BORIS Johnson will reveal the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown today – the first step on our slow return to normality.
The Prime Minister will speak in the House of Commons at 3.30pm outlining a covid plan he says will prioritise reopening schools and reuniting families.
The first date for the diary will be March 8 when schools will reopen and Brits can once again meet one friend or family member in an outside space for a picnic or a coffee.
Assuming all goes well with that easing, the next significant milestone will be March 29 when outdoors gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed, reuniting friends for the first time in months.
The same date will also see the return on outdoor sports such as tennis, golf and even football, Boris will announce today.
But the news will come as a blow to hairdressers, who will be told they can’t reopen to customers until April, and also to pubs owners and restaurateurs who had hoped they’d be able to serve customers indoors earlier.
Beyond that, Boris is expected to say he hopes for the rules of six can be scrapped altogether by June and the UK return to a true sense of normality, albeit with social distancing in place, by July.
But the PM will make clear that for each step to be taken, benchmark numbers will need to be met on Covid cases, hospital admissions, vaccinations and deaths.
After his announcement in the Commons, Boris will make a televised announcement to the nation at 7pm this evening.
Follow our live blog below for the very latest on the UK ‘s path out of lockdown…
WHO HEAD: ‘DON’T UNDERMINE WORLDWIDE VACCINE PROGRAMME’
The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) pleaded with rich countries on Monday to check before ordering additional Covid-19 vaccine shots for themselves whether that undermines efforts to get vaccine shots to poorer nations.
Wealthy nations have snapped up several billion vaccine doses while some countries in the developing world have little or none. European nations have given financial support to the UN-backed COVAX effort to get vaccines to the worlds most vulnerable people and are considering sharing some of their own doses though they haven’t specified when.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked the G-7 countries for their significant pledges. But he said after talks Monday with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier that even if you have the money, if you cannot use the money to buy vaccines having the money doesnt mean anything.
He said some rich countries approaches to manufacturers to secure more vaccines are affecting the deals with COVAX, and even the amount that was allocated for COVAX was reduced because of this. He didn’t name those countries or give other details.
BORIS JOHNSON ‘TO SCRAP TIER SYSTEM’
The PM is rumoured to have been persuaded to axe the much disliked tier system.
It’s believed that he is scrapping the tiers and implementing a four-step plan to carefully staged normality instead.
Decisions will be dependent, however, on the continued fall in death and infection rates.
That’s to lessen the likelihood of a fourth lockdown, should cases and fatalities spike again.
KEIR STARMER TO LOOK FOR CAUTIOUS APPROACH FROM BORIS
Sir Keir Starmer said he will be looking for a cautious approach from Boris Johnson when he sets out his road map today.
“I want the Prime Minister to learn the lessons of the last two lockdowns,” the Labour leader told LBC.
“I think he came out too quickly, without caution, and that caused problems because we went back into lockdown.”
GIVE US LEGAL RIGHT TO ‘MEANINGFUL’ CARE HOME VISITS, URGES CAMPAIGNER
A woman who has not been able to visit her 91-year-old mother since November has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give families a legal right to “meaningful” contact with loved ones in care homes.
Among the Government’s plans for loosening lockdown in England are new rules allowing care home residents to hold hands with a nominated loved one from March 8.
Sharon Clay, 65, from Hornchurch in east London, said: “Just waving at someone through a plastic screen, or even if you go in and grab their hands for 15 minutes and you’re kicked out again, it’s not meaningful.”
BORIS TO ADDRESS NATION AT 7PM
Boris Johnson will address the nation at 7pm today to spell out his roadmap out of lockdown.
The PM is expected to lay out a four-step plan to lead Britain back to normal life.
Mr Johnson will first speak to MPs in the House of Commons at 3pm today to explain his approach.
He will later address the nation at 7pm during a Downing Street press conference.
Boris Johnson has confirmed the Government’s approach to easing lockdown restrictions will be cautious.
The Prime Minister said it is important to make sure we do not “undo the progress we have achieved so far”.
More details will be revealed at 3.30pm today.
FIVE WEEKS INTERVALS TO EASE RESTRICTIONS
England will progressively ease lockdown restrictions in five week intervals, Sky News reported.
Sky News said there would be five weeks between each stage of the government’s roadmap, four weeks of analysing data before a week’s notice that restrictions will be removed.
UNION URGES JOHNSON TO ANNOUNCE ROADMAP FOR NHS WORKERS
Leaders of the GMB union have called for Boris Johnson to announce a roadmap for NHS workers.
A survey of 3,000 health workers by the GMB found more than half of those who contracted coronavirus said it had either had negative or severe medical impact on their mental health.
Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: “Our NHS members are telling us about the terrible toll of working flat out on the front line during this pandemic and the severe impacts catching Covid has on their mental health.
“These are the people who have been saving lives throughout the pandemic. Now they need ministers to look after them. Today, the Prime Minister unveils his road map out of lockdown. We call on him to outline a plan to help our beleaguered health workers recover from this pandemic.”
SYMONDS NOT PLAYING CENTRAL ROLE IN RUNNING COUNRY, CLAIMS DOWNING STREET
Downing Street said it is “incorrect” to suggest Boris Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds is playing a central role in running the country.
Tory think tank The Bow Group has called for an inquiry into her activities following reports of her influence within No 10.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said there was “no response to that at all” and stressed Mr Johnson was focused on the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Prime Minister is coming forward with a 60-page plan to get us out of lockdown and that is his focus at the moment,” she said.
Asked whether Ms Symonds was taking a central role with no authority or accountability, Ms Stratton said: “It’s incorrect.
“The Prime Minister’s fiancee is on maternity leave, she’s raising their son Wilf and shortly she will be taking up a new role at the wildlife charity the Aspinall Foundation.”
SCOTLAND TO RETURN TO GEOGRAPHIC LEVELS SYSTEM
Scotland will return to the geographic levels system after lockdown is lifted, Nicola Sturgeon said.
The First Minister is due to announce a road map out of lockdown on Tuesday in Holyrood.
Speaking at the coronavirus briefing in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said it would give indications of the phasing of the easing of restrictions, but it would not provide dates for reopening.
She said: “We will seek to set out tomorrow an indicative order of priority and the likely phasing of firstly the gradual lifting of the current lockdown restrictions and then in due course, a return to the geographic levels system when we would decide whether all or parts of the country may move out of Level 4 and into Level 3, and of course that’s the part where more parts of the economy will start to open up.
“This will be a cautious way forward because it’s really important that as we come out of this lockdown, we do so sustainably.”
JOHNSON TO CONSIDER ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT
Boris Johnson will balance economic and social considerations with the latest scientific advice on the pandemic when he sets out his roadmap for easing lockdown, Downing Street said.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman acknowledged the “massive impact” restrictions have had.
Asked about the effect on Jewish communities facing a second Passover in lockdown next month, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “As we have seen throughout the pandemic, it has had a massive impact on people’s lives and their ability to meet up with friends and family.
“The Prime Minister has referenced that and the enormous efforts that the British public has gone to to ensure that we continue to drive down the transmission rate of the virus.
“The roadmap is designed to bring us out of lockdown cautiously, as the Prime Minister will state later.
“At every stage it will seek to balance out economic and social factors with the very latest epidemiological data and advice.”
WELSH PRIMARY SCHOOLKIDS AND YEARS 11 AND 13 TO RETURN TO CLASSES ON MARCH 15
Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams said if “conditions continue to improve” then all primary school pupils will return from March 15.
Today children aged three to seven have gone back to the classroom.
She also said that all secondary school pupils in Years 11 and 13 will return on March 15.
“My preference is to get all learners back in school after the (Easter) break,” she said.
‘SURE AND STEADY’ COVID ROADMAP FOR SCOTLAND
Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland’s roadmap out of lockdown will be “sure and steady – even if it is a bit slow”.
Scotland’s First Minister to due to lay out her plans to take the country out of lockdown tomorrow.
However she hailed “that first step towards greater normality in our lives” as Scotland’s youngest children return to school.
“We hope more children will be able to go back to education next month, but our ability to do that depends on our ability to suppress the virus,” she added.
SCOTLAND RECORDS NO NEW DEATHS FROM COVID
Scotland has recorded 715 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and no deaths, Nicola Sturgeon announced.
It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 6,950.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said Scotland’s test positivity rate stood at 6.6%, up from 5.5% the previous day.
There are 1,141 hospital patients with recently confirmed Covid-19, a rise of nine in 24 hours, with the number in intensive care remaining unchanged at 99.
Meanwhile a total of 1,445,488 had received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, an increase of 13,546 from the previous day.
COVID-19 HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS IN ENGLAND DOWN THREE-QUARTERS FROM PEAK
Hospital admissions in England of patients with Covid-19 are down nearly three-quarters from their second-wave peak, latest figures show.
A total of 1,068 admissions were reported for February 19, NHS England said.
This is a drop of 74 per cent from a peak of 4,134 on January 12.
It is the lowest number of daily admissions since November 28 – a few days before England came out of its second lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will today announce the first steps for easing England’s third lockdown, which has been in place since January 5.
Hospital admissions are one of a number of factors that will determine the speed of the easing, the Government said.
