RELIEF FOR BUSINESS AS LOCKDOWN SET TO EASE AS PLANNED

Alfie Brown

Pubs and restaurants can reopen outdoor spaces as planned next Monday, along with non-essential shops, gyms and hairdressers, as England’s lockdown is further eased, Boris Johnson has said.

But the prime minister urged caution, saying: “We can’t be complacent.”

At a briefing Mr Johnson said officials were considering the potential role of Covid status certificates.

Pilot events will take place from mid-April to trial the system, with later events checking vaccinations.

Speaking in Downing Street, Mr Johnson also said the government was “hopeful” on international travel, but that he did not want to “underestimate” the difficulties which the UK might face in terms of importing the virus again from abroad.

Meanwhile, the government has published an update on a series of reviews into Covid certificates, the safe return of mass events, international travel and social distancing rules.

In the document, the government advises people not to book summer holidays abroad “until the picture is clearer”.

It also says further details on a risk-based “traffic light” system for foreign travel will be published in a report later this week.

Mr Johnson stressed the government was “some way off” finalising any plans on Covid certification, and that it would not be required for when people “go to the shops or to the pub garden or to the hairdressers or whatever” from 12 April.

He added that was not planned for the next stage of lockdown easing on 17 May, but said: “The idea of vaccination status being useful for international travel is something that all countries are looking at. I do think that’s going to be part of the way people deal with it and we need to think about that.”

Other changes to the stage two easing of England’s lockdown from 12 April include:

  • Hospitality venues can serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors, with no curfew
  • Spas can reopen, as can zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances events
  • Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
  • Public buildings such as libraries and community centres will also reopen
  • And other close-contact services such as beauty and nail salons can reopen
  • Weddings attended by up to 15 people can take place
  • The number of care home visitors will also increase to two per resident

Mr Johnson said the 12 April changes could go ahead due to “our collective efforts” and were “fully justified by the data which show that we’re meeting our four tests for easing the lockdown”.

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He also said there was nothing in the present data to suggest the government would have to “deviate” from its planned roadmap out of lockdown.

“We’ve set out our roadmap and we’re sticking to it,” the prime minister said.

But he added: “We can’t be complacent, we can see the waves of sickness afflicting other countries and we’ve seen how this story goes.”

He also encouraged people to use free NHS tests “even if you don’t feel ill” as part of a drive to identify cases without symptoms.

It comes as everyone in England is to be given access to two rapid coronavirus tests a week from Friday, under an extension of the government’s testing programme.

The lateral flow kits, which can provide results in around 30 minutes, will be available for free at testing sites, pharmacies and through the post.

Summary: UK PM Boris Johnson confirms non-essential retail can reopen and restaurants allowed to serve outdoors from 12 April.

Gyms and spas, as well as zoos and theme parks, can also reopen on the same date

Johnson says the public’s patience is “paying off”, but warns against complacency in the face of rising cases in mainland Europe

The PM says the UK is “hopeful” international travel can resume from 17 May, but there are difficulties around “importing” virus variants

Hairdressers, homeware shops and garden centres are reopening in Scotland as Covid restrictions on the economy have eased

India has recorded its highest number yet of coronavirus infections in a single day, with 103,558 confirmed cases

Portugal is entering its second phase of rolling back restrictions, with museums, cafe terraces and some schools reopening

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