William and Kate visit vaccination centre at Westminster Abbey to praise efforts of those behind Covid jab drive as nation falls silent on first anniversary of lockdown
- The royal couple praised the efforts of those driving Britain’s world-leading Covid-19 jab scheme
- Visit coincided with national minute’s silence to remember Covid-19 victims on anniversary of first lockdown
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have today visited a vaccination centre at Westminster Abbey.
The royal couple praised the efforts of those driving Britain’s world-leading Covid-19 jab scheme as Britain remembers the tens of thousands of people who have died during the pandemic.
William and Kate walked down the aisle in the cathedral they married in on April 29, 2011, with the country’s most famous church now helping with the vaccination effort, vaccinating 2,000 people a week in Poets’ Corner.
During the visit, The Duke and Duchess heard from staff about their experiences of being involved in the largest vaccination programme in the nation’s history, and working in one of Britain’s most revered buildings. The couple also spoke with a number of people receiving their vaccine that day.
More than 22.8 million people have now had at least one jab in little over 100 days since the NHS vaccination programme began, whilst another 1.5million second doses have also been administered. On Sunday around 96,834 vaccinations an hour were were carried out, at an average of 27 jabs a second.
The Queen today led Britain in remembering the victims of coronavirus as the country held a national minute’s silence at midday to mark the anniversary of the first national lockdown.
Boris Johnson, who was almost killed by Covid-19 himself, offered his ‘sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones’ while Prince Charles called on Britain to ‘remember the lives tragically cut short’.
And Her Majesty said in a statement released at noon, as millions bowed their head: ‘As we look forward to a brighter future together, today we pause to reflect on the grief and loss that continues to be felt by so many people and families, and pay tribute to the immeasurable service of those who have supported us all over the last year.’
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to the vaccination centre at Westminster Abbey, London, to pay tribute to the efforts of those involved in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout
William and Kate walked down the aisle in the cathedral they married in on April 29, 2011. The church is now being used as part of the vaccination effort
William and Kate spent time speaking to NHS staff and meeting people who were getting vaccinated this afternoon
The Duchess of Cambridge speaks to staff during a visit to the vaccination centre at Westminster Abbey today
MPs and peers in both Houses of Parliament and ministers in the devolved nations marked the solemn anniversary at midday, while NHS and social care workers also joined the pause for reflection.
Cathedrals in Blackburn, Winchester, Gloucester and York Minster also fell silent in honour of those who have died during the pandemic. The London Eye, Tate Britain, Blackpool Tower, the Scottish Parliament, Belfast City Hall and other buildings will be lit in yellow on Tuesday evening to mark the occasion. The public is also being urged to stand on their doorsteps at 8pm with a candle or light.
William’s father Prince Charles today called on Britain to ‘remember the lives tragically cut short’ by Covid-19 ahead of a national vigil this lunchtime as Boris Johnson marked the first anniversary of the first national lockdown in 2020 by vowing to end them ‘once and for all’.
The Prime Minister called a national minute’s silence at midday to remember the 126,000 people who have died during the pandemic as around 10,000 families still grieve their loved-ones.
And tonight Britons are being encouraged to stand on their doorsteps at 8pm and light candles as a ‘beacon of remembrance’ for those who have lost their lives.
Prince Charles has lent his support to the day of national reflection being held on the anniversary of the first UK lockdown.
In a recorded message, the heir to the throne, who is a patron of end-of-life charity Marie Curie, said: ‘We have all been inspired by the resourcefulness we have witnessed, humbled by the dedication shown by so many, and moved, beyond words, by the sacrifices we have seen.
‘Whatever our faith or philosophy may be, let us take a moment together to remember those who have been lost, to give thanks for their lives, and to acknowledge the inexpressible pain of parting. In their memory, let us resolve to work for a future inspired by our highest values, that have been displayed so clearly by the people of this country through this most challenging of times.’
And in a message released last night, the Prime Minister also urged people to ‘also remember the great spirit shown by our nation over this past year’, as millions of NHS staff and other critical workers worked tirelessly through the pandemic. While tens of millions of people have worked from home and home-schooled their children during the greatest crisis the country has faced since the Second World War.
