The government has unveiled its roadmap out of lockdown in England, with gradual easing planned in the coming months.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the House of Commons at 3:30pm on Monday, February 22 on the lockdown exit strategy, outlining when restrictions on socialising, hospitality and schools were due to end.
What did the Prime Minister say?
The government will wind down restrictions slowly over the coming months, with easing planned in four stages.
Schools will be the first to see restrictions eased, with pupils back in classrooms on March 8, with restrictions on school sports and activity clubs also planned for this date.
Provided the government’s four tests for lockdown easing are met, the PM also announced that from April 12, hairdressers and personal care services could reopen, while restaurants and pubs will be allowed to serve customers outside. Self-contained accommodation will also open from this date, but only members of the same household will be able to stay together.
Foreign holidays will not be permitted until at least May 17, with a possible update on April 12.
Boris Johnson also indicated that life could return back to relative normality from June 21, when, subject to the four tests, restrictions on social contact will be removed.
All easing will be subject to the government’s four “tests” which must be met before the next stage is unlocked. These are:
-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.
When will outdoor mixing be allowed again?
Currently in England, you are only permitted to meet outdoors with one person from another household if it is for the purposes of exercise.
From March 8, rules will be relaxed to allow people to meet more casually with friends and family, with people allowed to meet one other person outdoors for social purposes - such as grabbing a coffee or having a catch up.
The rules will then be relaxed further at the end of the month, with a maximum of up to six people or two households permitted to meet outdoors from March 29.
It is at this point that the government’s “stay at home” guidance will end, though messaging will continue to encourage the public to remain local.
With the opening of outdoor restaurant and pub seating planned for April 12, socialising will be permitted in this context – though limited to the rule of six or two households rule.
From May 17, most rules on outdoor socialising will be removed, meaning the rule of six won’t apply. Gatherings outdoors of over 30, however, will not be permitted.
When will indoor mixing be allowed again?
Indoor mixing will be permitted from May 17, though restrictions on these meetings will be greater than those applied outdoors.
From May 17, indoor gatherings will be limited to the rule of six or two households; whichever is larger. Social distancing will also be required between members of different households.
The same rule will apply if meeting others inside a pub – though if sitting outdoors, from May 17, only the limit on gatherings of over 30 will apply.