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Boris Johnson plan aims to return life to ‘close to normal’ by Easter



Plans to be outlined by Boris Johnson for after the national lockdown in England ends will aim to get the country on the path to normality by Easter as potential vaccination programmes get set to begin, according to briefings in the Sunday papers.

On Monday, the Prime Minister is set to announce a tougher three-tiered system for England after lockdown restrictions end on 2 December, in order to safeguard the gains made during the past few weeks of strict rules.

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The “Covid winter plan” is also expected to explain how people will be able to spend Christmas with family this year and include updated rules for pubs and bars.

A government source told The Sunday Times: “This is the plan to get us through to Easter when hopefully we will have vaccines in people’s arms. That will allow us to get life back to something close to normal.”

With vaccines on the horizon, ministers are optimistic that restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring.

Providing vaccines are approved by regulators, the plan is for the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.

‘Covid passports’

There are also reportedly plans in the works for “Covid passports” to be introduced for those who have been vaccinated, which could allow them more freedoms such as being able to meet others or go to work, according to The Sunday Times.

The restrictions to be set out by Mr Johnson in the winter plan are reportedly expected to be loosened for a few days over the Christmas period across the whole of the UK to allow more people to see their families.

The tiers are then expected to be reinstated until around March.

Covid vaccines are on the horizon (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

However, ministers have been clear that some restrictions will stay in place and Christmas and the rest of the holiday season will be different to normal this year.

The 10pm closing time for pubs and bars which was in place in many areas before the national lockdown came into force, will be amended under the winter plan.

It is understood that the new rules will mean venues have to call last orders at 10pm but customers will have until 11pm to finish their food and drink.

Decisions as to which tier each area is placed into is expected to be made on Thursday, using the latest Covid data.

The Government announced a further 341 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 54,626.

Rebellion

It is also expected that there could be a rebellion from backbench Tory MPs who are opposed to new restrictions.

During a vote on the current four-week system earlier this month, 32 Conservatives rebelled to oppose the measures and 17 more, including former prime minister Theresa May, abstained.

Subsequently, the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker has formed to resist new measures.

On Sunday the CRG warned that they “cannot support” a tiered approach unless the Government produces evidence to show measures “will save more lives than they cost”.

The Prime Minister is expecting a possible rebellion (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The warning against the measures inflicting “huge health and economic costs” came in a letter to the Prime Minister, which sources close to the group said had been signed by 70 Conservative MPs, though the group’s leaders were the only signatories identified.

Downing Street will hope an easing at Christmas, potential vaccines on the horizon and new scientific evidence will lessen the scale of a rebellion, with the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) expected to publish papers on Monday stating that the previous tiers were not strong enough.

But the CRG letter said: “We cannot live under such a series of damaging lockdowns and apparently arbitrary restrictions, and expect our constituents to be grateful for being let out to enjoy the festive season, only to have strict restrictions imposed on them afterwards that cause them health problems and destroy their livelihood.”

Meanwhile, a Labour spokesman said “we will look closely at any proposals the Government brings forward” but called for “proper packages of support” for businesses that are unable to fully reopen.

Additional reporting by Press Association