Mr Johnson, who was almost killed by Covid-19 himself, added: ‘We have all played our part, whether it’s working on the front line as a nurse or carer, working on vaccine development and supply, helping to get that jab into arms, home-schooling your children, or just by staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus.
‘It’s because of every person in this country that lives have been saved, our NHS was protected, and we have started on our cautious road to easing restrictions once and for all.’
The Cambridges’ royal duties came as it was claimed William was left ‘reeling’ by his brother’s bombshell television interview, with friends insisting that claims he was ‘trapped’ were ‘way off the mark’.
The Duke of Cambridge was also said to be furious at Harry and Meghan’s ‘insulting and disrespectful’ treatment of the Queen and thinks they ‘blindsided’ her before quitting royal duties.
The Royal Family is still trying to pick up the pieces from the couple’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, which was broadcast earlier this month.
A masked Duchess of Cambridge arrives with her husband as the couple continued to back Britain’s vaccination scheme
The Duchess of Cambridge (left) speaks to staff during a visit to the Abbey, where people get jabbed in Poets’ Corner
The couple were met at the Abbey by the Dean of Westminster The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle (right) and Paul Baumann, Receiver General and Chapter Clerk (left)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made a series of damaging allegations – including implications of racism with claims that a family member asked how dark their son Archie’s skin might be.
They also claimed that Meghan had suffered suicidal thoughts and had been given little support by the Palace.
It has now been reported that William was left ‘reeling’ in the immediate aftermath of the programme, with a source close to the duke telling the Sunday Times Magazine: ‘His head is all over the place on it.’
Harry’s claims that William and his father Prince Charles were ‘trapped’ in their royal roles were also said to be ‘way off the mark’, with a source insisting that William does not see it that way.
‘He has a path set for him and he’s completely accepting of his role. He is very much his grandmother’s grandson in that respect of duty and service,’ they said.
The relationship between the two brothers, who were once so close, has been strained for some time now and appears to have only got worse following the interview.
But, according to the newspaper, it was William who initially tried to smooth things over, playing peacekeeper in the tense run-up to Harry and Meghan’s wedding in 2018.
They finally divided their households in March 2019 following a series of disagreements about Harry’s role but William was still said to be shocked and upset when his brother decided to moved to America a year later.
Harry and Meghan’s controversial departure, dubbed ‘Megxit’, saw them choose to step back from senior roles and become financially independent.
After the infamous ‘Sandringham summit’ – when the Megxit deal was hammered out – William and Harry went for a walk to clear the air. However they did not part shores as friends, it was reported.
William was said to have been particularly aggrieved by the couple’s surprise launch of their ‘Sussex Royal’ website before the summit last January.
Later, when the Queen decreed they could no longer use ‘royal’ in their future ventures, Meghan and Harry hit back with a bold statement saying they did not intend to use ‘Sussex Royal’ or ‘Royal’ even though there was ‘not any jurisdiction’ over its use overseas.
A senior royal source told the newspaper that both the content and the fact the statement is still online is ‘staggering’.
The source added: ‘That was it for William, he felt they’d blindsided the Queen in such an insulting and disrespectful way.’
The issue was said to still be on William’s mind at the Commonwealth Day service last year – the Sussexes’ final engagement as working royals – when tensions between the brothers were palpable.
Despite this, it has been reported that William still hopes to heal the rift. A friend of William’s said the relationship was still ‘raw’, adding: ‘He’s very upset by what’s happened, though absolutely intent that he and Harry’s relationship will heal in time.’
The comments come amid reports that the Queen is considering appointing a diversity tsar to modernise the Monarchy.
As part of a major drive, aides will speak to a range of businesses and individuals about how the Monarchy can improve representation, The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday.
