How are lockdown restrictions changing?

March 8 marks the first date where limited parts of the rules will be relaxed in England.

Two pupils holding hands
Two pupils holding hands

The first step in the Government’s four-stage plan to gradually ease lockdown restrictions in England has arrived.

March 8 marks the first date where limited parts of the rules will be relaxed.

Here the PA news agency sets out what restrictions are being lifted and when other changes are expected in the coming weeks and months.

– What is changing from March 8?

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 8, 2021
The Government is advising secondary school students in England to wear face masks where social distancing cannot be maintained (Danny Lawson/PA)

All pupils in all year groups can return to the classroom with outdoor after-school sports and activities also allowed to restart.

Secondary schools can stagger the return of students over the week to allow for mass Covid testing, with the Government also advising that these pupils wear face coverings where social distancing is not possible.

Primary school children are not required to carry out Covid-19 tests or wear face masks on their return.

University students taking practical courses who require specialist equipment and facilities can attend face-to-face teaching, while all other students should continue to learn remotely.

People are now allowed to have socially distanced one-to-one meetings with others outdoors in a public space – meaning friends and family members could sit down for a coffee or have a picnic in the park.

Care home residents will be permitted a single nominated visitor, who will be required to take a Covid test, wear personal protective equipment and keep physical contact to a minimum.

– Are other lockdown rules still in place?

Yes. Most of England’s existing lockdown rules remain in place.

People must continue to stay at home and only leave for essential purposes, such as food shopping, exercise, education and medical appointments.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops remained closed, and households should not be mixing indoors or outdoors unless it is within a permitted support bubble.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

– Can we expect more changes later this month?

Hopefully, yes. From March 29, under the second part of the first phase of easing England’s lockdown, larger groups of people could be allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

The “rule of six” will return, meaning up to six people or two households will be able to meet outdoors.

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts could also reopen at the end of the month, with organised adult and children’s sport – including grassroots football – able to return.

The Government’s “stay at home” order will end, with messaging moving to “stay local”, but people will be asked to continue to work from home where possible, and overseas travel will stay banned.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 1, 2021
The Government will assess the impact of each easing of restrictions on key data, such as infection rates and the success of the vaccine rollout (Ben Birchall/PA)

– How is the Government deciding when to lift restrictions?

There will a minimum of five weeks between each step of easing restrictions in England to allow for coronavirus-related data to be assessed against four tests:

– The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.

– Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing the number admitted to hospital and deaths in those vaccinated.

– Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions, which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

– The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

A hairdresser
From April 12 at the earliest, hairdressers will be allowed to reopen (PA)

– So when will other restrictions be lifted in England?

Subject to the passing of the four tests, from April 12 at the earliest, shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will be allowed to reopen.

Two households, or groups of up to six people, will be allowed to mix indoors and limited crowds will be allowed at sporting events from May 17.

All remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted from June 21, allowing for larger events to go ahead and nightclubs to reopen.

– What is happening in Scotland?

From March 15, all remaining primary school children are set to return to school full-time, with all secondary pupils returning on a part-time basis.

Under the phased plan to lift lockdown, four people from two households may also be allowed to meet outdoors from that date.

Scotland’s stay-at-home order is expected to be lifted from April 5, when there could also be a limited return of communal worship, a further extension to outdoor mixing and more freedoms in retail.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “if all goes according to plan” Scotland will move back to the levels system of Covid restrictions from April 26, with all council areas moving to Level 3.

More details on the further easing of restrictions are expected this month.

– How about Wales?

The Welsh Government will consider whether stay-at-home coronavirus regulations can be lifted in a review of the rules this week, the results of which will be announced on Friday.

Minor changes to the rules last month allowed up to four people from two households to exercise together outdoors.

From March 15, all primary school pupils, as well as older age groups in years 11 and 13 who have exams, could return if Covid conditions improve.

– And Northern Ireland?

Lockdown restrictions were extended to April 1 by the Stormont Executive, with a review due on March 18.

P1 to P3 pupils are due to return to class on Monday but are set to go back to remote learning after two weeks.

On March 22, secondary school children in key exam years – years 12-14 – will return.

The Stormont Executive’s plan for gradually exiting lockdown does not include any target dates, with ministers instead saying decisions on moving between stages will be based on scientific and medical evidence.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News