Scotland is set for a "substantial reopening" of the economy from the last week of April, Nicola Sturgeon has said, as she confirmed her update roadmap out of lockdown.
The First Minister told MSPs Scotland would readopt the five tiered system, which would see sectors such as non-essential retail reopen from April 26. The stay at home restriction will be lifted from April 5.
She said: "It is therefore from the last week of April that we would expect to see phased but significant reopening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers.
"And, of course, the more of us who are vaccinated and the more we all stick by the rules now, the faster that safe pace is likely to be - if we all stay in this together, our progress will be greater."
There would have to be "some trade-offs for a period, for example on international travel", she added.
"I am as confident as I can be that the indicative, staged timetable that I have set out today - from now until late April when the economy will start to substantially reopen - is a reasonable one."
Watch: Nicola Sturgeon outlines road map out of lockdown for Scotland
Follow the latest updates below.
And that's it for another day....
Boris Johnson has been defending his roadmap from criticism both that it is moving too fast and too slowly.
The Prime Minister stressed he was "hopeful" and optimistic that the normality promised for June 21 will come - but stressed it could not be guaranteed.
Criticism has come from the usual suspects, but it remains to be seen whether other backbenchers will join the Covid Recovery Group in questioning why there are five weeks between each stage. However Nicola Sturgeon's decision to stagger her framework by only three weeks may yet trigger some complaints.
That certainly seems to be where the majority of our readers fall, with 59 per cent of those who took our daily poll saying it was too slow, while just three per cent warned it was too fast. A further 38 per cent said it was, like the baby bear's porridge, just right.
But with the Budget looming, a dip in the vaccine rollout and a row over whether reopening all schools at once is right, it's been a busy day - keep reading for all the news.
'No difference' in chief medical officers' views on schools, says Northern Irish CMO
Northern Ireland's chief medical officer has stressed there is no "difference of position" between him and Professor Chris Whitty, saying the decision to reopen England's schools in one go was a political decision.
Dr Michael McBride said Sage advice suggested schools returning will increase the R number of the virus and could potentially push it above one.
"I don't think that there's any difference of position in relation to the chief medical officers," he added.
"I think that the evidence is clear and what we have is ministers making different decisions in different jurisdictions which, absolutely, they're entitled to do, so I don't think it would be accurate to present this as a chief medical officer of one jurisdiction saying one thing and a chief medical officer in another saying another - we provide advice and ministers make decisions."
Prof Whitty was reported to be at odds with Boris Johnson over the "big bang" approach, however he denied these claims during last night's press conference.
Former Treasury minister calls for 'moderate rise' in corporation tax
A former Treasury minister has called on his ex-colleague to impose a "moderate rise" in corporation tax as part of efforts to deal with the country's "gravely damaged" public finances.
Simon Clarke, who was exchequer secretary to the Treasury when Rishi Sunak was chief secretary, said it would be "nothing short of immoral to mortgage our children and grandchildren's futures to chance".
He told MPs there was "no point in sugaring the pill", adding: "I challenge anyone in the chamber to tell me with certainty what the world will look like in the 2030s or 2040s and what borrowing costs will be... so I would support and indeed urge some measures of fiscal consolidation in the Budget next week."
"Hard-pressed families and key drivers of employment" should be protected, he noted, but there were options like corporation tax that could help "raise revenue in the medium term".
"Companies are realistic about the economic landscape. They care more about policy certainty and general prosperity of the economy than about a moderate rise in corporation tax."
Tory MP attacks Michael Gove and Matt Hancock for 'shying away' from scrutiny
A senior Conservative MP has said Michael Gove and Matt Hancock have "fallen short" of their obligations to be scrutinised by Parliament.
William Wragg, chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), said the Cabinet Office minister and the Health Secretary had rejected calls to give evidence, sending junior ministers in their place who could not answer questions as they "were not involved in the decision making processes". Mr Gove then declined a further invitation to give evidence.
Writing to the two ministers, Mr Wragg said he was "extremely disappointed" by their absence.
“Secretaries of state and government ministers are accountable to Parliament for the decisions they make," he added. "When a select committee holds an inquiry those responsible for the policy must make themselves available to answer for their decisions. On that measure, in this instance the Government has fallen short.
“I would urge the Government to reconsider how it engages with Parliamentary scrutiny and not shy away from Select Committees in the future. The public will come to its own judgement on how it performs on this measure.”
Northern Ireland's CMO rejects calls for schools to reopen en mass
Northern Ireland's chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride has said he remains convinced that schools should return in a "stepwise process".
His comments come after the nation's politicians began to squabble over whether they should move in time with England, which is reopening all schools from March 8.
But Dr McBride made it clear he had not provided the Executive with any update to his recommendations last week, when ministers backed a phased return to the classroom.
"I have not provided further advice to the Executive in the last number of days," he said.
In his weekly media briefing, Dr McBride said it was important that children returned in phases so the impact of their return on Covid-19 infection rates could be assessed.
"We all want children back to school, children need to be back in school and my advice is that we just do that cautiously and carefully," he said.
