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Coronavirus: the plan to end England's restrictions by 21 June

Following new data on the rates of infection and the progress of the vaccination programme, the government has announced a roadmap for easing COVID restrictions in England.

The plan has four specific stages and progression to the next stage is dependent on certain conditions being met (see below).

The government aims to have all restrictions lifted by 21st June at the earliest.*

Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have their own plans and timetable.

What are the 4 steps?

Step 1 - no earlier than 8th March*

  • There will be a return to face-to-face education in schools and colleges. Face coverings are being recommended in class for secondary school students and also for parents and staff in primary schools.

  • The Stay-at-Home requirement will remain, but people can leave home for recreation outdoors such as a coffee or picnic with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household.

Further limited changes from 29th March*

  • The Stay-at-Home order will end, although most other restrictions will remain, and the government will encourage people to stay local as much as possible.

  • Those who can work from home are encouraged to continue to do so until 21st June

  • The Rule of Six or two households meeting outdoors allowed.

  • Outdoor sport and leisure facilities can open and organised outdoor sport is allowed.

Step 2 – no earlier than 12th April*

  • Non-essential retail outlets can open.

  • Gyms, swimming pools and spas can reopen for individuals and households.

  • Hairdressers, beauty salons and other "close contact services" can reopen.

  • Outdoor hospitality provision will reopen. Restaurants and pub gardens will be allowed to serve customers sitting outdoors, including alcohol.

  • Self-contained holiday accommodation can open.

  • Libraries and community centres can reopen.

From April, the government will start to run pilot schemes for events such as large weddings, festivals and work conferences. This will provide information on how to use measures such as enhanced testing to permit large groups to gather without the need for social distancing.

Step 3 - no earlier than 17th May*

  • Gatherings of 30 or fewer people will be permitted, but all gatherings of over 30 people remain illegal.

  • Outdoor performances such as outdoor cinemas and outdoor theatres can reopen.

  • Indoors, the rule of 6 or 2 households will apply.

  • Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen.

  • Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues can seat customers indoors.

  • Entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will also reopen.

International travel will be subject to review.

Step 4 – no earlier than 21st June*

  • No legal limits on social contact.

  • The remaining closed settings like nightclubs, and larger events, will reopen.

  • There will be no legal limit on all live events (however, all live events will be subject to review).

* It should be stressed that the dates are said to be the earliest possible that the relevant step can be taken. If any of the four tests for easing restrictions are not met, it is highly likely that the next step will be postponed until they are met. Businesses and individuals, therefore, are strongly advised not to make concrete plans until the situation regarding restrictions is definitely known.

What are the four tests for easing restrictions?

Each stage is intended to be, at the very minimum, five weeks apart. In order to move to the next step, four conditions must be met.

  • The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan

  • The vaccination programme is reducing the number of people dying with the virus (or needing hospital treatment) by a sufficient level

  • There is no indication of a surge in infection rates that could cause a rise in hospital admissions

  • There are no new coronavirus variants that might fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions

Full details of the government’s planned timetable can be found here.