Boris Johnson finally reveals his roadmap out of lockdown

Boris Johnson defied huge pressure from Tories and business today to unveil an ultra-cautious ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown – with schools reopening in a fortnight but little else set to change for months.

Announcing his long-awaited four-phase exit strategy, the PM warned the ‘threat remains’ and cases, hospitalisations and deaths will rise in the coming months as no vaccines can offer 100 per cent protection for the whole population. 

‘At every stage our decisions will be led by data not dates,’ the premier told MPs. 

Mr Johnson said there will be a five-week gap between the main steps in the roadmap, even longer than had been anticipated. He said it takes four weeks to assess the impact of each step, and the country needs a week’s notice for changes. Going any faster could mean having to reimpose the lockdown, he said.

‘I won’t take that risk,’ Mr Johnson said. 

He admitted that the surging vaccine drive had encouraged many to think it is possible to ‘go faster’.

‘I understand their frustration and I sympathise very much with the exhaustion and the stress that people are experiencing and businesses are experiencing… but to them I say the end really is in sight.’ 

The PM confirmed that all schools will reopen from March 8.

But secondary pupils will need to wear masks in class for ‘weeks’ after the move – and there are precious few other easings until Easter, with scientists seemingly having won the battle for a slow approach. 

The only other relaxation to come with schools returning is permission to meet socially with one friend or family member in the park for a coffee or a picnic.

The next stage of loosening will not be until March 29, when the formal Stay at Home edict is finally dropped in favour of ‘Stay Local’, and the Rule of Six makes a comeback. It will 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 shops, hairdressers and pubs must remain closed until April 12 at the earliest – the same time gyms can get back up and running – regardless of mounting fears about the economic meltdown. Even at that point pints and meals can only be consumed outdoors. 

Campsites and holiday lets can reopen for single households from April 12 – but international travel is completely off the cards until at least May 17.

And social distancing rules will stay in force until June 21 at the minimum, with a government review to decide their future after that. The decision means that grandparents face months of waiting before they can hug their grandchildren – even though millions have already been vaccinated.

Another review will be held at that point to decide whether a system of vaccine certificates could be deployed within the UK to help open up the economy, something the government has previously said it is not considering.

Sports can start to return from May 17, although venues will need to work on reduced capacities.

Up to 30 people can go to weddings from the same date, but are stuck at that number until the next phase of the roadmap.

Only at June 21 will all legal limits on social contact go, and the remaining elements of the hospitality sector be allowed to open. The PM stressed that he is being driven by ‘data not dates’ and the timeline is not guaranteed.

The blueprint, which runs to 60 pages, includes a raft of modelling supporting the government’s tentative strategy. It was published alongside further positive news about the effectiveness of jabs in reducing transmission. A major study published today found they were working ‘spectacularly well’ and cutting hospital admissions by as much as 95 per cent. 

But Mr Johnson ran the gauntlet of anger on his own benches this afternoon, as he set four tests for continuing with any easing including no new concerns emerging about variant strains. The other criteria are the vaccine rollout going well, jabs being effective at reducing hospital admissions and deaths, and avoiding a surge in hospital cases. 

Notably the rules do not mean that the loosening must stop if infections rise – as ministers believe they inevitably will when schools open. Instead the focus will be on serious illness that increases pressure on the NHS, with the goal of keeping the R number below one apparently downgraded. 

Mr Johnson dropped a strong hint that furlough could be extended beyond the end of April amid the slow relaxation, saying the government will keep doing ‘all it takes’ to prop up jobs and firms.  

The latest development in the pandemic came as: 

  • Covid cases have risen for the first time in six weeks with 10,641 new infections in 24 hours, while deaths tumbled to 178 in the lowest toll since December 13. The UK’s vaccine rollout also dished out just 150,000 jabs in its worst performance yet; 
  • Couples and suppliers must wait until March 8 to have weddings and receptions with up to just six people – with unrestricted big days not set to occur before June 21; 
  • Teaching unions have demanded Boris Johnson scrap his plan to reopen all schools in England on March 8 in favour of a more cautious phased return to classrooms; 
  • Mr Zahawi said that the government was hoping this will be the last ‘severe’ coronavirus lockdown in England; 
  • Labour has insisted it supports schools reopening in full on March 8 despite opposition from teaching unions and Sir Keir Starmer saying there must be a considered approach; 
  • 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;
  • The funeral of Captain Sir Tom Moore will be held on Saturday, in what the family said would be a ‘small’ service; 
  • Surge testing was introduced in Brentwood, Essex, following the discovery of the South African variant in the area. 

