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Boris Johnson has confirmed his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, which he said will go in one direction starting with all pupils going back to school from March 8.

The prime minister spoke to the nation in a press conference this evening, after updating MPs earlier today in the House of Commons.

He said that thanks to the NHS having now vaccinated more than 17.7 million people across the UK, ‘this unparalleled national effort has decisively shifted the odds in our favour – so that we no longer have to rely simply on lockdowns and restricting our behaviour, and putting our lives on hold.’

‘Every day that goes by, this program of vaccination is creating a shield around the entire population which means we are now travelling on a one way road to freedom,’ he said.

‘And we can now begin safely to restart our lives and do it with confidence. I want to be frank about exactly what that means, and the trade-offs involved.

‘The vaccines reduce the danger of Covid, they save lives and they keep people out of hospital. But no vaccine against any disease, is ever been 100% effective. So whenever we ease the lockdown, whether it’s today, or in six or nine months, we’ve got to be realistic and accept that there will be more infections, more hospitalisations and therefore sadly more deaths, just as there are every year with flu.

Today I’ll be setting out a roadmap to bring us out of lockdown cautiously. Our priority has always been getting children back into school which we know is crucial for their education and wellbeing. We’ll also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 22, 2021

‘Even if we sustain the lockdown indefinitely, which would itself cost lives and do immeasurable harm to our children, we would not be able to eradicate this disease. That is why it is right to gradually replace the protections afforded by lockdown, with the protection of the vaccines.’

He said that spring and summer could be seasons of hope thanks to the vaccines.

Setting out key dates, he said that a further loosening of rules will take place on March 29 when the school Easter holidays begin, with larger groups of up to six people or two households allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

Other measures include:

– From April 12 at the earliest: shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will reopen.

– From May 17 at the earliest, two households or groups of up to six people will be allowed to mix indoors and crowds of up to 10,000 in the largest venues will be allowed at performances and sporting events.

– Friends and family could finally be allowed to hug each other again, with the road map promising that advice on social distancing will be updated ‘as soon as possible’ and no later than step three.

– From June 21 at the earliest, all remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted, larger events can go ahead and nightclubs could finally reopen.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I know there are some who would like to accelerate the timetable. Of course there are others who would like to be more cautious and stay in the slow lane.

‘I understand both points of view and I sympathise because levels of infection are still high. We must strike a very careful balance, and always accept that we’ve got to be humble in the face of nature.

‘But also we must accept that we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that have separated families and loved ones for too long, threatened the livelihoods of millions, and kept pupils out of school.’

He said he couldn’t ‘guarantee’ there would be no return to lockdown if the infection rates continued to rise, with the potential for new variants to evolve.

But he said he ‘certainly hopes’ the relaxation will be irreversible.

Making a statement in the Commons earlier, the Prime Minister acknowledged ‘the threat remains substantial’ with the numbers in hospital only now beginning to fall below the peak of the first wave in April.

But there is ‘no credible route to a zero Covid Britain, or indeed, a zero Covid world and we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing and the life chances of our children’.

The Prime Minister said his approach would be driven by ‘data not dates’, with the five-week gap between stages allowing time for the impact on infections to be determined and for companies to get ready.

These measures only apply to England. In Scotland and Wales the phased return of children to classes began on Monday.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will set out her plan to exit lockdown on Tuesday, while Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford has suggested stay-at-home orders could be eased in around three weeks.

In Northern Ireland, First Minister Arlene Foster has promised a ‘decision-making framework’ on how the executive plans to exit lockdown will be published on March 1.



Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown

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Jen Mills

metro.co.uk

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