England’s 4-step roadmap to easing lockdown restrictions + updates on Scotland, Wales & NI

Government Update

The Prime Minister today (22.02.21) unveiled the government’s “cautious plan” to lifting lockdown restrictions in England. The lockdown will be lifted in 4 steps, with four conditions needing to be met at each stage of the roadmap.

Mark Laurie, director at NCASS, said:

“The Nationwide Caterers Association welcomes the announcement of the governments road map out of Covid-19 lockdown. The amazing success of the vaccination programme has given some hope to independent hospitality businesses, however, many will not be able to trade at full capacity for a number of months and the outdoor events sector will lose at least half a season.

It is increasingly clear that sector specific support will be required to support the bricks & mortar hospitality sector, events sector, seasonal hospitality businesses and of course, mobile caterers. Having missed out on several rounds of hospitality support packages, this cannot happen again.

The notice period of a week before the key re-opening dates will not be enough time for businesses to plan accurately. There are no specifics for bricks & mortar, mobile or events businesses, and if they cannot re-open at a week’s notice, then support needs to continue until they are ready to do so.

We need more certainty around this and confirmation that financial support will continue until a time when businesses can re-open at full capacities. With outside trading seemingly the first step in our re-opening, we need local authorities to enable this and actively support businesses to stop surviving and start thriving again.”

The rules are as follows:

Step 1

From 8th March

  • Schools start to reopen to all ages
  • Care home visits will be allowed indoors
  • 2 people can meet for outdoor recreation, not just for exercise, e.g, picnic, coffee
  • Outdoor sports facilities can open

From 29th March

  • Two households or six people can meet outdoors – including in private gardens
  • The Rule of Six will be reintroduced for outdoor activities
  • Tennis courts, golf courses, and other outdoor sports facilities will be able to open
  • The stay at home order will lift but people will still be advised to work from home

Step 2

From 12th April

  • Non-essential retail and personal care including hairdressers will reopen
  • Hospitality to return outdoors without curfew or substantial meal requirement
  • Zoos, leisure centres, drive in cinemas and libraries to reopen

Step 3

From 17th May

  • Most social contact rules lifted outdoors – subject to a limit of 30
  • Mixing indoors of 2 households will be allowed
  • Indoor hospitality can reopen subject to the Rule of 6
  • Cinemas, play areas, hotels, hostels, theatres and concert halls can reopen
  • Large events will be piloted

Step 4

From 21st June

  • All legal limits on social contact removed
  • Restrictions lifted on large events and weddings
  • The reopening of all closed sectors
  • Potentially using testing to reduce the risk of infection for large events

The Roadmap

Here is the roadmap as it stands.

All four steps of the roadmap will be subject to review and wholly depending on data.  

There will be no less than 5 weeks between each step and at every stage, decisions will be “decided by data, not dates.” Restrictions will be eased in all parts of England and outdoor activity will be the first priority in getting the nation back to normality.

Mr Johnson said that “the threat remains substantial” and that we have only just fallen below the peak of the first wave in April 2020 of people in hospital due to Covid-19. He also said that 1 dose of the Pfizer vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalisation/ death by 75%.

Key updates for hospitality & events

From 12th April

– The majority of outdoor settings and attractions can also reopen, including outdoor hospitality, zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances. The rules on social contact outdoors will apply in these settings

– Hospitality venues will be able to open for outdoor service, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew in place. The requirement to order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’) will remain

From 17th May

– Indoor hospitality can reopen, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew. The requirement to order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’) will remain

As set out above, some measures may be required even after all adults have been offered a vaccine, because neither coverage nor effectiveness of the vaccine will be 100%. As a result, a significant proportion of the population will remain vulnerable to infection, some of whom will also be vulnerable to severe disease and death. This is reflected in the modelling of different scenarios for unlocking restrictions, which shows that the risk of further cases, hospitalisations and deaths remains after the adult population has been vaccinated, though modellers advise there is considerable uncertainty in these figures. The Government is therefore establishing four programmes of work to consider different aspects of how the UK should handle COVID-19 from summer onwards.

