The buried detail that means larger indoor gatherings could be allowed sooner than Boris Johnson announced

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James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2 min read
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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 22, 2021: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for the House of Commons to deliver a statement to MPs setting out the govenment's 'road map' for easing the coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England, on 22 February, 2021 in London, England.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Bigger indoor gatherings may eventually be allowed sooner than set out by Boris Johnson in stage three of the government’s road map out of lockdown. (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Bigger indoor gatherings may be allowed sooner than planned in stage three of the government’s road map out of lockdown.

In the House of Commons on Monday, Boris Johnson announced up to six people – or two households – will be allowed to mix indoors in phase three of England’s unlocking, which will happen on 17 May at the earliest.

As it stands, bigger indoor gatherings than six people or two households will only be allowed on 21 June at the earliest: the date Johnson aims to have "removed all legal limits on social contact”.

However, buried in the government’s COVID-19 response document – which was released at the same time as the prime minister’s speech and contains the finer points of Downing Street’s plan – is an admission that bigger gatherings may actually be permitted before 21 June.

Watch: Boris Johnson unveils road map for lifting lockdown

Addressing the third stage of the road map, a sentence in point 124 on page 37 of the document reads:

"Indoors, people will be able to meet socially in a group of 6, or with 1 other household, though it may be possible to go further than this at Step 3 depending on the data."

It raises the prospect of, for example, three households rather than two being able to gather indoors if coronavirus infection and hospitalisation data allows for it.

Regardless, the government said it will still be advising people to “follow guidance on how to meet safely” and “minimise the size of gatherings and meeting outdoors where possible”.

Read more:

All COVID restrictions on social contact to be lifted on 21 June at the earliest, Boris Johnson reveals

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During his speech on Monday, Johnson said there will be a review which "will consider the potential role of COVID-status certification in helping venues to open safely but mindful of the many concerns surrounding exclusion, discrimination and privacy".

Yahoo News UK has asked Downing Street if this will be among the data considered for potentially increasing the size of indoor gatherings sooner than planned.

Watch: What Are the Four Tests to End Lockdown?