By Rachael Grealish
England will be moving to step two of the government’s roadmap next week, the Prime Minister has confirmed.
Speaking from Downing Street – joined by he government’s chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance and its chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty – Boris Johnson said today, Monday April 5, ‘We set out our roadmap and we’re sticking to it’.
He said: “I can today confirm from Monday April 12 we can move to step two of our roadmap – reopening shops, gyms, zoos, public campsites, personal care services, and of course beer gardens and outdoor hospitality.”
The PM went on to urge caution among the public and uptake of the free NHS rapid COVID tests which will be available from Friday, April 9.
“We can’t be complacent, we can see the waves of sickness inflicting other countries and we’ve seen how this story goes,” he continued.
“We still don’t know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise – as I’m afraid that they will – and that’s why we’re saying please get the vaccine, or a second dose, when your turn comes and please use the free NHS tests even if you don’t feel ill.”
The government previously set out four ‘tests’ for easing lockdown: that the vaccine programme continues successfully; vaccines are effective in reducing hospital admissions and deaths; infection rates do not risk overwhelming the NHS, and the variants of concern do not pose a large risk.
Johnson said the nation has managed to meet each of these tests sufficiently to go ahead with easing restrictions.
He continued: “We set out our roadmap and we’re sticking to it. And I want to stress that we see nothing in the present data that makes us think we have to deviate from that roadmap.
“But it’s by being cautious, by monitoring the data at every stage and by following the rules – remembering hands, face, space – that we hope to make this roadmap to freedom irreversible.”
The PM also added he will be heading to a beer garden on Monday will ‘cautiously but irreversibly raise a glass’ to the vaccine rollout and easing of rules.
Johnson didn’t speak directly about the possible ‘COVID Passports’ however while the previous briefing was happening the government has published ‘early thinking’ on reviews into foreign travel and COVID vaccines.
As expected, a traffic light system for foreign travel will be introduced – but not until May 17 at the earliest, rapid, twice-weekly COVID tests to be offered to everyone in England – including home delivery and ‘vaccine passports’ and before-and-after testing to be trialled at nine events.
The PM also ruled out their use for the third stage of lockdown easing in May, when such venues are expected to open for indoor dining.
On COVID vaccines, the government document says:
“The COVID-Status Certification Review has so far gathered evidence from clinical and ethical experts, as well as businesses and their representative organisations. In addition, the public call for evidence has generated over 50,000 responses representing a wide range of opinions.
“The government believes that COVID-status certification could have an important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure.
“Equally, the government wants to be sure that the benefits of any such approach are fully interrogated in public debate and that the deliverability of COVID-status certification is rigorously tested, along with analysis of the potential economic impacts that COVID-status certification would have across different settings.
“We will continue to gather evidence on the extent to which COVID-status certification is an effective measure to control the epidemic and reduce hospitalisations and deaths.”