Video report from Politics Editor Robert Peston
England is on a “one way road to freedom”, Boris Johnson has said as he revealed his four-step route out of lockdown, which could see all aspects of society reopened by June 21.
The prime minister, laying out his roadmap out of lockdown, said he hopes to fully reopen the country and remove all limits on social contact within months, so long as the battle against coronavirus continues to go to plan.
He told a Downing Street press conference that the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations had “shifted the odds in our favour”, allowing for a gradual reopening of society.
Nightclubs could be permitted to reopen on June 21 under Mr Johnson’s plan, having been shut since the first lockdown in March 2020. Outdoor hospitality including pubs could reopen as early as April 12, with indoor hospitality opening no earlier than May 17.
The stay at home order will be lifted on March 29.
Self-contained holidays within the UK could be permitted as early as April 12, as well as indoor leisure facilities such as gyms, plus hairdressers and non-essential retail.
Mr Johnson suggested the reopening of some aspects of society, such as ticketed events, could be facilitated by certificates which show someone has been vaccinated – also known as vaccine passports.
There “may well be a role of vaccine certification”, he said, but there are “some ethical issues, issues about discrimination, to what extent can government compel such use of certification”.
There will be no return to a regional system of tiered restrictions, the PM announced, with all of England moving away from lockdown at the same pace.
The four-step plan would mean a “wretched year” can “give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better”.
“The end really is in sight,” he added, as he looked ahead to the first lifting of restrictions; the reopening of schools on March 8.
While the reopening of schools is almost guaranteed to go ahead, with the risk of coronavirus to children “vanishingly small”, the PM warned that the rest of his plan is subject to delay.
Ministers will check if England can pass four “tests” before allowing restrictions to lift.
Consideration will be given to the success of the vaccine rollout, the effectiveness of vaccines, the impact of infection rates on hospital pressures, and whether emergence of new variants increases risk.
Presenter Julie Etchingham highlights the four tests that must be passed before any restrictions are lifted
There will be five weeks between each restriction being lifted, with four weeks set aside to assess new data, and one week notice given to industries to prepare for a reopening.
Mr Johnson warned the Covid-19 threat “remains substantial”, but said he was able to plan for a lifting of restrictions due to the “extraordinary success” of the vaccine rollout.
However, even with every adult set to have been offered a jab by July, Mr Johnson said: “No vaccine can ever be 100 per cent effective, nor will everyone take them up.”
He added: “We cannot escape the fact that lifting lockdown will result in more cases, more hospitalisations and sadly more deaths.
“This would happen whenever lockdown is lifted, whether now or in six or nine months, because there will always be some vulnerable people who are not protected by the vaccine.
“There is therefore no credible route to a Zero Covid Britain or indeed a Zero Covid World.”
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty echoed the PM, saying the virus is “likely to be a problem, in particular, in the winter for the next few winters”.
He added: “I’m afraid, for the foreseeable future, coronavirus is going to be added to that list of things that those who are vulnerable – even despite vaccination – can be at risk of.”
Business Editor Joel Hills looks at how businesses have reacted to the roadmap announcement
But, the PM said, restrictions cannot be in place forever and each step out of lockdown will be “irreversible”.
“We are setting out on what I hope and believe is a one way road to freedom,” Mr Johnson told MPs.
He was unable to guarantee, however, that there will not be a return to restrictions.
“We can’t, I’m afraid, rule out re-imposing restrictions at local or regional level if evidence suggests they are necessary to contain or suppress a new variant which escapes the vaccines.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister should listen to his scientific advisers and not Tory lockdown-sceptics when deciding on the next steps.
“If he does not, we will waste all the sacrifices of the last 12 months,” he warned.
The changes apply for England only, though leaders of devolved administrations have been in contact to coordinate a lifting of restrictions.
The government said MPs will be asked to vote on the new plan before Easter recess, but a defeat for the PM is highly unlikely due to his huge Commons majority.
Boris Johnson’s four stage roadmap out of lockdown:
Step 1 (part one) – March 8
– All schools and colleges will reopen, as well as after school clubs– One plus one recreation will be allowed; for example, people will be permitted to meet one other person from outside their household to socialise– Care home residents will be allowed one named visitor to attend regularly – Stay at home order will remain
Step 1 (part two) – March 27, at the earliest
– Rule of six to return for outdoor meetings, including private gardens as will two household rule. – Outdoor sports facilities to reopen– Stay at home order to end
Step 2 – No earlier than April 12
– Non-essential retail and personal care such as hairdressers to reopen– Public buildings such as museums and libraries will return– Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will reopen– Outdoor hospitality will reopen but customers must be seated– No requirement for a substantial meal to purchase alcohol and no curfews on opening times– Self-contained holidays within the UK to be allowed– Funerals allowed up to 30 guests, while wakes, weddings and receptions will be allowed 15 – Outdoor attractions such as zoos, theme parks and drive in cinemas
Step 3 – May 17 at the earliest
– Most restrictions on outdoor socialising to be removed; no more rule of six– Gatherings of more than 30 will still be illegal– Indoor mixing to be allowed with rule of six or two households– Indoor hospitality can reopen with same restrictions– Weddings will be allowed with up to 30 people– Large events can resume with spectators, though there will be restrictions;– Indoor events will be allowed up to 1,000 spectators or 50% of capacity, whichever is lowest– Outdoor events will be allowed up to 4,000 or 50% of capacity, whichever is lowest– Outdoor seated events, such as football matches, will be allowed 10,000 fans or 25% of capacity, whichever is lowest
Step 4 – No sooner than June 21
– All limits on social contact, such as rule of six, to be removed for both indoor and outdoor settings– Rest of society to reopen, such as nightclubs and other businesses which did not reopen following first lockdown– Social distancing will remain in place until Step 4, with a review taking place ahead of that date looking at how the advice can be removed
Listen to the ITV News coronavirus podcast:
— to www.itv.com