All Covid restrictions will be lifted by late June under the Prime Minister’s roadmap for exiting lockdown, as the government grows increasingly confident in the UK’s vaccine rollout.
Announcing the timeline in the Commons, Boris Johnson said that “all of the legal limits on social contact can be removed no earlier than 21 June” in England.
It means the nation will have to wait at least another four months until freedom, though the government will roll out a gradual easing of restrictions in the meantime.
Most of society and the economy will reopen by May including pubs, restaurants, shops, hotels and live sport.
The PM emphasised ministers will prioritise “data not dates” in exiting England’s third nationwide lockdown, with at least five weeks in between each batch of restrictions being lifted.
Johnson said there was “no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain or indeed a zero-Covid world,” but that the roadmap would provide a “cautious but irreversible” timeline for easing current lockdown measures.
He added that doing so had “only been made possible” by the success of the UK’s vaccination programme, with almost 18m people vaccinated so far.
The PM also pointed to groundbreaking data released this afternoon that showed the Pfizer vaccine cuts Covid transmission by up to 85 per cent, and reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death by three-quarters.
Schools and outdoor activities
All schools and colleges will reopen on 8 March under the the PM’s roadmap. The government will not enforce a staggered approach to reopening schools as had been expected, meaning all 10m school-age children in England will return to the classroom at the same time.
After school clubs and extracurricular activities will also resume from that date, in a welcome boon for parents after months of homeschooling.
From 8 March individuals will also be able to meet up outside with one other person from a different household for a coffee, chat, picnic or walk, including in private gardens. Currently, two members of different households are only allowed to meet up for outdoor exercise.
“Stay at home” orders will be ditched on 29 March at the earliest, when the government will instead encourage people to “stay local” where they can.
The end of March will also see a return to the rule of six for outdoor gatherings, when groups of up to 30 people from two households will also be able meet up outside.
Outdoor sports facilities including tennis courts and football pitches will also reopen on 29 March. Johnson said he was keen for members of the public to be able to enjoy the spring weather after months of lockdown over the winter.
Johnson announced the “scotch egg debate will be over”, with the government set to scrap the “substantial meal” requirement and 10pm curfew. Takeaway pints and meals for venues without outdoor seating capacity will also be back on the menu.
Pubs, restaurants, and staycations
All non-essential shops, hair salons, gyms, swimming pools, and indoor sports facilities will reopen from 12 April, alongside museums, galleries, and libraries.
However, the rule of six will remain in place, meaning individuals will only be able to visit the above with members of their own household.
Staycations will also be back on the cards from mid-April, when self-catered accommodation will be allowed to resume.
The government will conduct a review into the threat from emerging variants which it will report on 12 April. The review could pave the way for foreign holidays abroad this summer, which could enable people to travel abroad as soon as 17 May.
Cinemas, hotels, and outdoor gatherings
From 17 May at the earliest, indoor mixing between households will resume and the rule of six will be scrapped. That will mean people be will able to eat, drink and socialise with friends in hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants.
The government also hopes to ditch outdoor limits on social distancing entirely by 17 May.
Entertainment venues such as cinemas and play areas will be allowed to reopen, while hotels, B&Bs, and indoor adult sports groups will resume.
It’s also the earliest date that non-essential international travel can resume.
The government is also preparing to allow live sport and music. Larger performances with 1,000 people or half-full venues, whichever is lower, will be allowed indoors.
Outdoor performances with 4,000 people or half-full venues, whichever is lower, will be allowed. For larger venues such as Wembley Stadium as many as 10,000 people will be allowed to attend.
‘All over by June’
If those measures do not have see a resurgence in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations, the Prime Minister hopes to lift all lockdown restrictions by 21 June.
Nightclubs will be among the last sectors of society to reopen, with Johnson ramping up plans to roll out wide scale testing on the doors of venues.
However, Johnson cautioned that “we must remain alert to the constant threat of new mutations”, warning that ministers could slam on the breaks at any point if new strains emerge.
The PM said it was “arrogant to impose any kind of plan on a virus,” adding that he would not hesitate to reapply restrictions at a local or regional level if needed.