ANY lifting of lockdown over the coming months will be irreversible, Boris Johnson has revealed.
Desperate to avoid plunging the UK back into yet another crippling lockdown, the PM insists that a cautious lifting of restrictions is needed to avoid hospitals becoming overwhelmed with covid patients again.
Speaking of lockdown measures easing, Boris said “what we wanted to see is progress that is cautious but irreversible and I think that’s what the public and people up and down the country will want to see”.
The news comes at Matt Hancock revealed Britain’s pubs will reopen without vaccine passport rules.
The Health Secretary confirmed that vaccine passports are currently not being considered for use in domestic settings such as pubs, shops and live events once the coronavirus lockdown eventually lifts.
His comments came after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab sparked concern that vaccine passports may be required inside the UK, as well as to allow those who’ve already been vaccinated to take foreign holidays.
The news comes as Boris Johnson is expected to announce the reopening of schools and resumption of sitting on park benches with a single friend as he appears at a press conference this evening.
The Prime Minister will speak at 5pm tonight and you can watch his statement here, live on this page, as well following our live blog below
Restrictions for adults will only be slightly relaxed in March with Brits being allowed to sit down outdoors with one friend or family member.
At the end of next month, social distancing rules are expected to be eased further with outdoor sports like golf and tennis for two people from different households being allowed.
Follow the live blog below for the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis…
WHO ‘EXPECT’ VACCINE PASSPORTS TO BE ISSUED IN FUTURE
The World Health Organisation special envoy for the Covid-19 response has said he expects “some sort” of vaccine passport will be introduced in future.
Dr David Nabarro said: “I am absolutely certain in the next few months we will get a lot of movement and what are the conditions around which people are easily able to move from place to place, so some sort of vaccine certificate no doubt will be important.”
The concept of ‘vaccine passports’ has previously been dismissed by government ministers as “discriminatory”, though transport secretary Grant Shapps has suggested that such a document could be useful for those wanting to travel safely.
MPS CALL FOR COVID SAFE WEDDINGS TO REOPEN
Senior Tory backbenchers have urged Boris Johnson to allow Covid-safe weddings to resume from March 8 before permitting unrestricted ceremonies from May 1.
Thirteen MPs, including 1922 committee chairman Sir Graham Brady, have backed a campaign seeking to pressure the PM as he prepares to unveil a roadmap out of lockdown.
Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said: “Vaccinating the top nine risk groups will prevent around 99% of deaths from Covid and around 80% of hospital admissions.
“That should be a huge moment for the UK to hold its head up high, for couples to walk down the aisle, and for families up and down the country to reunite, to celebrate and to plan their futures.”
QUARANTINE HOTELS ‘WORKING SMOOTHLY’
Britain’s new hotel quarantine system for arrivals from 33 “red list” countries appears to be working smoothly a few hours after it was introduced, Matt Hancock has said.
“As of 6.30am, when I got my latest update, this is working smoothly, we’ve been working with the airports and with the border force to make sure everybody knows the process,” Hancock told Times Radio.
“It does appear to be going smoothly this morning.”
HANCOCK REACHES OUT TO LOCKDOWN SCEPTICS
Matt Hancock said he spoke to Mark Harper, chairman of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group (CRG), made up of Tory MPs, “all the time” about the progress being made on releasing the lockdown.
Speaking to Sky News, the Cabinet minister said: “Everybody wants to get out of this as quickly as we safely can – both as quickly but also as safely is important.
“That’s what everyone agrees with.
“The question is a judgment of how quickly and how safely – that’s the judgment we will be making this week, looking at the data ahead of the Prime Minister setting out the road map on February 22, a week from today.
“These are the judgments that will be made this week and we will talk to everybody who has an input into that debate because it is a very important and fine judgment.”
‘ON ITS KNEES’
The chairman of pub chain Wetherspoon is calling on the Government to open pubs at the same time as non-essential shops.
Tim Martin warned that the pub industry is “on its knees” and needs to reopen to save jobs.
He said pubs make a massive contribution to the economy, with Wetherspoon alone paying about £10 of tax for every pound of profit it makes.
Ministers are to begin reviewing coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England after more than 15 million people across the UK received their first dose of a vaccine.
Boris Johnson hailed the achievement – just over two months after the vaccination programme delivered its first jab – as a “significant milestone” in the fight against the disease.
Ministers have said they are “on track” to meet the target of getting an offer of a first dose to everyone the UK in the top four priority groups – including all over 70s – by Monday’s deadline.
Travellers flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel room, under new regulations taking effect on Monday.
Unless exempt, a passenger will have to pay £1,750 to quarantine in a room at one of six designated hotels in a bid to avoid importation of the virus.
However, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said on Sunday a “loophole” allowing overseas travellers to avoid hotel quarantine still exists which could “potentially undermine the public health approach here in Scotland”.
HOLIDAY HOPES FOR LOCKDOWN-BORED BRITS
Brits could be allowed to take self-catered breaks by Easter if the reproductive rate of the virus stays low.
Under Boris Johnson’s road map for lifting Covid restrictions, the hospitality industry could open its doors again from Easter weekend.
According to The Times, government ministers are considering allowing families from the same household to go on holidays from the break.
This means Brits would at least be able to enjoy a holiday in England while international travel is likely to still be on hold.
But the plans would only happen if the crucial R-rate remains low up to April 2.
PM WANTS OTHER COUNTRIES TO SEE COVID JAB SUPPLIES BOOSTED
Boris Johnson, who hosts a virtual meeting of G7 leaders on Friday, says that he wants to work with countries like the United States to ensure coronavirus vaccines are made available around the world.
“There’s no point in great countries like the US, the UK, vaccinating our own populations if we don’t ensure that everybody gets a vaccine,” he said.
LOCKED-DOWN DOGS GETTING STRESSED OUT
Humans aren’t the only species getting distressed with the repeated Covid lockdowns, reports The Sunday Times.
Dogs are also suffering from the strain – prompting some owners to seek professional help for their pooches.
The stress is leading them to bark constantly, or become overly anxious when their owner leaves the house, as they’re now used to enjoying their company 24/7.
Some dogs have developed a fear of other pets and even people, the Times reports.
Or, young dogs are getting stressed out as they don’t have enough ‘quiet time’ as children are constantly near them, animal behaviour experts said.
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