Outdoor sports and gatherings in groups of up to six people have resumed in England today as lockdown measures have been eased.
The reintroduction of the Rule of Six has meant that millions of people have been allowed to see a group of friends or family outside for the first time in months, while others have spent a largely sunny day in England outside on golf courses, fields, sports courts or in outdoor swimming pools to mark their reopening.
Today’s easing of lockdown restrictions in England is the second major easement, with schools having previously opened earlier this month. From today, the Stay At Home rules no longer apply and people can meet in outdoor spaces subject to the Rule of Six. Organised outdoor sport can also resume and outdoor sports facilities can reopen. Many restrictions do though remain in place though, with most indoor inter-household mixing still banned.
The easing of lockdown measures comes while there is a backdrop of falling COVID-19 cases and deaths in the UK – and as the number of people vaccinated against the virus continues to rise at pace. At the weekend, the UK passed the milestone of vaccinating more than 30 million people, offering hope of a return to more normal times in the coming weeks and months.
The next step of lockdown easing in England is set to take place no earlier than 12 April, subject to the government’s four tests. If the tests are met, indoor retail and leisure would be among the venues to open from that date.
PM: “We must proceed with caution”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a speech from the new Downing Street media room on Monday following the easing of lockdown measures. Mr Johnson described the easements as a “small step” towards freedom but said that everyone must “proceed with caution”, even with cases and deaths continuing to fall.
Talking through slides at the press conference, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said that rates of Coronavirus had decreased steadily in most age groups, though had ‘inevitably’ increased in schools with them having reopened earlier this month.
Also at the press conference, Mr Johnson said that more details about rules on international travel will be announced on 5 April.
It was also revealed on Monday, that pharmaceutical company GSK has reached an agreement in principle with the UK Government and Novavax to support the manufacturing of up to 60 million doses of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine. As part of the agreement, GSK will provide ‘fill and finish’ manufacturing capacity at its facility in Barnard Castle, as early as May this year.
On Monday, a further 4,654 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the UK, while 23 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were also reported. To date, 126,615 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test have been reported in official figures.