Harry’s claims that William and his father Prince Charles were ‘trapped’ in their royal roles were also said to be ‘way off the mark’, with a source insisting that William does not see it that way
Prince William was left ‘reeling’ by his brother’s bombshell television interview, with friends insisting that claims he was ‘trapped’ were ‘way off the mark’. They are pictured above in 2017
The Duke of Cambridge was also said to be furious at Harry and Meghan’s ‘insulting and disrespectful’ treatment of the Queen and thinks they ‘blindsided’ her before quitting royal duties
Candles are lit during the National Day of Reflection at Blackburn Cathedral, on the anniversary of the first national lockdown
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan helps to plant the final two trees in the London Blossom Garden at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London today on the anniversary of the first national lockdown before taking part in a moment of silence
A year ago today Boris Johnson urged Britain to ‘stay at home,’ amid the growing threat of Covid-19, the PM has now praised the nation’s efforts over the past 12 months, while vowing to end lockdown ‘once and for all’
– March 23: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces the first UK lockdown, telling the public they will only be allowed to leave their homes for limited reasons, including food shopping, exercise once per day, medical need and travelling for work when absolutely necessary.
All shops selling non-essential goods are told to close, gatherings of more than two people in public are banned, events including weddings – but excluding funerals – are cancelled.
– March 24: Mr Hancock reveals that a new Nightingale hospital – with a capacity of 4,000 – is being prepared at the ExCeL Centre in London.
– March 25: The Prince of Wales tests positive for coronavirus but is displaying only ‘mild symptoms’, Clarence House says.
– March 27: Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock test positive for Covid-19, while England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty says he has symptoms and is self-isolating.
– April 5: The Queen tells the nation if we ‘remain united and resolute’ in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, ‘we will overcome it’.
Downing Street says the Prime Minister has been admitted to hospital for tests as a ‘precautionary step’ as his symptoms persist.
– April 6: Downing Street says Mr Johnson’s condition has worsened and he is moved to St Thomas’ Hospital’s intensive care unit.
– April 7: Downing Street says the PM’s condition remains ‘stable’ and he is in ‘good spirits’. He is later moved from intensive care back to the ward.
– April 12: Mr Johnson is discharged from hospital and will continue his recovery at Chequers, Downing Street says.
The hospital death toll of people who have tested positive in the UK passes the 10,000 mark.
– April 30: In his first Downing Street press conference since being admitted to hospital, Mr Johnson says the country is now ‘past the peak of this disease’.
– May 4: It is announced the first NHS Nightingale field hospital – at London’s ExCeL centre – will be placed on standby.
– May 5: The UK’s declared death toll from coronavirus rises to more than 32,000, passing Italy’s total and becoming the highest in Europe.
– May 10: Mr Johnson announces the first easing of England’s lockdown, telling people they are allowed to sunbathe in parks and leave the house to exercise more than once a day.
– May 18: Everyone aged five and over is made eligible to be tested for coronavirus if they are showing symptoms, which are expanded to included a loss of taste or smell.
– May 22: Reports suggest Mr Johnson’s senior aide Dominic Cummings allegedly broke the Government’s lockdown rules when he was spotted at his parents’ property in Durham, where he was recovering from coronavirus symptoms after travelling from his London home with his wife, who also fell ill, and son.
– May 23: A second eyewitness tells newspapers they saw Mr Cummings a week earlier in Barnard Castle, a popular tourist location 30 miles away from Durham, during the period he was believed to be self-isolating.
– May 25: Mr Cummings defends his actions at a press conference in the Downing Street rose garden, saying he believes he behaved ‘reasonably’ and does not regret his actions.
– May 28: NHS Test and Trace officially launches across England with the help of 25,000 contact tracers, while an accompanying app is still delayed by several weeks.
Mr Johnson announces groups of up to six are allowed to meet outside.
– May 30: Professor Jonathan Van-Tam says Britain is facing a ‘very dangerous moment’ with the easing of lockdown restrictions.
– June 1: Lockdown measures are eased, with schoolchildren in England in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 returning to the classroom.
– June 16: The cheap steroid dexamethasone is hailed as a major breakthrough as a study suggests it is the first drug to reduce deaths from coronavirus.
– June 19: The UK’s chief medical officers agree to downgrade the coronavirus alert level from four to three after a ‘steady’ and continuing decrease in cases in all four nations.
