JUST IN: UK To Lift Strict Lockdown Rules As COVID-19 Cases Drop

The strict 'stay at home' message will be ditched by Boris Johnson and the green light given for outdoor sports as the country takes its first steps out of lockdown, it has been revealed.


The Prime Minister will end tough restrictions next month that mean people can only leave their homes for work, exercise or to buy essentials. 

It comes as NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens yesterday vowed to double the number of jabs being given to one million vaccines a day in order for the Government to hit its next target.  

As part of the first major easing, ministers plan to overhaul the rules to allow socialising outside from as soon as March 8. Possibly before the end of March, outdoor leisure activities, including golf and tennis, will be permitted.

As well as transmission risks being low as they are played outside, officials believe the public may be spurred into getting fit if the pursuits are among the first things to be allowed.  

The road map for easing lockdown will be unveiled on Monday, setting out the order in which rules will be lifted and the target dates. Here's what we know so far:

The only firm date is March 8, when schools will open.

Socialising is the next priority. The plan is to allow individuals to go out with anyone from their own household, for example for a family picnic, or for individuals to see one person from another household.

Outdoor sports including golf and tennis may be allowed at some point next month. Ministers are also keen to open leisure centers and gyms but this may take longer.

High street stores could open at the end of next month, or the start of April. Hairdressers and beauty salons will follow later.

Pubs and restaurants could open in April or May but possibly with customers served at outdoor tables at first.

Rules on staying local and traveling in the UK for holidays will probably be eased in May.

At the same time, the Government intends to drops its slogan, 'Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives'.

At last night's Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said he wanted 'this lockdown to be the last', as he promised to gradually remove restrictions in a 'cautious but also irreversible' way. 

While admitting he could not give a 'cast iron guarantee' there will be no further lockdowns, the Prime Minister stressed that 'science is now unquestionably in the ascendancy over the disease'. 

'I don't want people to think that I am not optimistic, there has been a big change,' he added.

Mr Johnson will publish his roadmap for easing lockdown next Monday, which will include target dates for the earliest each of the restrictions will be lifted. 

He is expected to chair a meeting of the Cabinet's 'Covid O' committee later this week to hammer out the details. 

And he will present the blueprint in the Commons on Monday afternoon, before making a televised address from Downing Street in the evening.

Government sources said one of Mr Johnson's top priorities is to allow more outdoor pursuits as he wants to 'kickstart the health of the nation'. 

Last night the PM called for people to be 'optimistic but also patient' about the situation. 

'There's no question that as this goes on and the lockdown continues the stresses and strains are really beginning to tell on people,' he conceded.

Mr Johnson encouraged the public to 'try to keep going through this pandemic... because I hope that there isn't that much longer to go now.' 

Asked if this will be the last lockdown, he said: 'I can't give that guarantee, of course not, because we are battling with nature, with a disease that is capable of mutating and changing. 

'I'm increasingly confident, I'm increasingly optimistic about the sheer extent of the possibilities that are opening up with vaccinations. 

'I will be setting out as much of a timetable as we can give on the 22nd and I'm very hopeful that we will be able to go ahead and open things up.' 

Mr Johnson encouraged the public to 'try to keep going through this pandemic... because I hope that there isn't that much longer to go now.' 

Asked if this will be the last lockdown, he said: 'I can't give that guarantee, of course not, because we are battling with nature, with a disease that is capable of mutating and changing.

'I'm increasingly confident, I'm increasingly optimistic about the sheer extent of the possibilities that are opening up with vaccinations. 

'I will be setting out as much of a timetable as we can give on the 22nd and I'm very hopeful that we will be able to go ahead and open things up.'

It comes as data yesterday showed that Britain recorded just 9,765 coronavirus cases in the smallest daily rise since October, with 230 lab-confirmed deaths. 

Both daily tolls were down by 30 percent on last Monday's 14,104 infections and 333 fatalities.    

Figures show that the number of deaths seems to be falling across the country, following a peak in cases roughly around the end of 2020. 

Those over age 80 make up half of the hospital deaths, compared to roughly 56 per cent earlier in the year, analysis by the Covid Actuaries Response Group shows. 

During his press conference last night, the Prime Minister said the moment was 'a huge step forward'.

He said: 'This moment is a huge step forward but it's only a first step.  And while it shows what the country can do we must be both optimistic but also patient.

'And next week I will be setting out a roadmap saying as much as we possibly can about the route to normality even though some things are very uncertain.

'Because we want this lockdown to be the last. And we want progress to be cautious but also irreversible.' 

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