Step two of the roadmap for the country to leave lockdown is on the horizon, with rules due to change once again on March 29.
Moving further along in the roadmap, this date will mean key rule changes, including allowing two households to see each other outside socially distanced.
Currently, everyone is still following rules from when step one came into force on March 8.
That was when children returned to school, care home residents were allowed one regular visitor (as long as they were tested and wear PPE) and we were permitted to leave our homes “for recreation outdoors such as a coffee or picnic with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household”.
As part of step one, there will be further limited changes from March 29, the week most schools break up for Easter.
So what is coming next?
What you can and cannot do from March 29
England will be making the following changes from Monday, March 29.
The Stay at Home order, in which you could only go out if you had a “reasonable excuse”, will end and is expected to be replaced by a new Stay Local directive.
This means the restrictions on why you can leave your home will no longer apply, but you’ll need to remain in the local area unless there is an essential reason for going further afield.
The Government defines local as your village, town or the part of a city where you live.
In Wales, a similar Stay Local rule came into force on March 13 and means people there are able to travel within five miles of their front door except in a rural location where there may be a greater distance to essential shops and services.
At present, people in England can now have an outdoor coffee or picnic with their household or support bubble, or with just one person from outside their household.
But from March 29, this will be relaxed to permit outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households. The Government says this is aimed at enabling families to meet each other.
And whereas outdoor exercise is currently restricted to public places such as parks, beaches, botanical gardens, play areas, village greens and allotments, from March 29 you can also meet people in private gardens too.
You’ll still have to stay two metres apart from anyone not in your household – meaning the people you live with – or your support bubble.
Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, golf courses and bowling greens, will reopen on March 29. This would also include outdoor swimming facilities.
Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s – can also restart and will not be subject to the limits on gatherings but should comply with guidance issued by national governing bodies, the road map says.
This means Sunday league football can kick off once again.
Tougher restrictions remain in place for contact sports such as rugby union, which will be allowed tackling but not scrums.
Indoor leisure facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools, won’t be able to reopen until step two comes in on April 12 – and will initially only be for use by people on their own or with members of their own household.
Organised adult indoor group sports, such as basketball and five-a-side football, will only resume in step three, no earlier than May 17.
The Government is allowing five weeks between each step, including an announcement seven days beforehand to check that the latest medical and scientific evidence supports a further relaxation of rules.
Before proceeding to the next step, the Government will examine the data to assess the impact of the previous steps.
This assessment will be based on four tests:
- The success of the vaccination programme
- Evidence that vaccines are reducing hospitalisations and deaths
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- Assessment of any new strains of Covid, what are known as ‘Variants of Concern’ (VOC)
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