Following his announcement, under plans set out by the Prime Minister, shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality will reopen on April 12 in England if strict conditions are met, with up to six people from separate households able to meet in beer gardens from that date.

The new four-step plan to ease lockdown could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by June 21. It requires four tests on vaccines, infection rates and new coronavirus variants to be met at each stage.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs the plan aimed to be cautious but irreversible and at every stage decisions would be led by data not dates. But he warned there was no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain nor indeed a zero-Covid world.

It comes as the first data on the UK's coronavirus vaccine rollout suggests it is having a spectacular impact on stopping serious illness.

As part of the first step of the plan for easing lockdown in England:

From March 8: All schools will open with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed. Recreation in an outdoor public spaces - such as a park - will be allowed between two people, meaning they would be allowed to sit down for a coffee, drink or picnic

From March 29: Outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. It is understood this will include gatherings in private gardens. Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts will reopen and organised adult and children's sport, such as grassroots football, will also return

Secondary school pupils can access tests and will be required to wear face coverings in classrooms and shared spaces like corridors. The second step from April 12 would see major parts of the economy permitted to reopen:

·         Non-essential retail opens, hairdressers and some public buildings like libraries

·         Outdoor settings like alcohol takeaways, beer gardens, zoos and theme parks

·         Indoor leisure like swimming pools and gyms

·         Self-contained holiday accommodation, such as self-catering lets and camp sites

But wider social contact rules will continue to apply in all settings - meaning no indoor mixing between different households will be allowed.

Mr Johnson confirmed the end of hospitality curfews - and requirements to eat a substantial meal alongside alcohol. He said a review of international leisure travel restrictions would be announced by April 12 at the earliest.

Funerals continue with up to 30 people, and weddings with up to 15 guests.

The third step will come from May 17 - if the data allows - and will see the "rule of six" abolished for outdoor gatherings, replaced with a limit of 30 people:

·         Two households can mix indoors - with the rule of six applied in hospitality settings like pubs

·         Cinemas, museums, hotels, performances and sporting events reopen - though social distancing remains

·         Up to 10,000 spectators can attend the very largest outdoor seated venues like football stadiums

Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, funerals and wakes. Mr Johnson said this step would also "consider the potential role of Covid status certification" - which could refer to so-called "vaccine passports" - in helping indoor venues to reopen safely.

Before the fourth step, ministers will carry out a review into social distancing and other "long-term measures" designed to reduce transmission, including the "one metre plus" rule and the wearing of face coverings. They will also consider whether to lift the "work from home" guidance, which the government says people should continue to follow until the review has been completed.

The fourth step from June 21 will potentially see all legal limits on social contact removed, with the final closed sectors of the economy reopened - such as nightclubs. The government hopes that - from this date - restrictions on weddings and funerals will also be abolished.