• Wed. Feb 24th, 2021

All the key dates for when lockdown restrictions will ease


Feb 23, 2021

Boris Johnson has laid out his plan to ease lockdown step-by-step (Picture: PA/AFP/Getty/REX)

While the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, the nation now has a much clearer picture of when life could return to normal.

Yesterday Boris Johnson unveiled his eagerly anticipated ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, which will see businesses being able to open their doors and social distancing rules eased over several stages.

The Prime Minister warned MPs the approach was ‘cautious but also irreversible’, with the impact of the vaccination programme replacing the need for lockdown measures.

He accepted that there is ‘no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain or indeed a zero-Covid world’, and while scientific modelling suggests lifting measures would increase cases and deaths, he said the country cannot ‘persist indefinitely’ with restrictions.

The Government also launched a review looking at the use of ‘Covid status’ certificates which could be used by people to demonstrate they had received a jab or a negative coronavirus test in order to enter venues, or allow firms to reduce restrictions as a result of the status of their customers.

As exciting as the news is, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the pace of ending lockdown could be slowed down if infections get too high again, but the five-week gap between the stages will allow scientists to assess the impact.

Step 1 – March 8

Re-opening schools fully for March 8 is one of the Government’s top priorities (Picture: PA)

In the first step of the roadmap, all pupils in England’s schools are expected to return to class from March 8, with wider use of face masks and testing for secondaries.

Socialising in parks and public spaces will also be allowed again between two people from desperate households.

This was previously allowed for exercise, such as having a walk, but people will be able to sit down in the park and have a coffee or picnic together.

Care home residents will also be allowed one indoor visitor from March 8, but they will be required to take a lateral flow test before entry and to wear PPE.

They will be able to hold hands again, although hugging and kissing will not be allowed.

Step 2 – March 29

Socialising outdoors will be allowed once again (Picture: Getty Images)

Larger groups of up to six people or two households will be allowed to socialise outdoors again, both in parks and people’s gardens.

Outdoor sports and leisure facilities including golf courses and tennis courts will also open again.

The Government are also set to drop its ‘stay at home’ message with ‘stay local’, meaning people will no longer be expected to only leave their home under the current list of exceptional circumstances.

Step 3 – April 12

Pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers in outdoor seating areas if all goes to plan (Picture: Getty Images)

If everything goes to plan, pubs and restaurants will be able to open again for outdoor service only.

The rule of six or a maximum of two households will apply, and customers will need to be seated when ordering food or drink.

Unlike the previous three-tier system, the unpopular ‘substantial meal’ rule and curfew times will not be re-introduced for hospitality venues.

Non-essential shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, museums, and outdoor attractions such as zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas will also be allowed to re-open and domestic holidays will be back on the cards.

Gyms will be able to open again, but they will still be subject to social distancing rules (Picture: PA)

Indoor leisure centres including gyms and swimming pools will also be allowed to re-open.

However social distancing rules will still apply, meaning you could only exercise in a gym or go to a museum alone or with a member of your own household.

Under current lockdown rules, weddings are only permitted under ‘exceptional circumstances’ such as in cases of terminal illnesses, but from April 12 they will be allowed again with a maximum of 15 people.

Step 4 – May 17

Pubs, bars and restaurants are expected to be able to serve customers indoors from May 17 (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

Two households or groups of up to six people will be allowed to mix indoors, while the limit on outdoor gatherings will be increased to 30.

Pubs, bars and restaurants will be allowed to open indoors again, along with cinemas, theatres and concert halls.

Crowds of up to 10,000 people will be allowed for seated performances and sporting events in the largest outdoor venues, while other outdoor events will be capped at 4,000.

Some large events will also be allowed indoors, with a maximum of 1,000 people or 50% capacity, whichever is smaller.

Measures are being lifted in steps so health experts have time to assess the impact on Covid infections (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

Children’s play areas, hotels and hostels will also be able to open from that date.

Friends and family could could finally be allowed to hug each other again, with the Government’s roadmap promising that advice on social distancing will be updated ‘as soon as possible’ and no later than step three.

This also means that people could be able to have sex with members of different households again.

International travel could also be allowed by May 17 at the earliest, pending a Government review to see how safe it would be.

Step 5 – June 21

Nightclubs could open from June 21 more than a year after being forced to close (Picture: SWNS)

This is when all remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted, depending on the success of the vaccine programme.

A review to conclude by June 21 will examine social distancing requirements, the use of face masks and requirements to work from home.

Weddings could take place again at full capacity, pending a review, and much larger crowds will be allowed at concert venues and theatres.

Nightclubs are expected to re-open after more than a year, with testing potentially being used as a way to prevent future outbreaks.

The roadmap adds: ‘Some measures may be required even after all adults have been offered a vaccine, because neither coverage nor effectiveness of the vaccine will be 100%.’

Making a statement in the Commons, the Prime Minister acknowledged ‘the threat remains substantial’ with the numbers in hospital only now beginning to fall below the peak of the first wave in April.

Modelling by the Sage scientific advisory panel showed ‘we cannot escape the fact that lifting lockdown will result in more cases, more hospitalisations and sadly more deaths’.

But as there is ‘no credible route to a zero Covid Britain’, Johnson said we ‘cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing and the life chances of our children’.

The Prime Minister said his approach would be driven by ‘data not dates’, with the five-week gap between stages allowing time for the impact on infections to be determined and for companies to get ready.

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Progress on the next steps out of lockdown will depend on meeting four tests: the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, an assessment of new variants, and keeping infection rates below a level that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

Johnson hailed data from Public Health England which showed a single shot of the Pfizer vaccine cuts the chance of hospital admission and death from Covid-19 by more than 75% among the over-80s.

The continued restrictions on some businesses will lead to an extension in taxpayer-funded support schemes, with the PM saying: ‘We will not pull the rug out.’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under pressure to extend measures such as the furlough scheme, which is due to expire at the end of April, when he delivers his Budget on March 3.

Sources have said he is expected to extend the furlough scheme until at least July.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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