Prime Minister Boris Johnson will today set out the government’s roadmap for cautiously easing lockdown restrictions in England.
Cabinet will meet virtually this morning to discuss the plan and then the Prime Minister will give a statement to Parliament in the afternoon and host a televised press conference in the evening.
He will set out the latest data on infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths, as well as early data showing the efficacy of vaccines.
The Government said the roadmap for leaving lockdown will seek to balance health, economic and social factors with the very latest epidemiological data and advice.
“Today I’ll be setting out a roadmap to bring us out of lockdown cautiously,” said Mr Johnson. “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.”
The roadmap outlines four steps for easing restrictions. Before proceeding to the next step, the government will examine the data to assess the impact of previous easements. This assessment will be based on four tests which are that:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.
The four tests are currently being met so the first step will proceed from 8th March, at which point the top four priority cohorts for vaccinations – as determined by the independent JCVI – will have received a degree of immunity, three weeks after being offered their first dose.
Due to the current, 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 roadmap seeks to balance between social and economic impacts, whilst preserving the health and safety of the country.
Outdoor settings are known to be lower risk than indoor, so outdoor activities will be opened earlier than indoor ones.
As part of the first steps, all schools in England are set to re-open on 8th March, with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed to restart as well.
Socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted in a fortnight when the rules are relaxed to allow people to sit down for a drink or picnic.
Care home residents will also be able to be visited indoors by a single, named individual from 8th March, as part of the roadmap to ease restrictions.
The scheme will allow a single visitor to hold hands indoors with their relative or contact in a care home, and make repeat visits under carefully designed conditions to keep residents, staff and visitors safe.
Every resident will have the opportunity to name one individual, who will be required to have a test beforehand, wear PPE during the visit and avoid close contact.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I know how important visiting a loved one is and I’m pleased we will soon be in a position for people to be carefully and safely reunited with loved ones who live in care homes.
“This is just the first step to getting back to where we want to be. We need to make sure we keep the infection rate down, to allow greater visiting in a step-by-step way in the future.”
A further easing of restrictions will take place on 29th March when the school Easter holidays begin – with larger groups allowed to gather in parks and gardens.
The ‘rule of six’ will return along with new measures allowing two households totalling more than six people to meet – giving greater flexibility for families and friends.
Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts are also set to reopen at the end of next month.
And organised adult and children’s sport – including grassroots football – can return from 29th March.
However, Number 10 insisted that the ‘stay at home’ message would remain in place despite the relaxation of some restrictions.
MPs will have an opportunity to vote on the regulations that will enable this roadmap in Parliament in the coming weeks.
The government said it will continue to work closely with the devolved administrations as they set out approaches for easing for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Picture: Prime Minister Boris Johnson.