On Sunday 10th May, the UK tuned in to watch another national address from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to hear more about the next phase of the plans to fight the coronavirus in the UK.
While the UK has been on lockdown since 23rd March, the PM’s speech marked the first time that the public were officially informed of a ‘roadmap’ out of the restrictions. The speech – alongside a newly released, 50-page government document – has now given the UK a better understanding of how the country may reopen in the coming months.
So what are the new government guidelines for lockdown? Can we see friends and family? Will nurseries reopen alongside schools? And how are the UK’s plans for easing the lockdown shaping up against other countries?
We take a look at some of the questions you might have…
What is the government’s plan to ease lockdown following Boris Johnson’s speech last night?
The coronavirus messaging in England has now changed from ‘Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives’, to ‘Stay alert. Control the virus. Save lives.’
Boris also announced a new 5-stage alert system, signalling where the UK is in the fight against coronavirus.
Currently, the UK is between the fourth and fifth stage.
It comes as part of the announcement of a slow easing of the lockdown, as deaths and the rate of hospital admissions begin to slow. The PM detailed the easing of two lockdown rules for the next few weeks, as laid out below.
In his speech, the Prime Minister also revealed that there are tentative plans to ease the lockdown further over the next few months if infection rates stay low. This includes a phased reopening of shops, possibly by 1st June. It also includes, by this date, a phased reopening of schools for reception, Year 1, and Year 6 pupils.
The hopeful plan is also that, by July at the earliest, it may be possible to re-open some hospitality venues and other public places, if strict social distancing measures stay in place. So far, these are the only measures to have been announced by the government, providing some idea of how the country may begin to reopen in the summer.
What are the new government guidelines for lockdown and updated lockdown rules in the UK?
The main points from Boris Johnson’s speech on Sunday evening included a couple of major changes that apply for the next few weeks. These changes largely revolve around:
- Travel to and from work
The first message was that people who cannot work from home can now travel to work. He explained, “We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.”
The other message was that people can now enjoy unlimited outdoor exercise. Sunbathing in parks will be allowed, as well driving to other outdoor areas, and you can play sports outdoors – but only with members of your household.
He also detailed the plan in the coming months, revealing that services may reopen, but only if the ‘R’ rate (rate of infection) can be kept as far below one as possible.
Can I meet family and friends as part of the new lockdown rules?
The newly laid out document states that people can visit one other person from outside their household, if they stay two metres apart and do so in an outdoor setting such as a park. This does not include gardens. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said this morning to “use common sense”, and reiterated that you cannot visit other peoples homes still.
He also reiterated that socialising in homes is still not allowed. “We are not moving to a stage where we say that households can mix inside the home.”
Do I need to wear a face mask under the new rules?
According to the newly published government document, face coverings should be worn in crowded places (e.g. the supermarket). Face coverings can be things like a scarf or a homemade covering. If you want to learn how to make a face mask without sewing, try our easy tutorial. You can also learn how to make a face mask from a sock.
The document details that proper, PPE-style face masks should be left for those who need them – such as NHS staff.
Should I travel to work under the new rules?
Guidance about work and travelling to work has been outlined in the new government document. It states that employees who cannot physically work from home are encouraged to travel to their offices by driving, walking or cycling. Public transport is discouraged still – so it is not yet clear how workers who rely on it should get to work.
Companies are working with the government to create safe working environments, and are being urged to consider staggered working hours. The government states that if you can work from home you should continue to do so.
Can I go to the beach during lockdown?
Ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend, many of us are wondering if we are allowed to head to the beach under the new rules.
And the happy answer is that yes – in England, you are now allowed to travel to outdoor spots such as the beach to sunbathe and enjoy the lovely weather. You may only travel alone or with members of your household.
The key thing to remember is that you cannot travel to beaches in Wales, Ireland or Scotland at the moment, as they still have strict ‘Stay at home’ rules in place. It is also vital to maintain social distancing if you do travel to the beach during lockdown, staying 2-metres apart from others at all times.
Can I move house or view houses under the new rules?
Yes – under the newly eased lockdown, buyers and renters are free to move or view homes once again, for the first time in two months.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenick announced that estate agents would reopen, removal firms could recommence work, and property viewings would be allowed again.
However, he reassured that the process would be carried out with all social distancing rules in place.
He said, “Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process, from viewings to removals. This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”
When will opticians open after lockdown?
Currently, most opticians are open only for urgent or essential care – not for routine eye tests.
However, the government have announced that on 1st June ‘at the earliest’, there is hope that some shops and services currently closed could reopen again – and this could well include opticians.
Of course, this depends on whether the ‘R’ rate continues to fall.
Can we travel in lockdown?
