Boris Johnson gives green light for fun in biggest unlocking yet with indoor pints, hugs and holidays back from May 17

BORIS Johnson tonight confirmed he will rip up countless Covid rules next week as he presses ahead with his roadmap, thanks to the smashing vaccine rollout.

In the biggest unlocking yet, the PM promised that indoor pints, hugs and holidays will FINALLY be back on in England from May 17 – taking Brits closer to post-Covid freedom.

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Boris vowed tonight that the data was on track to lift more lockdown rules without the risk of cases soaring in the "single biggest step on our roadmap".

The four tests have been met, which means he can proceed with stage three of his roadmap to unlocking England in a week's time.

Infection rates are now at their lowest levels since September, and hospital admissions continue to go down.

The vaccine rollout continues to go well, with all adults on track for a first dose by July.

And fresh studies show they are helping reduce hospitalisations, cases and deaths, reducing risk of another wave of the virus.

Those who are vaccinated have a 55 to 70 per cent reduction in getting symptoms of the disease, according to the latest data.

And they have up to 85 per cent less chance of going into hospital too.

Data published by PHE today estimates that for the over 80s, two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalisation by 93 per cent.

35million people have now got at least one dose – two thirds of adults – and 18 million have got two as Britain's rollout continues at a smashing pace.

The huge news for millions of people came as England recorded ZERO Covid deaths for the first time since July – and just four across the whole of the UK in the last 24 hours.

The lockdown lifting rules confirmed tonight include:

  • Rules for pubs and restaurants will be relaxed so people can meet up to six inside, and 30 outside
  • Holidays will be legal again – and the £5,000 fines will be dropped
  • Hugging between friends and family will be given the nod, as social distancing rules are expected to be relaxed
  • Hotels, cinemas, indoor play areas and other attractions are allowed to reopen finally
  • But strict pub rules will remain including table service, social distancing and checking in via the NHS app
  • Schoolkids will no longer have to wear masks in class
  • But weddings will still have a 30 person cap, despite funerals having their rules lifted
  • The casual sex ban will finally be over as Brits can get close again, and stay over at each other's homes
  • Organised adult sport and exercise classes can resume indoors and saunas and steam rooms can reopen
  • Working from home should continue if people can
  • Sports events can allow up to 10,000 fans in easing of rules in stadiums

The PM ripped up tough rules on hugging and kissing for close friends and family – but told the nation its now up to them to decide whether they want to take the risk.

He told people they should continue to be cautious, saying he wants the roadmap to be irreversible – and unlocking too fast, too soon, risks a resurgence of the virus.  

He said people should think about whether they are vulnerable, whether they have had the vaccine, and how protected they are before hugging.

And reminded people to keep getting tested, keeping the windows open, and wash hands to keep the virus at bay.

The PM urged people to continue to apply "common sense and caution" before meeting up with others and getting close.

He said on hugging: "You should do it if you think it's appropriate."

He said tonight: "We are updating the guidance on close contact between friends and family, setting out the risks for everyone to make their own choices. 

"This does not mean we can suddenly throw caution to the winds. In fact, more than a year into this pandemic, we all know that close contact, such as hugging, is a direct way of transmitting this disease. 

"So I urge you to think about the vulnerability of your loved ones – whether they have had a vaccine, one or two doses, and whether there has been time for that vaccine to take effect. 

"Remember outdoors is always safer than indoors. And if you are meeting indoors, remember to open a window and let in the fresh air. Keep getting tested regularly, even if you don’t have symptoms, so you don’t spread the virus without knowing it.

"And whatever you decide, I must ask that you continue to follow social distancing when not with friends and family  including in workplaces, shops, pubs, restaurants and other settings."

The PM revealed he would be making a major announcement "later this month about exactly what the world will look like and what role there could be – if any – for certification and social distancing."

It's another hint he could bring in vaccine passports for some activities.

He also swerved questions on whether he could unlock more things faster than June 21.

He repeated hoped that social distancing may be able to be scrapped completely by June 21, adding: "we may be able to dispense with the 1m plus rule… but we haven't decided".

The PM also confirmed at tonight's press conference that more cases of the Indian variant had been found in the UK – an extra 300 more since 28 April.

Just a few dozen more cases of the South Africa variant have been reported, however.

The PM stressed that border controls need to remain strong to stop importing more cases with variants into the country.

He said tonight: "We only have to look at the very sad situation in other countries to see the lethal potential of this virus."

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