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Foreign holidays could trigger ANOTHER UK-wide lockdown, experts warn

Letting Brits go on holiday to Europe this summer may trigger another lockdown in the UK, according to scientists advising Number 10 who have warned a third wave is inevitable when restrictions are relaxed.

Boris Johnson promised his ‘roadmap’ back to normality will end restrictions ‘once and for all’ in June, as Britain today marks a year since life all but ground to a halt.

But SAGE scientists say coronavirus cases are sure to surge when restrictions are lifted for good and warn trips abroad over the summer could jeopardise the UK’s chance of a permanent recovery even more. 

Professor Kamlesh Khunti, from the University of Leicester, urged Britons not to book holidays abroad ‘until next year’ because of the spiralling third wave in Europe.

Speaking about the early days of the pandemic he told The Guardian: ‘We had people coming in from Spain and Italy and that increased the rates in the UK… We cannot allow that now. Does this risk another lockdown? Absolutely.’ 

And fellow SAGE member Professor Calum Semple said Britain could expect a third wave in July or August, even if it doesn’t loosen international travel rules.

The hope is the third wave will mostly be confined to young people with a low risk of severe Covid or death and that hospitals will be able to cope without a lockdown. Mr Johnson said he had accepted more people would die, because not everyone would get a vaccine and the jabs won’t be 100 per cent effective, but Britain must take the plunge at some point or face never-ending social distancing.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock echoed Mr Johnson’s warning that Europe’s infection surge could seep into Britain and said today ‘we need, permanently, to be ready for another pandemic’. He said the UK would be ‘cautious’ about travel.

It comes after Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel last night revealed the country will lock down again over Easter, saying the spread of the UK variant there is ‘like a new pandemic’. 

Brits’ hopes for foreign holidays this summer were dealt another blow today, after British Airways and easyJet cancelled flights for July and August. And Downing St announced that from Monday it will introduce a £5,000 fine for rule-breakers caught taking an illegal foreign break during lockdown.  

Professor Calum Semple, also on SAGE, said the continent's rising cases amid low vaccination rates was the 'perfect breeding ground' for new troublesome variants

Professor Kamlesh Khunti, from SAGE, urged Britons not to book holidays abroad ‘until next year’, saying they risked importing dangerous variants. Professor Calum Semple, also on SAGE, said the continent’s rising cases amid low vaccination rates was the ‘perfect breeding ground’ for new troublesome variants

Coronavirus cases are surging again in some parts of Europe, which could make ministers hesitant to reopen Britain's borders this summer

Coronavirus cases are surging again in some parts of Europe, which could make ministers hesitant to reopen Britain’s borders this summer

Germany is one of several European countries facing tough new lockdown measures as cases spike amid a stalled vaccine roll-out that has left people unprotected

Germany is one of several European countries facing tough new lockdown measures as cases spike amid a stalled vaccine roll-out that has left people unprotected

‘At this point, Britain has got its act together,’ Professor Semple said on Sky News today.  

‘The concern is, as this third wave is going on elsewhere, that will generate new variations.

‘Even within Britain there is a likelihood of a third wave in potentially July and August time when we do unlock society.’

Professor Khunti, from the University of Leicester, warned ministers summer holidays could ‘jeopardise’ Britain’s low case numbers.

‘It’s been a hard lockdown, we are doing so well, we cannot jeopardise this now,’ he said. 

‘Our rates are coming down, our vaccination rate is fantastic, and the biggest fear we have is new variants that the vaccines don’t work as well against.’

The PM, who will hold a national minute’s silence at noon to remember the 126,000 people who have died during the pandemic, yesterday warned Europe’s third wave will inevitably ‘wash up on our shores’.

Government scientists have suggested a ‘traffic light system’ could be deployed to allow holidays this summer, with trips only permitted to countries with low infection rates, no variant risk, and high vaccine uptake. 

The threat of new variants of the virus is one of the biggest concerns scientists have about international travel, as well as the risk of importing large numbers of cases.

Britain has already launched extra testing in dozens of postcodes to stamp out cases of the South African and Brazilian variants, which could make jabs less effective.

