Lockdown: How restrictions are easing across the UK

Traffic information signs read 'Stay Local, Stay Safe, Save Lives' above the M90 on the Queensferry Crossing near Edinburgh following the easing of Scotland’s lockdown restrictions to allow far greater freedom outdoors (Jane Barlow/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

People in Scotland are set to see an easing of coronavirus restrictions on Friday while a sweeping range of lockdown relaxations are due to take place in Northern Ireland within weeks.

Earlier this week Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that people will be able to leave their local authority area to socialise and exercise, while restrictions on gatherings are to be relaxed.

The reopening of the tourism and hospitality sectors in Northern Ireland has also been fast-tracked as part of a series of measures agreed by Stormont ministers on Thursday.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

It is the last of the UK nations to ease restrictions.

Here is the picture across the UK.

– What is happening in Scotland?

From Friday, people will be able to leave their local authority area for the purposes of socialising, recreation or exercise, though travel between the mainland and some islands will not be permitted.

Rules on gatherings will also be relaxed, with six adults from up to six households able to meet up outside.

– What will happen in the coming months in Scotland?

Lockdown is expected to ease further from April 26, and the First Minister is due to give more detail in the coming weeks.

Under current plans, cafes, restaurants, shops and gyms are due to open, and more people will be allowed to meet up outdoors.

Libraries, museums and galleries, gyms and pools will also be allowed to open.

The Empire Theatre at Eden Court in Inverness Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

Hospitality will need to close their doors at 8pm indoors and 10pm outdoors, with alcohol only allowed to be served outside.

Travel will also be allowed on this date to other parts of Britain, with reviews planned on journeys to Northern Ireland and the Republic.

From May 17, pubs are set to open indoors until 10.30pm and contact sports, cinemas, and some small scale events can take place.

Up to four people from two households will also be able to meet up indoors.

– Which non-essential sectors are set to reopen in Northern Ireland?

The key relaxation dates are April 23, April 30 and May 24.

Hairdressers can reopen on April 23, pubs and cafes can serve people outdoors from April 30 and indoors from May 24, under the new plans.

Hotels will be able to fully reopen on May 24 as well.

Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster Credit: David Young/PA

The measures were outlined by First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill to a special Assembly committee on Thursday evening.

The May 24 date is indicative and subject to another Executive review earlier in that month.

The moves became possible after Northern Ireland ‘s Covid-19 vaccination rollout along with other key health and scientific indicators were going in the right direction.

– What else has been happening in Northern Ireland?

On Monday, the number of people who could meet outdoors in a garden, including children, increased from six to 10.

The “stay at home” messaging was replaced with a “stay local” and “work from home” message.

Outdoor sports training were allowed for recognised clubs, in groups of up to 15, provided all indoor facilities except toilets remain closed.

The remainder of post-primary students, years eight to 11, returned to schools after all other classes resumed before the Easter break.

Outdoor retail such as car dealerships and garden centres reopened, and click-and-collect services resumed.

People planning weddings were permitted to view potential venues for ceremonies at a limit of up to four people.

The number of people allowed to attend such ceremonies has also increased, at a level informed by a risk assessment for the venue.

– What can people in England do now?

Shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens were allowed to reopen on Monday.

Most outdoor attractions, such as zoos and theme parks, can reopen, although wider social-distancing rules still apply to prevent indoor mixing between different households.

Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and swimming pools opened, but for use by people on their own or in household groups.

A pop-up hairdressing station at The Gregorian pub in Bermondsey, London Credit: Anthony Upton/PA

Funerals can continue with up to 30 people, and the numbers able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes rose from six to 15.

It follows from a previous round of easing on March 29 allowing six people from any number of households or a group of any size from up to two households to gather in parks and gardens.

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts reopened, with organised adult and children’s sport, including grassroots football, able to return.

People are still being asked to work from home where possible, and overseas travel remains banned.

– What happens next in England?

From no earlier than May 17, most social contact rules outside will be lifted although gatherings of more than 30 will remain illegal.

Indoors, the rule of six or two households will apply although the Government has said it will keep under review whether it is safe to increase this.

Indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will also reopen.

Limited crowds will also be allowed at sporting events.

All remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted from June 21, allowing for larger events to go ahead and nightclubs to reopen.

Outdoor sport has been permitted since March 29 Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

The Government has said there will be a minimum of five weeks between each set of restrictions easing, to give it time to assess the impact on public health.

Lockdown easing will depend on the vaccine rollout continuing smoothly and evidence the vaccine is reducing hospital admissions and deaths.

It also depends on there being no evidence a surge in infection rates could potentially overwhelm the NHS, and the level of risk not being fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

– What is the picture in Wales?

On Monday, close-contact services such as hairdressers and non-essential shops shops were permitted to open.

It was also back-to-school day for students, with university undergraduates returning to campuses although some online learning will continue.

People can now make trips outside of Wales, but journeys to countries outside of the Common Travel area, the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland, without a reasonable excuse are still banned.

Closed pubs around the stadium at Principality Stadium, Cardiff Credit: David Davies/PA

– What happens next in Wales?

Outdoor hospitality such as cafes, pubs and restaurants are due to open up on April 26.

Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people and wedding receptions for up to 30 people will be permitted outdoors from the same date again a week earlier than previously announced.

Last week, the Welsh government announced it would lift restrictions on household mingling earlier than planned, on May 3 instead of May 10, following a better-than-expected drop in coronavirus cases.

The reopening of gyms and leisure centres has also been brought forward by a week to May 3, including for one-to-one training, although group exercise classes remain banned.

The pier at Llandudno Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

All dates are “subject to the public health situation remaining favourable” and will be confirmed at a review of coronavirus regulations on April 22, the Welsh Government said.

It is likely children’s indoor activities, community centres, and organised indoor activities for adults for up to 15 people will resume from May 17.

After May 17, the Welsh government will consider opening up indoor hospitality and remaining visitor accommodation to reopen in advance of the spring bank holiday.