HIGH street shops across England could reopen within weeks if Covid rates keep tumbling.
Hopes are also growing that families could be reunited outside by Easter.
PM Boris Johnson is expected to bring back the Rule of Six outdoors for spring under plans to unlock the nation.
It comes as the UK smashed its target of vaccinating 15million vulnerable Brits two days early.
Yesterday, an upbeat Mr Johnson said falling Covid rates are paving the way for the nation to get back to normal.
He told CBS News: “Thanks to the efforts of the British people, the lockdown, plus possibly the effect of the vaccine, we’re going to see the rates coming down more sharply.
“They’re falling at the moment. We want to be in a position where we can begin to open up.”
And in a video, the PM also said the UK’s vaccination programme had reached “a significant moment”.
Just over two months after the jab blitz began — on December 8 — nearly one in four Brits have been vaccinated.
Mr Johnson said: “This country has achieved an extraordinary feat, administering a total of 15million jabs into the arms of some of the most vulnerable people in the country.”
He highlighted the wide variety of places where vaccines have been delivered including hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies, places of worship, community centres, living rooms and a fairground.
He said it has been a “truly national UK-wide effort”, adding: “We’ve done it together.”
By Saturday night, 15,062,189 Brits had received a first dose of the jab — 48 hours before the target date of today.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This accomplishment is thanks to the incredible efforts of frontline NHS workers, vaccine volunteers, the Armed Forces and all those working in local and central government.”
Everyone in the top four priority groups — adult care home residents and staff, the over-80s plus frontline health and social care workers, over-75s, and over-70s plus the clinically vulnerable — have been offered the vaccine.
The NHS is now determined to hit its second big target of vaccinating all 32million Brits in the top nine priority groups — all over-50s and those in at-risk groups — by the beginning of May.
As The Sun revealed last week, over-65s will get jab invites next.
Mr Johnson is putting the final touches to his long-awaited roadmap out of lockdown, which he due to unveil on February 22.
The blueprint is not expected to set out specific dates for unlocking — except for schools.
Instead, it will lay out the sequence for getting businesses and social mixing up and running.
This accomplishment is thanks to the incredible efforts of frontline NHS workers, vaccine volunteers, the Armed Forces and all those working in local and central government.
The three-stage plan will see schools reopen on March 8. Meeting a pal for a coffee outside is set to be allowed on the same day.
This will be followed by all non-essential shops opening, then pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve punters outside.
The PM also wants to bring back the Rule of Six for outdoors — where the virus finds it far harder to spread.
How fast things are done all hinge on how good the hospital, infection and death rates look.
Data this week will show if the jabs blitz has slashed transmission rates.
Yesterday, 258 Covid deaths were recorded, compared to 621 on Saturday and 373 the previous Sunday. The deaths total is 121,674.
Some 10,972 new infections were reported yesterday — down from 11,892 a week earlier.
Prof Tim Spector, behind the Zoe Covid symptom tracker app, told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday infection rates had fallen by 80 per cent since New Year.
He said the data continues to look “quite good” and that the PM could even partially lift lockdown in some regions before March 8.
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