The Government has begun to plan how England can safely leave the third national lockdown, with a number of dates emerging for when key events are likely to happen.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out when the lockdown leaving roadmap will be published – along with what we are likely to see in the plan.
According to The Telegraph and The Mirror the roadmap out of lockdown will include three stages – starting with the reopening of schools, then moving to shops and finally pubs.
The roadmap is also likely to set out when domestic and foreign travel could start again.
All the dates will depend on bringing down the rate of coronavirus infection.
These are the key dates to look out for in the months ahead as we move to exit lockdown.
Wales will announce the results of its lockdown review – with rules likely to be extended for some time.
The next review date for lockdown in Scotland.
This is the date of the review of the third lockdown, as set by the Prime Minister at the start of January. Speaking this week Mr Johnson confirmed the lockdown will be reviewed in mid-February.
By this date the Government should have a very clear picture of whether the lockdown has worked, and this is the date the Government set for all in the top four most vulnerable categories set out by the vaccine experts to have been offered their first dose.
Boris Johnson said the lockdown exit roadmap will be published in the week of February 22. It will go before Parliament for debate. National media have reported the roadmap will set out three stages of lifting lockdown.
Mr Johnson and England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty have confirmed lockdown will not be lifted all at once – but will involve a number of stages.
The roadmap could see England return to regional tiers, with some areas facing tougher rules than others.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, asked how lockdown would end, said: “It will be gradually, it will be probably through the tiered system.”
This is the earliest date schools could reopen in England, according to Mr Johnson. He said the roadmap will give two weeks’ notice to parents, pupils and school staff.
It has been reported some year groups may go back first – most likely primary schools and those in secondaries that have exams this year.
Schools will be the first to reopen, but quickly other aspects of lockdown could be lifted – such as the ban on mixing with others from outside your home.
We could see a reinstatement of the rule of six, allowing you to meet up with five others, from the middle of March.
The exact rules are likely to depend on infection rate in your area – returning to the tier system from December.
That will set out whether you can meet with people in your garden, in public, in your home or elsewhere and how many people at once.
This is the date the current lockdown legislation for England ends. MPs will have to approve any extension to lockdown rules after this date.
According to The Telegraph, the Government’s roadmap will make sure there is not a sudden increase in community transmission, by staggering what opens when.
A Whitehall source told the Telegraph: “If schools do open in March, and the priority is certainly to open schools first, then it will mean other things have to remain closed for some time.
“We have to avoid the situation last time where the return of schools meant far greater household mixing across the board.
“So that means we’d be likely to wait at least another month for non-essential retail, and a month beyond that at least for pubs and restaurants.”
That would mean April 5 as the likely date to reopen non-essential retail, such as clothes and electronics shops.
This will coincide with Easter – allowing for a Bank Holiday shopping bonanza.
The Government could also use this Easter break to kickstart tourism, allowing for the reopening of some tourist attractions and possibly accommodation.
Travel rules could be eased – within the UK – to allow for staycations.
Previously Boris Johnson claimed restrictions would be substantially lifted by Easter
“I think we can certainly look forward to a very, very different world in this country, from Easter onwards,” the PM said.
This is the date by which all over-50s and at-risk groups are meant to have been offered their first dose, according to the NHS.
17million people should have been offered a first vaccine dose by this date. Millions more will be getting their second dose at the same time.
The NHS will move onto giving first doses to the final, lowest-priority group – all adults under 50 without major health issues.
These 21million people will be sorted into priority groups and it’s thought teachers and other key workers will be put first.
Under the suspected plan, this would be the earliest date for reopening pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses. It would coincide with the May Bank Holiday, usually a big money date for pubs and tourism businesses.
SAGE experts have previously said May would be a safer date for reopening the hospitality sector – if infection rates can be brought down.
If all the over 50s and most vulnerable have had their first vaccine dose by April, then May would be seen as substantially safe for easing lockdown further.
May will also see elections across the country, meaning the Government will want to have eased restrictions if possible to allow this to happen.
Second doses should be rounded off for the middle priority group, the over-50s.
It’s also the earliest prediction for all adults to be offered their first dose.
Officially the target is September for this, but government sources told the Sunday Telegraph it could be as soon as July.
If all adults have had a vaccine by this date, then summer travel becomes more of a possibility. There will still be a ‘red list’ of countries requiring quarantine and the Foreign Office will have a list of countries people shouldn’t travel to at all.
Foreign holidays will depend as much on the rules of other countries as of the UK Government – which will be determined by how much of their population has been vaccinated and how safe they view the UK to be.
Spain appeared to say it could be closed to tourists throughout the summer season – although it later rolled back on that.
Rules allowing councils to close pubs, restaurants, shops and parks expire on this date – so it is the current latest date we could see ongoing closures in England.
The Government aims to have offered a first dose of the vaccine to every adult by September.
The start of autumn. Professor Chris Whitty said some coronavirus restrictions could be in place until the autumn while the NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said restrictions would be lifted between the spring and summer – with summer ending on this date.
The start of flu season, and mass vaccination against that disease. This may be combined with the revaccination of the most vulnerable again coronavirus at the end of 2021.
Scientists are unsure how long immunity will last from having the jab – with estimates of anything from five to nine months.
That means those currently getting the jab will likely need to have another one in October to protect them through next winter.
Even once all UK adults are given a first dose, second doses could go on until Christmas due to a 12-week gap.
That would mean maximum protection would only be given to the maximum size of population about a year from now.
That suggests travel restrictions could continue to exist into winter 2021, as well as some of the less invasive restrictions we’ve got used to. Scientific advisors have suggested this could include, for example, wearing masks on public transport.
Professor Whitty warned that some rules – such as masks – may be needed next winter.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk