January 29, 2023


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What happens next with England’s roadmap and Covid vaccine

England is basking in sunshine this week as people are finally allowed to meet up to five friends outdoors.

With the rule of six and outdoor sports finally back after a long, hard winter, it seems things are looking up.

In just under two weeks’ time, if all goes well, pub beer gardens will reopen and so will hairdressers and shops in a further easing of lockdown rules.

But it’s still 48 days – at least – until indoor gatherings and overnight stays will be allowed to return.

And with 123 days left until all adults are due a first dose of a Covid vaccine, lockdown could yet make a comeback.

We look at the current plan for key dates and sketch out how the summer might unfold if nothing goes wrong.

How the roadmap has worked so far

From March 8 the government has begun to “cautiously” lift restrictions in England in a move it hopes will be “irreversible”.

There are four steps with dates attached – but each step will allegedly be guided by data rather than dates.

So the dates in the roadmap are “not before” dates, and could be subject to change if data is pointing the wrong way.

There will be a minimum of five weeks between each stage – four to see the impact of the changes and then seven days’ notice for businesses and citizens.

Lifting restrictions across England will happen uniformly at the same time – there is no return to the Tier system from before Christmas.

We’ve already had Step 1, which allowed schools to return from March 8. The first round of reopening also allowed people to meet up with a friend for coffee outside, wraparound childcare resumed, and care home visits were able to start up again with strict rules.

On March 29 the government then allowed outdoor sports and gatherings of up to six people – or two households, whichever is greater – outdoors. The stay at home blanket rule was lifted, though indoor gatherings or overnight stays are still off the table.

So far the dates have not slipped and No10 insists we are – for now – on track.

April 1: Shielding ends

Millions of people shielding from coronavirus will be able to leave their homes from April 1.

More than 3.79 million people in England deemed clinically extremely vulnerable have been asked to shut themselves away for months, apart from for exercise.

From April 1, shielders can return to work. The government says it will “set out practical steps people can follow to reduce their risk of catching the virus”.

This includes continuing to maintain “strict social distancing” and “to keep their overall social contacts at low levels, such as working from home where possible.”

April 5: Easter Monday announcements

Boris Johnson had boasted: “I think we can certainly look forward to a very, very different world in this country, from Easter onwards.”

And it’s thought he’ll try to make good on that promise with an Easter Monday slew of announcements.

While foreign holidays won’t be allowed until at least May 17, and possibly much later, he’s set to give an interim update from a global travel task force setting out plans for summer.

It’s thought there could also be an interim update on Covid ‘certification’, which could see people told to prove they’ve had a rapid test or vaccine to enter venues or big events.

And most importantly, the PM is due to set out whether Step Two of the roadmap can go ahead on April 12. See below.

April 12 at earliest: Step Two

a group of people walking down a sidewalk in front of a store: It's hoped stores will open from April 12

It’s hoped stores will open from April 12

Non-essential shops, personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons, and public buildings such as libraries and museums, will all reopen.

Most outdoor attractions and settings can also reopen including pubs and restaurants and cafes, zoos and theme parks. But only the outdoor areas such as beer gardens and terraces. It’ll be table service only but takeaway pints are also allowed.

Wider social contact rules will apply in all these settings. You won’t be able to have indoor mixing between households. So in hairdresser, a library or a museum for example, you can only go with members of your own household.

Indoor leisure – gyms, spas and swimming pools – will also reopen but once again, only for people going on their own or with their own household. Saunas and steam rooms cannot open at this stage.

Outdoor gatherings will be in line with the March 29 rules on social contact. So two households or Rule of 6 when meeting friends in a beer garden.

The government is not going back to the need to order a substantial meal with alcohol – and no curfews either. The ‘Scotch egg’ rule is dead.

Self contained accommodation – campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities not shared with other households – can also reopen. People stay in a self catering cottage but only with their own household. Foreign holidays will still be banned.

Funerals can continue with up to 30 people as currently. For wedding ceremonies and receptions and commemorative events the number rises from 6 to 15. Driving lessons can resume.

