The Prime Minister unveiled his roadmap for leaving lockdown this afternoon, promising that it would provide a “one way road to freedom… after a wretched year”.
Boris Johnson said England would “start reclaiming our freedoms” in a fortnight’s time, with all legal limits on social contact set to end on 21 June at the earliest.
Speaking in the Commons ahead of a press conference to the nation this evening, the PM unveiled a four-step strategy for lifting lockdown restrictions, as he vowed to assess the data at every stage of the way.
Johnson told MPs that the dates in the plan were not set in stone, and were the earliest possible points at which restrictions could be lifted.
The roadmap will be buttressed by four key “tests”, which will act like a checklist that must be met before moving onto the next step of reopening.
The four tests are:
- Is the vaccine rollout is going as planned?
- Are the vaccines effective in bringing down deaths and hospitalisations?
- Are case numbers low enough that NHS does not risk being overwhelmed?
- Is there a substantial threat of unforeseen risks from new Covid variants?
Here’s how they will apply to each section of society:
When will schools reopen?
Schools will be the first sectors of society given the green light to reopen. All primary schools, secondary schools and colleges will open their doors to pupils on 8 March, with Johnson insisting children’s education remains the government’s “number one priority”.
All 10m school-age pupils in England will be free to return to the classroom at the same time. However, it is possible that some schools may initially opt to stagger class returns because of the demand for mass testing.
The specifics of mass testing will be ironed out out over the next two weeks, with both at-school and at-home testing likely to play a heavy role. Pupils will be expected to wear face masks in the opening weeks.
In a welcome boost for parents after months of homeschooling, after school clubs and activities will also reopen on that date.
When will gyms, outdoor sports and swimming pools reopen?
Outdoor organised sports for both adults and children will be able to resume from 29 March at the earliest.
Both socially distanced sports like golf and tennis and team sports like football will be allowed to return to the pitch. Swimming pools, basketball courts and other outdoor sports facilities will also be able to reopen.
However, people in England will have to wait until mid-April at the earliest to hit the treadmill. Gyms and other sports facilities will be allowed to reopen no earlier than 12 April under Johnson’s roadmap.
At this stage, people will still only be able to do so individually or with members of their own house, with ministers keen not to relax indoor mixing until later in the year.
Exercise classes will also be banned when gyms reopen in an attempt to reduce contact between people as they work out. Social distancing, regular cleaning and other Covid-secure measures are also expected to apply.
Indoor group workouts will likely only resume in late June, when the government hopes to relax all limits on social contact.
When will pubs, bars and restaurants reopen?
The question on everyone’s lips has finally been answered: pubs will reopen on 12 April at the earliest under Johnson’s roadmap.
Wrap up warm or pray for sunshine in the beer garden — pubs, bars and restaurants permitted to reopen for outdoor sittings only from that date, with tight restrictions and table service only.
Johnson announced the “end of the scotch egg debate”, with the government set to scrap the substantial meal requirement and 10pm curfew once hospitality venues reopen. Those without outdoor capacity will be able to offer al fresco meals and takeaway pints.
Downing Street has emphasised that the easing of outdoor restrictions will take priority, with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi telling LBC this afternoon: “At the moment, it’s outdoors versus indoors. Outdoors is the priority because it’s where the transmission rates are much, much, much lower.”
Venues will have to wait at least another five weeks before they are allowed to open indoors. On 17 May at the earliest, the rule of six and two-households rule will be introduced indoors, paving the way for upturned stools to return to carpets for indoor service.
Hospitality venues will be able to return to normal service no earlier than 21 June, once the government has reviewed whether it can remove all legal limits on social contact.
Despite previously ruling it out, Johnson said the government will consider the role of vaccine passports in fully reopening hospitality venues, alongside mass testing plans.
When will shops, hairdressers, spas, libraries and museums reopen?
All non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen from 12 April at the earliest. That means the public may have to wait another two months before hitting clothes shops, bookstores and shopping malls.
The Prime Minister has faced mounting scrutiny over the economic costs of extending lockdown, with non-essential shops estimated to be worth around £44.6bn each year.
Personal care premises such as hairdressers, spas and salons will reopen alongside shops, though saunas and steam rooms will initially be prohibited.
Libraries, museums and galleries are also earmarked to open on 12 April, alongside outdoor attractions such as zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas.
The “stay at home” orders will end on that date, but the government will instead encourage people to stay local where they can. That means no big shopping trips into the city until later in the year.
People will also have to shop, go to a museum and hit the spa on their own or with members of their household until at least 12 June, when a wider relaxations of restrictions is expected.
When can I go to the cinema, theatre, live performances and nightclubs?
Cinema-lovers and theatre-goers will have to wait until at least 17 May under Johnson’s roadmap before the red curtains are drawn. The same single-household rules will apply until at least late June, and customers should be expected to comply with social distancing requirements such as face coverings and the one-metre rule.
New rules will be in place for different sized venues from at least 17 May, marking the path for the return of live events. Normal outdoor events will see the return of up to 4,000 people — or 50 per cent of the venue capacity, whichever is smaller.
May 17 may also mark the return of indoor events for up to 1,000 people — or 50 per cent capacity, again whichever is lower.
Major concerts and sporting events may also be back on the cards from mid-May, with up to 10,000 attendees — or 25 per cent capacity, whichever is lower — allowed for huge outdoor seated venues. That means Wembley Stadium could be able to reopen from 12 May with 10,000 fans attending.
Nightclubs will have to wait until 12 June at the earliest to open their doors, with the government still hammering out plans to reopen the “hardest parts of the economy”. At this stage, the Prime Minister hopes there will be no legal limits on social contact.
However, the government will rely on either mass testing at venue doors, vaccine passports, or both for the return to the dance floor.
When can I go on holiday?
Staycations will be allowed in England as soon as 12 April, Johnson confirmed today, but those who want to holiday abroad will have to wait until 17 May.
Airbnbs around the UK will be back on the cards from 12 April, when self-catered accommodation will be allowed to resume.
The same will apply to all accommodation that does not require shared use of bathing, shares entires and exits, or communal sleeping facilities. Holidays will initially be limited to groups including members of one household.
International travel will only begin again from 17 May at the earliest, once a travel taskforce helps to put in place a scheme to allow trip abroad with reduced risk of bringing mutant variants back into the UK.
The government is currently looking into plans to introduce an internationally recognisable “vaccine certificate” to allow foreign travel, after Johnson promised 2021 would see the return of the “Great British Summer”.