Prime Minister Boris Johnson has this afternoon set out a ‘roadmap’ for easing social distancing restrictions over the coming months.

The roadmap outlines four steps for easing restrictions and before proceeding to the next step, the Government says it will examine the data to assess the impact of previous easements. This assessment will be based on four tests:

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
  • Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.

The four tests are currently being met so the first step will proceed from Monday March 8, at which point the top four priority cohorts for vaccinations – as determined by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – will have received a degree of immunity, three weeks after being offered their first dose.

Due to the current, relatively uniform spread of the virus across the country, restrictions will be eased step-by-step across the whole of England at the same time. Outdoor settings are known to be lower risk than indoor, so outdoor activities will be opened earlier than indoor ones.

Mr Johnson said the roadmap seeks to balance between social and economic impacts, whilst preserving the health and safety of the country.

Step one, on March 8, will see schools reopening and two people allowed to meet outdoors for a chat. From March 29, outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. Outdoor sports, including football, golf and tennis, will be allowed to resume from March 29 as well.

Step two would see shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality reopening from April 12 in England, as well as zoos and theme parks.

Step three would start on May 17 with most social contact rules lifted, as well as limited mixing indoors.

The Prime Minister said he hopes that step four, from June 21, would see the end of all legal limits on social contact.

Mr Johnson will hold a televised press conference at 7pm tonight.