Boris Johnson will herald a return to freedom tomorrow, vowing that ‘Covid will not beat us’.
On the back of stunning Tory local election victories, he will say the success of the vaccine rollout allows for further easing of lockdown.
With one in three adults now jabbed twice, the Prime Minister will declare that friends and relatives can – from next Monday – hug for the first time in a year.
Pubs, restaurants and cafes across England will be able to seat customers inside again. And gatherings of up to six people or two households will be allowed indoors.
Hotels, B&Bs, cinemas, theatres and museums are to reopen while limits on funeral mourners are scrapped.
Mr Johnson will gather his ministers tomorrow morning to approve moving to step three of the roadmap out of lockdown next Monday after the Government said the latest data confirmed its four tests for easing restrictions had been met.
Officials believe that lifting the curbs is unlikely to risk a resurgence in virus infections.
At a press conference in Downing Street tomorrow evening, Mr Johnson will say: ‘The data reflects what we already knew – we are not going to let this virus beat us.
‘The roadmap remains on track, our successful vaccination programme continues – more than two thirds of adults in the UK have now had the first vaccine – and we can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly.
‘It’s because of the British public’s unwavering commitment that we are saving lives, protecting the NHS and controlling the virus.’
Almost 15million men and women in England now have ‘maximum protection’ against the virus, with two doses. Two in three adults – 29.6million – have had at least one dose.
The Government said it was on track to offer all adults a first dose by the end of July.
Infection rates are at the lowest level since September and hospital admissions continue to fall, or plateau in some areas, with levels similar to those seen in July last year.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said of the jab success: ‘This milestone is yet more evidence of the huge national vaccination effort we are in the middle of.
‘I pay tribute to the huge team – NHS staff, councils and of course our wonderful volunteers who are working so hard to deliver vaccines in all parts of the United Kingdom.
‘The vaccine is our way out of this pandemic and tens of thousands of lives are being saved but the job is not yet done. I urge everyone, when the time comes, to get the jab.’
Professor Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, said: ‘There is a future with no social distancing and no more masks, but from a global perspective we’re still a long way from that.
‘Here in the UK we’ve had remarkable success through the vaccine programme and that is getting closer to happening.’
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said it was ‘the case that friendly contact, intimate contact, between friends and family is something we want to see restored’.
John Foster of the Confederation of British Industry said: ‘It’s encouraging to see the roadmap remains on track, with the certainty it’s provided businesses so far already appearing evident in recent economic data. All firms should be commended for their continuing efforts in keeping staff and customers safe.
‘The Government can inject further momentum into the economic recovery by providing companies with clarity on outstanding issues, including social distancing, Covid status certificates and the future of workplace testing beyond June 21.
‘Getting answers will help business cement the gains so far, laying strong foundations for the recovery, and support the planned full reopening of the economy without delay.’
The Bank of England forecast last week that the economy would grow 7.25 per cent this year – the fastest peacetime rate in nearly a century.
UK records 1,770 new Covid cases – up 6% in a week – with just two daily deaths as figures show a THIRD of all adults are now fully vaccinated
Coronavirus daily deaths tumbled by 86 per cent from 14 to just 2 in a week while cases rose slightly by 6 per cent in the same period as yesterday’s official figures show a third of UK adults are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The latest Department for Health figures show that the number of daily virus cases rose from 1,671 to 1,770 on last Sunday while the number of Covid-19 deaths plummeted in further evidence of the efficacy of vaccines.
Official figures also show that more than 17.6 million people have now received both jabs, with England and Northern Ireland both estimated to have given two doses to 33.6 per cent of their adult population – slightly ahead of Wales (33.4 per cent) and Scotland (33.1 per cent).
Responding to the figures for England, Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and medical director for primary care at NHS England, said: ‘Yet another incredible NHS milestone has been reached as one in three adults in England have now had both doses of the Covid vaccine – meaning that they have maximum protection from the virus.
‘Reaching this milestone is no accident – it is down to months of hard work and everyone in the NHS who has played a role in this is helping to protect millions of people from serious illness and saving lives.’
