Lockdown restrictions have eased further from today as England takes another step along Boris Johnson’s roadmap to freedom.
People can now meet up in groups of six outside, including in gardens, and outdoor sport can resume.
The “stay at home” order will lift for the first time, allowing people to leave their homes for non-essential reasons.
It comes as part of the the first stage of the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, which allowed schools to reopen on March 8.
The first round of reopening also allowed people to meet up with a friend for coffee outside, wraparound childcare resumed, and care home visits were able to start up again with strict rules.
None of the dates in the lockdown roadmap are guaranteed and officials will be watching closely to see if infection rates tick up as restrictions begin to ease.
Each stage of the four-step roadmap has a five-week gap to see if the virus is beginning to take hold again and a number of tests have to be passed before progressing to the next phase.
Here’s what you need to know about the changes to lockdown rules.
You can meet friends and family in gardens
The rule of six is back, allowing people to meet up with another household or up to five friends or family members outside.
The maximum is either two households, or six people – whichever is the larger number of people.
You can have a picnic in the park in a group of six or pop to a friend’s garden for a drink.
Downing Street confirmed last month that visitors will be allowed to nip into the house to use their bathroom or walk through to get to their garden for a picnic or a drink.
However you are not allowed to spend time inside the house for any other reason.
Outdoor sport can resume
Five-a-side football, golf and tennis can kick off again as restrictions lift on grassroots sport.
Organised team sports are exempt from the limits on how many people you can meet outside – as long as you are all playing.
Outdoor facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen.
However social distancing rules will be in place, with changing rooms likely to remain closed.
You no longer have to stay at home
The blanket “stay at home” order will lift on March 29.
This means you no longer need an excuse to justify going out, which included work, medical appointments and daily exercise during lockdown.
The “stay at home” slogan will be ditched on Monday and replaced with “let’s take this next step safely” as part of the Government’s latest advertising blitz.
You can travel anywhere in England – but not go indoors or stay overnight
There is no specific limit on how far you can travel – but the Government is advising people to stay local and urging the public to use their common sense.
So you could travel to meet friends or family in another county or town but bans on indoor visits and overnight stays remain in place, which limits how far people can go.
Holidays at home and abroad are still banned.
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You should continue to work from home if possible
People who can work from home should continue to do so, despite the stay at home order lifting.
Use of public transport is allowed for any reason once the stay at home order ends but people are advised to minimise how often they take the bus or the underground.
The Government guidance states: “People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes.”
This guidance to work from home if you can is only expected to change from June 21 at the earliest.
But you can’t go to the pub yet
It will be a few more weeks before punters can return to beer gardens for a long-awaited pint.
Hospitality venues cannot reopen until Step 2 of the roadmap, which will come no earlier than April 12.
Pubs and other hospitality venues will be able to serve takeaway pints and beer gardens will be able to reopen.
However limits around social contact will remain in place, so you have to abide by the rule of six or ‘two household’ limits.
Indoor areas of pubs, restaurants and cafes will not be allowed to open until Step 3 of the roadmap, from May 17 at the earliest.
You can’t hug
Despite being able to meet outdoors, people are being warned not to hug people who aren’t in their household or bubble.
You should maintain two-metre social distancing where possible with family and friends, or one metre with mitigations.
This rule is only due to be reviewed ahead of May 17, when many more Brits will have had a first dose of the vaccine.
Professor Catherine Noakes, from Leeds University, said: “An infected person releases particles into the air by coughing, talking or simply breathing.
“The closer you are to people, the greater the risk of breathing in infected particles. When we are outdoors, the risk of infection is significantly lower as fresh air disperses and blows COVID-19 particles away, and we have more space to social distance from each other.
“When outdoors, stick to groups of six, or two households. Keep a safe distance and meet outside, because you’re much safer in fresh air.”
Holidays abroad are still banned – but staycations are coming
Foreign travel is currently illegal under lockdown rules, except in limited circumstances such as for work or to attend a funeral.
Ministers are reviewing how international travel can resume but it is currently banned until the lockdown roadmap regulations expire on June 30.
Anyone who breaks the rules on going abroad faces a fine of £5,000.
The earliest date that foreign holidays could resume is May 17 – Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap.
The Government is expected to announce the results of the review on international travel in early April.
Staycations in England can resume after April 12 – as long as you stay in self-contained accommodation with your own household.
Holidays with other households in England will not be allowed until May 17 at the earliest.
You also cannot travel to stay overnight with friends and family who aren’t in your bubble before that date.
Shielding rules will end on April 1
Millions of people shielding from coronavirus will be able to leave their homes in April.
More than 3.79 million people in England deemed clinically extremely vulnerable have been asked to shut themselves away for months.
But the Government recently announced that the guidance would end on April 1 and patients would receive updated information.
The government said they will “set out practical steps people can follow to reduce their risk of catching the virus”.
This includes continuing to maintain “strict social distancing” and “to keep their overall social contacts at low levels, such as working from home where possible.”
What are the lockdown roadmap dates?
Step 1 (part one) – March 8
- Schools and colleges reopened
- Two people can meet up outside
- Care home residents can have one nominated visitor, with testing and social distance precautions
Step 1 (part two) – March 29
- Up to six people – or two households – can meet outside
- Team sports resume and outdoor sports facilities reopen
- The stay at home rule ends
Step 2 – after April 12
- Non-essential shops reopen
- Hairdressers and beauty salons can operate
- Pubs and restaurants can serve customers outdoors
- Gyms can reopen, as can zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres
- Holidays in England allowed in self-contained accommodation
- Weddings and receptions can take place with 15 people attending
Step 3 – after May 17
- People can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors
- Indoor meet-ups allowed for six people or two households
- Up to 30 guests allowed at weddings and christenings
- Pubs and restaurants can open indoor areas
- Hotels can reopen – and international travel may be allowed
- Exercises classes can taken place
- Outdoor theatres and cinemas reopen, while indoor entertainment also allowed
- Large events can restart with limits on numbers
Step 4 – after June 21
- All restrictions on social contact will be lifted
- Last remaining venues like nightclubs can reopen
What are the four tests for easing lockdown?
The Government has listed four tests that need to be passed each time to proceed to the next step of the lockdown roadmap – which is why the dates are provisional.
- The vaccine rollout is going to plan
- Vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing deaths and hospitalisations
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions
- There are no new coronavirus variants causing concern