Tories slam ‘dodgy assumptions’ behind Boris Johnson’s lockdown ‘roadmap’

Tories stepped up their attack on Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown today complaining it is based on ‘dodgy assumptions’ about vaccine takeup.

Former chief whip Mark Harper, head of the 70-strong Covid Recovery Group of sceptical MPs, said the models being used by the government were ‘flawed’.

He said ‘understating’ the reach of the vaccine rollout had resulted in the PM coming up with a plan that delays reopening the country two months longer than necessary.

‘The biggest flaw is they assume a very low uptake of the vaccine,’ he told LBC.

‘We know the uptake of the vaccine is over 90 per cent in the top groups that have been vaccinated, above 95 per cent, they’ve assumed 15 per cent of the population don’t take the vaccine.

‘I have two problems with that, one is that isn’t realistic, that’s not what’s happening, but secondly there is a real question about whether the rest of the country should be held back for two months because some people choose not to take the vaccine.’

He added: ‘The Government seems to have looked at some models with dodgy assumptions and have effectively delayed opening the country by two months.’ 

The jibe came as Mr Johnson defended his ‘sensible and prudent’ four-stage plan after the approach was attacked from both sides. Leading epidemiologist Neil Ferguson suggested the easings could be ‘accelerated’ if infections do not rise too sharply.

But Mr Johnson dismissed the idea on a visit to a school in South London, saying: ‘Some people will say we’re going to be going too fast, some people will say we’re going too slow.’ 

The premier also refused to guarantee that all restrictions will definitely be lifted by June 21 as scheduled, but insisted he was ‘hopeful’ it can happen.  

Tories and business have been voicing disquiet about the ultra-cautious approach being taken by ministers, even though the vaccination drive has been surging ahead.

Schools will return on March 8, but there will be almost no further loosening of the draconian curbs before Easter.  There will be a five week gap between each of the four main stages of the plan, with scientists having won the argument in government that time is needed to assess the impact.

The PM has been boosted by snap polls showing the public largely backs his stance, with 46 per cent telling YouGov it is about right – and around a fifth suggesting it is too fast.

Prof Ferguson – whose grim modelling triggered the initial lockdown last year – sounded a bright note on Times Radio last night. 

‘Hopefully what we’ll see when each step happens is a very limited resurgence of infections. In which case, there’s a chance we can accelerate the schedule,’ he said. 

However, Mr Hancock dismissed the idea of speeding the schedule up in a round of interviews this morning. ‘No. We need to see the effects of each step, and that takes five weeks,’ he said. 

Welsh government experts said today that Mr Johnson’s timeline is ‘risky’ and the outbreak could spiral out of control again, while Nicola Sturgeon is expected to unveil her own more cautious exit strategy this afternoon. 

In other developments today:

  • A total of 5,691 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending February 12 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – the lowest figure since the week ending January 1; 
  • Unemployment has risen to 5.1 per cent with younger people bearing the brunt as Rishi Sunak prepares to extend the furlough scheme in his Budget next week; 
  • Matt Hancock has defended rushing through PPE procurement after a wave of criticism about lack of transparency and cronyism; 
  • Scientists have suggested masks will still be used in 2026 after Sir Patrick Vallance said they could reappear next winter;
  • Millions of secondary school pupils will have to wear masks in the classroom when they return to school on March 8;
  • Scientists unveiled ‘spectacular’ data suggesting one dose of the Covid vaccine is cutting the hospitalisation risk among the over-80s by three-quarters;
  • 178 virus deaths were announced yesterday – the fewest since mid-November. The seven-day average for cases was 11,186, compared with a peak of 68,053 on January 8;
  • Downing Street confirmed ministers will examine the case for so-called ‘vaccine passports’, having rejected the idea two months ago. 

Boris Johnson (pictured visiting Sedgehill School in South London today) said he was being 'sensible and prudent' with his four-stage lockdown exit plan after attacks on the approach from both sides

Former chief whip Mark Harper (left), head of the 70-strong Covid Recovery Group of sceptical MPs, said the models being used by Boris Johnson (pictured right visiting Sedgehill School in South London today) were ‘flawed’

Mr Johnson refused to guarantee that all restrictions will definitely be lifted by June 21 as scheduled, but insisted he was 'hopeful' it can happen

Mr Johnson refused to guarantee that all restrictions will definitely be lifted by June 21 as scheduled, but insisted he was ‘hopeful’ it can happen

Releasing their modelling of a series of different roadmaps out of lockdown, the SAGE group warned that there would be at least another 30,000 virus deaths - even in the 'most optimistic' scenario

Releasing their modelling of a series of different roadmaps out of lockdown, the SAGE group warned that there would be at least another 30,000 virus deaths – even in the ‘most optimistic’ scenario

How will lockdown ease in the roadmap?  

