People are now allowed to meet in groups of up to six or as two households and outdoor team sports are reopening in a major easing of England’s lockdown restrictions.
As the “stay at home” order ended at midnight, Boris Johnson stressed that “we must remain cautious”, saying cases were rising across Europe and new variants were threatening the UK’s vaccine rollout.
From today in England:
- Groups of up to six people – or two households – can socialise in parks and gardens
- Football and cricket pitches, tennis and basketball courts, outdoor swimming pools can reopen
- Golf course and sailing clubs can reopen
- Organised team sports can resume outdoors
- People should still work from home if possible and minimise their journeys
- The ‘stay at home’ order is being replace with a ‘stay local’ instruction
The prime minister said he hopes the return of outdoor activities will “kickstart a Great British summer of sport” and that “many will welcome the increased social contact”.
Mr Johnson called for the public to participate in a fitness drive, with children recommended to aim for an hour of physical activity a day, and adults for at least 150 minutes.
He said: “I know how much people have missed the camaraderie and competition of organised sport, and how difficult it has been to restrict physical activities – especially for children.
“So as teams return to outdoor pitches, courts, parks and fields, I hope today will kickstart a Great British summer of sport – with people of all ages reunited with teammates, and able to resume the activities they love.
“I know many will welcome the increased social contact, with groups of six or two households now also able to meet outdoors.”
Also, a new Office for Health Promotion will be formed to tackle obesity and poor mental health, as lockdown restrictions are eased.
England World Cup-winning cricket captain Eoin Morgan said: “With summer – and the cricket season – just around the corner, there’s no better time for everyone, young and old, to get back to having fun by getting outdoors, being active and playing sport.”
However, Mr Johnson reminded people to exercise caution, and stick to existing rules on meeting up indoors and travelling, particularly amid a third wave of COVID-19 in Europe and the threat of virus variants.
“We must remain cautious with cases rising across Europe and new variants threatening our vaccine rollout,” he said.
“Despite today’s easements, everyone must continue to stick to the rules, remember hands, face, space, and come forward for a vaccine when called.”
Mr Johnson previously said Britons should be “under no illusions” that Europe’s third wave would hit the UK too.
“Previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, I’m afraid it washes up on our shores as well,” he said.
Although, he said there was “nothing in the data to dissuade [him] from continuing on the roadmap to freedom”.
On Sunday, Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, urged people to continue to follow the rules and limit contact with others, saying the easing “does not mean job done.”
“We’ve made enormous progress that we need to build on and not squander the gains we’ve made,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
Under the government’s roadmap to lifting lockdown, shops, hairdressers and outdoor dining in England are to reopen on 12 April, followed by indoor venues on 17 May.
Mr Johnson is counting on falling cases and deaths, and a rapid vaccination rollout, to help the UK end the coronavirus lockdown for good in June.
More than 30 million people – 57% of all UK adults – have received a first vaccine dose so far. Almost 7% of adults have had both doses.
Ministers remain confident that all over-50s will have been offered a first dose by 15 April. The government aims to offer all adults a jab by the end of July.
Meanwhile, Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said it was vital that people who had received a vaccine remain cautious.
“It’s really important that people who are vaccinated remember that they aren’t completely protected,” he told the BBC.
“They’re protected against severe disease, hospitalisation and death, but they might not be protected against infection after one dose, it takes three or four weeks for the vaccine effects to kick in, and they could potentially still transmit.”