Announcing his long-awaited four-phase exit strategy, the PM warned the 'threat remains' and cases, hospitalisations and deaths will rise in the coming months as no vaccines can offer 100 per cent protection for the whole population

Announcing his long-awaited four-phase exit strategy, the PM warned the ‘threat remains’ and cases, hospitalisations and deaths will rise in the coming months as no vaccines can offer 100 per cent protection for the whole population

Boris Johnson said he will be 'cautious'

Mr Johnson said the country's 'sacrifices' must not be in vain

Mr Johnson said the country’s ‘sacrifices’ during the coronavirus pandemic must not be in vain

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi stressed today that the relaxation of lockdown must be 'gradual'

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi stressed today that the relaxation of lockdown must be ‘gradual’

How will lockdown ease in the roadmap?  

Step One Part One: March 8

From March 8, all pupils and students will return to schools and colleges across England.

So-called wrap-around childcare will also be allowed to resume, paving the way for after and before school clubs to reopen.

People will be allowed to meet one other person outside for recreation, for example, to have a picnic or to meet for coffee.

Care home residents will be able to have one regular named visitor.

The Government’s stay at home order will remain in place, with travel for non-essential purposes still banned.

Step One Part Two: March 29

From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed. These gatherings will be allowed to happen in private gardens.

Outdoor sports like tennis and basketball will be allowed to reopen and people will also be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

It is at this point that the Government’s stay at home guidance will end, to be replaced by ministers encouraging people to ‘stay local’.

However, the Government is expected not to define what constitutes local, instead choosing to rely on people using their common sense to decide on journeys.

People will still be told to work from home wherever possible while international travel will still be banned unless it is for essential purposes.

Step Two: April 12

Nom-essential retail will be allowed to reopen as well as personal care premises like hairdressers, barbers and nail salons.

Public buildings like libraries, museums and art galleries will be allowed to welcome back customers.

Meanwhile, hospitality venues and outdoor attractions like theme parks will be given the green light to reopen in some form.

However, there will still be rules on household mixing: Essentially any activity which involves being indoors will be restricted to members of the same household.

Gyms and swimming pools will also reopen from April 12 but only on the basis that people go on their own or with their own household.

Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen but at this point they will only be able to have customers outdoors.

Any visits to a pub or restuarant will have to comply with the rules on social contact, so no more than two households or the rule of six.

The Government will not be bringing back the old requirement for people to order a substantial meal with alcohol while the old 10pm curfew will be ditched.

All customers at hospitality venues will also have to be seated when they order food or drink, with ordering at the bar prohibited.

Campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can also reopen but trips must be restricted a single household.

Funerals will be allowed to continue with up to 30 people, while the rules on wedding receptions will be eased to allow the number of guests to increase from six to 15.

Step Three: May 17

The two household and rule of six requirements for outdoor gatherings will be ditched but gatherings of more than 30 people in places like parks will still be banned.

Crucially, mixing indoors will be allowed again. The rule of six or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed to meet.

However, this will be kept under review by ministers to see if rules could be relaxed still further.

This is also the point at which pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to open indoors, with the rule of six and two household limit in place. But groups meeting outdoors at pubs will be allowed to be bigger.

Entertainment venues like cinemas and children’s play areas will be able to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs. Indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes can also reopen.

Changes will also be made to sporting and performance events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half full

Mr Johnson said the road map will ‘guide us cautiously but irreversibly towards reclaiming our freedoms’.

In the Commons, he said: ‘The threat remains substantial with the numbers in hospital only now beginning to fall below the peak of the first wave in April.

