Newspaper headlines: A ‘road map’ out of lockdown?on February 13, 2021 at 5:53 am

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As the UK nears 15 million vaccinations, the front pages examine when lockdown might be eased.

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There’s a note of optimism on many of the front pages, amid what they regard as positive signs that the lockdown in England could soon be eased.

The Daily Express says the country is about to take its “first steps on the road to lockdown freedom”, with the target of vaccinating 15 million people by Monday about to be “smashed”.

“The joy of six, part two” is the headline in the Daily Mirror, which focuses on comments from a senior government adviser who said falling Covid infection rates could mean a significant relaxation of lockdown rules by May.

Prof Neil Ferguson said some areas could return to tier one rules, where people are allowed to meet up in groups of up to six.

A pub during summer coronavirus reopening

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A senior government official tells the paper schools will be first to reopen, with non-essential shops following suit at the end of March, provided the virus reproduction number remains at an “acceptable level”.

The final stage could see pubs, restaurants and hotels allowed to reopen in time for the Easter weekend.

“April the Thirst” is the headline in the Sun, which says drinkers could soon be returning to pubs. A government source tells the paper “we will hopefully be sipping pints in the spring sunshine sooner rather than later”.

The Daily Mail offers more caution, saying advisers are urging the government to “keep the brakes on” for at least another two months.

The paper says that while Boris Johnson remains determined to reopen schools on 8 March, it could be several weeks before other restrictions are lifted – potentially ruining Easter holiday plans.

The Times says it has seen internal government projections which indicate the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals is expected to more than halve over the next month. The paper says infection rates are falling faster than anticipated, increasing the pressure on Boris Johnson to accelerate the reopening of the economy.

But it claims the roadmap for easing restrictions – due to be announced this week – will be “deliberately vague” with ministers still concerned about mutant strains.

The Financial Times tells the government now is the time to set out its Covid-19 exit strategy, saying the public deserves to know the route back to normality. It says ministers “must make clear what will trigger the lifting of restrictions and what will not be possible in the short- to medium-term”.

The Daily Mail reports that the NHS is on course to reach its target of vaccinating 15 million people today, 48 hours ahead of schedule. The paper says it will provide “a huge boost” and represents “a jab well done”.

A vaccination centre in Glasgow

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But not everyone is happy about the way the vaccination programme is taking shape, according to the Guardian.

It’s been contacted by more than 500 readers who are struggling to get early access to the jab, despite being classed as vulnerable and at heightened risk. Among them is a father of two severely disabled children, who says he feels forgotten and urges the government to do more to keep his family safe.

The i newspaper also reports on claims that thousands of people are entering the UK every week with fake Covid-19 negative test certificates.

The union for borders, immigration and customs workers tells the paper it can be impossible to distinguish real from fake, underlining the need for an internationally-agreed standard of certification.

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The Daily Mirror describes as “dismal” yesterday’s figures showing the UK economy shrunk by almost 10% last year. It says the price of repairing the economy should not fall on the poorest.

In an interview with the Times, the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warns against tax rises during the recovery, which he says would “choke off” any economic rebound. He tells the paper he’ll deliver a speech next week setting out his vision for a recovery based on the principles employed by Clement Attlee, who rebuilt Britain after World War Two.

The Daily Telegraph says the government is “pushing hard” to save the “crown jewels” of the summer sporting season: Wimbledon and the delayed Euro 2020 football tournament in June. It claims one idea being considered would involve sending lateral flow Covid-19 test kits to everyone who buys a ticket.

Several papers marvel at the freezing over of part of the River Thames for the first time in 60 years. The Guardian describes how sub-zero temperatures turned Teddington Lock into a “skating rink for local birds”.

But it says the recent cold weather has nothing on 1814 – when a fair was held on the thickly frozen river and an elephant was even marched across the ice alongside Blackfriars Bridge.

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