PM vows to lift lockdown on time as Brits prepare for £1bn barbecue bonanza

BORIS Johnson vowed yesterday that lockdown would be lifted on time as the nation geared up for a £1billion barbecue bonanza from tomorrow.

The PM confirmed his plan was running to schedule — and he would be first in the queue when the pubs reopened in two weeks. 

As millions got ready for their first real taste of freedom tomorrow, Mr Johnson insisted restrictions would be eased on time.

He said: “I can see absolutely nothing in the data to dissuade me from continuing along our roadmap to freedom, unlocking our economy and getting back to the life we love.

"In just a few days’ time, I’m finally going to be able to go to the barber’s.

“But, more important than that, I’m going to be able to go down the street and cautiously, but irreversibly, I’m going to drink a pint of beer in the pub.”

In an upbeat speech to the Tories’ virtual spring forum, he was confident that even the spike in coronavirus cases in Europe would not be enough to stall his four-step plan.

Mr Johnson spoke hours before the stay at home order is lifted in the biggest return of personal freedom in three months.

From tomorrow, six people or larger groups from two households will be able to meet outdoors.

Two weeks later pubs and restaurants can open their doors for al fresco service.

They will then be given the nod to offer indoor seating from May 17, providing Covid conditions are met.

Some Brits desperate for their first pint after lockdown have been struggling to get a beer garden table with hundreds of pubs now fully booked for months.

Sales of barbecues, barbie food, picnic bites and booze are booming as millions prepare to take advantage of unlocking to meet family and friends.

Back gardens and parks across England are expected to be bustling for the first time in 83 days.

Supermarkets have stocked up and expect to shift 60million sausages, 20million burgers and 126million cans of beer.

It is expected to provide a £1billion boost to the economy as more people go out.

Lockdown-weary Britons threw caution to the wind and left their homes as temperatures started to climb yesterday.

And they are expected to reach a near-record 24C (76F) next week.

Employees are rushing to book tomorrow off work, with holiday requests up 27 per cent year-on-year, consultants Bright HR said.

Meanwhile, Britain’s eight million grassroots footballers will lace up their boots as outdoor sports restart.

Five-a-side company Goals, which has 130,000 players and 500 pitches, said: “We’re back in the game and getting booked up quickly.”

But police chiefs warned the public to stay vigilant and said next week was not the end of curbs on freedom.

The National Police Chiefs Council said complacency risked spreading new Covid variants and could lead to further clampdowns.

In a further boost yesterday, Britain was edging closer to a new landmark of 30million jabs.

Senior medics believe the target could be hit today, which will mean nearly half the population has some protection against coronavirus.

NHS chiefs confirmed last night that 25million people have been vaccinated in England alone in the three months since the roll-out began.

And the number who have received their second dose has reached a new weekly high.

More than 2.5million have now had their top-up jab, with a third of those taking place in the past week.

Official stats show at least 900,000 returned for their booster shot in the past seven days, double the figure for the week before.

Mr Johnson spoke of his excitement at restrictions beginning to ease.

He also said discovering the Kent variant of Covid-19 was a huge breakthrough and led to the tiers system being ditched.

He said: “That was an incredibly important moment because we were then able to work out what was happening, because we could see that it was basically transmitting considerably faster.

“With that we were able to understand why the tiering system that had been basically working for much of the autumn just wasn’t going to work any more.”

He added that the vaccine roll-out would not have been possible without the “might of the private sector”.

He said: “They’re heroes, heroes, heroes, to say nothing of local council staff and volunteers, and the Army, so many thousands of others.”

Mr Johnson was also asked if the UK could have a bank holiday called “national hangover day” once the pandemic subsides.

He said: “The general view is people have had quite a few days off, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for people to see their way round to making a passing stab at getting back into the office.”

But he conceded there were still unanswered questions about what effect the third Covid wave sweeping Europe would have on the UK.

Mr Johnson said: “I think the second half of the year will have the potential to be really fantastic. But it depends on things still going right.

“We depend on the successful vaccine programme and disease not taking off again.”

Church salute

BORIS Johnson has thanked church leaders for stepping up to support their communities in the pandemic.

The PM praised the “selfless stoicism” of congregations banned from group worship but who still helped others.

He said: “I’ve lost count of the number of church leaders and congregations from all denominations that have stepped up to support one another and the community.”

Religious groups have been confined to virtual worship owing to Covid restrictions.

Mr Johnson added in his Easter message: “Over the past year the teachings of Jesus Christ were brought to life.”

Mr Johnson said bitter experience has shown a wave such as the one in Europe would hit the UK three weeks later.

He said: “The question is, is it going to be, this time, as bad it has been in the past? Or have we sufficiently mitigated, muffled, blunted impact by the vaccine roll-out?

“That’s a question we still don’t really know the answer to.”

DIY enthusiasts

DIY enthusiasts are embarking on major home improvements as millions of Brits invite friends and family to their homes from tomorrow (Mon).

Seven million people have checked out the Homebase specialist 'how to' guides in the past year as they embark on domestic renovation projects – double the previous twelve months.

Making pallet furniture has proved the most popular as the rule of six or two households are able to mix as restrictions ease.

Sales of the pod chairs rose by 243 per cent in the past year and sales of the Andorra rocking chair has increased by nearly eight times.

Stephen Pitcher, Trading Director for Gardens & Seasonal at Homebase:  “We’ve loved seeing our customers spend time outside and enjoy their gardens and outdoor spaces this last year.

"With restrictions beginning to ease soon, it’s no surprise that our customers are getting their spaces garden party perfect, be this by creating pallet furniture or purchasing comfortable, stylish seating. 

"We expect this buying trend to continue as Brits embrace the spring sunshine and look forward to welcoming friends and families back into their gardens during the months ahead.”

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