Shops, pubs and restaurants should only reopen in an area when it has less than 10 cases per 100,000 people, according to a coronavirus advisory group.
It comes ahead of Boris Johnson sharing his “road map” out of England’s lockdown on Monday.
So far, the only thing the prime minister has confirmed is an 8 March target date “at the earliest” for schools to reopen.
In a briefing on Friday ahead of Johnson’s announcement, the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) agreed that schools should be prioritised for reopening – but only when infections are below 100 cases per 100,000 people in all regions.
Watch: Boris Johnson says lockdown lift will be 'cautious' (from Wednesday)
Following this, it said that shops and hospitality and entertainment businesses should only be allowed to reopen in “green zone” areas of less than 10 cases per 100,000 people.
Prof Stephen Reicher, who also advises the government’s main Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told the briefing: “That’s the point at which if there are infections, you can deal with them through a proper test and trace system, through supported isolation and so on.
“This is the way we would argue to reopen and stay open, to get to a point where we can manage COVID not with the blunt instrument of lockdown, but with targeted instruments.”
Those “targeted instruments” amount to Independent Sage’s “five pillars”: vaccinations; testing and tracing; financial support for people self-isolating; public spaces being accredited as “COVID secure” similar to a restaurant’s hygiene rating; and strict control on borders and international travel.
In the seven days up to 14 February, the latest dates for which rolling weekly infection figures are available, 120 of England’s 315 local authority areas had case rates of less than 100 per 100,000. None had case rates of less than 10 per 100,000.
Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown