Boris Johnson promised spring and summer would be “incomparably better” than life in lockdown as he set out a four-stage plan for England that could pave the way for nightclubs to reopen, sports fans to fill stadiums once again and domestic tourism to return.
But announcing a cautious phased easing of curbs, the prime minister ruled out reopening shops, pubs, gyms and holiday lets until at least 12 April, after Easter. By 21 June, the government hopes to be able to lift the restrictions on socialising that have been in place for much of the past year, and reopen venues that have remained closed since last March.
In a signal of how different the new normal will be from pre-pandemic life, “Covid status certificates” are being considered to help businesses reopen, and families and workers will be encouraged to take rapid Covid tests on a regular basis. Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, warned the country to expect that coronavirus “will be a problem for the next few winters”.
With more than a third of UK adults having had their first vaccine dose, Johnson told MPs on Monday that “we’re setting out on what I hope and believe is a one-way journey to freedom”. New data from England and Scotland showed that a single jab gives high protection against severe Covid and protects against even mild forms of the disease that produce no symptoms in younger people.