Boris Johnson has unveiled his long-awaited roadmap for easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
On Twitter, the Prime Minister said that the roadmap will prioritise “ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely”, while in the House of Commons he described the “cautious but irreversible” plan as a “one-way road to freedom”.
There will be four different ‘stages’ of the roadmap, with each new stage coming into effect no sooner than every five weeks.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that the new rules in each new stage would only come into effect if four key data ‘tests’ are met, to show that the vaccines continue to be effective at keeping case numbers low, that hospitals are protected and that new variants haven’t taken hold in society.
So what will the new measures look like?
What does the new lockdown roadmap mean for meeting friends and family?
The first stage of the new roadmap plan will come into effect from Monday, March 8. From this date, all children in England will be able to return to school, both primary and secondary. For many, this will be the first time school friends have seen each other for months. It is possible some schools may stagger class returns because of the demand for mass testing.
From that date, people will also be allowed to meet one-to-one outside in public spaces to socialise and not just to exercise. For instance, sitting on a park bench having a takeaway coffee with a friend, or having a small picnic, will be permitted.
When will we be able to meet more people outside?
The next significant date in the roadmap plan is March 29. From that date, the “rule of six” will be reintroduced, which will allow six people from up to six different households to meet outdoors, not only in public spaces but also in private gardens.
Two households will also be allowed to meet outside. This would mean that extended outdoor family get-togethers can happen by Easter Sunday, for instance.
Also from March 29, organised outdoor sport for adults and children will be permitted again.
From that date, it will no longer be a legal requirement to stay at home. It will therefore be possible to travel beyond one’s local area, meaning a long drive in a single day to meet a friend or relative outdoors is once again allowed.
When step two of the roadmap plan is implemented, no sooner than April 12, it will be possible to meet outdoors at pubs and restaurants under the same “rule of six” or two household rules. From that date, the limit on the maximum number of attendees at weddings and wakes will rise from six to 15.
When step three of the roadmap plan is implemented, no sooner than May 17, and provided the scientific data allows it, groups of up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, wakes, funerals, and other major life events.
When will we be able to meet indoors again?
Though there have been circumstances throughout lockdown in which you could meet people indoors, for instance, providing voluntary or charitable services, informal childcare assistance and providing emergency assistance, socialising has not been allowed for other purposes.
From March 8, adult care home residents will be able to nominate a named visitor to visit them regularly. The visitor and care home resident will be allowed to hold hands, but other close contact will not be allowed. The visitor must get a Covid test beforehand and wear PPE.
From May 17, the start of stage three, groups of up to six people and two households will be allowed to meet indoors, so people can enter each other’s homes from this point.
The Prime Minister announced that every person aged over 18 will have been offered a coronavirus vaccination by the end of July. As the vaccination programme reaches its final stage, ministers and scientists hope infection rates will have returned to the levels seen last summer. At this point, greater relaxations for indoor mixing are likely.
According to the roadmap plan, the earliest date for the reopening of indoor hospitality will be May 17, and only if the scientific data allows it.
For now, Britons are told to work from home when possible.
Can grandparents look after their grandchildren?
Households are currently not allowed to mix indoors with the exception of the current support bubbles, which allow one other person, such as an elderly relative, to visit.
This means a grandparent that provides childcare while a parent works, will still be able to continue to do so.
From March 8, the Prime Minister has said, family and childcare bubbles will be encouraged to get tested regularly.
Can grandparents hug their grandchildren after they’ve had the vaccine?
Hugging grandchildren and other family members may still not be advisable for some time, even when people have received the vaccine. Professor Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, has pointed out that the vaccines “take several weeks before they are maximally effective”.
The Prime Minister has said that social distancing rules will be updated by May 17, which means that friends and family may be able to hug one another again before June.
Will I be able to go on holiday with friends and family this year?
From April 12, staycations will be allowed, but in a limited form. One household will be allowed to stay overnight somewhere in the UK, but not with members of another household.
‘Self-contained accommodation’ will be available to rent, so for example cottages or Airbnb rentals or campsites. However hotels and B&Bs cannot reopen until May 17.
Non-essential travel abroad is currently not permitted. Travellers to the UK from “red list” countries must now quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
But a review into restarting international travel will conclude by May 17, meaning summer holidays abroad could yet take place.