Britons hit the parks and the beaches ahead of Happy Monday

‘In a few days’ time… I’m having a pint’: Boris says Covid lockdown WILL end on time as crowds gather across UK and ‘Happy Monday’ looms – but PM adds continued freedom ‘depends on things going right’ and police warn rules WILL still apply

  • Families, joggers and weightlifters flocked to parks and beaches across the country as the UK braced for sun
  • Amateur athletes raced along the banks of Queensmere Pond in Wimbledon Common in south west London
  • Greenwich Park in south east London was rammed with sunseekers from early this morning with dogwalkers
  • Temperatures will start to climb and hit 52F by lunchtime, the Met Office says, before peaking at 55F Sunday
  • Ahead of the easing of restrictions on ‘Happy Monday’, police chiefs warned next week is not the end of curbs

Boris Johnson has said the coronavirus lockdown will be eased on time as ‘Happy Monday’ looms – but warned freedom ‘depends on things going right’.

The PM will begin easing restrictions in two days’ time as the ‘rule of six’ comes back and outdoor sports are allowed. But people were out socialising early today, especially in Borough Market in London which was packed.

Mr Johnson said he can see nothing in the data to dissuade him from continuing along his roadmap, which would mean no curbs from June 21.

He added: ‘I’m going to be able to go down the street and cautiously, but irreversibly, I’m going to drink a pint of beer in the pub.’ 

But he urged people to remain vigilant, adding there are still unanswered questions about what impact the third Covid wave sweeping Europe would have on the UK. 

Britain reported 58 more coronavirus deaths today – the lowest Saturday figure in six months – taking the number of people who have died within 28 days of a positive test to 126,573. 

A further 4,715 people have tested positive for the disease, a 16 per cent drop from last Saturday’s figure of 5,587, totalling 4,329,180. 

One week ago, 96 deaths were recorded, meaning fatalities have fallen by 40 per cent in seven days.

Yesterday 694,959 new vaccinations – both first and second doses – were registered across the UK, slightly lower than last Friday’s figure of 711,156 jabs, according to Government data. 

Mr Johnson acknowledged cases could again spiral as restrictions are relaxed, with the ‘stay local’ order having ended in Wales and larger outdoor meetings being permitted in England from Monday. 

But he said the ‘key difference’ this time is that the rise in prevalence should be ‘sufficiently mitigated’ by the successful vaccine rollout. 

Meanwhile lockdown-weary Britons threw caution to the wind and left their homes as temperatures started to climb today.

Families, joggers and weightlifters flocked to parks and beaches across the country for 52F (11C) temperatures as the UK braced for near-record 76F (24C) heat next week.

Ahead of the easing of restrictions on ‘Happy Monday’, police chiefs warned the public to stay vigilant and said next week is not the end of curbs on freedom.

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, said complacency risked spreading new Covid variants and could lead to fresh rules.

Elsewhere in the Covid crisis:

  • Britons over-70s will be given Covid-19 vaccine booster jabs in September to protect them from emerging variants of the virus;
  • Shops will be able to stay open until 10pm six days a week to turbocharge the high street and help the economy recover;
  • People with big families will be able to self-isolate in hotels for free under new Government plans to stop the spread of coronavirus;
  • An ambitious plan is being considered by ministers to get Brits back on holiday by rolling out rapid Covid tests for anyone arriving in the UK, according to reports;
  • Prince Charles’s stepson has been left devastated by the death of his girlfriend at the age of 42 after her cancer diagnosis was delayed by lockdown. 

People flocked to Borough Market in central London this afternoon enjoying the sunshine in the capital city ahead of the easing of restrictions on ‘Happy Monday’

The popular market in central London was crawling with customers on Saturday afternoon – with these stalls looking particularly busy

The crowds walk through the tunnel between Borough Market and the River Thames as they enjoy the warmer weather today

People walk past Borough Market in the heart of the capital on Saturday afternoon as they get out and bask in the March sun

People walk down a street between Borough Market and the Shard as they flock to the centre of the capital today to enjoy the sun

Four men lark around while sipping their beers in Borough Market on Saturday afternoon as the weather turned warmer

The entrance to Borough Market in central London today looked packed full of people waiting to buy from the popular stalls

A tunnel under the railway at Borough Market is fulled with people – some wearing masks, but others not – as people headed out today in London

Police wearing face coverings speak to two women – also in masks – outside Borough Market in central London this afternoon

The Prime Minister said he can see nothing in the data to dissuade him from continuing along his lockdown easing roadmap – which would mean a return to freedom on June 21

Families, joggers and weightlifters flocked to parks and beaches across the country as the UK braced for near-record 76F (24C) heat next week. Pictured: Greenwich Park

Boris’s comments to the Tory forum today on lockdown and the virus

On returning to the office:

The PM was asked whether the UK can have a bank holiday called ‘national hangover day’ once the pandemic subsides. In response, he said Chancellor Rishi Sunak ‘was pretty keen’ for people to get back into the office. He said: ‘The general view is people have had quite a few days off, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for people to see their way round to making a passing stab at getting back into the office.’

On going to the barber:

He also answer addressed the partial reopening of the country on Monday in typically blustering style. Mr Johnson said: ‘In just a few days’ time, I’m finally going to be able to go to the barbers.

‘But more important than that, I’m going to be able to go down the street and cautiously, but irreversibly, I’m going to drink a pint of beer in the pub. And as things stand, I can see absolutely nothing in the data to dissuade me from continuing along our roadmap to freedom, unlocking our economy and getting back to the life we love.’

On the vaccine rollout:

Mr Johnson said it would not have been possible without the ‘might of the private sector’. He said: ‘Yes, Government played a pretty big role, the Vaccine Task Force, the bottling plants we helped to set up, the scientists we funded, and I renew my thanks and admiration for the incredible work of our NHS, our GPs, our nurses, our health care workers of all kinds.

‘They’re heroes, heroes, heroes, to say nothing of local council staff and volunteers, and the Army, so many thousands of others. ‘But in the end, none of this would have been possible without the innovative genius and commercial might, and you know what I’m going to say – the might of the private sector – the free market economy. ‘Because at the heart of this vaccine rollout, there is a huge and unmissable lesson about the need for private risk-taking capitalist energy.’

On dropping the Tier system:

The PM said discovering the Kent variant of Covid-19 – also known as B117 – led to the tiering system of restrictions to be dropped. He said: ‘That was an incredibly important moment, because we were then able to work out what was happening, because we could see that B117 was basically transmitting considerably faster.

‘With that we were able to understand why the tiering system that had been basically working for much of the autumn just wasn’t going to work anymore.’

On easing restrictions:

Boris Johnson said he can see nothing in the data to dissuade him from continuing along his lockdown easing roadmap. He said: ‘In just a few days’ time, I’m finally going to be able to go to the barbers.

‘But more important than that, I’m going to be able to go down the street and cautiously, but irreversibly, I’m going to drink a pint of beer in the pub. And as things stand, I can see absolutely nothing in the data to dissuade me from continuing along our roadmap to freedom, unlocking our economy and getting back to the life we love.’

On Europe’s third wave:

The Prime Minister said there are still unanswered questions about what impact the third coronavirus wave sweeping Europe would have on the UK. He said: ‘I think the second half of the year will have the potential to be really fantastic. ‘But it depends on things still going right. We depend on the successful vaccine programme and disease not taking off again.’ He said ‘bitter experience’ has shown a wave like the one in Europe would hit the UK ‘three weeks later’. He added: ‘The question is – is it going to be, this time, as bad it has been in the past? Or have we sufficiently mitigated, muffled, blunted impact by the vaccine rollout? That’s a question we still don’t really know the answer to.’  

Mr Johnson struck a mixed tone of optimism and caution today as he appeared at the Conservatives’ virtual spring conference.

He said he can see nothing in the data to dissuade him from continuing along his lockdown easing roadmap.

He continued: ‘In just a few days’ time, I’m finally going to be able to go to the barbers.

‘But more important than that, I’m going to be able to go down the street and cautiously, but irreversibly, I’m going to drink a pint of beer in the pub.

‘And as things stand, I can see absolutely nothing in the data to dissuade me from continuing along our roadmap to freedom, unlocking our economy and getting back to the life we love.’

But he recognised that a ‘third wave’ is being witnessed in parts of Europe and said ‘bitter experience’ has taught him that this could hit the UK ‘three weeks later’.

Asked whether the UK can have a bank holiday called ‘national hangover day’ once the pandemic subsides, he said Chancellor Rishi Sunak ‘was pretty keen’ for people to get back into the office.

He added: ‘The general view is people have had quite a few days off, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for people to see their way round to making a passing stab at getting back into the office.’

Amateur athletes raced along the banks of Queensmere Pond in Wimbledon Common, south west London, today while walkers strolled hand-in-hand elsewhere on the grounds.

Greenwich Park in the south east of the capital was rammed with sunseekers from early this morning, with dogwalkers and runners weaving past each other near the Royal Observatory.

And cyclists and pedestrians strolled through Windsor Park in huge groups, just minutes away from where the Queen and Prince Philip are seeing out the pandemic in the castle.

Temperatures will start to climb today and hit 52F (11C) by lunchtime, the Met Office says, before peaking at 55F (13C) tomorrow.

But the mercury is expected to rise as high as 76F (24C) next week as the ‘stay at home’ edict imposed on January 4 is scrapped.

Despite the sun in the south, Cumbria was spattered with a blanket of snow this morning, with the A66 in Brough surrounded in white.

On Monday the spring heatwave will usher in the first significant return of personal freedoms in three months. Temperatures are tipped to rise as high as 76F (24C) next week as the ‘stay at home’ edict imposed on January 4 is scrapped.

Gatherings of up to six people or two full households will be allowed in parks or in back gardens from Monday.

Golf, tennis and team sports can resume as part of the first stage of Mr Johnson’s roadmap to restore normal life by June 21.

Weddings will no longer be limited to ‘exceptional circumstances’ although the limit is still set at six attendees. Although the stay at home message is being scrapped, people will be encouraged to remain local.

Ministers have not said when their advice to work from home where possible will be lifted.

Foreign travel will be banned by law from Monday and those leaving the country without a reasonable excuse will incur a possible £5,000 fine.

Holidays in the UK are still banned.

Families in England will have to wait only another two weeks before the next relaxation of coronavirus rules, with a swathe of freedoms restored on April 12.

This includes outdoor opening for pubs and restaurants, travel around the country and the reopening of non-essential shops.

The roadmap will lead to the return of almost all freedoms by June 21, provided cases do not surge. Some Tory MPs want ministers to move faster.

Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said: ‘The question will keep coming up: if we are really following the data, can we have our lives back sooner?’

