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.
One-on-one outdoor socialising allowed. March 8 is also poised to be the day that we can begin to safely reunite with our loved ones. One-on-one socialising will be permitted to return on this date, meaning that we’ll be able to sit on a park bench or have a picnic with someone from another household. Whilst exercising with one person from another household was previously permitted, the new rules will allow us more of a relaxing catch-up.
Care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor. A vital concession for older people living in care homes, loosening this restriction will allow family members and friends to visit and hold hands.
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 at home 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 and takeaways, with the two households/Rule of Six still applying, and no curfew or substantial meal requirement. This also means the return of beer gardens!
Indoor leisure facilities like gyms and swimming pools can reopen. Workouts and laps are back on the table in this stage.
Holiday lets are permitted for use by individuals or household groups. Holidays are an option, but only with your household or on your own.
Zoos, theme parks, and drive in cinemas, plus public libraries and community centres can open. Even more outdoor recreation and entertainment settings are allowed to reopen at this stage.
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. Larger groups are permitted to socialise outdoors as most of the social contact limits are relaxed for outdoor meetings.
Indoor dining can resume in pubs and restaurants. The Rule of Six will apply to indoor dining at this stage, with two households also allowed to meet indoors for a meal.
Cinemas, play areas, theatres, concert halls, hotels, hostels, BnBs, and sports stadiums (with capacity limit of 10,000) can all open. Large sectors of the economy can return, and staycations could also return by this point with hostels and hotels open once more. Meanwhile, West End shows and Hollywood releases could make a return.
We can see friends and family indoors, in groups of six or as two households. Some social limits remain on indoor socialising, but this will allow family and friends to reunite indoors.
Pilot of larger events with mass testing. Festivals could be one beneficiary of these pilot schemes, which is also likely to have an impact on sporting events and big concerts going forward.
Further easing of measures including a ruling on social contacts and large events. This will occur no earlier than June 21.
All legal limits on social contacts are lifted. Capacity limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will be gone, putting house parties and the like back in play.
Restrictions on large events (including weddings) lifted. Large weddings and celebrations will be permitted once more, so if you’re planning a big wedding, this could be the date to aim for.
All other sectors reopen, including nightclubs. A return to fabric and other London clubs could come as soon as June, as the government looks to open every sector of the economy once more.
Larger theatre performances allowed. The capacity limits introduced in Step 3 could be dropped to allow West End theatres and other venues to welcome more punters.
The Prime Minister revealed that each of these steps will depend on the success on the one before, and will be driven by the data. So, for instance, if the beginning of Step 2 is delayed by one week, then the timeline for Steps 3 & 4 will also be pushed back by one week.
He also said there will be four reviews in the coming months for further aspects of lockdown easing. The first will look at further guidance on how long social distancing and face masks will be required, and working from home (which will continue until this first review is complete). The second review will investigate the resumption of international travel (and will report by April 12), 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.
Also published on Medium.