Lockdown: James Cleverly on possibility of 'last lockdown'
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Under an ambitious timetable set out by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, restrictions will be eased in stages over the next four months. England will start to unlock on March 8.
By the end of June all legal restrictions on social contact could be lifted, with Brits once again able to flock to football matches and party in nightclubs.
Unveiling his roadmap to MPs this afternoon, Mr Johnson said: “We are able to take these steps because of the resolve of the British public and the extraordinary success of our NHS in vaccinating more than 17.5 million people across the UK.
“The plan has been put together after careful examination of data on the impact coronavirus vaccinations are having on cutting hospitalisations, deaths and transmission of the virus.”
He added the roadmap will “guide us cautiously but irreversibly towards reclaiming our freedoms”.
The Prime Minister has hopes the current lockdown will be the last, with his plan a “one-way road to freedom”.
Society will reopen in four stages, with a series of four tests required to be met before the next set of restrictions can be lifted, Mr Johnson said.
There will be a minimum of five weeks in-between each unlocking phase in order to allow four weeks to review the impact of the loosened measures and then a one week notice before a change to the restrictions.
The first stage is split into two. On March 8 all school children will return to the classroom and after school clubs can resume. Care home residents will be allowed to receive visits from one regular contact. Meanwhile, meet ups for coffee or a picnic in an outdoor setting with one other person will be permitted.
The second part of stage one will take place from March 29 after schools have broken up for Easter. From then, groups of up to six – or two households- will be allowed to socialise outdoors.
Organised sport such as golf, tennis and basketball will also be allowed to resume.
At this point the Government intends to drop its ‘Stay at home’ order and replace it with a ‘stay local’ message.
The second stage of the roadmap is earmarked to take place from April 12 and will see all non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms and swimming polls reopen.
Thirsty Brits will also be allowed to enjoy eating and drinking beer gardens with up to six others. The much hate curfew and ‘substantial meal’ requirements from the autumn will not be making a return.
From May 17 the Government is hoping it will be able to scrap the rule of six for outdoor meetings, with gatherings of up to 30 allowed.
Indoor mixing and overnight stays for up to six people will also be allowed again.
Cinemas, hotels and indoor hospitality are also set to re-open, along with the return of some fans to sporting events.
On June 21 the Government is hoping for a return to normal, with no restrictions on attendances to sporting events, or theatre performances.
The Prime Minister has already confirmed the criteria has been met for England to move on to stage one of the roadmap.
Before ministers give the go-ahead for England to move on to any of the next three stages of lifting restrictions, four tests will have to be met.
The Government will look at whether the vaccine rollout is continuing to progress at the current pace, if jabs are effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated, if rates of new cases risk a new surge in hospitalisations and whether there are any worrying new Covid variants.
Striking an optimistic tone the country is nearing the end of the fight against coronavirus, Mr Johnson said: “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.”
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will set out their own plans to end lockdown restrictions in the coming days, with the plans set to broadly mirror each other.
More to follow…
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