“People can be cross because they are tired,” said Andrew Gimson, one of Mr. Johnson’s biographers. “He was exhausted and he’d been through a near-fatal illness, from which he had not fully recovered when he made that remark.”

Others, however, predicted that the flap over Mr. Johnson’s refurbishment of his apartment would throw a harsh spotlight on his sense of impunity, lack of transparency and unwillingness to make do with the perks offered a prime minister.

Mr. Johnson already has access to an annual public grant of £30,000 ($41,600) to upgrade his quarters. Newspaper reports say he augmented that with funds from a Conservative Party donor because Ms. Symonds wanted to get rid of the furniture used by his predecessor, Theresa May, which had been described as being in the style of the British department store, John Lewis.

The government insists Mr. Johnson paid for the upgrade out of his own pocket, though it is unclear whether he repaid money from the donor. However it was financed, the couple’s apparent disdain for John Lewis-style décor may sit badly with ordinary people, for whom the store is a symbol of bourgeois prosperity.

“Johnson has always stayed one step ahead of the sheriff,” Mr. Powell said. “But at some stage in No. 10, you can’t get away with lies that can be proven to be lies.”

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‘It’s a Paper Tiger.’ Britain’s Lobby Laws Under Fire as Johnson Fights ‘Sleaze’ Label

LONDON — Still riding high from Britain’s successful vaccine rollout and a politically shrewd campaign to kill off a proposed European soccer super league, Prime Minister Boris Johnson now confronts thorny questions about how he and other senior officials have dealt with efforts to lobby the government.

For a politician who gleefully defies convention and rarely plays by the rules, it amounts to a return to normality.

The latest questions involve text messages that Mr. Johnson traded with a wealthy British businessman, James Dyson, over his plan to manufacture ventilators in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The story took a juicy turn on Friday after British papers reported that the messages were leaked by Mr. Johnson’s disgruntled former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

On Friday, Mr. Cummings fired back, writing on his personal blog that he did not have the text messages that were leaked, though he did have copies of other texts between Mr. Johnson and Mr. Dyson. He also claimed that Downing Street falsely accused him of leaking details about a decision to impose a lockdown last fall.

Greensill Capital, that was seeking loans from the British government.

The government rebuffed the requests, but Mr. Cameron’s level of access — and the fact that he did not break any laws — alarmed critics, who said it revealed the inadequacy of the rules governing lobbying by former officials. The same is true, they said, of the code of conduct for the prime minister and his cabinet members.

“It’s a paper tiger system,” said Jill Rutter, a former civil servant who is now a senior research fellow at the U.K. in a Changing Europe, a think tank based in London. “If anyone wants to push it, it falls over in a heap.”

The guidelines on civil servants, she said, needed to be updated as the government has recruited more people with business skills, who tend to rotate in an out of government jobs. The Ministerial Code, which sets out standards of conduct, is a toothless document that says nothing about lobbying, she said, and can be rewritten or discarded by the prime minister.

Some analysts drew a distinction between the Greensill affair and Mr. Johnson’s texts with Mr. Dyson. The government had pressed his company, which is based in Singapore and is known for its high-end vacuums, to produce ventilators to avert a shortfall in hospitals overrun with Covid patients. Mr. Dyson agreed, at some cost to the company, but wanted to make sure that employees who moved to Britain to carry out the job would not be penalized by the tax laws.

“Dyson was reasonable in asking that his team not be disadvantaged by doing that in the emergency,” said Bronwen Maddox, director of the Institute for Government, a think tank in London. “What is questionable is the ease of access to the P.M. it revealed, and how he has declined to follow the normal practice of changing phones in office.”

Holding on to his cellphone — and using it to send WhatsApp messages to a pro-Brexit businessman — is hardly the only way Mr. Johnson has flouted convention. After his election victory in 2019, he and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, vacationed on the chic Caribbean island of Mustique. Mr. Johnson claimed another wealthy businessman picked up the tab of £15,000 ($20,785), which the businessman denied.

The opposition Labour Party has seized on the allegations of cronyism to paint a portrait of a Conservative government awash in corruption. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, hammered Mr. Johnson in Parliament for what his party considers a pattern of dubious behavior, including handing out lucrative contracts for protective medical equipment to well-connected firms.

“Sleaze, sleaze, sleaze,” Mr. Starmer thundered, “and it’s all on his watch.”

