Boris Johnson's Covid-19 lockdown exit plan explained in full

Garden centres reopen on Monday, primary schools at end of month, pubs in August and gyms in October: Boris Johnson’s Covid-19 lockdown exit plan explained in full

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reveal his lockdown exit plan on Sunday after most people in Britain have spent more than six weeks at home to help fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposals are to be split into five stages over the coming months, and a leaked version of the plan has suggested the first changes on Monday will see garden centres allowed to open and unlimited exercise allowed.

There will also be a return to sunbathing and picnics, more key workers’ children will go back to school, staff will start returning to businesses that stayed open during the lockdown and open-air markets may reopen.

The second stage at the end of May will then see primary schools gradually return with smaller classes and some outdoor sports such as golf and tennis potentially resuming – possibly along with open-air swimming.

Premier League football could return behind closed doors towards the end of June, secondary schools will reopen before the summer holidays and outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people are expected to be allowed.

Cafes could also reopen, before pubs and restaurants follow towards the end of August – although it may take until October for all remaining areas of the economy including gyms to remove their shutters.

Here, MailOnline looks at what could happen at each stage of the Government’s five point plan: 

STEP ONE – MONDAY: Garden centres reopen and more children back to school

Garden centres will reopen

With millions of Britons unable to leave their homes during the lockdown, gardening has become an important part of many people’s lives as they tended to their plants during what was the sunniest April on record.

And garden centres are now expected to reopen from Monday to help fuel the surge in gardening – with more than ten across the UK already known to have reopened, according to industry journal Horticulture Week.

Plants Galore in Devon failed to close its stores in Exeter, Plymouth and Newton Abbot during the lockdown, while there are at least six operating in Scotland as well as others in Gloucestershire, Lancashire and Buckinghamshire.

Many centres have opened pet and farm shops which are classed as essential goods, while others have kept their plant area open at the same time. Some retailers are also still operating a click and collect service for customers.

However some shut garden centres have been left unimpressed by others trading while they wait for the lockdown to be lifted – although all of them across Britain are expected to get the green light to reopen from Monday.

But they will have to have suitable restrictions in place, with major retailers such as B&Q and Homebase already imposing the two-metre social distancing policy as they have gradually reopened their stores in recent weeks.

Other measures in place at major retailers which may be followed in independent stores include installing plastic screens at the tills, workers having to wear visors and customers being urged to use card rather than cash.  

More than 30 MPs have backed campaigns to reopen garden centres, with celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh making a written plea to the Government for them to reopen before the season is over and businesses fold.

It comes after it was revealed the BBC’s long-running TV show Gardeners’ World had seen its highest ratings in a decade during lockdown in episodes which have seen presenter Monty Don self-filming footage from his home.

Don said during the lockdown many of those with their own gardens now felt ‘a profound sense of gratitude and good luck’ that they had one, and that gardening ‘powerful medicine’ in helping people deal with mental anxiety.

Staff at The Bransford Webbs Plant Company near Worcester throw flowering Erysimum ‘Fragrant Sunshine’ plants onto a trailer on Monday, as they prepare them for composting after they were unable to be sold due to the coronavirus pandemic

Staff at The Bransford Webbs Plant Company near Worcester work to send out a lower number of bedding plants on Tuesday

Free early seed potatoes are left outside the Windsor Garden Centre in Berkshire for people to take on Sunday

Unlimited exercise allowed – and the return of sunbathing and picnics

The first easing of restrictions, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said could start as soon as Monday, is likely to focus on activities outdoors, where scientists have advised the risk of the virus spreading is much lower. 

One of the few reasons people have been allowed to leave their homes in the lockdown is for exercise once a day, but the Government are likely to scrap this from next week – allowing peolpe to go out as many times as they want.

Country walks and family picnics are also set to be allowed, with a Whitehall official telling the Financial Times that the initial easing of the lockdown on Sunday night will ‘talk about what you can do outside’.

However people must continue to go out either on their own or with members of their household. Police will also be told to to stop moving on people sunbathing or sitting on benches, as long remain two metres from others.

Yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has indicated that people can play Frisbee in the park with their children as part of their exercise – saying he did exactly that with his children over the weekend. 

Some police forces had been accused of an ‘over the top’ response to the lockdown after they set up road blocks to stop and quiz drivers on a whim and even chased dog walkers and ramblers with drones in the Peak District.

Derbyshire Police used one of its drones to film dog walkers, ramblers and a group posing for Instagram pictures on a cliff top at sunset – highlighting their movements and accusing them of making an ‘unessential’ trip.

A police officer approaches two members of the public sunbathing on Primrose Hill in North London in today’s warm weather

A police officer approaches a man sunbathing next to his bike at Primrose Hill in North London today and tells him to move on

A man runs during his daily exercise while a family stand together as police walk through The Meadows in Edinburgh today

Two people take a break in their daily exercise at Gorleston-on-Sea in Norfolk today as the UK continues in lockdown

More key workers’ children will go back to school

All children of key workers will be urged to return to schools from next week as part of a gradual reopening of classrooms across Britain, more than six weeks after they closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Key workers have been entitled to keep sending their children to class throughout the lockdown, but when schools shut on March 23 they were urged to look after them at home where possible.

The Government is now preparing instead encourage these parents to send their children to school. Just one parent needs to be a key worker for their child to be eligible but parents will not be fined for not sending them in.

Key workers include people employed in sectors including healthcare, education, public services, food and other essential goods, public safety and national security, transport and utilities, communication and financial services.

