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Matt Hancock is pictured playing football with his sons in park 

A cap-wearing Matt Hancock has been spotted playing football with his sons in the park yesterday as he enjoyed downtime with his family during lockdown.

The Health Secretary was seen in a navy blue puffer jacket, jeans and trainers as he had a kick about in chilly Queens Park, north-west London, yesterday.

Mr Hancock’s park appearance comes days ahead of the PM’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown – due to be unveiled on February 22 – which see all primary and secondary schools reopening from March 8.  

A cap-wearing Matt Hancock (pictured) has been spotted playing football with his sons in the park yesterday as he was seen outside for the third time in two months

The Health Secretary was seen in a navy blue puffer jacket, jeans and trainers as he had a kick about in the chilly outdoors yesterday

The Health Secretary was seen in a navy blue puffer jacket, jeans and trainers as he had a kick about in the chilly outdoors yesterday 

Last month, Mr Hancock (pictured in the park with his sons today) revealed he had to self isolate for two weeks in January after he was 'pinged' by the NHS app - days after he was spotted out twice in busy London parks

Pictured: Mr Hancock in the park with his sons today

Last month, Mr Hancock (pictured in the park with his sons today) revealed he had to self isolate for two weeks in January after he was ‘pinged’ by the NHS app – days after he was spotted out twice in busy London parks

Last month, Mr Hancock (pictured) revealed he had to self isolate for two weeks after being 'pinged' by the NHS app - days after he was spotted out in busy London parks twice in one weekend

Last month, Mr Hancock (pictured) revealed he had to self isolate for two weeks after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS app – days after he was spotted out in busy London parks twice in one weekend

The PM is preparing a loosening of the draconian coronavirus restrictions on everyday life amid massive pressure from Tory MPs who fear huge collateral damage is being done to the country and economy.

Picnics in the park will be back on the agenda and ‘al fresco’ meet-ups in pubs allowed from April, it was claimed today. 

Last month, Mr Hancock revealed he had to self isolate for two weeks after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS app – days after he was spotted out in busy London parks twice in one weekend.

Lockdown rules state that people can leave their homes for exercise by themselves with the people they live with or with one other person from outside their household.  Official guidance does not rule out ball sports.

Health Secretary Mr Hancock was seen playing football in the park with his sons today

Health Secretary Mr Hancock was seen playing football in the park with his sons today

The Health Secretary was first seen casually walking through the park while clutching a rugby ball on January 16. 

His appearance came one day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson released a video calling on the public to ‘think twice’ before leaving the house and warned asymptomatic ‘silent spreaders’ are unwittingly fuelling the crisis. 

One day later, a hoodie-wearing Mr Hancock was photographed scoring a try as his sons tried tackle him. 

On January 19, Mr Hancock – who has had Covid before – revealed he was self-isolating and would be staying home until Sunday January 24.

Mr Hancock - who has been spotted playing ball games during lockdown twice before - was seen today

Mr Hancock – who has been spotted playing ball games during lockdown twice before – was seen today

He tweeted today: ‘Last night I was alerted by the @NHSCovid19app to self isolate so I’ll be staying at home & not leaving at all until Sunday. We all have a part to play in getting this virus under control.’ 

However, as his isolation was scheduled to end at 11.59pm that Saturday – and the standard quarantine period is 10 days – it appears his contact must have happened before his park visits. 

Under the PM’s ‘roadmap’ – due to be unveiled on February 22 – people could be allowed to sit and chat on park benches with a friend, and have picnics with their household ‘bubble’, something that is currently banned. 

The current thinking in No10 is that the beleaguered hospitality industry could lift its shutters from the beginning of April.

The Health Secretary was first seen casually walking through the park while clutching a rugby ball and wearing similar muddy attire on January 16 (pictured)

The Health Secretary was first seen casually walking through the park while clutching a rugby ball and wearing similar muddy attire on January 16 (pictured) 

One day later, a hoodie-wearing Mr Hancock was photographed scoring a try as his sons tried tackle him

One day later, a hoodie-wearing Mr Hancock was photographed scoring a try as his sons tried tackle him 

In a break from previous rules, the 10pm curfew and the requirement to have a substantial meal with alcohol will be abandoned. Restrictions on sports such as tennis and golf, where social distancing is easier, are likely to be eased in April. 

