Key dates in England’s exit from lockdown have been revealed under the PM’s roadmap.
With the number of vaccinated people in the UK nudging 18 million, the R rate falling nationwide, and Covid cases in London falling over 90% from the January peak, today is finally the day we learned how our exit from England’s latest lockdown will unfold. Unveiling his “cautious” lockdown ‘roadmap’ to the House of Commons this afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that lockdown restrictions will begin to ease on March 8, and that four tests will be used to guide the unravelling of restrictions, which will be rolled out step by step across England.
The four tests are as follows:
- The continuing rollout of the vaccines.
- Evidence that vaccinations are helping to drive down hospitalisations and death rates.
- Infection rates remaining low and avoiding pressure on the NHS.
- The appearance of new Covid variants, and the risks they pose.
The four-step system will replace last year’s tiers, as the nation takes a collective move forward instead. Steps will unfold “at least five weeks” apart, in order to see the impact that loosening restrictions will have upon the infection rates. The government has stated that the roadmap will be guided by the data in order to move from one step to the next. Outdoor activities (which the evidence suggests are safer) will return before indoor ones, with outdoor socialising in line as the first major step in the easing. Here’s how the easing will unfold, step by step/month-by-month.
Step 1 begins in two weeks, and includes new rules on socialising, schools, sports, and care homes.
Schools will reopen. This has long been earmarked as the first lockdown restriction to be eased, and will see pupils in all year groups returning to school en masse, with school sports and after-school activities also allowed to resume.
Outdoor gatherings of two households or six people permitted. More restrictions will be eased later in the month, and the crucial one is allowing larger groups of people to meet outside in parks and private gardens. Gatherings will be capped at two households or six people – marking the return of last year’s Rule of Six’ – to allow larger groups to socialise after months of confinement, just in time for the Easter break.
Outdoor sport can return. Further opportunities for recreation will be allowed in late March, with tennis courts, football pitches, open-air swimming pools, and basketball courts permitted to open. This will also allow formally-organised grassroots sport (i.e. your local football team) to resume.
Travelling out of local areas can resume. We’ll be able to travel further afield to socialise with others as the legal requirement to stay local is dropped – however, overnight stays will still be forbidden, and the guidance is to stay local still.
Step 2 would likely begin in mid-April (provided the data supports further easing) and could see the return of hospitality and retail. We’ll know on April 5 whether these steps can go ahead.
Non-essential shops can reopen. Shopping will be back on the cards as retailers can open their doors once again.
Hairdressers and nail salons reopen. It’ll finally be time for a long-overdue haircut as salons open to the public once more. Precautions including face masks and PPE are likely to be in effect.
Outdoor dining can resume. Restaurants and pubs will be able to resume outdoor service, with the two households/Rule of Six still applying, and no curfew or substantial meal requirement.
Indoor leisure facilities like gyms can reopen.
Holiday lets are permitted for use by individuals or household groups.
Zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas, plus public libraries can open.
All over-50s offered a vaccine. This is the government’s new target date for every over-50 and vulnerable person in the UK to receive their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, which will hopefully give a large section of the population some immunity by May.
Could begin as soon as May 17, and might loosen restrictions on dining and socialising further.
Up to 30 people will be able to meet outdoors.
Indoor dining can resume in pubs and restaurants.
Cinemas, play areas, theatres, concert halls, hotels, hostels, BnBs, sports stadiums (with capacity limits) can all open.
We can see friends and family indoors, in groups of six or two households.
Pilot of larger events with mass testing.
Further easing of measures including a ruling on indoor mixing and large events. This will occur no earlier than June 21.
All legal limits on social contacts are lifted.
Restrictions on large events (including weddings) lifted.
All other sectors reopen, including nightclubs.
Larger theatre performances allowed.
The Prime Minister also said there will be four reviews in the coming months for further aspects of easing. The first will look at further guidance on face masks and continued working from home, the second will investigate the resumption of international travel, the third will look at Covid-status certification for reopening venues, and the fourth review will look at the feasibility for resuming major events.
This is a breaking news story, more to follow.