A ‘drop in’ Covid vaccination bus in the car park of Sainsbury’s in Bury Park, Luton. Pictured is the bus and the queue of people that arrived for the 10am start

Large crowds father on Putney riverside in London to enjoy the Spring sunshine. Temperatures are tipped to rise as high as 76F (24C) next week as the ‘stay at home’ edict imposed on January 4 is scrapped

Pedestrians and cyclists pictured on Putney Bridge in the Spring sunshine on a mild day in London today

Large crowds gather on Putney riverside today. The mercury is expected to rise as high as 76F (24C) next week as the ‘stay at home’ edict imposed on January 4 is scrapped

Two men and a woman with a pushchair gather in Hampstead Heath appreciating the sunshine on Saturday afternoon

The Spring sunshine brought lots of people into Beaconsfield this morning for the Farmers Market. People were out enjoying the sunshine and queuing for take away coffees

People can be seen queuing in the sunshine at the Farmers Market in Beaconsfield this morning. Some of the Covid lockdown restrictions will be lifted from Monday 

People on the sea front at Brighton in Sussex ahead of the expected warm weather spell next week. Though the beachfront today was overcast

Families and friends flock to Primrose Hill in London today as the sun came out. Pictured: A family enjoy pizzas on the hill

People stroll around Primrose Hill today as the sun came out. But they kept their jackets on due to it still being cooler on Saturday afternoon

Amateur athletes raced along the banks of Queensmere Pond in Wimbledon Common, south west London, while walkers strolled hand-in-hand elsewhere on the grounds

People gather in Hampstead Heath in London as they enjoy the sunshine this weekend. Gatherings of up to six people or two full households will be allowed in parks or in back gardens from Monday

People at St James’ Park in London today. The rule of six will apply again for people meeting in parks and private gardens from Monday

Walkers seen at St James’ Park, near Westminster, this morning. The UK has been marking a year since lockdown restrictions began on March 23

People seen walking through St James’ Park. Despite the excitement ahead of ‘Happy Monday’, police chiefs doubled down on their enforcing of the rules

Temperatures will start to climb today and hit 52F (11C) by lunchtime, the Met Office says, before peaking at 55F (13C) tomorrow. Pictured: Wimbledon Common

Two women sit and talk on a bench in Greenwich Park this morning as the sun came out and they headed out for a bike ride

The mercury is expected to rise as high as 76F (24C) next week as the ‘stay at home’ edict imposed on January 4 is scrapped. Pictured: Wimbledon Common

People are pictured out enjoying the sunshine on the long walk in Windsor by the historical castle, where the Queen and Prince Philip are seeing out the pandemic

Britons over-70s will be given Covid-19 vaccine booster jabs in September to protect them from emerging variants of the virus.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi unveiled details of the plan that will see people in the top four priority groups receive a third injection.

As well as over-70s, this group contains frontline NHS and social care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

Mr Zahawi said the Government is expecting up to eight different jabs to be available by the autumn, including one protecting against three different variants in a single dose.

A number will be manufactured in the UK, which could ease the pressure on supplies amid tensions with the European Union as it faces shortages from AstraZeneca.

Asked when the booster programme would begin, Mr Zahawi told the Telegraph: ‘The most likely date will be September.

‘Jonathan Van-Tam (the deputy chief medical officer) thinks that if we are going to see a requirement for a booster jab to protect the most vulnerable, (it) would be around September.’

Ministers were facing pressure to protect the success of the vaccination programme against the import of new variants from overseas, with the Guardian reporting officials met on Friday to consider expanding the travel ‘red list’ mandating hotel quarantine.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: ‘The UK Government are yet again doing too little, too late to secure our borders against Covid – and it’s the British people that will pay the price.

‘Ministers need to do everything possible to stop new variants reaching the UK – and move to a comprehensive hotel quarantine system now.’  

Latest figures show the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 has fallen below 5,000 for the first time since October 12. And the infection rate is now 58 per 100,000 – down from a peak of 642 in mid-January.

Despite the excitement ahead of ‘Happy Monday’, police chiefs doubled down on their enforcing of the rules and warned Britons not to go wild.

Mr Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, warned people not to think: ‘I’m only breaching it a little bit.’ He said police would still be out dishing out fines where needed and reminding people of the rules.

He said: ‘We are starting to see the possibility that we move out of the kind of strong restrictions that we have all been living under and everyone wants that to happen.

‘But there is a staged process that has been clearly laid out by Government that allows us to do that in a way that means they are able to monitor the infection rate and they are able to make sure we are not going too fast and Iwould urge everybody to pay attention to precisely what the changes are at every stage and not to try to preempt it.

‘Look across the Channel at most of our near European neighbours where new variants are arriving and most have now gone back into strict lockdowns.’

The Prime Minister said there are still unanswered questions about what impact the third coronavirus wave sweeping Europe would have on the UK.

Speaking at the Conservatives’ virtual spring forum, Boris Johnson said: ‘I think the second half of the year will have the potential to be really fantastic. But it depends on things still going right.

‘We depend on the successful vaccine programme and disease not taking off again.’ He said ‘bitter experience’ has shown a wave like the one in Europe would hit the UK ‘three weeks later’.

He added: ‘The question is – is it going to be, this time, as bad it has been in the past? Or have we sufficiently mitigated, muffled, blunted impact by the vaccine rollout? That’s a question we still don’t really know the answer to.’

Meanwhile, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the first booster doses would go to the top four priority groups, including the over-70s care home staff, NHS workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

He told the Telegraph that this would likely begin in September and was said to have added that the Government is expecting up to eight different jabs to be available by the autumn, including one protecting against three different variants in a single dose.

Pedestrians walk past closed retail stores in London today. The UK is set to begin its first phase of easing lockdown restrictions from March 29

A jogger runs past a closed retail store in London on Saturday. Yesterday Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said vaccine passports would not be introduced until the whole country has been inoculated

People peer at the window of a closed retail store in London. Shops will be able to stay open until 10pm six days a week to turbocharge the high street and help the economy recover

A man wearing a face mask walks past a closed Pull & Bear store in London today, ahead of the first phase of restrictions easing on Monday

A closed retail store is pictured in London today. Robert Jenrick announced that from April 12, extended daily opening hours will be introduced when non-essential retail reopens its doors

Shops will stay open until 10pm six days a week after lockdown is lifted to boost the high street and help economic recovery 

Shops will be able to stay open until 10pm six days a week to turbocharge the high street and help the economy recover.