The local ‘tiers’ system that was in place before the blanket lockdown is being ditched, with England due to move as a whole through the next phases of relaxation.   

In interviews this morning, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab  said ‘our priority will be schools’, but warned it is too early to be sure what will be possible as more data will come in over the next week. ‘It is absolutely right that until we change the rules we need full compliance,’ he said.  

Details of the blueprint started to leak out at as Mr Johnson gets ready to celebrate meeting his target of vaccinating the 15million most vulnerable people in the UK by tomorrow.

In his most upbeat assessment for weeks, Mr Johnson yesterday said: ‘I won’t hide it from you. I’m optimistic, but we have to be cautious.’ 

The Tory Coronavirus Research Group, which includes around 70 MPs, has been demanding that all coronavirus restrictions are removed by May, when around 32million people in the top nine categories are due to have been given jabs.

However, scientists have been urging a much more cautious approach warning that infections remain high and the threat of variant strains emerging that can dodge vaccines is too great. 

And Mr Raab suggested that timeline was ‘arbitrary’ this morning.  

Government sources told MailOnline the ‘hope’ is that all schools can be reopened on March 8, but it will depend on the information that comes in over the next week.   

Lockdown misery is set to end by Easter, with people finally free to drink in beer gardens and dine outside restaurants again. Diners are pictured above at a restaurant in Dundee, Scotland in July last year after restrictions were eased

Lockdown misery is set to end by Easter, with people finally free to drink in beer gardens and dine outside restaurants again. Diners are pictured above at a restaurant in Dundee, Scotland in July last year after restrictions were eased

Under Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ for a steady return to normality, No 10 plans to allow the beleaguered hospitality industry to lift its shutters, most likely on Tuesday March 30 or the following day. Customers are seen enjoying a pint in Scotland last July

Under Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ for a steady return to normality, No 10 plans to allow the beleaguered hospitality industry to lift its shutters, most likely on Tuesday March 30 or the following day. Customers are seen enjoying a pint in Scotland last July

In interviews this morning, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said 'our priority will be schools', but warned it is too early to be sure what will be possible as more data will come in over the next week

In interviews this morning, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said ‘our priority will be schools’, but warned it is too early to be sure what will be possible as more data will come in over the next week

Confusion as Raab says vaccine passports could be needed to shop in UK 

The government was facing more confusion over ‘vaccine passports’ today after Dominic Raab suggested they could be needed to get into pubs and supermarkets in the UK.

The Foreign Secretary appeared to contradict a series of other government statements as he said the idea was ‘under consideration’.

The comments risked provoking anger from Tories who are already deeply alarmed about the way the pandemic has hammered civil liberties.

Aides scrambled to clarify that Mr Raab had been responding to a ‘hypothetical’ question and while ‘vaccine passports’ are being looked at for international travel, they are ‘not being considered domestically’.    

Ministers have revealed that work is under way on a system that could allow foreign travel to resume, with Spain the latest country to say it is ready to welcome Brits who have had jabs.

But the government has repeatedly said such documents will not be introduced in the UK, suggesting it would be ‘discriminatory’. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said just last week that the move is ‘not on the cards’.  

According to the latest figures, there were 13,308 new positive cases in the previous 24 hours – down 27 per cent on a week earlier. Hospital admissions fell by 26 per cent to 1,741 over the same period, while deaths were down by the same proportion to 621.

The vaccination programme continued to surge towards its target – up by 544,603 to a total of 14,556,827. It means 26.9 per cent of the adult population has now received at least one dose.

The steady fall in new infections, and estimates that the critical R rate of infection now lies between 0.7 and 0.9, has increased the restlessness on the Tory backbenches over the economic and societal damage being caused by lockdown.

This weekend, 63 Tory MPs have signed a letter to Mr Johnson urging him to use the vaccine to ‘give us permanent immunity from Covid-related lockdowns and restrictions’.

The letter, organised by Mark Harper, the chair of the CRG, argues that ‘just like Covid, lockdowns and restrictions cause immense social and health damage and have a huge impact on people’s livelihoods’.

