Coronavirus: How new lockdown measures will affect life in England

13 May 2020, 01:38 | Updated: 13 May 2020, 01:55

New lockdown measures introduced today mean you can now exercise outside more than once
New lockdown measures introduced today mean you can now exercise outside more than once. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Lockdown rules in England are being relaxed from today following seven weeks of historic restrictions - but how will they affect everyday life?

On Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that some coronavirus lockdown measures would be eased in England from Wednesday onwards.

The government's official slogan has already changed from 'Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives', to 'Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives'.

If you have symptoms the advice remains the same - to stay at home and self-isolate for seven days from when your symptoms first started - and all these new measures could be reversed if there is a second spike in cases.

But what are the new measures coming into effect today? And how will everyday life change?

Will I have to return to work and how will I get there?

The government is still urging people who can work from home to continue doing so "for the foreseeable future."

However, if you cannot and your workplace is open then you should return so long as your employer has made it "Covid-19 secure" (guidelines for how to ensure this will be published later this week).

New measures being suggested are changing rotas so that smaller teams work together, regularly cleaning working environments, and not travelling to work via public transport.

If you work in construction, distribution, food production, logistics, manufacturing, or scientific research in laboratories then you should return to work.

People are being encouraged not to use England's public transport networks and are instead being asked to walk, cycle or drive where possible. If you must use buses or trains then you should try and stick to social distancing measures.

Read more: Chancellor Rishi Sunak extends furlough scheme until end of October

Can I see my family and friends?

Two people from different households can now meet in open-air environments, including parks and beaches, as long as they remain two-metres apart and stay outside.

This means you can now see a grandparent, girlfriend, boyfriend, best friend, or any other family member, but you must only meet with one person at a time.

Anyone breaking these new measures could face higher police fines.

The police could issue higher fines to people disregarding the new rules
The police could issue higher fines to people disregarding the new rules. Picture: PA

Am I allowed to do more exercise? And can I sunbathe?

From today, you can go outside more than once for exercise with no limitations on how long you can remain away from home.

The likes of golf, fishing and tennis are now permitted but so long as you do so on your own, or with one other person who is either from your household or not.

If you wish to travel further afield to exercise, for example to a beach or a country park, you now can as long as you do not travel into Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland where lockdown restrictions are different.

Outdoor gyms and playgrounds will remain shut due to the risk they pose in spreading the virus, however you can now go out sunbathing as temperatures begin to climb.

Team sports are not yet permitted unless it is with family members and televised sports, such as football and rugby, are unlikely to return until June at the earliest, albeit without spectators.

Do I need to wear a face mask when outside?

If you use public transport to travel anywhere, the government's advice is to wear a face mask or covering. Some airports have already made them compulsory.

You are also advised to wear face coverings when in crowded places, when coming into contact with people, or when shopping.

However, the government has urged people not to overwhelm the demand for face masks used as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by healthcare and other frontline workers.

Will my kids be going back to school or university?

Schools and universities will not be reopening from tomorrow. The children of frontline workers have been using the facilities since lockdown measures were introduced, but a more widespread return will not begin until 1 June.

Nurseries, reception, year 1 and year 6 classes are expected to go back at the turn of the month and the government hopes that all primary school years will return before the summer ends.

Secondary schools must also prepare for some "face to face contact" with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have crucial GCSE and A-Level exams coming up.

However, universities have not yet decided whether students will return in September, with online classes being considered as an alternative.

The University of Manchester has become the first UK institution to cancel classes for the upcoming autumn term due to the coronavirus crisis.

What can over-70s do?

English people aged 70 or higher must continue to "stay at home as much as possible" and "to take particular care to minimise contact" with anyone from outside their household.

If you're over-70, pregnant, or have health issues such as diabetes then you automatically remain in the "clinically vulnerable" category.

Anyone who has received a letter from the NHS confirming their "extremely clinically vulnerable" status must remain at home until the end of June.

Rules for the over-70s have not changed and they must stay inside as much as possible
Rules for the over-70s have not changed and they must stay inside as much as possible. Picture: PA

Can I move house?

Home viewings can immediately restart following the Housing Secretary's decision to reopen England's property market, while estate agents are being told to return to work.

Show homes will be able to open back up to the public, while removal companies and other essential parts of the sales and letting process can restart with immediate effect.

This means you can now move house or prepare a residential property for moving into.

Under previous rules, moving house where it was reasonably necessary was one of a handful of valid excuses for people to be away from their homes.

England's housing market is set to reopen with estate agents being allowed to resume house viewings
England's housing market is set to reopen with estate agents being allowed to resume house viewings. Picture: PA

When can I go to non-essential shops or garden centres?

Non-essential shops will not be permitted to reopen until 1 June at the earliest and so long as the government's five tests to ease restrictions are met.

Retailers must only reopen when it is "safe to do so" and they must "follow the new Covid-19 secure guidelines."

Hairdressers and venues that offer personal care, such as nail bars, will not be reopening due to the risk they pose in transmitting the virus.

However, garden centres are now allowed to reopen in England from today, following in the footsteps of some DIY stores that have introduced measures such as contactless payments and shorter opening hours.

Are pubs or restaurants reopening?

Pubs, restaurants, cafés and other "higher-risk businesses and public places" cannot reopen from today and will instead remain closed until 4 July, so long as the aforementioned five tests to ease restrictions are met.

Hairdressers, beauty salons, churches and hotels are all included in this category.

When they do reopen they will have to ensure social distancing measures are adhered to, otherwise they might not be allowed to stay open.

Can I fly into or out of the UK?

Anyone flying into the UK will have to quarantine for two weeks in measures set to be introduced "as soon as possible," according to Downing Street officials.

However, this will not include those arriving from the Republic of Ireland or France. Those travelling for jobs involving national security and critical infrastructure requirements will likewise not have to quarantine.

Arrivals will have to fill in a form saying where they will be self-isolating, otherwise they will have accommodation arranged for them by the government.

Ryanair hopes to have 40 per cent of its flights restored in July, pending the lifting of travel restrictions. Easyjet does not have a restart date and will instead keep its position under review.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday that it was unlikely "big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer."

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