Peers threaten to defy Government over genocide amendment to Trade Bill
Peers are threatening to defy the Government again over Britain's trade approach to countries suspected of committing genocide.
It follows moves in the House of Lords to "tweak" a compromise amendment to the Trade Bill passed in the Commons aimed at giving Parliament a vote on whether to pursue agreements with such states.
The call for the legislative change to be strengthened is being led in the upper chamber by the human rights campaigner Lord Alton of Liverpool.
The independent crossbencher is pressing for a parliamentary panel of judicial experts to be involved in the process and make an initial determination on whether genocide had been carried out by a signatory to a trade agreement.
The Government has rejected this and insists it is a matter for a competent court.
Boris Johnson says it would be 'a mistake' for people to refuse Covid jab
Boris Johnson has said it's a "mistake" for people to refuse to take a coronavirus vaccine amid warnings that failure to protect all communities could risk a wave of infections.
The Prime Minister said some people "genuinely refuse" to receive a jab but he believed that everyone should have a vaccine if they are able to.
His comments come as the daily vaccination rate drops yet again. Nearly 500,000 doses were reported on February 17 but that figure has since fallen every day to just over 150,000 on February 21 - a similar level to that reported yesterday.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "As we said from the start, there will be daily fluctuations in the number of people who receive it day on day, but you are aware of our target to vaccinate all those within the first phase by mid-April and we are confident in our supply to be able to do that."
That means offering a first dose to 32 million people across the UK by April 15.
Have your say on: The pace of the roadmap out of lockdown
Boris Johnson appears to be caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to his roadmap out of lockdown.
On the one hand, the Prime Minister has been criticised by lockdown sceptics such as Steve Baker and Mark Harper for going to slowly, with each of the four steps spaced out by a minimum of five weeks.
Indeed, Nicola Sturgeon's "framework" is staggered by three weeks.
On the other, some are warning it could go too fast - and result in cases spiking, requiring another dreaded lockdown.
So is the roadmap too fast, too slow or just right? Have your say in the poll below.
UK agrees extension to Brexit trade deal ratification
The UK has reluctantly agreed that the provisional application of the Brexit trade deal should be extended until the end of April.
The deal is yet to be ratified by the European Union side and Brussels had requested an extension to the February 28 deadline.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said: "Provisionally applying the agreement was not the United Kingdom's preferred outcome given the uncertainty it creates for individuals and businesses and indeed the parties.
"Extending the period of provisional application prolongs that uncertainty."
He had previously told MPs he did not think an extension would be required.
In a letter to European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, he said the UK expected the EU to "satisfy its internal requirements" before April 30 and "that we would therefore not be asked to further extend the period" beyond that date.
Compare Covid to measles rather than flu, says Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon has said the better disease to compare Covid with is measles rather than flu.
The First Minister said you had to "aim" for elimination as much as possible, noting that Covid and Long Covid can be quite severe.
She warned against "being complacent about it ", now that the vaccination programme was progressing, saying the aim should be to "keep it suppressed" and stamp out outbreaks where they occur.
"But what is our goal? Our goal is to get back to normal life," she added.
Further lockdown exit details would be 'putting finger in the wind', says Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon has defended her decision not to give any details about life after the end of April, saying it would be "arbitrary".
Challenged by acting Conservative leader Ruth Davidson over why she has not given firmer clarification beyond April 26 for other sectors, such as weddings, she said it would be a case of "putting my finger in the wind".
The First Minister told MSPs: "The last thing we want to do at this stage is go backwards. This must be a firm and sustainable route out."
Scotland's roadmap staggered by 'at least three weeks'
Nicola Sturgeon says her roadmap will be staggered "by intervals of at least three weeks" - two weeks quicker than England's.
Care home restrictions will be eased from early March, and from March 15 the next phase of school returns - including primary and some secondary students - will begin.
Outdoor mixing will increase to four people from two households.
From April 5, "it is our hope and expectation" that the stay at home restriction will be lifted. Communal worship can also resume, she says, although "it may be a few days earlier" if required for festivals such as Passover and Easter.
From April 26, they will resume the levels system and "the economy and society will begin to reopen in a more substantial way", she adds.
Shops, hairdressers and gyms to reopen from last week of April, says Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon says her framework is "deliberately cautious" but she will "seek to accelerate" changes where possible.
The last week in April will see all parts of the country "out of level four and back initially to level three," she says - Scotland's version of tiers.
After that it will depend on the spread of the virus at that points. This will allow some parts of the country to open up before others.
This will allow for "phased but significant" reopening including shops, hairdressers and gyms.
Nicola Sturgeon sets out 'indicative' timetable for transition to normality
Nicola Sturgeon now turns to the "indicative" timetable for her version of the roadmap.
In time, "once the vast majority of the population" has been vaccinated, this will be the main tool of suppression, but there will be "something of a transition" between now and then, she says.
The test and protect system will be key to this, she adds, as will efforts to protect against new variants entering Scotland.
