What lockdown rules are changing on May 17 and when is the next lockdown review?

Woman drinking in a restaurant together as lockdown rules are changing from May 17
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lockdown rules are changing on May 17, following the all-clear for the next stage of the lockdown roadmap to go ahead as planned.  

May 17 is the third stage of lockdown lifting in the UK. The last change on April 21 allowed pubs and restaurants to reopen their outdoor seating areas, gyms and swimming pools also reopened, and non-essential retail stores welcomed in customers again.

Although there is always the chance that we will go into a circuit breaker lockdown before Christmas, the Prime Minister has stressed that there is “nothing in the present data that makes us think that we will have to deviate” from the government's roadmap.

What lockdown rules are changing on May 17?

The major rule change on May 17 is the one allowing for more people to meet up outside and indoors, with the rule of six in place for inside spaces and up to thirty people allowed to meet outside.

On May 17, social restrictions will lift to allow: 

  • Groups of six or two households to meet inside, either in a private or public space. 
  • Groups of no more than 30 people to meet outdoors. 
  • Pubs, cafes and restaurants to open their indoor spaces for seating. There are no requirements to have a substantial meal and no curfew. 
  • Gyms and leisure centres to resume indoor fitness classes, up to six people. 
  • Indoor entertainment venues, including children’s soft play areas and cinemas can reopen
  • B&Bs, hostels and hotels to accept bookings for overnight stays from groups of multiple households. 
  • Weddings, receptions, wakes and funerals with up to 30 people in attendance.
  • Performances and sporting events in outdoor venues (with a capacity of 4000 or half-full, whichever is lower).
  • Some larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues (with a capacity of 1000 people or half-full, whichever is lower). 

In some cases, outdoor venues will be able to accommodate 10,000 people (or a quarter-full, whichever number is lower) from May 17. This will only be in outdoor seated venues, however, where crowds can "spread out”. 

The government recently updated their advice on social distancing to go along with these rule changes. It's now been announced that people can hug again but they should limit who and how many people they chose to hug. It's not been revealed, however, when we can stop wearing face coverings

They’ve added that this review will “also inform guidance on working from home” but in all cases, “until this point, people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble.”

A change to the lockdown travel rules also occurs from this date. People are allowed to travel to any of the countries on the government's 'green list' without the need to quarantine on their return to the UK. However, those returning from countries on the 'amber list' will have to quarantine for two weeks and those on the 'red list' must self-isolate in a government-managed facility.

These strict travel restrictions came into place in February this year in a bid to combat new Covid-19 variants.

When is the next lockdown review?

The next lockdown review is on June 21. On this date or in the days before it, the government will announce whether or not the restrictions will lift again.

As per the government's roadmap, four tests need to be passed for the government to lift lockdown measures. These include: 

  • The vaccination programme must continue successfully
  • Evidence must show that the vaccines are effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
  • Infection rates must not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put “unsustainable pressure” on the NHS.  
  • The assessment of risks is not substantially impacted by new variants.

If the government’s scientific advisors believe that all four tests have been met, the next stage of the roadmap will go ahead and these restrictions will lift.

There have already been some concerns, however, about the new variant of Covid-19 that first appeared in India. Although all signs point to the Covid-19 vaccines being able to successfully combat this new mutation, the government have warned that they will take steps to prevent lockdown lifting if it poses a substantial threat. In a worse case scenario, this means we could go back into some form of lockdown.

However, f the change in the rules goes ahead as planned on June 21, lockdown will essentially be over - for good.

Grace Walsh
Features Writer

Grace Walsh is a health and wellbeing writer, working across the subjects of family, relationships, and LGBT topics, as well as sleep and mental health. A digital journalist with over six years  experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace is currently Health Editor for womanandhome.com and has also worked with Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more. After graduating from the University of Warwick, she started her career writing about the complexities of sex and relationships, before combining personal hobbies with professional and writing about fitness.