Yesterday, the Prime Minister confirmed that, having continued to meet the four tests, the UK will move to Step Two on our cautious roadmap – reopening shops, gyms, zoos, personal care services, outdoor hospitality and increasing the number of visitors to care homes from one to two on 12 April.
However, as set out in the roadmap, the success of the UK’s vaccination programme does not provide universal protection. In view of this we have established four programmes of work to consider different aspects of how we should handle COVID-19 from summer onwards. These reviews are looking at COVID-status certification, international travel, large events and social distancing to ensure a consistent approach that protects the health of the public, communities and our economy. You can read the update to those reviews here.
We set out our roadmap and we’re sticking to it but we must remain cautious by monitoring the data at every stage and by following the rules: remembering hands, face, space and fresh air - that we hope together will make this roadmap to freedom irreversible. For more information on what restrictions have been lifted in Step Two of the roadmap, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-2021/covid-19-response-spring-2021#roadmap.
The Government has announced further support for businesses who have been forced to close due to the pandemic, as we continue to protect jobs and support businesses across the country. The Recovery Loan Scheme launches today.
As we safely reopen parts of our economy, our new Recovery Loan Scheme will deliver loans of between £25,000 and £10 million to ensure that businesses have access to the finance they need as we move out of this crisis. There is now a light at the end of the tunnel and our latest support will ensure we are protecting jobs and businesses so that we can build back better. For more information on the Government-backed Recovery Loan Scheme, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/recovery-loan-scheme-launches-today.
The Government has also announced twice weekly, free, rapid testing will be available to everyone in England- from 9 April – helping to suppress and control the spread of the virus as we reopen our society.
As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted. That is why we are now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England – helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.
Massive efforts have been made by the British public to stop the spread of the virus and regular testing will help keep us all safe as we reopen and return to normality. For more information on the recently announced twice weekly rapid testing that is available to everyone in England, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/twice-weekly-rapid-testing-to-be-available-to-everyone-in-england.
Our vaccination programme has so far been an extraordinary success, we have administered 37 million vaccines across the UK – with over 31.5 million people across the UK now having received their first dose. More than half of all adults across our United Kingdom have now received their first dose. More than 50 per cent of over-80-year-olds have now received their second jab – delivering protection to the most vulnerable in our society.
We are now urging all people aged 50 and over to book their COVID jab in the next few days, to ensure that they receive the vaccine before a reduction in supplies next month. We will also continue to do all it takes to reach those in the most vulnerable groups who haven’t come forward yet.
Following advice from the JCVI, we are prioritising household contacts of the severely immunosuppressed for vaccination. This group of people will be vaccinated alongside priority group 6 in phase 1 of the vaccination programme.
To book or manage your coronavirus vaccination, please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/.