Step One Part One: March 8

From March 8, all pupils and students will return to schools and colleges across England.

So-called wrap-around childcare will also be allowed to resume, paving the way for after and before school clubs to reopen.

People will be allowed to meet one other person outside for recreation, for example, to have a picnic or to meet for coffee.

Care home residents will be able to have one regular named visitor.

The Government’s stay at home order will remain in place, with travel for non-essential purposes still banned.

Step One Part Two: March 29

From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed. These gatherings will be allowed to happen in private gardens.

Outdoor sports like tennis and basketball will be allowed to reopen and people will also be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

It is at this point that the Government’s stay at home guidance will end, to be replaced by ministers encouraging people to ‘stay local’.

However, the Government is expected not to define what constitutes local, instead choosing to rely on people using their common sense to decide on journeys.

People will still be told to work from home wherever possible while international travel will still be banned unless it is for essential purposes.

Step Two: April 12

Nom-essential retail will be allowed to reopen as well as personal care premises like hairdressers, barbers and nail salons.

Public buildings like libraries, museums and art galleries will be allowed to welcome back customers.

Meanwhile, hospitality venues and outdoor attractions like theme parks will be given the green light to reopen in some form.

However, there will still be rules on household mixing: Essentially any activity which involves being indoors will be restricted to members of the same household.

Gyms and swimming pools will also reopen from April 12 but only on the basis that people go on their own or with their own household.

Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen but at this point they will only be able to have customers outdoors.

Any visits to a pub or restuarant will have to comply with the rules on social contact, so no more than two households or the rule of six.

The Government will not be bringing back the old requirement for people to order a substantial meal with alcohol while the old 10pm curfew will be ditched.

All customers at hospitality venues will also have to be seated when they order food or drink, with ordering at the bar prohibited.

Campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can also reopen but trips must be restricted a single household.

Funerals will be allowed to continue with up to 30 people, while the rules on wedding receptions will be eased to allow the number of guests to increase from six to 15.

Step Three: May 17

The two household and rule of six requirements for outdoor gatherings will be ditched but gatherings of more than 30 people in places like parks will still be banned.

Crucially, mixing indoors will be allowed again. The rule of six or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed to meet.

However, this will be kept under review by ministers to see if rules could be relaxed still further.

This is also the point at which pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to open indoors, with the rule of six and two household limit in place. But groups meeting outdoors at pubs will be allowed to be bigger.

Entertainment venues like cinemas and children’s play areas will be able to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs. Indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes can also reopen.

Changes will also be made to sporting and performance events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half full

The deputy chief medical officer for Wales, Chris Jones struck a starkly different tone today, saying he is ‘very concerned’ about the pace of the plan. 

‘The messaging to the public has always been very important here,’ he told BBC Wales. 

‘To send the message that everything is going to be back to normal in a few months time is a message with some risk. This pandemic could easily go out of control again. This is a critical time.

‘There is a real risk of a third wave if restrictions are lifted too quickly and too early. There’s no doubt about that. We still have a vulnerable population. We’ve only had time to vaccinate the most at risk.’

Announcing his plan last night, Mr Johnson insisted he was putting Britain on a ‘one way road to freedom’ that would put the nation in an ‘incomparably better’ position.

Progress along the roadmap will depend on meeting four tests: the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, an assessment of new variants, and keeping infection rates below a level that could put ‘unsustainable’ pressure on the NHS.

The Prime Minister denied he was being overly cautious, saying the reopening would happen ‘as fast as we reasonably can’ and the ‘end really is in sight’.

Insisting that the unlocking would be led by ‘data not dates’, he added: ‘I won’t be buccaneering with people’s lives.’ But he acknowledged there was no guarantee a fourth lockdown would not be needed if the virus took an unexpected turn.

It has emerged that Sage scientific advisers had warned heavily against an accelerated timetable, saying it would lead to many more infections.

They said a further 90,000 deaths could result in a worst-case scenario. They modelled the effects of allowing solo indoor visitors as early as March 29 but found it would increase hospital admissions significantly. 

Under an initial scenario, Mr Johnson had planned to reopen outdoor pubs and restaurants, outdoor attractions and non-essential shops in time for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend – but this was delayed until April 12 following criticism by Government scientists.