‘But we are able to take these steps because of the resolve of the British people and the extraordinary success of our NHS in vaccinating more than 17.5 million people across the UK.’

Mr Johnson said ‘no vaccine can ever be 100 per cent effective’.

He told MPs: ‘So, as the modelling released by Sage today shows, we cannot escape the fact that lifting lockdown will result in more cases, more hospitalisations and sadly more deaths.

‘And this would happen whenever lockdown is lifted – whether now or in six or nine months – because there will always be some vulnerable people who are not protected by the vaccines.

‘There is therefore no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain, or indeed, a zero-Covid world and we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing and the life chances of our children.’

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He said he will not take the risk of having to reimpose restrictions as a result of lifting lockdown at a quicker pace.

He told the Commons: ‘The chief medical officer is clear that moving any faster would mean acting before we know the impact of each step, which would increase the risk of us having to reverse course and reimpose restrictions, I won’t take that risk.

‘Step one will happen from March 8, by which time those in the top four priority groups will be benefiting from the increasing protection they receive from their first dose of the vaccine.’

Mr Johnson suggested people should not give up hope of summer holidays abroad in response to calls from Conservative former prime minister Theresa May to assist the aviation sector.

Mrs May said: ‘He says there’s going to be a taskforce report by April 12 so people can plan for the summer – that won’t allow people to plan.

‘At every stage the Government has taken weeks from these reports to actually provide certainty to the industry. The industry needs three months’ preparation from the point of certainty.’

She asked Mr Johnson to ‘look again’ at the timetable and bring it forward to ‘open up our international air travel and make sure that Britain is open for business’.

Mr Johnson said the Government will continue to support the sector, adding: ‘I believe setting a deadline of April 12 for the report of the reconstituted travel taskforce will give people time to make their plans for the summer.

‘If things go well, if we can meet these not before dates, then I do believe there is every chance of an aviation recovery later on this year.’

In a heavy hint at an extension of furlough, Mr Johnson said: ‘In view of these cautious but, I hope, irreversible changes, people may be concerned about what these changes mean for the various support packages for livelihoods, for people and the economy.

‘So I want to reassure the House we will not pull the rug out – for the duration of the pandemic the Government will continue to do whatever it takes to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK.

‘And the Chancellor will set out further details in the Budget next Wednesday.’

Mr Johnson said: ‘Of course there will be others who will believe we could go faster on the basis of that vaccination programme and I understand their feelings and I sympathise very much with the exhaustion and the stress that people are experiencing and that businesses are experiencing after so long in lockdown.’

He added: ‘Today the end really is in sight and a wretched year will give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today.’

Sir Keir Starmer urged Mr Johnson to resist any pressure to lift restrictions more quickly.

He told the Commons: ‘I know the Prime Minister will come under pressure from those on his own benches to go faster and to throw caution to the wind.

‘Last week, it was reported that around 60 of his own members of Parliament called for the end of all restrictions by the end of April.

‘I’m sure there are going to be similar calls this afternoon. I hope the Prime Minister takes the opportunity to face this down because if this road map is to work he needs to listen to the chief scientific officer and the chief medical officer, not (Conservative MP Steve Baker) or (Conservative MP Mark Harper).

‘If the Prime Minister does, he will have our support and will secure a majority in the House. If he does not, we will waste all the sacrifices of the last 12 months.’

However, Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan pressed for changes to the hospitality plan.

Sir Iain said: ‘I just wonder whether the Prime Minister would feel it possible to be able to review again the nature of opening up inside those restaurants and pubs, and checking that there is no real risk beyond any of the other elements of opening up? And if that is the case, to take that bold decision as and when the data dictates it.’

Mr Johnson said: ‘I totally understand where he’s coming from and the urgency of those in the hospitality sector who want to open up as soon as possible, as indeed we all do.

‘But we also understand the risk of another surge and the consequent risk of a fourth lockdown – which I don’t think anybody wants to see, least of all the businesses concerned.

‘I think in this very difficult time with these difficult trade-offs, I think people would be prepared to trade some urgency and some haste for more certainty and more reliability – and that is what we aim to give.’

