Outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed; outdoor sports facilities such as tennis courts and open-air swimming pools can reopen; and people will be able to take part in organised outdoor sports. Working from home will still be encouraged, and travel abroad will continue to be prohibited. The UK’s vaccination programme will carry on, though ministers have warned that numbers of jabs given may be affected by restrictions on supplies. Scientists will also be closely monitoring case numbers, which have plateaued over the past week and have started to rise in some areas. If this trend continues, it could lead to delays in the lifting of restrictions over the next three months, officials have warned.
This date will see the opening of all shops, hairdressers, libraries and community centres as well as zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas. Campsites and holiday lets will also be allowed to reopen. Bars and restaurants will be able to serve food and drink outdoors, while funerals with up to 30 mourners will be permitted, and weddings, receptions and commemorative events with up to 15 people attending.
The government’s taskforce on global travel will also report on 12 April, but is unlikely to sanction foreign holidays for British people for the immediate future. By this time, the anticipated slowdown in doses could be having an effect on the country’s vaccination programme, although doctors still expect the UK will meet its target of giving jabs to all over-50s by 15 April. By then, about 32 million individuals should have been offered a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
This is the earliest date for step three of the lifting of lockdown, which is when most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be removed. However, the exact date will depend on how case numbers across the UK are behaving. If they are rising too quickly, this stage could be delayed.
When approved, step three will allow most businesses to reopen, as well as cinemas, hotels, hostels and B&Bs; indoor sports and exercise classes; and some larger performances in indoor and outdoor venues. In the largest outdoor venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend.
Around this time, the government will carry out a review of social distancing and other restrictions imposed to reduce virus transmission, and will make a decision on when wearing face coverings, staying apart from others and other measures should be lifted.
At this point, the government says it hopes to be in a position to remove all legal restrictions on social contact between people. All remaining business premises, including nightclubs and most large events and performance spaces will reopen, though the exact timing will depend on the results of a scientific events research programme, based on tests at pilot events. These results will also guide decisions on whether all limits can be removed on weddings and commemorative events.
By this stage, the UK – if vaccine supplies bounce back in May as has been forecast – should be well on its way to its target of vaccinating every adult in the country. The emergence of new variants of Covid-19 will also be monitored closely and the government has indicated it could introduce a new vaccination programme to protect people against these mutant viruses later in the summer.