BORIS Johnson has revealed the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown – the first step on our slow return to normality.
The Prime Minister spoke in the House of Commons outlining a covid plan he says will prioritise reopening schools and reuniting families.
The first date for the diary will be March 8 when schools will reopen and Brits can once again meet one friend or family member in an outside space for a picnic or a coffee.
Assuming all goes well with that easing, the next significant milestone will be March 29 when schools go on Easter Holiday.
At this point outdoors gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed, reuniting friends and extended family for the first time in months.
The same date will also see the return on outdoor sports such as tennis, golf, basketball and even football. People will at this point no longer be legally required to remain at home unless absolutely necessary.
Boris said that no earlier than the April 12, step two of the reopening will begin but could be delayed if the earlier steps see a surge in infections.
At this point, hairdressers, beauty parlours, gyms, public libraries and holiday lets will reopen and pubs will be able to reopen serving customers outdoors.
No earlier than five weeks after April 12, phase three of the lockdown pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to begin serving customers indoors.
Beyond that, Boris said he hopes for the rules of six can be scrapped altogether by June and the UK return to a true sense of normality, albeit with social distancing in place, by July.
But the PM made clear that for each step to be taken, benchmark numbers will need to be met on Covid cases, hospital admissions, vaccinations and deaths.
Following his announcement in the Commons, Boris will make a televised announcement to the nation at 7pm this evening.
Follow our live blog below for the very latest on the UK ‘s path out of lockdown…
BORIS JOHNSON TO GIVE DOWNING STREET PRESS CONFERENCE AT 7PM
The prime minister will unveil his lockdown roadmap during a Downing Street press conference at 7pm this evening.
It comes after he laid out the plans to MPs in the House of Commons earlier this afternoon.
Experts Professor Chris Whitty and scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance are joining him for the coronavirus briefing today.
You can follow all the updates here as they happen.
TRAVEL SECTOR WELCOMES PROSPECT OF SUMMER HOLIDAYS
Travel industry leaders have expressed relief at the prospect of people in England being allowed to take summer holidays.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s road map for easing coronavirus restrictions states that hotels can reopen and foreign travel will be permitted from May 17 at the earliest.
The Government’s Global Travel Taskforce will reconvene to issue a report by April 12 recommending how international trips can be safely facilitated.
Mr Johnson said this will “give people time to make their plans for the summer”.
April 12 is also the earliest date that overnight stays in self-contained accommodation that do not require the shared use of facilities will be allowed.
LIVE MUSIC INDUSTRY ‘AT THE BACK OF THE QUEUE TO REOPEN’, SAYS TRADE BODY
The live music industry has found itself “at the back of the queue to reopen”, the chief executive of a trade body for the sector has said.
Greg Parmley, chief executive of Live – a trade body for the live music industry, welcomed the additional clarity given by the Prime Minister’s road map for the ending of lockdown, but said his sector “could be months behind the rest of the economy”.
He added: “The Chancellor must acknowledge our extended closure in the Budget and provide the economic support needed to ensure the jobs and livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people that work in our industry exist as we come through this pandemic.”
Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust – a charity which represents grassroots venues, said the Government should provide the sector with more support.
He said: “It is good to hear the Government provide conditions under which initially socially distanced events, and then fuller capacity events, can take place.”
COVID-19 ‘ROADMAP’ OUT OF LOCKDOWN: KEY POINTS FROM BORIS JOHNSON’S SPEECH
MP’S TOLD LANDLORDS MUST CONSIDER ADJUSTING RENTS TO PROTECT HIGH STREET FIRMS
Landlords must have “productive” talks with businesses over rent arrangements and beyond to help protect high streets, according to the Government.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said “urgent” dialogue or mediation must be taking place between the two parties.
It is not in the interests of landlords to lose viable businesses as the country prepares to lift lockdown restrictions, MPs heard.
JEREMY HUNT COMPARES BORIS JOHNSON TO FORMER PM HAROLD WILSON
Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs: “The Prime Minister’s approach feels very similar to Harold Wilson who said he was an optimist but one who always carried a raincoat.
“His caution is absolutely right in the face of these new variants when we’re potentially so close to the finishing line.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on people with learning disabilities, warning many are “still not being prioritised for vaccination” despite high death rates.