Outside the chamber, ex-Cabinet minister David Davis said the positive news on vaccines together with the warmer weather going into the summer meant cases will fall. He urged the PM to ensure changes to the lockdown were ‘irreversible’. 

Tory MP Tim Loughton warned that there must not be ‘any more shifting of the goalposts’, attacking the idea that a five-week delay is needed between loosenings. He told Sky News the ‘default’ position should be to ease the crackdown. ‘Let’s be opening all these things up unless something absolutely material information changes that,’ he said. ‘We now have a third of the adult population vaccinated with vaccines that appear to be effective…

No big weddings before June 21  

Boris Johnson has revealed that couples and suppliers must wait until March 8 to have weddings and receptions with up to just six people – with unrestricted big days not set to occur before June 21.

Thousands of British couples were forced to postpone their special days due to the pandemic in 2020, but now ceremonies arranged for this year are set to still be massively impacted.

The Prime Minister announced the lifting of restrictions on the hospitality industry in the House of Commons earlier today and detailed his roadmap to getting out of the UK’s lockdown.

He explained that weddings with six people in attendance can take place from March 8, increasing to 15 ‘no earlier than April 12’.

From May 17, when Step 3 of his four-part road map begins, the number of guests will increase to 30. No earlier than June 21, and subject to review, there should be weddings with no limits.

‘That’s a wholly different situation to that we were in the last lockdown.’

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’

In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Zahawi said the lockdown easing will be a case of ‘steady as she goes’.

Asked if travelling distances to see family would be permitted from March 29, he said: ‘As long as it’s outdoors, and it is two families, or the rule of six, then that is what will be permitted if the four tests continue to be delivered upon.

‘That will be the national lockdown, of course Scotland, as you mentioned, Northern Ireland and Wales will be setting out their own road map towards reopening their economies as well.

‘So at the moment, the focus is very much on the steady as she goes. Outdoor versus indoor, priority being children in schools, second priority is obviously allowing two people on March 8 to meet outside for a coffee to address some of the issues around loneliness and of course mental health as well.

‘And then the 29th is two families or rule of six coming together and outdoor sporting activities as well.’

Mr Zahawi confirmed that the PM will also announce data on the effect of coronavirus jabs on hospital admissions and deaths alongside the road map.

‘Suffice to say the evidence looks good,’ he told Sky News.

‘The Oxford team demonstrated their own evidence of cutting transmission by two thirds.

Vaccines working ‘spectacularly well’ 

Covid vaccines being used in Britain are working ‘spectacularly well’ and cutting hospital admissions caused by coronavirus by as much as 95 per cent, according to a major study.

Researchers today published the first real-world evidence of how well the jabs protect people against Covid and said the results were ‘very encouraging’ and ‘brilliant’. Confirmation that the vaccines work outside of clinical trials will lay the groundwork for Boris Johnson to roll-out his roadmap out of lockdown today.

Scientists counted Covid hospital admissions in Scotland among people who had had their first dose of a jab and compared them to those who had not yet received a dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

In a ray of hope for Britain’s lockdown-easing plans, results showed the jabs slashed the risk of hospital admission from Covid by up to 85 and 94 per cent, respectively, four weeks after the first dose.

Academics from the universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde, as well as Public Health Scotland, claimed the data provided ‘compelling evidence’ that both vaccines prevent severe illness. 

Lead researcher Professor Aziz Sheikh said: ‘These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future. We now have national evidence – across an entire country – that vaccination provides protection against Covid hospitalisations. Roll-out of the first vaccine dose now needs to be accelerated globally to help overcome this terrible disease.’

The study was the first of its kind and currently does not have enough data to analyse how well the jabs prevent death, stop transmission of the virus, protection beyond one month, or to compare the two vaccines, the team said. 

The promising findings mirror data from Israel’s world-beating roll-out and come after the UK’s vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi today claimed evidence the jabs also curb transmission ‘looks good’.

‘We wouldn’t be in this place this morning to be able to say that we’re going to reopen schools on March 8, and of course, as the school holidays begin on March 29, we will look at the rule of six and two families being (able) to see each other outdoors, if we’re not confident that actually the vaccine programme is beginning to really bear fruit.’

