Up to six people can meet in gardens in England from Monday as lockdown eases, Boris Johnson announces

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Damon Green

From Monday, lockdown in England will ease to allow up to six people to meet in "private gardens", “provided those from different households continue to stick to social distancing rules”, Boris Johnson has announced.

The prime minister said the "five tests" for easing lockdown in England had been met, meaning the government could "move forward with adjusting the lockdown on Monday".

Schools will also be opened up to "more children" from Monday - including reception and years one and six - as well as nurseries.

A fortnight later on June 15, secondary schools will "begin to provide some face-to-face contact time" for years 10 and 12, the prime minister said.

Mr Johnson said: “Closing schools has deprived children of their education, and, as so often, it is the most disadvantaged pupils who risk being hardest hit."

Outdoor shops - such as markets - and car showrooms, where social distancing is "generally easier" will also reopen from Monday.

On June 15, other non-essential retail outlets will reopen, "but only provided the five tests are still being met and shops have been made Covid secure", Mr Johnson said.

After saying that up to six people can meet outdoors, Mr Johnson said people should “try to avoid seeing too many households in quick succession so we can avoid the risk of quick transmission from lots of different families and continue to control the virus”.

He said the changes mean that friends and family can start to meet their loved ones, "perhaps seeing both parents at once or both grandparents at once".

Credit: 10 Downing Street

He added at the Downing Street briefing: “It remains the case that people should not be inside the homes of their friends and families, unless it is to access the garden.

“I should add that, at this stage, I am afraid that those who have been asked to shield themselves should continue to do so.”

Mr Johnson said the government is “looking carefully at how we can make your life easier”, adding: “We want to say more on that soon.”

The prime minister thanked the public for showing "caution" during lockdown.

The 'five tests'.

"It’s not my achievement or the government’s achievement, it is your achievement," he said.

But he warned ministers will "put on the brakes as required" and said lockdown restrictions will be reinforced "where necessary".

A new track and trace system, launched on Thursday, is said to be essential in the government working out where to reintroduce restrictions.

NHS Track and Trace now employs 25,000 contact tracers and in weeks will incorporate an accompanying app, to help health officials work out where coronavirus exists in the UK.

The UK's death toll was revealed to be at 37,837, as the press conference began - an increase of 337.

Prime Minister Johnson said the UK's daily death rate now stands at 256, down from a peak of 943 on April 14 and the rate of infection “is decreasing to manageable levels across the board”.

He said this, combined with just 11% of ventilators currently being used, shows the NHS is able to cope with coronavirus.

He also said testing capacity is at 161,214 a day and contracts have been signed for nearly two billion items of PPE.

All of this, he said, allowed him to make "limited and cautious" changes to the lockdown.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party supports the easing of some lockdown restrictions if safe.

“We support the gradual easing of restrictions on lockdown, it’s got to be safe and we need clear guidance from public health and we also need to see the scientific evidence actually published."

When asked whether the government had been slow to recognise the impact of social restrictions on the public, Sir Keir continued: “We’ve asked a lot of the public and it’s largely thanks to what they’ve done that we’re in this position, so we do support the gradual easing of these restrictions.

“It’s got to be done safely and we do need clear guidance. The public’s given a huge amount in this.”

The PM admitted that "some anomalies, or apparent inconsistencies" in the new rules are inevitable, adding: "Clearly what we’re proposing is still just a fraction of the social interaction each of us would normally enjoy.

“I know many of you will find this frustrating and I am sorry about that.

"But I’m afraid it is unavoidable, given the nature of the invisible enemy we are fighting.”

At the briefing, Mr Johnson was repeatedly questioned about the row surrounding his top aid Dominic Cummings and his trip from London to Durham during the lockdown.

The PM did not answer questions put to him and said he intends to “draw a line” under the controversy.

He also said he would not allow advisors Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance to answer questions on the row to “protect them” from a “political argument”.

The pair agreed they did not want to answer "political" questions.

Mr Johnson said: “I’ve said quite a lot on this matter already and what I also note is that what Durham police said was that they were going to take no action and that the matter was closed.

“And I intend to draw a line under the matter, as I said yesterday to the Parliamentary Liaison Committee.”