Pubs, bars and restaurants will be reopening under national, rather than regional, restrictions, The Prime Minister has suggested.

Despite Government announcing just last week that the country could see a return to the tier system in its lockdown exit, Johnson said yesterday (1 February) that a blanket national approach is more likely.

“It may be that a national approach, going down the tiers in a national way, might be better this time round, given that the disease is behaving much more nationally,” he said.

“If you look at the way the new variant has taken off across the country, it’s a pretty national phenomenon.

“The charts I see, we’re all sort of moving pretty much in the same sort of way, I mean there are a few discrepancies, a few differences, so it may be that we will go for a national approach but there may be an advantage still in some regional differentiation as well.”

And this national easing could be sooner than initially expected, with the Prime Minister having reportedly instructed ministers to ramp up preparations for school reopening, given the success of the vaccine roll-out.

With schools seen as a benchmark from which the rest of the economy might initiate a phased reopening, Johnson’s optimism could indicate a quicker and less restricted recovery.

According to the Telegraph, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has told the Prime Minister that the peak of infections had passed last week, and new figures show that infections in every region in England have now subsided to pre-new year levels.

From next week, over-65s are expected to be invited to book appointments for vaccinations, suggesting the Government is on track to beat its target of vaccinating all over-70s by 15 February.

An official announcement on the Government’s exit strategy is expected on 22 February.