Video report by ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan
Pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen outdoors, and hairdressers, gyms and shops will be able to welcome customers as planned from April 12 as part of England's roadmap out of the Covid-19 lockdown, Boris Johnson has confirmed.
While the prime minister said there was currently "nothing in the present data" to deviate from his plan, the chief medical officer has cautioned that the country will face “significant problems with Covid for the foreseeable future".
However, Professor Chris Whitty did say that science has made progress in "de-risking" the virus.
At a Downing Street update, the prime minister said the government is satisfied its four tests for easing restrictions in England are being met, paving the way for more freedoms as of next Monday.
Pubs and restaurants will reopen for outdoor seating, with no need for a substantial meal to order a drink and no curfew, while hairdressers, beauty and nail salons will also welcome back customers.
“On Monday the 12th I will be going to the pub myself and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint to my lips,” he said.
“We think that these changes are fully justified by the data.”
Outdoor gatherings must still be limited to six people or two households, and indoor socialising will still be forbidden with anyone outside your household or support bubble.
Care home residents will also be allowed an extra visitor as of April 12.
As of April 12, England will also reopen:
Libraries and community centres
Indoor swimming pools
The prime minister said he did not think, based on the current data, that there would be any "deviation" from his roadmap out of lockdown. Mr Johnson told a press briefing: “We set out our road map and we’re sticking with it. “And I want to stress that we see nothing in the present data that makes us think that we will have to deviate from that road map.
ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies visits the Essex businesses looking to reopen their doors on April 12
“But it is by being cautious, by monitoring the data at every stage and by following the rules – remembering hands, face, space, fresh air – that we hope together to make this road map to freedom irreversible.”
Mr Johnson also warned against complacency as the Covid situation in the UK improves.
“We can’t be complacent," the PM said at the update.
"We can see the waves of sickness affecting other countries and we have seen how this story goes.
“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 are saying please get your vaccine – or your second dose – when your turn comes.”
He also encouraged people to use free NHS tests as part of the drive to identify cases without symptoms.
These are the four tests for easing restrictions at each stage:
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 that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.
ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston analyses the latest developments on what could be the 'new normal'
Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said he expects to see more vaccine trials in children in the coming months.
Asked whether there was a risk that Covid-19 could mutate to affect children and whether there will be a vaccine for children, Sir Patrick said: “There’s no evidence that the virus is going to mutate specifically to affect children."
He added: “In terms of vaccines for children, that is being looked at and it will be the same vaccines, the Pfizer study read out last week that they’re looking at this in children, and so I expect to see more trials of vaccines in children over the next few months.”
Mr Johnson said he was hopeful international travel could resume next month - May 17 is the earliest date according to the roadmap - but he did not want to make “hostages of fortune”. He told the briefing: “Obviously we are hopeful that we can get going from May 17, we are hopeful. “But I do not wish to give hostages to fortune or to underestimate the difficulty we are seeing in some of the destination countries people might want to go to. “We don’t want to see the virus being reimported into this country from abroad. “What we are going to do, the global travel taskforce is going to report back later this week, we will then being setting out well before May 17 what is reasonable.”
Mr Johnson said in the press conference, held a year to the day he was admitted to hospital with Covid-19, that the government is planning a traffic light system for international travel to classify countries according to their Covid risk.
Listen to the ITV News Politics Podcast:
Plans for “Covid status certification” scheme - dubbed “vaccine passports” - will also be revealed later this month, the prime minister added.
He said the country is "way off" introducing the so-called passports.
The certificates are expected to show whether an individual has received the vaccine, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has “natural immunity” having tested positive in the previous six months.
The government is planning trials at a series of events over the coming weeks including the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and culminating with the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 15.
Initially they will not involve the use of certificates although spectators will be required to be tested for Covid-19 both before and after the event.
Watch the press conference in full: