Grandparents allowed to see young grandchildren as PM hails 'joy and relief' of lockdown easing

Ben Riley-Smith
·3-min read
A mother stands with her daughter, visiting senior parents but observing social distancing with a glass door between them - RyanJLane
A mother stands with her daughter, visiting senior parents but observing social distancing with a glass door between them - RyanJLane

Boris Johnson has hailed the “joy and relief” that Monday's easing of lockdown will bring families as he confirmed a grandparent will be able to see young grandchildren under the new rules.

Before Monday, the Government's Covid-19 guidance said two people were only allowed to meet outdoors if they were doing exercise, such as walking or jogging.

Those restrictions have been loosened, with people now allowed to meet one-on-one outside for recreational activities such as having a coffee on a park bench or a picnic.

The Telegraph can confirm that children aged under five are exempt from such rules, however, meaning a parent meeting a grandparent can bring along young children.

Mr Johnson told this newspaper: “Today marks the first step in our cautious easing of lockdown restrictions, with pupils returning to schools and outdoor socialising with one other person allowed.

Watch: How England will leave lockdown

“While this is only a small relaxation of the rules, I know this increased social contact will provide joy and relief for families with grandparents being able to see young grandchildren again after months of tough restrictions.

"But we must remain vigilant as we move through our plan to reopen society and return towards normality.”

The rule tweak is one of three key changes happening today, which is the first date in Mr Johnson’s “roadmap” out of lockdown.

The other two are the reopening of all English schools and the ability for care home residents to be visited by a single named individual, with hand-holding allowed.

The changes reflect that fact that the Prime Minister and his inner team have prioritised getting children into the classroom again and reuniting families.

Many of the existing restrictions remain, however.

No more than two adults from different households can meet outdoors to chat. Full family reunions outside will have to wait until March 29 at the earliest. Such one-on-one meetings also have to take place in public outdoor settings rather than private gardens.

Social distancing rules also remain in place, which means people are advised to remain six feet apart and wear face masks if close to others.

But the change does end the need to be moving when catching up with someone – a rule difficult to abide by for those with limited mobility and which was being broken by some.

Mr Johnson has made “cautious but irreversible” the central theme of his reopening plan, which takes place in four stages. By the end of March groups of six or two different households will be able to meet outside.

By April 12, pubs and restaurants should be allowed to serve outside. May 17 is the earliest indoor dining and indoor meet-ups will be allowed, with June 21 provisionally named as the date almost all restrictions will be lifted.

However, the Prime Minister has repeatedly stressed that these dates are simply “earliest” ones, with delays possible if the data tracking the fight against Covid-19 worsens.

Four metrics are being watched: the speed of the vaccine roll-out; the efficacy of the vaccines on deaths and hospitalisations; whether case rises threaten to overwhelm the NHS; and whether new variants emerge that increase risk.

Reviews are ongoing to determine when social distancing rules could be eased and whether overseas holidays could be allowed again in time for summer.

Watch: Do coronavirus vaccines affect fertility?