People in England will be allowed more time and freedom outdoors from this week after Boris Johnson set out the first loosening of the lockdown restrictions.
But the Government’s plan has been met with confusion from the public, with many reacting online
last night saying they are unsure what the Tories’ new “Stay alert” slogan means in practice.
And the PM’s loosening of the rules is at odds with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose leaders are sticking to tighter restrictions for the rest of this month, with only minimal tweaks to current regulations.
There will be no wider relaxation of rules in England until June. The Government stressed that its plan for the weeks ahead is “conditional” and could be changed at any time.
In a televised address, the Prime Minister confirmed that, as a first step, we will be allowed to drive for country or beach walks and do unlimited exercise from Wednesday.
People can play sports outdoors with members of their households.
They can also sunbathe, sit and read a book or chat with one friend from outside their household in a park as long as they stay two metres apart.
Garden centres in England will also be allowed to reopen from Wednesday, senior Government sources confirmed.
MPs will get more details today when Mr Johnson gives a statement to the Commons and publishes a 50-page document setting out his full “roadmap” for ending lockdown.
But there are fears that some of the measures are overly optimistic and life will not return to normal this year.
Mr Johnson warned the plans would only go ahead if the public continued to follow the rules and keep the R rate of transmission – currently between 0.5 and 0.9 – below one.
He said: “Throughout the next two months, we will be driven not by mere hope or economic necessity. We are going to be driven by science, the data and public health.
“All of this is conditional. It depends on all of us to follow the advice.”
The PM will today set out details on out how to make workplaces safer. It could mean staggered shift patterns and barriers placed between workers.
He said: “Anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction and manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work”.
He urged workers to avoid public transport “if at all possible” as capacity will be severely limited due to social distancing.
Unions and Labour raised concerns about workers’ safety and whether rogue bosses would follow the guidance.
Mr Johnson said the second step would be for a phased reopening of primary schools and nurseries at the start of June at the earliest.
At the same time, clothes and shoe shops could reopen, although hairdressers will have to wait. Year 10 and 12 pupils are the only secondary years set to return before September.
Head teachers have warned they will need guidance on social distancing. Around the same time, passengers arriving at British airports will be subject to 14 days quarantine.
The Government has been criticised for not bringing in border controls sooner.
The final step – in July at the earliest – is the reopening of some hospitality venues and other public places.
Government sources said this could include cafes in parks, restaurants with outside space and cinemas, with social distancing measures.
But it does not include pubs, which look unlikely to reopen this year. But churches and mosques could reopen.
Mr Johnson warned: “You must obey the rules on social distancing. To enforce those rules, we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them.”
Fines will be hiked up to £100 – up from £60. Fines will be doubled for each repeat offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.
Mr Johnson unveiled a five-tier warning system, ranging from green at level one to red at level five to flag the risk in different parts of the country.
A warning system administered by a new “joint biosecurity centre” will detect local increases in infection rates, with the view to locally alter restrictions in England.
The Government believes the nation is close to moving down from tier four to three.
The PM said: “We are shining the light of science on this invisible killer. Because our new system will be able to detect flare-ups in your area, as well as giving us a national picture.”