BREAKING: PM Boris Johnson announces 'roadmap to ease lockdown' with schools to reopen on 8 March.

February 22, 2021 - 07:36 PM - 397 views

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the “end is in sight” as he unveiled his plan for lifting lockdown restrictions in England to MPs on Monday.

Presenting his “cautious” approach to reuniting families and seeing children return to school in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson said life could be back to normal by as early as 21 June, as he laid out the plan for the months ahead.
The prime minister is held a news conference at 7pm GMT on 22 February 2021.

Under the road map, all schools in England will be expected to reopen on 8 March, while up to six people or two households will be allowed to meet outdoors from 29 March.

The plan for easing restrictions comes as a Scotland study found that Covid-19 vaccines distributed across the UK substantially reduce the risk of hospital admissions.
Four weeks after first doses of the vaccine being rolled out, both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs were found to cut hospitalisations with the disease by up to 85 per cent and 94 per respectively.
The research, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, is the first of its kind confirming the impact of the UK’s vaccine rollout.

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University students on practical courses to return for in-person teaching

University students on practical courses are set to return to campus for in-person teaching next month - a measure which has been welcomed by sector leaders.

From 8 March, university students on practical courses, such as science and engineering, who need to access specialist facilities and equipment can return to in-person teaching and learning.

According to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, research labs and libraries can be kept open if needed, with campuses to provide twice-weekly coronavirus testing to staff and students.

For all remaining university students, the Government said it will review, by the end of the Easter holidays, options for pupils to return to campus, with students and institutions to be given a week’s notice ahead of any return.

Professor Julia Buckingham, president of Universities UK, which represents 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said the announcement was a “long-awaited boost” for students.

She said: “Universities look forward to welcoming these students back to Covid-secure campuses from 8 March, where safety measures including serial asymptomatic testing and social distancing will be in place to ensure the risk of transmission remains low.

“While today’s news is positive for some students, it will be disappointing for others that had hoped the Government would have allowed them to return.

“There will also need to be a further focus on supporting students’ mental health and wellbeing in the weeks ahead.”4

Roadmap means pub sector will be ‘burning cash’, says Young’s boss

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of pub giant Young’s, said Boris Johnson’s roadmap meant the pub sector would be “burning cash” for another three months.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme whether the Government target of allowing pubs to serve outdoor customers by 12 April and indoors by 17 May was better than the hospitality industry had hoped for, Mr Dardis said: “No, it is a whole lot worse than we had been expecting.

“Non-essential retail are allowed to open on 12 April and the pub sector, a huge part of our culture in the UK, was first to close and last to open.

“We were hoping to be able to open in April and worst-case scenario was that we’d be opening on the first week in May.

“So 17 May - at the earliest, I may add - is three months away and three months away means that the pub sector and the wider sector which employs 3.5 million people will be burning cash for another three months.

“So no, it is not great. The only positive, I would say - and I’m trying to find a positive - is that he has laid out set dates, albeit with caveats (for easing restrictions).”

Government considering ‘Covid status certificates’ under plans to reopen England, PM says
The government is considering the introduction of “Covid status certificates” as part of plans for the phased reopening of society, Boris Johnson has said.

The prime minister said there will be a review into the policy, which was previously dismissed by a number of senior ministers.

PM Boris Johnson says "Scheme could be used to help certain venues open safely in the month ahead, but government will be ‘mindful’ of concerns surrounding privacy and exclusion, says Boris Johnson".

What have the experts said about Boris Johnson’s roadmap?

As the prime minister continues to take questions about his statement on how lockdown restrictions will be lifted over the next few months, let’s take a look at what scientists are saying about the measures.

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, commented on the return of pupils to the classrooms on 8 March, saying a “more cautious approach with a phased return would be better” in his view.

However, he said that as indoor spaces will remain closed, “hopefully this will still allow community transmission to come under control”.
“Overall, this roadmap looks broadly sensible,” said Dr Head. “With the vaccine rollout going so well, this will allow for a safer environment for staff and users when indoor workplaces like pubs, restaurants and office spaces do open again.

“The prime minister did start off his announcement with the declaration that ‘We will be driven by data, not dates’, but then went on to provide a whole series of dates. One aspect that looks a little curious are the four tests that will be used to allow the next stage of intervention to be lifted.  There is not yet any suggestion as to how these tests could be met,” he added.

