Lockdown restrictions have changed today. This is what you can do now:

The first step in the Government’s four-stage plan to gradually ease lockdown restrictions in England has arrived.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 3:52 pm
Updated Monday, 8th March 2021, 3:56 pm

March 8 marks the first date where limited parts of the rules will be relaxed.

These what restrictions are being lifted and when other changes are expected in the coming weeks and months.

– What is changing from March 8?

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March 8 marks the first date where limited parts of the rules will be relaxed.

All pupils in all year groups can return to the classroom with outdoor after-school sports and activities also allowed to restart.

Secondary schools can stagger the return of students over the week to allow for mass Covid testing, with the Government also advising that these pupils wear face coverings where social distancing is not possible.

Primary school children are not required to carry out Covid-19 tests or wear face masks on their return.

University students taking practical courses who require specialist equipment and facilities can attend face-to-face teaching, while all other students should continue to learn remotely.

People are now allowed to have socially distanced one-to-one meetings with others outdoors in a public space – meaning friends and family members could sit down for a coffee or have a picnic in the park.

Care home residents will be permitted a single nominated visitor, who will be required to take a Covid test, wear personal protective equipment and keep physical contact to a minimum.

– Are other lockdown rules still in place?

Yes. Most of England’s existing lockdown rules remain in place.

People must continue to stay at home and only leave for essential purposes, such as food shopping, exercise, education and medical appointments.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops remained closed, and households should not be mixing indoors or outdoors unless it is within a permitted support bubble.

– Can we expect more changes later this month?

Hopefully, yes. From March 29, under the second part of the first phase of easing England’s lockdown, larger groups of people could be allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

The “rule of six” will return, meaning up to six people or two households will be able to meet outdoors.

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts could also reopen at the end of the month, with organised adult and children’s sport – including grassroots football – able to return.

The Government’s “stay at home” order will end, with messaging moving to “stay local”, but people will be asked to continue to work from home where possible, and overseas travel will stay banned.

– How is the Government deciding when to lift restrictions?

There will a minimum of five weeks between each step of easing restrictions in England to allow for coronavirus-related data to be assessed against four tests:

– The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.

– Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing the number admitted to hospital and deaths in those vaccinated.

– Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions, which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

– The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

– So when will other restrictions be lifted in England?

Subject to the passing of the four tests, from April 12 at the earliest, shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will be allowed to reopen.

Two households, or groups of up to six people, will be allowed to mix indoors and limited crowds will be allowed at sporting events from May 17.

All remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted from June 21, allowing for larger events to go ahead and nightclubs to reopen.

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