He said: “Jo Whiley has spoken powerfully about how hideously unfair it was to be offered the vaccine before her sister Frances, who is now in hospital with Covid after an outbreak in her care home.”
Boris Johnson said people with learning disabilities are “high up” on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation priority list for jabs.
TORY MP SAYS LOCKDOWN DATES ARE ‘ARBITRARY’
Conservative MP Paul Bristow (Peterborough) called the Government’s road map dates “arbitrary”.
Mr Bristow said: “Because the UK is ahead of others on vaccinations we can open up sooner. (Mr Johnson) said he would focus on data, not dates, but these five weeks of dates seem arbitrary.
“If progress against the four tests look better than expected, might the Government be flexible and review the data and restrictions on a weekly or fortnightly basis and not on predetermined dates?”
Boris Johnson replied: “These not-before dates aren’t arbitrary, they are crucial and they are determined by the time you need to evaluate the impact on the pandemic of the openings up that we are doing.
“And you need four weeks to see, for instance, whether the opening of schools has caused an uncontrollable surge in the pandemic and then a week to give advice and so on. So they are not arbitrary, they are dictated by the science and that is the right way forward.”
MIXING INDOORS FROM MAY 17 AT THE EARLIEST, WHILE MINISTERS WILL REVIEW HUGGING
Limited social mixing indoors will be permitted again from May 17 at the earliest, while ministers will review whether people can hug their loved ones.
Boris Johnson’s four-step plan to end the coronavirus lockdown in England paves the way for groups of six – or two households – to meet outdoors from when the second stage of Step 1 begins, “no earlier than” March 29.
Pubs and restaurants will be able to serve people outside only from Step 2 – no earlier than April 12 – with no need for meals to be ordered with alcohol, under the Prime Minister’s “road map” published on Monday.
Indoor gatherings of six people will not be permitted until Step 3 – not before May 17 – when 30-strong outdoor gatherings will be allowed.
But the road map acknowledges “it may be possible to go further than this” on indoor meetings “depending on the data”.
STURGEON CRITICISED FOR MISSING ‘PIVOTAL’ UK CALL TO MAKE TV BRIEFING APPEARANCE
Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of missing “pivotal” coronavirus talks with Boris Johnson and the other leaders from across the UK to take part in her TV briefings.
The First Minister left a four nations call with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and the leaders of the other devolved administrations to take part in her regular coronavirus broadcast.
With the call between the leaders coming as plans for the easing of lockdown restrictions are being unveiled, the Scottish Tories accused the First Minister of having the wrong priority.
A Conservative spokesman said: “It will raise more than a few eyebrows that Nicola Sturgeon’s priority is the BBC briefing over working together constructively with other governments.”
He added: “She missed a pivotal discussion in favour of a TV appearance where nothing was announced. It shows the value that the SNP leader puts on these BBC briefings in the run-up to the election in May.”
TORY MP URGES BORIS TO RETHINK INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Conservative MP Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) urged Boris Johnson to rethink international travel restrictions. Mr Fuller told the Commons: “May I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and in particular the inclusion of dates that help businesses plan.
“But with respect to international travel, the inside page of our passport states that ‘in the name of Her Majesty, all those whom it may concern, to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance’.
“And with regard to quarantine hotels, may I remind the Prime Minister that just because a policy is popular does not mean it is right.”
Mr Johnson replied: “I have a high regard for (Mr Fuller) who I’ve known for many years and I know he speaks for many in our party and beyond in what he says.
“These are very difficult judgments to make, as I know he appreciates, but I think that it is right when you are facing a pandemic like this and the risk of new variants to have a very tough borders and quarantine policy indeed.”
SECONDARY SCHOOL AND COLLEGE PUPILS FACE REGULAR RAPID COVID-19 TESTS AT HOME
Secondary school and college students in England will be asked to take regular coronavirus tests at home when they return to school next month.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that all pupils will return to class from March 8, but the return of students in secondary schools and colleges could be staggered due to the logistics of mass testing.
Secondary school and college students and staff are also being advised to wear face coverings in all areas, including classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained until Easter under strengthened protective measures.
Pupils in secondary schools and colleges will be asked to carry out rapid Covid-19 tests at home twice a week after they have been tested three times on site over the first two weeks of term.
