Politics

Boris Johnson roadmap out of lockdown and easing restrictions

Boris Johnson is set to announce his “roadmap” out of lockdown in the Commons at 3.30pm on Monday.

Nicola Sturgeon will unveil Scotland’s route out of lockdown on Tuesday so Johnson’s plan is mainly for England but will set the pattern for the staged lifting of restrictions across the UK.

After the Commons statement the Prime Minister is expected to hold a press conference at 7pm. Here’s what to expect from Boris Johnson during the day.

While P1 to P3 pupils in Scotland go back to school today schools in England are set to re-open for all ages on March 8th. The mass opening, as opposed to the staggered return in Scotland and Wales, is a cause of concern for teaching unions and some scientists.

At the same time one-on-one outdoor socialising will be allowed again in England meaning people can meet up with a friend or relative outside.

At the end of the month on March 29 there will be a further relaxation with the “rule of six” reintroduced across England, allowing outdoor gatherings of two households or six people.

This raises the prospect of Easter family get-togethers in England, with no regional tiers, and other UK nations are likely to have parallel movement towards easing restrictions. Outdoor sport will also return in England on this date but indoor gyms do not look likely to open at that stage.

The big question for many is when do the pubs open and when can people start eating in restaurants again?

It could be some time as Johnson has stressed that this time the plan would be “cautious” and gradual. He has revealed four tests will have to be met before England can move through each step of relaxing restrictions. They are:

  • The continued success of the vaccination programme.
  • Evidence showing jabs are effective at reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  • Infection rates remaining low enough to ensure the NHS is not put under pressure.
  • The government’s assessment of the risk not being “fundamentally changed” by new variants of the virus.

Johnson is yet to reveal what restrictions will be eased next but Downing Street has set out some broad principles, this time prioritising the balance between health and social mixing over the economic impact of lockdown.

In April non-essential retail could reopen, alongside the possible return of outdoor service at pubs and restaurants.

Universities and college campuses could return.

It is hoped that domestic self-catering holidays will be allowed and that gyms, hairdressers will open their doors.

But it appears unlikely that hospitality will reopen fully until at least May.

Beyond that, Johnson has suggested the government is looking at mass testing to allow the return of large events such as live sport or concerts.

All adults in the UK are due to be vaccinated by the end of July, raising hopes of summer holidays in the UK, but ministers are refusing to comment on this or set a date for the relaxation of rules on international travel. It is going to be a slow and deliberate return to ‘normal’.

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