How the different stages of the lockdown roadmap will likely appear

Ben Riley-Smith
·8-min read
SOUTHEND, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21: People walk beside the beach on a warm sunny day as the weather warms for the week ahead on February 21, 2021 in Southend, England. Temperatures are predicted to rise to 18C for parts of the UK this week as a hot air plume is set to arrive from the Canary islands. After a surge of covid-19 cases, fueled partly by a more infectious variant of the virus, the British government had reimposed nationwide lockdown measures across England. A review was held on February 15 and despite deaths and infections falling, lockdown will continue. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21: People walk beside the beach on a warm sunny day as the weather warms for the week ahead on February 21, 2021 in Southend, England. Temperatures are predicted to rise to 18C for parts of the UK this week as a hot air plume is set to arrive from the Canary islands. After a surge of covid-19 cases, fueled partly by a more infectious variant of the virus, the British government had reimposed nationwide lockdown measures across England. A review was held on February 15 and despite deaths and infections falling, lockdown will continue. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson will soon finally outline his long-awaited “road map” for reopening the country after the latest Covid-19 lockdown. The line the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have been using repeatedly to describe what is coming is “cautious but irreversible”.

Anyone hoping for a “big bang” reopening should think again, with Number 10 believing that a gradual easing of restrictions is the best course of action.

Why? Because of that second word “irreversible”.

Mr Johnson is determined to make sure this lockdown forced by Covid-19 is the last. As such, he has designed a roadmap that goes in four stages.

They are roughly expected to match the months to come: March, April, May, June. At each stage four different “tests” will need to be passed, reflecting the view in Government that “data not dates” is the guiding principle.

No specific figure will be placed on those metrics, giving the Government a degree of wiggle room.

Each of the four stages in the roadmap will have an “earliest” date attached to them, giving people a sense of what is coming while accepting slippage is possible if the data gets worse.

Exactly what is contained in each stage remains unclear, with Government sources remaining coy about those later in the calendar.

This is The Telegraph’s understanding of what each stage contains.

Stage 1, Part 1: Mar 8

All schools in England open, both primary and secondary. It is the news that parents across the country will cheer and reflects Mr Johnson deliberately prioritising that issue.

There remains an element of doubt about whether all children will be back in school on that date, however, due to question marks around return arrangements.

There is a hope that every child will be tested for coronavirus before they return. But some schools could stagger classes so there are not massive queues on day one.

Government sources say schools have been given a fortnight’s notice so complexities like this can be worked out, with more clarity on this point likely to emerge in the next two weeks.

School sport will also be back from Mar 8. This means that children are finally allowed to have PE lessons, play for their school football teams and go to after-school activities.

It is understood there is no requirement for sports at school to be only outside, meaning that swimming lessons or classes in sports halls will theoretically be allowed. Such decisions are likely to be taken at a school level, meaning what happens will vary locally.

Mar 8 is also the date that care home residents will also be allowed a single visitor, meaning a son or daughter can finally go and see a parent in care. Each care home resident will have to specify a single person to be their designated visitor.

That person will have to get a Covid-19 test before entering and wear personal protective equipment. They can meet inside. Close contact will remain barred but holding hands will be allowed.

The designated visitor will also be allowed to make repeat trips, meaning it is not a one-off.

One other key change is happening to current rules that say one-on-one exercise outdoors is allowed. This will be loosened a little. From Mar 8, people will be able to meet in public spaces one-on-one to socialise, for example sitting on a park bench with a coffee or having a picnic.

But only two people are allowed to do this, not groups.

Stage 1, Part 2: Mar 29

A big moment in the reopening roadmap. For so long people have been told to ‘stay at home’, with only a number of exemptions (such as exercise or essential trips) in place.

This is due to change on Mar 29. The blanket ‘stay at home’ rule will be removed, with the number of things that people are allowed to leave their home to do expanding.

Firstly, group outside meetings will be allowed. The ‘rule of six’, which allowed six people from up to six different households to gather outside, will return.

Also, two households will be allowed to meet outside. This was added because it means two families, who together may be more than six people, will be allowed to gather outside.

What it means in practice is that groups of friends will be able to meet in parks, for example, and two families will be able to catch up in a back garden. The second big change is about organised sport.

From Mar 29, all outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis courts, football pitches and basketball courts, will be allowed to open. Both adults and children will be free to play outdoor sports.

That applies to team sports and not just ones where social distancing is possible such as golf. Indoor sports will remain off the table, except in school.

It is possible there could be advice urging team sports to minimise contact, for example touch rugby rather than rugby union.

There is also a third major change. Guidance for people to stay in their local area will be removed. It is understood no strict rules about how far you can move about will replace it.

That likely means a family could drive a couple of hours to see a relative outside, such as having a picnic or going for a walk, and drive back that day without breaking the rules.

Meeting indoors will still be banned at this stage, meaning no overnight stays. Critically, the removal of the ‘stay at home’ order will not mean people are encouraged to return to work.

It is likely people will be urged to work from home if possible well into the summer. The timing of these rule changes mean they will be in place for Easter Sunday on April 4.

Stage 2: April

Government sources have been reluctant to spell out the full details of the later stages, but a picture of what could be coming has emerged over recent days.

Non-essential shops are likely to open in April, meaning the high street can start to recover. The exact set-up for how this will work remains unclear.

Perhaps shops will be urged to adopt ‘click and collect’ systems when they can, where people do not go inside. Perhaps shops will be allowed to have a small number of customers enter providing they remain socially distanced and are wearing face masks.

The social distancing rules which currently urge people to stay two meters apart outside and “one meter plus” indoors, which means one meter apart which a face mask, are likely to stay.

Government sources have suggested that these rules could actually remain throughout the roadmap, given they are known to have an impact on Covid-19 spread.

April is the earliest pubs and restaurants are likely to be allowed to open outside, so perhaps food and drink will be allowed to be served in pub gardens at this point.

Given the Government’s intense focus on education, it is possible universities could also be allowed to have students back in April.

Stage 3: May

Could pubs and restaurants finally be allowed to open their doors in May? The Government has cautioned that indoor gatherings are riskier than outdoor ones and well-placed sources were reluctant to say when indoor dining will return.

By this stage, if the Government has hit its vaccine rollout plans, the most vulnerable groups to Covid-19 (those over 50) will have all been offered their jab by now.

Tory MPs and the UK hospitality sector are lobbying for an even earlier opening and have stressed that many pubs and restaurants are facing a “cash crunch”.

They want to see serving inside happening as soon as it is safe, with table service and a requirement to wear masks when not eating or drinking likely to become the norm.

Hairdressers and beauty salons could also open in May, though again this remains unclear.

Stage 4: June

Will staycations be allowed by June? Mr Johnson’s roadmap could hint as much, though Number 10 is cautious about offering families false hope over holidays.

Hotels and B&Bs have been hard hit by the lockdowns and will be eager to be open in the summer to recoup as much as they can for the 2021 summer.

One idea, being looked into in Wales, is that “self-contained” accommodation could be allowed to be rented so people can get a break while not mingling with other tourists.

There is not expected to be much in the road map about loosening border restrictions, so overseas holidays could be trickier, though there is talk about creating Covid-19 passports.

Different households may also, finally, be able to meet indoors. But much of the changes in stage four will be dependent on how effective the vaccine rollout is by then.