Covid roadmap: Boris Johnson announces changes to social distancing, travel and hospitality in England

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out his plans for the next stage of the easing of lockdown in England. People will be allowed to hug loved ones, dine inside restaurants and go on holiday from next week in a “considerable step on the road back to normality."

The decision to ease lockdown on May 17 came as the Covid-19 alert level was downgraded to level 3, after a "consistent" fall in cases, hospital admissions and deaths.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to give an update on restrictions on Tuesday, having suggested that Scotland could be given similar freedoms from May 17.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will announce her plans to ease lockdown in Scotland on Tuesday. Credit: PA

Boris Johnson set out a new approach to tackling the virus, giving people the choice on whether to socially distance from friends and family.

He said: “Today we are taking a step towards that moment when we learn to live responsibly with Covid, when we cease eventually to rely on detailed Government edicts and make our own decisions."

  • From May 17:

  • People will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30.

  • People will be able to meet indoors in groups of six, or two households.

  • Pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors, although they will be limited to table service.

  • Cinemas, museums, theatres and concert halls will be allowed to reopen although there will be capacity limits on large events.

  • The “stay in the UK” restriction will lift and people will be able to travel to “green list” countries such as Portugal, although they are still being advised not to go to destinations on the amber list.

  • Up to 30 people will be allowed at weddings, although dancing will still not be allowed, and the cap on the number of mourners attending funerals will be lifted, in line with the safe capacity of the venue.

  • Secondary school pupils will no longer be told to wear face masks in class and communal areas.

  • University students will return to campus for in-person lectures.

The road map remained on track for the next stage on June 21, with Mr Johnson promising that later this month the Government will provide an update on what, "if any" role social distancing and coronavirus health certificates would play after June 21.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

For businesses, Mr Johnson said the "one-metre" plus rule could be scrapped, which would enable businesses to increase capacity.

As part of the May 17 changes, people will be given the choice whether to remain two metres from family or friends, meaning they can once again hug and shake hands. But the Prime Minister urged urged caution, reminding people to "think about the vulnerability of your loved ones."

It has also been suggested people should consider getting tested for coronavirus before hugging and wear face masks or ensure a room is well ventilated before ditching social distancing measures.



The easing of restrictions came after the UK’s senior medics said the Covid-19 alert level should be lowered from level 4 to level 3, so that while the virus is still in general circulation, transmission is no longer considered high.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

But despite positive news on how the UK is tackling the virus, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty urged particular caution around the Indian variant which has been detected in increasing numbers in the UK. In the last week, 520 confirmed cases of the Indian strain have been identified.


  • Watch the full press conference here: