Over the weekend, as the welcome news emerged that the UK was running ahead of schedule in its coronavirus vaccination programme, the Government announced that it would be revealing the specifics of its four-part plan to bring the country out of lockdown. That day has arrived and there are some interesting revelations.
At present, it looks as if all adults in the UK will have been offered the first installment of the two-part vaccination by July 31 this year. If that target is met, the easing of lockdown restrictions will begin, with the reopening of all schools from March 8. After school sports activities will be allowed, as will outdoor recreation in public spaces between two people.
Then, from March 29, outdoor gatherings of six people or two households will be allowed. Outdoor sports facilities will also repoen and organised sports like community football and children’s sport will also be allowed to return.
The second stage says that from April 12, hospitality services will be allowed to open, but only with outdoor seating. The rule of six will still apply (i.e. social gatherings of more than six people will still be prohibited), but the so-called ‘Scotch egg law’ (i.e. that only venues that serve a substantial meal can open), will not apply.
Boris also confirmed that this would be the end of hospitality curfews. However, indoor mixing between different households will still be prohibited.
Furthermore, non-essential shops, which were forced to close in the first national lockdown in March 2020, will also be allowed to reopen from April 12. While retail parks, high streets and shopping centres were allowed to reopen in June, non-essential shops were not. Apart from a brief respite in December, such shops have stayed close for almost a full year.
The third stage of the government’s plan will come into play on May 17. At that point, the rule of six will officially be abolished and two households will be allowed to mix indoors. Cinemas, hotels and sporting events will also be allowed to reopen, but only with social distancing measures.
Crucially, for sports fans, 10,000 spectators will be allowed to attend the very largest outdoor seated venues such as football stadiums.
Finally, if all goes to plan and COVID cases continue to fall as the country’s vaccinated, then indoor gatherings will finally be allowed to take place once again. This means that from June 17, nightclubs, which have stayed closed since the very beginning of the first lockdown almost a year ago, will be allowed to reopen. Further, any other industries or spaces that had remained closed will be allowed to reopen and all limits on social contact will be lifted.
It’s a long road to that final step, however, and it’s all dependent on the following four criteria being met at every stage. If the data suggests that any point these criteria are not being met, we could be back to square one.