UK PM Johnson: No decisions on exact date of opening of schools

The minister hinted that people would be able to exercise their own discretion on whether to stick to social distancing

The minister hinted that people would be able to exercise their own discretion on whether to stick to social distancing

Those rapid tests would help "the toughest nuts to crack" including nightclubs and some theatres which had been unable to open past year, he said.

Boris Johnson said he aims to cautiously lift restrictions in an "irreversible" manner, but conceded he can not offer a "cast iron guarantee" that England's third national lockdown will be its last.

"So I think it's in the context of ... having vaccinated a lot of the population, as we're already doing - and we'll do a lot more of in the next few months - that the rapid test approach will start, I think, to come into its own".

Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England said the United Kingdom is now in its "second sprint" of the coronavirus vaccine rollout after reaching the 15 million target.

He added he wants England's third lockdown to be the last, with progress out of restrictions "to be cautious but also irreversible".

The NHS boss welcomed the achievement of vaccinating the top four priority groups, but he warned reaching the milestone does not mean "mission accomplished".

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But he told a Downing Street press conference: "What we are thinking of at the moment is more of a route that relies on mass vaccination - we intend to vaccinate all of the adults in the country by the autumn - plus lateral flow testing".

While stating that nothing is now set in stone, Johnson said: "We'll look at everything, but what we're thinking of at the moment is more of a route that relies on mass vaccination (we intend to vaccinate all adults in the country by the autumn) plus lateral flow testing, or rapid testing, for those bits that are "the toughest nuts to crack" - theatres or nightclubs, for example - areas of the economy that we couldn't get to open past year".

"If we possibly can, we will be setting out target dates for earliest reopening".

When he announced the current lockdown on January 4, he had only said he hoped "we can steadily move out of lockdown" if "our understanding of the virus doesn't change dramatically again", "if the rollout of the vaccine continues to be successful", "if deaths start to fall as the vaccine takes effect", and "if everyone plays their part by following the rules".

"In which case we then redesign the vaccine - scientists redesign the vaccine - and that allows us to revaccinate against the new variant".

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