PM Boris Johnson laid out his process for reopening the British economy on Monday morning, releasing a detailed plan that had been in part leaked over the weekend. In the UK, vaccines appear to be working well and infection levels have fallen by 5x since the start of the year.
BoJo started by proclaiming that it's inevitable that lifting lockdown will lead to more cases.
"We can't escape that fact," Johnson said.
And so the government is being extremely cautious, and the plan unveiled by Johnson wouldn't allow shops to fully reopen until April, while the economy will be set to "fully restart" beginning June 21.
Johnson set out four key steps to move forward with reopening Monday during a statement to Parliament.
Government guidance is asking people to work from home where possible for another four months, and the request will be examined as part of a review of social distancing measures. The relaxation of England’s third national lockdown will begin with schools returning for all pupils on March 8, followed by outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households outdoors from March 29.
The four steps will be implemented with five-week intervals in between. Step one is being unfurled in two parts.
Here's a summary courtesy of the Telegraph:
Step 1, Part 1: March 8
The first step is split into two sections. The focus is on getting schools open again and reuniting families who have spent so long kept apart.
All schools in England will open, both primary and secondary. It is possible some schools may initially stagger class returns because of the demand for mass testing.
The specifics of mass testing will be worked out over the coming fortnight, with testing both at school and at home likely to feature. Pupils will be expected to wear face masks in the opening weeks.
School sports will also return, both indoor and outdoor. So pupils of all ages can get back to playing football and doing PE lessons. Schools can set their own rules.
‘Wraparound’ childcare will be allowed to resume, which means after school sports and extra curricular clubs can take place.
March 8 will also see a change in care home rules. Residents will finally be allowed to have a single visitor. That individual can visit repeated times rather than the trip being a one-off.
The visitor and care home resident will be allowed to hold hands, but other close contact is not allowed. The visitor must get a Covid-19 test beforehand and wear protective equipment.
This date also sees a small change to the rules for when people can meet one-on-one outside in public spaces.
Currently that was only allowed for exercise. From March 8, that will be allowed for socialising, so a coffee on a park bench or one-on-one picnic will be allowed.
Step 1, Part 2: March 29
The outdoor socialising rules change. Six people from six different households are allowed to meet outside, meaning the so-called ‘rule of six’ returns. Alternatively, two households can meet outside. This means two families, who potentially together total more than six people, will be allowed to meet. This can happen in both outdoor public spaces and in back gardens.
The 'stay at home' guidance will be dropped. There will also be a significant loosening in how far people can travel to see someone outside.
While people will still be encouraged to minimise travel, there will not be punishments for someone who drives a few hours for a meet-up outside, then returns that day.
Outdoor organised sports for both adults and children will also return. This is for both socially distanced sports like golf and tennis and team sports like football, so Sunday league and five-a-side will return.
Indoor sports will still be off limits. Also the sports must be organised, so a large group of people cannot gather to kick around a football if it breaks the number limits explained above.
Step 2: April 12
All non-essential shops will be allowed to open. People may be urged to only go in alone rather than as an entire household.
Pubs and restaurants can open again but only outside, so pub gardens and outdoor dining will be back. Groups can gather, but with the same limits as above: either up to six people or two households.
There will be no curfews or any requirement to serve a meal with alcohol, removing the scotch egg saga of last year. Pubs will be allowed to serve takeaway pints.
Staycations will be allowed, in a limited form. One household will be allowed to stay overnight somewhere in the UK, but not with another household.
Self-contained accommodation’ will be available to rent, so for example cottages or Airbnb rentals or campsites. However hotels and B&Bs cannot reopen. Hairdressers and nail salons will be allowed to open. So too museums and libraries.
Outdoor hospitality venues like zoos and theme parks can also open. The limit on the maximum number of attendees at weddings and wakes will also rise from six to 15.
There will be no change for funerals, to which 30 attendees are already allowed. Gyms can also open but you cannot attend with people outside of your household, because indoor socialising is barred at this point. Gym classes are not yet allowed.
Step 3: May 17
Groups of up to six people and two households will be allowed to meet indoors, so people can enter each other's homes from now. Pubs and restaurants can open indoors. It is unlikely there will be strict requirements on capacity, but it must be table service. Hotels and B&Bs can open in step three. So too can indoor sports and gym classes.
Entertainment venues can open too, including cinemas and theatres. New rules will be in place for different sizes of venues. Normal outdoor events can open for up to 4,000 people or 50 per cent of the venue capacity, whichever is smaller.
Similarly normal indoor events can open for up to 1,000 people or 50 per cent capacity, again whichever is lower.
For huge outdoor seated venues there is a special limit. Up to 10,000 attendees will be allowed or 25 per cent capacity, whichever is lower.
This means, for example, Wembley Stadium will be able to open with 10,000 fans attending.
Weddings, receptions, wakes, funerals, and other life events like Bar mitzvahs and christenings will be allowed to be attended by up to 30 people.
Step 4: June 21
This will be as close to normal as possible.
There will be no attendance limits on weddings and funerals.
Big venues that were unable to open last year, such as nightclubs, can finally reopen.
Many of the details for what can happen now is dependent on a number of reviews.
MPs are still asking questions and making speeches about Monday's announcement:
Additionally, more data about various UK vaccine projects was released on Monday, as Pfizer announced that data showed even a single jab of the Pfizer vaccine led to a 75% drop in serious injuries and deaths for those over 80. The data were released by Public Health England.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunization at PHE, said this was at the “lower end of the estimate” and the drop in hospital admission and death was thought to be even more profound. A separate study found the Pfizer-BioNTech jab also offered a high degree of protection for younger age groups.
Among the over-80s, Covid testing data on more than 12K people found at least 57% protection against coronavirus 28 days after vaccination with a single dose of Pfizer, rising to 88% after a second dose. Another recent study out of Scotland purported to show on Monday that vaccines are working "spectacularly well".
The data follows another study showing the Pfizer jab is 99% effective at preventing deaths/hospitalizations. Of course, the differential between the results from these studies looks interesting.