The UK is in the midst of a nationwide lockdown, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But how long has the UK lockdown been going on for – and is there an end in sight?
How long have we been in lockdown in the UK?
Full lockdown in the UK officially began on the 23rd March, with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing the news of a three-week lockdown initially in a national TV address.
Initially, the lockdown meant that the British public were under strict instructions to go out only when necessary – for food, medicine, or exercise. It also meant that no one was able to see friends or family, and shops, restaurants, bars and offices across the country are closed until further notice.
The lockdown was then extended for a further three weeks.
However, the lockdown was eased ever so slightly on 10th May – meaning the UK was on ‘full lockdown’ for around seven weeks.
Boris Johnson announced in a speech on 10th May that some measures would begin to be lifted in England (these are the new government guidelines for lockdown). These measures included:
- those who cannot work from home to begin to go back to work
- people being allowed to meet up with one person outside of their household outdoors, and at a 2 metre distance
- some non-essential shops, including garden centres, reopening
- some leisure facilities where social distancing is possible reopening – including golf courses
Technically, the UK is still in lockdown as of today (26th May), with many people still working from home.
But, the government have announced a tentative plan – or a roadmap – to get us out of lockdown measures over the next few weeks and months. The Prime Minister is expected to reveal more information to the public on June 1st.
When is the next lockdown review date in the UK?
The government have explained that the lockdown measures will be under continuous review, and must by law be reviewed every two weeks. There is now a 5-part system in place, taking a phased approach to ending lockdown, and the government are reviewing this regularly to decide which steps to take next.
The UK is currently sitting between step 4 and 3.
When will the UK lockdown end – how long will the UK lockdown rules stay in force?
The Prime Minister told MPs he wants a fast-track return to “near- normality” by July, in mid-May.
However, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, explained last week that we may well need to have social distancing measures in place for the rest of the year. He revealed that this is because the only real way out of the pandemic is finding a vaccine or treatment, which likely won’t be for some time.
Chris said, “In the long run, the exit from this is going to be one of two things, ideally. A vaccine, and there are a variety of ways they can be deployed… or, and or, highly effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease even if they catch it, or which can prevent this disease in vulnerable people.
“Until we have those, and the probability of having those any time in the next calendar year is incredibly small, and I think we should be realistic about that.
“We’re going to have to rely on other social measures, which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment. But until that point, that is what we will have to do.”
However – this does not mean that we will be living in this form of lockdown for the rest of the year – only that we will need to live with an adapted way of living for that time.
The government’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, emphasised that some restrictions would have to stay in place for months to come, in order to stay on top of the virus.
She said, “This is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months, but as a nation we have to be really, really responsible and keep doing what we’re all doing until we’re sure we can gradually start lifting various interventions which are likely to be spaced – based on the science and our data – until we gradually come back to a normal way of living.”
How long have other countries been under lockdown?
China, as the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, went into lockdown in mid-January.
But after reporting no new cases for multiple days, the country – in particular, Wuhan, where the virus originated – began to slowly relax some of their rules from the 19th March – over 50 days since the lockdown began.
They have now begun to relax even more restrictions, although are keeping strict testing and social distancing measures in place.
It provides an interesting model of how the UK lockdown may pan out – but only if the country sees a reduction in the number of new infections and deaths.
Italy, which has been hit particularly hard by the virus, began their lockdown on 9th March. They were in full lockdown for around seven weeks.
But now, the country’s Prime Minister has announced measures to start slowly easing restrictions – including allowing people to begin moving around their own region, bars and restaurants opening for takeaway service, hairdressers and beauty salons to open from 1st June, and allowing funerals to resume.
Like Italy, Spain has also been hit with a huge number of coronavirus cases and deaths, and their lockdown, which has been in place since 14th March, was recently extended until 25th April.
But like Italy, they have revealed plans to begin operating a ‘new normal’ by the end of June.
In France, which has also been hugely affected by the coronavirus, their mass lockdown began on 17th March.
They are now also beginning to ease their lockdown, with some shops and businesses allowed to open – but with restaurants and cafes remaining closed, given how closely people normally sit in these kind of settings.