Lockdown roadmap: New rules for the next step of easing explained

·5 min read
Lockdown roadmap: New rules for the next step of easing explained
<p>Groups of up to six people from multiple households, or larger groups from only two households, will be able to meet outdoors or in private gardens from 29 March under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown</p> (Getty Images)

Groups of up to six people from multiple households, or larger groups from only two households, will be able to meet outdoors or in private gardens from 29 March under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown

(Getty Images)

Uncertainty remains as ministers weigh up whether to press ahead with lifting England’s coronavirus restrictions on 21 June.

The government will wait until 14 June to assess the latest data before deciding whether to proceed with lifting the remaining restrictions in England, and will also consider to what extent they can be lifted.

All over-50s are set to have had both doses by that date under a target set out by the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, although it takes time for the full protection to kick in.

The continued spread of the Indian coronavirus variant has cast doubt on the ability to scrap restrictions, with ministers considering plans to keep some measures - such as the continued use of face masks and guidance on working from home - in place.

But proposals for domestic vaccine passports are reported to have been shelved.

More than 25 million people have now received both doses of a vaccine and Mr Zahawi said: "Together we will beat Covid. The team is focused on another big week ahead."

The vaccine programme is one of the key factors in the government’s decision and Mr Zahawi told Times Radio "I could do with more supply" because "I will be able to protect more people more rapidly".

Asked whether the remaining restrictions could be eased if cases were still increasing, he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "What I'm saying to you is we have to be cautious. We have to look at the data and share it with the country.

"Are we still vaccinating at scale? Big tick. Are the vaccines working? Yes.

"But are infection rates too high for us to then not be able to proceed because there are too many people getting into hospital? I don't know the answer to it."

Indoor household mixing has resumed in England in May, allowing social mixing at people’s homes, provided that gatherings consist of no more than six people or two households.

Hugging is also allowed, although people are being urged to do so with discretion and groups of up to 30 people may meet up outdoors.

It came after the government said that the latest data showed that the previous easing of restrictions - including the opening of non-essential shops on 12 April – had not resulted in a major leap in coronavirus cases.

A surge in cases of the Indian variant has prompted fears that Monday’s reopening could be deferred, with health minister Edward Argar saying on BBC Breakfast that the government was “keeping everything under review”.

The prime minister unveiled the staged approach to easing lockdown in February – but, while he pencilled in dates for lifting different rules, he said that infection, hospital and death numbers would determine the final decision each time.

Since 29 March, the rule of six means that six people have been able to meet outdoors, while outdoor group sports and leisure have also been allowed. This was followed on 12 April by the reopening of non-essential shops, as well as pubs and restaurants for outdoor hospitality.

There have been concerns that the so-called Indian variant could interrupt the final stage of lockdown easing, with Boris Johnson saying it could mean a “risk of disruption and delay” to the planned lifting of restrictions on 21 June. In the meantime, however, what happens next?

From 17 May: Gatherings of up to 30 people are permitted outdoors at this point. However, the rule of six and two-household rule will apply indoors as people are allowed to meet inside for the first time in months.

Pubs and restaurants will reopen indoors, as will cinemas, children’s play areas, hotels and B&Bs.

Some large events will be able to take place, including conferences, theatre and concert performances and sports events.

Controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted, as will outdoor events with a capacity of either 50 per cent or 4,000 people, whichever is lower.

The government will also make a special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25 per cent of total seated capacity, whichever is lower.

Up to 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings, receptions, funerals, and commemorative events, including wakes. A broader range of stand-alone life events will also be permitted at this step, including bar mitzvahs and christenings.

Carehome residents will be allowed up to five named visitors and more freedom to get out and about.

Organised adult sports and exercise classes may restart indoors with steam rooms and saunas also allowed to reopen.

Hotels, hostels and B&Bs will also be permitted to open their doors once again.

No earlier than 21 June: All legal limits on social contact should be lifted from 21 June at the earliest.

Once social-distancing is completely eased, nightclubs should be able to reopen and restrictions on events and live performances, including weddings, will finally being lifted.

What four conditions must be met?

The timetable for lifting restrictions will be subject to four tests at each stage of easing measures, including the success of the vaccination rollout, the effectiveness of the vaccination programme at reducing hospital admissions and deaths, infection rates and the impact of any new coronavirus variants.

The government will also conduct four reviews, including looking at coronavirus status certificates to allow people to prove if they have had a vaccine or negative test result, pilots of large events, international travel, and the withdrawal of social distancing measures and face masks.

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