Papers released last night showed that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies warned No10 there would be at least another 30,000 coronavirus deaths in even the ‘most optimistic’ case – and possibly 91,000 caused by a dramatic spike in cases following a rapid easing of lockdown in April. 

Presenting their modelling of a series of different roadmaps out of lockdown, the scientists claimed that without a gradual approach, the pressure on NHS hospitals would peak in June at nearly 60,000 coronavirus inpatients – higher than even last month’s peak of 39,000 patients. 

The SAGE papers also showed that the timetable, which also would have brought the full reopening of hospitality in either April or May, could have led to 55,000 further deaths and the R rate rising by as much as 0.5. 

Scientists were again urging caution today as the government fended off criticism. 

Dr Mike Tildesley, reader in mathematical modelling of infectious diseases at the University of Warwick and a member of the Government advisory group SPI-M, said the ‘one-way route to freedom’ promised by the PM was ‘potentially a little bit uncertain’.

When asked whether the dates for lifting restrictions may change, he told the Today programme: ‘In terms of the future dates, I think we always need to be aware that the Government needs to be reactive – if we do see a spike in cases or if we see things not going down as fast as we hoped, I think there needs to remain the possibility to hold off for a couple of weeks so we get things in control.

‘Particularly if the Government wants to have this one-way route to freedom, which I think in itself is potentially a little bit uncertain.

‘It may be that we have to have some measures introduced for a little bit of time in order to prevent these surges of infection occurring so that ultimately we can take virtually a one-way route back to normality.’

Dr Tildesley said that he was ‘concerned’ that the virus might persist particular parts of the country.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether Covid-19 could remain a ‘disease of the deprived’, he said: ‘This is a real concern actually for me and I know a number of other scientists have raised this, that we may end up in a situation where we have the ‘vaccine rich’ and as it were, who are able to access the vaccine who have taken up the vaccine and are at much lower risk.

‘And the maybe people in society who have not taken up the vaccine and potentially these individuals could be clustered in particular parts of the country, and there is increased risk there.

‘So I think it’s something that we do need to do more about to make sure that the vaccine is available to everyone to take up and so that we minimise the risk of the virus persisting in particular parts of the country, and causing much more harm to those communities.’

Mr Hancock suggested masks will stay a fact of life today as he said the aim is to move to ‘personal responsibility’ rather than social distancing laws.

‘Patrick Vallance was clear yesterday that mask wearing in winter is one of the examples of things that might need to stay,’ he told Times Radio.

‘What we want to do is get rid of the social distancing-type laws that get in the way of normal life and move to personal responsibility, rather than laws dictating how all of us live our daily lives.

‘But, it is also clear that eradication is unfortunately not possible with this disease, so we are going to have to learn to live with it.

‘In the same way that for instance we live with flu, but we don’t let flu get in the way of living our lives.

‘But we do vaccinate against it every year – in the case of flu we vaccinate those who are most vulnerable – and so I expect to have that vaccination programme as a regular feature of future life.’ 

The roadmap confirmed the Government will undertake a revaccination programme, with booster jabs in autumn;

Neil Ferguson

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock (right) today slapped down Professor Neil Ferguson (left) after he suggested the government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown could be speeded up if things go well

UK has one of harshest lockdowns in the world 

Britons are living under the sixth strictest lockdown in the world – and the second harshest in Europe – according to an analysis by the University of Oxford.

Researchers have ranked the pandemic responses of 180 countries on a ‘stringency map’ by looking at how Covid restrictions have affected schools, offices, social gatherings, international travel and freedom to leave home.

Each country was scored on a scale of one to 100, with a higher figure indicating the most severe virus-controlling curbs. The numbers represented an average since the start of the pandemic.

The team put Britain’s Covid restrictions at 86.11 out of 100 by February 17, using the latest available data. Britain’s lockdown was ranked harsher than France (63.89) and the US (68.06), and stricter than Germany’s (83.33).

Foreign holidays will remain banned until at least May 17, with no guarantee they will be permitted this summer. Staycations will not restart for Easter;

The wedding industry complained it had been left in limbo, with gatherings limited to 30 until at least June 21;

In the Commons, the PM acknowledged that there was ‘no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain’ – and said the UK had to learn to live with the virus. He said: ‘That is why it is so crucial that this roadmap should be cautious but also irreversible.’

Mr Johnson was quizzed repeatedly by MPs on why the slow route out of lockdown failed to match the rapid pace of the vaccine roll-out.

