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 Mar 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.
However, The Telegraph can disclose that parents will be asked to test their secondary school children when they return to school, should plans be finalised between the Department for Education and union bosses on Thursday.
Parents will be provided with lateral flow tests to carry out the tests twice a week, with every pupil being tested upon return to school, which is expected to be staggered by some year groups.