Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, has urged caution at the easing of lockdown restrictions that are set to be announced today.

The MP said that "we cannot have a fourth costly lockdown" and urged the government to listen to the science and data along the way.

She has praised the vaccine rollout and the work of local health bodies such as NHS Trusts and CCGs and welcomed the return of schools on March 8.

Ms Qureshi said: "“With case rates, hospitalisations, and deaths beginning to steadily decline, we are now in a position to think about how we exit lockdown.

"We are in this position not because of an effective test and trace system, or an effective airport quarantine system, or a fast and hard lockdown, but because of the actions of the NHS, various CCGs, and members of the public, who have paved the way for one of the best vaccine rollouts in Europe.

“Where the Government has repeatedly failed and handed out contracts to their mates, wider civil society has had to step in and pick up the slack.

“This afternoon, we must see a detailed plan which is led by the data and ensures we exit lockdown safely and prevents spikes in coronavirus cases.

"Nadhim Zahawi this morning alluded that schools are likely to open on the 8th March. I welcome this - but it must be a return which is safe and prevents students from becoming vectors for increased transmission. Time and time again the Government’s incompetence has let down children, families, and education staff and we need to ensure it doesn't happen again.

“Mobilising almost a fifth of the entire population to return to school on the same day could be disastrous and cause a rise in infections. We should tread very carefully and follow the example of Scotland and Wales with a phased reopening, prioritising early years and primary schools in the first instance, along with examination years in secondary schools.

“Everyone knows some restrictions are set to remain. I’d like to see assurances provided to bricks and mortar businesses on the high street, as well as online businesses, the self-employed and those who are excluded. They must be reassured that they will receive sufficient protection and guidance as we move out of this lockdown.

"We need to listen to the science and the data when moving out of lockdown. We cannot have a fourth costly lockdown, but we also must ensure cases and hospitalisations, rates remain low, so that we can protect our NHS and frontline staff."