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1 Mar 2021 5:42
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  •   Home > News > International

    Boris Johnson announces roadmap for ending England's COVID lockdown

    The roadmap includes a new four-step plan and focusses on outdoor socialising and mixing to slowly remove England from the national lockdown it has been in since January 2.


    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined the roadmap for lifting England's strict coronavirus lockdown, with some restrictions set to last until late June.

    The roadmap includes a new four-step plan and focuses on outdoor socialising and mixing to slowly remove England from the national lockdown it has been in since January 2.

    Under the plan the stay-at-home order will end on March 29, weeks after children have returned to school.

    With more than 120,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began last March, and an economy facing its biggest downturn in more than 300 years, Mr Johnson urged caution alongside the plan, saying the threat from COVID-19 remained "substantial".

    "The level of infection is broadly similar across England, so we will ease restrictions in all areas at the same time," Mr Johnson said.

    "The sequence will be driven by the evidence, so outdoor activity will be prioritised while minimising the risk.

    "At every stage, our decisions will be led by data, not dates."

    Mr Johnson said the country could not continue "indefinitely" with restrictions.

    "And that is why it is so crucial that this roadmap is cautious but also irreversible," he said.

    "We're setting out on, what I hope and believe, is a one-way road to freedom."

    The new four-step plan will rely on the UK's ambitious vaccine program continuing successfully, with the vaccines reducing hospitalisations and serious illness, ensuring the National Health Service is not overwhelmed.

    It also assumes that new variants of COVID-19 will not change the government's assessment of the risks of easing restrictions.

    Steps will be phased in with five-week gaps. The plan only applies to England, with the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each implementing their own plans for unlocking restrictions.

    How the unlocking will happen

    Under the first step, schools will reopen for all students in England on March 8 as expected, and people will be allowed to meet up 1-on-1 in an outdoor setting for a coffee or a picnic.

    That will expand to up to six people or two households on March 29, when the stay-at-home order will end.

    Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts will also be allowed to reopen and people will be allowed to take part in organised sport outside.

    Five weeks later, on April 12, step two will see non-essential retail, hairdressers and salons, and public buildings such as museums and libraries reopen, but only to visit with people in your same household.

    Hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants with outdoor spaces can open and serve people at outdoor tables, but with a maximum of six people or two households per table.

    Funerals will also be allowed to go ahead with up to 30 people, while weddings and other commemorative events can increase from six people to 15.

    The third step, which will happen no earlier than May 17, will see pubs and restaurants able to open indoor areas, as well as indoor mixing for up to six people, or two households, and some large sporting events allowed to have reduced capacity crowds.

    And step four, which will occur no earlier than June 21, will see legal limits on social contact removed, with the government hoping to open the final closed areas of the economy, such as nightclubs, and lifting restrictions on weddings, funerals and large events and performances.

    International travel set to restart in mid-May

    The UK only introduced mandatory hotel quarantine for selected travellers earlier this month.

    That measure, and the ban on non-essential travel for all Britons, is likely to last until at least May 17.

    Mr Johnson said a review on restarting travel safely would be released on April 12, when overnight stays within England would be allowed for single households.

    "The government will determine when international travel should resume, which will be no earlier than 17th May," he said.

    The Prime Minister told the House of Commons that meant there was still time for Britons to plan summer holidays.

    "I believe that setting a deadline of April 12 for the report … will give people time to make their plans for summer and if things go well … then I do believe there is every chance of an aviation recovery later this year," he said.

    Airlines are counting on a summer recovery after close to a year with minimal revenues due to travel restrictions.

    If they cannot, analysts say most airlines will need to raise more funds to survive after burning through their cash reserves.

    The government is also looking at a system of allowing vaccinated people to travel more freely abroad.

    But such a system would have to be fair and not unduly disadvantage those who have not been vaccinated, it said, warning it would take time to implement.

    ABC/Reuters

    © 2021 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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