On 22 February 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the planned route out of lockdown for businesses in England. Businesses in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland must follow the rules in their nation.
In late February, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon published a revised Strategic Framework for the re-opening of the Scottish economy. According to the document, the country could return to the regional levels system from 26 April.
In early March The Northern Ireland Executive published its planned pathway out of the current restrictions.
The Welsh Government have published their Coronavirus Control Plan for easing lockdown restrictions.
The Government will announce one week in advance whether restrictions will be eased as planned. All newly open settings must abide by the social contact rules.
Reopening will take place in four phases, subject to the Government’s four tests being met.
What are the four tests?
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
- Infection rates don’t risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
- The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern
Phase one commenced on the 8 March 2021. The stay at home order remains in place and pupils begin returning to schools.
- Wraparound care, including sport, for all children can recommence.
- Recreation or exercise outdoors with household or one other person is permitted.
From 29 March 2021, people can meet outdoors under the rule of six or two households.
- Outdoor sport and leisure facilities may restart.
- Organised outdoor sport is allowed for children and adults.
Phase two commences on Monday 12 April 2021. This phase sees the reopening of some sections of the indoor economy and more outdoor settings.
- Indoor leisure, including gyms and spas (but not including saunas and steam rooms) open for use individually or within household groups
- Outdoor attractions, such as zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas
- Libraries and community centres
- Personal care premises
- All retail
- Outdoor hospitality with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew
- Domestic overnight stays and self-contained accommodation (household only)
- Event pilots begin. Pilots will run as part of the Events Research Programme.
- People should continue to work from home where they can
What is the Events Research Programme?
Over the spring, the Government will run a scientific Events Research Programme to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes. The pilots will start in April.
Phase three (no earlier than 17 May)
COVID-secure guidance will remain in place and premises must not cater for groups larger than the legal limits.
- 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.
- Indoor entertainment and attractions
- 30 person limit outdoors
- Remaining outdoor entertainment, including performances
- Indoor entertainment, such as museums, cinemas and children’s play areas
- Organised indoor adult sport
- Remaining accommodation such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs
- Some large events (except for pilots) with capacity limits of 1000 or 50% indoors, and 4000 or 50% outdoors (10,000 or 25% if seated).
- International travel subject to review.
- The Government will continue to advise the public to work from home where they can.
Phase four (no earlier than 21 June)
- No legal limits on social contact
- Reopen the remaining closed settings, including nightclubs and enable large events, including theatre performances.
- Larger events
- No legal limits on all life events
The social distancing review
Ahead of this stage, the Government plans to review social distancing measures and other long-term measures that have been put in place to limit transmission. The results of the review will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on 1m+, face masks and other measures may be lifted. People should continue to work from home where they can until the social distancing review is complete.
What is COVID status certification?
COVID status certification involves using testing or vaccination data to confirm in different settings that people have a lower risk of transmitting COVID-19 to others.
The Government will be reviewing whether COVID status certification could play a role in reopening the economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety. This will include assessing to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and the potential uses to enable access to settings or a relaxation of COVID-secure mitigations.