Pubs to serve inside and household mixing indoors: PM to announce next step of lockdown easing

Politics

Boris Johnson has confirmed a major easing of COVID-19 restrictions in England will go ahead from next week.

At a news conference on Monday evening the prime minister will say that from 17 May, meetings of six people, or two households, will be allowed to take place indoors for the first time since January.

Indoor hospitality will also be able to reopen, foreign holidays will no longer be restricted, and according to Cabinet minister Michael Gove, people will be able to hug loved ones again.

With infection rates currently at the lowest level since September, and hospital admissions now similar to last July, the prime minister is expected to say the government’s tests have been met to allow for stage three of his roadmap to proceed as planned.

A man receives an AstraZeneca jab at a coronavirus vaccination centre in London's Baitul Futuh Mosque
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Ministers say the goal of offering all adults a first dose by the end of July remains on track

In a statement Mr Johnson praised the public’s “unwavering commitment” and said loosening the rules would be unlikely to see a resurgence of the virus that would put pressure on the NHS.

“The data reflects what we already knew – we are not going to let this virus beat us”, he said.

“The roadmap remains on track, our successful vaccination programme continues – more than two-thirds of adults in the UK have now had the first vaccine – and we can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly.

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“It’s because of the British public’s unwavering commitment that we are saving lives, protecting the NHS and controlling the virus”.

The Cabinet will meet on Monday morning to sign off on the plans.

More than 50 million vaccine doses have been administered in the UK – with 35.2 million people having received a first dose, and 17.2 million people having had both doses.

Ministers say the goal of offering all adults a first dose by the end of July remains on track.

The news conference will mark the start of a busy week for the prime minister, with the government’s new legislative agenda being set out in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday.

There is expected to be a focus on policies connected to the prime minister’s “levelling up” goals, as well as recovery from the pandemic.

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Michael Gove said the Queen’s speech would also contain a “series of bills and measures that will strengthen our NHS”, although ministers are facing questions about whether a plan of the reform of social care will be included.

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