Watch: How to prevent getting into debt
Scotland's 'maximum suppression' strategy 'not ideological', says Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland's R-rate "might not be very far below" one and could return above the critical line very easily, because of the spread of the new Kent variant.
She said that meant there was just "limited headroom" for any further opening, after the beginning of the phased return to school which began in the nation yesterday.
The First Minister said her approach was not "ideological" but driven by science.
"Maximum suppression is important for our chances of getting back to normal," she said.
Scotland suffering 'temporary dip' in vaccine, says Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon has said there has been a "temporary dip" in vaccinations being given out in Scotland, as a result of an anticipated drop in supply and the increase in second doses being deployed.
However the First Minister stressed the programme was continuing according to schedule, as she confirmed that all adults in Scotland should be offered a first dose of the Covid vaccine by the end of July.
She noted the effectiveness of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, both in terms of severity of the disease and transmissability, saying there was "much, much firmer grounds for optimism" about the future.
Further 372 Covid deaths registered in England's hospitals
A further 372 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 81,854.
Patients were aged between 28 and 99 years old. All except 16, aged 44 to 99 years old, had known underlying health conditions. The date of death ranges from 9 December 2020 to 22 February 2021 with the majority being on or after 14 February.
The Midlands was the worst-affected region, with 85 deaths, followed by the North West with 58 and the South East, with 50.
There were 47 deaths in London, 46 in the North East & Yorkshire, 44 in the East of England and 42 in the South West.
Climate change of 'paramount importance' as it risks global security, says Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has described the threat climate change poses to global security as of "paramount importance" as he opened a United Nations Security Council on climate change.
At the start of a virtual meeting, the Prime Minister said: "I'm very, very proud to be the first UK Prime Minister to be chairing the security council in three decades or more.
"The reason I'm proud to be doing this particularly today is because the issue before us, security and climate change, and the impact of climate change on global security, is now of absolutely paramount importance."
He introduced a video message from Sir David Attenborough, a man he described as having "devoted much of his life to chronicling the threats to all forms of life on our fragile blue planet".
Alex Salmond's lawyers demand answers over redaction of written evidence
Alex Salmond's lawyers have demanded the legal justification for parliament redacting swathes of his written evidence and warned the decision has jeopardised his planned appearance before a Holyrood committee tomorrow.
The Scottish Parliament took down evidence from its website in which Mr Salmond alleged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, after concerns about possible contempt of court were raised by the Crown Office.
It was replaced with a redacted version of the written submission with five sections censored.
The former first minister's lawyers have now written to parliament asking to see the legal advice it received about redacting the evidence.
"Our client's submission was carefully reviewed by us and by counsel before submission," David McKie of Levy and McRae solicitors wrote. "There is no legal basis for the redactions that we are aware of which you now propose having gone through that extremely careful exercise."
Labour demands apology from Matt Hancock over 'duff' PPE
Labour has called on Matt Hancock to apologise over awarding health contracts to companies during the pandemic which provided "duff" personal protective equipment (PPE).
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged ministers to "commit to recovering every penny piece of taxpayers' money" from companies which provided inadequate face masks and gowns.
It comes after a judge ruled Mr Hancock had "breached his legal obligation" by not publishing details within 30 days of contracts being signed.
Mr Hancock told his counterpart: "Of course where a contract isn't delivered against we do not intend to pay taxpayers' money, but of course, also, we wanted to make sure that we got as much PPE as we could into the country.
"And whilst of course there were individual instances that we all know about and that highlight how important it was to buy PPE, there was, as the National Audit Office has confirmed, no national level shortage and that was because of the incredible work of my team and the amount of effort they put into securing the PPE and doing the right thing."
DUP politician questions delay on schools reopening
A member of Northern Ireland's governing party has questioned why his colleagues have taken a more cautious approach to reopening schools than Boris Johnson.
DUP MLA Paul Givan said that England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty had justified a full return to schools on March 8 on the basis that the risks were negligible.
"If it's based upon the science, why is our science so different to England compared to here in Northern Ireland when we're dealing with very similar dynamics of this virus?" Mr Givan asked.
He insisted that his party colleague Education Minister Peter Weir had not advocated the decision to allow P1 to P3 children to return for two weeks and then revert back to home learning for a week ahead of Easter.
"This is not what he wanted," he told MLAs.
Lobby latest: Downing Street still confident in vaccine supply, despite drop in daily doses
Downing Street has "confidence" in the UK's vaccine supply, despite falling numbers of doses being administered in recent days.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We continue to ensure that hundreds of thousands of people each day receive the vaccines.
"As we said from the start, there will be daily fluctuations in the number of people who receive it day-on-day but you are aware of our target to vaccinate all those within the first phase by mid-April and we are confident in our supply to be able to do that."
That means offering a first dose to 32 million people across the UK by April 15.
The spokesman added that the Moderna vaccine will be available in the UK "in spring", alongside the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs, to ensure that all adults can be offered a dose by the end of July.
Lobby latest: No 10 dodges questions on possible delays to roadmap
Downing Street has declined to give details on how long each stage of the four-step plan could be delayed if the evidence suggests that any further easing would push up infections.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "There is a five-week period between each of the steps. As the chief medical officer said yesterday in the press conference, that will allow us to look at the impact that lifting the restrictions, as part of each step, has had.