While we can travel a little further now to exercise (see information below), there are still restrictions on travel within the UK – and certainly, even more when it comes to international travel.
While you can now drive to quiet beaches or green areas to sunbathe or exercise, all while social distancing, people are being discouraged from travelling anywhere they would stay overnight – such as campsites or holiday homes.
Tourism Minister, Nigel Huddlestone said, “You and your household can head outdoors for your physical and mental wellbeing in England. But be respectful to local people and communities. You must adopt social distancing at all times. Then return to your primary home – no overnight stays, including second homes and holiday homes,” a rule which extends to camping too.
During this time, you should also not cross the border into Wales or Scotland, as they still have strict ‘stay at home’ rules in place.
It’s also worth noting that many National Trust sites remain closed, with only a few select car parks in England reopened.
With regards to international travel, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is still advising British people against all non-essential international travel. This is likely to stay in place for some time, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying that it’s “likely to be the case” that the foreign holiday season won’t take place this year.
Arrivals into the UK are also being quarantined for 14 days, too.
How far can I drive to exercise under the new lockdown restrictions?
At the moment, guidance is only that you can drive somewhere for ‘unlimited exercise’, but that can only include England.
Advice at the moment differs between Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England, with the former three still adhering to the stricter ‘stay home’ measures, discouraging all but essential travel. As such, you should not travel from England to Scotland, Wales or Ireland via car right now.
However, thus far, no limits have been set on how many miles you can drive under the new lockdown restrictions.
Are public toilets open during lockdown?
Now that we’re allowed to travel a distance for exercise or to sit in the sun, it’s only natural to wonder if there may be somewhere that we can use the toilet if we are a little further from home.
And this question is likely even more pressing, given that places with facilities are now closed – such as pubs and bars.
The answer is that the rules around public toilets changes from council to council. For example, public toilets in Surrey and East Suffolk Council have largely remained open during lockdown. But, in Ipswich and Essex, many have been, and remain, closed.
The best thing to do is check with the local council before heading out, if you are worried.
Can I visit the park under the new lockdown measures?
Yes – Boris Johnson announced clearly that visiting the park or outdoor green space for exercise, sunbathing, or sports with your household only is now freely permitted – as long as you keep a 2m distance from people not from your household. You can also exercise in the park – but only with other members of your household.
When will schools and nurseries reopen in the UK?
Reception, Year 1, and Year 6 pupils could be heading back to school from 1st June at the earliest, Boris Johnson announced. Many have suggested this would relieve pressure on parents who work from home while homeschooling.
However, a discussion must now be had between scientists, schools, experts and the government as to how social distancing would work in schools to protect both pupils and staff before a definitive answer on when will schools reopen in the UK can be reached.
Can grandparents look after grandkids during lockdown?
Not being able to see or hug loved ones has been one of the biggest emotional tolls on people during the UK lockdown. And amongst those affected are grandparents who cannot see their grandchildren – as well as parents who can no longer rely on grandparents for childcare.
While there has been no specific advice issued, it is still important to protect those thought to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. As such, if grandparents are over 70, they should likely continue shielding and isolating at home with only their household.
Are dentists open now during lockdown in the UK?
Dentist practises have been closed since the lockdown on 23rd March, given that it is near impossible to social distance inside them.
And as of today (18th May), they have still not reopened.
However, there is a chance that they may open on 1st June, when some non-essential shops are also slated to open. Or, it may not be until 4th July, when other services such as beauty salons are meant to open.
At the moment, we just don’t know when dentists will reopen.
When will hairdressers reopen?
Other European countries including France and Spain have begun to allow people to visit the hairdressers again.
But Dominic Raab has said that hair salons in the UK would likely not be opening until 4th July “at the earliest”. Talking to Kay Burley, he said, “Obviously the proximity [within salons]… is something where we just don’t think we are ready yet, given where we are with the virus.”
So it seems that we will simply have to deal with our unruly manes for a little while longer, until then! If you’re worried, see our top tips for cutting your child’s fringe here.
How are other countries around the world lifting their lockdown?
Many European countries have already, or are soon to, come out of lockdown restrictions. In Italy for example, bars and restaurants are open for takeaway services. People have also returned to work on building sites and in factories.
In the Netherlands, nurseries, primary schools and hairdressers will reopen today with social distancing measures, as will some bars and cafes.
France is taking the approach of a ‘progressive lockdown’, highlighting areas of infection into zones. Most businesses are now open, but bars and restaurants are not.
And in China, the epicentre of the lockdown, children have been allowed to return to school. However, this relaxing has sparked unease, as in some areas, coronavirus cases have spiked again – providing just how infectious the virus is.