What are the four stages of easing coronavirus restrictions?

A four-stage plan could see England’s coronavirus restrictions finally lifted by June 21.

Coronavirus restrictions
Coronavirus restrictions

The Prime Minister has set out his four-stage plan to ease England’s coronavirus restrictions.

But what is due to happen in each step unveiled by Boris Johnson?

– Step one – from March 8/March 29

All pupils in all year groups can go back to the classroom from March 8, with outdoor after-school sports and activities also allowed to restart.

Also from this date, people will be permitted to have socially distanced one-to-one meetings with others outdoors in a public space – meaning friends and family members could sit down for a coffee or have a picnic in the park.

Care home residents will be allowed a single visitor, with visitors required to take a lateral flow test and wear personal protective equipment.

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
  • Infection rates do not 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.

In the second part of the first phase, larger groups could be allowed to gather in parks and gardens from March 29 – when the “stay at home” order will end, with messaging moving to “stay local”.

The “rule of six” will return, meaning up to six people or two households will be able to meet outdoors.

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts are also set to reopen at the end of next month, with organised adult and children’s sport – including grassroots football – able to return.

– Step two – from April 12 at the earliest

At least five weeks after step one and no earlier than April 12, non-essential retail, personal care premises – such as hairdressers and nail salons – libraries and museums will be permitted to reopen.

Indoor gyms and leisure facilities, such as swimming pools, will be permitted to reopen, but the requirements for social contact in indoor settings will continue.

This means people will only be permitted to visit a museum or exercise in a gym alone or with their own household.

Hospitality venues will be permitted to reopen but for outdoor purposes only, meaning restaurants and pubs will only be able to serve customers outside, where the rule of six or two households will apply.

The requirement for a substantial meal and curfews will both be scrapped, but customers will need to be seated when ordering food or drink.

Self-contained accommodation, such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, will also be able to reopen for overnight stays by households only.

Funerals will be able to continue with up to 30 people, while the number of people who can attend wedding receptions and wakes will rise from the current six to 15.

– Step three – from May 17 at the earliest

In step three, which will be no earlier than May 17 and at least five weeks after the second step, the Government will further ease limits on social contact.

Outdoors, the rule of six and two household requirement will be lifted, although gatherings of more than 30 people in parks and gardens will remain illegal.

Winter weather Feb 21st 2021
Large outdoor gatherings will remain illegal (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Meanwhile, up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be permitted to meet indoors, but this is subject to review.

Indoor hospitality – inside pubs and restaurants – is set to open up at this point, where the rule of six or two household rule will apply, alongside entertainment venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas.

Larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues, with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full, whichever is lower, will be allowed, while outdoors it will be 4,000 people or half-full, again whichever is lower.

Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals, and other life events will be permitted, such as bar mitzvahs and christenings.

– Step four – from June 21 at the earliest

The last step will be no earlier than June 21 – and at least five weeks after the third step – when it is hoped that all legal limits on social contact will be removed.

It is also hoped that the final closed sectors of the economy, such as nightclubs, could be allowed to reopen, while restrictions on large events could also be eased.

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