Mr Zahawi did not deny that opening all schools could push the R number over one, but he insisted the government is being ‘careful’. 

‘First of all, it’s no coincidence that the 8 March date has been chosen because the middle of February is when we offered the vaccine to the top four most vulnerable cohorts, and those who look after them,’ he said. 

‘That is three weeks after that last person has had the first dose, when the protection really does kick in. And so we are being deliberately careful. And, of course, [we are] allowing teachers notice to be able to prepare.

‘So it’s ambitious, but it’s also careful, and it’s data driven.’ 

Mr Johnson said further restrictions will be lifted in the weeks after March 8, as long as the four tests designed to keep the pressure off the NHS keep being met.

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. 

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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.

In another piece of positive news, researchers have suggested that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have a strong impact on reducing hospital cases.

Covid vaccines being used in Britain are working ‘spectacularly well’ at slashing hospital admissions in Scotland and preventing even mild infections among health workers in England, the first real-world data revealed today.

Public Health England and top researchers in Scotland have published two separate papers linking up coronavirus data with vaccinations, revealing that jabs are both bringing down hospital admissions and preventing infections.

A single dose of Pfizer’s vaccine can cut the risk of testing positive with or without symptoms by 70 per cent, PHE found, rising to 85 per cent after a second jab.

And a dose of either Pfizer and AstraZeneca reduces someone’s risk of developing Covid severe enough to need hospital treatment by between 85 and 94 per cent, according to a separate study in Scotland.

PHE’s study showed that the Pfizer jab gave 57 per cent protection against Covid among over-80s from dose one, and this appeared to rise to 88 per cent after a second jab, although this data is preliminary. There was not enough information to make the same analysis for Oxford/AstraZeneca’s jab.

Experts dubbed the findings ‘very encouraging’, ‘a good sign’ and ‘reasons to be optimistic’ – they come as Boris Johnson today outlines Britain’s route out of lockdown, with schools expected to properly reopen in England from March 8, with further measures being loosed in the following weeks.

Government advisers on SAGE are still cautious, warning that 94 per cent protection ‘is not 100 per cent’ and that millions will still be at risk of Covid even with high vaccine coverage.

Review of vaccine passports for pubs 

Vaccine passports could be required to enter pubs, restaurants and other venues after Boris Johnson announced a review into their use.

He said that one of four official investigations will look at whether to introduce ‘Covid status certification’, despite Downing Street insisting for weeks that such domestic documents would not be supported.

It was one of four reviews announced by the Prime Minister in the Commons today.

Announcing the move to MPs Mr Johnson said the review would examine whether the certificates would be useful ‘in helping venues to open safely – but mindful of the many concerns surrounding exclusion, discrimination and privacy’.

Public Health England today published the results of its SIREN study, which looks at how coronavirus is affecting medical workers across the country.

Medical staff have been among the top priority groups for vaccinations and also at a high risk of catching the virus during the second wave, so they are an extremely useful group for studying the effectiveness of the jabs.

Out of 23,324 health workers in the study, 89 per cent were vaccinated by February 5. There were 977 cases of coronavirus recorded in people before they were vaccinated, compared to 71 among people who were three weeks post-vaccination, PHE’s Dr Susan Hopkins said today. A further nine tested positive within a week of the jab.

The PHE epidemiologist told a news briefing: ‘Overall we’re seeing a really strong effect at reducing any infection.’

The study summarised the protection against coronavirus infection of any severity to be ‘at least 70 per cent 21 days after the first dose, increasing to at least 85 per cent 7 days after the second dose.’

Preventing people from testing positive for the disease almost certainly means that the vaccines will stop transmission, which is a boon for the Government’s plans to end lockdown this summer.

Clinical trials had not studied this before, instead looking only at symptomatic infection, hospital admissions or deaths. These are most important for preventing people from dying, but stopping the virus spreading is crucial for returning life to normal.

PHE also published separate data from a group of 148,052 over-70s showing that the vaccine protects elderly people (over-80) against Covid-19 symptoms by a factor of 57 per cent three weeks after the first dose. This is then boosted to more than 85 per cent after the second dose.

