England’s coronavirus restrictions could be finally lifted by June 21 under a four-stage plan, Boris Johnson announced as he said “the end is really in sight”.
The Prime Minister told MPs the approach was “cautious but also irreversible” with the effects of the vaccination program replacing the need for lockdown measures.
He said a “miserable year would give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better”.
The Prime Minister conceded that scientific models suggest that lifting lockdown measures would increase the number of Covid-19 cases and ultimately the number of deaths, but insisted that restrictions could not continue indefinitely.
This is Mr. Johnson’s full speech.
Mr Spokesman, with permission I will make a statement on the roadmap that leads us cautiously but irreversibly – to regain our freedoms while we do everything to protect our people from Covid.
Today’s measures will apply in England, but we are working closely with the decentralized administrations who have similar plans.
The threat remains significant. The number of hospital inmates is only now beginning to fall below the peak of the first wave in April.
However, we can take these steps because of the determination of the UK public and the tremendous success of our NHS in vaccinating more than 17.5 million people across the UK.
The data so far suggest that both vaccines are effective against the dominant strains of Covid.
Public Health England found that one dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine reduced hospital stays and deaths by at least 75 percent.
And early data suggests that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offers a good level of protection. However, since we only used this vaccine last month, the extent of its effects is less certain at this point.
But no vaccine can ever be 100 percent effective, nor will everyone ingest it, and like all viruses, Covid-19 will mutate. As the modeling released by SAGE today shows, we cannot escape the fact that lifting the lock will result in more cases, more hospitalizations and, unfortunately, more deaths.
This would happen when the lockdown is lifted, be it now or in six or nine months, as there will always be some vulnerable people who are not protected by the vaccine.
There is therefore no credible path to a Zero Covid UK or a Zero Covid World, and we cannot indefinitely hold onto restrictions that affect our economy, our physical and mental well-being and the life chances of our children.
And that’s why it’s so important that this roadmap be cautious, but also irreversible.
We are on the path that I hope and believe is a path to freedom.
And that journey is made possible by the pace of the vaccination program.
In England, all members of the four main priority groups were successfully offered a vaccine in mid-February.
We now want to offer a first dose to everyone in Groups 5 to 9 by April 15, and I set myself another stretch goal: to offer every adult a first dose by the end of July.
As more of us get vaccinated, the protection afforded by vaccines will gradually replace restrictions, and today’s roadmap contains the principles of that transition.
The level of infection is broadly similar across England so we will be relaxing restrictions in all areas at the same time.
The order is dictated by the evidence so that outdoor activities are prioritized as the best way to restore freedoms while minimizing risk.
At each stage, our decisions are guided by data, not data, and are subjected to four tests.
First, that the vaccine delivery program continues successfully; second, that evidence shows vaccines are effective enough to reduce hospital stays and deaths; third, these infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions that would not put sustained pressure on the NHS; and fourth, that our assessment of the risks will not be fundamentally changed by new, worrying variants of Covid.
Before each step, we will check the data using these tests. Since it will take at least four weeks for the data to reflect the effects of any easing in restrictions, we’d like to give the country a week of notice before any change – this will be at least five weeks between each step.
The Chief Medical Officer understands that moving faster would mean we act before we know the implications of each step, which increases the risk of us having to reverse course and re-impose restrictions.
I will not take that risk.
Step one will take place from March 8th. Until then, those in the top four priority groups will benefit from the increased protection they will get from their first dose of their vaccine.
Speaker, all the evidence shows that classrooms are the best places for our young people.
That’s why I’ve always said schools are the last to close and the first to reopen.
And based on our assessment of the current data based on the four tests, I can tell the house that in two weeks schoolchildren from all schools and further education institutions can safely return to personal lessons, supported by two-fold support. weekly exam of secondary and college students.
Families and childcare bubbles are also encouraged to get tested regularly.
Breakfast and after-school clubs can also reopen – and other children’s activities, including exercise, can be restarted if necessary to help parents with work.
Students on university courses that require hands-on tuition, specialized facilities, or on-site assessments will also be returning, but everyone else will need to keep studying online and we’ll be looking into options of when they can return by the end of the Easter break.
From March 8, in addition to exercising, people can also meet someone outside their household to relax outdoors – for example, having a coffee on a bench or a picnic in a park.
However, we advise the clinically extremely vulnerable people to shield at least until the end of March.
Each nursing home resident can designate a named visitor who can be seen regularly, provided they have been tested and are wearing PPE.
And finally, we will change the regulations to allow a wider range of Covid-safe campaigning activities for May 6th local elections.
