Lockdown rules to be eased from March
As well as children returning to school on 8 March, outdoor recreation with one other person will also be allowed, meaning people will be allowed to sit together in a park with a coffee, drink or picnic. Care homes will also allow restricted visiting.
Things change more significantly from 29 March when six people or two households will be able to meet outside, and tennis courts, golf courses and other outdoor sport facilities will reopen. Organised adults and children’s sport will restart.
The cabinet will meet virtually this morning to discuss the plan, the prime minister will give a statement to parliament this afternoon, and host a televised press conference at 7pm.
Johnson has resisted calls to reopen pub beer gardens from Easter to allow people to socialise outdoors. This will now be pushed back until at least April.
Johnson said: “Today I’ll be setting out a roadmap to bring us out of lockdown cautiously. Our priority has always been getting children back into school which we know is crucial for their education as well as their mental and physical wellbeing, and we will also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.
“Our decisions will be made on the latest data at every step, and we will be cautious about this approach so that we do not undo the progress we have achieved so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to keep yourself and others safe.
“We have therefore set four key tests which must be met before we can move through each step of the plan.”
The four steps for easing restrictions are:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- The government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new ‘variants of concern’.
The four tests are currently being met so the first step will proceed from 8 March, at which point the top four priority cohorts for vaccinations – as determined by the independent JCVI – will have received a degree of immunity, three weeks after being offered their first dose.
Due to the current, relatively uniform spread of the virus across the country, restrictions will be eased step-by-step across the whole of England at the same time, as opposed to the previous tier system.
The government says the roadmap seeks to balance between social and economic impacts, whilst preserving the health and safety of the country.