Boris Johnson has set out the government’s roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England. They’ve taken a cautious approach to make sure that the country won’t have to go into a fourth national lockdown. This time round, all areas of the country will enter different stages at the same time. You can read the full government’s document setting out the full plan here. Below we go through the main points for businesses and individuals.

Four-stage process

Johnson explained that there will be four stages to lifting lockdown and limits on social contact, each spaced 5 weeks apart. The plan has been designed this way so scientists have a month to measure the effects of easing social distancing, and a week to get the public ready to enter the next stage.

The first step out of lockdown comes in two weeks’ time when all schools reopen on 8 March. The final stage should happen on 21 June, when all restrictions will end. The prime minister stressed the importance of “following the data, not the dates”, however. As a result, each stage will only come into effect if four “tests” show it’s responsible to move to the next level. These are:

  • The continued success of the vaccine rollout, including second doses
  • A sustained fall in the number of people admitted to hospital and daily death rate
  • The NHS being under less pressure
  • The impact of any variants.

Stage One: 8 and 29 March

From 8 March all schools will reopen, along with breakfast and after-school clubs. Outdoor sports and activities will start up again to help parents work. All childcare bubbles are encouraged to be regularly tested to slow the spread of the virus.

For those of us without school-aged children, this date also means we’re allowed to meet up with someone from another household outdoors recreationally. For example, having a coffee or a picnic in the park. And for those well past school-age, all care home residents will be able to choose one person to visit them.

From 29 March all groups of up to six people or two households (whatever size they are) will be allowed to meet outdoors. This can include private gardens as well as public parks and areas. Outdoor sports like tennis, golf and basketball can reopen, along with organised adult and children’s sport.

The stay-at-home order will not be a legal requirement, but those who can work from home are encouraged to continue doing so.

Stage Two: 12 April

Provided the tests above allow for further easing of social distancing measures, the second part of the government plan will begin on 12 April. This is a significant date that many major parts of the economy will be allowed to reopen. The main updates will be:

  • Non-essential retail reopening, along with hairdressers, beauty salons and public buildings including libraries and museums
  • Outdoor settings such as zoos and theme parks can reopen
  • Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve people outdoors, along with takeaway alcohol
  • Self-contained holiday accommodation like camp sites can reopen.

Stage Three: 17 May

Again, as long as the data supports the next stage of lockdown coming into effect, from mid-May the rule of six will be abolished for outdoor gatherings. This is going to be replaced by a limit of 30 people. Other significant easing includes:

  • Two households will be allowed to mix indoors (the rule of six will apply for hospitality venues like pubs and restaurants)
  • Cinemas, hotels and live events will reopen, with social distancing in place
  • Up to 10,000 spectators will be able to go to venues such as football stadiums.

Stage Four: 21 June

Finally, according to the current roadmap, late June will see all legal limits on social contact removed. The sectors of the economy that have remained closed throughout the pandemic, like nightclubs, will be allowed to reopen. Restrictions on weddings and funerals should also end from this point onwards.

Government reviews

There will also be four government reviews to explore other ways they can ease restrictions.

  • The first will look at the ways of having a vaccine or negative test could impact social distancing controls
  • The second will monitor the impact of testing and reduced social distancing in the event industry
  • A third report is planned for 12 April that will set out ways of allowing more travel into and out of the country. This will help the travel industry reopen after 17 May
  • A final review will compare the effectiveness of social distancing measures. They’ll look at the one-metre-plus rule, face coverings and working from home and publish findings ahead of 21 June.

No zero-Covid world

The Prime Minister was clear: no matter what level of restriction or freedom we have in our daily lives, the virus is here to stay. Although vaccination is paving the way to return to normal, it will not eradicate the virus entirely. The plan detailed by the government is designed as a cautious way for the economy to fully reopen.

Many sectors will be relieved to at least have an idea of when they can reopen fully, although many will be disappointed there’s still some time to go. For working parents, there’s at least some imminent relief on their other job homeschooling their children.

We’ll keep you updated with the latest guidance and effectiveness of this roadmap. You can find more advice and information on our COVID-19 Impact Support Hub.