Boris Johnson is already facing a Tory backlash as he prepares to unveil a ‘cautious’ route out of lockdown today – with all schools reopening from March 8 but precious few other easings until Easter.
The PM is set to reveal his ‘roadmap’ in a statement to the Commons this afternoon after it is rubber-stamped by Cabinet – with scientists seemingly having won the battle for a slow approach despite the surging vaccination drive.
The first steps to freedom will prioritise getting children fully back into classrooms in a fortnight’s time, while people will also be able meet one friend or family member in the park for a coffee or a picnic from March 8.
However, the next stage of loosening will not be until March 29, when the Rule of Six will make a comeback – and be extended to allow two households to gather, enabling relatives to meet properly for the first time in months.
That date will also see the reopening of tennis courts and golf courses and the return of grassroots football.
But people will not be allowed to take holidays over the Easter weekend. And shops, hairdressers and pubs are all likely to remain closed until mid-April at the earliest, regardless of mounting fears about the economic meltdown.
The roadmap, which runs to around 60 pages, is set to include modelling supporting the government’s tentative strategy, with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi stressing the relaxation must be ‘gradual’.
It will be published alongside more positive news about the effectiveness of jabs in reducing transmission, with Mr Zahawi saying the evidence ‘looks good’.
But Mr Johnson will run the gauntlet of anger on his own benches this afternoon, as he sets four tests for continuing with any easing including no new concerns emerging about variant strains.
Former chief whip Mark Harper, chair of the 70-strong Tory Covid Recovery Group, said: ‘Keeping restrictions in place ”because a new variant may come along in the future” is a recipe for never unlocking. Ever.’
Children in Scotland and Wales are already returning to classrooms from today, although the move is being staggered.
Business chiefs are urging Mr Johnson to ‘be bold’ to save the economy.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said now was the time ‘to commit to reopening our pubs so that thousands of communities and businesses up and down the country can begin to emerge from this crisis’.
The latest development in the pandemic came as:
- One in three adults have received a Covid jab as the government brings forward its target for vaccinating the whole population to July;
- Scientists have hailed early data showing the vaccines reduce transmission of coronavirus as well as easing its effects;
- Surge testing was introduced in Brentwood, Essex, following the discovery of the South African variant in the area;
- Former Tory leader William Hague said he could not see ‘much justification’ for keeping restrictions in place once the over-50s have been vaccinated by April;
- Latest figures showed 215 Covid deaths were recorded yesterday, down 16.6 per cent week on week, while infections also dropped by 10 per cent to 9,834 cases.
Mr Johnson (pictured today running with dog Dilyn in Westminster) will say today that further restrictions will be lifted in subsequent weeks, as long as they meet a set of four new tests designed to keep the pressure off the NHS
The first steps to freedom from lockdown will prioritise reopening schools and reuniting families, Boris Johnson said last night. On March 8, all pupils will return to the classroom as part of the first of four steps towards getting the country back on its feet.
In two weeks, on March 8, you will be able to meet one friend or family member in the park for a coffee or a picnic for the first time in months (stock photo)
Mr Johnson’s plans for easing lockdown have been bolstered by the latest data whihc shows Covid-19 infection rates have continued to drop, with 9,834 more cases reported – a fall of 10 per cent on last week – while the 215 new daily deaths brought Britain’s total up to 120,580
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi stressed today that the relaxation of lockdown must be ‘gradual’
British Beauty Council chief executive Millie Kendall added: ‘We appeal to the Prime Minister to give us hope we will soon be back to business as usual.’
Mr Johnson will say today that further restrictions will be lifted in subsequent weeks, as long as they meet a set of four new tests designed to keep the pressure off the NHS.
They are that: the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully; evidence shows the jabs are effective at reducing hospital admissions and deaths; infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital cases; and no risky new variants emerge.
He said last night the four tests were currently being met, allowing the first step to go ahead from March 8.
The Prime Minister said he would bring the country out of lockdown ‘cautiously’.
‘Our priority has always been getting children back into school… and we will also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely,’ he said.
But in a blow to many families, they will not be allowed to take holidays over the Easter weekend. And shops, hairdressers and pubs (pictured) are all likely to remain closed until mid-April at the earliest
Close contact services such as hairdressers and beauty parlours were among the last to open during the relaxation of restrictions last year due to the higher risk of infection
Mr Johnson’s roadmap was signed off by senior ministers at a special Covid-S meeting yesterday, and will be rubber-stamped by the Cabinet this morning.