"And it will give us the time to inform people of the next step and the next stage of the road map.
"We will look at the four tests to guide where we are in terms of the pandemic and it will be based on those four tests that we seek to continue.
"But of course, as we look at that data, we will look as we have done throughout at the latest situation and we will take advice from scientists."
Lobby latest: June 21 relaxation 'earliest' point of final stage, says No 10
Downing Street has stressed that June 21 will be the "earliest" date when all restrictions are relaxed, amid calls for it to become a new national bank holiday.
When asked if this was something Boris Johnson would consider, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "As it says, June 21 is the earliest for step four.
"And as the road map sets out we need to continue to look at the evidence and data as we move through the road map."
Minister reveals proportion of black people who have taken up vaccine offer
Nadhim Zahawi has revealed the proportion of black people who have received the Covid vaccine so far, amid criticism over data transparency.
Veteran Labour MP Diane Abbott asked for more local data on the take-up of the vaccine, noting that "certain groups are left behind."
The vaccines minister said "overall we are encouraged by the vaccine uptake", which has reached 17.7m people.
He added: "To date, black people who account for around three per cent of the population, make up 1.7 per cent of those vaccinated, whilst white people who account for 86 per cent of the population make up 82 per cent of all those vaccinated in England.
"We appreciate there is still work to do and our vaccine uptake plan addresses that."
Matt Hancock urges care staff to listen to Chris Whitty's call to get vaccinated as 'duty'
Matt Hancock has urged care staff to listen to Professor Chris Whitty, who said they have a "professional responsibility" to get vaccinated.
Asked about the progress of the vaccine programme in care homes and when people will be able to have access to second doses, Mr Hancock told SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford: "We want to support the ability of more and more people to access the vaccine and that includes care home staff."
He added: "I hope that care home staff and NHS staff across the board will listen to the words of the chief medical officer who said it is the professional responsibility of people who work in care settings to get vaccinated. It's the right thing to do."
Challenged about uptake a second time, he told Labour's Liz Kendall they should avoid "having a political ding dong about it", emphasising the need to "get the positive messages out about the vaccination programme".
Journalists are 'always abusing people', says Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has told secondary school students that journalists are "always abusing people", when asked about jobs advice.
The Prime Minister - who was a journalist himself - told the South London pupils that journalism was a "great job" but said reporters had to be "critical when maybe you feel sometimes a bit guilty" for not having "put yourself in the place of the person you are criticising".
That is why he went into politics, he adds - although urged the kids to "do lots of other things" before going into that profession.
Watch the off-guarded moment below.
— Mollie Malone (@Mollie_Malone1) February 23, 2021Speaking to children at a school in South London the PM advises “don’t do politics immediately. Do lots of other things first.” He also says being a journalist is a “great job” but “sometimes you find yourself always abusing people... when maybe you feel sometimes a bit guilty” pic.twitter.com/oteD0mbU89
Analysis: Camilla Tominey on the pace towards 'so-called normality'
The Prime Minister insisted that decisions would be led by "data not dates" as he unveiled his "one-way road to freedom".
Yet with nearly seven weeks (at the earliest) to wait until that first visit to the pub, 83 days before hosting an indoor dinner party and 118 days until Victory over Covid (VC) Day on June 21, it soon emerged that Mr Johnson had chosen to take the scenic route.
Government insiders had earlier likened the approach to driving off a slip road onto a motorway, seemingly implying that only those with a death wish would speed straight into the fast lane.
Yet why the sudden need to crawl along the hard shoulder?
Camilla Tominey analyses the Prime Minister's roadmap to "so-called normality" in the video below.
Michael Gove 'not the right person' for vaccine passport review, says senior Tory
Boris Johnson's decision to put Michael Gove in charge of the review into vaccine passports is coming under fire from some of his backbenchers.
One former minister - who backed the cautious roadmap announced yesterday - told the Telegraph the idea of setting up a system by which people could access certain services through a digital certificate was "a nightmare".
The senior Tory added: "I would be avoiding it if I were in government - let the private sector lead on it."
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was "not the right person" to lead the review "as it will all be too clever by far and no one will be able to understand it - even if it is brilliant," the MP added.
Watch: What is inheritance tax?
Vaccine link to roadmap 'critical', says Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock said the vaccination programme is "critical" to the road map out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Conservative MP Richard Holden asked for the Health Secretary to "clarify the link between the vaccine programme and the roadmap" during questions in the Commons this morning.
Mr Hancock said it was "absolutely right to make this link".
He added: "Vaccines are important to keep each individual safe and we've seen this wonderful data yesterday about how effective they are at reducing hospitalisations and deaths.
"But it is also the vaccination programme that is critical to the road map out of this pandemic and it's only because of the success of the vaccine programme that we're able to set out the road map in this way.
"So the vaccine is good for you, but it's also good for all of us because by taking a vaccine, you're helping protect yourself and you're helping all of us get out of this pandemic situation."
