Prime Minister Boris Johnson had laid out in Parliament the planned roadmap out of covid restrictions.
Calling it ‘cautious’ but ‘irreversible’ the PM said the country will take each step as a whole, signalling the end of the previous tier system.
Pledging to have vaccination offered to every person in the priority groups 5-9 by April 15 and to all adults by the end of July the PM said – subject to cases, hospitalisation and deaths data – there would be four steps and four main reviews.
Decisions will be led by data not dates, and subjected to four tests.
- First, that the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully;
- Second, that evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths;
- Third, that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS;
- Fourth, that our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of Covid that cause concern.
There will be five weeks between each step with one week’s notice of confirmed changes. A public briefing will be held with more details at 7pm.
The steps are (all dates are the earliest date possible):
Step 1 March 8
Reopening of all schools and Further Education sites for face to face teaching with twice weekly testing in secondary schools and colleges. Face coverings will need to be worn in secondary schools until the end of the term.
Breakfast clubs, after school clubs and school sports to restart
University courses requiring practical teaching, specialist facilities or onsite assessments will also return but all others will need to continue learning online. A review of the options for when they can return will be taken by the end of the Easter Holidays.
Care home residents to have close contact visits from a nominated person, subject to testing and wearing of PPE
People can meet one other person outdoors, picnics or coffee on a bench will be allowed
Amendment to rules to allow canvassing for local elections.
The return of the rule of six for outdoor meetings – including private gardens -and allowing two households to meet outdoors
Outdoor sport courts for tennis, basketball etc and outdoor swimming pools to reopen as well as organised outdoor sports.
Removal of the legal requirement to stay at home although people will be asked to work from home if they can and to minimise travel.
Step 2 April 12
Non essential retail reopens.
Personal care services, including hairdressers, can resume business
Indoor gyms reopen
Holiday lets/ self-contained accommodation – those that do not require shared use of bathing, entry/exit, catering
or sleeping facilities – can also reopen, though must only be used by members of the same household
Outdoor service at pubs and restaurants reopen – no curfews or requirement for a substantial meal with alcohol but rule of six/household groups applies
Zoos, theme parks, drive in cinemas, libraries and community centres can reopen
Funerals continue with up to 30 people,
Wedding receptions and wakes to have a limit of 15 people.
Step 3 May 17
Restrictions on meeting outdoors lifted with up to 30 people allowed to gather
Visits to friends and families indoors allowed with the rule of six or two households
Reopening of indoor pubs, restaurants, play areas, cinemas, theatres, hotels, B&Bs and sport stadiums. Rule of six will apply for seating in pubs/restaurants etc.
Indoor performance and sport venues with capacity to 1,000 or half full. Outdoor venues capacity 4,000 or half full – whichever is lowest.
International travel resumes subject to review
Step 4 June 21
Reopen everything including nightclubs and large events. End of legal limits on social contact “with appropriate mitigations.” Large scale events resume, restrictions lifted from life events such as weddings.
First review will be into social distancing and face coverings
Second review into the resumption of international travel. A successor to the Global Travel Taskforce will report by 12 April so that people can plan for the summer.
Third review into covid status certification for venues
Fourth review into the safe return of major events
Next month the government will publish an updated plan for responding to local outbreaks, with a range of measures to address variants of concern, including surge PCR testing and enhanced contact tracing.
The PM has warned, however, that: “We can’t, I’m afraid, rule out re-imposing restrictions at local or regional level if evidence suggests they are necessary to contain or suppress a new variant which escapes the vaccines.”