Roadmap out of lockdown 2021: When and how lockdown rules will ease and lift

The lockdown will start to lift from early March when schools reopen across England.
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  • The roadmap out of lockdown for 2021 has been announced, with details about when children will go back to school after lockdown and when households will be able to meet up again. 

    It was promised as part of the next lockdown review in early February, following a gradual decline in cases of Covid-19 during the third lockdown

    The prime minister wrote on Twitter, ‘I’ll be setting out a roadmap to bring us out of lockdown cautiously. Our priority has always been getting children back into school which we know is crucial for their education and wellbeing. We’ll also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.’

    While lockdown travel rules remain the same with hotel quarantine in place, limitations on social activities are set to drastically change in the next few months.

    Key dates from the roadmap out of lockdown 2021

    • March 8th – schools to reopen
    • March 29th Rule of 6 for household mixing outdoors and outdoor sport allowed
    • April 12th – All non-essential shops, gyms, leisure centres, zoos, libraries, theme parks, hairdressers and beauticians all allowed to re-open and restaurants, pubs and cafes allowed to open their outdoor areas.
    • May 17th – Rule of 6 for household mixing indoors, outdoor gatherings and wedding restrictions lifted to 30 people maximum, staycations allowed and indoor entertainment such as bowling alleys and cinemas to reopen.
    • June 21st – All legal limits on social contact lifted and a return to ‘normal’ life.

    All of the key dates and targets above for lifting lockdown are subject to change following the government’s ongoing review of infection rates and the efficacy of the vaccination program in the UK.

    Read on for more information about the government’s roadmap out of lockdown and for more details on everything that will re-open and which rules will change on the key dates listed above.

    Roadmap out of lockdown: What is the lockdown easing plan?

    The lockdown easing plan will depend on data “every step” of the way according to the government, with restrictions lifted in stages. 

    From March 8 (step one – part one ): 

    • All schools will open, with after-school activities and sports allowed. 
    • Two people from different households can meet in a public space. They will be allowed to sit down for a coffee, drink or picnic. 
    • Each care home resident in England will be allowed one regular visitor. 

    From March 29 (step one – part two):

    • Outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. This will likely include gatherings in private gardens. 
    • Outdoor sports will return, such as tennis and golf.
    • Organised adult and children’s sport, such as grassroots football, will return. 
    • Travel outside of local areas will be allowed, with ‘stay at home’ guidance scrapped. 
    • Those who are clinically vulnerable will be able to stop shielding at the end of March.

    From April 12 (step two):  

    • Non-essential retail will be allowed to open again, including personal care services.
    • Pubs and restaurants will open for outdoor service in beer gardens etc. 
    • Indoor leisure facilities, including gyms and swimming pools will open.
    • Most outdoor settings will be open from this date, including zoos and drive-in cinemas.
    • Public libraries and community centres will be able to reopen.
    • There will be an update around this time on international travel and whether it’s safe to book a holiday abroad for the summer.

    From May 17 (step three): 

    • Most social contact rules will be lifted outdoors, meaning groups of people (max.30) can meet up from different households. 
    • Indoor mixing allowed for two households, up to six people.
    • Pubs and restaurants will open for indoor service, with the rule of 6 or two households maximum.
    • All other leisure facilities including cinemas, bowling alleys and children’s play areas will reopen.
    • Hotels, hostels and overnight accommodation will be allowed to open again.
    • Large events, including those that take places in concert halls and sports stadiums, will resume. These will be piloted with mass testing schemes.

    From June 21 (step four): 

    • There will be no legal limits on social contact, meaning that groups of over 30 people will be able to meet either indoors or outside.
    • All sectors not already open will be allowed to reopen again.
    • Restrictions on large events will be completely lifted.
    • All limits will be removed from weddings and other life events.
    • Nightclubs could reopen.
    People walking through the park as the roadmap out of lockdown is announced

    Credit: Getty

    These dates are precautionary and the earliest chance for the restrictions to be lifted, however. They work in four steps with at least five weeks between each step. For the government to lift the next stage of measures, there are four criteria that need to be met each time:

    1. The coronavirus vaccine programme must continue to go to plan. 
    2. The evidence must continue to show that vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying with the virus or needing hospital treatment. 
    3. Infection rates must not risk a huge surge in hospital admissions. 
    4. New variants of Covid-19 must not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions.

    If these criteria are not met by the time the measures are due to be lifted then they will be delayed, the prime minister has said.