He said the vaccine was not 100 per cent effective, and that some people were refusing it or unable to take it – potentially leaving a ‘large minority who will not have sufficient protection’.

He added: ‘The risk is that letting the brakes off could see the disease surge up in such a way as again to rip through a large number or rip through those groups in a way that I do not think anybody in this country would want.’

Mr Harper said the easing of the lockdown could not be delayed by people refusing jabs.

Fellow Tory Bill Wiggin urged ministers to do more to ensure people ‘get jabbed and let the rest of us out’.

At last night’s Downing Street press conference, the PM batted away complaints from Tories and business over his ‘cautious’ roadmap by insisting that he was prioritising ‘certainty over urgency’ and promising that his exit plan would end the cycle of shutdowns. 

Under his four-point roadmap, schools in England will reopen from March 8 – though the next stage of loosening will not be until March 29, when the formal Stay at Home edict is finally dropped in favour of ‘Stay Local’, and the Rule of Six makes a comeback. It will be extended to allow two households to gather, enabling relatives to meet properly for the first time in months. 

But shops, hairdressers and pubs must remain closed until April 12 at the earliest – the same time gyms can get back up and running – regardless of mounting fears about the economic meltdown. 

Campsites and holiday lets can reopen for single households from April 12 – but international travel is completely off the cards until at least May 17. Social distancing rules will stay in force until June 21 at the minimum, with a government review to decide their future after that. 

Sports can start to return from May 17, although venues will need to work on reduced capacities. Up to 30 people can go to weddings from the same date, but are stuck at that number until the next phase of the roadmap.

Only at June 21 will all legal limits on social contact go, and the remaining elements of the hospitality sector be allowed to open. The PM stressed that he is being driven by ‘data not dates’ and the timeline is not guaranteed.

A snap poll by YouGov gave Mr Johnson a boost suggesting most people support his approach to the lockdown easing

A snap poll by YouGov gave Mr Johnson a boost suggesting most people support his approach to the lockdown easing

Vaccines ‘on track’ despite Hancock blaming supplies for slowdown 

Pfizer today insisted their coronavirus vaccine deliveries are on track, hitting back at Matt Hancock after he warned supply issues would slow down the roll-out this week.

The Health Secretary claimed a delay in the supply schedule will result in fewer jabs being dished out. But he also said there would be some ‘bumper weeks in March’ to make up for the lag.

Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca — manufacturers of the jabs currently deployed in the UK — say there is no issue with deliveries.

Pfizer sources today told MailOnline there were ‘no supply challenges’ and deliveries were arriving as planned. AstraZeneca yesterday admitted there were ‘fluctuations’ in supply at plants but that it was still ‘on track’ with orders.

Official figures showed Britain only administered 150,000 vaccines on Sunday, in the worst daily performance since the NHS roll-out began to gather speed last month. The number of first doses dished out has dropped by 40 per cent week-on-week.

With a rapid inoculation drive crucial to Britain’s hopes of lockdown being eased in the next few months, critics say there is ‘no excuse’ for the rollout slowing down.

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: ‘The sooner you open up everything, the higher the risk of a bigger resurgence. The slower you do it, the better.’

Addressing the research, Mr Johnson told MPs: ‘No vaccine can ever be 100 per cent effective. As the modelling released by SAGE today shows, we cannot escape the fact that lifting lockdown will result in more cases, more hospitalisations and sadly more deaths. 

‘This would happen whenever lockdown is lifted because there will always be some vulnerable people who are not protected by vaccines.’

The SAGE papers show that scientists had warned that, even with the successful vaccination rollout, millions would remain susceptible to infection and death.

The gloomy forecasts, by experts at Imperial College London and Warwick University, were signed off by SAGE last week and effectively dashed hopes of a rapid return to normality. 

Scientists were asked to model different scenarios for the roadmap, including relaxing all restrictions in April, or waiting until August. Experts found that ‘all of the relaxation scenarios lead to a third wave of infections’.

A gradual approach to lifting restrictions, over several months, was essential to prevent an ‘unsustainable rise in hospital admissions’.

Sage also modelled the effects of people being allowed single visitors into their homes as early as March 29, which would have allowed Easter reunions.

They stressed that allowing people to mix indoors before June would lead to ‘significantly higher numbers of infections’, resulting in a wave of hospital admissions similar to last month.

The SPI-M modelling group, which reports to Sage, concluded that to keep admissions below levels of the first wave, indoor mixing should not be allowed until June and July.

