Boris Johnson has unveiled his roadmap for relaxing lockdown restrictions in England, having spent the last week working through the data on coronavirus deaths, cases, infections and hospital admissions.
The prime minister gave a statement and answered questions from MPs in the Commons on Monday afternoon, before holding a press conference at No 10 alongside Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser.
So what do the next few months look like, and when will life go “back to normal”? Here is everything you need to know.
When will pubs, restaurants and shops reopen?
Mr Johnson told MPs, and later confirmed to the nation, that he would take a phased approach to easing lockdown measures - labelling it a “cautious but also irreversible” approach.
The first phase will begin on 8 March with the return of school children to classrooms and care home visits. A further easing of restrictions will take place when the school Easter holidays begin, on 29 March, with larger groups of up to six people or two households allowed to gather in parks and gardens.
In phase two, pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers outdoors from 12 April at the earliest. Non-essential retail and personal care including hairdressers could also open their doors from then.
Phase three, from 17 May, will see indoor mixing allowed as well as indoor hospitality and entertainment venues. And by 21 June, the government hopes to lift all limits on social contact.
The PM outlined the key stages England will take to safely transition out of lockdown but he warned Britons dates could change should any resurgences occur.
Key dates for the roadmap out of lockdown:
Schools will reopen. You can meet one other person from another household to socialise outdoors.
Outdoor sports facilities will reopen, with larger groups of up to six people or two households allowed to gather in parks and gardens. The legal stay-at-home order will also be lifted.
Hairdressers, nailbars and other “personal care” businesses, as well as non-essential retail, will reopen. Pubs and restaurants can serve outdoors. Gyms, indoor sports and swimming pools can also open. Holiday lets for household groups also become legal.
Football stadiums and other outdoor, seated venues can host up to 10,000 people. Indoor mixing in pubs, cinemas hotels and theatres can resume. Weddings and funerals with 30 guests allowed to go ahead. International travel could resume.
All legal limits on social gathering could end, meaning nightclubs and larger events might finally reopen. No guest limits on weddings and other live events.
Do these rules apply to just England or the whole UK?
Yes, Mr Johnson’s roadmap covers measures to be taken in England only.
The prime minister said on Monday that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland wold announce their plans in the coming weeks.
Will regions be eased out of lockdown at the same time?
Yes, the PM has said the whole country will move through these phases together.
There has been a lot of speculation over the possibility of areas being given freedoms before others, depending on their case, infection and death data, but Mr Johnson said this is not the case.
He also assured those living in England there will be no return to the tier system before Christmas.
What is the science behind the phases?
There is a five-week gap between phase one and two so the government can assess the impact of the previous changes, and then give the relevant sectors and the public a week to prepare. The same precautions will be taken between stages two and three.
At every phase, Mr Johnson said the data will be scrutinised to avoid restrictions being reimposed.
“The chief medical officer is clear that moving any faster would mean acting before we know the impact of each step, which would increase the risk of us having to reverse course and reimpose restrictions, I won’t take that risk,” Mr Johnson said.
“Step one will happen from 8 March, by which time those in the top four priority groups will be benefiting from the increasing protection they receive from their first dose of the vaccine.”
Is there a chance these dates could change?
Of course. From new variants through to cases and deaths staying down, there is a lot that needs to be done for the phases to go ahead as scheduled. But Mr Johnson said he was “hopeful” about the timeline.
The government will use the following metrics in England to assess the impact of loosening the rules at each stage:
- 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 assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of the virus
Should any of the conditions not be met, at any stage, the pace of the unlocking could be slowed.
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