The Prime Minister is due to give an update later this month on how the lockdown will be lifted in England.
Boris Johnson has warned that it is “still early days” to start talking about opening up society as reports suggested pubs might not fully open until May.
Mr Johnson has committed to setting out a “road map” later this month for easing restrictions as he faces pressure from Conservative MPs to relax the current lockdown once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated.
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Downing Street confirmed on Friday that the vaccine programme planned to reach all those aged 50 and over, as well as adults aged 16-65 in an at-risk group, by May.
Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group – made up of lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs, said it would be “almost impossible to justify having any restrictions in place at all” by the time the top nine groups had been inoculated.
The former chief whip also asked the Prime Minister to consider getting pupils back into classrooms this month rather than delay until his target date of March 8.
The Telegraph said the prospect of dry pubs was being discussed as an option to allow bars to open their doors in April.
But a senior Government source was dismissive about the idea, saying: “We are not going to open pubs that can’t sell booze. What would be the point of that?”
And Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow minister for business and consumers, said: “These half measures would be deeply damaging for pubs and hospitality.
“Rather than forcing them to open but not sell alcohol, the Government should protect jobs and businesses by making the furlough scheme smart and giving businesses access to the emergency support they need – keeping it in place until necessary measures are lifted.
“Ideas like this could see Covid cases rise and business thrown under the bus needlessly.
“The vaccine gives us a way out – the last thing businesses need now is ridiculous speculation about reopening under unviable terms.”
Meanwhile, Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, told Times Radio that he believed reinstating the rule of six allowing people to meet outdoors should be “definitely encouraged” around the same time as primary schools begin to return.
Asked about whether private gardens were safer than outdoor pubs or restaurants, he said: “My personal view, and I’m not speaking for anyone here, is actually sometimes a beer garden is more controlled than people’s homes and gardens.
“Generally most establishments are well behaved and I think they clean the tables and people keep their distance and I see no reason why we couldn’t move towards that in places that are well set up for it.”
As well as differing reports about when and how the hospitality sector could start up again, there was confusion over whether the Government would provide “vaccine passports” to allow those who had received both jabs to travel abroad for their holidays in the summer.
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the Government would work with other countries to “help facilitate” coronavirus immunity passports if they are required by destinations abroad.
Downing Street has been adamant that it does not plan to issue so-called “vaccine passports” to allow people to travel once they have had both doses of a vaccine .
But with countries such as Greece stating that they will waive quarantine requirements for those who have been jabbed, ministers are facilitating a way in which UK residents with protection can travel once the lockdown is over.
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Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, asked about whether the Government was considering issuing immunity passports, told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “No, we’re not. One, we don’t know the impact of the vaccines on transmission.
“Two, it would be discriminatory and I think the right thing to do is to make sure that people come forward to be vaccinated because they want to rather than it be made in some way mandatory through a passport.
“If other countries obviously require some form of proof, then you can ask your GP because your GP will hold your records and that will then be able to be used as your proof you’ve had the vaccine.
“But we are not planning to have a passport in the UK.”
In a sign that the current restrictions are working, the reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK fell to between 0.7 and 1, according to the latest Government figures – down from between 0.7 and 1.1 last week.
It has been suggested that, with falling case numbers, lockdown easing could pave the way for outdoor team and individual sports to resume, as well as outdoor gatherings, within weeks of schools returning in March.
In a video posted on Twitter on Friday, Mr Johnson reiterated his promise to announce a “steady programme for beginning to unlock” in just over two weeks’ time, but warned it was “still early days” and urged the public to continue following lockdown rules.
He said: “I want to stress that it is still early days and we have rates of infection in this country (that are) still very, very high and (have) more people – almost twice as many people – in our hospitals with Covid now than there were back at the peak in April.”
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