In all age groups people’s risk of getting such bad Covid that they need to go to hospital drops by over 75 per cent after a single dose of Pfizer’s jab, PHE said. For over-80s there is a 40 per cent reduction.

And the risk of death among people older than 80 is lowered by 56 per cent from two weeks after a first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine.

Dr Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at PHE said: ‘This is strong evidence that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is stopping people from getting infected, while also protecting cases against hospitalisation and death.’

She said people should be ‘very encouraged’ by the data but added: ‘Protection is not complete, and we don’t yet know how much these vaccines will reduce the risk of you passing Covid-19 onto others.

‘So even if you have been vaccinated, it is really important that you continue to act like you have the virus, practice good hand hygiene and stay at home.’

PHE’s study comes after research published this morning by Public Health Scotland, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde, among others, that showed both Pfizer and Oxford’s jabs are working north of the border.

Using real-world data from members of the public – the first of its kind in the UK – the researchers found that the vaccines led to an 85-94 per cent reduction in hospital admission from four weeks after the first dose.

That study was based on an analysis of data from the 1.14million doses dished out between December 8 and February 15.

It linked up people’s vaccination records to reports of hospital admissions for Covid-19 to see whether people who had had a jab were coming less often than those who hadn’t.

It showed that among those aged 80 and over — one of the highest risk groups — vaccination was associated with an 81 per cent reduction in hospitalisation risk in the fourth week, when the results for both vaccines were combined.

Secondary pupils will have to wear masks 

Secondary pupils will have to wear masks in the classroom ‘for several weeks’ to allow schools to safely reopen from March 8.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the new rules as he sets out his roadmap out of lockdown today.

He said there is a ‘greater requirement’ for masks in secondary schools for a ‘limited period’.

The return of students will also be supported by twice weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils.

Protection increased over time for both vaccines, from 38 per cent (Pfizer) and 70 per cent (Oxford) after one week – before the jab is expected to work at all – to 85 per cent (Pfizer) and 94 per cent (Oxford) after four weeks.

Oxford’s appeared to be heading towards the almost total protection against severe Covid seen in clinical trials, but the study was not long enough to capture this. Pfizer’s protection was also extremely high and rising.

Professor Aziz Sheikh, the study director from the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘Overall we are very, very impressed with the both the vaccines. When you move beyond the trial settings you never know what the results are going to be.

‘Out in the field… both of these are working spectacularly well.’

The UK today recorded 10,641 coronavirus infections in the first week-on-week rise since the beginning of January, while deaths have tumbled to the lowest levels since mid-December with 178 new victims.

Department of Health figures show Covid cases are 9 per cent up on last Monday, when 9,765 were declared. But fatalities have dropped by almost a quarter, from 230.

Separate data also show Britain dished out just 150,000 vaccines yesterday, in the worst daily performance since the mammoth NHS roll-out began to gather speed last month. A successful inoculation drive is crucial to Britain’s hopes of lockdown being eased drastically in the next few month.

The government's road map summarises the different steps ministers are hoping to take based on the tests being met

The government’s road map summarises the different steps ministers are hoping to take based on the tests being met

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

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

No more Tiers: PM ditches local lockdown system for easings 

Boris Johnson has confirmed he is ditching the Tiers system for lockdown easing.

The local levels for restrictions are being abandoned as the country comes out of the latest draconian squeeze.

No10 said the outbreak was ‘uniform’ in the country and as a result the arrangements will be changes on a national basis.  

And although the study is specific to Scotland, Dr Josie Murray, of Public Health Scotland, said: ‘A lot of this is transferable information that would be applicable across the UK.’

Dr Jim McMenamin, of Public Health Scotland, said: ‘These results are important as we move from expectation to firm evidence of benefit from vaccines.

‘Across the Scottish population the results shown a substantial effect on reducing the risk of admission to hospital from a single dose of vaccine.

‘For anyone offered the vaccine I encourage them to get vaccinated. We are continuing our evaluation and look forward to describing the benefits that we hope will follow the second doses of these vaccines.’

