Prime minister Boris Johnson will publish the government's roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England today.
Cabinet will meet virtually this morning to discuss the plan. The prime minister will give a statement to Parliament in the afternoon and host a televised press conference in the evening.
It has been confirmed that the first ‘step' will proceed from 8 March and restrictions will be eased across the whole of England at the same time, rather than in tiers. Outdoor activities are to be opened earlier than indoor ones.
Several news outlets are reporting that some areas of hospitality, which could include outdoor areas only, could reopen in late April. Reports suggest pubs and restaurants could open indoors by mid-May.
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.
- Vaccines are effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations.
- The government's assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.
Johnson said: "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."
The Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) has called for a clear roadmap for the night-time economy in particular, with many businesses closed since March last year.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, said: "We urge the government to deliver a full and clear exit strategy roadmap, but more importantly to include businesses that will be one of the last sectors to open. It will be critical to their survival to be able to financially plan; more vital for them than the ones which have been continually presented as part of the short-term ongoing narrative."
Elsewhere in the UK, hotels in Wales will be allowed to reopen for wedding ceremonies from 1 March, but it is unlikely the wider hospitality sector will reopen within the next six weeks.
Restrictions in Northern Ireland have been extended until 1 April, with a blueprint for recovery due to be published on 1 March. Measures in Scotland are remaining in place until at least the end of the month, with the youngest pupils returning to face-to-face teaching from 22 February.
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