Boris Johnson had claimed that restrictions would be substantially lifted by Easter Sunday (Image: Pippa Fowles / No10 Downing Street)
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Tough lockdown restrictions will last until at least Good Friday with Boris Johnson making "top secret" plans for an Easter easing of rules so families can mix, according to reports.
However, it is understood even this date could look optimistic if the vaccine rollout runs into significant difficulties.
Ministers are said to have warned that with the exception of schools, there is unlikely to be any relaxation of the current measures by the upcoming review point in the middle of next month.
Originally, the current lockdown was expected to ease on February 22 with schools opening and England returning to a tier system.
It comes after new figures showed the UK had suffered its biggest single day jump in virus deaths of the pandemic yesterday after another 1,610 fatalities were confirmed.
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The Prime Minister said when he announced the lockdown: “I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term and starting, cautiously, to move regions down the tiers.”
He later admitted 'a lot of things have to go right' for lockdown to start easing by then, and Dominic Raab warned there would not be a single 'big bang' when restrictions do end.
Mr Johnson had also claimed that restrictions would be substantially lifted by Easter Sunday.
The PM said: “I think we can certainly look forward to a very, very different world in this country, from Easter onwards."
The latest target for any significant lifting of the lockdown is now Good Friday on April 2, according to The Sun.
And top secret plans are said to be being drawn up at Downing Street for people to meet up with their families over Easter.
A source told the newspaper: "It's way too soon to start talking about when, but the work is being done quietly on the how."
Public Health England announced yesterday the latest deaths are up on last Tuesday when the country recorded 1,243 Covid fatalities.
However, cases fell for a fourth consecutive day and are at their lowest point since December 27, when 30,501 infections were announced.
A further 33,355 new cases were recorded yesterday, bringing the total number of positive tests to 3,466,849.
More than 4.2 million people have now received their first dose of the vaccine in the UK – an increase of over 200,000 from the previous day.