- Boris Johnson announced a four-step plan in the Parliament yesterday, for the third lockdown to be eased phase-wise
- All the schools and colleges will re-open from 8 March, while the Government seeks to open the hospitality sector in the second step
Addressing the House of Commons on Monday (22 February), British Prime Minister Boris Johnson disclosed a four-step cautious roadmap for the removal of lockdown restrictions.
The new strain of the coronavirus that had emerged in the United Kingdom in mid-December, had forced the Government to implement a tougher third national lockdown from 5 January 2021.
Steering ahead in the post vaccine world, the British Government has come up with a strategy to ease the lockdown restrictions.
The 4-step Plan
Step-1: After 8 March 2021
Every individual belonging to the top four priority group for vaccination, as set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), will have received their first dosage by this time frame.
- Schools and colleges shall re-open, and all the children might be allowed to move back into school, which is the top priority of the Government.
- One regular visitor might be allowed to meet the care home residents, provided all precautions such as taking coronavirus test and use of PPE kits are taken.
- People are permitted to step outside of their homes for recreational purposes.
- Students pursuing practical courses in universities would be permitted to resume face to face learning.
After 29 March 2021
- The week beginning from 29 March will observe most of the schools giving a break for Easter.
- Outdoor gatherings, including in private gardens will be allowed for either six people or two households.
- Outdoor sports facilities, like basketball and tennis courts, shall resume, and the Government might allow people to participate in formally organised outdoor sports.
- Though many lockdown restrictions will remain in effect, the Stay-at-Home order shall come to an end.
Step-2: After 12 April 2021
- This phase will observe the re-opening of personal care premises, public buildings, as well as non-essential retail.
- Permission will be granted to most of the outdoor benefits and locations, including theme parks and zoos and drive-in performances etc. However, wider social contact rules will be set out to stop indoor mingling between separate households.
- The functioning of indoor leisure facilities, including gyms and swimming pools to be used by people themselves or within their household will resume.
- Hospitality venues will be allowed to provide people with outdoor seating facilities only.
Step-3: After 17 May 2021
- This phase of restrictions will witness the lifting of most social contact rules, and group gathering size could be increased to 30 people.
- Post this period, outdoor performances, including cinemas and theatres, can reopen, while the rule of six or 2 households will be applicable indoors.
- Entertainment venues and indoor hospitality shall also reopen.
- Strength of 1,000 people or half-full, whichever is lesser, will be permitted for larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues. Similarly, the outdoor venues will be allowed to serve size of 4000 people or half-full of the total capacity, whichever is lower.
- A capacity of maximum 10,000 people or a quarter-full, whichever is lower, shall be allowed to attend the open seating venues.
Step-4: After 21 June 2021
- All legal limits on social contact are expected to be lifted.
- The Government estimates the re-opening of nightclubs.
- Whether all limitations on weddings and other life events can be removed or not will be discussed.
At the end of each phase, an assessment will be conducted by the Government to know the impact of that step. A minimum interval of five weeks will be required for the assessment, before moving on to the next step.
The aforesaid assessment will be based on four tests, which are-
- The continuation of the mass vaccination programme.
- Studies depicting the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing hospitalisations and deaths of the already vaccinated people.
- There is no risk of an increase in hospitalisations due to the prevailing infection rates.
- New Variants of Concern does not hamper the Government’s review of the risks.
The NHS vaccination programme will continue at pace, and the Government also sets out a new target to inoculate every adult with the first jab of the Covid-19 by the end of July. It is hoped that the increased protection that is being offered by the vaccines will gradually replace the restrictions.
What will happen to the hospitality sector?
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that cafes, pubs, restaurants and other non-essential retail would not be allowed to reopen for indoor dining before 12 April 2021. As per the roadmap, serving food and drinks outside would be allowed for pubs and restaurants.
He also clarified that the hospitality venues would be permitted to cater to limited numbers of customers in case of indoor dining after 17 May. For reopening of the hospitality venues, the rule of six or two households would be enforced. However, there will be no curfew or substantial meal rule like earlier.
The move comes after various groups of the hospitality, travel and tourism sector requested the Government to provide them with a suitable date for the resumption of their operations so that they can plan accordingly. They have also urged the British Government to provide more financial support and extend the already existing measures to avoid them from shutting down for good.
This means that the hospitality sector will be among the last industries to reopen. The UK’s pubs and bars have been facing a tough year since the initial lockdown was imposed.
How has the hospitality industry reacted to this news?
Prime Minister’s roadmap for lifting the restrictions has received a mixed response from the hospitality industry, which has welcomed the dates provided but has also implored the British Government to provide financial assistance in the coming weeks.
Kate Nicholls, the CEO of UK Hospitality said that reopening date being far away is devastating for the sector. The industry has remained closed for nearly 200 days, and a major package of financial support is imperative if hospitality is to survive, she said.