I know that over this weekend millions of people have been able to see loved ones for the first time in months. I thank everyone for their patience as it is clear that this is paying off.
Six weeks ago, I set out our cautious but irreversible roadmap with four steps, each contingent on data not dates. Yesterday, I was able to confirm that the net result of the country’s efforts and the vaccine roll-out is that from Monday 12 April, we will move to Step 2 of the roadmap.
This includes the return of:
● Outdoor hospitality venues, including beer gardens, with table service only for premises that serve alcohol.
● Non-essential retail.
● Personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons.
● Public buildings such as libraries and community centres.
● Most outdoor attractions including zoos, theme parks, and drive-in performances (such as cinemas and concerts).
● Indoor leisure and sports facilities for individual exercise, or exercise with your household or support bubble.
● Smaller outdoor events such as fetes, literary fairs, and fairgrounds.
● Self-contained accommodation for overnight stays in England with your household and/or support bubble.
● All childcare and supervised activities indoors (as well as outdoors) for all children. Parent and child groups can take place indoors (as well as outdoors) for up to 15 people (children under 5 will not be counted in this number).
● Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies, and wakes and other commemorative events for up to 15 people, including in indoor public venues that are permitted to open (either in full, or where an exemption enables them to do so for these events). Wedding receptions can also take place for up to 15 people, but must take place outdoors, not including private gardens.
We are also increasing the number of visitors to care homes from one to two – to allow residents to see more of their loved ones.
These changes are fully justified by the data which show we are meeting our four tests for easing the lockdown. First, over 31 million people across the United Kingdom have now received the first dose of the vaccine and over 5 million people have received the second dose and we are on track to reach all our targets. I am pleased that we have also been able to support our overseas territories so that Gibraltar has become one of the first places in the world to offer a vaccination to its entire adult population. Second, our vaccines are proving effective, with a first dose of either vaccine cutting the risk of hospitalisation by approximately 80 per cent and our understanding of this data is improving each day. Third, the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 has now fallen to around the same level as June last year and infection rates do not currently indicate a new surge that would put immediate unsustainable pressure on the NHS. Fourth, new variants of concern have not fundamentally changed our assessment of the risks. People should continue to be cautious, minimise the amount that they travel where possible, work from home if they can and meet outside only, in groups of up to six people or two households.
But we cannot be complacent. We can see waves of sickness afflicting other countries and we know how this story has gone before. We do not know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise - as they may well do. That is why we are asking everyone to get their vaccine or second dose when their turn arrives.
We must also remember that one in three people with this virus have no symptoms. To ensure we have the measures in place to control the spread of the virus and suppress transmission, NHS Test and Trace will make available free asymptomatic testing for all from this Friday, 9 April. These will be available from pharmacies, local test sites, and can be ordered on gov.uk.
These measures will apply in England, but we continue to work closely with the Devolved Administrations who are setting out similar plans, seeking a consistent approach wherever it is sensible and appropriate to do so, sharing learning and ensuring clear rules and guidance where there are differences.
Yesterday, we also published an update on the progress we have made on the four reviews we established in the roadmap. This update is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-202… and I have requested that a copy of this ‘Roadmap Reviews: Update’ publication be deposited in the Libraries of the Houses of Parliament.
We have set out our roadmap and we are sticking to it - and we see nothing in the present data that makes us think we will have to deviate. It is by being cautious, by monitoring the data at every stage and by following the rules - remembering hands, face, space and fresh air - that we hope together to make this roadmap to freedom irreversible.