Robert Jenrick announced that from April 12, extended daily opening hours will be introduced when non-essential retail reopens its doors.

The Communities Secretary said this would help ensure the safe reopening of non-essential shops by giving people greater flexibility to avoid peak times and easing transport pressures.

Last night he told the Mail: ‘Our high streets and town centres are the heart of our communities.

‘Yet over the last year they have mostly fallen silent, with many of our cherished high streets struggling as lockdown and social distancing measures have taken their toll. That’s why we’re determined to do everything we can to support the safe reopening of our shopping areas as we cautiously move out of lockdown.’

A number will reportedly be manufactured in the UK, which could ease the pressure on supplies amid tensions with the European Union as it faces shortages from AstraZeneca.

Dr Mike Tildesley, who advises the Government on the Spi-M modelling group, said it was ‘good news’ that September has been suggested for boosters, but warned the arrival of new variants must be stalled.

He told Times Radio: ‘In the shorter term, we are worried about new variants, but if we can keep these out for a longer period of time, enough time for these boosters to be developed, then that should hopefully protect us as we go into the winter.’ 

European Union leaders gave their backing to more stringent vaccine shipment controls as the bloc struggles with its rollout, but stopped short of imposing an export ban.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said AstraZeneca must ‘catch up’ on deliveries to the EU before exporting doses elsewhere.

Mr Johnson and US president Joe Biden discussed their vaccination programmes in a call on Friday afternoon. A Downing Street spokesman said. ‘The Prime Minister stressed that global access to vaccines will be key to defeating the pandemic.’

Meanwhile, the Government was accused by a senior Tory of failing black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and young women on hesitancy towards vaccines.

Caroline Nokes, the chairwoman of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, said in a letter to Mr Zahawi that not tackling the issue could be ‘devastating’ for vaccine-hesitant groups as well as wider society.

Yesterday Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said vaccine passports would not be introduced until the whole country has been inoculated. 

People out enjoying the sunshine on the long walk in Windsor by the historical castle. Large groups of cyclists are meeting up despite Covid laws

People enjoy the spring weather at St James’ Park in London today. The UK is set to begin its first phase of easing lockdown restrictions from March 29

This picture shows members of the public returning to Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales, today on the first day coronavirus restrictions are eased allowing people in Wales to travel 

Despite the excitement ahead of ‘Happy Monday’, police chiefs doubled down on their enforcing of the rules and warning Britons not to go wild. The sun rises over Ely Cathedral in Cambridgshire this morning

Mr Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, warned people not to think: ‘I’m only breaching it a little bit.’ He said police would still be out dishing out fines where needed and reminding people of the rules. Pictured: Rustington beach during sunrise, West Sussex

Ministers are looking at the possibility of using the NHS app to allow customers into pubs and restaurants if they have had the jab or a negative test. Pictured: West Sussex this morning

Mr Jenrick also said that shops would be able to stay open until 10pm six days a week to turbocharge the high street. Pictured: West Sussex this morning

Ministers are looking at the possibility of using the NHS app to allow customers into pubs and restaurants if they have had the jab or a negative test.

Mr Jenrick also said that shops would be able to stay open until 10pm six days a week to turbocharge the high street.

People with big families will be able to self-isolate in hotels for FREE under new Government plans to stop Covid spread 

People with big families will be able to self-isolate in hotels for free under new Government plans to stop the spread of coronavirus.

NHS Test and Trace is reportedly asking councils for ways they could implement the scheme and make it more attractive for households.

The idea was floated in Leicester during the first lockdown to try to stem the spread of the virus but was loathed by those targeted.

Officials are said to fear large families are struggling to contain Covid-19 in their homes as many work in jobs that need them to leave the house.

Some are also reportedly less likely to get tested and when they test positive containing the virus is harder.

A source told the Times: ‘Hotels haven’t worked so far because the very families you need to attract are nervous about it.’

They added the aim would be ‘better communication and support’. 

His comments come as it was revealed that more than 100,000 fixed-penalty notices have been issued under Covid laws.

Shops will be able to stay open until 10pm six days a week to turbocharge the high street and help the economy recover.

Robert Jenrick announced that from April 12, extended daily opening hours will be introduced when non-essential retail reopens its doors.

The Communities Secretary said this would help ensure the safe reopening of non-essential shops by giving people greater flexibility to avoid peak times and easing transport pressures.

Last night he told the Mail: ‘Our high streets and town centres are the heart of our communities. Yet over the last year they have mostly fallen silent, with many of our cherished high streets struggling as lockdown and social distancing measures have taken their toll.

‘That’s why we’re determined to do everything we can to support the safe reopening of our shopping areas as we cautiously move out of lockdown.’

As part of the £56million ‘Welcome Back’ fund announced last week, Mr Jenrick is encouraging councils to continue supporting social distancing measures and relaxing planning rules where possible.

The Government is also extending flexible working hours on construction sites, allowing food deliveries to supermarkets over more time periods, and keeping the flexibility for pubs and restaurants to erect marquees to help increase seating capacity in a Covid-secure way.

The arrangements will last until June 21, when lockdown is due to end – although this could be extended.

Golf clubs are cashing in on the post-lockdown rush by increasing fees by up to 70 per cent. Many are already fully booked for the next two weeks.

Experts are expecting the high turnout to continue throughout the summer. The Daily Mail has found dozens of clubs that have dramatically increased playing fees and membership costs.

One well-connected club manager said some had ‘been keen to make hay while the sun shines’. A weekend round after 3pm at Surrey National for example went from £35 to £60 – a 71 per cent rise. Its parent company said it was a case of ‘supply and demand’.

