Many people will have seen the prime minister’s announcement on the roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions on 22nd February, but we’re pleased to share the following summary which has implications for everyone.
The Prime Minister delivered a statement in the House of Commons on the Government’s roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England. The Cabinet met earlier this morning to discuss the plan, and the Prime Minister will also lead a televised press conference on the roadmap later this evening. He said that it was crucial that the roadmap was “cautious but irreversible” and that the threat from COVID-19 remains “substantial”.
He stated that the roadmap could be published as a result of the success of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, with more than 17.5 million people across the UK receiving the first dose of the vaccine. He said that there is “no credible route” to a zero COVID Britain and that we “cannot escape” the fact that lifting restrictions will lead to more cases and deaths. However, he said that restrictions could not persist indefinitely and that the roadmap is a “one way road to freedom”.
The Prime Minister said that the priority groups 5-9, including all those aged 50 years and over, will receive their first vaccine dose by 15th April, with an additional target of offering a first dose to every adult by the end of July.
He said that due to the current, relatively uniform spread of the virus across the country, restrictions will be eased step-by-step across the whole of England at the same time, with the regional tiering system of restrictions abandoned for now. He also stated that outdoor settings are known to be of lower risk than indoor settings, so outdoor activities will be opened earlier than indoor ones.
The Prime Minister outlined that before taking each step, the Government will rely on four tests to ease restrictions. These are that:
- 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 Government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
He went on to state that it takes four weeks for the data to reflect the impact of lockdown relaxations and the Government intend to allow one week’s notice before each change so there will be a five-week wait between each step.
The Roadmap Steps
Step 1 – 8th March and 29th March
- From 8th March, schools and colleges will be open for all students, and recreation or exercise outdoors will be permitted with households or one other person.
- From 29th March, the Rule of 6 will be implemented alongside two households who can meet outdoors. There can be no household mixing indoors.
- From 29th March, outdoor sports and leisure facilities and organised outdoor sport will be allowed.
Step 2 – at least five weeks after Step 1, and no earlier than 12th April
- In Step 2, indoor leisure, including gyms will be open for individual use or within household groups.
- All retail premises will be open, in addition to personal care premises, outdoor attractions, libraries, and outdoor hospitality venues. There will be no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcohol drinks outdoors and no curfew implementation.
- People should continue to work from home where they can, and minimise domestic travel where they can. International holidays will still be prohibited.
- At Step 2, the Government will take a decision on extending the number of care home visitors to two per resident and set out a plan for the next phase of visits.
Step 3 – at least five weeks after Step 2, and no earlier than 17th May
- In Step 3, there will be a 30 person limit outdoors.
- The Rule of 6 and two households will be able to meet indoors, subject to review.
- Indoor hospitality, entertainment and attractions as well as organised indoor adult sport will be permitted.
- International travel will be permitted, subject to review, and domestic overnight stays will be permitted.
- At Step 3, the Government will further ease limits on social contact, enabling the public to make informed personal decisions.
- The Government will continue to advise the public to work from home where they can.
Step 4 – at least five weeks after Step 3, and no earlier than 21st June
- By Step 4, the Government hopes to be able to introduce the following relaxations subject to review.
- There will be a removal of all legal limits on social contact.
- There will be a reopening of the remaining closed settings, including nightclubs, and theatre performances.
- There will be a removal on all limits on wedding and other life events.
The Government is also establishing four programmes of work to consider different aspects of how the UK should handle COVID-19 from summer onwards, given that a significant proportion of the population will remain vulnerable to infection. These programmes will be on COVID status certification; large events; international travel; and on social distancing.
The Prime Minister further warned that the Government will impose lockdown restrictions in areas where there are new variants of concern. He also said that the Government will continue to support jobs and livelihoods with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak setting out financial support in further detail at the Budget. He concluded that many might think the relaxation are ambitious but believed that the vaccination programme has “dramatically changed the odds in our favour” and it is on that basis that the roadmap can proceed.