April 15: All over-50s offered first vaccine dose

This is the latest date by which all over-50s and at-risk groups are meant to have been offered their first dose, according to the NHS.

In total, 32million people should have been offered a first vaccine dose by this date. Millions more who got first doses near the start of the year will be getting their second dose at the same time.

But the NHS is also expected to be suffering a slowdown during April due to supply problems.

While chiefs insist this won’t hit the over-50s target, it’s thought very few healthy under-50s will be going in for their first doses until supply ramps back up again in May.

Mid to late April: Moderna vaccine comes on stream

During the month of April, the UK is expected to start rolling out its third approved vaccine made by US firm Moderna.

Along with Pfizer and AstraZeneca, the 17million Moderna doses should help boost supply and speed up the rollout.

The jab was approved around the turn of the year by regulators, but was only ever due to arrive here in Spring.

April 17: Snooker brings early test of mass events

The snooker World Championship begins at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield – and will be an early test of mass events.

Ministers are planning to use the tournament as one of their first “pilots” on reopening major events to spectators.

The events research programme will use testing, “certification” and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing.

This could pave the way for allowing things like music festivals over the summer – if the results are successful.

April 30: Under-50s vaccines begin in earnest

By the end of April, NHS chiefs are hoping their vaccine supply shortage will be resolved and the rollout can go back to full tilt.

Around this time, the NHS will move at full throttle onto giving first doses to the final, lowest-priority group – all adults under 50 without major health issues.

These 21m people are not sorted into priority groups by profession. It’s 40-49, 30-39 then 18-29.

May 6: Local elections

a sign on the side of a building: Local elections will go ahead

© Derby Telegraph
Local elections will go ahead

Local elections and the Hartlepool by-election will be a key test of whether Boris Johnson is enjoying a ‘vaccine bounce’.

Dubbed Super Thursday, May 6 will see a bumper set of elections including contests which were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Up for grabs will be around 143 English councils, the 129-member Scottish Parliament and 60-member Welsh Parliament.

There will also be elections for eight metro mayors including London’s delayed contest, five City mayors, 40 police commissioners and the London Assembly.

May 10: Step Three news – and second doses for all over-70s

All the top four priority groups – including over-70s, shielders and NHS and care workers – should have had their second dose by this point, given it’s 12 weeks after they were all offered a first dose.

Also on this date, Boris Johnson should give England notice of whether Step Three of the roadmap (see below) can go ahead on time.

May 15: FA Cup final

Ministers are hoping to pack Wembley as full as possible for the FA Cup final.

The event will be part of the pilots on bringing back larger crowds with less social distancing, helped by rapid tests.

May 17 at earliest: Step Three

The government will be easing limits on social contact more. Outdoors, most social contact rules should be lifted almost entirely, but gatherings of over 30 people outdoors will remain illegal.

Indoor mixing will be allowed again – but be subject to restrictions.

Indoors, gatherings will be limited to the rule of 6 or a larger group from up to 2 households, whichever is larger.

This means people will be able to go on domestic breaks in England with up to five friends, or a larger number as long as there are only two households in total.

It also means you’re allowed overnight stays with friends and family elsewhere in the country for the first time.

The government will also review social distancing rules by this point, which could allow people to hug close friends or relatives from outside their own household for the first time in 14 months.

The inside of pubs and restaurants open at this point – but remain table service only.

If meeting friends inside the pub, it’s the rule of 6 or two households, whichever is greater. But those restrictions are removed if you’re in the beer garden and only the limit on gatherings of 30 people remains.

Also opening are entertainment such as cinemas and theatres, children’s play areas, remaining accommodation (hotels, hostels and B&Bs) and indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes.

Performances and sporting events that aren’t part of the pilot scheme will be allowed for the first time. Indoor events can have 1,000 people or be half full (whichever is smaller).

Outdoors, capacity of 4,000 people will be allowed, or half full, again whichever is smaller.

In the largest outdoor seated venues such as the biggest football stadiums, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend – or a quarter full, whichever is lower.

Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes as well as funerals, and other life events will finally be permitted again including Bar Mitzvahs and christenings.

On holidays, May 17 is the earliest possible date you could be allowed to go abroad but it depends on the outcome of the review which reports by April 12.

Saunas and steam rooms can reopen in this step.

June 14: Step Four announcement

Boris Johnson should announce on or by this date whether Step Four of the roadmap can go ahead on time.

June 21 at the earliest: Step Four

The government is hoping all of the legal limits on social contact can be removed – though some guidance on social distancing, or masks or hand-washing, may well remain.

Officials also hope to reopen those final closed sectors of the economy, some of which didn’t open last summer – e.g. nightclubs, and small standing-only gigs.

The government is also hoping to lift restrictions on large events and performances that applied in the previous step.

And they hope to make a decision on whether all limits can be removed on weddings and other life events.

Also at this point, key reviews on social distancing rules and Covid ‘certification’ will report back.

These could recommend, for example, that people carry on using masks on public transport and show their vaccine status (or take a rapid test) through their phone before going to pubs or events.

The roadmap admits: “Some measures may be required even after all adults have been offered a vaccine, because neither coverage nor effectiveness of the vaccine will be 100{540ccc4681f92a8237c705b0cdebbb9da373ec200da159e6cc1fd9f393be00be}.

“As a result, a significant proportion of the population will remain vulnerable to infection, some of whom will also be vulnerable to severe disease and death.”

June 30: Stamp Duty cut ends for first-time buyers

a sign on a pole: The stamp duty holiday will come to an end

© PA
The stamp duty holiday will come to an end

The government temporarily raised the stamp duty threshold from £125,000 to £500,000 for property sales last year.

It gives first-time buyers up to £10,000 off and ladder-movers and landlords up to £15,000 off buying a home.

On June 30 the cap reverts to £250,000. This will still help second-time buyers until September 30, but for first-time buyers it will mean they’re back to normal, since they get special treatment already.

July 8: Second doses for all over-50s

By this date all over-50s and vulnerable groups should have got their second dose of the vaccine, as it’s 12 weeks after the deadline to offer them a first dose.

July 11: Euro 2021 final

The Euro 2021 Final takes place at Wembley Stadium after being delayed due to Covid. Ministers will hope to fill the stadium as far as possible to show Britain is open for business – though whether and how fans will be able to come to watch from abroad is still an open question.

July 31: All UK adults offered first vaccine dose

This is the deadline for all adults (over 18) to be offered their first dose of the Covid vaccine.

August: Will foreign holidays return?

With schools out, families will be wondering if they can go abroad – and currently it’s an open question.

While foreign holidays could return from May 17, reports have suggested they may only be possible in August and even then, there could be a traffic light system with quarantine for those returning from some nations.

August 27: Festival life

Bosses of the Reading and Leeds festivals say they are confident they can go ahead from this date.

If this comes to pass, they would be powerful symbols of the UK’s return to a semi-pre-Covid way of life.

There may, of course, be lots of mitigations still in place though.

September: Third ‘booster’ jabs could begin

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said people aged over 70 could start receiving Covid booster jabs from September.

These are currently in development. The idea would be to protect people from new variants which pose more resistance to a vaccine.

September 30: Doomsday for businesses and benefit claimants

In an ideal world Britain will be bouncing back and pushing away the threat of new variants from abroad.

But we all know things do not always go to plan with Covid, especially with our government.

And that means September 30 could be a cliff-edge time when millions suddenly lose support.

Furlough, the Stamp Duty cut, the 5{540ccc4681f92a8237c705b0cdebbb9da373ec200da159e6cc1fd9f393be00be} VAT cut for pubs and £20-a-week Universal Credit boost are all due to end.

But the small print from the Office for Budget Responsibility – the government’s Budget watchdog – suggests 2million jobs will still be furloughed in September.

And six million people are currently claiming Universal Credit, around double the number before the first lockdown.

October 23: Second doses for all UK adults

All UK adults should by this point have been offered their second dose of the vaccine by this date, given it’s 12 weeks after the deadline to offer them a first dose.