Prime Minister to prioritise schools and reuniting loved ones in Lockdown easing announcement today
Boris Johnson has said he will prioritise the reopening of schools and safely reuniting loved ones in his road map out of lockdown.
The Prime Minister will use a speech to Parliament today, Monday, February 22, to detail the "cautious" approach for easing coronavirus restrictions across England.
His road map will contain four tests for easing the measures, with the Government set to examine the data at each stage before unlocking further.
Ministers will assess the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, new variants and infection rates before proceeding to the next step.
The tests are currently being met, the Government said, allowing the first relaxation to take place on March 8 - when schools are widely expected to return.
Mr Johnson said: "Today I'll be setting out a road map 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."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that there will be "weeks between the steps" so ministers can "watch carefully" the impact of each relaxation of the restrictions.
Restrictions will be eased step-by-step across the whole of England at the same time, Downing Street said, due to the current uniform spread of the virus.
Number 10 said the blueprint would seek to balance the health needs with the social and economic impacts of lockdown.
For example, outdoor activities are set to be opened earlier than indoor ones, due to the reduced risk of spreading coronavirus outside.
MPs will be given the chance to vote on the regulations enabling the road map in the coming weeks, Number 10 said.
Mr Johnson will chair a virtual meeting of the Cabinet on Monday morning to discuss the plan, and then unveil the details to Parliament in the afternoon.
He is expected to host a Downing Street press conference later on Monday evening alongside key advisers.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey urged Mr Johnson to give people "hope for the future" but to prove he will not "throw away the nation's hard work as he did before".
"When the Prime Minister speaks to our country, he must look the whole nation in the eye and promise his latest road map will prevent a fourth lockdown, at all costs.
"If he cannot promise an end to lockdowns, then he must rethink and deliver a plan that will.
"Our country's death toll of 120,000 people is one of the worst in the whole world. Had the Prime Minister managed this crisis properly from the start, so many families would not now be mourning the loss of loved ones.
"Boris Johnson now owes it to the country to set out a route out of this catastrophe which guarantees the hardship of these past months will never return."