Players at Westerham Golf Club, Kent, will have to pay over a third more for a similar weekend round after prices rose from £50 to £68.

A company spokesman said: ‘We’ve lost a hell of a lot of money over the past 12 months and there’s enough people to pay those prices.’

Despite the sun in the south, Cumbria was spattered with a blanket of snow this morning, with the A66 in Brough surrounded in white

The clocks may go forward this weekend, but the seasons have turned backwards with heavy snow near the A66 in Brough, in Cumbria, this morning

The clocks may go forward this weekend, but the seasons have turned backwards with heavy snow showers leading to difficult driving conditions on the A66 in Brough, Cumbria, this morning

The Government is extending flexible working hours on construction sites, allowing food deliveries to supermarkets over more time periods, and keeping the flexibility for pubs and restaurants to erect marquees to help increase seating capacity in a Covid-secure way. Pictured: Snow in Cumbria this morning

A lorry drives down the A66 in Brough, Cumbria, as some parts of the north were coated in snow this morning despite sun in the south

Prince Charles’s stepson Tom Parker Bowles is devastated by the cancer death of his girlfriend, 42, after her diagnosis was delayed by Covid lockdown

Prince Charles’s stepson has been left devastated by the death of his girlfriend at the age of 42 after her cancer diagnosis was delayed by lockdown.

Camilla’s food writer son Tom Parker Bowles, 46, had been going out with former journalist Alice Procope for almost two years.

‘Tom had been blissfully happy with Alice and is devastated that life can be so cruel,’ says a friend of Tom, who separated from his fashion writer wife, Sara Buys, in 2018.

Ms Procope, known as Alice Horton while working as a diary reporter, died ‘peacefully’ at home on March 17.

An insider told Eden Confidential that, partly because of Covid, the mother-of-three’s cancer diagnosis didn’t come until last August ‘by when it was too late.’

It comes amid fears that tens of thousands of cancer patients are missing out on potentially life-saving treatment due to delays in diagnosis during the pandemic.

Golf’s popularity last summer when restrictions were eased saw nearly two thirds more rounds played between July and September compared with 2019.

Couples can have spring weddings from Monday – but with a new rule that says ‘you may not kiss the bride’.

After this week’s easing, small-scale receptions will be allowed from the beginning of next month. But there will be strict limits on numbers of guests, plus other pandemic regulations.

Among restrictions that will last at least until mid-summer are social distancing rules that say attendees should stay at least two metres away from anyone who is not in the same household bubble.

Newly-wed couples will be banned from kissing before the guests or congregation unless they have been living together before the wedding.

Sir Paul Coleridge, a former High Court judge who set up the Marriage Foundation think tank, called the order ‘bizarre’.

He said: ‘Having restricted wedding parties to just six people, they bizarrely order those from different households, which may include the bride and groom, to keep their distance.

‘This advice is based on the wrong assumption that all couples live together before they marry, which is simply not the case.’

During the winter lockdown, weddings have been allowed only in ‘exceptional’ circumstances – which in practice usually means one of the couple is terminally ill.

From Monday, all couples can marry, but only six people may attend and there can be no reception. From April 12, 15 people may go to a wedding and there can be receptions for 15 guests in outdoor venues, but not in private gardens.

Record numbers of Britons are buying motorhomes for staycations, leading to a shortage of vehicles. As the pandemic threatens overseas holidays, motorhome dealers are facing huge demand.

Alistair Norman, of Revolution Campervans in Northamptonshire, dealt with 20 enquiries a week before the pandemic – now it’s 500 a day.

He said: ‘Demand has gone up exponentially.’ Karl Pearce, of KTG Caravans and Campers in Staffordshire, said buyers were waiting up to six months, adding: ‘It’s crazy. Prices have shot up.’

The Caravan and Motorhome Club said a record number of members joined last month. The National Caravan Council says there are 225,000 motorhomes in Britain – and sales have tripled since 2000.

Cheer up folks, it’s nearly Happy Monday! Lockdown-weary Britons enjoy Friday afternoon drinks in the street as England gets ready for its first taste of freedom – when ‘stay at home’ lifts, six friends can meet outdoors and small weddings can go ahead

Daily Covid cases rise 29% in a week 

Britain’s daily Covid death toll plunged 30 per cent in a week today to 70 as experts insisted the Covid outbreak was ‘well under control’ even though cases were up.

Data across the board suggest that cases have ‘levelled off’ since schools reopened, while positive test numbers rose by 30 per cent week-on-week to 6,187 compared to 4,802 recorded last Friday. Scientists today sought to reassure Britons that the upticks were ‘inevitable’ once parts of society unlocked, saying the figures were ‘not yet evidence’ the ultra-cautious lockdown easing plans needed to be pushed back. 

Lockdown-weary Britons have enjoyed Friday drinks in the streets this afternoon as England gets ready for its first taste of freedom when pubs reopen on April 12.

Drinkers turned roads into makeshift watering holes as they stood or sat nestling beers and wine despite the cooler weather.

England’s lockdown restrictions will ease for the first time since December when the ‘Stay at Home’ order lifts on Monday.

Six friends will be allowed to meet outdoors and small weddings will finally have the go ahead to take place – to the relief of couples anxiously awaiting their big day. 

This afternoon Borough Market in central London was heaving with mask-wearing punters browsing the stalls as they sipped from their cans and glasses.

Some sat near the River Thames, with the iconic Tower of London in the background, while others settled for a drink outside their local boozer. 

Meanwhile research showed pubs and restaurants have seen a huge surge in bookings for outdoor tables ahead of lockdown restrictions being eased next month.

And it emerged millions could be allowed to go to bars with no social distancing under plans to let people use their phone to prove ‘Covid-safe’ status.