Students in secondary schools and colleges will be asked to use a lateral flow device when they return in a fortnight – and if they test negative, they will be allowed to resume face-to-face classes. Secondary school and college leaders will be given some flexibility to stagger the return of students from the week beginning March 8 to ensure pupils are tested before returning to class.
TORY MP QUIZZES PM ON WHETHER SCHOOL TESTING WILL ‘MINIMISE THREAT’ OF ANOTHER LOCKDOWN
Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) asked whether testing pupils twice a week in schools could “minimise the threat of another lockdown”.
Sir Bernard said: “What will the Government be doing to minimise the threat of another lockdown, such as strengthening the track and trace and isolate operations – particularly at local level – providing Covid-safe spaces so it is easier for people to self-isolate who are infected and to deploy testing capacity more effectively such as, for example, testing school children twice a week in schools, as we are already going to be testing teachers?”
Boris Johnson replied: “(Sir Bernard) is absolutely right in the ideas that he puts forward.
“Test, track and trace has been improving the whole time over the period of the pandemic and he is right to draw attention to the potential of lateral flow testing – not just as in schools, where as he says, we’re going to be doing it twice a week for secondary school pupils after the first couple of weeks – but also, rolling it out for companies, for local areas, local communities to take it up as an additional support, an additional way of fighting the disease.”
TORY MARK HARPER PRESSES PM ON RESTRICTIONS AFTER VULNERABLE GROUPS VACCINATED
Conservative former minister Mark Harper asked why restrictions are required after the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated.
He said: “Could I just press (the Prime Minister) on the thoughts behind vaccinating groups one to nine, so that’s everyone over 50 and those 16 to 64 with a health condition that makes them vulnerable to Covid.
“Those groups account for 99% of deaths and around 80% of hospitalisations. So for what reason, once they’ve been vaccinated and protected from Covid by the end of April at the latest, is there any need for restrictions to continue?”
Boris Johnson responded: “(Mr Harper) makes an excellent point. The difficulty is that of course there will be at least a significant minority who either have not taken up the vaccine, in those vulnerable groups for the reasons that the House has been discussing, or who, having had the vaccine… not given sufficient protection.
“We believe that the protection is very substantial but there will be a large minority who will not have sufficient protection and the risk is that if you let the brakes off, then the disease could surge up in such a way as again to rip through those groups in a way that, alas, I don’t think anybody in this country would want to see.
“So I’m afraid it’s pure mathematics, there is still a substantial body of risk and we also need to wait and see exactly what the effects of the vaccine are. There are some promising data but I think what the country will want at this stage is caution and certainty and irreversibility and that is what we aim to provide.”
LABOUR MP URGES PM TO NOT FORGET ABOUT LONG COVID SUFFERERS
Labour MP Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) urged Boris Johnson not to forget those who are struggling with long Covid symptoms.
He told the Commons: “As somebody who’s just about shaken off long Covid symptoms 11 months after contracting Covid, can I urge him not to forget those still struggling and the many more who will develop long Covid as a consequence of the latest wave of the virus.
“As the economy switches back on, as lives return to normal, will he also commit to do more for those who still don’t have access to long Covid clinics, who still don’t have access to support or help so that nobody is left behind.”
Mr Johnson responded: “(Mr Gwynne) is right to draw attention to long-term consequences of the disease and we will do everything we can to alleviate suffering and to continue to invest in support for those who need it.”
MAPPED: BORIS JOHNSON’S ROADMAP OUT OF LOCKDOWN
WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS TO BE LIFTED IN SUMMER
Restrictions on weddings and funerals will be lifted completely from the summer, the Government has announced.
All limits on weddings and other life events in England are to be removed from June 21 subject to the outcome of a review by scientists.
The plans were unveiled as Boris Johnson delivered his road map out of lockdown restrictions in the Commons on Monday.
Under current rules, weddings are only allowed in “exceptional circumstances”, such as in cases of terminal illness or life-changing surgery.
In England, 30 people are permitted to attend a funeral under the coronavirus regulations.
NIGHT TIME INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION WANTS MORE CLARITY
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “We are pleased to hear within the Prime Minister’s statement the inclusion of a timeline for night-time economy businesses, in particular some of the hardest-hit businesses, many of which have been closed since March 2020, like nightclubs, bars and casinos.
