Boris Johnson announces plan for the reopening of schools
The Prime Minister addressed MPs in the House of Commons, warning them the exit strategy is “cautious but also irreversible”, but adding the hugely positive impact of the country’s vaccine programme is gradually replacing the need for lockdown measures to remain. He insisted lockdown measures cannot continue indefinitely but did however acknowledge the latest scientific modelling from experts warned lifting lockdown measures too quickly would trigger a spike in Covid cases and deaths. As expected, Mr Johnson confirmed the first step in the lockdown roadmap would see all school pupils return to the classroom on March 8, with a wider use of face masks and Covid testing in secondary schools.
Pupils in secondary schools and colleges will be asked to participate in rapid Covid tests at home, twice weekly, after they have been tested three times on site over the first two weeks of the new term.
They will be asked to use a lateral flow device upon their return on March 8, and if they test negative, they will be given the go-ahead to resume face-to-face classes.
Secondary school and college leaders will be provided with flexibility to phase the return of their pupils from two weeks- time in order to ensure they are tested fully before returning to the classroom.
Primary school children will be exempt from the rapid Covid testing, but staff will have to take two rapid tests each week at home.
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The significant date of March 8 will also see socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person once against permitted.
Care home residents will be allowed one regular named visitor, but the stay at home order will remain in place.
Lockdown restrictions will be eased further on March 29 when the school Easter holidays start across the country, which will see the “Rule of Six” return or two households allow to meet in parks and private gardens.
Outdoor sports facilities including tennis courts will be able to open, with people able to take part in organised outdoor sports.
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The stay at home order will be lifted but people will be urged to work from home wherever possible.
From April 12 at the earliest, non-essential retail, personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons, public buildings such as libraries and museums, most outdoor attractions will be able to reopen.
Restaurants and pubs will be permitted to serve customers set at outdoor tables in line with social distancing rules and the “Rule of Six” people or two households measure.
Indoor leisure facilities, swimming pools and gyms will reopen for people visiting them on their own or from their household.
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Funerals with up to 30 people will be allowed to go ahead, while the number of people at weddings will increase from six to 15 people.
From May 17 at the earliest, groups of six people or two different households will be allowed to mix indoors.
Pubs and restaurants will be permitted to reopen indoor areas, while entertainment venues such as cinemas and hotels, indoor adult sports and exercise classes can also reopen.
Crowds of up to 10,000 people in the largest venues will also make a welcome return to live performances and sports events.
The number of permitted people attending weddings will double to 30, with the same number attending receptions, wakes and funerals.
On June 21, all remaining restrictions on social distancing will be lifted, with larger events of more than 10,000 people going ahead and nightclubs also reopening.
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The progress on the lockdown exit plan will be dependent on meeting four crucial 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.
In addition to this, Mr Johnson also launched several reviews.
International travel rules will be reviewed, with May 17 pencilled in as the earliest possible date for a holiday overseas.
Before the key date of June 21, social distancing requirements, the use of face masks and requirements to work from home will also be reviewed.
A number of pilot events will also be staged from April onwards that will see enhanced testing enforced and several other measures aimed at examining how crowds of thousands of people may be allowed to attend live performances or sporting events thereafter.
The Prime Minister said this route out of lockdown would ultimately be driven by “data not dates”, explaining the five-week gaps between the different lockdown lifting steps allows time for the impact on infections to be determined.
Mr Johnson told MPs in the Commons: “There is therefore no credible route to a zero COVID Britain or a zero COVID world.
“And we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental well-being, and the life chances of our children. Johnson told parliament.
“Which is why it is so crucial that this roadmap is cautious but also irreversible.
“We’re setting out on, what I hope and believe, is a one-way road to freedom.”