– July 3: A list of 73 countries and territories where English tourists can visit without self-isolating on their return is published, including popular short-haul destinations such as Spain, France and Italy.
– July 4: Pints are poured in pubs and couples finally say ‘I do’ as lockdown restrictions are eased across England.
– July 17: Mr Johnson eases the work-from-home guidance as he sets out plans for a ‘significant return to normality’ in England from as early as November.
– July 24: Face coverings become mandatory in shops across England, with £100 fines for people who flout the rules.
– July 30: People who test positive for coronavirus or display symptoms must now self-isolate for 10 days as Mr Hancock warns of a ‘second wave starting to roll across Europe’.
– August 3: The Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme launches, with restaurants, pubs and cafes offering half-price meals to diners during August.
– August 24: The Prime Minister issues a plea to parents to send their children back to the classroom when schools reopen.
– September 8: Mr Hancock warns of a possible second peak following a ‘concerning’ rise in the number of cases.
Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from September 14, ministers announce, as the Government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.
– September 17: Baroness Dido Harding denies that the Test and Trace system is failing but acknowledges that a surge in demand is significantly outstripping capacity.
– September 18: Mr Johnson warns that a second wave of coronavirus has arrived in the UK.
The R number – representing the number of people an infected person will pass the virus to – is estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.4, meaning cases could rise very quickly.
– September 21: Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance tells a televised briefing the UK could see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October and a daily death toll of 200 or more a month later unless urgent action is taken.
– September 22: The Prime Minister prepares to announce new restrictions including a 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants in England from September 24.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove recommends that people now work from home if able to do so.
– September 24: A total of 6,634 new coronavirus cases are recorded, the highest single-day figure so far since the outbreak began.
– October 12: The Prime Minister launches a three-tier system of local alert levels for England, with the Liverpool City Region the only area to be placed in the Tier 3 – very high – category.
– October 31: Mr Johnson announces that people in England will be told to stay at home for four weeks as the country is placed under another national lockdown, with the closure of hospitality and non-essential shops.
– November 24: The UK Government and devolved administrations agree on plans allowing families to reunite over the festive period by forming ‘Christmas bubbles’.
– December 2: England’s national lockdown comes to an end and is replaced by a strengthened three-tier system.
Meanwhile, the UK becomes the first country in the world to approve the coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech.
– December 8: Grandmother Margaret Keenan, 90, becomes the first patient in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab as the NHS launches its biggest ever vaccine campaign.
– December 14: Mr Hancock tells MPs a new strain of coronavirus has been identified in southern England, with the number of cases involving the new variant ‘increasing rapidly’.
Tougher restrictions are imposed on London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire following ‘very sharp, exponential rises’ in cases.
– December 19: The Prime Minister cancels Christmas for almost 18 million people across London and eastern and south-east England by moving them into a newly created Tier 4 for two weeks – effectively returning to the lockdown rules of November – after scientists warn of the rapid spread of the new variant VUI 202012/01.
– December 30: It is announced that an additional 20 million people in England will move to the tightest restrictions, making a total of 44 million in Tier 4, or 78% of the population.
Meanwhile, a Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca is approved for use in the UK.
– January 4 2021: The Covid-19 alert level should be raised to five – the highest setting – a joint recommendation from the UK’s chief medical officers says.
Later that evening, in a televised address, Mr Johnson announces a third national lockdown for England which will see schools shut to most students and people urged to stay at home to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed by surging coronavirus infections.
– January 9 2021: The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh receive their Covid-19 vaccinations and take the unusual step of making a health matter public.
– January 19 2021: An estimated one in eight people in England had Covid-19 by December last year, according to antibody data from the Office for National Statistics’ Covid-19 Infection Survey.
– January 26 2021: According to the Government’s measure of the death toll, more than 100,000 people in the UK have now died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus since the pandemic began.
– February 2 2021: Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised more than £32 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday during the first national lockdown in April, dies after testing positive for Covid-19.
