British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he sees nothing in the COVID-19 data to change his plans for a piecemeal easing of lockdown in England.
Major steps due to take place next month, and Mr Johnson believes that they will be able to go ahead as planned in his roadmap for the UK out of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is despite figures showing the number of coronavirus infections in the UK is no longer falling.
Johnson said he looked forward to getting his hair cut and having a pint of beer in the garden of a pub, among the activities permitted if stage two of his unlocking plan proceeds on April 12. All non-essential shops are also due to reopen from that date.
On Monday, there will be a smaller change, allowing groups of 6 to meet up outside.
Foreign travel will be banned until at least May 17, which is also the earliest date indoor hospitality and performance venues might re-open.
Although Johnson has outlined dates at which he plans to ease restrictions, he has been clear that it is “data, not dates” which will determine whether the unlocking can proceed to schedule.
“As things stand, I can see absolutely nothing in the data to dissuade me from continuing along our roadmap to freedom, unlocking our economy and getting back to the life we love,” Johnson said in a speech to the Conservative spring conference.
His comments came after data showed a recent steep fall in infections were starting to level off.
March 8: Schools reopen, up to two people can meet in the park for a coffee or picnic, and hand-holding care home visits can resume with one named visitor after tests and PPE.
March 29: Outdoor socialising rules relaxed so up to six people or two households (whichever is larger) can meet outdoors. Golf, tennis, outdoor organised sport and lidos resume. Stay at home order ends but people still advised to stay local and overnight stays not allowed.
STEP 2 – April 12 at the earliest: Non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms, and outdoor areas of pubs and restaurants reopen. No curfew or ‘Scotch egg’ rule but punters must stay seated and obey general rules on gathering sizes. Review to report back on possibility of foreign holidays but they’re still banned at this point. Driving lessons resume, and wedding guests up from 6 to 15. Self-contained domestic holidays allowed with your own household or bubble only.
STEP 3 – May 17 at the earliest: Outdoor gatherings limit lifted from 6 people to 30. Indoor gatherings of up to 6 people or two households, and overnight stays allowed for the first time. Review to rule on whether you can hug friends and family but general social distancing remains. Foreign travel may be allowed. Indoor areas of pubs and restaurants reopen, as do hotels and B&Bs. Stadium events and theatre can resume at reduced capacity. Weddings limit lifted from 15 to 30, receptions allowed along with Bar Mitzvahs and other life events. Saunas and steam rooms reopen.
STEP 4 – June 21 at the earliest: Government hoping to remove all remaining legal restrictions – and reopen nightclubs and standing-only gigs – but will depend on review of wider social distancing rules and of vaccine and testing passports. Masks and hand-washing instructions may remain as may the two-metre rule in some situations or a testing regime. For a full guide click here.
Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Friday said the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England is no longer falling and has levelled off at an estimated 1 in 340 people.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said earlier this week that a slowdown in steep drops in infection rates was to be expected after schools reopened on March 8.