The four steps out of lockdown explained

We have been going through the detailed Roadmap to provide further clarification on what the different stages mean for you. 

Please find some key points below.  If we haven’t answered your question in the summary please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and remember there is an online ‘Ask the Experts: Q&A’ at next Thursday at 10am to help you too.

Steps out of lockdown:

  • In the absence of significant regional disparity, the Government will ease restrictions at the same time across the whole of England. Due to the current relatively uniform spread of the virus across the country, the four steps out of lockdown set out in the roadmap are designed to apply to all regions.
  • Decisions on easing restrictions will be led by data rather than dates. It takes around four weeks for the data to show the impact of easing restrictions and the Government will provide a further week’s notice to the public and businesses ahead of any further changes. For that reason, there will be at least five weeks between the steps in the roadmap. The indicative, ‘no earlier than’ dates in the roadmap are all contingent on the data and subject to change. 

Step 1 – schools and wraparound childcare – from 8 March

  • Step 1 will start with schools on 8 March, and include some further limited changes on 29 March to allow families to meet outdoors as most schools break up for the Easter holidays.
  • Pupils and students in all schools and Further Education settings will return to face-to-face education from 8 March. 
  • Wraparound childcare (including childminders) and other children’s activities can restart from 8 March for all children where it is needed to enable parents or carers to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group.
  • Vulnerable children can attend these settings regardless of circumstance. 
  • Under-18 sport can take place at school as part of educational provision, or as part of wraparound care, but should not otherwise take place at this time.
  • Students on practical Higher Education courses at English universities who would be unable to complete their courses if they did not return to take part in practical teaching, access specialist facilities, or complete assessments will also return from 8 March.
  • For those Higher Education students that do not need to take part in practical teaching, and do not require access to specialist facilities or equipment as part of their studies, the Government will review, by the end of the Easter holidays, the options for timing of the return of these students.  Students and institutions will be given a week’s notice ahead of any reopening.
  • There will be twice-weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils, initially with on-site testing and then home testing. All households with school children, members of their support and childcare bubbles, and those in related occupations will also be encouraged to get tested regularly.  
  • The Government also recommends that the use of face coverings in Higher Education, Further Education and secondary schools is extended for a limited period to all indoor environments – including classrooms – unless 2m social distancing can be maintained. Face coverings are now also recommended in early years and primary schools for staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas.
  • From 8 March, the Stay at Home restriction will continue but it will be amended so that people can leave home for recreation as well as exercise outdoors – with their own household, support or childcare bubble, or with one person from another household. Social distancing and other safe behaviours should be followed.  
  • In England, travel abroad for holidays will still not be permitted and, from 8 March, outbound travellers will be legally obliged to provide their reason for travel on the Declaration to Travel form.
  • From 8 March, every care home resident in England will be able to nominate a single named visitor who can come in for a regular visit. The visitor will have to take a rapid lateral flow test every time they visit, wear PPE and keep physical contact to a minimum.
  • From 29 March people will be able to meet outside in groups up to a maximum of 6 people (the Rule of 6)or with one other household, in all outdoor settings, including private gardens, though people from different households will still need to socially distance from each other. 
  • The Government will also allow outdoor sports facilities to reopen. These facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, and swimming pools, can be used by people in line with the wider social contact limits. 
  • Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s – can also restart and will not be subject to the gatherings limits, but should be compliant with guidance issued by national governing bodies.
  • Children will still only be able to attend indoor childcare or supervised activities where doing so will allow parents or carers to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical attention or attend a support group.
  • Rules around funerals will not change; these can proceed with 30 attendees and wakes with 6 attendees, though not in private homes. Weddings will still be able to proceed with 6 attendees only but will no longer be limited to exceptional circumstances.

Step 2 – no earlier than 12 April

  • Social contact rules in England will not change further at this point.
  • The Government will announce one week in advance whether restrictions will be eased as planned for this step.
  • The following premises will be able to reopen but should only be visited alone or with household groups: 
    • non-essential retail; 
    • personal care premises such as hairdressers, salons and close contact services; and
    • indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and spas (but not including saunas and steam rooms, which are due to open at Step 3). NB this means no indoor group exercise at this point.
  • Overnight stays away from home in this country will be permitted, and self-contained accommodation – those that do not require shared use of bathing, entry/exit, catering or sleeping facilities – can also reopen, though must only be used by members of the same household.
  • The Government will open public buildings such as libraries and community centres. Activities such as driving tests may also resume.  
  • The majority of outdoor settings and attractions can also reopen, including outdoor hospitality, zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances eventsThe rules on social contact outdoors will apply in these settings.  
  • Hospitality venues will be able to open for outdoor service, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew. The requirement to order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’) will remain.
  • The Government will continue to enforce restrictions and require businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission and to ensure social distancing rules are followed.
  • People should continue to work from home where they can, minimise domestic travel where they can. International holidays will still be prohibited.
  • All children will be able to attend any indoor children’s activity, including sport, regardless of circumstance. Parent and child groups of up to 15 people (not counting children aged under five years old) can restart indoors. 
  • At this point, funerals can continue to proceed with up to 30 attendees. Weddings, receptions, and commemorative events including wakes will be able to take place with up to 15 attendees (in premises that are permitted to open).