– February 15 2021: Travellers arriving in the UK from countries on the travel ban ‘red list’ must now quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days.
– February 20 2021: The Prime Minister pledges that all adults will be offered a vaccine by July 31, while those aged 50 and over will be offered one by April 15.
– February 22 2021: Mr Johnson announces a road map out of lockdown, with a four-step plan to gradually ease England’s restrictions by June 21.
– March 8 2021: All children in all year groups return to classrooms in England, with outdoor after-school sports and activities also allowed to restart.
People are also allowed to have socially distanced one-to-one meetings with others outdoors in a public space.
– March 17 2021: NHS leaders warn there will be a ‘significant reduction’ in vaccine supply for four weeks from March 29 due to a delay in deliveries from India and the need to retest a batch of 1.7 million doses. The Health Secretary says the vaccination programme remains ‘on track’ to meet the Government’s targets.
Meanwhile, European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen threatens to block the export of vaccines to the UK amid an ongoing row over the supply of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
– March 19 2021:The Prime Minister receives his first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London.
– March 20 2021: The Government announces that half of the UK’s adult population – some 26,853,407 people aged 18 and over – have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, as of March 19.
A year ago today the PM addressed the nation at 8pm and told them to stay at home to protect the NHS and avoid the ‘devastating impact of this invisible killer’.
Twelve months on, the nation will pause in remembrance at midday, with Brits encouraged to stand on their doorsteps at 8pm with phones, candles and torches to signify a ‘beacon of remembrance’.
More than 250 organisations are supporting the day of reflection, including 82 leaders from religious groups and cross-party politicians, care organisations, charities, businesses, emergency services, public sector bodies and community groups.
Mr Johnson, who will observe the minute’s silence privately, said: ‘The last 12 months has taken a huge toll on us all, and I offer my sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones.
‘Today, the anniversary of the first lockdown, is an opportunity to reflect on the past year – one of the most difficult in our country’s history.
‘We should also remember the great spirit shown by our nation over this past year. We have all played our part, whether it’s working on the front line as a nurse or carer, working on vaccine development and supply, helping to get that jab into arms, home schooling your children, or just by staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus.
‘It’s because of every person in this country that lives have been saved, our NHS was protected, and we have started on our cautious road to easing restrictions once and for all.’
From March 29, the Rule of Six will return for outdoor gatherings, with the Government changing advice from Stay at Home to Stay Local, and a public transport lifted.
Next month, should Covid-19 rates continue to fall, non-essential retail and hairdressers will reopen on April 12, along with restaurants and pubs to outdoor customers.
May 17 will see hotel, cinemas and play areas reopen, with the Rule of Six dropped out doors, along with the possibility of international travel bans being lifted.
June 21 could see all legal limits on social contacts go, along with all restrictions on large events, just in time for the summer.
According to the latest available data from the Office for National Statistics, there have been 618,676 deaths from all causes registered in England and Wales between March 21 2020 and the week ending March 5 2021.
The figures also show that, across the UK, 147,681 deaths have now occurred where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
The Health Foundation calculates that those who died with Covid-19 have lost up to 10 years of life on average, with a total of up to 1.5 million potential years of life lost.
Lending his support to the national day of reflection, the Prince of Wales, who is a patron of Marie Curie, said: ‘Whatever our faith or philosophy may be, let us take a moment together to remember those who have been lost, to give thanks for their lives, and to acknowledge the inexpressible pain of parting.
‘In their memory, let us resolve to work for a future inspired by our highest values, that have been displayed so clearly by the people of this country through this most challenging of times.’
Addressing the nation last March 23, Mr Johnson said: ‘Without a huge national effort to halt the growth of this virus, there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses.
‘And as we have seen elsewhere, in other countries that also have fantastic health care systems, that is the moment of real danger.
‘To put it simply, if too many people become seriously unwell at one time, the NHS will be unable to handle it – meaning more people are likely to die, not just from Coronavirus but from other illnesses as well.
‘So it’s vital to slow the spread of the disease because that is the way we reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment at any one time, so we can protect the NHS’s ability to cope – and save more lives.
