Lockdown exit dates revealed as Boris Johnson’s roadmap set to prioritise schools and reuniting loved ones

Published: 22 February 2021, 2:20 PM

Post Desk : Schools and safely reuniting with loved ones will be prioritised in England’s road map out of lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, as he prepares to unveil the Government’s plan to relax coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Johnson will detail his “cautious” approach for easing coronavirus restrictions across England in a speech to Parliament on Monday, when he is expected to announce the reopening of schools on March 8 and confirm that social restrictions will be eased next month.

The PM’s plan is set to include four stages, with two families or a group of six allowed to meet outdoors – including in their own gardens – from March 29, if the right progress is being made.

Ministers will use four tests for easing the measures, with the Government set to examine the data at each stage before unlocking further. These tests will include assessing the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, new variants and infection rates before proceeding to the next step.

The road map is set to include:

– All schools reopening on March 8, with school sports and activity clubs to resume;

– Rules relaxed on March 8 to allow people to have socially distanced one-on-one meet-ups with others outdoors in a public space;

– If the right progress is being made, from March 29, which is the start of the Easter holidays, the “rule of six” will return allowing six people from different households to meet outside. The rules would also allow two households to meet outside;

– Organised outdoor sports, such as grassroots football, would also resume from that date, while outdoor sports venues such as tennis courts could reopen.

– The plan for allowing pubs and restaurants to reopen for outdoor service is yet to be unveiled, but it is widely expected to be in late spring, possibly in mid-April.

– The reopening of non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms and indoor drinking and dining will come later. The 10pm curfew for restaurants will be scrapped in order to prevent crowds gathering in streets and at transport hubs after closing, while the requirement for pub-goers to have a “substantial meal” with a drink is also being ditched after it caused confusion over whether a Scotch egg counted.

Ahead of his Commons speech, Mr Johnson said: “Today I’ll be setting out a road map to bring us out of lockdown cautiously.

“Our priority has always been getting children back into school which we know is crucial for their education as well as their mental and physical wellbeing, and we will also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.

“Our decisions will be made on the latest data at every step, and we will be cautious about this approach so that we do not undo the progress we have achieved so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to keep yourself and others safe.

“We have therefore set four key tests which must be met before we can move through each step of the plan.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that there will be “weeks between the steps” so ministers can “watch carefully” the impact of each relaxation of the restrictions.

Restrictions will be eased step-by-step across the whole of England at the same time, Downing Street said, due to the current uniform spread of the virus.

Number 10 said the blueprint would seek to balance the health needs with the social and economic impacts of lockdown.

For example, outdoor activities are set to be opened earlier than indoor ones, due to the reduced risk of spreading coronavirus outside.

MPs will be given the chance to vote on the regulations enabling the road map in the coming weeks, Number 10 said.

Mr Johnson will chair a virtual meeting of the Cabinet on Monday morning to discuss the plan, and then unveil the details to Parliament in the afternoon.

He is expected to host a Downing Street press conference later on Monday evening alongside key advisers.

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