In an announcement to the House of Commons on February 22, PM Boris Johnson unveiled a “roadmap” detailing the nation’s path out of Covid-19 lockdown.
PM Johnson has previously mentioned that he wanted the lifting of restrictions to be “irreversible”. Today’s announcement confirms speculations that the lockdown will be lifted in stages. Between each stage of easing, there is a minimum five-week gap.
There are four conditions that must be fulfilled at each phase of lockdown easing in order to proceed to the next step. They are:
- The vaccination plan goes according to plan.
- There is evidence which shows vaccination is reducing hospital admissions and death.
- There is no surge in hospital admissions.
- New variants do not alter the course of lifting restrictions.
The first priority has been given to schools and educational institutions, including universities, who would be allowed to gradually return to in-person classes from March 8. However, institutions will have the liberty to make their own decisions regarding starting in-person classes. King’s has already announced it will continue most teaching remotely for the remainder of this academic year. The decision to open all schools together has been met with significant concern from both teachers and teaching unions.
From the same date, it has been announced that people will be able to meet one other person from outside their household outdoors for outdoor recreation. Care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor each from March 8. People who have been recommended to stay at home are requested to do so until the end of the month.
From March 29, the “rule of 6” will return outdoors. People will be able to meet 6 people from a maximum of two households outdoors. Outdoor sports facilities will reopen and organised outdoor sports will be allowed to resume. People will no longer be legally required to stay at home.
Step 2 of the Covid roadmap will begin five weeks after Step 1, no earlier than April 12, with one week’s notice given beforehand. Non-essential retail, as well as personal care businesses such as hairdressers and nail salons, will be able to open. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and holiday lets will open, provided they only accommodate individuals or household groups. Pubs and restaurants will open for outdoor seating, with no curfew nor a requirement that they provide customers a “substantial meal”. Cinemas, public libraries and community centres are among those places allowed to reopen in this step.
Step 3 is scheduled to begin on May 17. Restrictions to meeting outdoors will be lifted, but there will be a limit of 30 people per group. The “rule of 6” will come into place indoors. Pubs and restaurants will reopen indoors. Outdoor events, including those in stadiums, will return at a limited and fixed capacity. Indoor venues such as cinemas as theatres will also reopen at set capacities of 1000 people or 50% capacity (whichever is lower).
Step 4 is to begin on June 21. This step will attempt to remove all restrictions on contact. It involves lifting limits on wedding and funeral attendance. It also involves opening nightclubs and removing limits on performances in theatres and similar venues. This step, however, is dependent on the outcome of four new reviews:
1. Review of how long social distancing and face masks are needed.
2. Review of the resumption of international travel.
3. Review of potential Covid status certification or mass testing.
4. Review on the safe return of major events, such as theatre and musical events.
PM Johnson warned that one couldn’t rule out restrictions on regional and local level. He also emphasised that the vaccination program had “dramatically changed odds in our favour” before optimistically saying that the “end is in sight”.
The lockdown, which began on January 4, placed strict restrictions on the movements of citizens around the country, encouraging people to “not leave, or to be outside [their] home except when necessary”. During this period, all non-essential shops shut and hospitality services were also closed. With over 17 million people in the UK having received their first dose of the vaccine, the government has been devising a plan on how the lockdown will be lifted.