Beer gardens, non-essential retail and outdoor attractions will be able to open next week, and a new testing regime will see every adult in England able to access two rapid covid tests per week, the prime minister announced earlier today.
Speaking at the Downing Street Covid press conference, Boris Johnson also said that he is “hopeful” international travel will be able to resume on 17 May, but this will be dependent on what happens between now and then.
Appearing alongside England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, Mr Johnson said he will be visiting a pub on April 12 when restrictions are relaxed.
He said: “I will be going to the pub myself and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips.”
Here’s what we learned from the PM’s press conference.
Restrictions will be eased next week, as planned
The main focus of the conference was to confirm that the next step in the roadmap out of lockdown will go ahead as planned on April 12.
This means that pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen outdoors, while people will be able to go to shops, gyms and hairdressers for the first time in months.
The changes also mean that libraries, theme parks, zoos and indoor swimming pools will be able to reopen.
The prime minister said: “We think that these changes are fully justified by the data.”
It was also announced that care home residents will be allowed an extra visitor from April 12, meaning two people can visit at a time.
People urged to take free Covid tests, ‘even if they don’t feel ill’
As of 9 April, everyone in England will be able to take a free rapid Covid test twice a week, regardless of their job or whether they have symptoms.
The prime minister confirmed that the testing scheme will be massively expanded, allowing for anyone in England to get up to two free tests per week.
Boris Johnson urged people to make use of the free tests, “even if you don’t feel ill”.
He said: “We can’t be complacent, we can see the waves of sickness affecting other countries and we’ve seen how this story goes.
“That’s why we’re saying please get your vaccine or your second dose when your turn comes, and please use the free NHS tests even if you don’t feel ill.He added: “Because remember, one in three people with this virus doesn’t have any symptoms”.
People will be able to get two rapid lateral flow tests per week by them ordering online for home delivery or collecting them from pharmacies.
Some people will be able to access the tests at work if their employer is participating in the scheme.
Vaccine passports are “some way off”
Despite numerous reports about Covid status certification schemes - or vaccine passports - over the last few weeks, the PM stressed that no decision has been made on implementing them.
Boris Johnson said that while some form of Covid status certification will be likely be required in the future for overseas travel, people will not need to show proof of having taken a vaccine to access pubs when they reopen outdoors next week, or fully in May.
The prime minister said there are “complicated ethical and practical issues” with Covid status certification.
He said no decision has been made as yet, and “we’re some way off finalising any plans for Covid certification in the UK”.
Further information on the Covid status certification scheme will be released in the next few weeks.
PM is “hopeful” overseas travel can resume next month
While many Brits are still awaiting confirmation that they’ll be able to head off on holiday this summer, or see friends and family abroad for the first time in months, the prime minister said he is “hopeful” international travel will resume next month.
The PM said he could not guarantee this would be the case, and that a special taskforce which is looking at the matter will issue further guidance “later this week”.
He said: “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
He added: “What we are going to do, the global travel taskforce is going to report back later this week, we will then be setting out well before May 17 what is reasonable.
Covid will be a significant problem “for the foreseeable future”
While data shown during the press conference showed a drop in hospitalisations, deaths and new cases, England’s deputy chief medical officer warned that Covid will be a problem “for the foreseeable future”.
The prime minister stressed that, while nothing in the data at the moment suggested future plans to ease lockdown would need to be pushed back, this could change over the coming weeks.
Chris Whitty said: “We will have significant problem with Covid for the foreseeable future and I don’t think we should pretend otherwise”.