The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has made a statement to the House of Commons and set out the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
He began by stating that the threat from COVID-19 remains substantial, with the number of people in hospitals having only just fallen from their peak during the first wave. However, he noted that 17.5 million vaccines have been given so far, and that data is showing the vaccines to be effective in reducing hospitalisations in the UK. He stated that lifting lockdown, whenever this occurs, will lead to more cases, hospitalisations and deaths, but said that it is “crucial” that the roadmap out of lockdown is “cautious but irreversible”. Mr Johnson stated his aim that everyone in the first nine priority groups would be offered a vaccine by April 15, and that every adult in the UK would be offered a first dose of the vaccine by the end of July.
He then confirmed that all parts of England will come out of lockdown at the same time, with outdoor exercise being prioritised. However, he stated that each stage of restrictions being lifted would be dependent on four tests:
• The vaccine deployment program continues successfully;
• That vaccines help to reduce hospitalisations and deaths;
• That hospitalisations do not rise to a level that places unsustainable pressure onto the NHS; and
• That assessments on risks of new variants do not change.
He noted that at each stage these four tests will be checked, and that there will be a five week gap between each stage of restrictions being eased.
Commenting on the plan, PPA CEO Owen Meredith said: “Businesses will welcome this announcement as it provides a clear path out of lockdown against which plans can be made. However, there remains uncertainty within the roadmap, with each step subject to the four tests outlined by the Prime Minister. To allow businesses to plan ahead, particularly organising large scale events -which are a vital revenue stream from many publishers, the Chancellor must back our call for COVID-cancellation insurance. Only with this support can businesses invest in the future and help rebuild the economy.”
Step 1: 8th March
• Schools and Colleges to open for all students.
• Recreation with one other person outdoors allowed.
• Regular visitor allowed for every care home resident.
• 'Rule of 6', or two households, allowed to meet outdoors.
• Outdoor sport and leisure facilities to reopen.
• Organised outdoor sport allowed.
• 'Stay at Home' order no longer legally mandatory; ‘work from home where possible’ and travel should be minimised.
Step 2: No earlier than 12th April
• Indoor leisure facilities to reopen, for use individually or within household groups.
• Outdoor attractions - including zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas - to reopen.
• Libraries and community centres to reopen.
• Personal care premises - including hairdressers and salons - to reopen.
• All non-essential retail to reopen.
• Outdoor hospitality to reopen (with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served with alcohol, and no curfew; requirement to be seated will remain)
• Domestic overnight stays permitted in self-contained accommodation (i.e. without communal living or wash areas)
• Event 'pilots' to begin, Events Research Programme to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing
• Weddings and receptions can have 15 attendees (previous: 6)
Step 3: No earlier than 17th May
• 30 person limit outdoors; 'Rule of 6' or two households allowed to meet indoors.
• Indoor entertainment and attractions to reopen.
• Indoor hospitality to reopen (with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served with alcohol, and no curfew; requirement to be seated will remain)
• International travel to be allowed.
• Some large events to be allowed (Indoor events, 1000 people max; outdoor other events, 4000 people max; outdoor seated events, 10,000 people max)
• Remaining accommodation, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs to reopen.
• Weddings and receptions can have 30 attendees.
• A "further ease" on "limits on social contact, enabling the public to make informed personal decisions."
Before Step 4 begins, the government will complete a review of social distancing and other long-term measures that have been put in place to cut transmission. This will inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which the rules on 1 metre plus, the wearing of face coverings and other measures may be lifted. This will also inform guidance on working from home – which should continue wherever possible until this review is complete.
Step 4: No earlier than 21st June
• No legal limits on social contact.
• Nightclubs to reopen.
• Larger events to be allowed.
• No attendee limits on all life events.