Boris Johnson has given the green light for pubs, shops, hairdressers and gyms to reopen across England from next Monday – but suggested hopes of foreign holidays resuming from next month may be dashed.
Announcing it was safe to proceed to the next phase of his roadmap out of lockdown, the prime minister signalled the coronavirus vaccine rollout was progressing as planned and infection rates were low enough to ease more restrictions from 12 April.
Hospitality venues were told they would be able to operate outdoors, as hoped, with no curfew or requirements for customers to eat a “substantial meal” when drinking alcohol.
Next week’s easing was met with a high degree of confidence from government scientific advisers – but in an insight into Johnson’s caution around foreign travel, which had been pencilled for 17 May, modellers warned that further lifting of restrictions could lead to a third wave worse than Britain’s first two.
The government also confirmed Covid status certificates were likely to be introduced to let people prove they have had a vaccine, a recent negative test result or antibodies from an infection in the last six months.
It stressed the idea is still under consideration and that the documents would not come into force until at least 17 May, with the NHS currently working out how to offer both digital and non-digital versions.
The results of four government-commissioned reviews were published on Monday, and confirmed the certificates would not be required in essential shops, public service buildings or on public transport.
But it said banning such certificates would be an “unjustified intrusion on how businesses choose to make their premises safe” in most cases, and left open the possibility of them being used in pubs and bars as well as theatres, nightclubs and mass events like football matches and festivals.
In an update on the review into restarting international travel, the government said it “hopes people will be able to travel to and from the UK to take a summer holiday this year” – but could not give a date from when it would be allowed.
Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, published on 22 February, had said that from 17 May international travel would be permitted again “subject to review”. But in the latest review, no endorsement of the date was given – a move that is sure to frustrate the aviation and wider tourism industry. “We are not yet in a position to confirm that non-essential international travel can resume from that point,” the document said.
Other reviews into trialling use of Covid status certificates at events including at the FA Cup final in Wembley Stadium and a cinema in Liverpool across three days and their impact on social distancing are still ongoing.
Scientific advisers on the government’s outbreak modelling subgroup said there is “considerable uncertainty” around the level of control that can be achieved at each step of the roadmap, but that proceeding with the next part in seven days’ time was “highly unlikely to put unsustainable pressure on the NHS”.
But they warned “it is highly likely that there will be a further resurgence in hospitalisations and deaths after the later steps of the roadmap”.
More changes coming into force next Monday will include allowing beauty and nail salons and spas to open – though not saunas and steam rooms. Overnight stays away from home in England will also be permitted and self-contained accommodation can also reopen, though can only be used by members of the same household or support bubble.
Libraries and community centres will be allowed to open their doors again, along with zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas.
The number of nominated people allowed to visit a care home will increase to two per resident, and all children will be able to attend any indoor children’s activity, including sport, regardless of circumstance.
For those planning weddings, outdoor receptions will be able to take place with up to 15 attendees. People will still be encouraged to work from home where possible, and to minimise domestic travel.