    In his address to the House of Commons on February 22, Boris Johnson said that the government would be driven by “data not dates” to ensure that the way out of lockdown was “cautious but irreversible” and a “one way road to freedom”.

    Labour leader Keir Starmer has previously said that he wanted Boris Johnson to learn the “lessons of the last two lockdowns”, as he took the country out of the restrictions “too quickly”. He also told LBC radio that businesses “desperately” needed more support in the latest lockdown, including an extension of the business rates relief and VAT cuts for the hospitality sector.

    When is lockdown lifting in the UK?

    Lockdown is lifting in the UK from March 8, as schools will begin to reopen and after-school activities will resume. From this date onwards, the four criteria for lifting lockdown come into play and each must be fulfilled before other measures can be lifted.

    Banner outside school, telling people to book a coronavirus test

    Credit: Getty

    Alongside this criteria, the government will also have four reviews over the next couple of months. They’ll consider:

    • How long we need to maintain social distancing for, how long we’ll have to wear face masks for and keep working from home.
    • Whether we can resume international travel in the near future.
    • Whether Covid status certification (‘vaccine passports’ for example) will be come into play, looking at factors including exclusion and discrimination.
    • When major events can resume.

    These reviews will likely impact when and how the journey out of lockdown plays out. At the moment, June 21 has been set as the final date for all lockdown restrictions to start to come to an end, with legal limits on socialising scrapped. 

    The middle of February was given as a tentative date when the third lockdown was announced for England. The prime minister said at the time, “By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.”

    “As was the case last spring, our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping.”

    It comes as one in three adults in the UK have now had one dose of either the Pfizer vaccine or the Oxford vaccine. As a result of the rollout success, the government has now announced that all adults in the UK will be offered their first dose of the vaccine by the end of July.

    Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said, ‘Almost 17.6m protected with first jab. Our target now is an even more ambitious one; mid April to protect all over 50s & end July for all adults to be offered the protection of a vaccine! It’s a stretch target, but if anyone can do it this team can’.

    When will hairdressers reopen after lockdown?

    Under the current plans, hairdressers will be able to open again from April 12 2021. Much like the other dates, it’s a precautionary target set to ensure that hairdressers and other personal care services have enough time to gather enough effective PPE to reopen.

    After the first lockdown back in March, hairdressers were the first personal care service to reopen on July 4. With extra PPE and social distancing measures, it was thought to be safer than other close contact personal care services. These other salons reopened later in July, following a review.

    When will restaurants reopen?

    The prime minister has confirmed that restaurants, along with pubs and cafes, can reopen for outdoor dining no earlier than April 12 in England.

    Boris Johnson then said that hospitality venues could open their indoor areas to limited numbers of customers no earlier than May 17.

    Smiling friends at a restaurant after lockdown ends under the government's latest roadmap plan

    Credit: Getty

    When these are open again, there will still be rules in place, such as the rule of six or the two household rule to ensure that social distancing is still maintained. Customers must also remain seated and cannot order at the bar. However, there will be no need to order a substantial meal with any alcohol drinks and there will be no curfew on venues closing.

    The PM said in the announcement, the “Scotch Egg debate will be over because there will be no requirement for alcohol to be accompanied by a substantial meal.”

    When will driving tests resume?

    According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), driving tests will be able to go ahead again from April 12 in England.

    This is the earliest date that they’re be able to take place, the DVSA have confirmed, and it’s entirely dependent on the success of the roadmap and whether all the stages can be lifted as planned.

    All practical and theory driving tests have been suspended since the beginning of the year and then were cancelled in late February, leaving millions of learners waiting for their tests to be rescheduled again.

    A statement from the DVSA on Twitter reads, ‘We’ll provide more information about when driving and riding lessons and other test types including vocational and motorcycle tests can resume as soon as we can, but this has not yet been confirmed.

    ‘We’re also working with the Welsh and Scottish government on resuming testing and lessons and will provide more information on this when we can.’

    Will lockdown be extended?

    The government has warned that if the four conditions for lifting lockdown are not met, then lockdown will be extended until the conditions are met. This is because, in the prime minister’s words, it takes four weeks to see the effects of the lockdown restrictions on the data.

    Boris Johnson also acknowledged the threat of diverse Covid-19 variants and how they might impact the lockdown. He said that everyone “must remain alert” to the new threat and that the government “can’t rule out restrictions at a local or regional level if evidence suggests they are necessary to contain or prevent a new variant that escapes the vaccines.”

    He added that the threat would be managed by increased PCR testing and enhanced contact tracing, but the “vaccination programme has dramatically changed the odds in our favour”.