Here are the coronavirus morning headlines for Tuesday, February 23 as holiday companies say there has been a surge in bookings after Boris Johnson revealed his roadmap out of lockdown in England.
A report on the return of international travel is not expected until April 12, but airlines have reported holidaymakers are making plans for the summer.
International travel will not happen until May 17 at the earliest, according to the roadmap unveiled by the Prime Minister on Monday (February 22).
Travel company Tui reported that they had had their best day of bookings in over a month, with strong interest in Greece, Spain and Turkey for the summer.
Thomas Cook said traffic to its website was up over 100% on Monday from 3pm onwards, with bookings “flooding in” for countries like Greece, Cyprus, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
EasyJet also reported a 337% surge in flight bookings and a 630% jump in holiday bookings for locations like Alicante, Malaga, Palmo, Faro and Crete. Bookings are strongest in August, followed by July and then September.
Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown
Boris Johnson said spring and summer will usher in changes to make lives “incomparably better” as he set out a plan to fully ease the lockdown in England by June 21.
The Prime Minister defended his “cautious but also irreversible” approach to relaxing restrictions with a four-step plan on Monday, arguing he will not be “buccaneering” with people’s lives.
But despite billing his plans as a “one-way road to freedom”, he admitted he cannot guarantee that the vaccination programme will prevent restrictions from ever returning.
In Wales, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said they would be sticking to their “careful and cautious approach”.
While all schools in England will return on March 8, all schoolchildren in Wales will not be returning to the classroom until after the Easter holidays at the earliest.
He told BBC Wales: “I think the suggestion that we are on a one way road to freedom is, perhaps, a bit of a hostage to fortune.
“We do know that with each stage of unlocking there is more risk, there is the risk we will see a further bump upwards in cases. As we approach each stage, it is possible that we will have to take a pause and not make the sort of progress we would otherwise want to.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be detailing her own plan for easing Scotland’s lockdown today.
You can read more about the main differences between the four nations here.
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Review into using ‘Covid status’ certificates
The Government launched a review looking at the use of “Covid status” certificates, which could be used by people to demonstrate they had received a jab or a negative coronavirus test in order to enter venues, or allow firms to reduce restrictions as a result of the status of their customers.
Boris Johnson acknowledged there are “clearly some quite complex issues, some ethical issues” including discrimination surrounding them.
Ministers have repeatedly denied that they would consider the domestic use of so-called vaccine passports, fearing they pose risks of discrimination, as some groups are unable to receive the coronavirus jab.
But as part of the government’s roadmap out of England’s national lockdown, a review will be carried out to assess whether certificates could allow restrictions to be lifted more safely. It is expected to report before June.
UK unemployment rate rises to 5.1%
The rate of unemployment in the UK rose to 5.1% in the three months to December, official figures today (Tuesday, February 23) show.
The Office for National Statistics said 1.74 million people were unemployed in the October to December period, up 454,000 from the same quarter in 2019.
More than 700,000 fewer people are currently employed than before the start of the pandemic, the ONS said.
Almost three-fifths of this fall has come from those aged under-25.
Find out how many cases are in your area
Latest figures for Wales
A further nine people have died with coronavirus in Wales and more than 300 new positive cases have been identified.
Figures from Public Health Wales published on Monday reveal that 319 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the latest 24-hour period. This brings the total since the start of the pandemic to 202,007.
The number of people who have died with coronavirus in Wales within a month of a positive test now stands at 5,246.
The infection rate across Wales has dropped to 80 per 100,000 population based on the seven days up to February 17. Infection rates have reduced to levels not seen since September.
The latest data also shows that 862,248 people have now received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, up 2,065 from the figure of 860,183 published 24 hours earlier.
Meanwhile, 42,752 people have now received both doses of the vaccine, a rise from 37,773 on Sunday.