Public Health England figures showed there have been 351 and 55 cases of the variants, respectively, which scientists say suggests that neither has managed to gain a foothold in the country.

Government makes holidays illegal and bring in £5,000 fines from Monday

Travellers face a £5,000 fine for going abroad on holiday when a ban on leaving the UK without ‘reasonable excuse’ comes into force on Monday.

The threat of fines has been extended until the end of June, making foreign summer holidays look increasingly unlikely as a third wave of coronavirus sweeps across Europe.

And France is likely to be added to a ‘red list’ of countries requiring hotel quarantine by the end of the week.

Health officials are increasingly concerned by a surge in cases of the South African Covid variant across the Channel.

A senior minister even suggested the whole of the Continent could be put on the red list because of the botched vaccine rollout.

Quarantine-free holidays may not be possible until August, killing off hopes of trips abroad until late summer. 

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. It can be no sooner than May 17 under Mr Johnson’s official roadmap.

That might mean the need to quarantine after foreign trips would stay in place until at least August.

But on the continent cases of the South African strain are rising rapidly, with it already making up 10 to 15 per cent of all new infections in France alone.

This raises the spectre they could spread rapidly should Europe fail to get a handle on cases ahead of the summer, which scientists say could spark another lockdown.

They add that rising infections in the face of low vaccination rates also risk the emergence of new dangerous variants, as it gives the virus time to learn tricks to avoid vaccine-triggered immunity. 

Matt Hancock spoke on Sky News this morning when he described Covid as an ‘international challenge’ and said: ‘The questions of whether people are going to be able to travel abroad this summer are going to be addressed by the global travel taskforce, which is reporting around the 12th of April, so the middle of next month.

‘The roadmap sets out that the earliest date by which we will allow for international travel without one of the reasons you need now is the 17th of May – that has not changed…

‘It is too early to know where the global travel taskforce will come out, and know what the decision will be for the 17th of May, and the reason for that is that we are seeing this third wave rising in some parts of Europe.

‘We’re also seeing new variants and it is very important that we protect the progress that we’ve been able to make here in the UK, where we have now one of the lowest rates.’

The Health Secretary added: ‘What we have to do is to all work as much as we can together, but it also shows why we’re being cautious on international travel – because we’ve seen those waves come before; we saw the first and then the second and they both ended up here.’ 

Professor Semple, an epidemiologist at the University of Liverpool, warned Britain’s third wave – which experts say may hit as early as July – will likely initially be focused in young people who are ‘less susceptible to very severe disease’. 

‘It’s inevitable as we unlock there will be an rise in cases,’ he said.

‘(But) the key here is have we won the race to vaccinate the most vulnerable members of society so we can keep society open this time.’

Professor Neil Ferguson, however, whose scary predictions of thousands of deaths spooked ministers into the first lockdown, said modelling suggested this lockdown could really be Britain’s last.

Multiple variants that emerged in other countries are now circulating in the UK, with those from South Africa and Brazil most concerning to scientists and ministers

Multiple variants that emerged in other countries are now circulating in the UK, with those from South Africa and Brazil most concerning to scientists and ministers

Boris Johnson has placed vaccine uptake rates at the heart of his lockdown exit strategy, but warned the spread of new variants could derail his plans

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the UK should be permanently ready for pandemics

Boris Johnson has placed vaccine uptake rates at the heart of his lockdown exit strategy, but warned the spread of new variants could derail his plans. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the UK should be permanently ready for pandemics

‘The team at Imperial and I have spent the last few months modelling vaccination and new variants,’ he wrote in The Telegraph.

‘The next few months require continued vigilance, but I am hopeful this third lockdown will really be the last.’ 

BA and easyJet axe flights 

Hopes for foreign holidays this summer have been dealt a fresh blow after British Airways and easyJet scrapped more flights.

Passengers were left dismayed by the latest round of cancellations that include trips in July and August – after overseas travel is scheduled to resume on May 17.

British Airways insists the cancellations were not due to the evolving situation with the pandemic but a routine scale-back of flights to reflect the view of IATA, the airline trade body, that foreign travel will not resume to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.

The pared-back routes include fewer flights to Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden.

Sources played down the flight cuts as ‘business as usual’ – and suggested more could be added in the future if there is scope.