Professor Angela McLean, deputy chief scientific adviser, said: ‘If you unlock more slowly, the peak that you get is less high.’

Sir Patrick said: ‘The modelling lays out a series of scenarios. None of them are the precise ones which the Government ultimately decided to go for, but they lie between those options.’

He warned that despite huge progress with the vaccine rollout, a large number of people remained unprotected and cases are high. 

Sturgeon unveils rival lockdown plan 

Nicola Sturgeon will today unveil her lockdown exit strategy for Scotland, promising that restrictions will be eased ‘carefully and gradually’.

The Scottish First Minister will set out her roadmap this afternoon, one day after Boris Johnson published his plan for England.

Ms Sturgeon has said Scotland’s path out of lockdown will not be identical to the UK Government’s but it will be ‘broadly similar’.

One major difference will be that Scotland will return to a system of geographic levels while England will exit lockdown as a whole and will not be going back to tiers. 

Sir Patrick said the easing of lockdown must be done using a step-by-step approach, so the effect of each measure can be assessed.

He added: ‘That means probably allowing something like four or five weeks between each step – four weeks to be able to measure the effects of the step you’ve just taken, and then a week for people to actually get ready in terms of what needs to happen.

‘You will be flying blind on this if you don’t wait. I think being driven by what the data tells us is happening is the safest way to do this and making sure you make this irreversible… so you’re not then having to suddenly make a U-turn.’

While Sir Patrick praised the vaccine rollout, he warned jabs are not 100 per cent effective and said even if all adults were vaccinated, children would still not be protected. 

Ms Sturgeon will today unveil her lockdown exit strategy for Scotland, promising that restrictions will be eased ‘carefully and gradually’.

The Scottish First Minister will set out her roadmap this afternoon, one day after Boris Johnson published his plan for England.

Ms Sturgeon has said Scotland’s path out of lockdown will not be identical to the UK Government’s but it will be ‘broadly similar’.

One major difference will be that Scotland will return to a system of geographic levels while England will exit lockdown as a whole and will not be going back to tiers.

Boris Johnson’s lockdown exit strategy in full: All schools back on March 8, two households meeting outdoors from March 29, non-essential shops, pubs and hairdressers open from April 12 and back to normal on June 21 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday unveiled his ‘cautious’ lockdown exit strategy which could see life in England return to something close to normal by June at the earliest. 

Mr Johnson’s plan for easing restrictions will be split into four separate steps and will see the country treated as a whole, with no return to a tier system. 

The loosening of England’s third national lockdown, imposed amid a winter outbreak of coronavirus in January, will begin on March 8 when all schools across the country will return. 

Rules are then due to be lifted every five weeks to allow four weeks to measure the impact of changes and to give a further week’s notice before the next step comes into force.

However, the Government has stressed that the dates set out in the roadmap are ‘not before dates’ and that they could change depending on the scale of the coronavirus outbreak. 

In his statement to the Commons, Mr Johnson said there are four tests for reopening the country: the success of the vaccine roll-out, evidence that Covid jabs are reducing hospitalisations, infection rates not putting ‘unsustainable pressure’ on the NHS, and whether the risks are ‘fundamentally changed’ by new variants.  

Below is a breakdown of the measures outlined in each step:  

Boris Johnson has unveiled his lockdown exit strategy with rules due to start being lifted from March 8

Boris Johnson has unveiled his lockdown exit strategy with rules due to start being lifted from March 8

In his statement to the Commons, Mr Johnson explained there are four tests for reopening the country

In his statement to the Commons, Mr Johnson explained there are four tests for reopening the country

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance

Step One Part One: March 8

SCHOOLS: From March 8, all pupils and students will return to schools and colleges across England. 

University students who require practical teaching to complete their studies will also be allowed to return., those who do not need practical teaching will still be banned from campuses with ministers due to conduct a review by the end of the Easter holidays on the options for their return.

So-called wrap-around childcare (including childminders) will also be allowed to resume for all children where it is needed to enable parents or carers to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group.  

Vulnerable children can attend these settings regardless of circumstance. Under-18 sport can take place at school as part of educational provision, or as part of wraparound care, but should not otherwise take place at this time. 

In its roadmap, the Government called returning face-to-face education in schools and colleges a ‘national priority’.  It also said there was ‘clear evidence’ that ‘time out of education can be detrimental to children’s future prospects and earning potential, with implications also for long-term productivity’. 

The Government also recommends that the use of face coverings in Higher Education, Further Education and secondary schools is extended for a limited period to all indoor environments – including classrooms – unless 2m social distancing can be maintained.  

