The third test has triggered early debate, because rising cases alone will not be enough to stop reopening. That will happen only if rising cases risk overwhelming hospitals.
The four steps are separated five weeks apart. That leaves four weeks to monitor the impact of the preceding step and one week to give people notice.
Step one, part one applied to all of England from March 8, with the second part from March 29.
Regions entered step two on April 12, and step three will begin no earlier than May 17.
Step four, which will come into force no earlier than June 21, should see “all legal limits on social contact” lifted.
Sarah Walker, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at Oxford and Chief Investigator on the Office for National Statistics Covid-19 Infection Survey, said on Apr 23 that Britain had ‘moved from a pandemic to an endemic situation’ where the virus is circulating at a low, largely controllable level in the community.
According to the new data, just one dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccines led to a two-thirds drop in cases and was 74pc effective against symptomatic infection.
As of April 22, a total of 33,257,651 people have received one dose of the vaccine, with 11,192,601 having received both jabs. Completing inoculation of Britons between doses is the government’s priority.
School sports also returned, both indoors and outdoors, so pupils of all ages can play football and do PE lessons. Schools can set their own rules.
“Wraparound” childcare has resumed, which means after-school sports and extra-curricular clubs can take place.
There were also changes in care home rules on March 8. Residents were once again allowed to have a single visitor, and that individual can visit repeated times rather than the trip being a one-off.
The visitor and care home resident will be allowed to hold hands, but other close contact is not allowed. The visitor must get a Covid-19 test beforehand and wear protective equipment.
The outdoor socialising rules changed in the second section of reopening.
From March 29, six people from six different households were allowed to meet outside, meaning the so-called “rule of six” returned. Alternatively, two households could also meet outside. This means two families, who potentially together total more than six people, can meet. This can happen in both outdoor public spaces and in back gardens.
The “stay at home” guidance was dropped, similarly the Government dropped its “stay local” messaging, meaning that households are no longer explicitly told to remain in their geographical area.
While people are still being encouraged to minimise travel, there will not be punishments for someone who drives a few hours for a meet-up outside, then returns that day.
Outdoor organised sports for both adults and children also returned. Outdoor swimming pools, driving and shooting ranges, riding arenas at riding centres, archery venues and climbing walls reopened, as did outdoor gyms.
The return of team sports are also now allowed in formalised settings, meaning that five-a-side football matches are allowed but a dozen friends kicking a ball in a park is not. Indoor sports remain off limits.
All non-essential shops reopened on April 12. However, people have been urged to only go in alone rather than as an entire household.
Retailers are also allowed to open until 10pm as the Government seeks to bolster the high street and ensure compliance with social distancing rules.
Pubs and restaurants opened to the public on April 12, but only outside in pub gardens and for outdoor dining. All customers must check-in under the new regulations, allowing the NHS to more easily contact anyone who may have been in contact with someone infected with the virus.
Groups of people are permitted to eat and/or drink outside at pubs and restaurants so long as they observe the rule of six, which allows half a dozen people from different households to meet – or if they come from two different households. This means that two large families can meet up outside even if together there are more than six people present.
Boris Johnson had previously indicated that coronavirus vaccine certificates could be introduced by pubs at the discretion of landlords, but confirmed in his announcement on Apr 5 that Covid status certification, as the Government is calling it, will not be required when people go to the pub from Apr 12 – nor will it be in stage three of the roadmap, when venues can serve customers inside.
Staycations were also allowed from April 12, but in a limited form. One household can stay overnight somewhere in the UK, but not with another household.
“Self-contained accommodation” can now be rented; for example cottages or Airbnb rentals or campsites. However hotels and B&Bs cannot reopen. But hairdressers and nail salons also opened their doors to public on April 12.
Outdoor hospitality venues like zoos and theme parks opened from this date, and the limit on the maximum number of attendees at weddings and wakes rose from six to 15.
However, there was no change for funerals, to which 30 attendees are already allowed. Gyms reopened on April 12 but you cannot attend with people outside of your household, because indoor socialising is still barred. Gym classes are not yet allowed.
