England’s lockdown to ease as planned on 12 Aprilon April 5, 2021 at 4:59 pm

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Outdoor pub and restaurant areas, non-essential shops, gyms and hairdressers will be able to reopen.

Pubs and restaurants serving outside can reopen as planned next Monday, along with non-essential shops, gyms and hairdressers, as England’s lockdown is further eased, the PM has said.

But Boris Johnson urged caution, saying: “We can’t be complacent.”

Officials were examining the potential role of Covid status certificates, he told a Downing Street briefing.

Pilot events will take place from mid-April to trial the system, with later events checking vaccinations.

Speaking alongside the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance and England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, the prime minister also said the government was “hopeful” international travel could resume in the next stage of lockdown easing on 17 May, but cautioned against the effects of the surge of coronavirus in other parts of the world.

He said the government would set out “well before 17 May what is reasonable” and aim to give the aviation industry “as much notice as possible”.

It comes as the government published an update on a series of reviews into Covid certificates, the safe return of mass events, international travel and social distancing rules.

In the document, the government says it cannot yet confirm international travel can resume on 17 May “given the state of the pandemic abroad”, and advises people not to book summer holidays abroad “until the picture is clearer”.

It also says further details on a risk-based “traffic light” system for foreign travel will be published in a report later this week.

On Covid status certification, the paper says such a scheme “is likely to become a feature of our lives until the threat from the pandemic recedes”.

Diners enjoy their drinks as they sit at tables outside a restaurant in London on 3 August, 2020

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The BBC’s political correspondent Iain Watson said vaccine passports had managed to “achieve the remarkable political feat of uniting a former Labour leader and a former Conservative leader against them”, as he asked the prime minister if there would be a vote in Parliament on their introduction.

Mr Johnson said the government needs to work out what its proposal might be on vaccine passports before bringing it to Parliament.

He stressed the government was “some way off” finalising any plans on Covid certification, and that it would not be required for when people “go to the shops or to the pub garden or to the hairdressers or whatever” from 12 April.

He added that it was also not planned for the changes from 17 May, but said: “The idea of vaccination status being useful for international travel is something that all countries are looking at. I do think that’s going to be part of the way people deal with it and we need to think about that.”

There are three ways Covid status certification could be granted – vaccination, testing or natural immunity.

Meanwhile, Prof Whitty warned the virus “will be with us for the foreseeable future”, although he said that science would over time “de-risk it” with vaccines.

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Analysis box by Nick Triggle, health correspondent

The further easing of lockdown was expected given the data is perhaps as positive as it possibly could be.

Hospital admissions and deaths have fallen sharply. Even infection rates – that some warned would start rising quickly with the reopening of schools – have continued to drop.

With the vaccination programme going well, the UK is certainly in a strong position compared to most.

What’s more, the steps being taken from 12 April are not considered particularly high risk.

It’s the return of indoor mixing in May that is more of a worry – and then how to allow foreign travel and big events like live sport and music concerts.

The prime minister was careful not to make any promises on these.

Government modelling suggests a resurgence of hospital cases and deaths is still “highly likely” in the future.

That’s because the vaccine does not work for everyone and not all those in the at-risk groups have come forward for a jab.

There’s good reason to believe this resurgence will be limited – perhaps no worse than a bad flu season – but it’s the possibility it could be much worse that is causing the concern.

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Other changes to the stage two easing of England’s lockdown from 12 April include:

  • Hospitality venues can serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors, with no curfew
  • Spas can reopen, as can zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances events
  • Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
  • Public buildings such as libraries and community centres will also reopen
  • And other close-contact services such as beauty and nail salons can reopen
  • Weddings attended by up to 15 people can take place
  • The number of care home visitors will also increase to two per resident

Mr Johnson said the changes could go ahead due to “our collective efforts” and were “fully justified by the data which show that we’re meeting our four tests for easing the lockdown”.

He also said there was nothing in the present data to suggest the government would have to “deviate” from its planned roadmap out of lockdown.

“We’ve set out our roadmap and we’re sticking to it,” the prime minister said.

But he added: “We can’t be complacent, we can see the waves of sickness afflicting other countries and we’ve seen how this story goes.”

He encouraged people to use free NHS tests “even if you don’t feel ill” as part of a drive to identify cases without symptoms.

It comes as everyone in England is to be given access to two rapid coronavirus tests a week from Friday, under an extension of the government’s testing programme.

The lateral flow kits, which can provide results in around 30 minutes, will be available for free at testing sites, pharmacies and through the post.

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