Week Ahead: Hopes for Government's plan to lift lockdown and the tragic Great Heck disaster anniversary

The UK is desperate for a plan to get out of lockdown, while farmers scrutinise Ministers and a tragedy’s 20th anniversary is marked. John Blow looks at the week ahead.

Lifting lockdown

All eyes will be focused on the Government’s announcement of how the UK finally eases out of repeated coronavirus lockdowns, with hopes that alongside progress on the vaccination programme it will lead to a return of relative normality.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is tomorrow due to set out his plans after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government “absolutely” wants the current, third lockdown to be the last.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a coronavirus briefing at Downing Street. Picture: Chris J Ratcliffe/PA Wire.

The Daily Mail last week reported that leisure and UK tourism bosses have been told that the sector will be “broadly back to normal” in July, according to “an industry source”.

Before then, it reported, limited reopening of self-catered holiday lets and larger hotels could take place by Easter, with further relaxations in hospitality between May and June.

“Other insiders believe decisions could be taken at three-week intervals, as this is the time that it takes for the data to demonstrate the effect of the lockdown loosening,” reported the newspaper.

However NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson urged Boris Johnson to focus on “data, not just dates” when the Prime Minister sets out his proposals and said the nation was “still some way away” from being able to start relaxing restrictions.

The body, which represents NHS trusts, has written to the Prime Minister urging him to “resist pressure to loosen restrictions” before it is safe to do so.

Farming matters

Environment Secretary George Eustice and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer are due to address the National Farmers’ Union annual conference on Tuesday.

NFU president Minette Batters and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss are also billed to appear at the virtual event.

Discussions will be held on the future of agriculture and horticulture and issues to be debated elsewhere will include flooding - a reoccurring problem which again reared its head in Yorkshire over recent weeks - the pandemic and access rights.

Truss could be expected to defend the country’s food standards, post-Brexit, which Government has repeatedly said won’t be compromised.

Whisky in the jar

A whisky estimated at between a whopping £18,000 to 20,000 will be shown to photographers for auctioneers Bonhams’ first whisky sale of 2021 on Tuesday.

The Macallan Millennium Decanter 50 year old 1949 was made by Caithness Glass in Crieff and comes in a fitted oak presentation case.

The whisky sale itself will take place on Tuesday March 2.

Disaster memorial

Twenty years since the Great Heck rail disaster in Yorkshire will be marked on Sunday next week.

On the morning of February 28 2001 an InterCity 225 passenger train operated by Great North Eastern Railway was derailed into the path of an oncoming freight train in the village near Selby.

Ten people died, including the drivers of both trains, and 82 were seriously injured in what remains the worst rail disaster of the 21st century in the UK.

Because of the national lockdown, LNER, Network Rail and Freightliner are hosting a virtual memorial to mark the 20th anniversary.

The memorial event will be broadcast from Great Heck and Newcastle - where the passenger train departed from on the day of the crash - next Sunday at 10am.

Representatives will be laying wreaths, delivering readings and pausing as a train passes Great Heck and sounds its horn in dedication to those who were lost.