Drinkers turned roads into makeshift watering holes as they stood or sat nestling beers and wine despite the cooler weather

Borough Market in central London was heaving with mask-wearing punters browsing the stalls as they sipped from their cans and glasses

Some sat near the River Thames, with the iconic Tower of London in the background, while others settled for a drink outside their local boozer

It comes as research showed pubs and restaurants have seen a huge surge in bookings for outdoor tables ahead of lockdown restrictions being eased next month. Pictured: London

Meanwhile it emerged millions could be allowed to go to bars with no social distancing under plans to let people use their phone to prove ‘Covid-safe’ status. Pictured: Borough Market

Weddings CAN go ahead indoors for 15 people at hotels and other licensed premises from April 12 after ministers relent – but receptions must still be outdoors 

Larger weddings will be allowed to go ahead from April 12 after ministers relented in the face of claims 7,000 couples would have to cancel.

The industry body says the government has clarified that hotels and other licensed premises will be allowed to stage ceremonies for up to 15 people inside when the lockdown easing takes effect.

Earlier this month it looked like weddings would only be permitted at places of worship, public buildings and outdoor hospitality settings.

But the UK Weddings Taskforce warned that would have excluded licensed venues where 71 per cent of weddings usually take place – with claims 7,000 might have to be postponed or cancelled.

It has now emerged that the government has conceded that all venues licensed to conduct ceremonies will be allowed to hold them indoors from April 12 – even though many would not otherwise be allowed to be open.

That includes hotels, conference centres, and holiday accommodation. 

However, the taskforce said the government had told them there will not be flexibility on the tough restrictions for receptions.

Clarification issued to the industry body said: ‘The rules for wedding receptions are different. The evidence shows that it is safer for people to meet outdoors rather than indoors. 

‘That is why at Step 2 – no earlier than 12 April – wedding receptions can resume but must take place outdoors. These cannot take place I private gardens and should only take place in a Covid-secure venue.’  

Excitement is mounting as England gears up for its first real taste of freedom this year when lockdown restrictions are eased on Monday.

The Government’s ‘stay at home’ rules officially end on March 29, allowing a range of new freedoms as the country cautiously plods along the road to normal life.

As of Monday, larger group gatherings will be allowed outdoors, while some team sports will also be allowed outside.  

There is also good news for engaged couples and the industry as small weddings will also be allowed to go ahead – outside.

But those wanting to go to the pub or the shops will have to wait a little while longer – they are not due to reopen until April 12.

The Government has said outdoor gatherings including in private gardens of either six people – known as ‘the rule of six’ – or two households will also be allowed from next Monday, making it easier for people to meet outside. 

Londoners were out in force on Friday afternoon as they seized a gap in the rain to enjoy a drink with their friends – despite lockdown restrictions still being enforced.

Crowds flocked to the cobbled street between Borough Market and the Thames, with punters chatting and drinking from bottles of beer.

Some looked happy with a spot on the benches and leaning up against walls closer to London Bridge as they refreshed themselves.

And others strolled through the centre of the capital clutching cans of lager, with just 17 days to go until pubs and restaurants can open. 

There is expectation of a good week of weather, with the Met Office forecasting mild temperatures next week in southern England with high pressure building which will bring settled conditions for most areas after a dull start. 

The hottest weather is expected in South East England next Tuesday with highs of 75F (24C) closing in on the all-time UK record temperature for the month, which was 78.1F (25.6C) on March 29, 1968 in Mepal, Cambridgeshire.

Next Monday is also expected to be warm with highs of 66F (19C) expected. The upbeat forecast means next week is almost certain to bring the warmest day of 2021 so far, beating the current UK high of 66.2F (19C)on March 18. 

The long-term outlook for April is also good, with the Met Office telling of a ‘reasonable signal for generally settled weather for most’ at the start of the month with ‘drier than average and brighter conditions prevailing’. 

Londoners were out in force on Friday afternoon as they seized a gap in the rain to enjoy a drink with their friends – despite lockdown restrictions still being enforced

Crowds flocked to the cobbled street between Borough Market and the Thames, with punters chatting and drinking from bottles of beer

Some looked happy with a spot on the benches and leaning up against walls closer to London Bridge as they refreshed themselves. Pictured: Borough Market

And others strolled through the centre of the capital clutching cans of lager, with just 17 days to go until pubs and restaurants can open

Ahead of the lockdown easing, hospitality firms have seen a huge surge in bookings for outdoor tables ahead of lockdown restrictions being eased next month. Pictured: Borough Market this afternoon

People are pictured walking around Borough Market in central London yesterday as England is still currently in  lockdown

Mask-wearing customers shop around Borough Market in central London on Friday afternoon as they seized a gap in the rain to get out

The iconic market was swarming with people on Friday afternoon as people headed out in lockdown-weary London

A man and a woman talk next to a popular pub at Borough Market as they sip from two small wine glasses they have rested on the windowsill 

Two men have a chat as a woman pushes past a buggy in Borough Market on Friday afternoon ahead of restrictions being eased next month

How will the lockdown be eased in England?

Step One Part One: March 8

From March 8, all pupils and students returned to schools and colleges across England. 

So-called wrap-around childcare was also allowed to resume, paving the way for after and before school clubs to reopen.

People were allowed to meet one other person outside for recreation, for example, to have a picnic or to meet for coffee. 

Care home residents were be able to have one regular named visitor. 

The Government’s stay at home order remained in place, with travel for non-essential purposes still banned.

Step One Part Two: March 29

From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed. These gatherings will be allowed to happen in private gardens.

Outdoor sports like tennis and basketball will be allowed to reopen and people will also be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

It is at this point that the Government’s stay at home guidance will end, to be replaced by ministers encouraging people to ‘stay local’.