CARE HOMES: Meanwhile, every care home resident in England will be able to nominate a single named visitor who can come in for a regular visit. 

The visitor will have to take a rapid lateral flow test every time they visit, wear PPE and keep physical contact to a minimum.  

The Government’s stay at home order will remain in place, with travel for non-essential purposes still banned. 

OTHER: People will be allowed to meet one other person outside for recreation, for example, to have a picnic or to meet for coffee. 

Year 8 pupils at Moor End Academy in Huddersfield, Northern England in September 2020

Year 8 pupils at Moor End Academy in Huddersfield, Northern England in September 2020

Step One Part Two: March 29 

OUTDOOR GATHERINGS AND SPORTS: From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed in private gardens as well as public spaces like parks. 

The Government states: ‘Applying either limit provides greater flexibility, recognising the different situations faced by families and individuals; two households will be more helpful for families, while the Rule of Six is likely to help people in different households to reunite outdoors, including those living alone or in shared accommodation. 

‘Those eligible to form a support bubble will still be able to do so, enabling close contact for many of those in most need of support, and will continue to be counted as part of the same household.’ 

Outdoor sports facilities to reopen, such as tennis and basketball courts, and swimming pools, will also ber permitted, broadening the options for outdoor exercise and recreation. 

These facilities can be used by people in line with the wider social contact limits. Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s – can also restart and will not be subject to the gatherings limits, but should be compliant with guidance issued by national governing bodies.

STAY AT HOME TO BE SCRAPPED: It is at this point that the Government’s stay at home guidance will end, to be replaced by ministers encouraging people to ‘stay local’. 

However, the Government is not expected to define exactly what constitutes local, instead choosing to rely on people using their common sense to decide on journeys. 

Its roadmap also states: ‘Many of the lockdown restrictions, however, will remain in place. Unless an exemption already applies, it will not be possible to meet people from other households indoors and many business premises will remain shut. 

‘Guidance will set out that people should continue to work from home where they can. People should continue to minimise travel wherever possible, and should not be staying away from home overnight at this stage.’

WORK FROM HOME: People will still be told to work from home wherever possible while international travel will still be banned unless it is for essential purposes. 

As before, people can leave home for work if they cannot work from home and to escape illness, injury or risk of harm, including domestic abuse. 

ELECTIONS: The roadmap explains that Covid-secure council, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections will go ahead on May 6 in England and Wales.

The Government plans to amend the coronavirus regulations ‘to enable a broader range of campaign-related activity from March 8, but it is essential that this still takes place in a Covid-Secure way, in line with guidance and the law’. 

The Scottish and Welsh Governments are responsible for their elections with the exception of the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections in Wales.  

The Government’s ‘socio-economic analysis’ of Step 1: How education and physical and mental health have all deteriorated during the coronavirus lockdowns

SCHOOL CLOSURES 

The Government’s roadmap admits that school closures and restrictions on face-to-face education has had ‘significant and adverse impacts on children’s learning, development and mental health’.  

By February 2021 half term, studies suggest the total loss in face-to-face learning could amount to around half a school year, with two thirds of a normal year lost if school reopening were to be delayed to after Easter. 

The roadmap states that as well as benefiting students directly, parents will no longer have to balance childcare and working from home: ‘Around 53 per cent of parents report a reduced ability to work as a result of school closures; this is more acutely felt by parents of early years and primary aged children.’

SPORTS, AMUSEMENT AND RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES 

Sports, amusement and recreational activities were worth an estimated £12.8billion in the UK in 2019 (£11billion in England), providing around 565,000 jobs (484,000 in England), the roadmap says.

The Government believes that the easing of measures could enable some of these activities to return and take advantage of the spring/summer season and recover lost revenues. 

These businesses are particularly important employers for young people, with 37 per cent of their workforce between 16 to 24 years old (compared to a national average of 11 per cent), the Government added.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH 

The roadmap admits that lockdowns have had a massive effect on the physical and mental health of ‘large parts of the population, in particular children and those living alone’.

The Government believes that opening outdoor sports settings will ‘reduce individuals’ risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50 per cent and lower risk of early death by up to 30 per cent’.

Physical activity is also known to help with improving mental health through better sleep, happier moods, and managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and ‘racing’ thoughts, the roadmap added.

It also recorded how restrictions on socialising have had an adverse impact on people’s wellbeing and mental health with nearly half of adults (49 per cent) reporting boredom, loneliness, anxiety or stress arising due to the pandemic.