Professor Chris Robertson, an epidemiologist at the University of Strathclyde, said: ‘These early national results give a reason to be more optimistic about the control of the epidemic.

‘They also show the value of linked national data sets with academic research groups working closely with public health institutes.’

But SAGE experts warned in a later briefing today that, although the vaccine results are promising, they are not a silver bullet.

Millions of people will remain vulnerable to the virus if lockdown is lifted too soon, Sir Patrick Vallance warned, even if uptake of the vaccine is high.

Sir Patrick, the chief scientific adviser to the Government, told a briefing the Scotland data were ‘very encouraging’.

But Dame Angela McLean, deputy chief scientific adviser, cautioned: ‘Uptake is not 100 per cent and a 94 per cent reduction in deaths is not 100 per cent. These are fantastic but they’re not perfect.’

Top scientists have so far stuck to cautiously optimistic tones about vaccines, avoiding getting carried away with good news but admitting they expect to see the rollout reduce hospitalisations and deaths ‘any minute now’.

Other experts said last week that they were already seeing ‘early signs’ of their impact on these key measures.

Mr Johnson’s roadmap was signed off by senior ministers at a special Covid-S meeting yesterday, and rubber-stamped by the Cabinet this morning.

The Prime Minister is hosting a televised press conference later this evening.

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.

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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. 

The route out of lockdown – what happens when? From outdoor sports to a pint in the pub… and the potential road blocks that could STILL stand in the way 

Today, Boris Johnson will take the first step on a ‘cautious – but irreversible’ journey towards bringing the country out of lockdown as he sets out his roadmap for the next few months. 

Cautious because of what happened in December last year when a short period of loosening caused a huge spike in cases; irreversible because the Prime Minister knows the public appetite for a return of restrictions is gone, so he must tread carefully.

Mr Johnson’s blueprint sees a new series of relaxations on current restrictions in each month up to June, a four-phase plan to get Britain as close to normal as possible while the vaccine rollouts continues at pace.

It is understood the PM met with Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to hammer out of the finer details last night, and will present his full plan to cabinet ahead of its unveiling. 

At each stage the government has been urged to consider four ‘tests’ – infections, not overwhelming the NHS, vaccinations, and protection from new variants – on which to base their decision to move forward.

Under the mantra of ‘data not dates’, it is understood that there is wiggle room to delay a relaxation if at any point there are fears of moving too quickly or one of the tests is not met. 

While the exact details will be made public later on, here is what is understood to be planned for Mr Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown: 


Schools reopen ++ care home visits return ++ meet a friend outdoors 

SCHOOLS – All schools in England will welcome back pupils from both primary and secondary years on March 8. Boris Johnson previously said parents would be given two weeks’ notice of a return, which is a fortnight from today. 

Sports will also return, meaning children will be able to take part in PE lessons and supervised after-school activities. 

According to the Daily Telegraph there is no requirement that sports be outdoors only, meaning swimming pools and indoor courts could be used.

It is hoped that every child could be tested for coronavirus before their return, with schools given the freedom to choose whether to stagger the initial return.

Pupils wear face masks at Outwood Academy Adwick in Doncaster last September

Pupils wear face masks at Outwood Academy Adwick in Doncaster last September 

Across the rest of the UK, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already confirmed that schools in Scotland will start to reopen from today.

In Wales, primary schools will begin the process of reopening next Monday and Mark Drakeford will announce a ‘review’ of the lockdown on Friday.

In Northern Ireland schools will remain closed to most pupils until at least March 8. Stormont is discussing what to do about general restrictions. 

SOCIALISING OUTDOORS – Elsewhere, one person will be able to meet a relative or friend in an outdoor public space to socialise.

CARE HOMES – Care home residents will also be allowed a single designated visitor, meaning a child or loved one will be allowed to see their relative for the first time in months. The visitor will need to wear PPE and test negative for Covid before entering. Holding hands is allowed but kissing and hugging remain barred.

Sports will return meaning children will be able to take part in outdoor activities (file picture)

Sports will return meaning children will be able to take part in outdoor activities (file picture)

PART 1b – MARCH 29

Rule of six outdoors ++ Outdoor sports ++ ‘Stay at home’ removed

SOCIALISING OUTDOORS – It is understood that the blanket ‘stay at home’ rule will be removed by March 29, shortly before the Easter weekend begins on April 2.

