While the Government’s official plan for taking the UK out of lockdown measures is set to be unveiled next Monday (22 February), there is still a lot of speculation in the press about the next steps.
It is virtually set in stone that schools will reopen on 8 March, despite some concerns over the impact this could have on the Covid reproduction rate, but the rest of the roadmap remains to be confirmed.
Although the roadmap will lay out a broad plan for taking the country out of lockdown measures, government figures have stressed that the date for lifting most measures will not be set in stone, and instead will be dependent on case numbers.
Which restrictions are likely to be lifted first?
It has been widely reported that the Government’s main priority once schools have reopened will be to allow people to meet up and sit down with someone from another household in outdoor public spaces.
It is also understood that the Government wants to see children’s team sports resume relatively soon, with ministers predicting this could begin before the end of next month.
While adult team sports likely won’t return until at least May, it is thought that sports and activities which allow people to socially distance - such as tennis and golf - could be allowed to resume much sooner.
What about further speculation?
There are a number of reports in the media today (17 Feb) regarding the roadmap out of lockdown, which seem to suggest the Government is leaning toward a cautious approach.
The Telegraph reports that lockdown won’t be significantly eased until the number of new daily Covid cases drops below 1,000.
While this could happen as soon as early April (according to some estimates based on the current rate at which new case numbers are falling), it is expected that new cases will rise again once students return to school.
Speaking to the Telegraph, an unnamed senior Whitehall source said: “For any significant relaxation of lockdown, household mixing and reopening pubs, case numbers have to be in the hundreds, not thousands.”
However, the Government has reportedly been keen to quash these claims, with Politico’s Playbook reporting that a government official says the Telegraph story is “completely wrong”.
The government has also sought to downplay the veracity of claims in the Daily Mail today, which reports that different sectors will be opened in four week stages, with pubs and restaurants unlikely to reopen until May, and hotels back to normal by July.
The outlet also reports that the current work from home instruction will remain in place once the roadmap is unveiled.