Nicholas CecilThu, 18 February 2021, 8:50 am
Lockdown will be lifted “step-by-step” over a period of several months, a minister signalled today.
Care minister Helen Whately said the country was in a “better place” now after a significant fall in Covid cases, around 16 million people having had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, and a big expansion of the testing and tracing systems.
However, she also made clear that restrictions would be eased gradually.
Watch: Whitehall plans for rapid reopening of businesses 0:00 0:51 COVID-19 lockdown: Revealed – Whitehall plans for rapid reopening of shops, pubs and restaurants
“So to me that is a really important thing – for us to be step-by-step and doing this cautiously, of course, because we want this to be the last ever national lockdown – but step-by-step for us to be taking forward, coming out of these restrictions, first to be getting children back to school but in due course opening up hospitality and getting back to life more like normal.
“The important thing is that in the weeks and months ahead, we take the steps to come out of lockdown to move on from the restrictions that we have had to have over the last months, most of the last year.
“We are in a much, much better place now we have had nearly 16 million people vaccinated, that is a huge deal, we have an enormous testing capacity as well, and we have learned a huge amount about the virus, we have got better treatments for it as well, so I see us being in a much better place as we come through this.”
Schools are due to re-open on March 8, followed by non-essential shops later and the hospitality sector.