Boris Johnson has promised “brighter days” to come, ahead of a raft of announcements on lockdown, travel rules and vaccine passports expected tomorrow.
In his Easter message, the PM acknowledged it had been a “very tough” year, but said the holiday brought fresh optimism.
“This has been a very tough 12 months. But, as ever, the arrival of Easter brings with it new hope,” he said.
“And, this year more than ever, it brings the promise of brighter days ahead for us all.”
Mr Johnson has previously been criticised for making overly optimistic promises about the UK’s recovery from Covid-19 – initially suggesting there would be a return to normal by this time a year ago.
But since announcing the “roadmap” out of lockdown, Mr Johnson has been more careful to urge caution, saying the next steps would be driven by “data, not dates”.
But the PM is expected to make a series of announcements on changes to the rules at a Downing Street briefing tomorrow.
Here’s what we’re expecting to be announced.
Ministers have made clear that overseas travel will not be allowed until at least May 17.
And Number 10’s global travel task force isn’t expected to report back until April 12.
But reports suggest the PM is likely to say progress towards unlocking some overseas travel on May 17 is on course.
The near-blanket ban on overseas travel is expected to be replaced by a risk-based “traffic light” system with red, amber and green ratings for countries around the world.
Travellers arriving from countries rated “green” will not be required to isolate – although pre-departure and post-arrival tests will still be needed.
For those classed as “amber” or “red”, the restrictions will remain as they are with arrivals required to isolate or enter quarantine.
Officials said it was still too early to predict which countries would be on which list and they continue to advise against booking summer holidays abroad.
But the Mail report the US, Dubai, Malta and the Caribbean were likely to get the green light – with much of Europe likely to stay on red.
The Prime Minister is also expected to announce the rest of the changes due to take place on April 12 are on course to go ahead.
That means the following will reopen:
- Non-essential retail
- Personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons
- Public buildings, including libraries and community centres
- Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will also reopen (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups)
- Most outdoor attractions, including zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas
- Outdoor hospitality – including pub beer gardens
- Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households
Also, the number of people who can attend weddings, receptions and wakes will rise to 15.
A further social distancing review is looking into ways of allowing closer contact between friends and families, enabling greater capacity on public transport and reduce distancing requirements within venues and workplaces.
While the PM may give an update on this, it’s unlikely any changes would take effect until later in the roadmap.
The PM is expected to provide an update on the “Covid certification scheme” – known by most as vaccine passports.
Officials are planning a series of trial events over the coming months as they look to find a way for venues such as football grounds and nightclubs to reopen without the need for social distancing.
The NHS is said to be currently working on ways of providing people with the means to demonstrate their Covid status through “digital and non-digital routes”.
The review is also looking at how ventilation and testing on entry could facilitate the safe return of audiences return to mass events and closed settings.
Ministers believe the scheme will be most useful in managing the risks where the are large numbers of people in close proximity such as music festivals, sporting matches and nightclubs.
Setting where certification will not be required include essential shops and public transport.
It will also not apply to businesses which are set to reopen over the coming weeks such as pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail.
Officials are working with clinical and ethical experts to ensure there are “appropriate exemptions” for people who are advised to the vaccine and for whom repeat testing would be difficult.
The first trial is due to take place on April 16 at the Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool, to be followed two days later by the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Other events where the scheme is to be tested include the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield – running from from April 17 to May 3 – and a mass participation run at Hatfield House on April 24 and 25.
The pilots will culminate with the FA Cup Final, again at Wembley, on May 15.
But writing in the Telegraph, Michael Gove, who is leading the review of issues surrounding vaccine passports, said any wide launch of the scheme was unlikely to happen until later in the year.