How much these scandals will hurt Mr. Johnson is another question. By now, analysts said, his peccadilloes are so well established that little will change public views of him. The Conservative Party has widened its lead over Labour in recent polls, as the government has reaped credit for the vaccine rollout. And Mr. Johnson’s opposition to the soccer Super League burnished his populist credentials.

But Professor Bale said that as the disclosures accumulate, they can have a “snowball effect.” Prime Minister John Major, Mr. Johnson’s 1990s forebear, enjoyed a reputation as an honest politician. A string of scandals involving members of his government and the Conservative Party eventually ravaged that reputation.

The changing political environment may have played a role in Downing Street’s decision to abandon a plan to hold White House-style televised briefings. Mr. Johnson’s aides had billed the briefings as proof of the government’s transparency and spent £2.6 million ($3.5 million) to build a wood-paneled briefing room.

But earlier this week, the sessions were quietly shelved. Allegra Stratton, the press secretary hired to go before the cameras, was reassigned to be the spokeswoman for the United Nations’ climate change conference, which Britain is hosting in Glasgow in November. Officials said Mr. Johnson would still use the briefing room for his own encounters with the press.

If his most recent news conference is any indication, those may become scratchier. On Monday, a reporter asked Mr. Johnson whether he had acted with “honesty and integrity” in his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri, an American woman who claims to have had an affair with Mr. Johnson when he was mayor of London.

“Yes,” he replied tersely.

Alastair Campbell, who served as press secretary to Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the political dynamic had changed since Mr. Johnson’s aides conceived the idea of televised briefings last fall. Then, during the depths of the pandemic, press criticism of the government was restrained by the sense of national crisis.

“Its arrival has coincided with a time when, finally, a few journalists are starting to show a little more robustness,” Mr. Campbell said. “The Cameron-Greensill story has unleashed untapped concern at the nature of the governing party.”

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In Chaos of Super League Fiasco, Johnson Seizes an Opportunity to Score

LONDON — Fans loathed it, politicians opposed it and even Prince William warned of the damage it risked “to the game we love.”

So swift and ferocious was the backlash to a plan to create a new super league for European soccer that on Wednesday six of England’s most famous clubs were in disarray, issuing abject apologies as they disowned the failed breakaway project they had pledged to join.

Yet not everyone was a loser. For Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, the crisis has presented a rare opportunity to seize the moral high ground on an issue that matters to many of the voters who helped him to a landslide victory in the 2019 election.

Threatening to use any means he could to block the plan, Mr. Johnson positioned himself as the defender of the working-class soccer fans whose forebears created England’s soccer clubs — and the enemy of the billionaire owners who now dominate the English game.

international soccer authorities threatened reprisals against the super league clubs and players, their position was untenable, he said.

announced in 2019 that it would move its headquarters to Singapore, citing growing demand in Asia.

In recent months, the successful roll out of vaccines against Covid-19 has revived Mr. Johnson’s fortunes after a succession of missteps last year when the government’s handling of the pandemic faltered.

So prevalent is soccer now in Britain’s national life that it cropped up then, too.

In April 2020, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, attacked highly paid soccer players, calling on them to “take a pay cut and play their part,” during the pandemic. But within months the government was outmaneuvered by Marcus Rashford, a star player for Manchester United and England.

Invoking his own poor childhood, Mr. Rashford galvanized a campaign against child poverty, and ultimately forced Mr. Johnson to change policy over free school meals.

This week the boot was on the other foot as Mr. Johnson was able to condemn the super league plans before Mr. Rashford, whose club initially signed up to the proposals.

It required no expertise to be “horrified” at the prospect of the super league “being cooked up by a small number of clubs.,” wrote Mr. Johnson in the Sun newspaper.

“Football clubs in every town and city and at every tier of the pyramid have a unique place at the heart of their communities, and are an unrivaled source of passionate local pride,” he added.

Never a big soccer fan himself, Mr. Johnson framed his opposition to the plan in his belief in competition.

Each year the three worst performing clubs are relegated from England’s Premier League — its top domestic tier — while the top ones qualify to play in European competitions the following season. The European Super League proposal would have seen a number of big soccer clubs becoming permanent members — something that Mr. Johnson likened to creating a cartel.

In fact, when England’s first Football League was established in 1888 it was on a similar model and its membership was not selected on merit, said Matthew Taylor, professor of history at De Montfort University, Leicester who has written widely on soccer.

Yet the furor over the European Super League illustrates the growing role soccer has played in national life in recent decades.

“In the last 15-20 years it seems to be so pervasive and so significant to British culture — very broadly defined — that politicians have to say something,” Professor Taylor said.

