Published 22nd February 2021
The government has this afternoon announced its four-part plan to lift the COVID-19 lockdown in England.
The graphics in the slideshow above are perhaps clearer, easier to follow and more relevant for what most people want to know than the detailed information released by the Prime Minister.
Step 1: From 8 March all schools in England are to reopen and recreation in a public space – such as a park – will be allowed between two people, meaning they would be allowed to sit down for a coffee, drink or picnic.
From 29 March – Outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. This will include gatherings in private gardens. Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts will reopen and organised adult and children’s sport, such as grassroots football, will also return. The ‘stay at home’ rule will end on 29 March but many restrictions will remain in place. 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.
Step 2 will be no earlier than 12 April and 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. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will also reopen (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups); as will most outdoor attractions and settings including outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas.
Hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors at Step 2 and there will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks and no curfew, although customers must order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’). Wider social contact rules will apply in all these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households.
As part of Step 3, no earlier than 17 May, the government will look to continue easing limits on seeing friends and family wherever possible. This means that most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted – although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal. Indoors, the Rule of 6 or 2 households will apply – the Government will keep under review whether it is safe to increase this.
Most businesses in all but the highest risk sectors will be able to reopen. In all sectors, COVID-Secure guidance will remain in place and businesses may not cater for groups bigger than the legal limits. Indoor hospitality will reopen – and as in Step 2, venues will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks; nor will there be a curfew. Customers will, however, have to order, eat and drink while seated.
Other indoor locations to open up in Step 3 include indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas; the rest of the accommodation sector, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs; and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes. The government will also allow some larger performances and sporting events in indoor and outdoor venues where there is capacity for adequate distancing.
By Step 4 which will take place no earlier than 21 June, the government hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact and hope to reopen remaining premises, including nightclubs, and ease the restrictions on large events and performances that apply in Step 3.
Labour’s Ian Gilbert, Leader of Southend Council, says: “We welcome the continued progress in the vaccination programme and reduction in infections. This government announcement means from 8 March two people can meet in a public space such as one of our parks and they can sit down for coffee or a picnic for example. From 29 March, outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed.”
“We will await the further detail behind this announcement and then discuss the local impact and our response to ensure we continue to keep our residents safe and well as national lockdown measures ease. As we have throughout, we will continue to work closely with local schools, pupils, and parents and carers to support them as we approach a reopening of schools in two weeks’ time.”
Cabinet member for health and adult social care Cllr Trevor Harp, says: “The Government’s plans to ease restrictions will be a welcome relief to many. We are working with our system partners to ensure our testing capacity across the Borough is increased especially with the reopening of schools. We know this news will be welcomed by everyone who has missed their family and friends, but we ask people to remember that the current lockdown rules are still in place until the dates outlined in the Prime Minister’s statement earlier. In the meantime, we must continue to remain cautious and follow national guidance that is currently in place and remain safe. This means when outdoors, you must keep at least 2 metres apart from anyone you don’t live with or who isn’t in your support bubble, and not mix with other households indoors. Please also stay local. We all need to do our bit to stop the spread and control coronavirus and save lives, by doing this we can help to meet the tests for further relaxations to be introduced. Although positive case rates continue to fall locally, and the vaccine roll-out is going well nationally and locally, we must not drop our guard. So please stay safe, stay apart and stay local and remember – Hands. Face. Space.”
The Government’s road map outlines four steps for easing restrictions. But before proceeding to each next step, the government will examine the data to assess the impact of previous changes.
The four conditions that must be met at each phase of lockdown easing are:
- The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying with the virus or needing hospital treatment
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions
- New variants of the virus do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions