Picnics and coffee in the park could soon be back on the cards with lockdown likely to begin being lifted in England from March, it has been claimed.
Boris Johnson has made clear he wants to open schools in England from March 8 as the first act of easing lockdown.
He has said non-essential shops would follow some time after that, and then later still, pubs and restaurants would be able to reopen.
However, it’s understood ministers are looking at relaxing rules slightly on outdoor “recreation” at an early stage, either when schools reopen or shortly afterwards.
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In November’s lockdown, two people from different households were allowed to meet in an outdoor public space for exercise or recreation, such as a picnic or coffee in the park.
In the new lockdown that began on January 4, the “recreation” clause was removed and two people from different households could only meet for exercise.
A government source told the Mirror “the next thing we’d look at”, after opening schools, may be expanding outdoor activity to allow recreation once again, if the data allows.
The source stressed that no decisions had been made and it would depend on data about how the vaccine is affecting case rates – which is only due in the next week.
While there is reason for “cautious optimism”, the source said, it was too early to say what the rules will be.
Ministers are said to be privately discussing pubs re-opening by the first weekend in April with outdoor eating at the very least, to allow families to eat out for Easter, reports the Telegraph.
The Prime Minister will be reportedly meeting with his Cabinet and scientific advisers in the coming days to draw up a roadmap for potential easing of restrictions before a national address on February 22.
It is understood the Government favours an approach similar to that seen in Australia going forward where individual areas will be locked down if they see a surge in cases.
During a visit to the north east on Saturday, Mr Johnson said he didn’t want to be “forced into any kind of retreat or reverse” by lifting measures too quickly.
He is also said to be reluctant to celebrate too publicly about hitting the jabs target with so many Brits still waiting to be inoculated.
Mr Johnson said getting pupils back behind their desks is the first priority, but then ministers will be “working forward to getting non-essential retail open” and hospitality as well in “due course”.
On Friday, NHS England announced people aged 65 to 69 will begin being invited to have their first doses of the vaccination from this week, with over one million letters having been shipped out.
Recreational outdoor activities, including golf and tennis, are also set to be greenlit later next month, a source told the Telegraph.
Any re-opening is reliant on new surge testing, tracing of the new South Africa variant.
The first batch of passengers needing to be shipped to quarantine hotels on touching down will arrive on Monday and begin isolating for 10 days.
A total of 63 Conservative MPs are reported to have signed a letter sent to the PM urging him to begin lifting the draconian measures, with re-opening schools by March 8 and hospitality by April 4 a “national priority”, reports the Telegraph.
-- to www.mirror.co.uk