Meanwhile, 35,371,669 people in the UK have now received a first dose of vaccine – the equivalent of 67.2 per cent of the adult population. Wales has given a first dose to 76.2 per cent of its adult population, ahead of Northern Ireland (66.9 per cent), England (66.8 per cent) and Scotland (65.4 per cent).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: ‘One third of adults in the UK have now had their second dose of the Covid vaccine, a testament to the extraordinary efforts of NHS staff and volunteers. Thank you to everyone who has made this happen. Get your jab when called.’
Mr Johnson is set to confirm the relaxation at a Downing Street press conference tomorrow, after the vaccine rolllout and plunging infections led to huge pressure from Tory MPs to speed up his plans.
The major step will be a huge relief to grandparents, most of whom have been unable to hug grandchildren for more than a year. It is also expected that funerals will be permitted to take place for up to 30 people from May 17 – a month earlier than anticipated.
But rules for weddings and ‘other life or commemorative events’ will update as expected, with only 30 guests able to attend indoor receptions until June 21.
Boris Johnson tweeted: ‘One third of adults in the UK have now had their second dose of the Covid vaccine, a testament to the extraordinary efforts of NHS staff and volunteers. Thank you to everyone who has made this happen’
Mr Gove (left) said Boris Johnson (right) is set to confirm the relaxation at a Downing Street press conference tomorrow
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Gove said that the government wanted to restore ‘contact between friends and family’.
He said: ‘All being well, the Prime Minister will confirm tomorrow that there will be a relaxation, we’ve already indicated a proportionate relaxation on international travel, very limited at this stage because we have to be safe.
‘In the same way, as we move into stage three of our road map it will be the case that we will see people capable of meeting indoors.
‘And without prejudice to a broader review of social distancing, it is also the case that friendly contact, intimate contact, between friends and family is something we want to see restored.’
Asked if that meant hugs will be allowed again from around May 17, he said: ‘Yes.’
Mr Gove said he was ‘genuinely worried’ about Indian coronavirus variants and whether they might take hold in the UK. But he said currently there was not an issue that would derail the roadmap.
He said the Government is reviewing whether pupils should continue to wear masks in schools from May 17 – something Gavin Williamson previously said will be dropped.
Ministers have faced calls from union leaders for face coverings to remain in secondary schools and colleges for longer. When asked whether mask-wearing in schools will end, Mr Gove said: ‘What we want to do throughout is balance public health by making sure we can return to normal as quickly as possible.’
‘I won’t pre-empt that judgment, we’ll be seeing more about it shortly.’
Meanwhile, the head of the Oxford University vaccine group said he believed it is the right time to ease further restrictions in England.
Professor Andrew Pollard said the country has seen the ‘extraordinary success’ of both the vaccination programme and the ‘prolonged’ lockdown.
‘I think it is time to start, based on the very careful modelling that’s been done, relaxing some of those restrictions,’ he told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
‘That means we’re in a very fortunate position here in the UK.’
On Friday, the Government announced plans to allow international travel from May 17 after months of banning most trips abroad.
It was met with criticism from industry leaders who described the ‘cautious’ approach to unlocking foreign travel as ‘disappointing’, after only 12 countries were added to the quarantine-free green list.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said up to date guidance on weddings will be issued tomorrow, confirming the limit will increase to 30 as anticipated.
‘We are working with the wedding sector to facilitate a return to as near as normal as quickly as possible and understand the need for certainty to plan for the summer season,’ she said.
Mr Gove was having trouble with his glasses steaming up as he left the BBC studios in Glasgow this morning
Boris Johnson (pictured celebrating the Tories’ by-election win on Jacksons Wharf with Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer this morning) has pledged ‘absolutely ruthless’ tracking of India’s mutant Covid strain after health chiefs officially declared it a ‘variant of concern’
‘As set out in the roadmap, the Government will increase limits for weddings and wedding receptions to 30 people at Step Three.’
An insider added: ‘While we understand the unique significance these events hold in people’s lives, we must continue to take necessary measures to limit the transmission of the virus.
‘We do not wish to keep restrictions in place for any longer than we have to.’
