Following the Prime Minister's announcement in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, the government has published the ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’, setting out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England.
The design of the roadmap has been informed by the latest scientific evidence and seeks a balance between our key social and economic priorities, whilst preserving the health and safety of the country. The scientific evidence shows that opening too early or too quickly risks a further lockdown.
There will be at least five weeks between the steps in the roadmap. The indicative, ‘no earlier than’ dates in the roadmap are all contingent on the data and subject to change. Outdoor activity has been prioritised because the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission is substantially lower in the open air than indoors.
- Step 1 will see schools returning to face to face education from 8 March, followed by outdoor gatherings of either six people (Rule of 6) or two households from 29 March together with a resumption of outdoor organised sports activities for adults and children.
- Non-essential retail, libraries, community centres, outdoor attractions and hospitality will be permitted to open in step 2, no earlier than the 12 April and social contact rules in England will not change further at this point.
- Capacity limits will apply to further larger outdoor events and some indoor events at step 3, no earlier than May 17.
- By step 4, no earlier than 21 June, the ambition is to remove all legal limits on social contact and reopen the remaining closed settings with accompanying guidance on how best to reduce the risks, and new guidance on working from home.
MPs will have an opportunity to vote on the regulations that will enable this roadmap in Parliament in the coming weeks and we will update you as further detail and guidance becomes available.
In implementing this plan the government will be guided by data, not dates, so that we do not risk a surge in infections that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. For that reason, all the dates in the roadmap are indicative and subject to change. Before proceeding to the next step, the Government will examine the data to assess the impact of previous steps.
This assessment will be based on four tests:
- 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.
- Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.