Provisional dates for the reopening of shops, pubs and restaurants have been revealed as the Government finalises its ‘roadmap’ for how England will exit lockdown.
Sources say all shops could be open again by the end of March, with hospitality businesses following soon after, so long as cases and death numbers continue to fall.
Buoyed by the increasingly positive signs that the country is through the worst of the crisis, some in Government are optimistic people could be back in pubs come the Easter weekend at the start of April.
Citing an unnamed senior Government official, the paper claims lockdown will start to be eased on March 8 when schools will reopen again to all pupils.
The Government will then wait and assess the impact this has on the R number before moving to the next stage.
If infection rates remain low, non-essential shops will be given the green light to reopen towards the end of March.
Good Friday this year falls on April 2 and case rates will again be watched closely in the run up to the bank holiday. If all goes well, pubs will be allowed to open their doors in time for the four day weekend.
This is also the date when staycations could resume, according to the I. Currently overnight stays outside the home are banned except for essential work purposes. Holidaying in the UK could be allowed from April but international breaks won’t restart until later.
The official told the paper: ‘My understanding is the Prime Minister is encouraged by a slew of data coming out that shows the positive impact the current lockdown has had. By March, there’s also a good chance that almost, if not all over-50s and younger vulnerable groups would have been given at least their first dose of a vaccine.
‘The optimism is increasing at Downing Street and we may well be enjoying a pint in the pub by Easter if the data continues to improve in the coming weeks.’
Reports also suggest the tiered system will be scrapped in a bid to make the rules simplier and easier to follow.
Another lockdown has not been ruled out entirely but would only be necessary if a further strain of the virus emerged that was resistant to vaccines.
Responding to the report, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘We keep the latest data and evidence under constant review and on 22 February, subject to the findings, we will set out our plan for reopening schools and gradually reopening our economy and society.’
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