Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a “roadmap” out of lockdown which aims to bring a return to more normal life, with hopes of an end to all restrictions by the end of June.
The four-step plan sets out dates for the easing of various restrictions at different times, affecting almost every aspect of daily life.
The announcement brings hope for the hundreds of thousands of learner drivers who have been unable to take lessons or sit their test during the current lockdown. Many of these learners were also affected by the previous restrictions, which have caused huge delays for those hoping to get behind the wheel.
Under current restrictions, professional driving lessons are not allowed. Learners can only take to the road if they are accompanied by a suitably qualified driver from the same household and are undertaking the lesson as part of an essential journey, such as going to collect groceries.
Following the Prime Minister’s statement on 22 February, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which oversees driver training and testing, announced that practical and theory driving tests will resume under step two of the roadmap, expected to come into effect on 12 April.
However, it did not confirm whether driving lessons would be allowed to resume at the same time.
In a statement announcing the planned resumption of practical and theory tests, the agency said: “DVSA is working closely with the government and will provide more information as soon as we are able to do so on other tests, lessons and training.”
Following the previous UK-wide lockdown, driving lessons resumed around two weeks before practical testing restarted in order for learners to brush up on their skills before sitting their test. So far, the DVSA has not indicated if a similar approach will be taken this time and the roadmap document makes no reference to driving lessons. However, under the roadmap far stricter restrictions will be in place until 12 April, so it is less likely that lessons will resume before that date.
When lessons do resume, students and instructors will be encouraged to follow guidelines designed to protect them from the risk of infection, including regular cleaning of touchpoints in the car, the use of face masks and keeping windows open in the vehicle to improve ventilation.
The Government has said that while the roadmap sets out target dates for the move between steps, the progressive easing of restrictions, including those on driving lessons and tests, is dependent on certain conditions being met. These four key factors including the vaccine deployment programme continuing successfully, evidence that it is sufficiently effective, infection rates remaining at a level that doesn’t put unsustainable pressure on the NHS, and the absence of any new "variants of concern".