Boris Johnson has outlined his eagerly awaited four-phase “Roadmap to Recovery”, which will begin with the easing of restrictions on 8 March when schools will reopen and care home visits can begin again.
The first phase will also allow people to start socialising outdoors, meaning up to six people or two households of any number of people can meet up in parks or private gardens from 29 March.
Each phase after that will begin after a minimum of five weeks, meaning pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers outdoors from 12 April at the earliest. Non-essential retail and personal care businesses including hairdressers could also open their doors from 12 April.
Phase three, which will start no earlier than 17 May, will see indoor mixing allowed for the first time, as well as indoor hospitality and entertainment venues, and the fourth and final phase from 21 June will see all legal limits on social contact hopefully removed.
8 March: Schools will reopen. You will be able to meet one other person from another household to socialise outdoors.
29 March: Outdoor sports facilities will reopen. The “Stay at Home” order will end and gatherings of six people, or two households will be able to meet outside.
No earlier than 12 April: Hairdressers and other personal care outlets, and non-essential retail can reopen. Pubs and restaurants can begin serving outdoors. Indoor sports and swimming pools, and self-catering accommodation can also open.
No earlier than 17 May: Indoor mixing in pubs, cinemas hotels and threatres could resume. Football stadiums and other outdoor venues can host up to 10,000 people. Weddings and funerals can go ahead with 30 guests. International travel could resume.
No earlier than 21 June: Legal limits on social gathering could end, so nightclubs and large events can reopen.
The government confirmed all of England will move through the phases of unlocking at the same time, and there will be no return to the tier system before Christmas.
The announcement covers restrictions in England only, with the devolved nations due to set out their roadmaps in the coming weeks.
Outlining the plan yesterday afternoon, Johnson said it will “guide us cautiously but irreversibly towards reclaiming our freedoms”, but warned the threat from Covid-19 “remains substantial”.
“But we are able to take these steps because of the resolve of the British people and the extraordinary success of our NHS in vaccinating more than 17.5 million people across the UK,” he added.
The prime minister said “no vaccine can ever be 100% effective”. Addressing MPs he explained: "As the modelling released by Sage today shows, we cannot escape the fact that lifting lockdown will result in more cases, more hospitalisations and sadly more deaths.
“And this would happen whenever lockdown is lifted – whether now or in six or nine months –because there will always be some vulnerable people who are not protected by the vaccines.
“There is therefore no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain, or indeed, a zero-Covid world and we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing and the life chances of our children.”
Alain Tolhurst is chief reporter at CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared.