Boris Johnson has announced the further easing of lockdown rules in England where groups of up to six people will be able to meet outdoors for the first time since March – but warned the move could be reversed if the coronavirus infection rate begins to rise again.
The Scottish government has eased their lockdown rules to allow groups of up to eight people to socialise outside from today (May 29) and to take part in outdoor leisure activities.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon urged people to “err on the side of caution” when interpreting the new measures, stressing they still need to follow strict social distancing and avoid busy, popular places.
“Because however harsh these rules may feel for now,” said Sturgeon, “abiding by them will never, ever be as harsh as grieving the loss of a loved one.”
Her comments came as the UK’s death toll, where Covid-19 is cited on the death certificate, passed 48,000. as reported in the Independent. The figures show Northern Ireland registered 716 deaths, Scotland 3,779, and England and Wales accounting for 43,581.
‘Heroic sacrifices’ but ‘R is close to one’
Announcing the new rules for England during yesterday’s daily Downing Street press conference, Johnson said the “five tests” required to move on to the next stage “are being met” meaning restrictions can be eased thanks to the “heroic sacrifices” made by the nation.
However, the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned: “We are still seeing new infections every day at quite a significant rate and the R is close to one.
“That means there is not a lot of room to do things, and things need to be done cautiously, step by step, and monitored – and the test-and-trace system needs to be effective in order to manage that.”
New rules for lockdown
The new rules for England require people to maintain two-metre social distancing but allows people from different households to meet in their gardens.
They also allow grandparents to reunite with their families as age restrictions for over-70s do not apply.
However, the two million vulnerable people who are “shielding” have been told they must continue their isolation.
Indoor gatherings remain banned as too overnight stays, although people will be allowed to walk through another person’s home to access a garden or roof terrace, or to use the toilet – in England.
…in Scotland, Wales and N Ireland
In Scotland, entering another person’s home for any reason will remain off-limits.
The Welsh government said people from two households will be allowed to meet up in the principality from Monday (June 1) but that they also must stay within their local area – defined as around five miles from their home.
Northern Ireland’s ‘Pathway to Recovery Plan’ will also see the reopening of outdoor spaces with groups of up to six people allowed to meet outside, subject to social distancing. Drive-in church services and private prayer inside churches, with appropriate distancing, will also be allowed.
Commenting on the new rules for England, Johnson said: “These changes mean friends and family can start to meet their loved ones – perhaps seeing both parents at once, or both grandparents at once. I know that for many this will be a long-awaited and joyful moment.”
Schools, dentists, outdoor markets, car showrooms and football
English schools will reopen on Monday for reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils, with car showrooms and outdoor markets given the green light to reopen on June 1 as well.
Secondary school children in years 10 and 12 will begin to have face-to-face time with teachers from June 15 to help them prepare for the next academic year.
The government has also given the go-ahead to the English premier League with the stalled football season scheduled to restart on June 17.
National Trust announces limited reopenings
The National Trust said it will begin reopening a small number of parks and gardens from Wednesday (June 3) but added access will be limited to its members and visitors who have booked tickets in advance.
All of the Trust’s shops, campsites, holiday cottages and houses will remain closed in line with government guidelines and access to the gardens and parks will be restricted to around one-third of normal capacity to help people comply with social distancing measures.
All Trust properties and car parks in Wales will remain closed as per the guidance set out by the Welsh assembly.