Covid: What's the roadmap for lifting lockdown?

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Uncertainty hangs over plans to lift the last of the UK’s lockdown restrictions.

The spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India, has led some scientists to call for a delay, and the government says it is “open” to that idea.

When could lockdown be lifted?

The final stage of lifting lockdown in England is due to take place no earlier than 21 June. A decision is expected on 14 June.

Leaders in the UK nations will make their own decisions on timings:

  • The Northern Ireland executive has proposed further easing from 21 June, subject to confirmation next week
  • Lockdown measures in Wales will be reviewed on 21 June
  • Scotland is hoping to move all areas to its lowest level of restrictions – zero – on 28 June

How will the government decide whether to delay?

Official figures show more than 1,000 people are currently in hospital. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a committee of MPs that the Delta variant is now responsible for 91% of new cases.

Some experts believes the third wave of the disease has already begun, including University of Cambridge Prof Ravi Gupta, who says the next phase of lockdown easing should be postponed.

The prime minister insists the government will be “driven by the data”, as it tries to assess whether the vaccine rollout has built up enough protection in the population to allow further relaxation of the rules.

Half of all adults in the UK are fully vaccinated, and three-quarters have received their first jab. But that still leaves millions of people who are vulnerable to catching and spreading the virus.

What restrictions would be lifted?

In England, the government hopes to “remove all legal limits on social contact”:

  • No limit on how many people you can invite to your home
  • Pubs, clubs, theatres and cinemas allowed to operate without capacity limits
  • Sports events able to take place in full stadiums
  • Nightclubs able to open
  • An end to limits on guests for weddings and other life events

Even if these restrictions are removed, rules on facemasks and social distancing could remain in place, as reviews are continuing.

From this date, live music could resume and theatres reopen, and the number of people from two households who can meet indoors could rise to 10, while 15 people from any number of households could meet outdoors in a private garden.

Wales has its own plans for lifting restrictions.

There would still be some restrictions about meeting up with people in Scotland, even if the country does move to level zero.

What are the rules at the moment?

Some changes apply wherever you are in the UK, although exact rules may vary between nations and – in Scotland – between areas:

Who can I meet at the moment?

Rules vary for each UK nation:

  • In England, groups of up to 30 can meet outdoors and six people or two households can meet indoors (and stay overnight)
  • In Wales, three households can form an extended household and mix in private homes; up to 30 people can meet outdoors in a public place or private garden
  • In Northern Ireland, up to six people from two households can meet in private homes (under-12s not counted towards total) and overnight stays are allowed; up to 15 people (including children) from no more than three households can meet outdoors, including in private gardens

Four women jumping into a Scottish loch, 2 June

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Rules are more complicated in Scotland.

Glasgow is now at Covid protection level two, along with 13 other areas – Edinburgh, Midlothian, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, East Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Clackmannanshire and Stirling.

In these areas:

  • Groups of six from a maximum of three households can meet in private and public indoor spaces (and stay overnight)
  • Eight people from eight households can meet outdoors

Some districts have moved to Covid protection level one (down from level two) – Highland, Argyll and Bute, Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Angus, Perth and Kinross, Falkirk, Fife, Inverclyde, East Lothian, West Lothian, West Dunbartonshire, Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders.

The rules for meeting are:

  • Six people from a maximum of three households can meet in a private home (and stay overnight)
  • Up to eight people from three households can meet in an indoor public place like a cafe, pub or restaurant (indoors until 23:00, outdoors subject to local licensing rules)
  • 12 people from 12 households can meet outdoors

Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and a number of remote islands are now at level zero (down from level one).

The rules for these areas include:

  • Up to eight people from four households can meet inside in a private home (and stay overnight)
  • Up to 10 people from four households can meet in an indoor public place like a cafe, pub or restaurant
  • Up to 15 people from 15 households can meet outdoors

In all levels, children under the age of 12 are not included in the total number of people – but they are counted in the limit on the number of different households.

Travellers to and from Scottish islands are encouraged to take two rapid lateral flow tests before departure.

What about areas with high numbers of Indian/Delta variant cases?

The government has updated guidance for people in eight areas of EnglandKirklees, Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside.

In these places, “wherever possible, you should try to”:

  • meet friends and family outside
  • keep 2m (6ft) apart from people you don’t live or bubble with
  • minimise travel in and out of affected areas

What are the rules from 17th May?

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