Return to work, exercise, sunbathing and house sales back on the menu as England eases lockdown

Credit: PA / AP

People in England will be granted new freedoms from today as the Government begins to relax coronavirus lockdown measures, despite the Covid-19 death toll continuing to rise.

Members of the public will now be allowed to spend more time outside, meet a friend at the park and view a potential new home.

Employees are also being encouraged to return to offices and factories where safe to do so.

Changes in the guidelines, which come into force from Wednesday, caused confusion when Boris Johnson first outlined his road map for exiting lockdown.

The measures have not been accepted by the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland where lockdown restrictions now differ to England.

Golfers at the Allerton Manor golf course in Liverpool on Wednesday morning as restrictions were lifted. Credit: PA

Some changes were met with anger, too, as people remain unable to visit relatives or friends at their homes, but can now be shown around a property for sale.

The move to unlock the housing market will enable buyers and renters to complete purchases and view properties in person - while visiting estate agents, developer sales offices or show homes will also all be allowed.

The Government estimates more than 450,000 buyers and renters have been unable to progress their plans to move house since lockdown measures were introduced in March.

An estate agent replaces its window with rainbows in tribute to the NHS. Credit: PA

Unlimited exercise, sunbathing and meeting one person from another household in a public space will also be permitted in England from Wednesday.

Social distancing restrictions remain in place, however, with people told to maintain the two-metre rule.

Golf clubs, tennis courts and angling have also all been been given the green light to begin reopening.

Restrictions on how far people can travel to get to the countryside, national parks and beaches in England have also been lifted - but people have been warned to respect local communities, keep their distance from others and avoid hotspots or busy areas.

Meanwhile, people who cannot work from home are being encouraged to return to their workplaces - if they have been made "Covid-safe".

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has urged people not to "flood back" onto public transport as they return to work.

But those who do have to use public transport should face away from each other when they are unable to maintain a two-metre gap, the government has said.

Deaths involving Covid-19 in England & Wales Credit: PA Graphics

The changes to lockdown in England come as the coronavirus death toll in the UK rose to more than 32,692 after 627 further deaths were reported on Tuesday.

In order to enforce the new lockdown rules, National Police Chiefs' Council chairman Martin Hewitt said officers would "continue to use common sense and discretion".

"The efforts of the public mean police officers have rarely had to enforce the Government regulations so far. I am confident the vast majority will continue to do their bit and follow guidance in this next stage.

"Our approach will continue to use common sense and discretion, and to engage, explain, encourage and, only as a last resort, enforce."

Signs on the gates reminding people to 'social-distance' at Victoria Park in east London. Credit: PA

While the boss of London's Olympic Park warned park rangers and security will "step in" if social distancing measures are ignored at open spaces.

Mark Camley, executive director of parks and venues at the London Legacy Development Corporation which runs the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, has urged people not to travel far and to enjoy the outdoor spaces nearby.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick added: "Spending time outdoors, exercising or just enjoying the countryside is essential for our physical health and wellbeing. The restrictions have impacted everyone, but particularly those without much living space or a garden.

"We want to make life as healthy, bearable and social as possible, whilst controlling the virus and saving lives. That is why we have worked to find safe ways to enable more people to spend more time outdoors."

The Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales fears people from England will attempt to visit Wales. Credit: PA

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph said a Treasury document estimated the UK's deficit could reach £337 billion this year because of the pandemic - a jump from the forecast £55 billion in the Budget announced in March.

It said the assessment, drawn up for the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and dated May 5, warned that filling such a gap through tax rises would be "very challenging without breaking the tax lock".

The paper said measures including income tax hikes, a two-year public sector pay freeze and the end of the triple lock on pensions may be required to fund the debt.

It comes after Mr Sunak announced the furlough scheme - currently supporting 7.5 million jobs - will be extended until the end of October. From August, however, employers will be expected to pick up a share of the bill as the economy reopens.

It comes as millions of self-employed workers will be able to apply for grants of up to £7,500 from Wednesday - with payments due to land within six days, the Government has said.

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