“Despite this, our evidence suggests that 85% of those who work in the night-time economy are considering leaving the sector.
“The sector urgently needs additional clarity on reopening and critical financial support from the Chancellor if we are to avoid economic and social damage that will last a generation.”
MUSIC VENUE TRUST WELCOMES GOVT GUIDANCE FOR EVENTS
Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, said: “It is good to hear the Government provide conditions under which initially socially distanced events, and then fuller capacity events, can take place.
“Based on this information, it is now possible to imagine how we Revive Live in grassroots music venues and develop that work into the full return of our domestic music scene.
“We note that this road map once again singles out live performance events as a specific risk which require that the sector is treated in a special way.
“Since March 2020, we have made the case to the Government that if this is the case, based on their interpretation of the data, then it is logical that the Government will choose to address that specific status with sector-specific financial support to mitigate the damage being done to businesses and people’s lives, careers and families right across the live music industry.”
STARMER URGES JOHNSON TO RESIST PRESSURE TO LIFT RESTRICTIONS FASTER
Sir Keir Starmer urged Boris 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.”
MID-MAY RETURN AT EARLIEST FOR RACING
Spectators are not expected to return to racecourses until mid-May at the earliest after Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out his road map for the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
While schools are set to return on March 8 and grassroots sport will be reinstated not before March 29, along with larger groups being allowed to gather in parks and gardens, the Prime Minster is planning to allow limited crowds back to sports venues only from May 17 at the earliest.
Indoor events will be capped at 50 per cent capacity or 1,000, whichever is lower, and for outdoor events this will be 50 per cent capacity or 4,000, whichever is lower.
The road map includes special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25 per cent of total seated capacity, whichever is lower.
WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR NORTHERN IRELAND?
Northern Ireland was put back into lockdown on Boxing Day, with hopes the strict rules would be lifted on February 6.
Now, the lockdown is expected to continue to at least April, with a review expected on March 18.
Some moves towards relaxing lockdown in the country have already been made.
Primary school pupils in year groups P1 to P3 are expected to return to face-to-face learning on March 8.
WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR WALES?
First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales was seeing “encouraging green shoots” after the spike in cases.
From today, February 22, children aged three to seven will begin returning to schools in a phased way.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, four people from two different households were able to meet outdoors for socially distanced local exercise.
However, people are still not allowed to drive to exercise – with Mr Drakeford saying: “it does mean exercise, not socialising”.
From March 1, licensed wedding venues, such as visitor attractions and hotels, will be allowed to re-open but only to perform wedding and civil partnership ceremonies.
WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR SCOTLAND?
Nicola Sturgeon today confirmed she will set out the “gradual lifting” of lockdown restrictions in a Holyrood statement tomorrow.
The First Minister will address the Scottish Parliament with an update on the pandemic and route map out of lockdown about 2.20pm.
The FM will announce Scotland’s planned exit from lockdown and set out an “indicative order of priority” of the easing of restrictions.
The Ministerial Statement will also outline plans to return to the Tier system which means specific geographic levels of restrictions.
But the FM told Scots it will be a “cautious” easing of restrictions with a “sure and steady” approach to prevent another lockdown being required.
JOHNSON HINTS FURLOUGH COULD BE EXTENDED
Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested there will be an extension to the furlough scheme as he promised not to “pull the rug out” on economic support.
It came as he updated parliament on his roadmap out of lockdown.
The Prime Minister said: “We will not pull the rug out.
“We will do whatever it takes to protect jobs across the UK and my right honourable friend the Chancellor will set out plans next Wednesday.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to set out his Budget on Wednesday March 3.
Read the full details here.
POSTCODE LOCKDOWNS TO CONTINUE TO CURB COVID
Po-up postcode lockdowns will continue to be used to squash future outbreaks of new Covid variants as the roadmap to getting out of lockdown was revealed today.
Surge testing has already been deployed across the UK to clamp down on the South African variant after it saw cases of the deadly bug spike.
Just this weekend, locals in Brentwood, Essex, were told additional testing would be made available after a case was identified in the area.
In the roadmap released today, it was stated that if a dangerous variant was identified and was “likely to pose a real risk to the vaccination programme or public health” the Government would act fast.
Read the latest details here.