‘And that’s why we have been asking people to stay at home during this pandemic.
‘And though huge numbers are complying – and I thank you all – the time has now come for us all to do more.
‘From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.
‘Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.
Ending his speech, Mr Johnson said: ‘We will come through it stronger than ever. We will beat the coronavirus and we will beat it together.
‘And therefore I urge you at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives. Thank you.’
Since then the country has undergone varying levels of lockdown, most recently the country returned to strictest measures at the start of January, amid fears of variants and a second wave.
Britain’s vaccine roll-out has offered a light at the end of the tunnel after a year that saw elderly people and carers forced to shield from loved ones to avoid the virus.
Nearly 28million people have received their first dose of a Covid vaccine to date.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England strategic response director for Covid-19, said: ‘This virus has left no one untouched and it has been the most challenging time both personally and professionally that many of us have ever faced.
‘I want to say thank you today to all the public health professionals and key workers who have worked long and difficult hours to help keep the country safe.
‘The commitment you have shown is an inspiration to us all.’
Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, added: ‘Today we reflect on what has been a terrible year for our country and the huge sacrifices the British people have made.
‘Our thoughts in particular are with those families who have lost loved ones to this terrible virus and will still be grieving.
‘As we reflect on the past year, we owe it to those whose lives have been lost to learn the lessons from the pandemic and to build a stronger more secure future for our country.
‘A public inquiry into the pandemic will be key to this.’
To mark the anniversary, London’s skyline will turn yellow with landmarks including the London Eye, Trafalgar Square and Wembley Stadium lighting up at nightfall.
Other notable buildings that will be illuminated include Cardiff Castle and Belfast City Hall, while churches and cathedrals will toll bells, light thousands of candles and offer prayers.
In Portsmouth, churches will deliver more than 50 boxes of chocolates and cards to local GP surgeries, care homes and schools to thank key workers for their pandemic efforts.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: ‘This day of reflection is an opportunity to pause and remember all that’s happened over the past year, to mourn those who have died but also to give thanks for those who have looked after us and our communities.
‘It is a moment to pray together to our Father in Heaven to comfort us in our grief and to lead us into the hope of the risen Christ and the eternal life he promises.
‘As we reflect on the pandemic, may He strengthen our resolve to rebuild a kinder, fairer and more compassionate society, may He be with those who are struggling and may He guide us in honouring those we have lost over the past year.’
Nursing staff will also pause to say thank you to members of the public for their year of sacrifice, and remember the loss of friends, colleagues and patients.
Nursing leader Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘After a year of sacrifices and gestures, great and small, we are taking our turn to thank the public. In a time of loss and fear, they helped us to keep digging deeper.
‘We will take a day to remember and reflect – as much about the future we want as the year we’ve had.’
As Europe is hit with a new wave of coronavirus cases, it was revealed todat face £5,000 fines for going abroad on holiday from Monday.
The threat of penalties for leaving the UK without ‘reasonable excuse’ – such as for work or family matters – will remain in place until the end of June.
Yesterday it emerged that France is likely to be added by the end of the week to a ‘red list’ of countries requiring hotel quarantine.
Health officials are increasingly concerned by a surge in cases of the South African Covid variant across the Channel. A minister even suggested the whole of the continent could be put on the red list because of botched vaccine rollouts.
That might mean the need to quarantine after foreign trips would stay in place until at least August.
A ‘traffic light’ system is under consideration, allowing restriction-free travel to ‘green’ countries. However, sources stressed no decisions had been taken.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is leading a taskforce that will report by April 12 on how and when the ban on non-essential travel can be lifted. Under Boris Johnson’s official roadmap it can be no earlier than May 17.
Care minister Helen Whately yesterday repeated official warnings that booking a trip abroad would be ‘premature’.
But top scientists yesterday backed allowing foreign holidays this summer.
Carl Heneghan, a professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, said: ‘We were allowing people to go on holiday last summer, without any testing programme, and now we have got the vaccination programme and the testing programme. Given that, you have to ask the question, “What will it take if that’s not sufficient?”’
