This week the government announced the four-stage roadmap for England to come out of lockdown. From 8th March, people in England will see restrictions start to lift and a route back to a more normal life begin.
The rollout of the vaccination programme has been a huge success already, with 95% of care homes in England having had all residents vaccinated, according to a poll conducted by the NCF.
Although case numbers remain relatively high, the number of people receiving their vaccine is increasing, therefore the government will begin relaxing the current strict lockdown. At this time, we must continue to ‘stay at home’, respect social distancing, carry out regular testing and self-isolate when required.
Here, we explain what has been proposed for each stage and timelines of when we can expect each stage of the lockdown to be eased. All the dates in the roadmap are indicative and subject to change.
Changes in restrictions from March 8th include:
- Care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor.
- All children and students can return safely to face-to-face education in schools and colleges.
- Childcare and children’s supervised activities can also resume where necessary to enable parents to work.
- Twice-weekly rapid testing for secondary and college pupils will be introduced - in addition to regular testing for all teachers - to reduce the chance of the virus spreading in schools.
- Higher Education students at English universities on practical courses can also return from 8 March.
- People will be allowed to leave home for exercise outdoors with their household or support bubble.
Changes in restrictions from March 29th include:
- The ‘stay at home’ rule will end but many restrictions will remain in place.
- Outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the Rule of 6) or 2 households will also be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside.
- Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
- 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.
- Travel abroad will continue to be prohibited, other than for a small number of permitted reasons. Holidays abroad will not be allowed, given it will remain important to manage the risk of imported variants and protect the vaccination programme. The government has launched a new taskforce to review global travel which will report on 12 April.
Changes in restrictions from 12th April include:
- Non-essential retail will open, including 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.
- Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen.
- 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’).
- While funerals can continue with up to 30 mourners, the number of people able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15.
Changes in restrictions from 17th May include:
- 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 and will be 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 venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number), and in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number). In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower).
- Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals. This limit will also apply to other types of significant life events including bar mitzvahs and christenings.
Before Step 4 begins, the government will complete a review of social distancing and other long-term measures that have been put in place to cut transmission. This will inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which the rules on 1 metre plus, the wearing of face coverings and other measures may be lifted. This will also inform guidance on working from home – which should continue wherever possible until this review is complete
Changes in restrictions from 21st June include:
- The government hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact.
- Remaining premises will reopen, including nightclubs, and large events and performances that apply in Step 3.
Step 3 will be subject to the results of a scientific Events Research Programme to test the outcome of certain pilot events through the spring and summer, where the government will trial the use of testing and other techniques to cut the risk of infection. The same Events Research Programme will guide decisions on whether all limits can be removed on weddings and other life events.
Here to help
As we move through each stage of the easing of restrictions, we must remember that Covid-19 is very much still a part of our lives, particularly in the care sector. We must continue with infection prevention measures, regular testing and get vaccinated when offered, to keep ourselves and those we care for safe.
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