June 21 Covid restriction easing: What’s expected to change and how certain is it?

How certain is the June 21 reopening? ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen takes a look.

It’s the month that many across England have been waiting for. June 21 - the date marked in diaries as ‘end of lockdown’ - is right around the corner.

But with concerns rising about a spike in Covid cases of the Delta (formerly Indian) variant, how certain is the route back to normal life and what conditions need to be met for it to happen?

Currently, England is in step three of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, meaning that groups of up to 30 are allowed to meet outdoors, with larger weddings and funerals of the same number of people also permitted.

The Rule of Six also applies to indoor areas, and pubs and restaurants are open inside, as well as cinemas and other indoor entertainment venues.

If all goes to plan, the fourth and final step of the roadmap could see even more things open up and a return to normal life.

Cinemas were reopened in step three of the roadmap out of lockdown Credit: PA

What restrictions could be lifted?

The government has said that by step four, which will take place no earlier than June 21, it “hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact”.

This means restrictions will no longer apply on how many people you can meet both indoors and outdoors, including for weddings and other life events.

Remaining indoor entertainment venues, including nightclubs will also be opened, removing restrictions on large events and performances applied in step three.

Guidance on working from home - which currently should continue wherever possible - is set to be reviewed for step four, meaning that in just a few weeks, employees could be expected to be back in the office, though work stations may look slightly different than normal.

However, the government has said our lives will still be slightly different as some social distancing rules may remain in place, and the wearing of masks may still be mandatory in some public places, with ‘hands, face, space’ remaining in place

What conditions need to be met?

Before each stage of the roadmap is approved, subject to Covid conditions being safe, four tests must be passed:

- the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully

- evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated

- infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS

- assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern

These tests need to be passed before step four can begin on June 21, bringing with it a return to normality.

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The government has also said the launch of the final step of the roadmap will depend on the results of a scientific events research programme established “to test the outcome of certain pilot events through the spring and summer, where we will trial the use of testing and other techniques to cut the risk of infection”.

Reviews on social distancing and other long-term measures that have been put in place to cut transmission, also need to be completed to inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which the rules on one metre-plus, the wearing of face coverings and other measures may be lifted.

A final decision will be reached on June 14, following the assessment of the latest data, determining whether remaining restrictions will be lifted the following week.

Health experts have raised concerns that it may be too early to completely lift lockdown restrictions on June 21, given the sharp increase in cases of the Indian variant across the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously said he didn't "see anything currently in the data” to divert from the June 21 target, but added that “we may need to wait” for more data.