Professor Robert Dingwall, who sits on the Government’s scientific advisory group Nervtag, added: ‘We should have been able to complete the two rounds of vaccinations for the over-50s and clinically vulnerable by the end of April, early May.
‘Add on a couple of weeks for these things to take effect and you wouldn’t really have much of a case for going beyond the end of May [for extending the travel ban].’
However, given the picture in Europe it appears increasingly likely that foreign holidays will be delayed until at least June 21, the same day the Government plans to remove all domestic restrictions.
The slow rollout of the vaccination programme in Europe means most countries popular with Britons are unlikely to be declared ‘green’ until late summer. This would make foreign trips impossible for most holidaymakers because of the ten days of quarantine.
Putting France on the red list will mean returning British nationals are forced to isolate in an approved hotel at their own expense.
Non-British residents will be banned from entering and direct flights will also cease. Exemptions would be made for hauliers to protect trade.
Health minister Lord Bethell of Romford yesterday told peers: ‘The possibility is that we will have to red-list all of our European neighbours. But that would be done with huge regret because we are a trading nation.’
Thirty-five countries are on the red list, including the whole of South America, southern Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Portugal was on the list but was removed last week.
The ban on foreign holidays was implicit because leisure trips abroad were not one of the reasons allowed for leaving the house.
But, from Monday it will be officially placed in law at the same time as the ‘stay at home’ message is lifted.
The foreign travel ban does not apply to those going to the common travel area of the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland.
Exemptions apply to those needing to travel for work, study, for legal obligations or to vote. Births, weddings and visiting a dying relative or close friend also qualify.
How will lockdown be eased in the UK until the end of June?
Step One Part One: March 8
From March 8, all pupils and students will return to schools and colleges across England.
So-called wrap-around childcare will also be allowed to resume, paving the way for after and before school clubs to reopen.
People will be allowed to meet one other person outside for recreation, for example, to have a picnic or to meet for coffee.
Care home residents will be able to have one regular named visitor.
The Government’s stay at home order will remain in place, with travel for non-essential purposes still banned.
Step One Part Two: March 29
From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed. These gatherings will be allowed to happen in private gardens.
Outdoor sports like tennis and basketball will be allowed to reopen and people will also be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
It is at this point that the Government’s stay at home guidance will end, to be replaced by ministers encouraging people to ‘stay local’.
However, the Government is expected not to define what constitutes local, instead choosing to rely on people using their common sense to decide on journeys.
People will still be told to work from home wherever possible while international travel will still be banned unless it is for essential purposes.
Step Two: April 12
Nom-essential retail will be allowed to reopen as well as personal care premises like hairdressers, barbers and nail salons.
Public buildings like libraries, museums and art galleries will be allowed to welcome back customers.
Meanwhile, hospitality venues and outdoor attractions like theme parks will be given the green light to reopen in some form.
However, there will still be rules on household mixing: Essentially any activity which involves being indoors will be restricted to members of the same household.
Gyms and swimming pools will also reopen from April 12 but only on the basis that people go on their own or with their own household.
Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen but at this point they will only be able to have customers outdoors.
The Government will not be bringing back the old requirement for people to order a substantial meal with alcohol while the old 10pm curfew will be ditched.
All customers at hospitality venues will also have to be seated when they order food or drink, with ordering at the bar prohibited.
Campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can also reopen but trips must be restricted a single household.
Funerals will be allowed to continue with up to 30 people, while the rules on wedding receptions will be eased to allow the number of guests to increase from six to 15.
Step Three: May 17
The two household and rule of six requirements for outdoor gatherings will be ditched but gatherings of more than 30 people in places like parks will still be banned.
Crucially, mixing indoors will be allowed again. The rule of six or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed to meet.
However, this will be kept under review by ministers to see if rules could be relaxed still further.
This is also the point at which pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to open indoors, with the rule of six and two household limit in place. But groups meeting outdoors at pubs will be allowed to be bigger.
Entertainment venues like cinemas and children’s play areas will be able to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs. Indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes can also reopen.
Changes will also be made to sporting and performance events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half full
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