'Your efforts have paid off' - Further lockdown lifting confirmed for May 17

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street. - Credit: PA

People will be able to hug loved ones, dine in restaurants and go on holiday abroad from next week, Boris Johnson has confirmed.

The prime minister thanked the public for the sacrifices made during lockdown as he announced that step three of the road map could go ahead in England from May 17 as planned, saying: "Your efforts have so visibly paid off."

He said business, pubs and restaurants have been waiting to welcome customers, while grandparents have gone months without seeing their grandchildren and weddings have been postponed and funerals constrained.

Addressing the public, he told the Downing Street press conference: "I want to thank you particularly because your efforts have so visibly paid off, giving us the time to vaccinate more than two thirds of all adults across the UK, with more than one third - nearly 18 million people - also receiving their second dose and thereby unquestionably saving many lives.

"And so it's precisely because of your efforts that I can confirm today that we've met our four tests for further easing the lockdown in England."

The move to the next stage of the road map out of lockdown on May 17 came as the Covid-19 alert level in the UK was downgraded after a "consistent" fall in cases, hospital admissions and deaths.

Mr Johnson added: "With deaths and hospitalisations at their lowest level since last July and the UK's four chief medical officers today agreeing a reduction in the alert level, the data now support moving to step three in England from next Monday, May 17."

Professor Chris Whitty, Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance Downing Street.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance during a media briefing in Downing Street. - Credit: PA

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The biggest easing of lockdown measures so far is designed to encourage people to take more personal responsibility for managing the risks posed by the virus.

The PM confirmed that from May 17 people will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people, and meet indoors in groups of up to six or as two households.

The majority of sectors will reopen, including pubs, bars and restaurants indoors. Indoor entertainment will resume, including cinemas, museums and children's play areas.

Theatres, concert halls, conference centres and sports stadia can all reopen, with larger events in these settings able to resume with capacity limits.

Organised adult sport and exercise classes can resume indoors and saunas and steam rooms may also reopen.

A man walks past a sign for a Vaccination centre

Jab offer extends to 32 and 33-year-olds from Saturday, May 22 - Credit: PA

People will be given the choice on whether to remain two metres from family or friends, meaning they can once again hug and shake hands.

But officials suggested people should consider getting tested for coronavirus before hugging and wear face masks or ensure a room is well ventilated before ditching social distancing measures.

Boris Johnson has said people should continue to follow social distancing rules when not with family and friends.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street. - Credit: PA

He told the Downing Street news conference: "We only have to look at the very sad situation in other countries to see the lethal potential of this virus  and we must continue to fight the spread of variants here in the UK.

"While we have no evidence yet to believe these variants are completely vaccine resistant, we must remain vigilant."

Mr Johnson said England remains "on track" to end all legal restrictions on June 21 and said an update later this month would set out what role, "if any", could be played by coronavirus health certificates and social distancing.

He said: "This unlocking amounts to a very considerable step on the road map back to normality and I am confident we will be able to go further.

"Subject to the impact of step three on the data, we remain on track to move to step four on June 21.

"And to give business more time to prepare we will be saying more later this month about exactly what the world will look like and what role there could be - if any - for certification and social distancing."