The Prime Minister will also confirm that care home residents in England will be allowed to make low-risk trips to places such as relatives’ gardens or a local park without having to self-isolate for a fortnight when they return,
Britain will take a huge step towards normality on May 17, when friends and family will be able to meet indoors for the first time since January under the rule of six.
Restaurants and pubs will also be able to cater to indoor customers, and foreign holidays will resume to a handful of approved ‘green list’ destinations.
Mr Johnson’s invitation to embrace – which will be welcomed by millions of families – follows news that Britain yesterday passed another vaccine milestone with more than two-thirds of adults now given a Covid-19 jab.
There were 2,047 positive tests across the country, the Department of Health announced, up 7.3 per cent on last Saturday’s number (1,907).
Officials also recorded just five lab-confirmed deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid swab, 28.6 per cent less than the number recorded a week ago.
The latest figures show that nearly 35.2million Britons have been given at least one dose of Covid vaccine, after another 119,349 first injections were administered on Thursday.
The NHS also dished out a further 449,716 second doses, bringing the total number of people fully vaccinated against the disease to 17.2million.
Some 66.8 per cent of adults have had a first jab, while nearly a third have had their second.
Public Health England has divided the Indian variant into three sub-types because they aren’t identical. Type 1 and Type 3 both have a mutation called E484Q but Type 2 is missing this, despite still clearly being a descendant of the original Indian strain. It is not yet clear what separates Type 1 and 3
Surge testing has been happening in the former mill town of Bolton, which has been identified as a hotspot for the Indian Covid variant.
Mr Johnson said last week that tracking of the Indian variant will be ‘absolutely ruthless’.
Celebrating the Tories delivering a hammer blow to the Labour’s Red Wall in the local elections, he said: ‘What we’re doing there is making sure that we are absolutely ruthless in the surge testing, in the door-to-door tracking of any contacts.
‘At the moment we’re looking carefully at the way the Indian variant seems to function, we don’t see any evidence that it is resistant to the vaccines or in any way more dangerous.’
But an expert has warned the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown might be delayed because of outbreaks of the variant.
Dr Duncan Robinson, policy and strategy analytics academic at Loughborough University, yesterday said a ‘political decision’ may be taken to slow down easing restrictions because the strain could disproportionately affect areas where there are outbreaks.
But speaking in Hartlepool on Friday, Mr Johnson also said he ‘can’t see any reason’ to delay the remaining steps along the out of lockdown.
Early research suggests both the AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covishield in India, and the Pfizer jab, still work against the variant.
Two-thirds of adults have now had their first Covid jab as Britain passes another vaccine milestone
Britain yesterday passed another vaccine milestone with more than two-thirds of adults now given a Covid-19 jab.
According to the latest figures, 35,188,981 people – the equivalent of 66.8 per cent of the adult population – have had their first dose of vaccine. Of those, 17,214,436, comprising 32.7 per cent of adults, have had their second shot.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: ‘The vaccine is saving lives so when it’s your turn, come forward & get the jab.’
More than 35 million people have received their first Covid-19 vaccination since the first patients were inoculated in December 2020
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: ‘The vaccine is saving lives so when it’s your turn, come forward & get the jab.’
The number of positive tests, hospital admissions and deaths have all fallen in the past week
The milestone came as just five deaths and 101 new hospitalisations were reported, down a quarter on figures last Saturday.
Despite the loosening of lockdown restrictions, there were 2,047 positive tests in the previous 24 hour period, down five per cent week- on-week. The success of Britain’s vaccination programme contrasts with Germany, where 39 per cent of adults have had their first jab, and France, where it is just 33 per cent.
Despite the progress in the battle against Covid-19, Boris Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings launched a fresh attack on his handling of the crisis. Promoting a book by US statistician Julia Galef, Mr Cummings suggested that if the ‘20 most influential people dealing with Covid’ in the Government had read her book The Scout Mindset, then ‘10s of 1000s who died cd still be alive’.
The book encourages people to act like a scout who ‘surveys the land, seeking accuracy and understanding’ rather than like ‘soldiers’ who ‘protect… beliefs aggressively and ignore any evidence that we might be wrong’.