The UK government has announced a roadmap to cautiously ease lockdown restrictions in England.
Supported by the increased protection offered by vaccines, the government is able to slowly and cautiously begin to ease restrictions in all areas across England at the same time, guided at all stages by data, not dates.
The roadmap, which has now been published on gov.uk, outlines four steps for easing restrictions. Before proceeding to the next step, the Government will examine the data to assess the impact of previous steps.
This assessment will be based on four tests:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
There will be a minimum of five weeks between each step: four weeks for the data to reflect changes in restrictions; followed by seven days’ notice of the restrictions to be eased.
The Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser have made clear that this will give adequate time to assess the impact of each step and reduce the risk of having to re-impose restrictions at a later date.
Step one is in two parts:
On 8 March
- All schools and colleges will reopen
- University students can return for practical courses. There will be a review by the end of the Easter holidays for all other students
- Face coverings are recommended for older students, but also for parents and staff in primary school
- Wraparound childcare can also return for vulnerable pupils and where it is needed for parents or carers to go to work, support groups or seek medical care
- People can meet one other person outside for recreation, which can include “a coffee on a bench”
- A “broader range” of campaigning can continue from this date in light of elections on May
- One nominated person can visit care homes, but will need PPE, a lateral flow test and to “keep physical contact to a minimum”
- Holidays still not permitted and outbound passengers will be legally obliged to provide their reason for travel
- People will be allowed to meet outside either with one other household or within the “rule of six”, including in private gardens
- Stay at home rule is dropped but people should still minimise movement as much as possible
- People will still be urged to work from home
- Outdoor sport facilities will reopen, including tennis and basketball courts
- Formally organised outdoor sports can also restart
Parents and children groups can return but are capped at 15 and must be outdoors. Indoor groups can take place for vulnerable children and where parents need the groups to go to work
Introduced no earlier than 12th April:
- Non-essential retail, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries and museums open
- Outdoor hospitality in pubs and restaurants allowed with households or rule-of-six
- Most outdoor settings reopen such as zoos and theme parks
- Gyms and indoor swimming pools open
- Self-catering holiday accommodation and camp sites reopen
- Funerals continue with up to 30 people
Weddings with up to 15 people.
- would start no earlier than 17th May with limited mixing indoors
- Outdoors most social contact rules lifted, up to limit of 30 people
- Mixing indoors allowed for two households, but rule-of-six for indoor hospitality and elsewhere
- Cinemas, soft play centres, rest of accommodation sector, hotels, indoor exercise classes return
- Performances and sporting events resume – larger performances with venues 1,000+ or half full will be allowed indoors and outdoors 4,000 capacity or half full (whichever lowest)
- In very largest outdoor seated venues such as football stadiums up to 10,000 people allowed to attend (or 1/4 full whichever is lowest)
Up to 30 people can attend weddings, receptions, funerals, wakes.
- The prime minister hopes that step four, from 21st June, would see the end of all legal limits on social contact.
- ambition to reopen final closed sectors of the economy such as nightclubs
- Hope to lift restrictions on large events and performances
- Hope to remove all limits on weddings and other “life events”