However, the Government is expected not to define what constitutes local, instead choosing to rely on people using their common sense to decide on journeys.

People will still be told to work from home wherever possible while international travel will still be banned unless it is for essential purposes.

Step Two: April 12

Non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen as well as personal care premises like hairdressers, barbers and nail salons.

Public buildings like libraries, museums and art galleries will be allowed to welcome back customers.

Meanwhile, hospitality venues and outdoor attractions like theme parks will be given the green light to reopen in some form.

However, there will still be rules on household mixing: Essentially any activity which involves being indoors will be restricted to members of the same household.

Gyms and swimming pools will also reopen from April 12 but only on the basis that people go on their own or with their own household.

Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen but at this point they will only be able to have customers outdoors. 

The Government will not be bringing back the old requirement for people to order a substantial meal with alcohol while the old 10pm curfew will be ditched.

All customers at hospitality venues will also have to be seated when they order food or drink, with ordering at the bar prohibited.

Campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can also reopen but trips must be restricted a single household.

Funerals will be allowed to continue with up to 30 people, while the rules on wedding receptions will be eased to allow the number of guests to increase from six to 15.

Step Three: May 17

The two household and rule of six requirements for outdoor gatherings will be ditched but gatherings of more than 30 people in places like parks will still be banned.

Crucially, mixing indoors will be allowed again. The rule of six or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed to meet.

However, this will be kept under review by ministers to see if rules could be relaxed still further.

This is also the point at which pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to open indoors, with the rule of six and two household limit in place. But groups meeting outdoors at pubs will be allowed to be bigger.

Entertainment venues like cinemas and children’s play areas will be able to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs. Indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes can also reopen.

Changes will also be made to sporting and performance events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half full.

It comes ahead of the third stage of rules easing on April 12, which will include the reopening of pubs and restaurants outdoors, non-essential shops, public buildings and outdoor attractions including theme parks.

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen from next Monday, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

But up until then the rules remain – including for this weekend – that people can only meet one other person from outside their household or support bubble socially or for exercise, and this must be away from their home.  

The ‘stay at home’ rule will also end next Monday, but the Government has advised that people continue to work from home where they can and ‘minimise the number of journeys they make where possible’. The advice from next Monday will be to ‘stay local’.

Britons are also still warned to avoid travelling at the busiest times and routes, while travel abroad will still be banned, other than for a small number of exceptions such as attending a funeral of a close family member.

The Government announced on Monday that anyone trying to leave the UK ‘without a reasonable excuse’ will be fined £5,000. Ministers have launched a taskforce to review global travel which will report on April 12.

This is also the date when hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen outdoors-only, along with outdoor attractions like theme parks. Indoor hospitality is not set to return until May 17 at the earliest.    

Around one in 340 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to March 20 – unchanged on the previous week, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It is the lowest figure since the week to September 24 2020, when the estimate stood at one in 470 people. The ONS said the percentage of people testing positive ‘is likely to have levelled off’.

Coronavirus lockdown restrictions continue to be eased in different stages across the UK, with significant changes in Wales taking hold from the weekend and in England from Monday.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the country’s ‘stay local’ requirement will be lifted on Saturday, meaning there will be no travel restrictions within Wales since it entered lockdown on December 20.

People can also stay in self-contained holiday accommodation from the same day, but an ‘all-Wales travel area’ in place until April 12 means people cannot travel in or out of the country for at least another two weeks without a reasonable excuse, like work.

Other changes to Wales’ coronavirus rules from Saturday include allowing up to six people from two different households to meet and exercise outdoors, as well as organised outdoor activities and sports for under-18s.

Ahead of the lockdown easing, hospitality firms have seen a huge surge in bookings for outdoor tables ahead of lockdown restrictions being eased next month.

Website Caterer.com said millions of people were already making reservations for the two weeks after April 12.

Restaurants and pubs in England will be able to serve customers in outdoor seating areas from this date in the latest phase of the lockdown easing.

Caterer.com spokesman Neil Pattison said: ‘Hospitality businesses have been unfairly subjected to tighter restrictions than other sectors throughout the pandemic and our research shows just how eager people are to get back into hospitality venues.

‘As we’ve seen over the last year, businesses have gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of customers. Many have remodelled to allow for more outdoor space enabling them to remain open within safety guidelines.’

A survey of 2,000 adults showed a third believed the hospitality sector should be allowed to reopen indoors sooner than the planned date of May 17, said the report.

Just over half of respondents said hospitality venues have higher cleanliness and Covid-19 safety precautions than other industries and public spaces, such as supermarkets.

It emerged last night millions would be allowed to go to pubs with no social distancing under plans to let people use their phone to prove ‘Covid-safe’ status.

Drinkers would be able to use a mobile app to prove they had either had the vaccine, a recent negative test – or that they had antibodies from having the coronavirus before.

The app would provide a virtual ‘coronavirus certificate’ – probably featuring a scannable QR code – so they could gain entry to pubs, clubs and restaurants.

As an incentive for asking customers to prove their covid-free status, venues taking part would be allowed to drop all rules on social distancing. However, for those relying on a negative test these certificates could be valid for as little as 24 hours.

Officials are looking to modify an existing NHS app that already gives patients access to parts of their medical records to facilitate the so-called ‘covid passports’ scheme.

The plans are being examined by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove as part of a major Government review into how ‘covid certificates’ could be used to reopen the economy as soon as possible.

But a ferocious backlash erupted last night over the growing prospect of covid pass-ports, with hospitality bosses branding the idea ‘unworkable, costly and discriminatory’.

Many were left furious by the idea of an additional administrative burden at a time when so many in the sector are struggling to survive. Tory backbenchers raised privacy concerns, saying they were ‘horrified’ by the plans.