Scottish Parliament to remove Alex Salmond evidence from website
Evidence from former first minister Alex Salmond will be removed from the Scottish Parliament website before a redacted version is published later, Holyrood's corporate body has said.
The change follows concerns raised by Scotland's prosecution service after Mr Salmond's written evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government's botched investigation of sexual harassment claims against him was published on Monday evening.
A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: "Following representations from the Crown Office on Monday evening, the SPCB (Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body) agreed collectively this morning that it will remove the Alex Salmond submission on the Ministerial Code from its website with immediate effect and republish it later today in a redacted form. The SPCB will respond formally to the Crown Office shortly."
Alex Salmond accuses Nicola Sturgeon's husband of trying to imprison him
Alex Salmond has alleged there was a conspiracy to remove him from public life and even imprison him involving a series of senior SNP figures including Nicola Sturgeon's husband and chief of staff.
In an extraordinary submission to a Holyrood inquiry, the former First Minister said the evidence "supports a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP."
Mr Salmond, who will appear before the inquiry on Wednesday, said the "inescapable conclusion" was that they had tried to remove him from public life and claimed they would have succeeded if not for the court system.
Among those he named were Peter Murrell, the SNP's chief executive and Ms Sturgeon's husband, and Liz Lloyd, her chief of staff.
Boris Johnson gives nothing away on next week's Budget
Boris Johnson said the Government would "continue to put our arms around everybody" during the pandemic, when asked about unemployment.
During a visit to a school in south London, the Prime Minister told reporters: "There will be changes obviously as a result of the way the economy has been changing naturally.
"And some sectors have been changing in the last few years and will continue to change, maybe that has been accelerated by the pandemic.
"What we will do is continue to put our arms around everybody in the country to look after them throughout the pandemic, as we have.
"You know about the kickstart funds that are available to help people from job to job, get young people into new jobs, and you will be hearing a lot more about that and the Chancellor's plan for jobs next week."
Janet Daley: Keir Starmer has quit the lockdown debate
If part of the object of Boris Johnson's statement was to leave Keir Starmer with nothing to say, then it succeeded, writes Janet Daley.
They said it would be cautious. No surprises there. And we had heard that chant of “data not dates” a zillion times, God knows. There was really only one fundamental statement in the Prime Minister’s preamble that had not been uttered before: the Government has definitively ruled out a zero-Covid strategy.But despite this, there were many questions left unanswered by yesterday's grand unveiling. However the political argument about this is now taking place entirely within the Conservative party. The official Opposition party has opted out.
Farmers freed from 'shackles' of EU, says Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has thanked farmers in a video message to the National Farmers' Union (NFU) annual conference for keeping supermarket shelves stocked and delivery boxes filled during the pandemic.
Being freed from the "shackles" of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy was "the moment when we start to realise the many opportunities we now have, not just for the benefit of our fantastic farmers, for all of you, but for our entire country", he added.
Farmers were now free to make use of "potentially revolutionary technology" such as gene editing, the Prime Minister said.
"This crisis has tested us all but also I think brought a new and wider appreciation of the incredible work that you do, that farmers do every day, and in all weathers.
"Now is the time to embrace a new, modern age for farming, building on what we do best, with high-quality produce made to a high standard, while at the same time, pursuing all farming can do to protect nature and tackle climate change, as we look forward to Cop26 in Glasgow in November", he said.
Matt Hancock counters Boris Johnson's optimism and warns roadmap could slip
Matt Hancock has countered Boris Johnson's optimism about the prospects of the four-month roadmap out of lockdown, suggesting the period between each step was more likely to be extended than shortened.
The Health Secretary told Sky there was "remarkable unanimity" among the Cabinet, with ministers "all absolutely determined to come out of this as fast as is safely possible - but not faster."
The success of the roadmap was dependent on "how everyone responds and pulls together, so it's important everyone sticks to existing rules", the doveish minister added.
"We want to be able to hit those milestones, but we will be vigilant and watch what's happening to make sure it's safe to make each move," said the Health Secretary. "It’s very important that we can see the impact of one step before taking the next step. There is a vital need to keep watching the data."
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 23, 2021Yesterday I set out our four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England and provide a route back to a more normal way of life.
On Monday 8th March, schools and colleges across England will reopen, and teaching in classrooms can start again.
➡️ https://t.co/0wMm3UFjLD pic.twitter.com/XGnKnFIxep
Michael Gove will lead vaccine passport review, Boris Johnson reveals
Boris Johnson has said the review into vaccine passports is required because it is "a novelty for our country", noting they could be used to allow access to "the pub or theatres".
Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, will be leading the review, which will explore ethical, moral, and scientific considerations, he revealed.
"I know fervent libertarians will object but others might find a reason for it," he said during a visit to a school this morning.
There were "deep and complex issues we need to explore - ethical issues about what the role is for Government in mandating or indeed banning people from doing things", Mr Johnson said.
"We can't be discriminatory against people who for whatever reason can't have the vaccine," he added.
There was "no question" it would be used for international travel, he said.
