Prime Minister Boris Johnson has officially announced the government’s ‘roadmap’ to take the country out of lockdown in 2021.
The PM made the much-anticipated statement on February 22 – seven weeks after reintroducing national restrictions in England for a third time.
Johnson previously said his intention was to adopt a “cautious and prudent” approach for removing measures, claiming this exit strategy was designed in such a way as to be “irreversible”.
The roadmap will see the economy open over a number of weeks, lifting measures for separate sectors at four different stages.
June 21 is being touted as the date on which social contact limits will be completely lifted.
Two people will also be able to meet outdoors socially from March 8.
Rules around social mixing will be relaxed further from March 29 – with two families or groups of up to six people permitted to gather outdoors.
The ‘stay at home’ rule will also be removed from March 29.
School pupils in England will return from March 8.
Outdoor sports – such as golf and tennis – will return from March 29.
Sports venues, such as football stadiums, will stay shut to spectators for the time being with games continuing to take place behind closed doors. There is a plan for fans to return from May.
Non-essential retail – including gyms and hairdressers – may resume trading from April 12.
Public buildings will also open from this date.
Pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels
Outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will be allowed to reopen from April 12.
The preliminary date for the resumption of indoor service at pubs, bars and restaurants in England is May 17.
Hotels will also be able to resume trading from this date.
Nightclubs are expected to open by June 21 – along with all remaining sectors.
Travel abroad could be allowed from May 17, dependent on the data.
Johnson has repeatedly stated he would be guided by the data in lifting lockdown – which could result in swift alterations being made to the roadmap if coronavirus cases stop falling.
However, if the current plan succeeds, most social curbs in England will be lifted by the end of June.
More than 17 million have now received a coronavirus vaccination – with all adults expected to be offered a jab by July 31 at the current pace of the rollout.
‘Significant risk’ of UK gas shortages this winter, regulator warns
Energy regulator Ofgem has warned that the UK faces a ‘significant risk’ of gas shortages this winter.
According to reports in The Times, the regulator has unveiled concerns that the country could face blackouts over the coming months thanks to an undersupply of gas to Europe caused by Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Warning that a “gas supply emergency” could be looming ahead, the energy regulator has said that some gas-fired power plants could see their supplies cut off, which in turn would stop generators from producing electricity.
The alert comes just days before an expected update from the National Grid on the likelihood of countrywide power cuts this winter.
Responsing to arequest from SSE, which owns several gas power stations, Ofgem outlined what is set to be a huge issue of concern given that the UK relies on large gas plants to produce the biggest share of its electricity supply.
The regulator also pointed to rules that could see power plants penalised as a result of shortages, warning of a worst-case scenario that would see the “potential insolvency of gas-fired generators” caused by rules that require plants to pay huge charges if they fail to deliver on promised quotas.
Adding that the issue must be addressed to prevent a “significant impact on the safety and security of the electricity and/or gas systems”, the regulator echoed concerns now widespread in Europe as its comments followed a similar statement made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) this morning.
Europeans are already being told they must lower their thermostats and boilers in preparation in case gas supplies are cut off, with Paris-based agency IEA warning today that the EU must focus on getting underground gas reserve levels to 90% of capacity in case of a complete Russian supply shut-off.
Preparation are already being made in Europe with the German government having approved a set of energy-saving measures for the winter to limit use in public buildings. In France, meanwhile, companies have already been warned they may face energy rationing this winter.
Whilst the UK government is yet to announce any energey saving measures, Ofgem has said that it expect s“this winter to be more challenging than last year” and that it is taking “reasonable regulatory steps to mitigate and reduce the risks”.