Lockdown roadmap: What is the next stage of lifting UK lockdown?

Two women chatting in a restaurant as lockdown lifts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The end of the lockdown roadmap is in sight, with the government lifting most of the restrictions very soon. 

At the moment, six people from different households can mix both indoors and outside. Pubs and restaurants can also reopen to customers indoors, and gyms and leisure centres are also open again with limited capacities. Even sports events in stadiums have gone ahead with social distancing measures in place.

The government was due to end all restrictions on June 21 but with concerns over the new Delta variant, they delayed this until July 19 at the earliest. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now confirmed that the government will end all legal restrictions, with new face mask guidance expected from this date.

Lockdown roadmap: What's the next stage of lifting lockdown?

  • July 19 2021 - All legal limits on social contact to lift and a return to 'normal' life.

At a press conference on July 5, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed that the pandemic is "far from over and won't be over by 19 July". Cases are rising "fairly rapidly" still and the country is seeing a rise in hospitalisations, particularly steeply in some places in England. Where previously the government was "locking down further" when this happened, the PM says that the success of the country and the rest of the UK's vaccination programme means this isn't necessary now. However, he said that we also must "reconcile ourselves to more deaths from Covid".

"As we come to the fourth step we have to balance the risks," he said, referring to the risks from the disease and also the "toll on people’s lives and livelihoods, health and mental health".

"If we can't reopen our society in the next few weeks when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and the school holidays, we must ask ourselves 'when will we be able to reopen?'" he said.

The alternative, Johnson added, would be to open up in autumn this year when the virus would have an advantage - or not at all this year.

The first stage of the roadmap began on March 8, when schools reopened again. Shortly afterwards on March 29, the rule of six came into place for household mixing outside and outdoor sport resumed. On April 12, all non-essential shops, gyms, leisure centres and zoos reopened. Libraries, theme parks, hairdressers and beauticians also opened again at the same time. Restaurants, pubs and cafes also began to serve customers in outside spaces again.

Woman drinking coffee outside at cafe as lockdown roadmap develops

Credit: Getty

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.

What is the lockdown roadmap?

In February, PM Boris Johnson set out a "cautious but also irreversible" plan to lift the third lockdown in England. It consisted of four stages, happening at least four weeks apart to allow for the data to catch up. This is what the lockdown roadmap looked like...

From March 8 (step one - part one ): 

  • All schools opened, with after-school activities and sports allowed. 
  • Two people from different households could meet in a public space. 
  • Each care home resident in England could have one regular visitor. 

From March 29 (step one - part two):

  • The government allowed outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households. This included gatherings in outdoors private spaces, such as gardens. 
  • Outdoor sports returned, such as tennis and golf.
  • Organised adult and children’s sport, such as grassroots football, returned. 
  • The government allowed travel outside of local areas, with no guidance to 'stay at home'. 
  • Those who are clinically vulnerable were able to stop shielding at the end of March.

From April 12 (step two):  

  • The government opened non-essential retail again, including personal care services.
  • Pubs and restaurants opened for outdoor service in beer gardens etc. 
  • Indoor leisure facilities, including gyms and swimming pools opened.
  • Most outdoor settings opened from this date, including zoos and drive-in cinemas.
  • Public libraries and community centres reopened.

Woman serving drinks outside as the lockdown roadmap goes ahead in England

Credit: Getty

From May 17 (step three): 

  • The government scrapped most social contact rules outdoors, meaning groups of people (max.30) could meet up from different households. 
  • Indoor mixing was allowed for two households, up to six people.
  • Pubs and restaurants opened 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 reopened.
  • Hotels, hostels and overnight accommodation were allowed to open again.
  • Large events, including those that take places in concert halls and sports stadiums, resumed.

From June 21 (step four) - now delayed to July 19 following a final confirmation on July 12: 

  • 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 reopen again.
  • The government will lift restrictions on large events.
  • All limits will be removed from weddings and other life events.
  • Nightclubs could reopen.

These dates have always been precautionary, however, as they were the earliest chance for lockdown to lift. The roadmap works in four steps. Each step has at least four weeks between them. To lift lockdown further, England's infection and vaccination levels have to meet the following four criteria:

  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.

Following the emergence of the Delta variant (and new Covid-19 symptoms), the fourth test hasn't been met and the government has delayed lockdown's end until July 19.

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".

People walking through the park as the roadmap out of lockdown is announced

Credit: Getty

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.

There is also no promise that we won't go back into lockdown again this year, as politicians have refused to rule out the prospect of a circuit breaker lockdown before Christmas.

What will the rules be for coming out of lockdown?

Until July 19, social distancing and wearing masks inside is still necessary - and mandated by law. After this point, whether you wear a mask or not will be up to personal preference and personal considerations of safety.

People wearing face masks on public transport as the roadmap out of lockdown begins to rollout in England

Credit: Getty

While lockdown is lifting, you must:

  • Wear face covering where social distancing is not possible, including on public transport and in supermarkets around the country. Some people also wear face masks outside when social distancing is difficult and secondary school pupils must wear a face mask in schools.
  • Maintain a 2 metre distance from those you don't live with or are not in your support bubble, even as the rules lift to allow people from different households to meet up indoors and outside.

The government will review these rules, which have been in place throughout lockdown, in due course.

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.