Boris Johnson says he is 'hopeful' of June deadline - but no guarantees
Boris Johnson has stressed that schools are ready to reopen in full in just a fortnight, amid criticism from unions and some opposition MPs that it could lead to a rise in cases.
Speaking from a school in South London, the Prime Minister said Government scientists were "absolutely convinced" that it was right to reopen all schools from March 8.
On the roadmap in general, he said that while some people would complain it was too fast or too slow, "we think we have got the balance right", with the delay between each step allowing "time to assess what that does to the disease, the prevalence of Covid".
"You are adding all the time to the budget of risk and you need time to assess that," he added, reiterating his commitment to the roadmap being "irreversible".
Asked how confident he was about the final June deadline, he said he was "hopeful", but would not guarantee it would happen. "We can look at that June 21 date with some optimism," he added.
UK border controls like a sieve with too many holes, MPs told
The UK's hotel quarantine system is like a sieve with "too many holes", a leading epidemiologist has told MPs.
Professor Catherine Bennett, of Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, said border closure had been one of the country's "main tools" in keeping infection rates low and protecting its domestic economy.
She told the All Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that Australia had tightened up its hotel quarantine system in response to the new variants, including adding extra testing, noting that the UK system applied to just 'red list' countries, was only 10 days long and allows people out for exercise.
"If you're going to let you have too many holes in the sieve, then why bother with the sieve?" Prof Bennett said.
Sir Graham Brady: The state must never hold such control over our lives again
Lockdown-sceptic Conservative MPs have lambasted Boris Johnson over the timetable of his roadmap out of Covid restrictions, declaring it a "hammer blow" to a number of sectors.
On Monday night, backbench Tories raised concerns over the pace at which hospitality can reopen and the speed with which curbs on weddings and their attendees will be repealed.
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, indicated that the pace of the strategy lacked ambition, although it was a "step in the right direction".
In an article for The Telegraph, he wrote that there were "a lot of 'at the earliest' dates peppered all over the statement", adding: "What if the data continues to improve rapidly? What if the vaccines turbo-charge the fall in infections? Shouldn't we then move faster?
"This massive lurch towards state power must be reversed and it must never happen again."
Arlene Foster making 'policy on the hoof', claims Sinn Fein
Sinn Fein has accused Arlene Foster of making up policy "on the hoof" after the First Minister hinted at plans t rethink Stormont's delay to schools reopening.
Last night - after Boris Johnson set out his roadmap - Mrs Foster suggested there might be a more rapid return to classrooms than the phased approach agreed by her party only four days earlier.
But Sinn Fein's education spokesman Pat Sheehan accused Mrs Foster of flipping her position in response to Mr Johnson's move, noting that the chief medical officer had warned a full reopening could push Northern Irelands R-rate above one.
He told BBC Radio Ulster: "It's disappointing that Arlene wants to go and make policy on the hoof in interviews on the TV last night. Nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is that Boris Johnson has decided to make a decision for England.
"You would think by now that the DUP would have learned not to hitch their wagon to Boris."
Have your say on: The pace of the roadmap out of lockdown
As ever, Boris Johnson appears to be caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to his roadmap out of lockdown.
On the one hand, the Prime Minister has been criticised by lockdown sceptics such as Steve Baker and Mark Harper for going to slowly, with each of the four steps spaced out by a minimum of five weeks .
On the other, some are warning it could go too fast - and result in cases spiking, requiring another dreaded lockdown.
So is the roadmap too fast, too slow or just right? Have your say in the poll below.
Professor raises questions over Government plans to 'calibrate' Covid rates
A professor of public health has said he "just doesn't know" how the Government's policy of trying to get Covid-19 infections to a certain point will work.
Professor Martin McKee, professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it was very hard to "calibrate" the infection rate, particularly as the data has a lag.
Speaking at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus (APPG), Prof McKee said delays in picking up infections, analysing data and then deciding what to do made the Government's policy unworkable.
"You're always going to have two or three weeks behind the curve," he said.
"To calibrate perfectly this level of infections at 1,000 or 10,000 whatever cases and just keep it absolutely right, without it either going up, or as I would argue, we want to get it down I just don't know how you do that."
Prof McKee said having a situation where infection rates are "yoyoing" up and down was just creating uncertainty for the public and for the economy.
England and Wales register lowest weekly death toll this year
A total of 5,691 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending February 12 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - the lowest figure since the week ending January 1.
The figure is also down 22 per cent from 7,320 deaths in the week to February 5.
Just over a third (37 per cent) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to February 12 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.
'Every job lost is personal tragedy,' says Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak has said "every job lost is a personal tragedy", as new data shows nearly a quarter of a million fewer people in employment since this time last year.
The Chancellor has also promised to continue supporting people when he sets out the Budget next Wednesday (March 3).
He said: "I know how incredibly tough the past year has been for everyone, and every job lost is a personal tragedy.
"That's why throughout the crisis, my focus has been on doing everything we can to protect jobs and livelihoods.
"At the Budget next week I will set out the next stage of our Plan for Jobs, and the support we'll provide through the remainder of the pandemic and our recovery."
