Lockdown easing dates will not be changed despite vaccine success, Sunak insists

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The Chancellor of the Exchequer has rejected a suggestion that the dates for easing lockdown should be brought forward.

Rishi Sunak was asked at the latest Downing Street press conference whether the rapid improvements seen in Covid levels meant it was right to look again at the road map revealed by Boris Johnson.

The Telegraph put it to Sunak that the vaccination programme was having a positive impact and asked: “Should we be open to pulling forward the road map dates?”

Sunak knocked back the suggestion – saying the Prime Minister’s plan would be adhered to.

He said Johnson’s plan was designed to be cautious and irreversible – and he backed it completely.

“The dates we have set out were always the earliest of dates,” he said.

“That is the way it will remain.”

He then offered ‘incredible congratulations’ to the work done by everyone involved in the vaccination programme.

Under the road map plans, from March 8 all children and students will return to face-to-face education in schools and college.

Officials say that by this point, everyone in the top four vaccine priority cohorts – as determined by the independent JCVI – should have received the first dose of their vaccine and developed the necessary protection from it.

Other measures on that date mean:

  • Wraparound childcare and other supervised children’s activities can resume where they enable parents to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group
  • Care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor provided they are tested and wear PPE
  • The Stay at Home requirement will remain, but people can leave home for recreation outdoors such as a coffee or picnic with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household
  • Some university students on practical courses will be able to return to face to face learning

The Government says there will be further limited changes from March 29, the week in which most schools will break up for Easter. Outdoor gatherings of either 6 people or 2 households will be allowed, providing greater flexibility for families to see each other. This includes in private gardens.

Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to reopen, and people can take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

At this point, the Stay at Home order will end, although many lockdown restrictions will remain.

Step 2, no earlier than April 12, will see the reopening of non-essential retail, while hospitality venues will be able to serve people outdoors only

Step 3, no earlier than May 17, will see the reopening of indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes, along with other measures.

And by step 4, no earlier than June 21, it is hoped all legal limits on social contact can be removed.

Full details of the road map can be seen on the Government website here.



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