The Prime Minister will give a statement to Parliament in the afternoon, and host a televised press conference in the evening.
Mr Johnson’s roadmap has four steps, with step one coming into force in two parts: March 8 and three weeks later on March 29. The first step focuses on education and providing for a sensible increase in social contact outdoors.
From March 29, as school holidays begin, more social contact will be permitted. Outdoor gatherings of either six people (a reintroduction of the rule of six) or two households can take place.
Also from March 29, outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts will reopen. Organised adult and children’s sport can also return. This will allow grassroots football for all ages to begin again.
Addressing MPs this afternoon, Mr Johnson will set out the latest data on infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths, as well as data showing the vaccines’ efficacy.
He will say that due to the relatively uniform spread of the virus across the country, restrictions will be eased step-by-step across the whole of England at the same time.
The long walk out of lockdown: People happily stroll along the Long Walk in Windsor, Berkshire today as calmer weather prevails across the south of England
An ice cream truck sees a huge queue of customers waiting to buy a treat earlier today in Hampstead Heath as the country enjoyed its hottest day of 2021
Sir Keir Starmer yesterday backed Mr Johnson’s demand that all children should be back in England’s classrooms on March 8, setting himself on a collision course with the unions.
The Labour leader’s stance comes after a coalition of unions and professional bodies warned that reopening schools to all pupils at the same time would be ‘reckless’ and could risk another spike in Covid-19 infections.
But yesterday the unions were accused of bringing the teaching profession ‘into disrepute’ through their hardline stance.
And it emerged that head teachers will be given hundreds of millions of pounds to open classes during the six-week summer break for youngsters who have fallen behind with their education.
Time to be bold, Boris: Hospitality leaders and Tory MPs unite to demand return of pubs by Easter
ByDaniel Martin Policy Editorand Tom Witherow For The Daily Mail
Tory MPs lined up with business leaders last night to urge Boris Johnson to ‘be bold’ and accelerate the lifting of all lockdown restrictions.
Pubs and restaurant owners said they needed to see light at the end of the tunnel after a devastating year for the hospitality industry.
Former Conservative leader Lord Hague heaped further pressure on the Prime Minister by saying there would be little justification for keeping most Covid limits once the over-50s have been vaccinated in April.
This came as 40 Tory MPs joined with the hospitality industry to urge Mr Johnson to open pubs and restaurants in time for Easter.
Former Conservative leader Lord Hague heaped further pressure on the Prime Minister by saying there would be little justification for keeping most Covid limits once the over-50s have been vaccinated in April
Mark Harper, CRG chairman, said: ‘Britain’s hospitality industry has had one of the toughest years on record and it’s vital we do everything we can to get them open in a Covid-secure way that allows them to protect jobs and operate viably’
Meanwhile Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, called on the Prime Minister to open up the tourism industry.
‘There is enormous demand for seeing friends and family, and taking a holiday,’ he said. ‘Passengers and airlines want to see a bold plan detailing how and when they will be able to take to the skies, safely, again.’
Some people are on the (tug-o-war) pitch… they think it’s all over!
As the old saying goes, if you give them enough rope… but this dozen-strong group didn’t even need that as they engaged in a tug-o-war just by linking arms and joining hands.
While the contestants in the park certainly put their own spin on the test-of-strength challenge, they may also have had their own interpretation of the Covid restrictions.
While it is unknown whether they are from the same household, exercise with only one other person from a different household is permitted. It is also against the law to leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with.
As well as the tug-o-war game on Hampstead Heath in north London, the unusually clement February weather saw crowds flock to Regent’s Park and Richmond Park. Many Britons decided to make the most of the sunshine as it was announced that Covid infection rates had fallen by 10 per cent on the previous week.
But the warm weather appeared to encourage some to neglect lockdown rules. According to current restrictions, outdoor gatherings must be limited to just two people from two households. Those found breaking the rules can be given a fixed penalty notice of £200.
With Boris Johnson outlining his roadmap for steering the nation out of its third national lockdown today, a relaxation of rules surrounding exercise and meeting people outdoors is expected to come on March 29.
Lord Hague told Sky News: ‘I’m hoping to hear that before too long the great majority of restrictions can be lifted.