Minister stresses 'glimmers of hope' as unemployment rate rises
A minister has stressed there are "glimmers of hope", despite unemployment figures out today showing a surge in the number of unemployed.
There are 726,000 fewer workers on payrolls since February last year, with unemployment rising to 5.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2020. However the number of payrolled workers rose by 83,000 between January and February in the second small monthly increase in a row, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Minister for employment Mims Davies said: "Today's figures highlight the challenges people are still facing - but there are glimmers of hope with employment relatively stable, over 600,000 people moving onto payrolls and hours worked up.
"With the Prime Minister setting out the road map to cautiously ease lockdown and the vaccine rollout protecting millions of people, we're looking ahead to our recovery."
Boris Johnson wrong to pledge 'one-way' roadmap, says Government scientist
A Government scientist has raised a warning about Boris Johnson's "irreversible" pledge, saying the Prime Minister must be allowed to respond to changes in the virus.
Dr Mike Tildesley, reader in mathematical modelling of infectious diseases at the University of Warwick and a member of the Government advisory group SPI-M, told the Today programme: "We always need to be aware that the Government needs to be reactive - if we do see a spike in cases or if we see things not going down as fast as we hoped, I think there needs to remain the possibility to hold off for a couple of weeks so we get things in control.
"Particularly if the Government wants to have this one-way route to freedom, which I think in itself is potentially a little bit uncertain.
"It may be that we have to have some measures introduced for a little bit of time in order to prevent these surges of infection occurring so that ultimately we can take virtually a one-way route back to normality."
May 17 'earliest we thought safe' to allow overnight stays, says Matt Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that while it is "some time off", he hopes that people will be able to hug friends and family from May 17.
When asked about when people could hug their loved ones, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Well I hope that will happen from May 17, that you will be able to go and stay away. That is some time off.
"You and I, both of our parents live in Cheshire, and to be able to go and see them and stay overnight - not before May 17.
"So I appreciate that that is some time, but that is the earliest that we thought it was safe to be able to take that step."
Covid certificate review will consider use in health and social care staff, says Matt Hancock
A review into where vaccine certificates can be used will consider which "areas of life you wouldn't want it to extend into" - including health and social care - Matt Hancock has said.
The Health Secretary said there was "clearly an important role for certification for international travel", and suggested it could be used to help reopen parts of the domestic economy, including large events.
He told BBC Breakfast: "This certification is an important matter to consider, the areas of life you wouldn't want it to extend to. It is important to consider those matters and have a debate and come forward with a conclusive answer."
Asked whether people who work in health and social care may have to use a Covid certificate, he said: "Chris Whitty says he regards it as a professional duty but whether you go a step further and say 'you can’t work in those settings' - that is an important question.
"We are not at that point yet but it is important we take all points of view into consideration."
New variants may 'set us back' on international travel, says Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock has reiterated his warning that international travel will be dependent on the extent to which vaccines can protect against the new variants in South Africa and other countries.
While studies suggest the vaccines are effective against the Kent variant, the data is less certain for those that have emerged in other countries. This is one component of the travel review, which is due to report by April 12.
The Health Secretary told BBC Breakfast: "We have been absolutely clear this is an areas we need to do further work on. We have put in dates we would like to see this open up, but they are 'not before' dates.
"We have got this review into international travel which is important," he added. "If that [finds that the] impact is perfectly good, if it stops majority of hospitalisations and deaths... then great, but if there is a variant that can get around vaccine then obviously that would set us back and we would need to be cautious against that.
"We just don't know the science in that space yet - we are working very hard on it, including with our colleagues in the South African government. That is one of the unknowns at the moment."
Government hoping to shift to 'personal responsibility' on face masks, says Matt Hancock
The Government hopes to shift towards "personal responsibility" rather than having social distancing laws, Matt Hancock has said.
The Health Secretary noted that people may have to continue wearing face masks in the winter, but stressed: "What we want to do is get rid of the social distancing-type laws that get in the way of normal life and move to personal responsibility, rather than laws dictating how all of us live our daily lives."
He told Times Radio: "It is also clear that eradication is unfortunately not possible with this disease, so we are going to have to learn to live with it.
"In the same way that for instance we live with flu, but we don't let flu get in the way of living our lives.
"But we do vaccinate against it every year - in the case of flu we vaccinate those who are most vulnerable - and so I expect to have that vaccination programme as a regular feature of future life."
'Ridiculous' to ban personal contacts from procurement deals, says Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock has defended himself against questions over procurement processes, following the High Court judgement last week that found he had unlawfully failed to publish details in time.
During a terse interview with Radio 4's Today programme. he said the case "had all been looked in in detail", saying he "supported" transparency, but the implication was that people "should be barred from taking contracts if they know anybody involved - that would be ridiculous".
He added it was "easy to ask these questions, but it is hard to deliver PPE in the teeth of a pandemic, and that is what my team did".
He noted there were "individual challenges, but never a national shortage", saying when demand goes up 10 times that is what happens".
