Boris Johnson finalises lockdown ‘roadmap’ ahead of Monday unveiling

21 February 2021, 15:34

Boris Johnson will chair a meeting to finalise the Covid lockdown roadmap.
Boris Johnson will chair a meeting to finalise the Covid lockdown roadmap. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Boris Johnson is chairing a meeting of senior ministers to finalise his roadmap out of national lockdown, ahead of unveiling the plan to Parliament and the nation on Monday.

The so-called ‘Covid S’ committee of senior ministers is set to meet on Sunday, before the full Cabinet signs off the plan on Monday.

The prime minister is expected to reveal his plan to MPs in the House of Commons at around 3pm, before addressing the nation in a press conference from Downing Street at 7pm.

The meeting comes as the UK passed the milestone of one in three adults having now received their first Covid-19 vaccine.

After months of tight lockdown rules, the long-awaited announcement will give England the first clear idea of how the government expects to ease restrictions.

The first key easing of restrictions is expected to be the reopening of schools from 8 March, although it is currently unclear whether all students will return on that date or if there will be a phased return.

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Plans are also expected to allow care home residents to hold hands with a regular indoor visitor from 8 March.

An easing of restrictions on outdoor socialising within weeks is also expected to form part of the plans.

Ahead of Mr Johnson’s speech, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has insisted that the government’s goal is to take a “cautious but irreversible approach”, pushing back at the “understandable” desire for a swift return to normal life.

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The PM has made clear that while some indicative dates will be given to aid businesses in planning, all easing of restrictions will be guided by “data not dates”, with announcements subject to review.

It comes amidst pressure from some Conservative backbenchers who argue the incredible success of the UK’s Covid vaccination rollout means restrictions should end in April.

“The key to the whole opening up of the economy is in the vaccinations,” Former Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith, told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday.

“You take out the at-risk groups, the ones most likely to end up in hospital...once you have got to those groups you are in a position to ensure that the economy can open.”

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However, Professor Andrew Hayward, who sits on the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, has cautioned there is still “quite a long way to go” before the most vulnerable were all vaccinated.

Responding to reports that the government may shelve a phased reopening of schools in favour of a ‘big bang’ approach, Prof Hayward warned this “will lead to a lot of transmission amongst school children, which will spread up the age groups”.

“I think opening all schools completely on March 8 is reckless in the current circumstances,” he added.

“There are still very many people out there who are vulnerable to getting severe disease.”

Each of the four UK nations will ease lockdown separately, with Nicola Sturgeon expected to outline her plans for Scotland on Tuesday.