The Government announced on Monday (22 February) a new plan as part of the COVID-19 response for Spring 2021. The four-step roadmap aims to ease lockdown and could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June.
The Government will examine the data to assess the impact of previous steps and 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.
- Governments assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
The Four Steps – Main Points for Business
- From 8 March – All schools and colleges will open for all students, as well as Practical Higher Education courses.
- From 29 March – Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts will reopen.
- Non-essential retail, personal care premises, such as hairdressers and nail salons, and public buildings, such as libraries and community centres.
- Most outdoor attractions and settings, including zoos, and theme parks, drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances.
- Indoor leisure facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools.
- Hospitality venues can serve people outdoors only – 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.
- Self-contained holiday accommodation, such as self-catering lets and camp sites.
- Outdoors, most social contact rules will be lifted – although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal.
- Outdoor performances such as outdoor cinemas, outdoor theatres and outdoor cinemas can reopen. Indoors, the rule of 6 or 2 households will apply.
- Indoor hospitality such as restaurants and pubs will 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.
- Entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will also reopen.
- Larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower) will also be allowed, as will those in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4000 people or half-full (whichever is lower).
- Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals, bar mitzvahs and christenings.
Social Distancing & Working from Home – Ahead of step 4 the government will complete a review of social distancing measures and other long-term measures that have been put in place to limit transmission.
The results of the review will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on social distancing, face masks and other measures may be lifted. The review will also inform guidance on working from home – people should continue to work from home where they can until this review is complete.
Step 4, no earlier than 21 June:
- It is hoped all legal limits on social contact can be removed.
- Aspire to reopen nightclubs and all other venues required to remain closed, and lift restrictions on large events and performances that apply in Step 3.
- This will also guide decisions on whether all limits can be removed on weddings and other life events.
All newly open settings must abide by the social contact rules set by Government. The council and Essex Police will continue to enforce restrictions and require businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission and to ensure social distancing rules are followed.