England’s third lockdown should hopefully be its last.
The NHS hit its target of vaccinating 15 million people by the middle of February, and the Government hopes that everyone will have received the jab by the autumn.
However, we will not have to wait until everyone is vaccinated for restrictions to start being lifted.
A gradual return to normal life is drawing ever closer, but the Government is yet to publish its road map for how and when rules will be relaxed.
When is the next lockdown review?
Boris Johnson said he will set out a “route map” out of lockdown “in the week commencing 22 February”, with the announcement set for that date.
“By then we will know much more about the effect of vaccines, using data from the UK but also other nations like Israel,” he said on 27 January.
“We will also know how many people are in hospital with Covid – which we simply can’t predict today.
“So we will be in a better position to chart a course out of lockdown, without risking a further surge that will overwhelm the NHS.”
The Prime Minister said the UK will be in “a very different situation” to when the rules were relaxed last summer.
“This time as we go into the second half of the year we are going to have the confidence of knowing a huge proportion of the British public – particularly the most vulnerable – will have been vaccinated and probably have received a very high degree of immunity,” he said.
When will schools reopen?
Mr Johnson has targeted Monday 8 March as the earliest date pupils could start returning to school. They will go back in a phased system.
The reopening will depend on the success of the vaccination drive, which is currently on schedule.
Economic and social restrictions could begin to be eased “then or thereafter”, the Prime Minister said.
When will everything else come back?
On 12 February, i exclusively reported the Prime Minister’s three-stage plan for reopening the economy after lockdown.
It is understood that the Government will assess the effect of pupils returning to lessons from 8 March on the coronavirus R number before moving onto the next stage.
If the data indicates that infections remain at an “acceptable level,” the Prime Minister will give the green light for non-essential shops to reopen towards the end of March.
The third and final stage of Mr Johnson’s plan would be put into action if there was no significant rise in the R number in the week leading up to Good Friday, on 2 April.
This would allow hospitality businesses, including hotels, restaurants and pubs, to open their doors from the Easter weekend – staycations would also return, although foreign travel is likely to remain off-limits for some time.
Subsequent reporting from the Daily Mail indicated that the Prime Minister was pursuing a gradual exit from lockdown targeting the nation “broadly” returning to normal by July.
The newspaper claimed that restrictions on hospitality could be eased at four-weekly intervals starting with a “limited” Easter holiday in April – when holiday lets and larger hotels would reopen – while pubs, bars and restaurants would have to wait until May.
It added that restrictions such as a two-household limit for sitting indoors and the return of the rule of six for outdoor gatherings would apply to hospitality businesses, with the rule of six potentially extended indoors in June.
What are the lockdown rules?
The lockdown is enshrined in law and police can take action if people leave home without a reasonable excuse.
A full guidance to the restrictions in place can be found here, but here are the key measures at a glance:
- People must only leave the house for limited reasons, such as shopping for necessities such as food and medicine, providing care or voluntary aid, or medical reasons
- Exercise will be allowed – preferably limited to once a day – with members of your household or support bubble or one other person from another household
- People will be able to go to work if it is impossible to work from home, such as those in the construction sector or who are critical workers. All others must work from home
- All primary and secondary schools and colleges move to remote learning, except for the children of key workers or vulnerable children, but early years settings such as nurseries and childminders can stay open
- University students will not be allowed to return to campus and will be expected to study from home
- Places of worship can remain open for individual prayers and communal worship, but weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are allowed only in exceptional circumstances
- All non-essential shops, hairdressers and personal care salons must close, although supermarkets, pharmacies, off-licences, builders’ merchants and garden centres are among businesses which can stay open
- Restaurants and other hospitality venues can continue with delivery or takeaway (excluding alcohol) – cinemas, skating rinks and bowling alleys must remain closed
- Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and who were previously told to shield should stay at home and only leave for medical appointments and exercise
- Visits to care homes can take place only with “substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows”
- Playgrounds can stay open but gyms (indoor and outdoor), tennis courts, swimming pools and golf courses must close, and outdoor team sports will not be permitted – although the Premier League and other elite sports can continue
- The buying and selling of houses can continue, but people should not ask others outside their support bubble to help them move
- Overnight stays outside support bubbles and holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed, including staying in a second home or caravan
— to inews.co.uk