Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that "the end really is in sight" as he unveiled his plans for lifting the country out of lockdown.
The first changes will start in just two weeks, with the reopening of schools to all pupils and the ability to meet one other person socially outside.
Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon (Monday, February 22), Mr Johnson celebrated the success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme and said the government now aimed to give the first dose to all people in the remaining priority groups (5 to 9) by April 15.
However, the Prime Minister admitted that there was no way to totally rid the country of Covid-19.
He said: "There is no credible route to a zero Covid Britain, or indeed a zero Covid world.
"And we can't persist indefinitely with the restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing and the life chances of our children, and that is why it is so crucial that this roadmap should be cautious but also irreversible."
Mr Johnson said there will be four stages to lifting the lockdown - with the first stage split into two key dates in March.
The government will undertake a review before each stage every four weeks and will give the public a week's notice before making any changes.
Mr Johnson ended his statement with optimism. He said: "The end really is in sight and a wretched winter will give way to a spring and summer that will be very different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today."
The key dates and the potential changes are as follows:
Monday, March 8
Schools will reopen to all pupils, we will be allowed to meet one other person for a picnic or exercise, and care home residents will be allowed to nominate one regular visitor.
Mr Johnson said: "Two weeks from today, pupils and students in all schools, colleges and Further Education can safely return to face-to-face teaching, supported by the two weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils."
He also said children's activities, including sport, will be able to resume from this date "where necessary to help support parents to work.
Monday, March 29
Two households or people in groups of six will be able to meet outside.
Mr Johnson said: "It will become possible to meet in limited numbers outdoors where the risk is lower, so the rule of six will return outdoors, including in private gardens, and outdoor meetings of two households will also be permitted on the same basis so families in different circumstances can mix.
"Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts, open air swimming pools, will be able to open and formal organised sports will be able to resume."
Mr Johnson also said the 'stay at home' message will be dropped from this date.
He said: "From this point, March 29, people will no longer be legally required to stay at home but many lockdown restrictions will remain. People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise travel wherever possible."
Monday, April 12 - at the earliest
Shops and hairdressers will be able to reopen, along with zoos, theme parks and public libraries. Holidays in the UK will also be allowed.
Mr Johnson said: "Non-essential retail will reopen as will personal care, including hairdressers and nail salons. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will reopen, as will holidays lets but only for individuals or household groups."
The Prime Minister said pubs and restaurants will also begin to reopen outside at this stage - but without the previous 10pm curfew or the requirement to order food with alcohol.
Monday, May 17 - at the earliest
Most of the restrictions outdoors could be lifted around now. Pubs, restaurants and hotels could also reopen.
Mr Johnson said: "This is the point where we will be able to see our friends and family indoors subject to the rule of six or the meeting of two households.
"We will also reopen pubs and restaurants indoors along with cinemas and children's play areas, hotels, hostels and B&Bs. Theatres and concert halls will reopen."
Monday, June 21 - at the earliest
During this, the final stage of lifting lockdown, the legal limits on social contact will be removed, along with the limits on weddings and other events.
'The end really is in sight' - The key dates after Boris Johnson unveils 'roadmap' for easing lockdown
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