Monday 29 March sees the second stage of the first phase of lockdown restrictions eased across England, after months of a third nationwide lockdown that began in January.
The roadmap, unveiled by Boris Johnson, has given a staggered timeline of dates that is hoped will end with a lift on all rules no earlier than 21 June, provided data continues to show a downward trend in cases and the vaccine rollout goes as planned.
As of this weekend, more than 30 million people in the UK have had their first dose of the vaccine, and 3.5 million people have had both doses. And in the last seven days 2,600 people have been admitted to hospital with Covid-19, a drop of 20 per cent on the previous week.
So as the roadmap progresses, what can people expect in terms of seeing friends and family again from today?
What are the current rules on meeting friends?
From Monday 29 March in England, the rules have changed to allow outdoor socialising with the reintroduction of the rule of six.
This means you should still not mix indoors – except with your household or support bubble – but you can meet outdoors in groups of six people or two households. This includes in private gardens.
This is an end to the “stay at home” rule but some restrictions do remain in place.
But the government says: “People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes.”
What were the rules before?
From 8 March, when children went back to school, people were allowed to sit down for a coffee, drink or a picnic in an outside place with one person from another household.
What is the next stage of lifting after this?
On 12 April – at the earliest- there will be another phase of lockdown lifting. This comes five weeks after the first stage began on 8 March.
This will see the opening of non-essential retail; personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons; and public buildings, including libraries and community centres, can also open.
Pubs and restaurants will be able to serve people sitting outdoors and you won’t need to eat a substantial meal with alcohol or abide by a 10 o’clock curfew, as with previous rules.
Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will also reopen (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups). Outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas can also open and self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets.
Will this definitely happen?
As with all of the roadmap, Mr Johnson has repeatedly said that all easing measures are based on the data showing diminishing case numbers and hospitalisations.
This time Mr Johnson has laid out his four tests, which 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 assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of the virus
If this does not happen then the promised relaxations will not necessarily go ahead on the timeline laid out.