Later on Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce his long-awaited four-stage “roadmap” to scrap the latest national COVID-19 lockdown.
The blueprint, which will most likely match the months of March, April, May, and June, is purportedly set to go as follows:
The first stage of the “roadmap” may be divided into two parts, and the UK prime minister will say that all schools – primary and secondary – will open in the country as of 8 March.
Schools will be allowed to restart outdoor sports matches and other outdoor activities, with each and every child expected to be tested for COVID-19 before they return.
Also on 8 March, care home residents will be allowed to receive a single visitor, who is obliged to get a coronavirus test before entering and wear personal protective equipment.
In the Monday speech, Johnson may also announce that 29 March will see the removal of the “stay at home” restrictions and the return of the “rule of six” that allows six people from up to six different households to get together outside.
From March 28, outdoor sports facilities, including tennis and basketball courts and golf courses are due to reopen. Both adults and children will be free to play outdoor sports, such as grassroots football.
With government sources mostly keeping mum about the details of the later stages of the “roadmap”, media reports suggested that April may see the reopening of non-essential shops and some hospitality facilities in limited circumstances.
Also in April, pubs and restaurants may be allowed to open outside, and universities are expected to get the greenlight from the government to have students return.
Middle of May
In mid-May, pubs and restaurants will likely be allowed to open their doors completely, with limits on groups and social distancing, however, in place.
Tory MPs and the UK hospitality sector have repeatedly called for an earlier opening, stressing that many pubs and restaurants are currently facing a “cash crunch”.
The third stage may also see the reopening of hairdressers and beauty salons, while families will be allowed to travel for short breaks across Britain amid restrictions on household gatherings.
In June, restrictions on the tourism sector could be lifted and foreign holidays for UK citizens will likely depend on how effective the vaccine rollout in Britain and beyond will be by then.
A desire by ministers to strictly limit the ability of new variants from entering Britain is also of great importance.
The upcoming speech by Johnson follows the prime minister stressing last Monday that the lifting of the COVID-19 lockdown should be “cautious but irreversible” and that the government will do its best “to make that happen”.
At the same time, Johnson urged the government “to keep looking at the rates” of coronavirus infections, which he said are “still very high”.
The remarks came after members of the COVID Recovery Group, a group of 50 lockdown-sceptic MPs, warned Johnson that there would be “no justification” for maintaining current lockdown restrictions after all over-50s in the UK have been offered the inoculation.
“COVID is a serious disease and we must control it. However, just like COVID, lockdowns and restrictions cause immense social and health damage, and have a huge impact on people’s livelihoods”, the group wrote in a letter to Johnson.