"There was never a national shortage, but that wasn't an accident, it wasn't something that happened passively, it happened because of my team."
Matt Hancock dodges question about poverty skew of Covid vaccine uptake
The UK's vaccine uptake is the "highest in the world", Matt Hancock has said, as he dodged a question about whether Covid could become a disease of the deprived.
Rates of vaccine hesitancy are higher among BAME communities and poorer areas of the country - which are also areas with higher risk of severe disease.
The Health Secretary told Radio 4's Today programme: "We want vaccine uptake to be as high as possible, it is on us to come forward and have the vaccine. I want to obviously offer the vaccine to all adults by the end of July and all over 50s by 15 April - we were able to bring that forward."
Alongside the vaccine programme, the Government has been working "to encourage people to take it if they are unsure", he added.
'No vaccine is perfect', says Matt Hancock
While the vaccine is "breaking the link from cases to hospitalisations and deaths", the Government will continue to assess that connection, Matt Hancock has said.
The Health Secretary stressed that "no vaccine is perfect", saying: "We do have to keep an eye on the number of cases."
Noting that there were some variants in parts of Bristol, Woking and Sefton which was requiring additional action, he stressed the need for individual responsibility.
"They are the rules for now, it is very important we do not see this as just a plan that the Government has imposed on us."
Roadmap pace a 'judgement' not just modelling, says Matt Hancock
The vaccine programme is "the only reason" that lockdown can be lifted as fast as it is, Matt Hancock has said, as he defends the pace of Boris Johnson's roadmap.
He told Radio 4's Today programme that the Prime Minister had "shown great leadership" in setting the plan ouet yesterday.
But asked about the Telegraph's story this morning, suggesting the pace had been slowed, he said: "We have taken the approach to ensure as much as is possible that this is irreversible and aiming for a release of the lockdown that is as fast as safely possible, and that requires you to see the impact of each step.
"That is the guiding thought behind the five week gap between each step. That's not just down to modelling, that is down to judgement, and the judgement we came to is that we want to get out of his locking in a way that is sustainable."
Israel's 'recovery certificates' could set path for UK system
Israel's "recovery certificates" could set the path for a similar system in the UK, a professor of health law has said.
UCL Prof Jonathan Montgomery, who has been undertaking a review into Covid certificates at the Ada Lovelace Institute, told Radio 4's Today programme Israel's programme meant that people who have caught Covid or received a vaccine are given a "green light" to enjoy certain activities for up to six months.
He added: "It is probably sensible to think about people who have had it in the past and vaccinated in a similar way, so thinking about status certification rather than vaccine passports.
"Israel has a system which has recently been launched… a recovery certificate which indicates if you have had it in the past, you get a green light in their system until the end of June, and then a vaccination certificate which gives you a green light for six months."
Those time periods "could be extended", once more is known about the length of immunity, he added.
Boris Johnson's roadmap based on 'dodgy assumptions', says Covid Recovery Group boss
The Government's roadmap for lifting Covid-19 restrictions has been delayed by two months because it is based on "dodgy assumptions", the leader of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Tories has claimed.
Mark Harper, the former chief whip, told LBC radio that the Government was "understating" the performance of the vaccine, meaning that the lockdown was unncessarily delayed.
The Forest of Dean MP said: "The biggest flaw is they assume a very low uptake of the vaccine. We know the uptake of the vaccine is over 90 per cent in the top groups that have been vaccinated, above 95 per cent, they've assumed 15 er cent of the population don't take the vaccine.
"I have two problems with that, one is that isn't realistic, that's not what's happening, but secondly there is a real question about whether the rest of the country should be held back for two months because some people choose not to take the vaccine."
He added: "The Government seems to have looked at some models with dodgy assumptions and have effectively delayed opening the country by two months."
International travel will be 'much more difficult' if vaccine weak against variants, says Health Secretary
Matt Hancock has raised a warning about international travel, ahead of a review into what this summer's travel plans could look like.
The tourism industry has already seen a surge in bookings since yesterday afternoon's announcement from the Prime Minister.
However the Health Secretary warned that any travel was still largely dependent on how effective the vaccine was against the South African and Brazilian variants.
He told Sky News: "If the vaccine works well against them, we can be much more relaxed about international travel, if it doesn't it will be much more difficult."
Spring is on its way,' says Boris Johnson as he heralds cautious reopening
Boris Johnson has told sceptical Tory MPs to back his roadmap by promising a vote on the measures before Easter and vowing that the legislation underpinning the plans will expire on June 21, the day when all lockdown restrictions are due to end.
The Prime Minister on Monday night spoke to the 1922 committee of Tory MPs over Zoom and deployed a colourful motorway analogy to describe his roadmap.
One MP on the call said: "The PM said the country has been stuck in traffic, is now moving onto the slip road, and will be turning onto the motorway towards freedom. He said we will first enter the left-hand lane, the slow lane, then make successive indications to the right to enter the fast lane on June 21."
He opened his address to the backbenchers by warning that they were unlikely to ever live in a Covid-free world, and said the Government would have to manage the virus like annual flu.