High Street shops are set to reopen in WEEKS if Covid-19 infection rates keep plummeting amid vaccine rollout
- Plans to ease lockdown boosted by figures showing dramatic vaccine impact
- Growing hope that families will be able to meet outside by Easter
- Prime Minister said number of new cases already dropped ‘very considerably’
High Street shops will be allowed to reopen within weeks if Covid infection rates keep dropping.
Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having.
And there is growing hope families will be able to meet outside by Easter as restrictions are gradually lifted. Boris Johnson last night confirmed the country had hit its target of 15million vaccinations two days ahead of schedule.
The Prime Minister said the number of new cases has already dropped ‘very considerably’, preparing the way for lockdown measures to be relaxed. ‘Thanks to the efforts of the British people, the lockdown, plus possibly the effect of the vaccine, we’re going to see the rates coming down more sharply,’ he said.
Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having. Pictured: A packed high street during December last year before the latest lockdown was imposed
‘They’re falling at the moment, we want to be in a position where we can begin to open up.’
In the interview with US television network CBS, Mr Johnson added: ‘What people want to see is clarity about the way forward, and taking steps to unlock, which you don’t then have to reverse.’
The Prime Minister will publish a detailed roadmap setting out his plan for lifting the national lockdown in England next Monday, starting on March 8 with the return of schools and allowing people to meet one friend for coffee on a park bench.
The blueprint will avoid setting hard-and-fast dates for subsequent stages, but will lay out the sequence in which restrictions will be lifted.
Boris Johnson last night confirmed the country had hit its target of 15million vaccinations two days ahead of schedule. Pictured: An empty high street in March last year
The Prime Minister said the number of new cases has already dropped ‘very considerably’, preparing the way for lockdown measures to be relaxed
The reopening of high street shops, which have been closed since at least the start of January, will come next after schools.
Government sources expect this will happen towards the end of March, or the beginning of April at the latest.
Dominic Raab suggests vaccine passports could be needed for SHOPS
Downing Street slapped down Dominic Raab yesterday after he suggested vaccine passports could be required before going into shops and restaurants.
The Foreign Secretary said the Government was considering their use at a ‘domestic or local level’.
The comments came as a surprise as ministers have repeatedly ruled out the use of vaccine passports in the UK.
Officials are working on plans to use documentation that proves someone has had the jab for international travel. Asked if it could be required to enter supermarkets, Mr Raab told LBC radio: ‘It’s something that hasn’t been ruled out. It’s under consideration.
‘But of course you’ve got to make it workable… when I’ve looked at this, whether it’s on an international, domestic or local level, you’ve got to know the document being presented is something you can rely on.’
Last night a No 10 source said the Government was not considering vaccine passports for domestic use.
Former prime minister Tony Blair yesterday said the UK should create a global Covid vaccination passport scheme before hosting the G7 summit in June.
He wrote in the Mail on Sunday: ‘The need is obvious. The world is moving in this direction.’
Mr Johnson also wants to bring back the rule of six for outdoor gatherings, which would allow families to meet in groups for walks or picnics.
But at first, travel restrictions will remain in place meaning people will only be able to see relatives who live nearby. Eventually, all remaining businesses including pubs and restaurants will be allowed to open their doors. In other developments:
- The UK recorded 10,972 new Covid-19 cases and another 258 deaths, down 30 per cent from the previous week’s total of 373 and the lowest number since Boxing Day;
- A travel industry campaign group, called Save Our Summer, has demanded international travel is allowed to resume from May 1;
- Pub bosses dismissed proposals to allow customers in beer gardens only as ‘laughable’ and called on ministers to let them fully reopen their doors in April;
- There were fears of chaotic scenes at airports as Britain’s new hotel quarantine scheme for travellers came into force today;
- MPs demanded ministers publish an assessment of the economic impact of different routes out of lockdown;
- Downing Street slapped down Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab after he suggested people could have to show vaccine passports before being allowed into shops and restaurants.
No 10 officials are working on three different plans for unlocking based on the health data – optimistic, moderate, and gloomy. The speed restrictions are lifted will depend on infection rates, hospital admissions and deaths.
Ministers are waiting to receive figures this week showing the effect the vaccine is having on transmission. A leading epidemiologist yesterday said early indications show a single vaccine dose offers protection from the virus after three weeks for 67 per cent of those inoculated.
Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, who runs the Zoe Covid-19 surveillance app, said if the results from 50,000 people are replicated amongst the wider population we will ‘have really knocked this virus on the head’.
Yesterday Mr Raab rejected what he described as an ‘arbitrary’ demand from some Tory backbenchers for a lifting of all restrictions in England by the end of April. More than 60 MPs in the Covid Recovery Group backed a letter to the PM that said schools ‘must’ return on March 8 as planned with pubs and restaurants opening in a ‘commercially viable manner’ from Easter.
Mr Raab, however, said while ministers wanted to lift controls as quickly as possible, it was essential to ensure the disease was under control first.
Tom Ironside, of the British Retail Consortium, said last night: ‘As soon as the Government announce retail can reopen, shops will be ready to do so safely.’