Covid: What lockdown rules will change in England from today?

Pupils will be returning to school next week Credit: PA

England will begin to take its first cautious steps out of lockdown from today as children return to their desks and care homes welcome back visitors to see their loved ones.

Last month, Boris Johnson revealed England's roadmap out of lockdown which he said he hoped would be the end of the cycle of opening and closing the country.

The four-step plan, broken up by five-week intervals, begins on Monday March 8 and it is hoped to end on June 21.

In order for lockdown to be lifted the government has said that four key indicators must all be going in the right direction, otherwise the plans may be delayed.

Boris Johnson has said he wants this lockdown to be the last. Credit: PA

The four indicators are:

  • The vaccine roll-out is going as planned - with all adults offered their first dose by the end of July.

  • The vaccines have been proved to be effective.

  • Case numbers are not rising and there is no risk the NHS will be overwhelmed.

  • New variants do not create unforeseen risks.

By most metrics, Covid in the UK is falling at an expected rate, if not faster, and the vaccine rollout continues to increase momentum.

So, what is going to change?

Schools and childcare

Step one of lockdown lifting is being broken down into two parts, with the first phase happening today - starting the five-week countdown until the next step - and the second phase on March 29.

The biggest change happening on Monday is the return of pupils to school.

Unlike the rest of the UK, England will not be phasing the return of pupils to their desks, all primaries and secondary schools will open from today.

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Many secondary schools are opting to stagger the return over the week in order to meet the demand for testing.

Secondary and college pupils will be tested with lateral flow tests twice a week, receiving three initial tests at school before they start taking them at home.Wraparound childcare like childminders and after-school clubs can also return from March 8.

Care home visitors return

Monday will also finally allow the return of visitors to care homes after almost a year of forced separation for most residents.

Residents of care homes will be allowed to nominate one person to be a regular visitor as long as they get a test close to their visit and wear PPE.

By now practically all residents of care homes will have received their first dose of the vaccine, as will many of the people who will be visiting them.

What else?

Unfortunately for people who are desperate for a return to normal, Monday isn't it.

The vaccine rollout is key to lifting lockdown Credit: PA

The Stay at Home order will remain in place meaning people will have to stay local and only leave their area for work or an emergency.

All shops, pubs, restaurants and other businesses will all remain closed.

The only rule change is people may socialise with their household outside for a picnic or coffee.

They may also meet up with one other person from outside their household. So two friends sitting at either end of a bench in a park is allowed.

What is happening on March 29?

The second phase of step one will begin on March 29 which is around the time schools break up for Easter.

The rule of six will return meaning up to six people can meet or two whole households.

There are fears the reopening of schools could mean the R number rises above 1. Credit: PA

Meetings will also be allowed to take place in private gardens once again.

Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to reopen, and people can take part in formally organised outdoor sports.At this point the Stay at Home order will formally end although many restrictions will remain in place.

What are the next steps out of lockdown?

The remaining three steps are due to take place no sooner than April 12, May 17 and June 21.

If any of the data the government is monitoring for lifting lockdown begins to look worrisome then the steps may be moved back by five weeks.

April 12 will see the return or all non-essential shops and personal care businesses like barbers and nail salons.

Public buildings, gyms and lesiure facilities will be allowed to reopen also.

The hospitality industry will also being its return with pubs and restaurants allowed to serve customers outside.

Outdoor service will be allowed to return on April 12. Credit: PA

From May 17, most social contact rules will be lifted although gathering rules will remain illegal.

Cinemas and theatre will be allowed to reopen but some rules may apply.

The rest of the hospitality industry will also reopen its doors fully on this date but may still be subject to some rules.

Some large outdoor events will be allowed to start again if venues are kept at half capacity and follow special rules.

May 17 is also when Brits will be allowed to leave the UK for recreational reasons again, although it is expected many rules and restrictions will remain in place for international travel.

Finally from June 21 it is hoped all legal limits on social contact can be removed.

Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen as well as ending restrictions on large events.

What will happen after all steps are completed?

It is likely some guidelines will remain in place after the roadmap has been completed, with negative tests needed to gain access to some events as an example.

There will also likely still be a lot of restrictions on international travel with many different nations at different phases of the vaccine rollout and the government reluctant to allow variants of concern into the country.

Cases need to continue falling for lockdown to be lifted. Credit: PA

While the governments worldwide will be cautious about the return to normal for international travelers many nations reliant on the tourism sector have been keen to emphasise their country will be open this summer.

Greece's tourism minister recently told ITV News British tourists would be welcome in their country this summer if they have had the vaccine or received a negative Covid test - regardless of if an EU-wide vaccine passport system had been implemented.

Cyprus has also said any Brit who has had their second dose of the vaccine may visit their country and face no restrictions from May.

What is happening in the rest of the UK?

Scotland began schools reopening last month and all primary and some secondary school pupils are scheduled to return to their desks on March 15.

The Stay at Home order is due to end in Scotland on April 5 and the economy will begin to reopen on April 26.

Over in Wales, the government is hoping to end the Stay at Home order in the middle of March - ahead of England.

Pupils have been returning to their desks since the end of last month with all primary schools set to open on March 15.

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Wales is due to announce further steps out of lockdown in the middle of March.

In Northern Ireland, the executive has announced a staged end to lockdown but not specified any dates.

It is hoping to enter the next stage of lifting lockdown this month allowing for the partial opening and schools, cafes, and outdoor sports facilities - as well as outdoor meetings of six people.