Boris Johnson has begun work on a so-called ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown to be presented to the nation next month.
The PM slipped out the announcement last night as he claimed he had done “everything we could” to prevent 100,000 deaths.
In a No10 press conference, he said he will set out “more detail” about “how we want to get things open again” in the coming weeks.
Now it’s understood a document is being worked up to show a more concrete plan for how lockdown would be eased.
While this doesn’t mean England’s lockdown would ease on February 15 itself – the earliest possible date – it could spell out a more concrete plan around that date.
It comes after mounting calls from Tory MPs in the Covid Recovery Group, who have demanded rules are eased from March 8.
The Prime Minister wants to open schools as a “priority” and slowly unlock by returning to a tiered system of restrictions in England.
Last night he confirmed schools may open at different times in different areas. Primary and key exam years may also return first.
A source told the Daily Mail: “It’s at an early stage, but we are beginning to look at what the metrics and criteria will be when we are ready to start thinking about unlocking.
“What are the things that we need to get on top of before we can really get going, confident that we won’t have to lock down again?
“Obviously that will include things like vaccination numbers, the rate of transmission and the numbers being treated in hospital.
“Then there is obviously the areas that we will want to prioritise for reopening first, with schools at the top of the list.”
A source told the Mirror the document was not being called a “roadmap” but said it was fair to assume a document of that type would be produced.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously said there are four criteria before lockdown can be lifted.
- Another major, new variant is not causing difficulties.
- The vaccination program is working
- The number of hospitalisations is reducing
- The number of deaths is coming down.
The Health Secretary said there were no “fixed thresholds” for any of the key criteria.
But he stressed ministers were always looking at the “direction” deaths and hospitalisations are travelling.
It’s thought lockdown will not ease all at once but talk of unlocking could prompt jitters among Covid-19 “hawks”.
Mr Johnson said last night: “What I will be doing in the course of the next few days and weeks is sending out in more detail as soon as we can when and how we want to get things open again.”
But he made his comments at the same time as announcing more than 100,000 people had died in the UK within 28 days of a positive test.
The Prime Minister said he was “deeply sorry” and took responsibility as Prime Minister for the government’s actions.
Yet he also claimed “we truly did everything we could” to “minimise loss of life” – despite a litany of errors which included repeatedly locking down too late after being begged to by government scientists.
The PM has promised a better picture by Easter as more people get their first dose of a vaccine.
The over-70s, shielders, NHS and care staff and care home residents are due a first dose by February 15.
Those aged 50 to 69 and other ‘at-risk’ groups due to their health should then follow by April.
But currently there is no firm priority for when to give the jab to healthy teachers, police and shop workers under 50.