PUBS and restaurants will be able to serve outdoors in April if Covid cases continue to fall, The Sun can reveal.
The reopening of hospitality is being fast-tracked in a major boost to the blighted sector — and thirsty Brits.
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A government source said: “We will hopefully be sipping pints in the spring sunshine sooner rather than later.”
The good news came as the UK’s Covid R rate fell below one nationwide for the first time since last July.
And there was more good news, with the UK expecting to smash its target of offering a jab to all 15 million of the most vulnerable Brits before Monday.
Sports fans could also be sent Covid tests along with their tickets so they can watch major events including the Euros and Wimbledon again this summer.
Boris Johnson and nearly 30 of his ministers will today visit vaccination centres across the country in a final push for the over-70s.
Scientists said yesterday the official R rate is between 0.7 and 0.9 — the first time since last July that it has been below 1 nationwide.
Separate data found London’s could be as low as 0.44. Around 35 per cent of people living there have already had Covid, according to University of Cambridge research.
RULE OF SIX
Hospitality had been earmarked to reopen in May, with only takeaway pints allowed in April.
But that has now been sped up in a major boost to the blighted sector.
A wider reopening for limited indoor mixing in pubs and restaurants is still planned for May.
However, it is likely the “rule of six” limits and two-metre distancing will stay all summer as a compromise for the early reopening.
Meanwhile, Britain is on course to hit its first big target of vaccinating 15 million Brits by today — two days early.
The PM last night hailed the efforts of the army of volunteers and medics vaccinating the nation.
We will hopefully be sipping pints in the spring sunshine sooner rather than later.
In a video from No10, he said: “They are really going gangbusters — shooting the lights out.”
The PM unveils his plan out of lockdown on February 22, and is expected to deliver on his pledge to reopen schools on March 8.
A minister told The Sun the numbers are “looking good” and a path back to freedom can be plotted. They pointed out that all strains of the virus are far less likely to spread outside.
The minister added: “It is all going well. The rates are coming down, the numbers are looking good. We are on course for the roadmap.
“Outdoor ventilation is key. There are new mutations of the virus, but nothing changes how it spreads.”
But they warned other sectors will only gradually be reopened to avoid another Covid wave.
They said: “Things won’t reopen as quickly as some may want.
“We will be cautious, opening one thing to see how it goes before moving to the next.”
Reopening sporting events to fans this summer may also be aided by issuing Covid tests with their tickets, it was reported last night.
Spectators may have to prove they are negative to be allowed in to events including Wimbledon and football matches in the Euros.
A government source said it was “very early days” and urged everyone to wait for the roadmap.
Tory MPs yesterday urged the PM to seize on the success of the vaccine rollout to swiftly free businesses from lockdown.
Prof Neil Ferguson — a government adviser and chief architect of lockdown — also said he is hopeful this will be “the final one”.
He told politics website Politico: “Certainly by May, we hopefully will be in a place much more like we were back last October.
"In something akin to Tier 2. And maybe, if there are areas with very low incidence by that time, we’d move to Tier 1-type measures.”
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “The vaccination programme is going so well that in a matter of weeks we will have protected most of those who would die from this virus.
“The Government must now look at how it can unlock the country and economy.”
The Covid R rate is the number of people an infected person will pass it on to. The level has fallen from last week’s 0.7 to 1.
UK Covid deaths also dropped by a quarter in a week. There were 758 more recorded yesterday — down from the 1,014 a week before.
Cases are also plummeting, with 15,144 recorded yesterday – a 20 per cent drop from the 19,114 infections last week.
It brought the number of positive cases to 4,013,799, while the fatality total now stands at 116,287.
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