Johnson sets out lockdown exit plan

After imposing one of the strictest lockdowns in the western world in January to counter a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus, Johnson said Britain was now in a position to enjoy the fruits of one of the world's fastest vaccine programs.

Starting in two weeks with the reopening of schools, the phased plan will go through four stages, with at least five weeks in between each stage. The final step, when most restrictions will be lifted, will not start until June 21 at the earliest.

With almost 130,000 fatalities, Britain has suffered the world's fifth-highest official death toll from the pandemic and its economy has seen its biggest crash in over 300 years.

But in two months it has already managed to provide an initial vaccine dose to more than a quarter of the population, the fastest rollout of any big country, making it a test case for governments worldwide hoping to return life to normal.

Video Transcript

BORIS JOHNSON: Nearly a year after this pandemic began, this unparalleled national effort has decisively shifted the odds in our favor so that we no longer have to rely simply on lockdowns and restricting our behavior and putting our lives on hold. But with every day that goes by, this program of vaccination is creating a shield around the entire population, which means that we're now traveling on a one-way road to freedom.

And therefore, as we look at the data today, I can confirm that two weeks from today, Monday the 8th of March, we will begin step 1. And schools and colleges across England will reopen. And teaching in classrooms can start again.

And on the 29th of March, you can meet more of your friends and family outside, including in gardens, either as two households or subject to the rule of six.

And then we'll go on to step 2, which is no earlier than the 12th of April. And this is a big moment because shops will return and reopen. Hairdressers, nail salons will reopen. Pubs and restaurants will all be able to serve customers outside precisely because we know that outside, the risk of transmission is lower.

And then five weeks after that, no earlier than May the 17th, we'll go to step 3 and open all our hospitality sector to service indoors-- pubs, bars, restaurants, along with hotels and cinemas. And subject to capacity limits, we will also open sports stadia, concert halls, and theaters.

Provided we continue to pass the four tests, then from the 21st of June, we will go to step 4 and say goodbye to most remaining restrictions.

But, you know, I'm a-- I don't believe that this is going to mean a fundamental change to the way our life in our big cities really works. And I think that London, our great cities, will be full of buzz and life and excitement again provided people have confidence about coming back into those cities. And I think that our great cities will bounce back, along with the rest of the economy, once we've got this road map delivered.