Covid: Hugs and holidays back on the menu but people warned to be cautious

ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry reports on the reopening of lockdown in the UK

There are greater freedoms for people across the majority of the UK as coronavirus lockdown are eased but the population is being warned to proceed with caution by Boris Johnson.

From Monday people in England, Wales and parts of Scotland can have physical contact with those from other households and go on holiday, while pubs and restaurants are allowed to reopen inside.

The Indian variant of Covid has caused concerns in parts of the country, with the prime minister saying it "poses a serious threat" to ending restrictions in England on June 21.

The easing of restrictions comes after various stipulations were met as part of the roadmap out of lockdown, including the number of vaccinations carried out.

In full: Matt Hancock updates MPs on the Covid-19 pandemic as lockdown eases

Downing Street said a planned review of social distancing measures could be delayed as a result of the Indian variant.

A review of the measures had been expected by the end of May to allow businesses time to prepare for any future easing of restrictions.

"We want to do it as soon as possible but...we need time to assess the latest data on this variant first identified in India so I'm not going to give a set time for doing that," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

Here's how people reacted to the easing of lockdown measures:

In a statement on Sunday night, Mr Johnson said: "Together we have reached another milestone in our roadmap out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution.

"We are keeping the spread of the variant first identified in India under close observation and taking swift action where infection rates are rising."

He said the "current data does not indicate unsustainable pressure on the NHS", and that second vaccine doses are being accelerated to give the greatest protection to the most vulnerable.

The Business Secretary said this morning he could not "give a cast-iron guarantee we will reopen on the 21st June".

However, Kwasi Kwarteng added "all the data we've seen suggests we can keep the date as expressed in the roadmap."

On Sunday it was confirmed that 20 million people had now received both doses of the vaccine.

People can have physical contact with those not in their household for the first time since restrictions were first put in place last year.

Holidaymakers started travelling abroad early on Monday to places on the green list.

ITV News Correspondents report from Wales and Scotland on the easing of restrictions

Retired couple Keith and Janice Tomsett, aged 72 and 71, from West Chiltington in West Sussex, were “looking forward to” their break to the Portuguese island of Madeira.

As they prepared to board their flight at Gatwick Airport’s north terminal, Mr Tomsett said: “We’ve gone through all the hoops, PCR testing … after 15 months of being locked up this is unbelievably good.”

He joked: “It was even worth getting up at three o’clock this morning.”

Some drinkers attended the pub at midnight and others had their breakfast in one but people have been warned not to over-indulge.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told LBC: “What the Prime Minister has said very clearly is, yes, we are opening partially ahead of June 21 but we’ve got to behave sensibly, we’ve got to exercise some caution because if people get too carried away, we could jeopardise the ability to reopen on June 21.”

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There are some fears the change in rules could result in a third wave of the virus sweeping the country but these are being played down.

Nicola Sturgeon issued a warning as most of Scotland moved to Level 2 of the country’s coronavirus restrictions.

The First Minister tweeted: “Covid restrictions ease further today as many parts of Scotland move to level 2 (sadly not yet Glasgow City or Moray) and many islands to level 1.

“This is a long awaited moment but remember that the virus still poses a big threat, so please continue to be cautious & very careful.”

Mr Kwarteng said he thinks it “very likely” that all coronavirus restrictions will be scrapped on June 21, despite the threat of the Indian variant, which is seen as 50% more transmissible than the Kent variant.

Defending the decision to ease the lockdown, the Cabinet minister reiterated the prime minister's message to Sky News: “Yes, things are opening up but people should have common sense, they should use judgment and I think if we act in a reasonable way, there is no reason to suppose that we can’t reopen the economy entirely on June 21.

“I think there has to be a degree of common sense, a bit of caution and people shouldn’t be running away being too exuberant, I suppose.

“I think we just need to be measured and cautious.”

Asked whether the unlocking next month could still happen despite a growing number of Indian variant cases being recorded, Mr Kwarteng said that he “fully expects” to be reopened by June 21, adding: “I think it is very likely to happen.

“I’ve said the vaccines are working against the Indian variant, I think we’ve got to look at the numbers so we’ve got some flexibility but there is nothing I have seen and nothing the Prime Minister has seen up to now that suggests we are going to delay that June 21 date.”