a majority expect it to increase food prices and make European vacations more difficult. And Britons remain sharply divided, not just over E.U. membership but also on other issues like crime, British values and political correctness.

Mr. Johnson’s vaccine bounce, analysts point out, could be fleeting if a new variant emerges or if the economy does not recover swiftly.

But Mr. Goodwin said one consequence of the vaccine success is that there are few signs of significant numbers of people rethinking the wisdom of Brexit or suffering the acute regret — or as he called it, “Bregret” — that some expected.

The British media has understandably given more coverage to the 28 million people who have been inoculated than to the post-Brexit trade disruptions that have afflicted some British food and seafood exports and left supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland empty.

The monthslong shutdown of much of Britain’s economy will also complicate the task of identifying the negative effects of Brexit, since they are likely to be lost in a sea of red ink. And long before the pandemic, economists predicted that Brexit’s biggest cost would be to dampen economic expansion, an effect that would compound almost imperceptibly over many years, rather than create a sudden shock.

In any event, the vaccine rollout has helped the government to hone a separate and distinct argument for Brexit, one that emphasizes responsibility and accountability over economic costs or benefits.

David Frost, a former diplomat who negotiated the Brexit trade agreement for Mr. Johnson and is now a cabinet minister, articulated this case earlier this month when he said Britain’s membership in the European Union had stifled its initiative, producing “a kind of institutional paralysis.”

Britain faced problems “which we seemed to find very difficult to summon up the will to resolve, and I do think E.U membership had a kind sapping quality to our ability to take decisions,” he said at the Policy Exchange, a research institute.

“Brexit doesn’t solve those problems,” Mr. Frost added, “but it does give us means to solve them, to move on, to get a grip but also to reform our attitudes and become a country that can deal with problems again.”

Britain, officials point out, made risky bets on multiple vaccine candidates and aggressively locked up supplies in advance — characteristics, they say, that were conspicuously lacking in the European Union’s plodding, lockstep, risk-averse approach.

But critics argue that Britain could have done much of what it did as an active member of the European Union. The British medical regulator always had the right to approve vaccines, on an emergency basis, faster than the rest of the bloc — as it did last December — and the government always had the freedom to buy doses separately from the bloc, as some other E.U. countries have since done.

The strengths of Britain’s rollout, these critics said, are rooted in its robust scientific establishment, which developed the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine, and its widely revered National Health Service, which has delivered the doses. Neither of those were strengthened by leaving the European Union.

Britain cut its own deal with AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company, which is at the heart of its clash with the European Union, which was slower to make such purchases. Brussels has accused the company of giving Britain preferential treatment at the expense of the bloc.

European leaders will be weighing a plan this week to halt vaccine exports temporarily as a way to demand reciprocity with Britain and other countries, and that could leave Britain — and Mr. Johnson — badly exposed. The country relies heavily on vaccines manufactured in factories in Belgium and other European countries to keep the pace of its inoculations going.

“What Brexit changes is Britain’s ability to protect the overseas parts of its supply chains,” said Mark Malloch Brown, a diplomat and former Labour government minister who chaired an anti-Brexit group, Best for Britain. “The crisis, looked at from the other end, exposes Britain’s vulnerability.”

Britain’s reliance on the European Union goes beyond a steady supply of vaccines. It is by far Britain’s largest trading partner, and the two sides have close links in security and law enforcement. While Mr. Johnson himself has avoided using overtly provocative language against Brussels, he has overseen a rapid deterioration in relations since Britain officially cast off on Jan. 1.

“I’m worried that they’re getting so carried away by the evidence that Brexit was a good thing, that they’re going to carry on dissing Europe,” said Jonathan Powell, who served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair. “Then the next time we need them for something, it’s going to backfire on us.”

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As Europe’s Lockdowns Drag on, Police and Protesters Clash More

LONDON — In Bristol, an English college town where the pubs are usually packed with students, there were fiery clashes between police and protesters. In Kassel, a German city known for its ambitious contemporary art festival, the police unleashed pepper spray and water cannons on anti-lockdown marchers.

A year after European leaders ordered people into their homes to curb a deadly pandemic, thousands are pouring into streets and squares. Often, they are met by batons and shields, raising questions about the tactics and role of police in societies where personal liberties have already given way to public health concerns.

From Spain and Denmark to Austria and Romania, frustrated people are lashing out at the restrictions on their daily lives. With much of Europe facing a third wave of infections that could keep these stifling lockdowns in place weeks or even months longer, analysts warn that tensions on the streets are likely to escalate.

In Britain, where the rapid pace of vaccinations has raised hopes for a faster opening of the economy than the government is willing to countenance, frustration over recent police conduct has swelled into a national debate over the legitimacy of the police — one that carries distant echoes of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.

sense of outrage is the case of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman who was abducted and killed, allegedly by a police officer, while walking home in London. The Metropolitan Police then roughly broke up a vigil for Ms. Everard on the grounds that the participants were violating coronavirus rules on social distancing.

The potential for more such confrontations is high, Mr. Stott said, citing “the warmer weather, duration of the lockdown and increasing dissatisfaction among sections of the community about the imposition of control measures.”

a crowd pulled down the statue of a 17th century slave trader, Edward Colston, and dumped it into Bristol Harbor.

This time, however, he fears that the images of shattered windows and burned police vehicles will help Prime Minister Boris Johnson pass the police law, which has already cleared two key hurdles in Parliament.

“The consequences of what they’ve done is to increase the likelihood of that bill winning support,” Mr. Rees said.

For many in Britain, that would be a bitter irony, given that the pandemic has already led to the greatest restriction of civil liberties in recent memory. Coronavirus regulations that were expected to last no more than a few months have now been in place for a year, causing tensions between police and the public not just at protests, but also at house parties and even with those meeting outside for coffee.

Early in the pandemic, one local police force used drones to shame a couple walking a dog on a lonely path. The owners of gyms and sports clubs were raided by police when they opened against the regulations.

An earlier version of the government’s coronavirus regulations contained a provision that allowed nonviolent protests. But that was removed from a later version, leaving the right to peaceful assembly in a kind of legal limbo. Under the latest draft of the rules, issued on Monday, protests would be allowed under limited circumstances, starting next Monday.

These emergency laws were rushed through Parliament without the scrutiny normally applied to legislation. Lacking a written constitution, Britons who want to take to the streets have to rely on the less clear-cut protection of a human rights act.

By contrast, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court last year upheld the right of its citizens to protest, provided that they adhered to social distancing rules.

“This pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of our unwritten constitution when it comes to certain rights,” said Adam Wagner, a human rights lawyer and expert on the coronavirus rules. “If you take representative democracy from the process of lawmaking, you miss out on key voices.”

The government makes other arguments for the policing bill. Cabinet ministers note, for example, that the security costs of protecting a new high-speed rail link from environmental protesters has been 50 million pounds, or $69 million.

Priti Patel, the home secretary, condemned the clashes in Bristol has “thuggery and disorder” and said protecting the police was the government’s top priority — though not, she added, of some members of the opposition.

“We have been clear that to save lives and fight this pandemic, people must not currently hold large gatherings,” she said in a statement to Parliament. “Too many this weekend selfishly decided that this did not apply to them.”

Further raising the political temperature, the policing bill is moving through Parliament at the same moment as the government’s renewal of its coronavirus regulations, which also drew fire from the libertarian right.

“The Coronavirus Act contains some of the most draconian detention powers in modern British legal history,” said Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group, a caucus of Conservative lawmakers critical of the lockdown rules.

While many say the debate on the role of the police in Britain is overdue, some sympathize with the plight of the officers. They are caught between politicians and the public, with a nebulous constitutional status and a shifting set of rules to enforce, particularly during a public health emergency.

“It’s not the fault of the police that the coronavirus regulations are in part necessarily draconian and in parts unnecessarily draconian,” said Shami Chakrabarti, an expert in civil liberties and a Labour Party politician.

The bigger problem, she said, is that Britain tends to conduct debates about the role of the police after wrenching episodes like a police shooting, the killing of Ms. Everard or the violent clashes in Bristol. This inflames public opinion in one direction or the other, she says, but can get in the way of a thoughtful debate.

“We almost only ever have this discussion in moments of crisis,” Ms. Chakrabarti said, “not in peacetime.”

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