On Monday the Prime Minister set out the Government’s roadmap that will guide us cautiously towards reclaiming our freedoms and our way of life.

The publication of the roadmap is an important step, but we must all remember that the threat remains substantial as the numbers in hospitals are only now beginning to fall below the peak of the first wave last April.

We are only in a position to take the steps outlined in the roadmap because of the extraordinary success of our NHS in vaccinating over 17.5 million people across the UK. It was great to have the opportunity last week to safely visit the Steam Museum to thank all those involved in our local vaccine rollout.

At every stage of the roadmap our decisions will be subjected to four tests. First, that the vaccine deployment continues successfully; second, that evidence shows vaccines are sufficient effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths; third, that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS; and fourth that our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of Covid-19 that cause concern.

Step one of the roadmap will begin from March 8, by which time everyone in the top four priority groups will be benefitting from the increase protection they receive from the first dose of their vaccine.

The Government has always said that schools would be the last to close and the first to reopen. That is why based on our assessment of the current data, on March 8 pupils and students in all schools and further education settings can safely return to face-to-face education to join the children of key workers who have been supported by dedicated teachers and school staff throughout the lockdown.

People will also be able to meet with one person from outside their household for outdoor recreation – such as coffee on a bench or a picnic in a park – in addition to exercise. From this date, every care home resident will also be able to nominate a named visitor and will be able to see them regularly provided they are tested and wear PPE. I know that this will be welcome news for many families.

As part of Step One, we will also make further, limited changes on 29 March, when schools go on Easter Holidays. It will become possible to meet up in limited numbers outdoors, where the risk of transmission is lower. The Rule of Six will therefore return outdoors, including in private gardens, and outdoor meetings of two households will also be permitted on the same basis.

Outdoor sports facilities – such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools – will be able to reopen and formally organised outdoor sports will resume, subject to guidance.

From this point, people will no longer be legally required to stay at home, but many lockdown restrictions will stay in place.

The past year has been difficult for us all here in Swindon and across the country, but the vaccination programme has dramatically changed the odds in our favour and the end really is in sight. You can find more information on the Government’s roadmap, including on the other three steps, here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-2021

As always, if you have any questions, please do get in touch me with via robert.buckland.mp@parliament.uk