SCHOOLS will reopen in early March and Brits will be able to meet up to five friends within a matter of weeks, it will be revealed today.

According to the UK lockdown roadmap, the first date for your diary will be March 8 when schools reopen and you'll once again be able to meet one friend or family member in an outside space for a picnic or a coffee.

Assuming all goes well with that easing, the next major milestone will be March 29 when six people or two households will be allowed to meet outdoors, reuniting friends for the first time in months.

The same date will also see the return on outdoor sports such as tennis, golf and even football, before non0-essential shops open in April, rule of six is scrapped in June and a sense of normality with social distancing by July.

Despite the positive feeling around the roadmap, Boris will remind Brits that all steps towards easing are reliant on cases, hospital admissions, vaccinations and deaths continuing to fall.

The Prime Minister will speak in the House of Commons at 3.30pm outlining a lockdown roadmap, before making a televised announcement to the nation at 7pm this evening.

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic

  • Jon Rogers

    SCHOOLS, SOCIALISING AND SPORTS TO RETURN IN MARCH UNDER PM'S ROAD MAP

    Schools, socialising and some sports are set to return next month under the Government's plan to relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson will tell MPs that all pupils in all years can go back to the classroom from March 8, with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed to restart as well.

    Socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted in a fortnight when the rules are relaxed to allow people to sit down for a drink or picnic.

    A further easing of restrictions will take place on March 29 when the school Easter holidays begin – with larger groups allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

    The "rule of six" will return along with new measures allowing two households totalling more than six people to meet – giving greater flexibility for families and friends.

    Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts are also set to reopen at the end of next month.

  • Jon Rogers

    YOUNG KIDS RETURN TO CLASS IN GERMANY

    Elementary schools and kindergartens in more than half of Germany's 16 states reopened Monday after two months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The move comes despite growing signs that the decline in case numbers in Germany is flattening out again and even rising in some areas.

    Germanys education minister, Anja Karliczek, has defended the decision to reopen schools, saying younger children in particular benefit from learning together in groups.

    Karliczek told German news agency DPA that schools should use all available means to prevent virus transmission and expressed confidence that state education officials who are in charge of school matters in Germany would consider infection numbers when deciding where to reopen.

  • Jon Rogers

    'OPTIMISTIC FOR THE FUTURE'

    Lead researcher of the Scotland vaccine study Professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh's Usher Institute, said: "These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future.

    "We now have national evidence – across an entire country – that vaccination provides protection against Covid-19 hospitalisations."

    Dr Jim McMenamin, national Covid-19 incident director at Public Health Scotland, said: "These results are important as we move from expectation to firm evidence of benefit from vaccines.

    "Across the Scottish population the results show a substantial effect on reducing the risk of admission to hospital from a single dose of vaccine.

    "For anyone offered the vaccine I encourage them to get vaccinated."

    Chris Robertson, professor of public health epidemiology at the University of Strathclyde, said: "These early national results give a reason to be more optimistic about the control of the epidemic."

  • Jon Rogers

    FOUR TESTS FOR LIFTING LOCKDOWN ARE MET

    Number 10has said the four tests needed to allow lockdown to begin have been met.

    It confirmed the first stage of lifting the restrictions will begin on March 8.

  • Jon Rogers

    COVID VACCINATION REDUCES RISK OF HOSPITALISATION BY UP TO 94PER CENT

    Having the Covid vaccination jab can reduce the risk of hospitalisation by up to 94 per cent, a study in Scotland has found.

    The study examined the effect of the two main vaccines – Pfizer and AstraZeneca – had in the community, as opposed to just a clinical trial.

    By the fourth week after receiving the initial dose, the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines were shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation from COVID-19 by up to 85 per cent and 94 per cent, respectively.

  • Jon Rogers

    KEY ROADMAP DATES IN APRIL

    It will be Mid-April before hairdressers are able to open along with non-essential shops, while restaurants and pubs will be able to serve customers outdoors.

    Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the UK's vaccinations programme is "beginning to really bear fruit" meaning restrictions can be loosened.

    But the vaccines minister warned No 10 could yet slam the brakes on the unlocking if the virus starts to spread again.

    Read more about the roadmap plan.

  • Jon Rogers

    KEY ROADMAP DATES IN MARCH

    MARCH 8 – schoolkids return to the classroom

    On the same date two people from different households will also be allowed to meet up outside for the first time in months.

    MARCH 29 – the stay at home message will be scrapped and two households of any size will be allowed to meet outdoors.

    The rule of six rule will also return for outside mixing, allowing people to gather with their friends in groups.

    And Brits will be free to play outdoor sports again, such as golf and tennis.

    Under the new rules people will be able to travel across the country to meet up with friends and relatives outdoors.

  • Jon Rogers

    BRITISH AIRWAYS SECURES £2.45BN LIQUIDITY BOOST

    British Airways has boosted its liquidity by £2.45billion as it tries to weather the coronavirus pandemic.

