Boris Johnson has put in place a slow and steady roadmap to get England out of lockdown. Measures will begin to relax on March 8th, and all rules will be lifted through June 21st if the plan goes as hoped.
The first phase of the lockdown lifting is to allow all students to return to school on March 8th. At the same time, two people are allowed to meet outdoors – socially distanced – to make contacts.
This first stage is followed by a first stage B on March 29 – the return of the rule of six at the start of the Easter holidays – so that up to six people or an unlimited number of just two households can meet outdoors.
After that, each stage is carried out at least five weeks apart.
Mr Johnnson said Monday the government’s approach will be driven by “data, not data,” with the five-week gap between the phasing out of measures allowing time for determining the infection impact and preparing businesses.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed Tuesday morning that the five-week delay will allow four weeks to see what impact the measures have had on numbers like infection rates, hospital stays and deaths.
The government will also take into account how many have been vaccinated and monitor the emergence of new variants of Covid.
There will then be a week in advance before the new rules take effect.
The earliest points at which restrictions can be relaxed are:
– April 12, when stores, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions, and outdoor dining options such as beer gardens are ready to reopen.
– May 17, when two households or groups of up to six people can be mixed indoors and up to 10,000 people can be present at the largest venues for performances and sporting events.
– “As soon as possible” and at the latest in step three, when ministers committed to review the socially distant guidelines that have prevented relatives from embracing for almost a year.
– On June 21st, if all remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted, larger events could take place and nightclubs could finally reopen.
Some have called for the measures to be lifted faster.
Mark Harper, MP for Forest of Dean, said: “The government appears to have viewed some models with dubious assumptions and delayed opening the country by two months.”
He added, “We have a two month delay on all restrictions which will have some real ramifications for real people’s jobs and livelihoods, and I think this was driven by dubious modeling.”
The prime minister said Monday that a “significant minority” of people would have turned down a vaccine or not received adequate protection, which could allow the disease to “penetrate these groups”.