Boris Johnson’s road map will involve four tests for easing restrictions.
The Government will use the tests to assess the impact of unlocking in England at each stage.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what it all means.
– What are the four tests?
– 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 which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
– The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.
– How are we doing at the minute?
The Government has said the four tests are currently being met.
– So what does that mean?
The first step in the unlocking will go ahead on March 8 – the date by which the top four priority cohorts for vaccinations will have some immunity because three weeks will have passed since the first dose.
– What is reopening first then?
The detail is not yet clear but the PM said the priority has always been getting children back to school.
He said ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely will also be prioritised.
Outdoor settings, where the risk is known to be lower, will be opened before indoor ones.
– Will restrictions be eased in some parts and not others?
Measures will be eased, step-by-step, across the whole of England at the same time because the virus is viewed to be fairly uniformly spread across the country.
– Have the experts said anything about how things might have to proceed?
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the Government will have to leave room for “highly local” interventions.
He told Times Radio on Sunday: “I think they are going to have to keep the possibility of having much more targeted interventions in certain areas.”
Fellow Sage member Professor John Edmunds has said rapid easing could lead to a surge in hospital admissions “and indeed deaths”, and placed emphasis on vaccinations.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We’re all at risk and we can all spread the virus, and so until we’ve all been vaccinated – I include children here – then there is going to be significant risk of a resurgence.”
Asked about a phased reopening of schools, he said that, purely from an epidemiological viewpoint “it’s always safer to take smaller steps and evaluate”.
– And what about health organisations?
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said there was a “pretty clear view” that the number of coronavirus infections “needs to come down to around 50,000” for the PM to consider easing lockdown,
Mr Hopson’s organisation, which represents NHS trusts, has set out four tests of its own, which it believes should guide easing: getting case numbers down, reducing pressure on the NHS, further strides in the vaccination programme and an effective strategy to control future outbreaks.