More details have emerged about when some lockdown measures could be lifted – as cases continue to fall.
With the Government set to hit its target of vaccinating the most vulnerable, pressure is mounting from MPs calling for Covid restrictions to be eased.
The Prime Minister is not due to set out his roadmap for lifting lockdown until February 22.
But dates for the return of all pupils to school, the reopening of pubs and being able to meet a friend outdoors are now being reported by some newspapers.
More information has also emerged about permitting outdoor sports – and what criteria needs to be met to remove the need to wear face masks in shops and on public transport.
Here’s the latest on lifting lockdown rules…
Boris Johnson will announce next week that all pupils from both primary and secondary schools will return to classrooms on March 8, according to The Sunday Times.
The Prime Minister is said to be prioritising opening schools – with the Government acknowledging this will likely result in the coronavirus R rate rising – over lifting other restrictions.
But the chief executive of a Kent secondary school is warning against the move.
Oasis Academy’s Steve Chalke – founder of more than 50 academies across the country, including on the Isle of Sheppey – told the paper he believed it was “impossible” to open all schools fully. Instead he urged a phased return, with exam years brought back first.
Mr Chalke added: “We should be driven by scientific data, not dates.”
A decision on reopening universities is yet to have been made, according to the newspaper.
The Mail on Sunday also reports that if Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths continue to fall, then all pupils will return to class on March 8.
Pubs and restaurants
This week Iliffe Media journalists told how the boss of Shepherd Neame is urging the Government to allow pubs to reopen at Easter.
And according to the Mail on Sunday, people will be allowed to drink in beer gardens and outside dining will be permitted at restaurants from the first weekend of April.
The 10pm curfew and the requirement to have a substantial meal with alcohol will also be ditched, it is reported.
But The Sunday Times says all pubs, restaurants and shops will not reopen until at least early May, once all the over-50s are vaccinated.
Yet a Whitehall source told the newspaper that reopening by May 31 or even mid-June is more likely.
Meeting people outside
If schools are able to reopen on March 8, then on the same day picnics within households or with one friend are also set be allowed, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The Sunday Telegraph is also reporting that coffees on a park bench with a pal will be among the first things permitted.
Both newspapers also say that outdoor sports such as golf and tennis are likely to be the first to return – but not until April.
Intriguingly, for the first time details are emerging on what criteria will need to be met for rules to be eased on wearing face masks in shops on public transport.
The Sunday Times reports that ministers and scientists are hopeful that the requirements for face coverings could be removed by September – as long as the R rate has fallen below 0.3.
The R rate for the UK is currently believed to be between 0.7 and 0.9. If the rate stays below 1, the disease will eventually stop spreading because not enough new people are being infected to sustain the outbreak.
Why are these details emerging now?
The Prime Minister is coming under increasing pressure from dozens of his own MPs,who are calling on him to commit to a timetable for lifting coronavirus restrictions with a complete end to controls by the end of April.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the leaders of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) said the “tremendous pace” of the vaccination roll-out meant restrictions in England should begin easing from early March.
They said ministers must produce a cost-benefit analysis to justify any controls that remain in place after that date, with a “road-map” stating when they would be removed.
The letter was organised by the CRG chair and deputy chair, Mark Harper and Steve Baker, and was said to have the backing of 63 Conservative MPs in all.
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Written by: admin