Most significantly, the ‘rule of six’ for gatherings of friends and relatives will return. This allows six people from different households or more than six from two households to meet in an outdoor space.

OUTDOOR SPORTS – With the weather hopefully better, outdoor sports including those involving teams like football and basketball will return along with golf and tennis. 

INDOOR SPORTS – Indoor sports will remain off the table, except in school. It is possible there could be advice urging team sports to minimise contact, for example touch rugby rather than rugby union.

TRAVELLING – The ‘stay local’ rule will also be removed here, so people will be allowed to drive to see a relative or friends, as long as any socialising remains outdoors.

WORKING FROM HOME – The removal of ‘stay at home’ orders however does not impact work, with no change to guidance on people work from home ‘where possible’.

Shoppers walk through Kingston town centre in South West London in November last year

Shoppers walk through Kingston town centre in South West London in November last year


Non-essential shops reopen ++ Outdoor dining could return

SHOPS – Government sources have been reluctant to give details on plans further out than March, but it is believed the big one for April will be non-essential retail being allowed to return. 

Many stores have chosen to stop click and collect services during the national lockdown, but this practice could be encouraged to avoid large numbers of people going into shops where it is avoidable.

The two-metre rule is likely to stay in place as shops make their initial return, it has been one of the government’s most effective pieces of guidance, with shops spending millions on signage telling customers to stay apart. 

OUTDOOR DINING – At this point there could also be either a takeaway service allowed for pub and restaurants, or possibly even outdoor dining.  

UNCERTAIN TIMING –  The exact date of this is unclear, with the Sun putting it at around April 12 to 19, with hairdressers also allowed to reopen around the same time.

The Telegraph put it at April, but say hairdressers will take until May, while the Guardian claim a late April date. The Times claims shops could be open for Easter.

Business leaders and backbench Tories have been urging Mr Johnson to 'be bold' in his plans for reopening the economy, including allowing pubs to get a full summer (stock picture)

Business leaders and backbench Tories have been urging Mr Johnson to ‘be bold’ in his plans for reopening the economy, including allowing pubs to get a full summer (stock picture)


Indoor dining at pubs & restaurants ++ Hairdressers & salons reopen 

INDOOR DINING – In March 2020, well over a year ago at this point, unrestricted revellers packed out pubs for the last time before the country jumped into full lockdown.

May could be a crucial moment in the easing of restrictions with the partial return of indoor gatherings, both in pubs and restaurants.

This is seen as one of the riskier areas of virus transmission for the government and will be looked at carefully much closer to the time before a decision is made. 

By this stage, if the Government has hit its vaccine rollout plans, the most vulnerable groups to Covid-19 – those over 50 – will have all been offered their jab by now.

Tory MPs and the UK hospitality sector are lobbying for an even earlier opening and have stressed that many pubs and restaurants are facing a ‘cash crunch’.

They want to see serving inside happening as soon as it is safe, with table service and a requirement to wear masks when not eating or drinking likely to become the norm.

HAIRDRESSERS – Hairdressers and beauty salons could also open, although the Sun has reported this could actually take place by mid-April.

Part 4 – June 

Holidays return ++ Indoor household mixing

HOLIDAYS – At this point the government is creeping towards every adult in Britain being offered their first Covid jab, and a level of immunity in society some believe to be adequate for the biggest loosening of all – holidays.

The tourism sector is one of the worst hit by the pandemic, with only hotels at airport filling their rooms – and most of them are not by choice. 

It is also believed this loosening of restrictions is only for UK holidays rather than international travel which could require the development of a vaccine passport programme. 

INDOOR SOCIALISING – Different households may also, finally, be able to meet indoors. But much of the changes in stage four will be dependent on how effective the vaccine rollout is by then.

The biggest, but most elusive, easing is likely to be holidays. Pictured: Lyme Regis last May

The biggest, but most elusive, easing is likely to be holidays. Pictured: Lyme Regis last May

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.

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