Boris Johnson outlines the Government’s four-phased roadmap out of lockdown.
All schoolchildren in England will return to school on 8th March in contrast to the more gradual approach taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Announcing his roadmap out of lockdown, the Prime Minister said that, due to the relatively uniform spread of the virus across the country, restrictions will be eased step-by-step across the whole of England at the same time, with outdoor activities likely to be opened earlier than indoor ones. Secondary school and college students will be subjected to twice weekly testing.
The roadmap is based on four tests, including vaccinations continuing to be rolled out and a lack of setbacks due to new variants. The Prime Minister said he wanted it to be “cautious but also irreversible”.
As well as the opening of schools, from 8th March, people will also be able to meet one person from outside their household for outdoor recreation – such as a coffee on a bench or a picnic in a park – in addition to exercise. However, those who are vulnerable should continue to shield at least until the end of March. By the Easter holidays, the PM said it was expected that the rule of six should return for outdoor meetings.
People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise all travel wherever possible in the first phase of the easing of lockdown.
The second phase will begin no earlier than 12 April and will be confirmed at least seven days in advance. Non-essential retail will reopen, as will personal care including hairdressers and indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will re-open, as will holiday-lets, but only for use by individuals or household groups. Pubs and restaurants will be able to open outdoors as will theme parks, zoos and other outdoor pursuits.
Phase three will begin from no earlier than 17th May with most restrictions on meetings outdoors lifted, subject to a limit of 30. People will be able to meet indoors [keeping to the rule of six or no more than two households]. The hospitality sector will re-open indoors subject to similar restrictions.
Phase four will begin no earlier than 21st June with large events, etc, being able to reopen.
There will be a review of working from home provisions as well as international travel.
Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR, said: “What we can take from today’s news is that we now have much more of an idea when we can expect restrictions to be lifted over the coming months and that, crucially, at least one week’s notice will be provided to businesses if there are changes to the plan.
“People will continue to be advised to shield until at least the end of March, meaning employers should consider their circumstance even if they have had a vaccine. Guidance on working from home is also set to remain the same for some time until at least April, although the government is to review whether this provision can be relaxed at a currently unspecified point.”
He added that the announcement on schools would mean working parents will likely have fewer childcare problems. He stated: “The direct result is that their employer may consider asking them to return to the workplace, in line with government guidance, and take them off furlough.”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, also announced a possible path out of lockdown for Scotland this week, saying stay at home restrictions could be lifted on 5th April. Older secondary school students are set to return from 15th March, with all primary schools also likely to be back by that date. Younger secondary school students are expected to return after Easter. Scotland will revert to the levels system from 26th April.