‘Behave responsibly’ - Boris Johnson’s plea as lockdown eases in England
Boris Johnson has urged people to "behave responsibly" as England sees a major easing in coronavirus lockdown rules today.
Pub gardens will reopen today and restaurants will resume outdoor dining, while shops deemed non-essential will also open their doors for the first time in months.
Hairdressers, indoor gyms, swimming pools, nail salons and zoos will also reopen in another stride back towards normality.
However, social mixing indoors will remain heavily restricted, with around two in five adults yet to receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the vast majority yet to get both.
What the Prime Minister said
The Prime Minister urged caution during the "major step forward" as a scientist advising the Government warned the rules must be followed to minimise a possible rebound in case numbers.
"I'm sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it's a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed," Mr Johnson said.
"I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember 'hands, face, space and fresh air' to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme."
The fanfare for the easing of restrictions has been muted by the national mourning for the Duke of Edinburgh.
Mr Johnson postponed his celebratory pint and Government communications have been pared back to essential messages after Philip's death on Friday at the age of 99.
What’s happening elsewhere in the UK
Meanwhile, Wales will also enjoy renewed freedoms from Monday, with non-essential retail reopening and border restrictions eased to permit travel again with the rest of the UK and Ireland.
Remaining school pupils will return to face-to-face teaching in Wales and Northern Ireland, in moves being echoed in Scotland as pupils return from their Easter breaks.
The "stay at home" order in Northern Ireland will also end as the number of people permitted to meet outdoors rises from six to 10.
‘The watchword has got to be caution’
Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told Times Radio: "The watchword has got to be caution really.
"It's not clear exactly when or how big it will be, but there is, I think, inevitably going to be a bit of a rebound in the number of cases when things are relaxed."
The Oxford University academic said the vaccination programme will minimise hospital admissions and deaths but warned it will not be completely effective.
"Now the extent of it really depends on how well we comply with the ongoing restrictions so we really have to take this step by step," he added.
"I think we can be joyful and enjoy the freedoms but we've still got to realise there's still a large number of people who've not been infected or vaccinated and so they will be at risk."
The next step in lockdown easing
The next significant date is May 17, when socialising indoors will be permitted under the "rule of six" - if the Prime Minister judges that the vaccination programme is safely breaking the link between infections and deaths.
After three months of full national lockdown, the Government said on Sunday that a further seven people had died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. Another 1,730 lab-confirmed cases were also announced.
Around 61% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to official figures suggesting that more than 32 million people have received a jab. More than 14% have had both doses.
Mr Johnson welcomed a "record-breaking day" for second doses after figures reported on Sunday stated a rise of 475,230 jabs.