As Covid-19 infection rates are beginning to slow, the government is now taking steps to ease lockdown rules.
The first stage of easing will be split into two parts:
From 8 March:
- All schools and colleges in England will reopen, while all childcare can resume. Secondary school pupils will have to wear facemasks initially while staff in all schools are advised to wear masks. All secondary and college pupils will be tested twice a week, at school for the first two weeks then at home.
- All households with school children, members of their support and childcare bubbles, and those in related occupations will be encouraged to be tested regularly.
- One person will be able to meet one other person from another household outside for recreation, not just exercise. This includes meeting in private gardens and will mean two people can meet for a picnic or sit on a bench with a coffee but they cannot play tennis or golf.
- Care home residents in England will be allowed one regular visitor. They will be able to meet indoors and hold hands – but visitors must wear PPE and be tested beforehand.
From 29 March:
- Up to six people from different households or a larger group from two households can meet outside, including 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.
- From this point, the government will drop the “Stay at Home” message and will instead encourage people to stay local wherever they can.
- People will still have to work from home where possible and no overseas travel, apart from necessary work, will be allowed.
There will be 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
Downing Street said the four tests are currently being met so the first step of lockdown easing in England will proceed as planned on 8 March.