Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to reveal the latest information surrounding his lockdown exit roadmap this month.
With the UK ordered to stay at home under the rules of the third national lockdown, schools, restaurants and retail shops have all been forced to close.
These drastic measures were put in place on 4 January in a bid to halt the drastic rise in coronavirus cases seen around the Christmas period and to ease strain on the NHS.
The Prime Minster revealed his plan to eventually ease some lockdown measures will be debated in parliament and presented to the general public the week beginning 22 February.
The UK is reported to be approaching the idea of easing lockdown measures in three separate stages – the reopening of schools, then retail businesses, before eventually the hospitality sector.
Despite originally hoping children could return to the classroom immediately after the February half-term, Mr Johnson confirmed last week that is no longer possible. 8 March is now earmarked as the new potential return date.
Here are all the vital dates and potential announcements to look out for this month:
This is the date the third national lockdown is set to be reviewed.
Boris Johnson said from the moment the third lockdown was implemented at the turn of the new year that mid-February would be the first chance to analyse whether the measures have had an impact on curbing the rise in cases and deaths.
This is the same date the Government set as a deadline to offer everyone who falls in to the top four most vulnerable categories their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Downing Street has said it aims to have ALL 15 million of the most vulnerable people in the country vaccinated with their first dose by this time.
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This is everyone over the age of 70, as well as all elderly care home residents and their carers; all shielders; and frontline NHS and social care staff.
Once this is complete, the next in line to be offered the vaccine are all over 50’s alongside younger, more ‘at risk’ groups.
Matt Hancock told MPs: “It is not that you might get an offer on the 14th for a vaccine in a couple of weeks’ time; it is that you will have been offered to have had the vaccine by 15 February.”
Given the fact that having the vaccine is not mandatory, not everyone who falls into these categories will have the jab.
The 15 February is also set to be around the time the government and its advisors are meant to determine how the next phases of the vaccine roll-out will work and what groups, such as teachers, shop workers and the police, will be deemed priority.
This is when Boris Johnson’s lockdown exit road map will be made public and debated before Parliament.
The PM, alongside England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, has already confirmed lockdown measures will not all be lifted at once, with the exit set to be a more gradual process.
This could see a more localised approach, with a return to the tier system – inevitably meaning some regions will face tougher restrictions than others.
When faced with the question of how lockdown will eventually end, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said "It will be gradually, it will be probably through the tiered system."
22 February was originally pinpointed as the date the third national lockdown could begin to lift, starting with the reopening of schools. Speaking at the announcement of the third lockdown, the PM said “I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term and starting, cautiously, to move regions down the tiers.”
His hopes have since been quashed, with early March now rumoured to be the next possible date for children to return to school.
Key dates in March
With the Prime Minister’s hopes of schools reopening after the February half-term dashed, 8 March is now rumoured to be the next possible date of return.
Mr Johnson has already confirmed his lockdown exit strategy will give two weeks' notice to parents, pupils and school staff.
There may be a phased school return system, with some year groups, most likely primary schools and those in secondary education who have exams set to go back first.
This is the date the current lockdown measures will expire, and any extension will have to be approved by MPs.
The vaccine roll-out should have already seen to the over 50’s and most at risk groups by this stage.
Though the end of April was originally supposed to be the target for those groups to be vaccinated, a government source told the Mirror it is possible all 17 million will be offered their first dose by the middle or end of March.
The UK is currently hitting remarkable numbers in terms of those who have had their first dose, with nearly 600,000 people receiving their first dosage in one day on January the 30th – almost 1% of our entire population.
There are some factors which could prove to be obstacles to the easing measures at this stage, such as this is also around the time the NHS are set to hand out the second dosage to many people. This could cause huge strain and a backlog to those trying to get their first jab.
Dominic Raab also refused to confirm whether everyone would receive their vaccine within the required 12 weeks, despite the fact that is the time-frame required for full protection.
The NHS are also dealing with troubles surrounding supply. The fill-finish capacity – the process of actually getting the jab in vials – is limited worldwide.
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