British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out a phased plan on Monday to end England's Covid-19 lockdown, offering a "cautious" approach to try to prevent a return to wholesale restrictions that have hobbled the economy.
Johnson, under pressure to allow more freedoms to millions of people stuck at home and offer hope to shuttered businesses, said the first stage would prioritise schools returning on March 8 when only minimal socialising outdoors would be allowed.
The so-called roadmap would then step through four stages with the final stage, when most restrictions would be lifted, not starting until June 21 at the earliest.
With almost 130,000 fatalities, Britain has suffered the world's fifth-highest official death toll from the pandemic and its $3 trillion economy has seen its biggest crash in over 300 years.
But a fast start to the vaccine roll-out plus a sharp fall in infections mean Johnson can now set out a cautious easing of England's tough national lockdown, which started on Jan. 5.
As the plan unfolds, lawmakers will have a chance to vote on specific steps. Authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which are responsible for their own public health, will also ease restrictions over the coming months.