British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that a planned reopening of the economy would take place next week, with the opening of all shops, gyms, hairdressers and outdoor hospitality areas in England.

With the vaccine programme rolling out rapidly across the UK and infection numbers falling, Mr Johnson said England would proceed to Stage 2 of his roadmap out of lockdown from 12 April, adding that he would go to the pub himself for a pint.

But he said the difficulties facing countries in Europe illustrated the risks still posed by the pandemic.

Mr Johnson said: "We can't be complacent. We can see the waves of sickness affecting other countries and we have seen how this story goes.

"We still don't know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise, as I'm afraid that they will, and that's why we are saying please get your vaccine - or your second dose - when your turn comes."

He also encouraged people to use free NHS tests as part of the drive to identify cases without symptoms. 

Mr Johnson said people should continue to work from home when they could and minimise domestic travel, and the government was looking at a Covid-status certification system, or vaccine passport, to help reopen larger events.

He told a press briefing that he did not think, based on the current data, that there would be any deviation from his road map out of lockdown.

He said: "We set out our road map and we're sticking with it.

"And I want to stress that we see nothing in the present data that makes us think that we will have to deviate from that road map.

"But it is by being cautious, by monitoring the data at every stage and by following the rules - remembering hand, face, space, fresh air - that we hope together to make this road map to freedom irreversible." 

Mr Johnson said that it was too soon to say whether or not international summer holidays could go ahead this year, suggesting a planned reopening of outbound travel could be pushed back beyond 17 May.

Britons are among the highest spending tourists in Europe, so the fortunes of the continent's summer season and the desperate travel industry will depend on when tourists can return to the beaches, cafes and tavernas of southern Europe.

Britain plans to use a traffic-light risk system for countries once non-essential international travel resumes, but the government has said it was too soon to say which countries could be given the green light that would only require testing before and after travel.

"Taking into account the latest situation with variants and the evidence about the efficacy of vaccines against them, we will confirm in advance whether non-essential international travel can resume on 17 May, or whether we will need to wait longer before lifting the outbound travel restriction," a government review said.

British media suggested countries on the green list, requiring only testing before and after travel, could include Portugal, Malta, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Under the original plan, international travel would not resume until 17 May at the earliest. Countries on the amber list would require self-isolation. Those on the red list would require quarantine.

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Currently people arriving in the UK from abroad are required to self-isolate for ten days.

British nationals who arrive from a banned "red list" of high-risk countries face costly quarantine in government-approved hotels.

Downing Street urged people not to book summer holidays, saying it was "too early to predict" which would be the green-lighted countries.

The government also announced it will allow a number of people to attend public events such as football matches from this month in trials of a virus certification system.

Britain has already given out more than 31 million first vaccine doses and over five million second doses.

This has boosted the public mood after more than 126,000 people in the UK died from the virus, the highest number of any European country.

From Thursday, those living in England will be able to access two free rapid virus tests per week, a measure aimed at curbing symptom-free virus spread.

This will make such tests far more accessible than currently.

Health minister Matt Hancock urged people to take up the offer, saying "getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly".

The lateral flow tests will be available at workplaces, community sites, schools and colleges. People will also be able to order delivery of the tests.

It comes as many European countries are imposing new lockdown restrictions as a third wave of the pandemic spreads across the continent.

Additional reporting PA