Boris Johnson promised yesterday to set out further details in the next three weeks, saying ‘I do think there is going to be a role for certification’.

A row over covid passports exploded yesterday after the Prime Minister revealed on Wednesday night that they may needed to go to the pub.

He confirmed ministers were looking at the idea and suggested that individual pub landlords may be allowed to deny entry to drinkers who could not prove they’d had a covid jab.

However, yesterday the first details emerged about how Government ministers believe that such a scheme might operate.

The Mail understands that Government officials are looking to modify an existing NHS app that already gives patients access to parts of their medical records and the ability to book appointments with their GP to facilitate the system.

After downloading the app, people would be able to log in to get details of their corona-virus vaccination, a recent test showing they did not have the virus, or results of an antibody test showing they are immune as they had already had it.

How a coronavirus vaccine passport for Britons could look 

People who had previously had the virus would need to have an antibody test to show they still had immunity.

This would remain valid for several weeks, so the person would not need such regular testing.

Once a person had one of these three, the phone app would give them a digital certificate that they could present at venues.

This would likely include a QR code that staff could scan to verify it was genuine, along with a picture of the person’s face.

People who do not have the app would be able to request a paper certificate, which will also likely include a QR code.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is conducting a review into how certificates potentially could be used.

The Government is yet to decide details such as how often someone who has not had the vaccine would need to get tested to get such a Covid certificate.

Under one option being considered a negative test result would only be valid for as little as 24 hours, meaning a person would face the need for daily testing if they wanted to go out regularly.

Ministers also are thinking about issues such as whether people would need to be super-vised when using lateral flow tests, which provide results in 30 minutes, rather than allowing them to be conducted at home so they cannot lie about the result.

Claims last night that people would need two negative lateral flow tests in three days to get a certificate were denied.

As well as being used by hospitality venues, such as pubs, clubs and restaurants, the certifi-cates could be required to attend large gatherings such as sports matches.

The Prime Minister yesterday insisted ‘no decisions have been taken at all’ and that he would say more on the issue early next month.

He also suggested that any scheme that ministers decide on may not start until every adult has been offered at least one jab.

He told reporters: ‘I do think there is going to be a role for certification… we’ll be reporting on the work of the certification group either on April 5 or April 12.

‘There are lots of difficult issues because there are some people who for medical reasons can’t get a vaccination, pregnant women can’t get a vaccination at the moment, you’ve got to be careful about how you do this.

‘You might only be able to implement a thorough-going vaccination passport scheme even if you wanted such a thing in the context of when absolutely everybody had been offered a vaccine.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks up Downing Street in London yesterday morning with his red box before heading to a school in west London

Ministers have insisted that their target of offering all adults a vaccine by the end of July will be met despite the European Union’s threat to control supplies from the continent.

Mr Johnson said yesterday that previous coronavirus infections could be a feature used if certificates are adopted.

‘There are three basic components,’ he said. ‘There’s the vaccine, there’s your immunity you might have had after you’ve had Covid, and there’s testing – they are three things that could work together.

When Mr Johnson raised the issue of Covid certificates on Wednesday he said it would likely be up to landlords whether they demanded them, but yesterday his spokesman refused to rule out the possibility they could be mandatory.

Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the 70-strong Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said yes-terday he was ‘horrified’ by the proposals.

He told BBC Radio’s the World At One: ‘We will end up swiping in everywhere…. creating an enormous audit trail of everywhere we’ve been based on our health status.

‘It’s the most extraordinary upending of the principles that I thought the Conservative Party stood for.

‘If somebody for whatever reason chooses not to have a vaccination, then that is down to them, it’s their responsibility… We cannot end up with the whole of our civilisation dramati-cally changing its relationship with the state because a small number of people don’t trust science to protect their health.’

He added: ‘If the Prime Minister was on the back benches, I’m very, very sure that he would be one of our leading voices against just the kind of policies he’s now bringing forward.

‘I’m very clear for me it’s an existential issue, it’s a die in the ditch issue. I will not at any stage be supporting the idea of the public living in the embrace of the state to this extent.’

Forecasters MetDesk revealed this temperature map for next Tuesday showing highs well above 70F (21C) in the South

In the Commons, Conservative former minister Dr Liam Fox said: ‘Where the Government were to try to compel individuals to carry some proof of either immunity through vaccine or a negative test, I think that would be completely unacceptable in a country where civil liber-ties are held so highly and so prized…

‘I would not like to see a Conservative government in-tervene in the freedom of the private sector to choose the customers that they have.’

Tory select committee chairman William Wragg told MPs: ‘I cannot help but think we have a back of a fag packet-esque approach to this whole question of Covid vaccine certification.

‘If I could be so bold and suggest that as the Conservative Party, we might actually think what we believe in as a party, not let ourselves be carried away by a utilitarian urge that seems to have swept across the Treasury bench, leaving very few standing.’

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove was asked by Mr Wragg about remarks he made in December when he said people would not need to be vaccinated to go to the pub.

Mr Gove replied: ‘Consistency is often the hobgoblin of small minds, but my view on this is-sue is consistent.

‘A system that relied purely on vaccination would not be appropriate, but what would be right was a system that ensured that we can open up our economy to the maximum extent, that takes account of vaccine status, but also recent test status and poten-tially antibody status.

‘But the best thing to do is to be guided by scientific and clinical advice and then to subject that advice to proper, rigorous, ethical questioning, rather than taking an instant, off-the-shelf, instinctive approach.’

The NHS app that officials are looking to modify is different to the one used for contact tracing.

To set it up patients must provide their NHS number, email address, phone number and then upload either an image of their passport or driving licence.

The smartphone then takes a scan of a person’s face to check it matches the one on their identification.  

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