Lockdown measures have been slowly lifted across England following the last review by the UK government on May 28.
The review saw a number of changes introduced, including the rules on meeting family and friends, reopening of shops, and a phased return for schools in England, as the country entered phase two of its lockdown exit plan.
With the next review due to take place toward the end of this month – further easing of restrictions could be announced as the UK moves towards phase three.
Here’s the latest on what changes we could expect to see in the coming weeks.
What rules could be lifted in phase three?
Before moving into phase three of the government’s lockdown exit plan, the risks of making further adjustments to current rules must first be assessed.
The UK government’s current planning assumption is that phase three will begin no earlier than July 4, subject to it being safe to do so and following the latest scientific advice.
If it is deemed safe, the ambition is for the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to stay closed, to reopen again.
This will include:
- Personal care – such as hairdressers and beauty salons
- Hospitality – such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation
- Public places – such as places of worship
- Leisure facilities – such as cinemas and gyms
While the ambition is to allow such businesses to reopen, some venues may not be considered safe to reopen at this point, due to difficulties in facilitating social distancing.
As a result, some venues may only be able to open safely in part, such as pubs.
Ministers are said to be looking at ways to help pubs reopen ahead of July using beer gardens, terraces and marquees, in an effort to prevent up to 3.5 million hospitality workers from losing their jobs.
If safety measures can be put in place, pubs in England could be permitted to reopen two weeks earlier than planned, on June 22.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to be in favour of a full reopening of pubs and restaurants before July 4, providing social distancing rules are in place.
To facilitate the reopening of higher-risk businesses and public places, the government will carefully phase and pilot reopenings to ensure safety measures can be maintained.
Visiting family and friends indoors may also be permitted in phase three, providing it is considered safe to do so.
The government has asked SAGE to examine whether it can safely change regulations to allow people to expand their household group to include another household in the same exclusive group.
The intention of this would be to allow those who are isolated some more social contact, as well as supporting some families to return to work, by permitting the sharing of childcare.
Such a system could be based on the New Zealand model of household “bubbles”, in which a single “bubble” is the people you live with.
The rationale behind keeping household groups small is to limit the number of social contacts people have, thereby reducing the risk of interhousehold transmissions.
When will the next lockdown review be?
A review of lockdown restrictions in England was initially supposed to be held every three weeks, but ministers have changed the law to allow them more time to make decisions.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the review is being extended by a full week in a Written Ministerial Statement on June 2, meaning decisions on any changes will now be made every 28 days.
In the statement he wrote: “To ensure that we are making future decisions about the lockdown at the right time, the maximum review period will change from 21 days to 28 days.
“This will allow decisions to align more closely with the period of time necessary to assess the impact of previous changes on key data feeds, including the R rate.
“The Government will also keep all the measures under continual review and will account to Parliament on an ongoing basis.”
As such, the next lockdown review in England should take place on Thursday, June 25.