No longer does it seem odd for politicians and members of the government “to make statements on issues that 40-50 years ago would have been seen as private matters,” he added.

That change first became noticeable under Tony Blair’s premiership as the growing success of the English Premier League, combined with the country’s “cool Britannia” branding, gave soccer a great profile.

But soccer can be dangerous territory too for politicians. Mr. Cameron was much mocked when he once appeared to forget his long-running claim to support the Birmingham team Aston Villa and seemed to suggest he favored a rival that played in similar colors.

Mr. Johnson, who appears to prefer rugby to soccer, has avoided that fate by never declaring his allegiance to any team.

But suggestions that the government might legislate to control the ownership of clubs seemed to conflict with Mr. Johnson’s free-market instincts.

Although a Saudi Arabian plan to buy the Premier League club Newcastle United ultimately failed, Mr. Johnson promised the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, that he would investigate a holdup to the proposed take over, according to British media reports.

“One of the many dishonesties in all this is that it would allow money to corrupt football,” said Professor Menon, referring to the European Super League plan. “Money has already corrupted football. Rich clubs get richer.”

The professor said he believed that very little would ultimately change because any substantial intervention would upset the successful operations of the Premier League, and therefore annoy fans.

But Professor Taylor pointed to Germany as a successful alternative model, and said that in threatening to intervene in the running of soccer Mr. Johnson might ultimately disappoint some of those who are applauding him now.

“Having made such a significant and bold statement, I don’t think this discussion will go away now,” Professor Taylor.

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U.N. Panel Calls British Report on Race a Repackaging of ‘Tropes’

GENEVA — United Nations human rights experts on Monday issued a devastating critique of a report on race published last month by the British government, accusing its authors of repackaging racist tropes, distorting history and normalizing white supremacy.

“In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent,” the U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said in a statement that was endorsed by another U.N. expert monitoring contemporary forms of racism.

The British report, which was commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in response to the outpouring of protest that followed the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, concluded that Britain did not suffer from institutional racism and instead offered “a model for other white-majority countries.”

Racism still existed but discrimination in Britain, it argued, was more a result of socio-economic inequities than skin color.

The five-member United Nations panel, chaired by an American attorney and rights activist, Dominique Day, and including human rights experts from the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, said the report drew on dubious evidence to rationalize white supremacy and ignored the findings of other United Nations panels and human rights experts.

It agreed that racial disparities may not always stem from racism or racial discrimination, but asserted “there is also compelling evidence that the roots of these disparities lie in institutional racism and structural discrimination as they clearly do not reflect the preferences or priorities of the communities facing structural disadvantage.”

The panel urged the British government to categorically reject the findings of its commission, warning that its historical distortions and falsehoods “may license further racism, the promotion of negative racial stereotypes, and racial discrimination.”

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Britain Rejoices and Asks: Are Lockdowns Finally Finished?

LONDON — In China it was fengcheng. In Spain it was el confinamiento. In France it was le confinement. In Britain it was known as lockdown, plain and simple — but it had the distinction of being one of the longest and most stringent in the world.

On Monday, that finally began drawing to an end.

After months of coronavirus restrictions that encroached on almost every aspect of daily life, the English celebrated a hopeful new chapter, many of them in what seemed the most fitting way possible: with a pint at a pub.

“It’s like being out of prison,” said Kate Asani, who was sitting at a small table with two friends in the back garden of the Carlton Tavern in the Kilburn area of London, where they basked in each other’s company as much as in the sunshine.

For people across Europe, struggling with yet another wave of the pandemic and demoralized by a vaccine rollout that, outside of Britain, has been deeply troubled, this is hardly a time to rejoice.

Images from the ghostly streets of Wuhan riveted the world’s attention, and it soon became clear that the virus respected no national borders. But there was debate over whether Western democracies could — or should — resort to the extreme measures taken by Beijing.

As hospitals struggled to deal with a flood of patients and death tolls soared, the debate was overtaken by the undeniable reality that traditional methods of infectious disease control, like testing and contact tracing, had failed.

And so lockdowns became a way of life.

held out longer than many of its European neighbors, entered its first national lockdown on March 26, 2020.

Although it is difficult to compare lockdowns, researchers at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford have developed a system ranking their stringency. They found that Britain had spent 175 days at its “maximum stringency level.”

“In this sense, we can say that the U.K. is globally unique in spending the longest period of time at a very high level of stringency,” said Thomas Hale, an associate professor of global public policy at Oxford.

2,500 cases and 36 fatalities.

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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