CABINET APPROVES COVID ROADMAP
The online Cabinet meeting has finished with Boris Johnson’s roadmap to ease the Covid restrictions given a rubber stamp of approval.
The meeting took place online as usual and could be one of the last to be held under those restrictions as the Prime Minister prepares to address the House of Commons this afternoon.
JOHNSON’S COVID ROADMAP DOESN’T APPLY TO WALES
First Minster Mark Drakeford has reminded people that Boris Johnson’s roadmap to lift people out of the Covid restrictions does not apply to Wales.
Schools have reopened today for ages three to seven there and he is “looking at options for reopening shops and hairdressers”, he said.
ABBOTT: JOHNSON ‘RIGHT’ TO TAKE CAUTIOUS APPROACH
Labour MP Diane Abbott has said Boris Johnson was “right” to take a cautious approach in easing the lockdown restrictions.
She told Sky News: “The worst thing would be to come out of lockdown and then have a fourth lockdown.
“However, there is some concern about all schoolchildren going back on 8 March – there is a view that it should be more gradual.
“Boris himself said schools were safe and then turned around and said they were vectors of infection – and I think we could be more gradual about that.”
LID DEM MP FEARS R RATE COULD RISE
Layla Moran MP told Sky News: What we know from numerous studies is that when you close schools the R rate starts to plummet.”
She said she had concerns that sending kids back to school all at once could push the R rate higher.
“If the R number starts to go above 1, the roadmap will get blocked at the first hurdle and we can’t have that.
“This has to be the last lockdown.”
Struggling hospitality businesses need financial help until at least March 2022, industry chiefs have told Scotland’s political leaders.
The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) is also pushing for VAT on food and accommodation to be permanently cut to 5%.
The industry, which has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, made the pleas in a new manifesto published ahead of May’s planned Holyrood election.
Ahead of that the Scottish Hospitality Group wants all candidates running for the Scottish Parliament to acknowledge the key role the sector – which employs some 285,000 people – plays in the economy.
All those seeking to be elected as an MSP on May 6 are also being urged to visit a local hospitality business – as soon as restrictions allow – to see the “extraordinary measures” firms have put in place to keep staff and customers safe amidst the pandemic.
EXPERTS URGE GOVERNMENT TO PUBLISH VACCINE DATA
The Government has not published detailed data on the coronavirus vaccine rollout, despite being asked for information a month ago, an expert has said.
Statistical regulators asked for more detail about the programme, such as what proportion of certain groups have received the Covid-19 jab.
But this data is yet to materialise, which is “upsetting” and a “shame”, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said.
The statistician from the University of Cambridge, who is also a non-executive director of the UK Statistics Authority, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “As a statistician, the lack of detailed data by the vaccine rollout, I find very upsetting.
“The office for stats regulation wrote to the Government … more than a month ago, saying there should be be much better publicly available data.”
He added: “We don’t know about the numbers or the proportions by the priority groups – groups one to nine; we don’t know the proportions by ethnicity; we don’t know this broken down by region.
“I mean they do, somebody does, but we’re not getting it.”
CARE HOME RESIDENTS TO BE ALLOWED ONE REGULAR VISITOR
Residents living in care homes will be allowed one regular visitor from March 8.
But PPE must still be worn and social distancing measures will be in place.
The Department of Health confirmed the news in a Twitter message.
MERKEL WANTS A THREE-STAGE PLAN TO LIFT COVID CURBS
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants a staggered plan to lift pandemic-linked restrictions that is linked to increased testing, she told a meeting of her Christian Democrats leadership committee according to two participants.
Merkel wants to reopen parts of society in three stages, starting with expanding the number of personal contacts, followed by schools and vocational schools, and then sports groups, restaurants and culture.
She told the meeting it was important that steps to lift restrictions did not lead to renewed setbacks by causing virus variants to spread further.
HOW LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS WILL BE EASED IN ENGLAND
The changes are expected to be rolled out in four stages.
Before each new step the Government will look at the Covid-related data to assess what impact the relaxing of measures has had so far.
Mr Johnson said the Government will be “cautious” in its approach.
Measures will be eased, step by step, across the whole of England at the same time because the virus is viewed to be fairly uniformly spread across the country.
STARMER PREPARED TO GIVE ‘CREDIT’ FOR GOVT ROLLOUT OF VACCINE
Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he is “prepared to give credit” to those leading the rollout of the Covid vaccination programme.
Asked on LBC whether he would give credit to Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his leadership on Britain’s vaccination programme, so far, Mr Starmer said “I’m prepared to give credit to everybody involved in the vaccination programme”.
“It has been rolled out at speed, maybe by the NHS or the frontline,” he said.
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