Customers dine in Soho in London, Britain, December 15, 2020

Customers dine in Soho in London, Britain, December 15, 2020

Step Two: ‘No earlier than’ April 12 

The Government’s roadmap explains that Step Two will take place no earlier than April 12, around four weeks after Step One has been implemented.

The document states that Step Two will reopen some sections of our indoor economy and more outdoor settings, restoring jobs and livelihoods and enabling people to access some activities and services. 

However, social contact rules in England will not change further at this point and outdoor gatherings must still be limited to six people or two households as in Step One.

However, if Step Two is delayed, ‘subsequent steps will need to be pushed back in order to maintain the necessary five week period to assess the impact of each step and provide notice’.

HAIRDRESSERS AND NON-ESSENTIAL HOSPITALITY: Non-essential retail will reopen no earlier than April 12 as well as personal care businesses like hairdressers, barbers and nail salons. 

Public buildings like libraries, museums and art galleries will be allowed to welcome back customers. 

Meanwhile, hospitality venues and outdoor attractions like theme parks will be given the green light to reopen in some form. 

However, there will still be rules on household mixing: Essentially any activity which involves being indoors will be restricted to members of the same household. 

GYMS AND LEISURE: Gyms and swimming pools will also reopen from at the earliest April 12 but only on the basis that people go on their own or with members of their own household. 

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS: Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen from April 12 at the earliest, but at this point they will only be able to have customers outdoors. 

Any visits to a pub or restaurant will have to comply with the rules on social contact, so no more than two households or the rule of six.

The Government will not be bringing back the old requirement for people to order a substantial meal with alcohol while the old 10pm curfew will also be ditched.

All customers at hospitality venues will have to be seated when they order food or drink, with ordering at the bar prohibited.

CAMPSITES AND HOLIDAYS: Campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can also reopen but trips must be restricted to a single household. 

WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS: Funerals will be allowed to continue with up to 30 people, while the rules on wedding receptions will be eased to allow the number of guests to increase from six to 15. 

LARGE CROWDS: The Government will also launch pilot programmes in April to see how events with large crowds and reduced social distancing could work.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL: A new task force looking at how to increase inbound and outbound international travel, while also protecting against importing coronavirus variants, will report on April 12. 

The expectation is that international travel will not resume until May 17 at the very earliest.   

Face coverings are worn by bride to be Jessica Letheren and bridal consultant Felicity Gray during a dress fitting appointment at Allison Jayne Bridalwear in Clifton, Bristol, on June 25, 2020

Face coverings are worn by bride to be Jessica Letheren and bridal consultant Felicity Gray during a dress fitting appointment at Allison Jayne Bridalwear in Clifton, Bristol, on June 25, 2020

The Government’s ‘socio-economic analysis of Step Two’: How lockdowns have devastated UK plc

FURLOUGH 

The roadmap states that the closure of non-essential retail during the pandemic – estimated to be worth £44.6billion of Gross Value Added (GVA) in the UK in 2019, employing around 1.2 million people. – has led to a high take-up of the furlough scheme in the wider wholesale and retail sector.

Use of furlough peaked at 1.9 million in April, and 740,000 at the end of November in the UK. 

People from ethnic minorities are overrepresented in this sector, making up 16 per cent of workers, as are young people (35 per cent are 16 to 24). Women also make up a greater proportion of employees (66 per cent compared to 47 per cent nationally). 

HOSPITALITY 

Hospitality is a core part of the UK’s economy, the roadmap states. The whole Accommodation and Food Services sector was estimated to be worth £57.6billion in the UK 2019 (£48.5billion in England), providing jobs for 2.5 million people (2.1 million in England). 

This sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic: GVA output fell by 91 per cent in April and 89 per cent in May 2020, compared to February 2020. 

The November restrictions also hit the hospitality sector hard, with GVA falling back to 65 per cent below its pre-pandemic level. 

This sector has also had large parts of its workforce on furlough: in the first wave 1.6 million jobs were furloughed at its peak; at the end of November 1.1 million jobs in this sector were on furlough. 

Between 25 January and 7 February, 62 per cent of businesses in accommodation and food services had paused trading.

PERSONAL CARE ACTIVITIES 

Personal care activities accounted for £21.1billion in the UK in 2019 (£18.9billion in England), providing 566,000 jobs (507,000 in England). 

Women are significantly overrepresented in this sector, making up 85 per cent of the workforce. 

The Government has admitted in its document that public buildings and spaces ‘play a vital role in the economic and social life of communities’. 

The roadmap also states: ‘Libraries, and other community centres, are valuable and safe places, often to the most vulnerable groups in society. 

‘They provide both services to local communities and spaces to socialise. All public spaces have important benefits that help create local attachments and sense of belonging to a community.’

Women pose for a photo at an outdoor dining area on Northcote Road in Battersea, London on September 13, 2020

Women pose for a photo at an outdoor dining area on Northcote Road in Battersea, London on September 13, 2020

Step Three: ‘No earlier than’ May 17

Again, Step Three will take place no earlier than 17 May, and at least five weeks after Step Two, following a further review of the data and the four tests. 

Again, the Government will announce one week in advance whether restrictions will be eased as planned. 

In Step Three, all but the most high-risk sectors will be able to reopen. In all sectors, Covid-secure guidance will remain in place and premises must not cater for groups larger than the legal limits, the roadmap states.

TWO HOMES AND RULE OF SIX: The two household and rule of six requirements for outdoor gatherings will be ditched but gatherings of more than 30 people in places like parks will still be illegal. 

Crucially, mixing indoors will be allowed again. The rule of six or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed to meet. 

However, this will be kept under review by ministers to see if rules could be relaxed still further. 

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS: This is also the point at which pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to open indoors, with the rule of six and two household limit in place. Larger groups will be able to meet outdoors at a pub.    

Entertainment venues like cinemas and children’s play areas will be able to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs. Indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes can also reopen.

The Government’s ‘socio-economic analysis’ of Step Three: How arts and entertainment have been decimated by the lockdowns

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

The Government’s roadmap admits that the arts, entertainment and recreation sector (excluding sports, amusement and recreation) has been hit very hard by the pandemic. 

Pre-Covid-19, this sector was worth £18.3billion GVA UK wide (£15.5billion in England) and had 473,000 jobs (400,000 in England). 

GVA output in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector as a whole compared to February fell by 46 per cent in April, and subsequently to 33 per cent in November; in no month since March has output been above 77 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. 

The sector as a whole has also had a high take-up of the furlough scheme, with 455,000 furloughed at peak in spring, and 293,000 furloughed at the end of November. 

Between 25 January and 7 February, 44 per cent of businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector have paused trading. 

Reopening these sectors can allow these businesses to recover revenues and bring back employees. 

SOCIAL CONTACT

The Government also revealed that the relaxation of social contact rules is ‘likely to have a positive impact on wellbeing as people will be able to socialise and meet friends and family indoors for the first time in several months’. 

‘Restrictions on social contact have had adverse mental health and wellbeing impacts’, the Government admitted.

SPORTS AND PERFORMANCE VENUES: Changes will also be made to sporting and performance events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half full, whichever is lower, will be allowed, while outdoors a capacity of 4,000 people will be allowed or half full, whichever is lower. 

In the biggest outdoor stadiums, up to 10,000 fans will be allowed to attend matches or a quarter of capacity, whichever is lower.  

WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS: Rules on weddings will be eased further, with up to 30 people allowed to attend receptions as well as other life events including christenings. 

COVID PASSPORTS: A Government review on whether to introduce vaccine passports or ‘Covid Status Certification’ documents is due to report before Step Four. 

It will look at whether the documents, which could show if someone has been tested or if they have had a jab, could help to reopen the economy and make life easier.

MASKS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING: A review of social distancing measures is also due to conclude before Step Four. 

It will look at issues like working from home, the wearing of face masks and the one metre plus rule and decide how long such measures will need to be retained.   

Step Four: ‘No earlier than’ June 21 

REMAINING RESTRICTIONS: This is the point at which the Government is hoping to lift all of the remaining restrictions on social contact and to reopen sectors of the economy which have not already returned and which could not resume last summer. 

For example, this is when night clubs could be allowed to fully reopen while restrictions on large events and performances could also be lifted. 

Mass-testing could be used to to reduce the risk of infection at those settings.   

The Government will also make a decision on whether all restrictions can be removed on weddings and other life events. 

However…

The Government has said that measures may be required even after all adults have been offered a vaccine, because neither coverage nor effectiveness of the vaccine will be 100 per cent.

As a result, a significant proportion of the population will remain vulnerable to infection, some of whom will also be vulnerable to severe disease and death. 

This is reflected in the modelling of different scenarios for unlocking restrictions, which shows that the risk of further cases, hospitalisations and deaths remains after the adult population has been vaccinated, though modellers advise there is considerable uncertainty in these figures. 

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