“It is important that there is clarity here as to what measures will indicate a successful ‘pass’ onto the next phase of reopening, and that there is also flexibility in the timeframe the prime minister has mentioned.”

Professor Russell Viner, professor of adolescent health at University College London, said it was “essential” to balance the risks of schools not reopening with the potential for schools to increase infection rates.

“Schools undoubtedly play a role in transmission of this pandemic, particularly secondary schools. Yet the evidence suggests that transmission can be very much reduced when effective control measures are used in schools,” he said, adding that schools “should be the first part of society to reopen after lockdown”.

‘We won’t pull the rug out’-says PM Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson has announced that financial support for jobs and livelihoods will continue “for the duration of the pandemic”, telling MPs the government “will not pull the rug out” from under businesses and workers”.

However, the prime minister was accused of “dithering and delaying” after he said that details of precisely what help will be retained will not be revealed until chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget on 3 March.

Theatres and night time businesses welcome roadmap, but urge continued financial support

Businesses based around theatres and the night time economy have welcomed Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, but are urging the government to continue providing financial support as many will have to remain closed till 21 June at the earliest.

Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said: “We welcome the government’s roadmap announcement as the country takes the first steps towards easing lockdown - in particular, the news that theatre and live arts can resume performances from step three, as early as 17 May.

“The real route back for the sector, however, will be the step four announcements hopefully enabling full auditoriums from 21 June. While our theatres remain closed, we urge the chancellor to continue with the financial support packages needed for businesses and individuals.”
 Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, called for urgent further Budget interventions following Mr Johnson’s roadmap.

Ms Norbury said: “Today’s roadmap includes some welcome milestones for reopening parts of the UK’s creative industries, including our world-leading theatres, cinemas and live events. However, it is critical that everyone in our sector is supported until they are able to resume normal levels of operation, which could be well beyond summer.

“It is vital that the Job Retention Scheme and Self Employment Income Support Scheme are extended, and support must also be guaranteed for the many who continue to fall through the gaps of existing schemes. Further Budget interventions, including Creative Industries Tax Reliefs and a Government-backed insurance scheme for live events, are urgently needed.

“The creative sector is integral to the future of the UK. With the right support, it can not only bounce back, it can drive the UK’s economic recovery, regenerating our towns and cities, creating jobs and making our communities happier, healthier places for everyone.”

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “We are pleased to hear within the prime minister’s statement the inclusion of a timeline for night time economy businesses, in particular some of the hardest hit businesses, many of which have been closed since March 2020, like nightclubs, bars and casinos.

“Despite this, our evidence suggests that 85 per cent of those who work in the night time economy are considering leaving the sector. The sector urgently needs additional clarity on reopening and critical financial support from the chancellor if we are to avoid economic and social damage that will last a generation.”

Need for restrictions after most vulnerable groups receive vaccine is ‘pure mathematics’, says PM

Conservative former minister Mark Harper asked why restrictions are required after the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated.
He said: “Could I just press (the Prime Minister) on the thoughts behind vaccinating groups one to nine, so that’s everyone over 50 and those 16 to 64 with a health condition that makes them vulnerable to Covid.

“Those groups account for 99 per cent of deaths and around 80 per cent of hospitalisations. So for what reason, once they’ve been vaccinated and protected from Covid by the end of April at the latest, is there any need for restrictions to continue?”
Boris Johnson responded: “(Mr Harper) makes an excellent point.
The difficulty is that of course there will be at least a significant minority who either have not taken up the vaccine, in those vulnerable groups for the reasons that the House has been discussing, or who, having had the vaccine... not given sufficient protection.

“We believe that the protection is very substantial but there will be a large minority who will not have sufficient protection and the risk is that if you let the brakes off, then the disease could surge up in such a way as again to rip through those groups in a way that, alas, I don’t think anybody in this country would want to see.

“So I’m afraid it’s pure mathematics, there is still a substantial body of risk and we also need to wait and see exactly what the effects of the vaccine are. There are some promising data but I think what the country will want at this stage is caution and certainty and irreversibility and that is what we aim to provide.”


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