As part of step one, on March 29th, when schools are in the Easter break, we’ll go further and make limited changes.
It will be possible to meet in limited numbers outdoors, where the risk is less.
Hence, the rule of six will return in the open air, including in private gardens, and outdoor meetings of two households will also be permitted on the same basis, so that families can meet in different circumstances. Outdoor sports facilities – such as tennis and basketball courts and outdoor pools – can be reopened
and formally organized outdoor sports are resumed under guidance.
From this point onwards, March 29th, people are no longer required by law to stay at home, but many lockdown restrictions remain in place.
People should continue to work from home where they can and minimize all travel wherever possible.
Step two begins at least five weeks after the start of step one and no earlier than April 12th with an announcement at least seven days in advance.
If the four tests require a delay to analyze the latest data, this and subsequent steps will also be delayed to maintain the five-week gap.
Step two reopens non-essential retail stores, as well as personal care, including hairdressers, which I like to say, and nail salons.
Indoor leisure facilities such as fitness studios will be reopened, as will holiday apartments, but only for individuals or household groups.
We will start reopening our outdoor pubs and restaurants and Hon members will be relieved that there will be no curfew and that the Scottish egg debate will end as alcohol does not have to be accompanied by a hearty meal.
Zoos, theme parks and drive-in theaters, as well as public libraries and community centers, will reopen.
Step three begins on May 17th at the earliest.
Provided the data passes the four tests, most of the outdoor meeting restrictions will be lifted, subject to a limit of 30.
And this is where you can see your friends and family indoors – subject to the rule of six or two households meeting.
We will also reopen indoor pubs and restaurants as well as cinemas and children’s playgrounds, hotels, hostels and B & Bs.
Theaters and concert halls will open their doors, and the turnstiles of our sports stadiums will in any case be subject to capacity restrictions depending on the size of the venue.
And we’ll be piloting larger events with advanced testing with the aim of further easing the restrictions in the next step.
Step 4 starts on June 21 at the earliest.
With reasonable remedial measures, we will seek to lift all legal restrictions on social contact, weddings and other life events.
We will reopen everything up to and including nightclubs and allow major events such as theatrical performances beyond the boundaries of Step 3, possibly using testing to reduce the risk of infection.
Speaker, our journey back towards normalcy will depend on the resolution of a number of key questions. To do this, we will do four reviews.
It will be assessed how long it will take us to maintain social distance and face masks.
This will also provide guidance on working from home – which should, if possible, continue until this review is completed.
And it will be critical to how Parliament can safely return in a way that I know the Hon members would want.
A second review looks at the resumption of international travel, which is vital for many of the hardest hit businesses such as retail, hospitality, tourism and aviation.
A successor to the Global Travel Taskforce will report by April 12th so people can plan for the summer.
The third review takes into account the potential role of Covid Status Certification in helping venues open safely, but taking into account the numerous concerns about exclusion, discrimination and privacy.
And the fourth review will look at the safe return of major events.
Mr. Sprecher, as we go through these steps we will benefit from the combined protection of our vaccines and the continuous expansion of rapid tests.
We will be extending the supply of free test kits to workplaces until the end of June, and families, small businesses, and the self-employed will be able to collect these tests from local test locations.
Speaker, in the face of these cautious but hopefully irreversible changes, people may be concerned about what these changes mean for the various support packages, for people’s livelihoods and for the economy.
I want to assure the house that we’re not going to pull the carpet out.
During the duration of the pandemic, the government will continue to do everything possible to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK.
And my friend, the Chancellor, will be giving further details in the budget next Wednesday. Finally, Mr Spokesman, we have to watch out for the constant mutations of the virus.
Next month, we’ll be releasing an updated Local Outbreak Response Plan, with a number of measures to address worrisome variants, including surge PCR testing and improved contact tracing.
I fear we cannot rule out the possibility that restrictions will be reintroduced at the local or regional level when there is evidence that they are necessary to contain or suppress a new variant that is evading vaccines.
Speaker, I know there will be many people who will worry that we are too ambitious and that it is arrogant to impose any plan on a virus.
And I agree that we must always be humble and careful in the face of nature, but I really also believe that the vaccination program has dramatically changed the odds in our favor and on that basis we can now proceed.
And of course there will be others who believe we could move faster based on this vaccination program and I understand their feelings and very much sympathize with the exhaustion and stress that people and businesses are experiencing after so long in lockdown.
But for them I say that today the end is really in sight and a miserable year will give way to a spring and a summer that will be completely different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today.
With that in mind, I recommend this statement to the House