Urging the reopening of all schools on March 8 and of hospitality by Easter, the weekend of April 4, the MPs say: ‘All restrictions remaining after March 8 should be proportionate to the ever-increasing number of people we have protected. 

‘The burden is on Ministers to demonstrate the evidence of effectiveness and proportionality with a cost-benefit analysis for each restriction, and a roadmap for when they will be removed… Once all nine priority groups have been protected by the end of April, there is no justification for any legislative restrictions to remain.’

They conclude: ‘This should be a moment of unity – for our country and our party – as we look ahead with confidence, hope and optimism for a much brighter future, as we reclaim our lives once and for all.’

Sir Graham Brady, chair of the powerful Tory 1922 committee, heaped more pressure on today, insisting that the ‘balance of the argument’ has shifted on lockdown and it is doing more harm than good.

‘When we were asked last March if we would stay at home for three weeks to save the NHS and tens of thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands — of lives, our answer was a resounding ”Yes!”’ he wrote in the Sun on Sunday. 

‘After three lockdowns and a jumble of tiers and restrictions that have changed more than 60 times, the balance of the argument has shifted.’ 

Sir Graham said that a ‘new assessment of costs and benefits’ needed to be made, saying that vaccinations means ‘the risk of death will have been reduced by 90 per cent’.

‘Protracted or repeated lockdowns kill people as surely as the virus,’ he wrote. ‘The cancers that have gone undiagnosed, the two million screening appointments that have been missed, the people whose despair drives them to suicide. 

‘The consequences of what we have done will be with us for years, decades, to come — most especially for the children whose mental health has suffered so much…

‘All this is before we add the sharpest economic downturn in history into the mix.’ 

However, Mr Raab rejected the call for all restrictions to be lifted when the nine most vulnerable groups have been given jabs, branding the idea ‘arbitrary’.

Mr Raab said the Government would not be making a ‘slightly arbitrary commitment without reviewing the impact that measures have had on the transmission and the hospital admissions of the virus’.

‘But we share the ambition to get out of lockdown to transition to a better place for economic reasons, for jobs, for livelihoods, for the most vulnerable in our society, and for everyone’s mental health,’ he added.

Mr Raab also risked sparking a fresh row by saying ‘vaccine passports’ could be needed to get into pubs and supermarkets in the UK.

The Foreign Secretary contradicted a series of other government statements as he said the idea was ‘under consideration’.

Ministers have revealed that work is under way on ‘vaccine passports’ that could allow foreign travel to resume, with Spain the latest country to say it is ready to welcome Brits who have had jabs.

But the government has repeatedly said such documents will not be introduced in the UK, suggesting it would be ‘discriminatory’. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said just last week that the move is ‘not on the cards’.

The dramatically different position from Mr Raab came in an interview on LBC radio this morning.     

Pressed repeatedly on whether ‘vaccine passports’ could be needed to get into pubs and supermarkets in this country, he said: ‘It is something that hasn’t been ruled out. It is under consideration. But of course you’ve got to make it workable.’

Mr Raab said the ‘modalities and mechanisms’ of how people could prove they have been vaccinated were all being looked at.

‘You’ve got to know that the document that is being presented is something that you can rely on,’ he said. 

Speaking during a visit to the Teesside plant where the new Novavax vaccine will be manufactured, Mr Johnson said: ‘Our children’s education is our number one priority.

‘But then, working forward, getting non-essential retail open as well, and then, in due course, as and when we can, prudently, cautiously, of course, we want to be opening hospitality as well. I will be trying to set out as much as I possibly can in as much detail as I can, always understanding that we have to be wary of the pattern of disease.

‘We don’t want to be forced into any kind of retreat or reverse ferret’.

Echoing Mr Hancock’s claim that Covid could become a ‘treatable’ disease, Mr Johnson predicted we will have ‘to learn to live with’ coronavirus.

According to the Sunday Times, the government is drawing up three options for the easing of restrictions, depending on progress tackling infections and emerging data on the effectiveness of vaccines.

The slowest timetable would not see shops and hospitality fully open until August. 


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