‘If we are going to reach the point where everybody over 50 has had the opportunity to be vaccinated and the number of cases is down to a very low level, the sort of level we last saw in the middle of summer last year.
‘If both of those things have happened by some time in April, then there wouldn’t be much justification for keeping most of the restrictions.
‘Coming in through 2021, we ought to be in a position with mass testing, a test and trace system and the huge success of the vaccination programme… then we do have the tools to prevent future lockdowns.’
Last night the UK’s leading hospitality trade associations joined forces with the Covid Recovery Group of 40 Tory MPs to call for the sector to open by Easter.
Mark Harper, CRG chairman, said: ‘Britain’s hospitality industry has had one of the toughest years on record and it’s vital we do everything we can to get them open in a Covid-secure way that allows them to protect jobs and operate viably.
‘As we get better and better news about the pace of the vaccination rollout, the public have got to see this success and their sacrifice translating into a return to normal life.’
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the CRG, said pubs and the rest of the hospitality industry had lost hundreds of thousands of jobs ‘and 40 per cent of its businesses are due to fail this year if we don’t start safely lifting restrictions’.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: ‘Pubs demonstrated last year that the trade was able to reopen safely.
‘The millions of pounds of investment in Covid-secure measures mean that we’re in a great position to do so again.’
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said ‘just one in five hospitality businesses’ have enough funds to survive the next month.
‘That is why we urge the Prime Minister to work with us on delivering a safe, swift and sustainable exit from lockdown for hospitality,’ she added. ‘The best way to support these businesses is to allow them to reopen.’
John Foster, of the Confederation of British Industry, said that companies are looking to Mr Johnson to ‘provide a pragmatic route out of lockdown and inject some real momentum back into the economy’.
Expert claims Britain could ALREADY have herd immunity amid huge 82% reduction in Covid infections in just six weeks with 17million vaccinated and one in five carrying antibodies
ByJames Robinson for MailOnline
A leading academic has today said herd immunity could be a factor in the huge drop in Covid cases in the UK, as it was announced more than 17million Britons have now been vaccinated, while 1 in 5 people in England are already said to have coronavirus antibodies.
Infection figures in the UK have tumbled in the past six weeks, falling 82 per cent – from 68,053 new cases reported on January 8, to 12,057 on February 18.
It comes as figures published today show there have been 9,834 new Covid cases – a fall of 10 per cent on last week.
Meanwhile, nearly one in five adults in England – the equivalent of 8.3million people – had Covid antibodies at the beginning of February, a major surveillance study revealed this week.
A leading academic has today said herd immunity could be a factor in the huge drop in Covid cases in the UK, as it was announced more than 17million Britons have now been vaccinated
The prediction could heap pressure on the Government to end the current lockdown, with Boris Johnson set to outline his road-map for ending restrictions on Monday
And today it was announced more than 17million of Britain’s most vulnerable residents had received their first dose of the Covid vaccine since the UK’s jab rollout began.
One leading epidemiologist, who asked not to be named having previously suffered abuse for airing their views on the effectiveness of lockdown, said they believed more than 50 per cent of the UK could now have some protection against the virus.
A THIRD of all English adults have had a Covid jab boosting hopes of a swift end to lockdown – but Matt Hancock says ‘time needs to be taken’
A third of all adults in England have now been vaccinated against coronavirus, Matt Hancock revealed today – as he insisted that the lifting of the lockdown must be done carefully.
The Health Secretary revealed that one-in-three people over 16 had now been given on of the life-saving jabs, a boost to the country ahead of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown that will be unveiled tomorrow.
Mr Hancock confirmed this morning that every adult in the country will be offered at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of July.
The Government previously said it hoped to reach all those aged 18 and over by the autumn, but Mr Johnson aims to greatly accelerate the successful campaign.
Mr Hancock also confirmed that everyone over 50 will be offered at least a first dose by April 15, rather than by May, as previously suggested.
But he warned that the Government would take its time lifting the coronavirus lockdown, saying it was ‘right to be cautious’ with 20,000 people still in hospital.
Speaking to Times Radio today he said coronavirus restrictions will be eased with ‘weeks between the steps’, suggesting that after schools reopen on March 8 there may be few other changes before April.
Mr Hancock also said social distancing measures and the wearing of face coverings is likely to remain for a while.
