Prime minister Boris Johnson has set out his four-step “roadmap” to guide the nation out of lockdown “cautiously but irreversibly”, calling the plan a “one-way road to freedom”.
Step one will begin from 8 March, when all schools will be allowed to open with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed. Recreation in a public space such as parks will also be allowed between two people. The clinically extremely vulnerable will still be advised to shield until the end of March.
From 29 March, people will not be required to legally stay at home. Outdoor gatherings with a maximum of six people or two households will be allowed with outdoor sports, including football, golf and tennis, able to resume.
From 12 April, as part of step two, non-essential retail will be permitted to reopen, while hospitality venues will be able to operate using outdoor services only. There will be no rules regarding “substantial” meals or curfews, however. Gyms and hairdressers may also reopen from this date.
The third step is expected to begin “no earlier” than 17 May, and will permit groups of up to 30 people to meet outdoors, including outdoor hospitality venues. In addition, up to 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings, funerals and wakes.
The final stage of the plan will begin on 21 June, when the prime minister expects all lockdown restrictions to be lifted. According to the roadmap, from this date onwards there will be no restrictions on the number of people allowed to mix either inside or outside. Hospitality will be able to commence service indoors, while the government hopes that nightclubs could also reopen.
The prime minister noted that there will be “at least” five weeks between each of the new steps adding that the government will be unable to “rule out” local restrictions if cases of Covid-19 rise during the time period.
The PM confirmed each of the stages will be conditional under the passing of four tests:
- 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
- Assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern
The outline follows reports that four weeks after the first vaccine dose was provided, hospitalisations have been reduced 85% and 94% for the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs.
A stretched target of vaccinations for every adult by the end of July has also been set by Johnson.