Johnson set to confirm reopening of ‘non-essential’ shops in England

Boris Johnson will on Monday confirm that England’s “non-essential” shops, pubs and restaurants can start to reopen from April 12, as he outlines the next stage of the lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown, officials said.

The prime minister will convene his cabinet on Monday afternoon to sign off the decision to move to stage two of the “road map”, which allows a partial further reopening of the economy next week.

Johnson, who will host a Downing Street press conference at 5pm, will also provide an update into separate reviews into foreign travel, Covid-19 “passports”, access to mass events and social distancing.

Johnson will brief the cabinet that the latest data on vaccinations, infections and hospitalisations from the virus are encouraging and will allow the next phase of the road map to proceed as planned.

On April 12 pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve people outdoors, while clothes shops and other “non-essential” outlets will be able to reopen alongside personal care premises such as hairdressers and beauty salons.

Indoor gyms and spas will be able to reopen, weddings attended by up to 15 people will be able to take place and members of the same household will be able to take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation.

The reopening of schools on March 8 does not appear to have caused a big uptick in Covid-19 cases; in the seven days to April 4 there were 26,347 positive tests for Covid-19, a fall of 29 per cent on the previous week. Deaths over that period were 245, down 43 per cent.

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The decision to proceed with the relaxation of the lockdown will be taken on Monday by the Covid-19 “operations” committee of senior ministers before being approved by the full cabinet.

Both Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, have said in recent days there was no reason to deviate from the road map, a point underscored by government officials.

Much of the focus will be on what Johnson says about a review of foreign travel, which is expected to recommend classing overseas destinations using a traffic light system: grading them on their vaccination levels, case numbers, incidence of new variants and the reliability of data.

No foreign travel will be allowed until May 17 at the earliest and Johnson is not expected to say which countries will be first on the “green list” until closer to the time. Travellers to those countries will probably need to test before departure and after their return.

People travelling to countries on an amber list would have to self-isolate on return for at least five days, while people coming back from red list countries would have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel.

Covid-19 certification, based on the NHS app, will be trialled for use in mass events including next month’s football FA Cup final. Ministers are so far focusing the idea on spectator sports but have not ruled out using the idea in other “hard to open” venues such as nightclubs.

However, more than 70 MPs, including 41 Conservatives, have threatened to vote against the use of such passports in domestic settings, limiting the government’s room for manoeuvre.

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Meanwhile, everyone in England will be able to access free twice-a-week coronavirus tests from April 9.

“We’re now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England — helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy,” Johnson said on Sunday.

Matt Hancock, health secretary, said regular rapid testing across the population would be “fundamental in helping us quickly spot positive cases and squash any outbreaks”.

The mass rapid testing will be delivered through a home delivery service, as well as via testing in workplaces and the community. Standard PCR tests, which usually take 24 hours or more to deliver results, will be available from specific centres at time windows. Schools and colleges will also have on-site testing.

Meanwhile Scotland eased some of its lockdown restrictions on Monday, with hairdressers, garden centres, homeware stores and non-essential click-and-collect services allowed to reopen.


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