From 21st June

Step 4 will take place no earlier than 21 June, and at least five weeks after Step 3, following a further review of the data against the four tests. As before, the Government will announce one week in advance whether restrictions will be eased as planned. With appropriate mitigations in place, by Step 4, the Government aims to:

a. Remove all legal limits on social contact, publishing accompanying guidance on how best to reduce the risk of transmission and protect ourselves and loved ones

b. Reopen the remaining closed settings, including nightclubs and enable large events, including theatre performances, above the Step 3 capacity restrictions, subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme (set out in paragraphs 132 to 134 of the Roadmap) and potentially using testing to reduce the risk of infection, subject to further evaluation

c. Remove all limits on weddings and other life events, subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme.

COVID status certification

COVID status certification involves using testing or vaccination data to confirm in different settings that people have a lower risk of transmitting COVID-19 to others. The Government will review whether COVID-status certification could play a role in reopening our economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety. This will include assessing to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and the potential uses to enable access to settings or a relaxation of COVID Secure mitigations. The Government will also consider the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects of this approach and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification. It will draw on external advice to develop recommendations that take into account any social and economic impacts, and implications for disproportionately impacted groups and individuals’ privacy and security.

The Government will set out its conclusions in advance of Step 4 in order to inform the safe reopening of society and the economy.

Large events

DCMS and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have been working with representatives from industry and civil society to explore when and how events with larger crowd sizes, less social distancing or in settings where transmission is more likely (i.e. indoors), will be able to return safely. This includes sports events, music festivals and large weddings and conferences.

Over the spring the Government will run a scientific Events Research Programme. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes. The pilots will start in The Government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events. Depending on the outcome of this work, the Government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.

What about the devolved nations?

Whilst no official statements have been made yet regarding a roadmap out of lockdown for Wales and Northern Ireland, more news is expected in the coming weeks.

Here’s what we know so far about the potential easing of restrictions for Wales and Northern Ireland.


Full details on Scotland’s roadmap out of lockdown can be found here.


Wales has been under Alert Level 4 rules since 20th December which saw people urged to stay at home, all non-essential retail closed including pubs, cafes, restaurants leisure facilities, hairdressers and beauty salons.

All indoor mixing between households was prohibited, apart from Christmas Day, and people have only been permitted to exercise outside with one other person since 30th January, leading to a significant reduction in transmission rates.

The Welsh government has given a date of 15th March for all primary school children to return to face-to-face learning. Older pupils such a years 11 and 13 will go back on a “blended learning basis if the conditions are right” in three weeks’ time, according to Mark Drakeford.

There was no given date set out for the reopening of hairdressers, and the next three weeks will be used to examine the possibility of reopening some non-essential retail shops.

However, due to the government prioritising the opening of schools, the hospitality sector has been told they are not likely to see a reopening in either of the next two three-week review periods.

“A lot can happen in six weeks”, Mark Drakeford said. “We will learn a great deal on the impact of the circulation of the virus by reopening schools and providing things continue to improve, hospitality will come onto the agenda of things we will be able to consider next.”

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Executive confirmed on Thursday (18.02.21) that lockdown restrictions would continue until at least April.

The Northern Ireland Executive put the country back into a Covid-19 lockdown from December 26th and was originally due to lift the regulations on February 6th before the restrictions were extended until March.

However, speaking on Thursday, Arlene Foster said a full lifting of the lockdown was “not possible at this time”.

The publication of a decision making framework for Northern Ireland’s pathway to recovery is expected to be made public on 1st March and should include the relaxation of some click and collect services from outlets categorised as “non-essential retail.”

The Northern Ireland Executive also agreed that outdoor gatherings will increase to 10 people from no more than two households from the 8th March and pre-school, nursery, and primary schoolchildren will return to classroom based learning from 8th March.

A full review is expected to take place on March 18 with the Northern Ireland Executive hoping this lockdown could be the last one the country has to face.

We will update you with more information as soon as we have it.

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