Yet would-be holidaymakers were exasperated that flights they had booked for after lockdown were being axed.

Experts warn Britain may face a third wave of the disease this summer, as more restrictions are relaxed and cases are expected to rise.

Although thought to be worse over the winter, the virus can also spread rapidly during the summer months. South Africa, for example, endured its second wave at its hottest time of year.

The Prime Minister has warned he will slam the brakes onto his roadmap should cases rise in a way that could spark more hospitalisations and deaths from Covid.

Mr Johnson has also not ruled out imposing tighter curbs on local areas to contain the spread of the disease. 

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said the UK must be ‘permanently ready’ for all future pandemics.

Speaking to Sky News he said: ‘We need to be permanently in future, permanently to be ready for another pandemic.

‘That is a fact of life and it is something that we need to be prepared for and we need to make sure that all of the “learnings” and all of the scientific improvements are understood and that we are properly ready.’

He added: ‘We get people saying can you go faster, can’t you open up international travel quicker, and also some people saying can’t you go slower.

‘But I think the general population think that it’s about the right pace, and the best science thinks this is about the right pace.’

Mr Johnson has promised to hold an inquiry into mistakes made at the start of the pandemic, to ensure Britain learns from its errors, but a date is yet to be set. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has today called on the Government to launch the public inquiry as early as June, when the Prime Minister’s roadmap is set to end.

The law says no-one may 'leave England to travel to a destination outside the United Kingdom, or travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom' without a reasonable excuse

The law says no-one may ‘leave England to travel to a destination outside the United Kingdom, or travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom’ without a reasonable excuse

Foreign holidays have been dealt a fresh blow after British Airways and easyJet scrapped more summer flights.

Passengers were left dismayed by the latest round of cancellations that include trips in July and August – after overseas travel is scheduled to resume on May 17.

Europe is grappling with surging cases and yesterday a UK health minister warned the entire Continent could be put on the ‘red list’ of countries requiring hotel quarantine.

And the Government announced today it will introduce a £5,000 fine for rule-breakers caught taking an illegal foreign break during.

British Airways insists the cancellations were not due to the evolving situation with the pandemic but a routine scale-back of flights to reflect the view of IATA, the airline trade body, that foreign travel will not resume to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.

The pared-back routes include fewer flights to Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden.

Sources played down the flight cuts as ‘business as usual’ – and suggested more could be added in the future if there is scope.

Yet would-be holidaymakers were exasperated that flights they had booked for after lockdown were even being scrapped.

One said: ‘I’m getting welcome back emails so booked flights in good faith having had my first vaccine dose.

‘Yesterday two were cancelled for mid July. Today, another cancelled for mid August. This is absolutely ridiculous, you either want passengers back or you don’t!’

People on Twitter also complained that their flights had been cancelled by easyJet.

Prince Charles calls on Britons to ‘remember the lives tragically cut short’ when UK stands in silence at 12pm TODAY on first anniversary of lockdown – as Boris Johnson vows to end national shutdowns ‘once and for all’

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 will hold 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.’ 

As Britain marks and reflects a year since the unprecedented first national lockdown, it also emerged today:

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’

Shelves were emptied on the night lockdown was announced  (Tesco in Sheffield pictured) as Britons rushed to stock up on essentials after being told told stay at home

Shelves were emptied on the night lockdown was announced  (Tesco in Sheffield pictured) as Britons rushed to stock up on essentials after being told told stay at home

The NHS was also hit by a shortage of PPE that led to a rush to find people who could provide masks, gloves and gowns. Some staff were forced to use bin liners

The NHS was also hit by a shortage of PPE that led to a rush to find people who could provide masks, gloves and gowns. Some staff were forced to use bin liners

In an echo of Clap for Carers (pictured), Brits are being encouraged to gather on their doorsteps today at 8pm, but instead bring out candles, torches and their phones to create a 'Beacon of Remembrance'

In an echo of Clap for Carers (pictured), Brits are being encouraged to gather on their doorsteps today at 8pm, but instead bring out candles, torches and their phones to create a ‘Beacon of Remembrance’

Lockdown a year on: Key dates in one of the most painful years in British history 

– 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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