Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will be heading to the pub next week as the next set of lockdown restrictions are eased.
Mr Johnson said the country had met the four tests it had set down, including a successful vaccination rollout, a reduction in hospitalisations and deaths, infection rates not pressuring the NHS and new variants not having a significant impact.
The move will see non-essential retail and restaurants allowed to open from Monday, April 12, along with close-contact services such as hairdressers and barbers.
Speaking from the government’s newly-installed media room, he told people: “I will be getting to the pub myself and cautiously, but irreversibly, raising a pint of beer to my lips.”
“We think that these changes are fully justified by the data and we are meeting our four tests,” he added.
However, he reiterated previous warnings that the UK could not be complacent.
“We can see the waves of sickness afflicting other countries and we’ve seen how this story goes.
“We still don’t know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise as I’m afraid that they will and that’s why we’re saying, please get your vaccine or your second dose, when your turn comes, and please use the free NHS tests.”
During the Press Conference, Mr Johnson reminded people that the government was now urging people to get tested twice a week with free home tests available in pharmacies or by delivery.
He also revealed that controversial “COVID passports” would not be introduced in this phase, or the next one in May.
However, he said that large-scale events would need measures in place such as testing when they were allowed to go ahead.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said 36.1 million people had now received their first dose.
There had been a “significant reduction” in hospital admissions of patients after receiving the initial jab, he added.
Average death numbers are currently running at 47-a-day, down massively from a peak of 1,300.
Meanwhile, in terms of other variants, he said the UK mutation remained dominant and, despite an increase in the South African variant at the UK border, it did not fundamentally change the position of the country.