From May 17, groups of up to six people and two households will be allowed to meet indoors, so people can enter each other’s homes.
Pubs and restaurants can open indoors from May 17. At this point, the rule of six and two households rule will be introduced indoors. It will be lifted outdoors, meaning people will be able to meet in groups of up to 30 in beer gardens or when dining al fresco.
However, a legal battle is underway as the hospitality industry seeks to challenge the decision to allow non- essential shops to reopen indoors before pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. A judge ordered that the Health Secretary to provide a response by April 19, after the legal action was brought by nightclubs operator Sacha Lord and former Pizza Express boss Hugh Osmond.
Osmond said on Apr 19 the government’s data showed that hospitality was “not responsible” for the spread of infections, although he acknowledged that the action would have to beat a “high bar” in proving that the government’s actions were not reasonable.
“This is something of a David versus Goliath battle,” he said. “We are reassured that David won in that instance.”
The review confirmed that the ban, when lifted, will be replaced by a traffic light system in which quarantine at home will be scrapped for “green” countries and replaced by tests that holidaymakers will have to pay for pre-departure and on arrival back in the UK. Quarantine remains for “amber” and “red” countries.
The Transport Secretary said islands with lower Covid rates than the mainland could be granted “green list” status for holidaymakers to travel to them without facing quarantine on their return.
However, travellers who want to visit countries on the safe “green list” will still be expected to pay for gold standard PCR tests on their return to the UK at around £120 each – an extra cost of almost £500 for a family of four.
People who have been fully vaccinated will still be required to take the PCR tests on or before the second day of their arrival back in the UK because of Government concerns that “green list” countries could still harbour new Covid variants.
Weddings, receptions, wakes, funerals, and other life events like Bar mitzvahs and christenings will be allowed to be attended by up to 30 people.
This will be as close to normal as possible.
There will be no attendance limits on weddings and funerals.
Big venues that were unable to open last year, such as nightclubs, can finally reopen.
Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, said that coronavirus “certificates”, were being considered as a way of getting people back to larger events “in significant numbers” from June 21.
While Government scientific advisers believe the public should be able to ditch face masks over the summer as vaccines do the heavy lifting in controlling Covid-19.
Scientists advising the Government say there is nothing currently in the data to suggest that people will not be able to enjoy a relatively normal summer, though coronavirus cases may well rise as the autumn approaches.
Asked about mask-wearing in the coming months, one source said that vaccines are working so well, and there is such good vaccine uptake among members of the public, that things will return to much more like normal life over the summer months, with cases dropping very low, particularly in May.
However, masks and possibly other measures may be needed next autumn and winter if cases surge, they said.
Many of the details for what can happen now is dependent on a number of reviews.
There are four reviews that have been commissioned that sit below the roadmap. They are designed to find answers that right now the Government feels it cannot give.
Each has a “complete by now” date, meaning we know when to expect clarity but not what the review will decide or if it will lead to a change in the rules.
One review is looking at international travel. The review, published on April 5, said it was hoped it would be possible for people to take a summer holiday overseas this year but warned that it was “still too soon to know what is possible”.
The reopening of foreign travel could be delayed beyond the middle of May.
New regulations that passed with the review of coronavirus restrictions on March 25 include a provision to ban leaving the United Kingdom “without a reasonable excuse”, meaning those leaving the UK without a valid reason could face a £5,000 fine.
Exemptions include work, volunteering, studying, elite sports, legal obligations, medical reasons, care and assistance to vulnerable person, wedding of a close family member – but not going on holiday. This policy came into force in the week of March 28.
A second review will look at social distancing measures. These include the keeping of two metres apart outside (or “one metre-plus” inside), wearing face masks and being encouraged to work from home.
That review is due to report back before stage four, which is June 17. In other words, do not expect to be told to go back to work in an office until the summer at the earliest.
A third review will look at Covid vaccine certificates being used domestically. This is interesting as Government ministers had previously played down that possibility.
Boris Johnson denied on Apr 5 that the principle of Covid status checks was “un-British”, pointing to surgeons who have to undergo hepatitis-B jabs before being allowed to operate.