Four-step plan announced to ease lockdown restrictions in England


Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed a new four-step plan to ease the current lockdown restrictions.

The plan is subject to change and the Prime Minister told MPs that decisions made at each step will be based on “data not dates” in order to prevent a surge of infections and an overwhelmed NHS. 

The roadmap has been divided into four steps, each separated by at least five weeks to allow enough time for scientific data to reflect changes and to give an advanced notice of restrictions that will be eased as a result. 

The decision to move forward from one stage to the next will only be made based on the passing of four tests:

  1. The vaccine roll-out continues successfully
  2. Vaccines are shown to be effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
  3. Infection rates are not causing or risking unsustainable pressure on the NHS
  4. The government’s risk assessment is not fundamentally challenged by new variants of the virus

The Roadmap

Step One

8th March 2021

  • Schools will reopen and children in every year group will be able to return for face-to-face education. 
  • Secondary school pupils and staff will be required to receive rapid-testing twice a week to reduce the chance of the virus spreading in schools. They must also wear a mask at all times when indoors and a distance of 2m is not possible. 
  • Childcare and supervised children’s activities can also resume. 
  • Higher Education students on practical courses in England will be able to return to university. 
  • Care home residents will be allowed one person as a regular visitor. 
  • A household/support bubble or two members of separate households will be allowed to leave home for outdoor recreation and exercise.

29th March 2021

  • The ‘stay at home’ order will be lifted but many restrictions will remain in place: people should remain working from home if possible and minimise the number of journeys taken. 
  • Outdoor gatherings of either six people from separate households or two households of any number of people will be allowed in public spaces or private gardens. 
  • Sports facilities that can be done outdoors such as horse riding, tennis and open-air swimming pools will be allowed to reopen. People will also be able to partake in formally organised outdoor sports.


Step Two

12th April 2021

  • Non-essential retail shops, personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons, public buildings such as libraries and community centres and indoor leisure centres and gyms will be allowed to reopen. 
  • Zoos, outdoor hospitality venues such as restaurants and bars, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and many other outdoor attractions will be able to reopen too. 
  • Customers at hospitality venues must remain seated and outdoors at all times but restrictions we saw during the summer last year – such as ordering a substantial meal with an alcoholic drink and a 10pm curfew – will not be in place. 
  • Up to 30 people will be able to attend a funeral and the number of guests able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events will rise to 15. 
  • Global travel restrictions will be reviewed.
Step Three

17th May 2021

  • Most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted, but gatherings must be kept to less than 30 people. 
  • The Rule of 6 or two households will be applied to indoor gatherings, but members of separate households must continue to keep their distance. This rule will be reviewed at the time to see if it will be safe to lift social distancing restrictions, including hugging. 
  • Hospitality venues will be able to welcome customers indoors, but customers must adhere to the Rule of 6/two household restrictions and must remain seated when ordering, eating and drinking. As in Step 2, there won’t be any restrictions on ordering alcoholic drinks or a curfew. 
  • Other indoor locations will be able to reopen. This includes: cinemas; children’s play areas; the accommodation sector such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs; and indoor exercise classes. 
  • Larger performances and sporting events will be allowed with restrictions.
    • Indoor venues must operate at half-full capacity or a maximum of 1,000 people – whichever is lower.
    • Outdoor venues must operate at half-full capacity or a maximum of 4,000 people – whichever is lower.
    • Larger outdoor venues where crowds can be spread out must operate at quarter-full capacity or a maximum of 10,000 people – whichever is lower.
    • A maximum of 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings, receptions, commemorative events, wakes and funerals.
Step Four

21st June 2021

  • If the situation continues to improve, the government hopes that all remaining restrictions will be lifted. 
  • If so, on the 21st June 2021 no legal limits on social contact and all remaining premises, such as nightclubs, will be allowed to reopen.

After a year of lockdowns, restrictions and life changes, this announcement finally gives some clarity on how long it may take to return to normal. 

In order to ensure the country can move forward between each step, it’s important we continue to follow the social distancing rules proven to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Keep your distance, wash your hands and continue to wear a mask.


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