Asked earlier bout the speed of the lockdown lifting, he told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday: ‘It is right to be cautious, it is incredibly important. There are still almost 20,000 people in the hospital with Covid right now. Almost 20,000.
‘The vaccination programme whilst clearly going very well, will take time to be able to reach all people who have significant vulnerability, especially because we also need to get the second jab to everybody.
‘So we have got time that needs to be taken to get this right, the PM will set out the roadmap tomorrow and he will set out the full details, taking into account that we need to take a cautious but irreversible approach, that’s the goal.’
And the professor said the huge drop in recent infection figures could be a result of the UK reaching its herd immunity threshold – where the number of people with protection against the virus outweighs its ability to spread among the population.
The prediction could heap pressure on the Government to end the current lockdown, with Boris Johnson set to outline his road-map for ending restrictions on Monday.
And it follows similar suggestions in America, where one top doctor told the Wall Street Journal this week that the US could achieve herd immunity ‘by April’.
Speaking to MailOnline, the academic said: ‘It’s a strong possibility that we could already have it (herd immunity), not just in the UK.
‘It is possible that is what is having an impact. With the vaccine, we do not have the data yet, apart from some data from AstraZeneca, to show if it stops transmission.
‘The vaccine, at the moment it seems, is protecting people from going to hospital and that’s what you need.
On the possible impact of lockdown, the professor said: ‘I could create a model which shows that this is down to lockdown or I can create one which says it is down to herd immunity.
‘The likelihood is it is could be down to both.
‘But the Government is continuing its messaging which is to stay in lockdown, which causes other problems and could impact on herd immunity.’
Herd immunity, the professor said, would not stop Covid completely because the virus is ‘here to stay’.
But they said it would keep Covid-19 at a manageable level within the community – like with other forms of coronavirus and the flu.
‘That’s the destination. If we can get to a place where there are no deaths and we are living with Covid-19, which is what we do with other diseases and with other coronavirus forms which people have not heard of – for exactly that reason,’ the professor added.
It comes as a US doctor claimed that America will have ‘herd immunity by April’.
Dr Marty Makary, from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University, said he believes the US could be just months away from herd immunity.
And, writing in a Wall Street Journal editorial, the top doctor said America was ‘racing toward an extremely low level of infection’.
He believes when the number of Americans vaccinated is combined with the number of people who may already have been infected, that the number of people with some form of Covid immunity is high.
‘At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life,’ he wrote in Wall Street Journal last week.
His comments come after cases in the US tumbled by 77 per cent over the past six weeks. The country is not in a nationwide lockdown, with states and cities setting their own Covid rules.
However many areas, including densely populated New York, have lifted restrictions, with bars and restaurants open, while states such as Delaware are allowing indoor activities of up to 50 people to take place.
In the UK, which has been in lockdown since early January, infection figures have fallen by 82 per cent in the last six weeks – from 68,053 new cases reported on January 8, to just 2,057 on February 18.
The percentage of the population who have already had Covid-19 is also similar between the UK and the US.
More than 4million people in the UK have tested positive for Covid since the pandemic began – around 7 per cent of the UK’s population.
In America, more than 28million Americans have tested positive – around 8.5 per cent of the overall population.
In terms of vaccination rollouts, the UK is further ahead than the US in terms of percentage of the population vaccinated.
Britain has already vaccinated more than 17.2million of its most vulnerable residents since December – more than a quarter of the population.
The US has vaccinated around 61million of its 328million residents, around 18.9 per cent of the population.
Across the globe cases fell by 16 per cent last week and have been in decline for over a month.
World Health Organization (WHO) figures show the number of new Covid cases fell by 16 per cent worldwide last week to 2.7million.
Rules on leaving the house in lockdown
- You cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).
- You may exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble.
- You should not meet other people you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, unless for a permitted reason.
- Stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household.
Detailed guidance on the national lockdown:
You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice).
You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes:
- Work – you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home
- Volunteering – you can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services
- Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating
- Education and childcare – you can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend.
- Meeting others and care – you can leave home to visit people in your support bubble ( if you are legally permitted to form one), to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work), to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people
- Exercise – you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble, limited to once per day, and not outside your local area
- Medical reasons – you can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies
- Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse).
- You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment
- Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment
- Communal worship and life events – You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony.
There are further reasonable excuses. For example, you may leave home to fulfil legal obligations or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or where it is reasonably necessary for voting in an election or referendum.