All The Roadmap Updates Boris Johnson Will Announce On Vaccine Passports, Foreign Travel And Pubs Reopening
The Prime Minister will update the nation on his roadmap for unlocking and a series of reviews into removing Covid restrictions
Boris Johnson is due to set out today a traffic light system for restarting foreign travel from next month, explain how vaccine passports will be used in the UK, and confirm shops, hairdressers and pubs can start welcoming customers back a week from now.
The Prime Minister is due to confirm the second stage on the roadmap to unlock the country can proceed at a Downing Street press conference today, as well as updating the country on the four reviews into getting life back to normal post-pandemic.
The government has already said everyone in England will be able to request two free rapid coronavirus tests every week from this Friday as people are encouraged to regularly check if they have Covid-19 even if they don't have symptoms in a heightened effort to keep cases down as people begin to socialise again.
Here’s everything the PM is set to unveil at his Easter Monday briefing:
The reason Johnson is addressing the nation on a Bank Holiday at all is because his roadmap specified people and businesses and people would be given a week’s notice before each new step.
So with 12 April just seven days away, he is duty-bound to confirm the second step on his four-part plan to remove all coronavirus restrictions can go ahead.
The sustained fall in Covid-19 cases and deaths from the disease, along with the continued success of the vaccine rollout, has meant it has long been clear the necessary conditions to proceed to the next stage will be met.
So Johnson is due to confirm the opening of non-essential retail, personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons, along with public buildings including libraries and community centres from next Monday.
Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will also reopen, but only for use by people on their own or in household groups, as will most outdoor attractions like zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas.
Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets can also reopen, but hotels and places where guests share facilities with other households, must wait until the next step on the roadmap on 17 May.
Hospitality venues can also re-open, but only outside, and customers must order, eat and drink while seated, and be in groups of no more than six or two households.
But unlike in previous lockdown easings there will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks, and no curfew, but wider social contact rules will apply – such as mask-wearing and one-way systems when being shown to a table or going to the toilet.
While funerals can continue with up to 30 mourners, the number of people able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15.
The most controversial of the four Whitehall reviews is into what extent a form of Covid certification, otherwise known as a “vaccine passports”, will be used within the UK.
There is wide acceptance the technology needs to be developed to facilitate foreign travel, but there has been strong resistance to their use domestically, such as to visit the pub or go to the theatre.
But despite an open letter from more than 70 MPs, including many Conservative backbenchers, opposing such an idea Johnson is set to confirm they will be required for mass events such as sport and festivals, but not for shops or public transport.
However it was reported over the weekend they will not be a requirement for hospitality venues, albeit without government confirmation, after a backlash from the industry.
The PM himself has previously suggested it would be down to the “individual landlord” to implement such a system, hinting that for pubs and restaurants it may not be mandatory, however nightclubs seem likely to be required to bring it in.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who is leading the review, has suggested the UK could base theirs on a similar system in use in Israel, by modifying the existing NHS app to confirm if a person has has a Covid vaccine, has antibodies against the disease, or a recent negative test.
A paper certificate could also be created for those without access to a smartphone.
Johnson is unlikely to clarify all aspects of how it will work today, such as when it will launch, with more detail due to be revealed in a statement to the Commons once Parliament returns next week.
Very much linked to the plans for Covid certification is the review into how to hold mass events safely, with a lot resting on a series of upcoming trial events.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden revealed nine will take place, starting at the Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool on 16 April, which will be focused on testing those who attend before and after the gig, as well as things like ventilation and designated entry and exit routes.
Other events in Liverpool will take place later this month at the Luna Cinema, a business event at the ACC conference centre, and the Circus Nightclub.
The other trials are sporting events, with three games at Wembley stadium where a “vaccine passport” system will be used, starting with the Leicester City against Southampton FA Cup semi-final on 18 April.
The Carabao Cup Final between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur on 25 April, and the FA Cup Final on 15 May, will also see fans back inside a stadium for top-flight football for the first time since the pandemic began.
The other two trial events are the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre from 17 April to 3 May, and a mass participation run at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire on 24-25 April.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said they would be a "learning experience" and the PM would receive a report at the end of May, suggesting Covid certification will not be introduced more widely until the fourth and final step on the roadmap on 21 June at the earliest.
Also linked to the decisions on vaccine passports is the review into social distancing measures, which ahead of step four on the roadmap is looking at “when and under what circumstances” the ‘one metre-plus’ guidance can be lifted or amended, as well as the impact of face coverings and working from home guidance.
The PM is not expected to go into detail on this review today, as its conclusions will be heavily influenced by the reviews on Covid status certification and the return of large events.
GLOBAL TRAVEL TASKFORCE
Finally the fourth review is on whether foreign travel can return on the provisional date set of 17 May, and what countries Brits will be able to travel do with what level of testing or quarantine required.
Johnson is unlikely to reveal when the blanket travel ban will be lifted, but is expected to set out a traffic light system building on the existing “red list” destinations in place at the moment.
For those countries government-approved hotel quarantine upon return is required, for those on the amber list people will be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days on their return - or as few as five if they pay for an extra test - and those on the green list will require no quarantine, but a test pre-departure and upon arrival.
Health Minister Edward Argar confirmed people will have to pay for the costs of testing themselves, which means even getting away to a comparatively ‘safe’ country could prove very expensive for families.
The criteria for judging a country will be the percentage of the country’s population that has been vaccinated, their rate of infection, statistics on emerging new variants, and access to reliable scientific data.
As for which countries will be on what list the PM is not expected to make any revelations today, but based on the categories the slow vaccine take-up and increase in cases in Western Europe might mean swapping traditional summer holiday destinations for Gulf countries like Bahrain and Dubai this year.
A fuller update on international travel is expected later this week.