End of lockdown in sight as Brits ‘on track’ to meet up inside pubs next month
The end of lockdown is well and truly in sight as Brits are "on track" to being able to meet up inside pubs and homes again next month, ministers say.
The Government's roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions has May 17 as the next key date, with the reopening of indoor hospitality scheduled if the UK continues to keep infection rates down.
This week saw non-essential shops, gyms and shopping centres finally open their doors after a long, difficult winter lockdown.
Possibly the most exciting development was the reopening of pubs across England, which are now allowed to serve customers in outdoor seating areas prompting the beginning of the Great British Booze Off.
In May they should be able to take the next step and start using their indoor areas as well as Brits are finally permitted to meet up inside, still following the rule of six or keeping gatherings to just two households.
Stage three of the roadmap will also allow groups to gather inside for the first time in months.
In addition, cinemas, museums, theatres and children's play areas will also be able to reopen — as long as the UK continues to make good progress in the fight against Covid-19.
Government officials seem confident that the roadmap of reopenings will be able to unfold as planned.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser of NHS Test and Trace, told the BBC that the UK has made "positive progress" over the last month.
"Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is always a week behind and restrictions were eased on April 12, so it will be the data in the next two to three weeks that will tell us how we're progressing," she said.
"Cases in the community are the lowest they've been since September last year, but once we ease restrictions and people move around again then transmission can occur."
Meanwhile environment secretary George Eustice provided even more hope as 60% of adults have now received at least one vaccine.
When asked if the UK is on track for the reopening of all indoor hospitality on May 17, he said: "Well, it is too early to say.
"But I think we are on track in the sense that we are on track with the rollout of the vaccination programme.
"We have now vaccinated everybody over the age of 50 and this week they are offering vaccinations as well to those under the age of 50, starting with the 45 to 59-year-olds – so that bit is on track."
Under stage three of the reopening, Brits have been told they'll be able to make their own decision about whether to resume hugging friends and family, taking into account who has and hasn't been vaccinated yet.
"It will remain important for people to consider the risks for themselves, taking into account whether they and those they meet have been vaccinated or are at greater risk," the Government has said.
A review will also be conducted to determine whether social distancing measures will continue.
The Government's official website states: "Finally, before Step 4 begins, the government will complete a review of social distancing and other long-term measures that have been put in place to cut transmission.
"This will inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which the rules on 1 metre plus, the wearing of face coverings and other measures may be lifted."
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