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England’s Covid rules are set out in law to last until 31 March, but the Government has insisted they should be eased ahead of that date if the vaccination programme remains on course – here’s how they will be reviewed.
When is the first lockdown review?
During his address to MPs ahead of the vote, the Prime Minister confirmed that the lockdown rules would be reviewed every two weeks.
This follows the protocol for the four-tier system, which was subject to review every other Wednesday – although as it transpired, the tiers changed far more regularly as Covid cases continued to increase at alarming rates.
Given that the lockdown rules were enshrined in law on Wednesday 6 January, it would appear that the first mandatory review will come on Wednesday 20 January, followed two weeks later on 3 February.
Mr Johnson said: “These restrictions will be kept under continuous review with a statutory requirement to review every two weeks and a legal obligation to remove them if they are no longer deemed necessary to limit the transmission of the virus.”
The insistence that they would be constantly reviewed echoed earlier comments by Michael Gove, who had said: “We will keep these constantly under review, but we can’t predict with certainty that we will be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing 15-22 February.”
When will England’s lockdown rules end?
He said said: “By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.”
The Prime Minister added that “we should remain cautious about the timetable ahead,” but said there was cause for hope if the vaccination programme rolls out as planned and deaths fall as a result.
“Then I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term and starting, cautiously, to move regions down the tiers,” he said.
When he laid the timeline out in more detail to the House of Commons, Mr Johnson explained that the emergence from lockdown will be “gradual,” explaining why the legislation involved was written to run until 31 March.
He told MPs: “As was the case last spring, our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping.
“That is why the legislation this House will vote on later today runs until 31 March. Not because we expect the full national lockdown to continue until then, but to allow a steady, controlled and evidence-led move down through the tiers on a regional basis – carefully, brick by brick, as it were, breaking free of our confinement but without risking the hard won gains that our protections have given us.”
What are the rules of lockdown?
The lockdown is enshrined in law and police can take action if people leave home without a reasonable excuse.
- 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 keyworkers 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