“We are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures,” Johnson said.
The prime minister announced a number of changes as part of his “road map for reopening society” – while maintaining social distancing measures. His new rules only apply in England, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland setting their own lockdown restrictions.
He said people who can’t work from home should make every effort to return to their place of work; that there would be no limits on people exercising; people would be allowed to sit in the park and enjoy the sun; and some sports would be allowed again.
Though Johnson seemed to imply during his speech that the increase in outdoor activities would only be allowed with someone from your own household, a government official confirmed that couples and friends living in different homes would be able to meet up in parks for the first time in almost eight weeks, as long as they stay two metres apart.
Here are five ways the lockdown will change this week.
1. People should now return to work
Johnson announced people who cannot work from home should return to their roles from Monday.
He said: “We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.”
The PM added “we have been working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure”.
2. Walking and cycling to work encouraged
The PM said those people returning to work “should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited”.
He encouraged using cars, “or even better by walking or bicycle”.
3. Unlimited exercise allowed
Johnson said that from Wednesday, “we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise”.
Under the previous lockdown rules, people were restricted to one session of outdoor exercise a day.
As part of this lifted measure, government officials said tennis courts and golf clubs could reopen in England from Wednesday, as long as social distancing measures are enforced.
Other permitted activities will include water sports and angling.
4. Sunbathing in parks allowed
Also from Wednesday, Johnson said people “can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports – but only with members of your own household”.
People will be allowed to drive to parks or beaches within England, but not to cross the border to Wales or Scotland for leisure activities if different restrictions are in force.
A government official confirmed said that as long as a two-metre distance is maintained, people will also be allowed to sunbathe or chat in a park with one other person from a different household.
5. Increased fines for rule breakers
Johnson insisted the lockdown otherwise remains in place, as it would be “madness” to risk a second spike in cases.
He said: “You must obey the rules on social distancing and to enforce those rules we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them.”
The PM did not say how much the fines would be. Police could previously issue fixed penalty notices of £60.
Johnson also set out a number of additional measures, but he emphasised that these would only be introduced if it was safe to do so. They include:
A phased reopening of shops could begin at the earliest by 1 June, Johnson said. Subject to conditions and scientific advice, “at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places” could be reopened with social distancing measures in place by July at the earliest, he added.
Efforts could be made to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, starting with reception, Year 1 and Year 6, at the earliest by 1 June. Remaining primary school year groups could be added at later dates.
For secondary school pupils who have exams next year – Years 10 and 12 – the aim is to get them “at least some time with their teachers before the holidays”, he added. Government officials said the remaining secondary school age pupils in England would not be expected to return to school before the summer holidays. Johnson promised detailed guidance “shortly” on how to make things work in schools and shops and on transport.
Most will soon be subject to a quarantine. To prevent reinfection from abroad, the PM said he was “serving notice that it will soon be the time – with transmission significantly lower – to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air”.
No further detail was given, though a joint statement from Downing Street after the address said Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron had agreed quarantine measures would not apply between France and the UK “at this stage” for the “management of our common border”.