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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed "optimism" about reopening shops and pubs to the public once lockdown has first been lifted to get kids back in schools.
The UK has been trapped in a lockdown all year so far following spikes in Covid-19 cases during December and January.
With infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths all dropping – and a target of getting 15 million vaccinated by February 15 set – it is hopeful a “roadmap” out of lockdown is soon to be revealed.
The 56-year-old Prime Minister is expected to announced the route out of lockdown on or from February 22 – and it is hoped an end to restrictions on shops and hospitality will be part of the announcement.
The Sun reports Mr Johnson is set to “priorities” the reopening of such establishments after getting kids back in schools – which have been shut since January 5.
Speaking from the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies plant in Billingham, Teesside, where the new Novavax vaccine is to be manufactured, the Prime Minister said: "I'm optimistic, I won't hide it from you.
"I'm optimistic, but we have to be cautious."
Reports have stated the government intends to see schools reopened on March 8 and hospitality to follow.
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Mr Johnson said: "Our children's education is our number one priority, but then working forward, getting non-essential retail open as well and then, in due course, as and when we can prudently, cautiously, of course we want to be opening hospitality as well.
"I will be trying to set out as much as I possibly can in as much detail as I can, always understanding that we have to be wary of the pattern of disease.
"We don't want to be forced into any kind of retreat or reverse ferret."
The coronavirus R number – which is used to estimate the rate of spread of infections – was revealed on Friday to have dropped to its lowest level since July 2020.
It is hoped if the number continues to drop or stay at an “acceptable level” then non-essential shops could reopen by the end of March.
While reports at the end of the week suggested that pubs and restaurants may be able to open and serve food and drinks outdoors from April.
Meanwhile, it is expected the 15 million vaccinations target will be hit today.
Figures on Saturday showed 14,012,224 doses of the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines had been distributed across the UK – although the figure didn’t include 503,116 injections that had been given on Thursday.
The rate of vaccinations has led some scientists, including Government scientific adviser Professor Neil Ferguson, to suggest lockdown restrictions could be eased in stages every three weeks.
- Boris Johnson
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