Shops, hairdressers and pub beer gardens will reopen from April 12th in England but people must not be complacent about the risks still posed by coronavirus, British prime minister Boris Johnson said.
Confirming the next step on the roadmap out of lockdown, Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference he was looking forward to a pint of beer in a week’s time.
But he said the difficulties facing countries in Europe illustrated the risks still posed by the pandemic.
Mr Johnson said: “We can’t be complacent. We can see the waves of sickness affecting other countries and we have seen how this story goes.
“We still don’t know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise, as I’m afraid that they will, and that’s why we are saying please get your vaccine – or your second dose – when your turn comes.”
He also encouraged people to use free NHS tests as part of the drive to identify cases without symptoms.
His comments come as the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said no decision on regulatory action had been taken in relation to reports of rare blood clots following being vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab.
Channel 4 News reported that the MHRA was considering proposals to restrict the use of the Oxford-AstraZenica vaccine in younger people and a decision could be made as early as Tuesday.
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “People should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so.
“Our thorough and detailed review is ongoing into reports of very rare and specific types of blood clots with low platelets following the Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.
“No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action.”
Setting out the move to the second step of the roadmap, Mr Johnson said the shift was “fully justified by the data”.
“And on Monday the 12th I will be going to the pub myself – and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips.”
Premises in England allowed to reopen on April 12th include non-essential shops, hairdressers and nail salons, gyms – for people going on their own or with their household, libraries, community centres, zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas.
Self-contained accommodation including campsites and holiday lets will also be allowed to receive guests.
Bars and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers outdoors, but groups will be limited to two households or by the “rule of six”.
Mr Johnson’s comments came as the British government published the latest findings from its reviews of Covid status certification – so-called “vaccine passports” – and international travel.
The review suggested a certification scheme could have an “important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure” – but Mr Johnson faces opposition from MPs on both sides of the Commons who are concerned about the civil liberties implications.
A certificate could cover whether someone had received a vaccine, had a negative coronavirus test or had contracted and recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months.
The global travel taskforce review warned “the state of the pandemic abroad, and the progress of vaccination programmes in other countries” meant it was impossible to say yet whether foreign holidays from England would be allowed from May 17th, the date earmarked as the earliest possible for the resumption of international trips.
It confirmed the British government is examining a traffic-light system for countries, with travel to green list nations requiring no quarantine on return to the UK – although tests will still be required — although it is too early to say which destinations will be in that category. The expected introduction of Covid-19 status certification faces opposition from MPs ranging from ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to the chairman of the powerful Tory backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady.
More than 70 MPs, including 40 Conservatives, have signed a pledge to oppose the “divisive and discriminatory use of Covid status certification”, suggesting the move could face defeat in the Commons.
Mr Johnson acknowledged there were “complicated ethical and practical issues”, particularly if the certificates were confined only to cover vaccines, which is why ministers were also considering test results and evidence of having natural antibodies. – PA