Six key dates that will guide Boris Johnson’s exit strategy out of lockdown
The recent news that over 15 million Brits have received the first of their two COVID-19 vaccinations has restored some much needed optimism across the country, and people are hoping we could see the first signs of normality returning around spring time.
The hospitality sector could potentially be jumping for joy in the wake of Boris Johnson's exit roadmap being revealed on February 22, as it is widely reported the blueprint contains information surrounding the reopening of pubs and restaurants, rumoured to be scheduled for the month of May.
If all over-50's are vaccinated by the end of April as they should be according to the vaccine roll-out schedule, socialising within the coveted four walls of pubs and restaurants could become a very realistic possibility.
Boris Johnson confirmed at a briefing that “we’ll make clear our roadmap" by next week.
Though the recent data surrounding COVID-19 cases and deaths shows that both are stabilising, implying the positive news that lockdown restrictions are working – it is vital the measures are not lifted until the nation is undoubtedly ready to do so.
These measures being lifted reportedly hinge heavily on whether or not everyone above the age of 50 is vaccinated on time.
Boris Johnson has already revealed that his exit strategy will be "cautious but irreversible", suggesting that this current lockdown will be the last the nation faces once it is lifted.
Schools will be the first establishments to re-open, with teachers and pupils returning to classrooms from March 8.
This will be followed by outdoor activities and non-essential retail, before the hospitality industry.
As it stands, people are only allowed to mix with one member of another household outdoors for exercise, but within a matter of weeks rule changes could mean people are allowed to socialise outdoors with friends.
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February 15 – This marked the date of the beginning of lockdown data being analysed and used when determining lockdown exit strategy, devised by the Prime Minister and his advisors.
February 22 – Prime Minister Johnson will unveil his roadmap for easing restrictions.
March 8 – All schools in England will be reopened fully, while two people from separate households may be allowed to socialise.
Early April – Sport where social distancing can be easily enforced such as tennis and golf may be allowed to resume. Non-essential retail may also restart.
Easter Weekend – Some of the more anti-lockdown Tory backbenchers have demanded the hospitality sector may allowed to resume by this date at the latest.
Early May – Heavily dependant on whether every member of the over-50s age bracket is vaccinated, but May could see the reopening of pubs and restaurants.
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During an interview with American news outlet CBS, PM Johnson revealed: “We’re going to be saying a lot more on the 22nd, we’ll be making clear our roadmap.
“And I think what people want to see is clarity about the way forward and taking steps to unlock that you don’t then have to reverse because that is what is so difficult for people.
"You need to see what the effect of the vaccination programme is in removing likely victims, victims in the sense of people who suffer either death or serious disease, what the success of the programme is in removing those people from the path of the disease, also what’s happening with the rate of infection.
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“It’s now coming down considerably in our country. What we don’t know is quite how fast it’s going to be coming down in the next couple of weeks, which we’ll be saying a lot more about in the days ahead.”
According to Kings College London Epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector, COVID-19 cases have plummeted by 80% since the start of January and hospital admissions by 60%, with a 50% decrease in people in hospital with the virus. He also shared the positive news that just the first jab alone of the inoculation process is helping to provide 67% protection against infection.
There are rumoured to be a number of different strategies the PM could opt to take when lifting lockdown measures, with one Whitehall source revealing: “You’ve got a most optimistic scenario to a least optimistic scenario.
“The dates will move around according to what the pandemic’s doing, the influence of the vaccines.”
Currently, 15,062,189 first doses – some of which have gone to people in lower priority categories – and 537,715 second doses have been administered. The next age bracket eligible according to the vaccine roll-out schedule are clinically vulnerable people and those aged 65 to 69.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, of the Oxford Vaccine centre, said: “It’s heartening to see the NHS getting this vaccine out to so many people.”
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