BORIS Johnson raised the nation’s hopes of loosening the lockdown yesterday as the NHS was poised to hit its jabs target.
The PM is expected to announce today that 15million people have been vaccinated — 24 hours ahead of schedule.
He declared: “I’m optimistic. I won’t hide it from you.”
Mr Johnson is now preparing to give Brits some of their freedoms back when he unveils his “roadmap” on February 22.
Outdoor socialising will be among a host of banned activities that will be allowed from next month.
Getting kids back to school is still his top priority but he will also lift curbs on people meeting for a coffee in the park.
The only interaction allowed under current rules is for two adults to exercise together.
But a senior government source revealed last night: “One of his first steps will be to relax the rules on people mixing outside.
“The PM thinks there should be no harm in two adults sitting on a park bench to enjoy a coffee and a chat. It’s a small but important step — one he hopes will start to raise people’s spirits.”
Reviving the High Street will come soon afterwards, with a risk assessment of non-essential shops reopening underway, followed by pubs and restaurants.
Stats released by the NHS yesterday showed the jabs programme edging towards its target with over 14.5million people having had their first dose of the Pfizer or Oxford vaccine.
When the landmark figure is hit, it will mean the most vulnerable people in the top four priority groups have been protected — the over-70s, care home residents, healthcare workers and those with serious underlying conditions.
HOSPITAL NUMBERS FALLING
In a second boost, private government figures showed the number of people in hospital is falling faster than expected.
Modelling by scientific advisers shows that hospital admissions and deaths will more than halve over the next month.
There are currently 24,000 coronavirus patients in hospital, but experts predict this figure will drop to about 9,000 by mid-March.
Speaking on a visit to a plant where the new Novavax vaccine is manufactured, the PM said: “I’m optimistic, but we have to be cautious. Our children’s education is our No1 priority.
14.5 million: Latest total of people who had received first jab
24,000: Number of Covid patients currently in hospital
9,000: Number of Covid patients expected to be in hospital by mid-March
EASY DOES IT
Key dates for road map out of lockdown & when shops, pubs and schools may open
“But then working forward, getting non-essential retail open as well and then, in due course as and when we can prudently, cautiously, of course, we want to be opening hospitality as well.
“I will be trying to set out as much as I possibly can in as much detail as I can.”
He hinted that he wants this lockdown to be the last, adding: “We don’t want to be forced into any kind of retreat or reverse ferret.”
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