On 17 May 2021, national lockdown restrictions across England, Wales and most of Scotland are due to be eased. Restrictions on social interactions and the hospitality sector have been lifted, and a prior ban on international travel has also been rescinded and replaced with new rules.
Major rule changes in England:
People are now allowed to meet indoors in groups of up to six, or two households, and can meet outdoors in groups of up to 30. Overnight stays at other households are permitted.
Cultural and sports venues including museums, cinemas, theatres, concert halls and sports stadiums can reopen.
The hospitality sector will be reopened – pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors, and hotels, hostels and B&Bs will be able to accommodate guests.
Social distancing guidelines have been slightly eased, though the public are urged to be cautious about close contact with friends and family.
International travel to green list countries will be permitted without needing to quarantine upon return.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘We have reached another milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution’.
The Prime Minister added in a statement on 16 May:
‘Everyone must play their part by getting tested twice a week, coming forward for your vaccine when called, and remembering hands, face, space and fresh air.
I urge everyone to be cautious and take responsibility when enjoying new freedoms today in order to keep the virus at bay’.
A new variant of the coronavirus, B.1.617.2, named the Indian variant after where it was first detected, has caused some concern among the scientific community. It is believed that the new variant does spread more easily, though preliminary data seems to suggest that vaccines are still effective.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), suggested on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that bans on indoor gatherings should not have been lifted.
Farrar said: ‘I think it is reasonable to just be sensible about knowing where transmission is occurring – mostly indoors [...] with lots of different people, different families, different communities, and I would just restrict that at the moment, personally’.
He also said that ‘Meeting outdoors is much less of a risk’, though he did admit that it was ‘reasonable’ for restrictions to be lifted at this point.
Free lateral flow coronavirus testing kits are available to order for anyone in England and Scotland, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. Testing kits are also available to certain groups in Wales and Northern Ireland, such as those who cannot work from home.
To see the UK government’s coronavirus guidelines in further detail, click here.
For information about the easing of restrictions in Scotland, click here.
For information about the easing of restrictions in Wales, click here.
For information about the easing of restrictions in Northern Ireland, click here.