How long have we been on lockdown in the UK and how long will rules stay in force?

It may be some time before a complete return to normal life...
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  • Despite much of the country opening up again, the UK is still in the midst of a partial lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    But how long has the UK lockdown been going on for?

    How long have we been in lockdown in the UK?

    Full lockdown in the UK officially began on the March 23, 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 were closed until further notice. The full lockdown was then extended for a further three weeks.

    MORE: Will there be a second wave of coronavirus in the UK – and would we go back into lockdown?

    However, the lockdown was then eased ever so slightly on May 10 – meaning the UK was on ‘full lockdown’ for around seven weeks.

    Boris Johnson announced in a speech on that day 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 a form lockdown as of August, with many people still working from home and local lockdowns in place across the country.

    It means that the country has been operating in a form of lockdown for over 6 months now.

    However, ‘Super Saturday’ on July 4 signalled the reopening of the hospitality industry, with pubs and restaurants opening again, and customers were once again welcomed back into hair salons.

    The government also reduced the 2 metre social distancing rule to 1 metre and although non-essential travel is still being advised against, many people are once again using public transport to go back to work and visit friends or relatives.

    As of July 10, a travel list of places where you have to self isolate upon your return to the UK was published. Originally it was around 60 countries where you didn’t have to quarantine upon arrival back into the country, but now places are being put on and removed from the list on an almost daily basis.

    Playgrounds and soft play areas are also now both open for business, with some sport resuming. Most recently, it has been announced that all children will return to normal schooling from September at the latest with new guidelines in place to keep children safe and face masks to be worn in all public spaces where social distancing can’t be maintained. The government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme was a huge success in August, leading to some restaurants to extend the scheme for another month.

    What about local lockdown?

    Leicester was the first city to be placed under a local lockdown and further major cities followed soon after, including those in Scotland and the North East of England. But even with some restrictions now put back on the country as a whole, it looks as though the localised lockdowns will be the way forward to keep coronavirus under control. As of Wednesday October 14, Liverpool has been the first city to go into the new three tier system in the third tier, with London being moved up into the second tier soon after.

    When will the UK lockdown end – how long will the UK lockdown rules stay in force?

    The Prime Minister told MPs earlier in the year that he wanted a fast-track return to “near- normality” by July.

    However, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, explained that we may well need to have social distancing measures in place for at least the rest of the year and possibly even into 2021. 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 Whitty 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.

    How long have we been on lockdown in the UK and when will the lockdown rules be reviewed?

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    “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.

    MORE: When are soft play centres reopening?

    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 continues to 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.

    MORE: UK coronavirus lockdown: People in Spain, France and Italy tell us what life is REALLY like during lockdown


    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.