Restrictions on social gatherings will gradually ease under the government’s roadmap out of a third national lockdown, amid the Covid pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his plan for lifting restrictions across England as the coronavirus vaccine rollout continues to protect the most vulnerable in society.
Mr Johnson set out four key dates for restrictions to gradually ease up to 21 June when it is hoped all limits will be relaxed ahead of a return to normal life for millions of people.
So when is the earliest possible date we can meet up with friends and family from different households in a social setting? Let’s find out.
What are the current rules for meeting friends and family outside?
Under the current lockdown rules, people are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible as the country looks to reduce the spread of the virus.
People can leave home for essential reasons such as food shopping, doctors appointments or to receive a Covid vaccination, but not for socialising or leisure.
Yet you are allowed to leave your home for daily exercise, which can be done so with one other person from a different household while adhering to social distancing rules.
Exercise includes - but is not limited to - walking, running and cycling, which can be done once a day within your local area in public outdoor spaces, such as parks.
When will I be able to meet others outside?
In Mr Johnson’s roadmap out of a third national lockdown, he outlined four key dates in opening up society again which could lead to a return to some sort of normal life.
Under the proposals, 8 March will see thousands of children return to the classrooms - and will be the first point at which you can meet someone from a different household.
From the 8 March people will be allowed to meet someone outside of their household for a coffee, drink or a picnic in an outside setting such as a park bench.
The plan is for this rule to change on 29 March to allow up to six people or two households to meet up outdoors in either a public space or private gardens.
Then on 17 May, at the earliest, the Rule of Six will be replaced with a new limit of 30 people outdoors with six people or two households able to meet indoors. Indoor hospitality also opens.
It is hoped that on 21 June, at the earliest, that all legal limits on social contact are removed.
What is the decision dependent on?
Mr Johnson said he will be guided by “data not dates” meaning plans might change if there is a change in the Covid situation and what is hoped will happen over the coming weeks.
A gradual easing of restrictions, with a five-week gap in between phases, will give the government ample time to assess the situation after each relaxation of rules, said Mr Johnson.
The timetable is based on four factors:
- the continued success of the vaccine rollout and flow of supplies;
- vaccines continues to have a positive impact in reducing the number of people dying and admitted to hospital with Covid;
- infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations, which would put pressure on the NHS;
- any variants of concern highlighted do not fundamentally change government's assessment of the risks.