These are the lockdown restrictions that will be eased from June 1.
As the UK begins to tentatively feel its way out of lockdown, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge about what the so-called “new normal” will look like. Though we already know outdoor markets will reopen on June 1 and non-essential shops can return from June 15, further guidelines have just emerged at the UK government’s daily briefing, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out the next steps in the fight against coronavirus. In the briefing, Johnson confirmed that you’ll be able to meet in groups of up to six people, including those from other households, from June 1.
Today’s announcement is finally an answer to the long-awaited question of “when can I see my family again?”, and marks a big step forward for lockdown easing. The new rules will allow families, many of whom have been sundered by the lockdown, to meet up outdoors – so long as social distancing rules are followed. Gatherings are permitted in parks and gardens across the UK, with up to six people allowed to meet at any one time, so long as those from different households stay two metres apart. Meeting in gardens was not previously permissible, but has now been allowed to ensure that families can be reunited with ease.
The meetings are, however, restricted to outdoor gatherings, as scientific evidence indicates that the chances of the virus transmitting from person to person are lower outdoors than indoors. As Johnson noted “minimising contact with others is still the best way to prevent transmission”, and warned us not to be inside other people’s homes unless it is to access the garden. We should also try to avoid meeting people from too many households in quick succession, in order to prevent a swift transmission, and Johnson also asked vulnerable UK residents who have been “shielding” during this time to continue doing so. It’s also important to note that these rules are for England specifically, as the devolved nations have announced their own slightly different rules; Scotland, for instance, is now allowing gatherings of up to eight people from two different households.
Schools will also return on June 1, with nurseries, reception, Year 1, and Year 6 classes the first to come back. Meanwhile, Years 10 & 12 will return with some face to face classes on June 15, Johnson confirmed. The new measures come as a result of the UK hitting the five tests spelled out by the government when the initial three-week lockdown was extended on April 16, which are as follows: first, that the NHS has the ability to cope with the number of active cases, second, to see a sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates, third, reliable data that the rate of infection is decreasing, fourth, that operational challenges (testing kits for suspected cases and a suitable amount of PPE) are in hand, and finally, a confidence that any adjustment to the current measures won’t invite a second peak of the virus.
Today, Johnson announced that we’ve now met all five tests, with the peak of the virus passing in mid-April and the death rate falling weekly, which has given the government the confidence to further relax the lockdown rules. The new packages of rules has been “carefully designed” in order to prevent a surge in virus cases as the rules ease, according to Johnson. Today also saw the rollout of the UK’s “track and track” system for coronavirus, which will alert people when someone they’ve come into contact with has contracted the virus – although the system will not be fully operational until the end of June. As the Prime Minister noted, there may be “further local outbreaks” which means the government will be prepared to “put on the breaks as required”, but he remains hopeful that “in the coming weeks we may be able to do more”.
Meanwhile, football’s Premier League has been given the green light to return on June 17, with Manchester City playing Arsenal and Aston Villa taking on Sheffield United, ahead of a full round of fixtures on the weekend of the 20/21 May. Tonight is also the final nationwide round of applause as part of Clap for Our Carers, which is set to return as an annual event on the last Thursday of every March.
We’ll bring you more news as soon as we have it, but do remember to keeping washing your hands and maintaining social distancing when you’re out and about.
Also published on Medium.