Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to lay out dates for lockdown easing on February 22nd.
Mr Johnson is set to lay out the ‘roadmap’ to leave lockdown a week from now, giving a light at the end of the tunnel.
Speaking to broadcasters in Orpington, he said: “If we possibly can, we will be setting out dates.
“And just to help people think about what we’re trying to do on February 22nd, remember what we did around about this time last year, or a little bit later – we set out a road map going forward into the summer looking a little bit beyond, that’s what we’re going to be trying to do.”
The Daily Mirror reports that the reopening of non-essential shops could happen in a few weeks time and households could be allowed to take self-catered holidays by Easter.
The government is set to priorities the reopening of schools which looks to be on March 8th.
Mr Johnson added: “The dates that we will be setting out will be the dates by which we hope we can do something at the earliest, if you see what I mean – so it’s the target date by which we hope to do something at the earliest.
“If, because of the rate of infection, we have to push something off a little bit to the right, to lay it for a little bit, we won’t hesitate to do that.
“I think people would much rather see a plan that was cautious but irreversible and one that proceeds sensibly in accordance with where we are with the disease.”
The Daily Mirror added that reports show that some socialising with other households and the reopening of pubs could be unveiled on February 22nd.
It is also reported that grandparents could be given the green light to socialise with grandchildren once again when provisions allow limited socialising between households.
The Times reports that ministers are examining plans that could allow people to take breaks as early as the Easter holidays. A government source told the paper: “There’s an active discussion about how soon we can do it and we’ll be guided by the data.
“There’s talk of April at the earliest, but a lot of things have to go right. It’s unlikely but it is being talked about as a possibility.”
According to the Daily Mail, high street shops could be ‘about to reopen’ if the rate of infection continues to fall. The paper said a source expected it to happen ‘towards the end of March, or the beginning of April at the latest’.
However, Boris Johnson said no decision had been made on whether year groups will return to schools in England together or staggered.
He said: “No decisions have been taken on that sort of detail yet, though clearly schools on March 8th has for a long time been a priority of the Government and of families up and down the country.
“We will do everything we can to make that happen but we’ve got to keep looking at the data, we’ve got to keep looking at the rates of infections, don’t forget they’re still very high, still 23,000 or so Covid patients in the NHS, more than in the April peak last year, still sadly too many people dying of this disease, rates of infections, although they’re coming down, are still comparatively high.
“So we’ve got to be very prudent and what we wanted to see is progress that is cautious but irreversible and I think that’s what the public and people up and down the country will want to see.”
The latest coronavirus figures show that the number of cases in the UK has risen by 10,972 and the number of deaths has increased by 258, a decrease from the week before.
NHS England has also announced that those aged between 65 and 69 are set to be invited to have their first dose of the vaccine. 15 million people have now been vaccinated.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach officially confirms date for reopening
Not long to go now
The Blackpool Pleasure Beach owners have confirmed the date on which the theme park will reopen.
Posting a video on social media of staff testing the rides, the caption stated that the venue is prepping for customers’ return on April 12th.
A statement on social media said: “In line with Government guidelines, we plan to re-open COVID secure and ‘Good To Go’ on Monday 12th April.
“We look forward to welcoming you back to share in our 125th year.”
Under current government plans to ease restrictions, theme parks along with zoos will be opening in Stage Two, which will happen on April 12th at the earliest.
It comes after the council announced that Blackpool Illuminations will be extended in 2021, with an additional two months of the spectacle.
You can see more info on the opening here, along with all the Covid-19 policies you can expect on your visits such as bookings made in advance and eTickets.
One of UK’s largest care home groups says it won’t hire anyone who isn’t vaccinated
New staff must have received the Covid vaccine
Care UK, one of the UK’s largest care home companies, has put a ‘no jab, no job’ system in place.
It comes after Care UK, which runs 120 homes, has seen more than two-thirds of its staff vaccinated.
A spokesperson said: “Everyone applying for a role which requires them to go into a home will be expected to have been vaccinated before they start work.”
Barchester, which operates 220 private care homes, said it would be insisting on staff having vaccines, warning that ‘if they refuse… on non-medical grounds [they] will, by reason of their own decision, make themselves unavailable for work’.
Employment lawyers have warned that such a move could result in legal challenges for unfair dismissal. However, Barchester stressed it might be possible to find such people work in roles away from frontline care.
Mike Cain, an associate at Leigh Day, said employment tribunals would weigh the care home’s clinical safety obligations to residents against the civil liberties of any employee whose refusal to have the vaccine might not be an impediment to safe working.
Barchester explains they expect all staff to have the vaccine by April 23rd, excluding those who have medical – including pregnancy – grounds for exemption.
So far 82% of its staff have received a first dose. A spokesperson said: “We are very aware of concerns around possible discrimination which is in no way our intention.
“We are doing everything possible to ensure fairness while also delivering on our duty to protect our residents, patients and staff.”
Bupa has said it is considering a policy for staff in hospitals, care homes and dental practices.
The largest not-for-profit home chain, MHA, said it is ‘being explicit with new staff that we want all of our frontline colleagues to take up the vaccine’ but it will not require new starters to prove it.
Unison, which represents care workers, warned that a ‘hardline approach’ risked hindering take-up.
Senior national care officer, Gavin Edwards, said: “Hesitant staff need encouraging and persuading.
“Intimidation and threats won’t deliver the results necessary for life to return to normal.”
17-year-old boy arrested after the George Floyd mural was defaced with racist graffiti
It’s the third time it’s been defaced
A 17-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage to the George Floyd mural in the Northern Quarter.
The tribute to George Floyd in Stevenson Square was painted by artist Akse P19 following the killing of Mr Floyd in May 2020.
The artwork was vandalised with a racist word on Friday morning for the third time since the painting was completed.
The suspect was seen doing the act on CCTV and police are now holding him on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage.
It comes just a matter of weeks after the last vandalising of the artwork.
Mr Floyd was killed by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
His face became an icon of the resurgence of the Black Live Matter campaign across the globe.
Speaking on the last incident of defacing, Councillor Jon-Connor Lyons said: “Racism has no place in Manchester, we will not tolerate it and the Council will repair the memorial working with the artist.
“We’ll be working to review CCTV footage and any leads will be followed to find the culprit.
“Manchester is an inclusive, welcoming city with people from across the globe [and] this does not represent Manchester or Mancunians.
“Whoever did this has achieved nothing.”