A year after the country went into its first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, the people of Britain are preparing to be freed from its third.
This is partly due to the success of the vaccination programme which began on 8 December, 2020. As of 28 March this year, 30,151,287 people have received either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab. 3,527,481 of which have received the second dose making them more protected against the virus than those with just the first.
How Long Have We Been In Lockdown?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced live on television on 23 March, 2020, that "the British people ... must stay at home". As a country, the majority of us stuck to the rules, however frustrating it was. After weeks of strict rules like working from home and only leaving the house to exercise and get food, the Prime Minister tentatively announced on 10 May the easing of measures put in place to reduce the pressure on the NHS.
Since that uncertain time, the country has been put into local restrictions organised by tiers and two further national lockdowns. The country has been either in full lockdown or had restrictions placed upon us for more than a year.
It is time for a UK lockdown update. People are searching the internet for answers to questions like "is travel/overnight stays against the lockdown rules?", "are we allowed to cross council boundaries after lockdown?" and "are road trips allowed under the latest lockdown rules?"
There is so much uncertainty out there so let's break it down with the help of guidance from gov.uk.
Lockdown Rules Latest – Clarification?
8 March COVID Rules
Much to the delight of many parents and children around the country, 8 March, 2021, saw the re-opening of schools and the end of 'home schooling'.
This is part of the government's four-step roadmap to "offer a route back to a more normal life".
March 29 COVID Rules
As cherry blossom trees start blooming around the UK, the start of spring brings the return of seeing friends and family, albeit in very small numbers. It has been scientifically proven to be safer to spend time with people outside to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Here's the official guidance:
"Outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either six people (the Rule of 6) or two households will also be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside."
However, the Government is still advising people to work from home where possible. If you must work elsewhere it is recommended that you avoid public transport. When it comes to Government guidelines regarding exercise, people are now allowed to take part in formally organised outdoor sports. Once again highlighting the benefit of spending time with people in open, well-ventilated spaces.
Do not get out your sunscreen yet as holidays abroad are still not permitted. This is deemed incredibly important to "manage the risk of imported variants and protect the vaccination programme".
12 April COVID Rules
The next important date in the "return to normal" roadmap is 12 April, the opening of non-essential retail. This is the day you will be able to get your hair done, work out at the gym, visit the library and go to the zoo. All these must happen either alone or in household groups.
With the weather warming up in the UK, pubs will be able to welcome customers back into their gardens for food and drinks.
Unlike previous lockdown rules, people will no longer need to order a ‘substantial meal’ with alcoholic drinks and there will not be a curfew.
For those mourning the death of a loved one, funerals can continue with up to 30 guests. However, events like weddings, receptions and wakes can now have up to 15 guests.
17 May COVID Rules
The Government is planning to review whether people might be allowed to hug after 17 May. This will be a big step towards returning to 'normal life' for many as social distancing measures have meant some family and friends have not been able to embrace each other for more than a year.
Ailsa Veale of the Army Welfare Service in Germany explained to Forces News that lockdown has meant time away from loved ones, saying:
"We haven’t seen my husband's family, or my daughter's grandparents, since February last year."
As of now, the Government is considering giving people the freedom to decide on the appropriate level of risk for their circumstances after May 17. This means that most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors could be lifted although gathering in groups larger than 30 will still be illegal.
Because of this, people following the ‘Rule Of Six’ or two households, might be allowed to meet indoors.
In one of the biggest changes for the entertainment and hospitality industries, people will be able to venture indoors to see films, sporting events and live performances. There are, however, restrictions such as how many people can enter the building. They are as follows:
- Indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number)
- Outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number)
- In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower)
21 June COVID Rules
Before 21 June brings the final stage in the road map to the lifting of lockdown measures, the Government plans to re-evaluate some core aspects of how we have lived our lives since the COVID pandemic hit the UK in March 2020.
As of Spring 2021, it is a legal requirement to wear a mask when entering indoor settings like places of worship, supermarkets and hospitals. Plus, you must keep a minimum distance of at least one metre from those around you.
To successfully transition into a post lockdown world, the Government needs to assess how important those measures are in keeping us safe from catching COVID-19.
The hope is that by 21 June, the Government will be able to "remove all legal limits on social contact". They plan to do this by running pilot events to "trial the use of testing and other techniques to cut the risk of infection".
This 'Events Research Programme' might then be able to decide whether events like weddings and funerals could be allowed to have more guests in attendance.
What Does The Future Look Like After 21 June?
What remains clear is that, despite restrictions being slowly lifted, we will still be encouraged to wear masks, keep our distance and wash our hands as announced by Boris Johnson in July 2020.
The Government also advises us to meet people outdoors, get tested when needed and accept the offer of being vaccinated when it is offered to you.