Lockdown is unlikely to be eased significantly until daily Covid cases are in the hundreds, compared with more than 10,000 a day now, The Telegraph understands.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said the Government “absolutely” wanted the current lockdown to be the last.
Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast that he wanted to ensure measures were eased “carefully and cautiously” in order not to have to put restrictions in place again.
He said: “Having a sustainable exit, so lifting the measures in such a way that can be sustainable and we don’t have to have another lockdown, that is obviously an important part of our considerations.”
What will reopen first?
Ministers have said the reopening of schools in England on March 8 remains their first priority, although reports have suggested the return may be staggered, with secondary schools going back a week later.
Mr Johnson said no decisions had been made on whether year groups across schools in England will return together or whether primaries and secondaries could be staggered.
Prof Neil Ferguson, who advises the Government as part of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said modelling suggests “there probably is leeway to reopen all schools” from March 8 but acknowledged there will be “slightly more of a risk” in a rise in cases than if just primary schools were reopened.
Prof Gabriel Scally, president of the epidemiology and public health section at the Royal Society of Medicine and a member of Sage, said schools must be made safe before reopening.
He told Good Morning Britain on Feb 15: “By taking on extra space, by improving ventilation, by extending mask-wearing in schools – all of these things will help.”
Read more: How can schools successfully reopen? What the UK can learn from other countries
How is the rest of the roadmap looking?
After schools, it is expected the next areas of easing will be non-essential shops and the rules on outdoor recreation and socialising.
Reports have suggested various reopening dates for hospitality, with optimistic suggestions varying from Easter weekend to May, with the caveat that the initial reopening may be for outdoors rather than indoors.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive for UK Hospitality, has called for a “very clear phased exit strategy from the lockdown”.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain on Feb 15, she said they need “not just that initial date but the phasing out of those restrictions linked to the rollout of the vaccine”.
She added that there would need to be more support for businesses if restrictions continued.