    Owner International Airlines Group (IAG) said the airline has reached final agreement on a £2 billion loan underwritten by a syndicate of banks and partially guaranteed by the Government's UK Export Finance (UKEF).

    The carrier expects to draw down from the five-year loan before the end of next month.

    British Airways has also reached agreement with the trustee of a pension scheme to defer £450 million of pension deficit contributions due between October 2020 and September 2021.

    It was due to fill the hole in its pension pot by March 2023, but the deferred contributions plus interest will be made as monthly repayments after this date.

  • Jon Rogers

    TEACHERS SHOULDN'T STRIKE OVER RETURN TO CLASSROOM – STARMER

    Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer has said he does not support possible industrial action by teachers over the return to the classroom on March 8.

    Speaking on LBC radio, he said schools needed better ventilation and testing and once again called for teachers to be vaccinated as a priority.

    "I don't think there should be industrial action," the Labour leader said, although he stressed that unions had done much to support teachers during this pandemic."

     

  • Jon Rogers

    ZAHAWI ‘HAPPY’ TO EXAMINE OTHER DATA ON VACCINE ROLLOUT

    Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said he will “happily” look at what other data can be made available on the vaccine rollout, after statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter called the lack of detailed data “upsetting”.

    Mr Zahawi told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “As of last week, NHS England have published CCG (clinical commissioning group) level data across England, which I think was important.

    “We collect ethnicity data and we publish that, and we work with directors of public health and local government to share mid-level data, without obviously in any way jeopardising people’s privacy and personal health data.

    “But all that work continues at pace. Data is our ally in this vaccination rollout and we continue to do more.

    “I didn’t listen to Professor Spiegelhalter, with your interview, but I’ll happily look at what else we can do.”

  • Jon Rogers

    NO MORE TIERS

    Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the road map was about the "gradual reopening of the whole of England" rather than a regional lifting of restrictions.

    Asked if the tier system would return, he told LBC: "I think because the way this new variant actually took hold, which has become the dominant variant, the Kent variant, in the United Kingdom, infection rates around the country pretty much rose to similar, very high, unsustainable levels.

    "So the view is very much that this is about a gradual reopening of the whole of England, not regional."

  • Jon Rogers

    YOUNGEST PUPILS RETURNING TO SCOTTISH CLASSROOMS

    The youngest children are returning to Scottishclassrooms as schools reopen to more pupils.

    Children in primaries one to three are due back in Scottish schools from Monday, along with some senior secondary pupils who need to do practical work for qualifications.

    All children under school age in early learning and childcare are also returning.

    Senior secondary pupils will need to stick to two-metre social distancing within schools and on school buses, while Covid-19 testing will be made available to them and teachers.

    Education Secretary John Swinney has said it is "critical" that parents follow mask-wearing and physical distancing rules at the school gates when younger pupils return to class.

  • Jon Rogers

    UNLIKELY PUBS WILL REOPEN FOR ANOTHER TWO MONTHS

    Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, has said it was unlikely pubs would reopening for another two months.

    "Please find a way to open our pubs in a commercially viable way as soon as possible," she asked Boris Johnson.

    "It's looking like we may still unfortunately be closed for another two months – and then with a possibility to only open outdoors – and that of course is not 60 per cent of our venues."

    She added: "It looks more likely we'll be closed for three months so we'll need a support package to see us through that."

  • Jon Rogers

    AUSTRALIA STARTS VACCINATION PROGRAMME

    Australia started its Covid-19 inoculation programme on Monday days after its neighbour New Zealand, with both governments deciding their pandemic experiences did not require the fast tracking of vaccine rollouts.

    Catherine Bennett, an epidemiologist at Australia's Deakin University, said countries that do not face a virus crisis benefit from taking their time and learning from countries that have taken emergency vaccination measures such as the US.

    "We've now got data on pregnant women who are vaccinated. Natural accidents happen in a real world rollout," Bennett said. "All of those things are really valuable insights.

    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Sunday in a show of confidence in the product. Australia is prioritising building public confidence in Covid-19 vaccines ahead of speed of delivery.

  • Jon Rogers

    OUTDOOR SPORTS TO RETURN ON MARCH 29

    Body

    Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said outdoor sports are due to return on March 29, including organised team sports, but declined to say when gyms could reopen.

    "The simple way to look at this is that outdoor is safer and therefore we prioritise versus indoor," he told LBC.

    "Outdoor sports – tennis, golf, outdoor organised team sports, grassroots football – will go back on March 29."

    Pushed on when gyms and fitness centres could reopen, he added: "At the moment, it's outdoors versus indoors. Outdoors is the priority because it's where the transmission rates are much, much, much lower."

  • Jon Rogers

    VACCINE ROLLOUT HAS 'SMASHED' TARGET

    The vaccine rollout has "smashed" its target of 75 per cent take up "completely", Nadhim Zahawi has said.

    He noted though 11 per cent of people who had not taken the vaccine offers up yet "skewed heavily towards BAME communities".

    "We are looking at postcode-by-postcode, where we can fill the gaps, looking a community pharmacy because we know they are really well embedded and trust by their local communities," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. 

  • Jon Rogers

    SCHOOLS NEED A 'PHASED RETURN' – EDUCATION EXPERT

    Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Academies Trust, has said schools need to have a "phased return" when classes restart on March 8.

    He told Sky News: "We would say a wise way forward is a step by step, gradual return where you can monitor how you are doing – whether you are going too fast and can slow down a bit, or too slow and speed up a bit.

    "That is the only sensible way forward, because our freedom has got to be won, it won't just arrive in our laps.

    "We have to be cautious and move ahead that way."

  • Jon Rogers

    STATISTICIAN SAYS ITS 'UNSETTING' MORE DATA NOT RELEASED

    Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, statistician from the University of Cambridge, said it was "upsetting" that the Government was yet to publish more data on the vaccine rollout.

    Sir David, who is also a non-executive director of the UK Statistics Authority, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "As a statistician, the lack of detailed data by the vaccine rollout I find very upsetting.

    "The office for stats regulation wrote to the Government being there more than a month ago saying there should be much better publicly available data."

    He added: "We don't know about the numbers or the proportions by the priority groups – the group one to nine; we don't know the proportions by ethnicity; we don't know this broken down by region.

    "I mean they do, somebody does, but we're not getting it."

  • Jon Rogers

    VACCINES MINISTER SAYS RE-OPENING FOR ALL OF ENGLAND

    Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the focus of easing lockdown restrictions is "steady as she goes" as he said there would be an easing of restrictions on outdoor socialising.

    Asked if travelling distances to see family would be permitted from March 29, he said: "As long as it's outdoors, and it is two families, or the rule of six, then that is what will be permitted if the four tests continue to be delivered upon.

    "That will be the national lockdown, of course Scotland, as you mentioned, Northern Ireland and Wales will be setting out their own road map towards reopening their economies as well.

    "So at the moment, the focus is very much on the steady as she goes. Outdoor versus indoor, priority being children in schools, second priority is obviously allowing two people on March 8 to meet outside for a coffee to address some of the issues around loneliness and of course mental health as well.

    "And then the 29th is two families or rule of six coming together and outdoor sporting activities as well."

  • Patrick Joseph DUGGAN

    PATIENT'S TRAUMA

    A COVID patient in her 20s has described her traumatic life on a coronavirus ward, surrounded by "gasping patients and crying nurses."

    Alexandra Adams, a fourth-year medical student, was being treated for an underlying health condition in a Welsh hospital for seven months.

    She has shared her harrowing experience after testing positive for the virus the day before New Year's Eve.

  • Patrick Joseph DUGGAN

    ISRAEL JAB SUCCESS

    ISRAEL'S Covid vaccine data has shown the jab stops 99 per cent of serious illness and is 99 per cent effective at preventing Covid deaths.

    Israel’s Health Ministry said the vaccines they have been using were “dramatically” effective at reducing serious illness and the results can already be seen in the country's deaths figures.

    Data released by Israel's Health Ministry said the vaccine is 98.9 per cent effective at preventing death caused by Covid-19.

  • Patrick Joseph DUGGAN

    HAIRDRESSERS TO REOPEN

    HAIRDRESSERS and barbers are set to re-open in mid-April as the Prime Minister eases the Covid lockdown in a four-stage roadmap.

    Boris Johnson will scrap the national stay-at-home order as the Rule of Six returns late next month.

    Those desperate for a haircut have to wait at least seven weeks for salons to reopen.

  • Joseph Gamp

    OUTDOOR FAMILY GATHERINGS COULD BE ALLOWED WITHIN WEEKS AS LOCKDOWN EASES

    Outdoor family gatherings could be allowed within weeks as lockdown eases

  • Joseph Gamp

    VACCINE ROLLOUT: 54 MILLION ADULTS TO BE OFFERED JAB BY AUGUST

    An estimated 54 million adults will be offered a jab by the end of July.

    If everything goes to plan, the country will be fully protected against the killer virus two months earlier than planned — thanks to quick delivery and take-up of the programme.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock also revealed: “We have seen early data there’s a re­duction in transmission from those who get the jab — and there’s more work that is being done.”

    The “great news” came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepared to announce today his “roadmap” out of lockdown.

  • Joseph Gamp

    WHAT ARE THE 'FOUR TESTS' NEEDED FOR ENGLAND TO END LOCKDOWN?

    Boris Johnson's road map will involve four tests for easing restrictions at each of his proposed four stages.

    The Government will use the tests to assess the impact of unlocking in England at each stage.

    • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
    • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
    • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
    • The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

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