Step 3 – no earlier than 17 May, and at least five weeks after Step 2

  • The Government will announce one week in advance whether restrictions will be eased as planned for this step.
  • In Step 3, all but the most high-risk sectors will be able to reopen. In all sectors, COVID-Secure guidance will remain in place and premises must not cater for groups larger than the legal limits. 
  • Sectors which will reopen include:
    • Indoor hospitality, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew. The requirement to order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’) will remain
    • Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas (beyond drive-in which was permitted in step 2); 
    • Indoor entertainment, such as museums, cinemas and children’s play areas;
    • Remaining accommodation, such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs; 
    • Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes; (individual / household group indoor exercise only is permitted in step 2) and 
    • Some large events, including conferences, theatre and concert performances and sports events. Controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted, as will outdoor events with a capacity of either 50% or 4,000 people, whichever is lower.
    • The Government will also make a special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25% of total seated capacity, whichever is lower
  • At this step, weddings, receptions, funerals, and commemorative events including wakes can proceed with up to 30 attendees. A broader range of stand-alone life events will also be permitted at this step, including bar mitzvahs and christenings. 
  • The Government will further ease limits on social contact, enabling the public to make informed personal decisions. It will remain important for people to consider the risks for themselves, taking into account whether they and those they meet have been vaccinated or are at greater risk.   
  • The Government will update its advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging. Until then, people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble, and keep up habits such as regular hand washing and letting in fresh air.  
  • The Government will lift most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors, but gatherings of more than 30 people outdoors will remain illegal. Indoors, people will be able to meet socially in a group of 6, or with 1 other household, though it may be possible to go further than this at Step 3 depending on the data. People will be asked to follow guidance on how to meet safely, for example by minimising the size of gatherings and meeting outdoors where possible.  
  • The Government will continue to advise the public to work from home where they can.

Step 4 – no earlier than 21 June, and at least five weeks after Step 3

  • The Government will announce one week in advance whether restrictions will be eased as planned.
  • At this stage, the Government aims to
    • Remove all legal limits on social contact, publishing accompanying guidance on how best to reduce the risk of transmission and protect ourselves and loved ones;  
    • Reopen the remaining closed settings, including nightclubs and enable large events, including theatre performances, above the Step 3 capacity restrictions, subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme (one of the 4 reviews being carried out to support the Steps) and potentially using testing to reduce the risk of infection; and 
    • Remove all limits on weddings and other life events, subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme (Review).
  • Some measures may be required even after all adults have been offered a vaccine, because neither coverage nor effectiveness of the vaccine will be 100%. 
  • The Government is therefore establishing four programmes of work (Reviews) to consider different aspects of how the UK should handle COVID-19 from summer onwards:
    • How long we will need to continue with face masks and social distancing;  Also working from home.
    • Resumption of international travel – reporting by 12 April
    • Potential role of Covid Status Certification in helping venues to re-open safely
    • Safe return of major events

Financial Support

  • The 3 March Budget will outline the next stage in the Government’s Plan for Jobs including further detail on economic support to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK. 
  • The approach will reflect the steps set out in the roadmap: as restrictions ease and the economy is gradually and safely reopened, the Government will tailor the level of support to individuals and businesses to reflect the changing circumstances.

Living with Covid-19 – Transition from pandemic to endemic 

  • Over time, scientists expect COVID-19 to become endemic, meaning the virus will reach a stable, and hopefully manageable level. It may have seasonal surges. Scientists do not yet know how or when that transition will occur. 
  • Vaccines will be key to managing the transition from pandemic to endemic state. Therapeutics and antivirals will also be increasingly important and replace most nonpharmaceutical interventions over the long term.  
  • Like some strains of flu, COVID-19 is a relatively mild illness for much of the population, but it is more dangerous to vulnerable groups. The Government will ensure the country can live with the virus in the longer-term without imposing restrictions which bear heavy economic, social and health costs. The outcome of the four programmes of work (Reviews) set out above will inform Government policy on living with the virus.

The full document is available here:   A simple summary of the Steps is available at page 43.

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