When are lockdown restrictions next being lifted?

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Lockdown easing is the clearest way back to normality. The next stage of lockdown easing is scheduled to take place very soon with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to today confirm it will take place as planned. The announcement comes after just two more deaths within 28 days of a positive test were confirmed on Sunday, with a further 1,770 new Covid cases reported.

Boris Johnson has confirmed a major easing of lockdown restrictions in England will go ahead as planned in his lockdown easing roadmap.

In a statement, Mr Johnson praised the public’s “unwavering commitment” adding loosening the rules would be unlikely to see a resurgence of the virus that would put pressure on the NHS.

Mr Johnson said: “The data reflects what we already knew – we are not going to let this virus beat us.

“The roadmap remains on track, our successful vaccination programme continues – more than two-thirds of adults in the UK have now had the first vaccine – and we can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly.

“It’s because of the British public’s unwavering commitment that we are saving lives, protecting the NHS and controlling the virus.”

The Cabinet is scheduled to meet today to sign off on these plans.

The next stage of lockdown easing will see indoor hospitality and household mixing return.

In addition, people will be permitted to meet in groups of up to 30 people outdoors, with six people or two households allowed to meet indoors.

Domestic overnight stays with people outside your household or bubble are also allowed.

Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues can seat customers indoors and up to 30 people can attend weddings and more than 30 can attend funerals.

Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas can open and indoor entertainment such as museums, theatres and cinemas can also reopen.

Performances and large events can restart, with limits on audience numbers.

Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen and holidays abroad will be allowed to green list travel destinations.

Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes can restart and social distancing advice including hugging restrictions can be revisited.

To agree to the changes, the Government must be satisfied its four tests have been met.

The four tests are as follows:

  • 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.
  • The Government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

The Government said the latest data suggests the next step of easing restrictions is unlikely to risk a resurgence in infections.

The infection rate is at its lowest level since September 2020 and hospital admissions are on the decline according to the Government.

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When are lockdown restrictions next being lifted?

Mr Johnson announced his lockdown roadmap in mid-February with the first stage of easing being undertaken from March 8.

There is a minimum of five weeks before each stage of lockdown easing, which gives the Government four weeks to reflect on the changes from the previous easing step, followed by seven days’ notice of the next stage.

The next step of lockdown easing is due to take place from Monday, May 17.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove suggested hugging could be allowed once restrictions lift next week.

He said: “As we move into stage three of our road map, it will be the case that we will see people capable of meeting indoors.

“Without prejudice to a broader review of social distancing, it is also the case that friendly contact, intimate contact, between friends and family is something that we want to see restored.”

But many experts have spoken out about the Government allowing hugging to return, claiming the risk is too high for this practice at the moment.

Professor Catherine Noakes from the University of Leeds and a member of the Sage committee said hugs should be selective and face-to-face contact should be avoided.

She told the BBC it would worry her “if we were advocating we could hug all of our friends every time we meet them again” as it would “perpetuate an awful lot of additional close contact that could spread the virus”.

She added: “The reality is that when you hug someone you are very close to them and we know the virus is in people’s breath and you are very close to that breath at that moment.”

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