UK Vaccines Minister: Schools in England Will Reopen on 8 March
By Staff, Agencies
Schools in England will reopen on 8 March, while two households or six people will be allowed to meet outside starting from 29 March, said UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi as part of a government plan to ease coronavirus restrictions. "The view is very much that this is about a gradual reopening of the whole of England, not regional", the official told LBC Radio.
The minister said two people will be able to meet outdoors and "maybe have coffee together" from 8 March, while family gatherings and outdoor sports will be allowed starting from 29 March.
British media outlets reported that although schools will reopen to all pupils on 8 March, there will be several free days so that testing and other safety measures can be put into place.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon and unveil his roadmap on easing the lockdown. The PM emphasized that the government would focus on data rather than dates when lifting coronavirus restrictions.
UK media outlets reported that all restrictions will be lifted in stages and four conditions must be met in order to proceed to the next stage. They include:
• the vaccination program goes as planned;
• evidence shows vaccines are significantly reducing coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations;
• infection rate will not cause hospital admissions;
• no new dangerous strains of the virus emerge.
Although the roadmap on easing the lockdown has not been unveiled yet, the prime minister's plan has already caused a backlash among Tory MPs.
Former chief whip Mark Harper, chair of the 70-strong Tory COVID Recovery Group, has berated one of the four conditions outlined in the plan.
"Keeping restrictions in place 'because a new variant may come along in the future' is a recipe for never unlocking. Ever", said Harper.
Other MPs are dissatisfied that it will take months before shops and pubs will be allowed to reopen completely. Business leaders have already called on the PM to "be bold" to save the country’s economy.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association said it is high time that authorities allowed the reopening of pubs so that thousands in the business community can start emerging from the crisis.
However, Labor shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth sided with Downing Street and said the government was right "to be cautious" coming out of the lockdown.
The PM will brief MPs on the efficacy of the vaccination program and impact of inoculations on hospitalizations and deaths.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the transmission of the virus was down by two-thirds due to the vaccines, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock previously said hospital admissions were falling "much more sharply" than they were during the first wave.
According to the government's website, 17.5 million people have received first dose, while 615,148 have received two doses. The total number of coronavirus infections in the United Kingdom stands at 4.1 million. More than 120,000 have died from the disease since the outbreak began.