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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Boris Johnson’s lockdown exit strategy in full

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson today unveiled his ‘cautious’ lockdown exit strategy which could see life in England return to something close to normal by June at the earliest. 

Mr Johnson’s plan for easing restrictions will be split into four separate steps and will see the country treated as a whole, with no return to a tier system. 

The loosening of England’s third national lockdown, imposed amid a winter outbreak of coronavirus in January, will begin on March 8 when all schools across the country will return. 

Rules are then due to be lifted every five weeks to allow four weeks to measure the impact of changes and to give a further week’s notice before the next step comes into force.

However, the Government has stressed that the dates set out in the roadmap are ‘not before dates’ and that they could change depending on the scale of the coronavirus outbreak. 

In his statement to the Commons, Mr Johnson said there are four tests for reopening the country: the success of the vaccine roll-out, evidence that Covid jabs are reducing hospitalisations, infection rates not putting ‘unsustainable pressure’ on the NHS, and whether the risks are ‘fundamentally changed’ by new variants.  

Below is a breakdown of the measures outlined in each step:  

Boris Johnson today unveiled his lockdown exit strategy with rules due to start being lifted from March 8

Boris Johnson today unveiled his lockdown exit strategy with rules due to start being lifted from March 8 

In his statement to the Commons today, Mr Johnson explained there are four tests for reopening the country

In his statement to the Commons today, Mr Johnson explained there are four tests for reopening the country

Step One Part One: March 8

SCHOOLS: From March 8, all pupils and students will return to schools and colleges across England. 

University students who require practical teaching to complete their studies will also be allowed to return. 

But university students who do not need practical teaching will still be banned from campuses with ministers due to conduct a review by the end of the Easter holidays on the options for their return.

So-called wrap-around childcare (including childminders) will also be allowed to resume for all children where it is needed to enable parents or carers to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group.  

Vulnerable children can attend these settings regardless of circumstance. Under-18 sport can take place at school as part of educational provision, or as part of wraparound care, but should not otherwise take place at this time. 

In its roadmap, the Government called returning face-to-face education in schools and colleges a ‘national priority’. 

It also said there was ‘clear evidence’ that ‘time out of education can be detrimental to children’s future prospects and earning potential, with implications also for long-term productivity’. 

The Government also recommends that the use of face coverings in Higher Education, Further Education and secondary schools is extended for a limited period to all indoor environments – including classrooms – unless 2m social distancing can be maintained. 

People will be allowed to meet one other person outside for recreation, for example, to have a picnic or to meet for coffee. 

CARE HOMES: Meanwhile, every care home resident in England will be able to nominate a single named visitor who can come in for a regular visit. 

The visitor will have to take a rapid lateral flow test every time they visit, wear PPE and keep physical contact to a minimum.  

The Government’s stay at home order will remain in place, with travel for non-essential purposes still banned.  

Step One Part Two: March 29 

OUTDOOR GATHERINGS AND SPORTS: From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed. 

These gatherings will be allowed to happen in private gardens as well as in public spaces like parks. 

Outdoor sports like tennis and basketball will be allowed to resume and people will also be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.  

STAY AT HOME TO BE SCRAPPED: It is at this point that the Government’s stay at home guidance will end, to be replaced by ministers encouraging people to ‘stay local’. 

However, the Government is not expected to define exactly what constitutes local, instead choosing to rely on people using their common sense to decide on journeys. 

WORK FROM HOME: People will still be told to work from home wherever possible while international travel will still be banned unless it is for essential purposes. 

As before, people can leave home for work if they cannot work from home and to escape illness, injury or risk of harm, including domestic abuse. 

Step Two: April 12 

HAIRDRESSERS AND NON-ESSENTIAL HOSPITALITY: Non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen as well as personal care businesses like hairdressers, barbers and nail salons. 

Public buildings like libraries, museums and art galleries will be allowed to welcome back customers. 

Meanwhile, hospitality venues and outdoor attractions like theme parks will be given the green light to reopen in some form. 

However, there will still be rules on household mixing: Essentially any activity which involves being indoors will be restricted to members of the same household. 

GYMS AND LEISURE: Gyms and swimming pools will also reopen from at the earliest April 12 but only on the basis that people go on their own or with members of their own household. 

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS: Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen from April 12 at the earliest, but at this point they will only be able to have customers outdoors. 

Any visits to a pub or restaurant will have to comply with the rules on social contact, so no more than two households or the rule of six.

The Government will not be bringing back the old requirement for people to order a substantial meal with alcohol while the old 10pm curfew will also be ditched.

All customers at hospitality venues will have to be seated when they order food or drink, with ordering at the bar prohibited.

CAMPSITES AND HOLIDAYS: Campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can also reopen but trips must be restricted to a single household. 

WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS: Funerals will be allowed to continue with up to 30 people, while the rules on wedding receptions will be eased to allow the number of guests to increase from six to 15. 

LARGE CROWDS: The Government will also launch pilot programmes in April to see how events with large crowds and reduced social distancing could work.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL: A new task force looking at how to increase inbound and outbound international travel, while also protecting against importing coronavirus variants, will report on April 12. 

The expectation is that international travel will not resume until May 17 at the very earliest.   

Step Three: May 17

TWO HOMES AND RULE OF SIX: The two household and rule of six requirements for outdoor gatherings will be ditched but gatherings of more than 30 people in places like parks will still be banned. 

Crucially, mixing indoors will be allowed again. The rule of six or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed to meet. 

However, this will be kept under review by ministers to see if rules could be relaxed still further. 

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS: This is also the point at which pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to open indoors, with the rule of six and two household limit in place. Larger groups will be able to meet outdoors at a pub.    

Entertainment venues like cinemas and children’s play areas will be able to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs. Indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes can also reopen.

SPORTS AND PERFORMANCE VENUES: Changes will also be made to sporting and performance events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half full, whichever is lower, will be allowed, while outdoors a capacity of 4,000 people will be allowed or half full, whichever is lower. 

In the biggest outdoor stadiums, up to 10,000 fans will be allowed to attend matches or a quarter of capacity, whichever is lower.  

WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS: Rules on weddings will be eased further, with up to 30 people allowed to attend receptions as well as other life events including christenings. 

COVID PASSPORTS: A Government review on whether to introduce vaccine passports or ‘Covid Status Certification’ documents is due to report before Step Four. 

It will look at whether the documents, which could show if someone has been tested or if they have had a jab, could help to reopen the economy and make life easier.

MASKS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING: A review of social distancing measures is also due to conclude before Step Four. 

It will look at issues like working from home, the wearing of face masks and the one metre plus rule and decide how long such measures will need to be retained.   

Step Four: June 21

REMAINING RESTRICTIONS: This is the point at which the Government is hoping to lift all of the remaining restrictions on social contact and to reopen sectors of the economy which have not already returned and which could not resume last summer. 

For example, this is when night clubs could be allowed to fully reopen while restrictions on large events and performances could also be lifted. 

Mass-testing could be used to to reduce the risk of infection at those settings.   

The Government will also make a decision on whether all restrictions can be removed on weddings and other life events. 

This post was first published on DailyMail.

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