Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said life could ‘return to normal’ by 21 June at the earliest, as he announced a phased approach to lifting COVID-19 (coronavirus) restrictions.
“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,” said the Prime Minister.
He also cited data released today that suggests both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are effective against the dominant strains of Covid.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was found to reduce hospitalisations and deaths by at least 75 per cent, and early data suggests the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has a similar impact.
“Irreversible” road map
The four-step roadmap to lifting lockdown restrictions would start with all school ages returning to lessons on 8 March.
Various businesses and activities, as well as relaxed social distancing, would be gradually reintroduced over the following months.
If all goes well, 15-weeks since the start of Step One, legal limits on social contact would be lifted and remaining venues, businesses and events would restart and reopen.
As part of the first step, “stay local” will replace the “stay at home” message that started in March 2020, this will help allow family get-togethers over Easter.
The steps are as follows:
8 March – 29 March
- Schools and after-school sport restarts
- Stay at home rule ends (29 March)
- Outdoor sports open
- Self-catering accommodation and outdoor hospitality to reopen in time for the May half-term
- Gyms & outdoor attractions (zoos and theme parks) open
- Indoor leisure, further tourism and accommodation, pubs, bars and restaurants reopen
- Sports events to allow a limited number of spectators
- Cinemas, theatres and other event venues to reopen with social distancing
- Nightclubs and remaining businessess to open
- Legal limits on social contact lifted
- Unrestricted international travel
“Decisions will be led by data not dates”
Announcing what he called “a one-way road to freedom” the PM warned that timelines, reopenings and the lifting of restrictions will be subject to review.
There would be four tests that would need to be ‘passed’ before moving on to the next step:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
- That evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
- An assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of Covid that cause concern
There is “no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain nor indeed a zero-Covid world”, he said, “decisions will be led by data not dates”.
The Prime Minister will address the nation in a televised address at 7pm tonight (22 February).