BORIS Johnson will today unveil his March to Freedom — with loved ones able to meet outdoors and kids back in classrooms from next month.
The national stay-at-home order is to be scrapped as the Rule of Six returns in late March, with sports back on as part of a four-step plan to ease lockdown.
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The Prime Minister will publish storming data that shows the vaccine rollout has led directly to tumbling deaths and hospital cases.
His blueprint will see lockdown eased in four steps — with four key tests applied to each stage of the way to freedom.
Mr Johnson will warn that for each step to be taken, benchmark numbers will need to be met on:
- Covid cases
- Hospital admissions
He will reserve the right to slam the brakes on lifting lockdown if a new variant of the virus emerges.
Regional tiers have been ditched and all of England will begin the phased return to normality.
Step One will see kids return to classrooms on March 8 and “ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely” prioritised.
Three weeks later, on March 29, the “Rule of Six” will return to parks and private gardens — allowing six people from up to six different households to mix outdoors.
If just two households come together they can meet with no cap on their size.
This means families will be meeting together in parks and gardens by Easter.
Phase one of the plan was confirmed by Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi this morning.
He said schools will reopen on March 8, at which point two people will also be allowed to meet up outdoors “to address some of the issues around loneliness”.
Then on March 29 two households of any size, or the rule of six, will also be able to gather outside.
Mr Zahawi revealed families who live far apart will be able to travel across the country to meet outdoors from that date.
And he outside confirmed sports, such as tennis and golf, will also return then.
But those desperate for a haircut have to wait at least seven weeks for salons to reopen.
It will be Mid-April before they are unlocked along with non-essential shops, while restaurants and pubs will be able to serve customers outdoors.
HOPE OF NORMALITY
The rest of restrictions will be eased in May and June with inside mixing and drinking — with the hope of normality by July, when every adult will have been offered a Covid jab first dose.
Last night the PM said: “Our decisions will be made on the latest data at every step.
“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. I’ll be setting out a roadmap to bring us out of lockdown cautiously.”
He added: “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 well-being.
“And we will also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there will be “weeks between the steps” — so ministers can “watch carefully” the impact of each relaxation of the restrictions.
The first step on March 8 sees all kids back at school — with details of mass testing due in the roadmap.
Two adults will also be allowed to socialise in a park from that date.
Then to herald the start of the Easter holidays, outdoor sports like golf and tennis will also be allowed — alongside a return to organised sports such as football for children and adults alike.
It is understood that hairdressers will finally be unlocked sometime between April 12 and 19.
Last night Mr Johnson was under pressure to go even quicker than his proposed blueprint.
In a boost to Tory backbenchers, who are pushing for faster moves, ex-party leader William Hague said the majority of lockdown measures should end after all the over-50s have been jabbed in April.
The former Foreign Secretary said there would not be “much justification” to continue restrictions after the vaccination of the most vulnerable.
Forty Tory MPs from the backbench Covid Recovery Group have signed a letter demanding Mr Johnson advances the opening of pubs and restaurants to the beginning of April — in time for Easter.
The group’s boss Mark Harper said: “Britain’s hospitality industry has had one of the toughest years on record and it’s vital we do everything we can to get them open in a Covid-secure way that allows them to protect jobs and operate viably.”
But last night government sources said the plea was likely to fall on deaf ears.
Following a two-hour meeting of Mr Johnson’s Covid war committee yesterday, one source said: “That’s it, it’s locked in now.”
Meanwhile, Richard Lambert, chief executive of the National Hair and Beauty Federation, said the personal care sector needs government cash aid now and when they re-open to keep businesses afloat.
He added: “There is nothing coming in and overheads have to be paid.”
He added that a targeted VAT cut would allow them to re-build and invest in staff.
Another 215 Covid deaths were recorded in the UK yesterday bringing the total to 120,580.
A further 9,834 cases were confirmed.
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