The UK is facing weeks more in lockdown, but the end could be in sight as the Prime Minister plans a ‘road map’ out of restrictions.
Boris Johnson is expected to set out his plan on February 22, but there have been plenty of hints of what to expect.
While nothing concrete has been announced, it’s handy to keep up to date with what the latest updates are.
The signs of optimism come after Professor Chris Whitty said last week that we are past the peak of the virus, with cases and deaths now falling – although still at a much higher level than when the first lockdown was lifted last summer.
That’s why Boris Johnson has warned that it remains ‘early days’ however there is still some pressure on the PM to announce what is next.
We have a round-up of the key dates to keep an eye on as restrictions begin to change, with a warning that lockdown could last for a while yet.
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Next week is when the quarantine hotel system is expected to begin in the UK, with specific details to be outlined this week.
This will mean that travellers from high-risk areas will need stay in a specified hotel – at their own cost – for 10 days to limit any new strains of coronavirus entering the country.
This was also scheduled for the first review of lockdown restrictions, with a view of schools returning following the February half-term, although it now seems unlikely that anything will change.
While there may not be any immediate changes, we should at least have an idea of what is to come in the week of February 22.
The Prime Minister said: “On February 22, we will be setting out in as much detail as we can about where we see the dates, what the timetable could be, the earliest dates by which we want to do what – you remember what we did last year – setting out a route map, we’ll do that again.”
This could be similar to the path set out in May last year, which gave dates for non-essential shops and hospitality businesses to resume – but these could of course still be delayed further.
Schools have also been promised two weeks’ notice before reopening, which would mean this is the latest date a March 8 reopening could be announced.
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The reopening of schools and colleges will be debated on February 25, with MPs scrutinising the national ‘education route map’.
This is the date pencilled in for children to return to the classroom.
The Prime Minister has said that March 8 would be the most ‘prudent’ date, but it depends on factors including cases dropping and the vaccination programme continuing at a similar pace.
The re-opening of schools has long been accepted to be the first step in England lifting its lockdown, with other stages following.
The rest of March depends on how well the reopening of schools has gone and whether cases are still declining.
The current lockdown legislation ends on March 31, meaning that it would have to be approved by MPs once again.
It is very unlikely we’ll see normality return before then, so MPs could be asked to extend lockdown once again.
What happens after?
The Government has said that all over-50s should have been offered their first coronavirus jab by the end of May, which is likely to be a big step in allowing life to return to anywhere near normal.
It seems unlikely, however, that the strictest measures will be in place until then as cases fall.
There had been reports that the Prime Minister was aiming for Easter Sunday (April 2) as a target for easing restrictions on household mixing.
Other speculation over the weekend suggested that pubs may be required to open alcohol-free in the first stages as one of the steps currently being considered.
Shops are likely to be in the next stage of re-openings after schools, followed by restaurants and pubs – but no date has been set out yet with an expectation this may not be until April.