image captionMany of the papers lead with suggestions about when and how lockdown measures might be lifted. “April the thirst,” is the Sun’s delighted headline as it reports that the government hopes to allow pubs and restaurants to serve food and drink outdoors in “the spring sunshine”.
image captionThe i newspaper says a three-stage plan to reopen schools, followed by non-essential shops and then the hospitality sector in time for Easter is being drawn up. It reports that there could be a “big bang” return for all England’s pupils at once, despite the risk of a “sharp hike” in the infection rate.
image caption“The joy of 6, part 2” is the Daily Mirror’s headline, saying the lockdown could be eased by May. It says parts of the country could move to tier one rules, meaning a return to the “rule of six”.
image captionWith the UK about to “smash” its mid-February vaccination target, the Daily Express headline says the country can get ready to take the first steps on the “road to lockdown freedom”.
image caption“That’s a jab well done!” declares the Daily Mail, which reports that the target of vaccinating 15 million people – which would mean all the top four priority groups had been offered a first dose – is due to be met 48 hours early. It says the UK already exceeded 14 million vaccinations with the 500,000 jabs delivered on Thursday, meaning that it should pass the milestone on Saturday.
image captionAn interview with Matt Hancock leads the Telegraph, where the health secretary gives a more cautiously optimistic outlook: he hopes vaccines and new treatments will turn coronavirus into a disease we can “live with, like flu” by the end of the year. He tells the paper new drugs designed to treat Covid-19 will arrive this year – and they are expected to be fast-tracked through the UK’s clinical trial system.
image captionThe Times focuses on what it calls a “huge fall in Covid patients”, based on internal government projections which suggest the number of people in hospital with coronavirus in England will halve over the next month, returning to the levels last seen in October. The paper says it means scientific advisers are “increasingly confident” about the reopening of schools on 8 March and the relaxation of other restrictions in April.
image captionThe initial shock of the pandemic caused the UK’s economic output to fall by the largest amount since the Great Frost of 1709, the Financial Times says. But it says Chancellor Rishi Sunak sees a case for “cautious optimism” as the economy grew by 1% in the final quarter of 2020.
image captionAnd the Daily Star tackles what it calls a “Royal Fail”: based on footage from a neighbour’s video doorbell, it says a postman delivering parcels left a fallen pensioner on the ground outside her home because he was “too knackered” to help her up. Royal Mail told the paper it was very sorry for the customer’s distress and it is investigating the incident.