The PM will outline his blueprint for easing the stringent measures in England to Parliament on Monday, amid a clamour of warnings from scientists to act gradually.
The road map will confirm plans to allow care home residents to hold hands with a regular indoor visitor from March 8, and is expected to also detail an easing of restrictions on outdoor socialising within weeks.
Matt Hancock said the blueprint will provide guidance on summer holidays and the reopening of schools – with pupils in all year groups widely expected to return to the classroom from March 8.
He added that, despite the success of the vaccine rollout so far, and the “understandable” urge to return to normal life, the government’s goal is to take a “cautious but irreversible approach”.
In a series of broadcast interviews on Sunday morning, he said there will be “weeks between the steps” so ministers can “watch carefully” the impact of each relaxation of the restrictions.
Hancock said that one in three adults in the UK has now received a coronavirus vaccine, and that the government is confident it has the supplies to meet the July 31 target and to vaccinate all adults over 50, and higher risk groups, by April 15.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “The vaccination programme, whilst clearly going very well, will take time to be able to reach all people who have significant vulnerability, especially because we need to get the second jab to everybody.
“We’ve got time that needs to be taken to get this right. The Prime Minister will set out the road map tomorrow and he will set out the full details – taking into account that we need to take a cautious but irreversible approach, that’s the goal.”
Leading epidemiologist Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said any easing of the lockdown must be gradual to prevent a surge in hospital admissions and deaths.
He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show that, while vaccinating all adults by the end of July will make a “huge difference”, easing restrictions rapidly would put the NHS under pressure again.
“If we eased off very rapidly now, we would get another surge in hospitalisations, so we have to ease very gradually. Otherwise we will put the health service under pressure again and we’ll get a surge in hospitalisations, and indeed deaths,” he said.