Coronavirus: Boris Johnson set to scrap 'stay home' advice and ‘ease lockdown limits on work, parks and exercise’

Some restrictions to be relaxed from Monday but social distancing to remain

Vincent Wood
Thursday 07 May 2020 01:39
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Covid-19: Key questions on lifting lockdown restrictions

Boris Johnson is set to scrap the government’s “stay home” slogan and relax advice on work, exercise, and socialising as he announces the first easing of the UK’s lockdown this weekend, according to reports.

Picnics, sunbathing in parks and unlimited exercise are expected to be put back on the table as the prime minister begins to loosen restrictions he enforced in March to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The UK has been placed under the most stringent curtailing of daily life for decades amid a pandemic which has claimed the lives of more than 30,000 people across the country.

Mr Johnson has confirmed his long-awaited roadmap of options for escaping the lockdown will be unveiled on Sunday – three days after the restrictions must be reviewed under law. He told MPs on Wednesday he hopes some restrictions could be eased as early as Monday.

Downing Street has stressed that “it is not going to be a case of flicking a switch” to lift all measures at once, and instead “people will have to prepare for a different type of normal”.​

But in an apparent change of messaging, official government Twitter accounts have dropped the stark slogan “stay home, save lives” and begun broadcasting the messages “stay safe, save lives”.

Public Health England has also signalled the “stay home” message could be abandoned. A spokesperson said: “We are reviewing all communications materials in anticipation of moving to the next phase of the government campaign.”

Ministers are also drawing up plans for how workplaces can be adapted, outdoor spaces can be managed and public transport can operate with social distancing measures in place.​

Mr Johnson is reportedly preparing to unveil a five-stage roadmap on Sunday charting the UK’s path out of lockdown by October.

The first stage, to come in on Monday, will see the once-a-day exercise rule scrapped, garden centres reopen, and some staff encouraged to return to work. The police will be instructed to stop moving on sunbathers, small groups or people sitting on benches in parks, and families will be allowed to travel to the countryside for exercise.

However, instructions to maintain social distancing of two metres will remain in force. The second stage of the roadmap will reportedly see children return to some schools.

But pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops are set remain closed for months. According to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson’s will not yet give such businesses a firm indication of when they will reopen.

Downing Street declined to comment on reports, although it confirmed the PM’s speech will address social distancing measures.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick later made it clear that Sunday’s announcement will focus on measures to get the economy moving again.

“Every local economy now needs a plan to restart and recover,” he said at the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing.

Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock suggested that one possible relaxation could allow cafes to open if they only served customers sitting outdoors, where the infection risk is far lower.

The government has a legal obligation to conduct a six-week review of lockdown restrictions on Thursday, when ministers are due to hold a virtual cabinet meeting.

But No 10 indicated that this may result in no more than a statement that the review has been conducted and measures are staying in place pending a further announcement on Sunday.

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