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Schools, socialising and some sports are set to return next month under the Government’s plan to relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England.
It is understood that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will tell MPs that all pupils in all years can go back to the classroom from March 8, with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed to restart as well.
Socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted in a fortnight when the rules are relaxed to allow people to sit down for a drink or picnic.
A further easing of restrictions will take place on March 29 when the school Easter holidays begin – with larger groups allowed to gather in parks and gardens.
The “rule of six” will return along with new measures allowing two households totalling more than six people to meet – giving greater flexibility for families and friends.
Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts are also set to reopen at the end of next month.
And organised adult and children’s sport – including grassroots football – can return from March 29.
Here is a look at what is expected:
After spending the past week looking at data on coronavirus deaths, cases, hospital admissions and the effect of the vaccine rollout, Boris Johnson will convene a virtual meeting of his Cabinet on Monday morning to discuss the road map plan.
Later in the afternoon the Prime Minister will make a statement to Parliament before hosting a televised press conference at 7pm.
The road map will also be published on the Government’s website.
Ministers have emphasised that the Government is taking a cautious approach to easing restrictions.
Changes are expected to be rolled out in four steps.
Before each new stage the Government will look at the Covid-related data to assess what impact each easing has had.
The Government has previously said it would be prioritising the reopening of schools, with March 8 the target date for the return of pupils.
It is understood that as an initial part of the first step of easing restrictions all schools will be open from this date, while outdoors after school sports and activities can also restart.
It is also understood that, from March 8, people will be permitted to have socially distanced one-on-one meetups with others outdoors in a public space.
This means friends and family members could sit down for a coffee or have a picnic in the park, something not currently allowed under lockdown.
From March 29 more social contact is expected to be permitted, with outdoor gatherings allowed either under the rule of six or between two households.
This means groups of a maximum of six people from multiple households can get together outside, with a greater number allowed if the meetup is between two households only.
The rule change is understood to be timed to coincide with the start of school holidays and to allow friends and families greater flexibility to meet outside where the risk of Covid transmission is lower.
Yes, from March 29 it is understood that outdoor sports facilities, for example tennis or basketball courts, will reopen.
There is also expected to be a return of organised adult and children’s sport, such as grassroots football.
The longer-term picture of the Government’s plans is as yet unclear.
Previous speculation placed non-essential shops alongside outdoor recreation and socialising as the next areas targeted for easing after schools.
Various reports also suggested hospitality could return at some point between the Easter weekend and May, with an initial focus on outdoor provision.
Elsewhere, it was claimed ministers were looking at plans for people who live in the same household to be allowed to go on holiday breaks together from April.
More details may yet be revealed by the Prime Minister on Monday, while much will depend on the success of the vaccine rollout and the Government’s ongoing assessment of Covid-related data.
The Prime Minister said his road map will contain four tests for easing restrictions.
The Government will take into account the success of the vaccines rollout, whether there is evidence they are reducing hospital admissions and deaths, the level of infection rates and the presence of any new Covid variants.
Such data will be examined ahead of each step along the road map before measures are unlocked any further.
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