'Unlimited outdoor exercise': Boris Johnson to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions for England

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

Lockdown rules in England are to be eased on Wednesday to allow "unlimited" outdoor exercise and anyone who cannot work from home will be “actively encouraged” to return to their workplaces, Boris Johnson has said.

The prime minister also said there will be further relaxations in coming "weeks and months" - if progress is made in the fight against the virus - which could include a phased reopening of primary schools.

Non-essential retail shops may also be allowed to open, the Mr Johnson said, and it will "soon be the time" - though he did not give a timeframe - to "impose quarantine" on those arriving to the UK by air.

From Wednesday people will also be allowed to meet with one other person who they do not live with, in an outdoor setting, so long as social distancing can be observed ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said.

While some restrictions are slackening, fines for breaching coronavirus regulations will rise from £60 to £100, however it is not clear whether this applies just to England or the wider UK.

The prime minister only speaks for England, with powers on health is devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, First Minister Arlene Foster has announced that the lockdown will remain in place for another three weeks, although there will be some “nuanced” changes.

Likewise, restrictions across Scotland and Wales will remain largely unchanged, although people will also be allowed out more than once per day for exercise, and in Wales, garden centres will reopen from Wednesday.

The easement plan was quickly criticised by opposition politicians who said they'd hoped for "consensus" among all UK nations.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the PM's speech "raises more questions than it answers" and the plan lacks "clear plan for safety or clear guidance".

Speaking in the televised address, Mr Johnson said his plan was “conditional” and that if a second wave emerges or the R number – the rate at which Covid-19 is spread – increases then the “brakes” will be put on the easing of measures.

The PM stressed it is imperative that the country must avoid a second peak which could overwhelm the NHS.

He said he'd been "working to establish new guidance" to help workplaces become “Covid Secure” - further details are expected on Monday.

  • Carl Dinnen on what his means for schools

Urging people to go back to work, he said it is better for people to "do so by car or even better by walking or bicycle" rather than by public transport/

"Anyone who can't work from home, for instance those in construction and manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work," he said.

“And we want it to be safe for you to get to work.

“So you should avoid public transport if at all possible, because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.

“So work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can't work from home.”

Mr Johnson also announced that from Wednesday people can leave the house more than once per day to exercise.

“You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household,” the PM said.

Mr Johnson said once his "conditions" - the "five tests" pictured below - have been met, he will take further steps to ease the lockdown.

He said if those conditions are met, then in the "next few weeks and months we may be able to go further" by taking further steps in easing lockdown.

The 'five tests' for easing lockdown. Credit: COBRA

Step two in relaxing lockdown: By June 1 at the earliest the government believes it may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of non-essential retail shops and primary pupils.

Mr Johnson said this with happen "in stages", beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

He said it is the "ambition" for secondary pupils facing exams next year to get "at least some time with their teachers" before the holidays.

Non-essential retail shops will only be allowed to reopening if social distancing can be maintained.

Step three in relaxing lockdown: "At least some" of the hospitality industry may reopen "only if" the science and numbers support it by July at the earliest.

Other public places may also reopen provided they are safe and enforce social distancing.

Officials said it would be some weeks before such a measure is implemented, with plans still being worked.

There will be further detail on the plan given to the House of Commons on Monday in a statement which will come with a 50-page document.

Some other of lockdown modifications were revealed, ahead of Mr Johnson’s address.

It was announced that a new coronavirus tier alert system will be introduced which will allow authorities to implement different localised responses to outbreaks of the disease.

The new system will be numbered from one to five, with level five being the most serious.

The UK is thought to currently be at level four, heading towards three.

Also on Sunday, the new coronavirus slogan for England was announced: "Stay alert, control the virus, save lives” – shifting the focus of fighting the pandemic from remaining at home.

However, many criticised the change from "Stay home, save lives, protect the NHS", which has been the message thus far during the coronavirus pandemic and argued “stay alert” could cause confusion.

First Minister Sturgeon said the message was “vague and imprecise”, going as far as saying it would be “catastrophic” to drop the “stay at home” advice in Scotland.

She asked the Westminster government not to deploy the new campaign north of the border over fears it could confuse the current message, which she described as "clear".

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford posted a video to Twitter immediately after Mr Johnson's address was complete, pointing out the new measures only affect England.

He stressed that the advice had “not changed in Wales” and that "staying at home is the best way to protect yourself and others".

Mr Johnson sought to clarify the use of the new slogan when he tweeted: “Everyone has a role to play in helping to control the virus by staying alert and following the rules.

“This is how we can continue to save lives as we start to recover from coronavirus. #StayAlert.”

However, leaders of the devolved nations all said they would continue using the “Stay home” message.

It was also revealed that garden centres in England will be allowed to open from Wednesday and that anyone arriving in the UK should self-isolate for 14 days, unless they are a key worker or coming from Ireland (which already has this system).