Prime Minister to publish roadmap for cautiously easing COVID restrictions

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson will today set out the government’s roadmap for cautiously easing lockdown restrictions in England.

Cabinet will meet virtually this morning to discuss the plan, the Prime Minister will give a statement to Parliament in the afternoon, and host a televised press conference in the evening.

He will set out the latest data on infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths, as well as early data showing the efficacy of vaccines.

The roadmap for leaving lockdown, which will be published on on Monday, will seek to balance health, economic and social factors with the very latest epidemiological data and advice.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today I’ll be setting out a roadmap to bring us out of lockdown cautiously. Our priority has always been getting children back into school which we know is crucial for their education as well as their mental and physical wellbeing, and we will also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely. Our decisions will be made on the latest data at every step, and we will be cautious about this approach so that we do not undo the progress we have achieved so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to keep yourself and others safe. We have therefore set four key tests which must be met before we can move through each step of the plan.”

The roadmap outlines four steps for easing restrictions. Before proceeding to the next step, the government will examine the data to assess the impact of previous easements.

This assessment will be based on four tests which are that:

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
  • Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.

The four tests are currently being met so the first step will proceed from 8 March, at which point the top four priority cohorts for vaccinations – as determined by the independent JCVI – will have received a degree of immunity, three weeks after being offered their first dose.

Due to the current, relatively uniform spread of the virus across the country, restrictions will be eased step-by-step across the whole of England at the same time.

The roadmap seeks to balance between social and economic impacts, whilst preserving the health and safety of the country. Outdoor settings are known to be lower risk than indoor, so outdoor activities will be opened earlier than indoor ones.

MPs will have an opportunity to vote on the regulations that will enable this roadmap in Parliament in the coming weeks.

Industry reaction

Professor Ashley Braganza,  Brunel Business School Professor of Organisational Transformation Change said: “Large numbers of retail and hospitality organisations are just not coming back and the rate at which those jobs go will be far faster than the rate new jobs will be created.

“In retail the outlook is not great, not in terms of jobs. The move away from going to the shops and now buying online – is unlikely to reverse. Activity will mostly be online. People will look online for prices and specs. They might then go to the shops, and have a look but then go home and buy online. People’s confidence has increased not just in buying online, but being able to return things online.

“London Underground is going to be badly hit because you are not going to have the millions of people travelling on the tube. And International travel. People have got used to working in multi-country cross-functional teams and see no need to fly to meetings.

“The other sector I think is going to be really badly hit is the commercial property sector because people are quite used to working from home and the move back into big offices will be very slow and sporadic. So are companies going to want these large commercial buildings anymore?”