Ministers meeting TODAY to finalise Boris's lockdown roadmap

Ministers hold top-level meeting TODAY to finalise Boris Johnson’s lockdown roadmap before it is revealed tomorrow – as ex-PM Tony Blair ‘lobbies on behalf of airlines to get vaccine passports for foreign holidays into the plans’

  • Senior Cabinet figures will join the Prime Minister on a call this afternoon 
  • They include Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak 
  • Cabinet will sign it off in morning and PM will then present it to the Commons 

Boris Johnson and his senior ministers will meet this afternoon to finalise his roapmap for getting the nation out of lockdown before it is unveiled to the public tomorrow.

Senior Cabinet figures will join the Prime Minister on a call this afternoon to hammer out the last details of the plan that will shape the next few months in England.

Mr Johnson and top ministers including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak will meet to sign off the final details, with the wider Cabinet rubber-stamping the plan tomorrow morning. 

The Prime Minister will then present the roadmap to the Commons before addressing the nation in a televised press conference in the afternoon.

The long-awaited move will provide some certainty for a county that has been wilting since the new year under its third lockdown in a year.

It is expected that children will return to school on March 8, just two weeks’ time, with further measures in the following weeks and months.

 It came amid reports that former Prime Minister Tony Blair has been lobbying on behalf of the travel industry to get ‘vaccine passports’ for foreign travel into the plans.

LBC radio reported that the ex-Labour leader has been working on behalf of BA, Heathrow and Saga on the plans, which ministers have accepted will be required for Britons to visit many countries in the future.

In other developments:

  • Prof John Edmunds said the vaccine rollout should turn to children ‘as fast as we can’, saying there will ‘continue to be major disruption in schools until we have vaccinated our children’.
  • An announcement on the vaccine priority order for under-50s is expected to be made this week, Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said.
  • Mr Hancock declined to apologise amid calls for greater accountability after the High Court ruled that the Government unlawfully failed to publish details of billions of pounds’ worth of coronavirus-related contracts.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the pandemic has ‘stripped the paper off the cracks’ in society and people need to have confidence that the ‘road map’ out of lockdown will be delivered.
  • Surge testing is to be rolled out in Brentwood, Essex, after a case of the South Africa coronavirus variant was found. People living in the area are ‘strongly encouraged’ to take a test when offered, whether or not they have any symptoms of the virus.

Senior Cabinet figures will join the Prime Minister on a call this afternoon to hammer out the last details of the plan that will shape the next few months in England.

Mr Johnson and top ministers including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak will meet to sign off the final details, with the wider Cabinet rubber-stamping the plan tomorrow morning.

While speculation is rife about when various straps on the straitjacket stifling life will be lifted, ministers have so far provided little insight into what can be expected.

Apart from schools, Matt Hancock today confirmed plans to speed up  the vaccination programme so all adults have received at least one does by the end of July.

But asked about further measures on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday he replied: Well, it’s very tempting, Sophy, to say more about what the Prime Minister is going to announce tomorrow but it hasn’t been fully signed off yet. 

‘After this I’m going to go and keep working on the details of that and you’ll understand why I’ll reserve what I say on that until the Prime Minister sets out the full details tomorrow.’

It came as it was revealed Matt Hancock has ‘stopped talking’ to Tony Blair amid accusations that the former Prime Minister pinched Government anti-Covid ideas to pass them off as his own, it was claimed last night.

The Health Secretary is said to be livid after two key proposals allegedly mentioned in private conversations – an initial priority one-jab vaccine policy and mass testing – later emerged as Mr Blair’s own suggestions.

A well-placed Government source told The Mail on Sunday that Mr Hancock had now broken off contact with the 67-year-old ex-premier – who yesterday posted a picture of himself receiving his Covid jab on Twitter – over the breaches.

The source said: ‘Matt was briefing Blair as a courtesy to a previous Prime Minister. But he cottoned on that Blair was milking these conversations.

‘And that’s when Hancock said, ‘I’m not going to talk to you any more.’ ‘

Tory MPs have also privately complained at the way ‘Tony Blair appears to be going round still pretending he is PM’.

Mr Hancock side-stepped the issue today, telling Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘I talk to all of the former Prime Ministers, as you would imagine, because these are very difficult circumstances we’re in. I talk to all of them and try to get advice from wherever I can.’

The Health Secretary is said to be livid after two key proposals allegedly mentioned in private conversations later emerged as Mr Blair’s own suggestions. Pictured: Blair getting his vaccine

A third of all adults in England have now been vaccinated against coronavirus, Mr Hancock revealed today – as he insisted that the lifting of the lockdown must be done carefully.

The Health Secretary revealed that one-in-three people over 16 had now been given on of the life-saving jabs, a boost to the country ahead of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown that will be unveiled tomorrow. 

Mr Hancock confirmed this morning that every adult in the country will be offered at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of July.

The Government previously said it hoped to reach all those aged 18 and over by the autumn, but Mr Johnson aims to greatly accelerate the successful campaign.

Mr Hancock also confirmed that everyone over 50 will be offered at least a first dose by April 15, rather than by May, as previously suggested.  

But he warned that the Government would take its time lifting the coronavirus lockdown, saying it was ‘right to be cautious’ with 20,000 people still in hospital.

Speaking to Times Radio today he said coronavirus restrictions will be eased with ‘weeks between the steps’, suggesting that after schools reopen on March 8 there may be few other changes before April.   

Mr Hancock also said social distancing measures and the wearing of face coverings is likely to remain for a while.

Asked earlier bout the speed of the lockdown lifting, he told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday: ‘It is right to be cautious, it is incredibly important. There are still almost 20,000 people in the hospital with Covid right now. Almost 20,000.

‘The vaccination programme whilst clearly going very well, will take time to be able to reach all people who have significant vulnerability, especially because we also need to get the second jab to everybody.

‘So we have got time that needs to be taken to get this right, the PM will set out the roadmap tomorrow and he will set out the full details, taking into account that we need to take a cautious but irreversible approach, that’s the goal.’ 

However, former Tory chief whip Mark Harper, who leads the Covid Recovery Group, this morning repeated his call for all restrictions be lifted by the end of April, once the most vulnerable groups had been vaccinated under the new timetable. 

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