Meanwhile a union claimed today that schools have been asking teachers to come into work during lockdown to decorate classrooms, attend face-to-face meetings and make fresh preparations for a reopening.

NASUWT, the teachers’ union, said it has received reports of teachers being brought back into work amid speculation that schools will be asked to reopen to more pupils before the summer.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, has said the requests – which he called ‘wholly inappropriate’ – have ‘intensified’ in the past week following reports of an early return. And a survey for Parentkind found just one in ten parents want to see their children return to school as soon as the Government ends the lockdown.

One in ten parents said they would only be happy to send their children back when staff and pupils had been vaccinated against Covid-19 – even if this took up to 18 months, the research showed. A quarter of parents who took part in the survey said they would feel comfortable with a September return date if it was confirmed now.

The children of key workers comply with social distancing rules at a hub school for Edinburgh city centre pupils on April 28

A girl complies with social distancing rules at Drummond Community High School in Edinburgh on April 28

More staff to return to businesses that stayed open during lockdown

Employees in non-essential businesses who have been working from home while their company has continued trading may be allowed to return to work in person from Monday in one of the major changes being planned.

Concerns remain over this creating a possible surge in public transport usage, but employers are likely to be asked to consider staggering start times for workers in an effort to avoid packed rush-hour trains and buses.

Employees may also be urged to wear face masks while community, with some also having to keep them on in the office. Companies will also put up signs asking workers to maintain social distancing by staying two metres apart. 

Others will also have to ensure there are hand-washing facilities and personal protective equipment available, and firms could be told to shut canteens and other communal spaces and avoid face-to-face contact between staff. 

Office staff are set to be encouraged to continue working from home where possible, and staff who are asked to go back into the office are likely to be given revised shift patterns to maintain social distancing. 

Other ideas include a glass screen in front of reception staff, desk spacing and strict rules on numbers in meetings rooms and offices – as well as rotational working which will mean working from home could remain for all. 

Almost half of workers believe they will spend less time in offices as a result of the crisis, according to a survey of 2,000 workers which found they predicted a permanent change to their employers’ approach to flexible working.

A third of those surveyed by ICM for O2 expect to increase the amount they work from home by at least three days a week. A third saying working from home can be lonely, while one in four miss socialising with colleagues. 

Meanwhile the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggested Rishi Sunak should look at offering different furlough rates to workers in sectors of the economy which can begin reopening as part of the recovery plan.

Paul Johnson, the head of the respected economic think tank, acknowledged there was an ‘incredibly difficult and fine judgment’ to be made as some sectors of the economy were unlikely to ever fully recover.

At least 6.3million people are having up to 80 per cent of their salaries paid by the taxpayer under furloughing at a cost of £8billion and the Chancellor is looking at how to ‘wind down’ the scheme amid unsustainable cost.

Members of staff at the Vauxhall car factory in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, demonstrate social distancing measures yesterday

Staff at this Vauxhall car factory in Ellesmere Port yesterday are already putting social distancing measures into place

Further guidance on visiting open-air markets, high streets and cemeteries

Scientific evidence has shown that the virus is much less likely to spread in outdoor environments, meaning the Government will possibly now encourage the likes of open-air markets and high streets to reopen.

Outdoor shopping areas are still expected to be under the same social distancing measures seen at supermarkets throughout the lockdown, but a return to outdoor markets will at least represent a partial return to normality.

The British Retail Consortium last week published a measures to support the re-opening of stores are eased, including the introduction of cleaning stations with hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes at the front of stores.

The retail lobby group’s recommended measures also include limiting entry and exit points, floor markings to outline social distancing and keeping changing rooms closed to ensure the safety of both customers and staff.

Further guidance is also expected on cemeteries, a month after Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said on April 18 they could remain open – but people must observe social distancing and not congregate in groups.

He had been irritated by local councils up and down the country who have been seen as too aggressive in policing the lockdown rules, with some closing cemeteries even though that was never part of government guidance.

Cemeteries across Northern Ireland were reopened a fortnight ago following calls from the public after they closed in March. However some councils have imposed a one-way system and a cap on numbers at any one time.

First Minister Arlene Foster said on April 25 that scientists suggested the reopening was ‘proportionate and low risk’ – and it was about ‘balancing public health concerns with the basic human need to visit a loved one’s grave’. 

Sutton New Hall Cemetery in Birmingham, which has reduced opening hours for visitors during lockdown, is seen yesterday

A temporary mortuary sits in the grounds of Sutton New Hall Cemetery in Birmingham yesterday as the pandemic continues

STEP TWO – END OF MAY: Some outdoor sports and primary schools return

Primary schools will gradually return with smaller classes

Year six pupils are likely to be the first classes to go back to primary schools to help them prepare for the transition to secondary schools, as the Government hopes primaries will start to reopen at the end of May.

Ministers are targeting the first week of June for those pupils to go back – with a wider reopening of primary schools possible later that week, before secondary schools allow pupils in years ten and 12 to return.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is targeting June 1 for all year six pupils to be sent back to lessons. These children are seen as the priority due to them transferring to secondary school in September.

Officials are also looking at options such as having classes in on alternate days or weeks to allow them to spread out. Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman has said there is a ‘great deal of logic’ in younger children returning.

She told Sky News on Sunday that the younger they are ‘the more they need routine’. But Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said it is ‘really premature to talk about a June return date’.

A ‘school closed’ sign is placed outside West Bridgford Infants’ School in Nottingham, pictured on March 30

Some outdoor sports such as golf and tennis could resume

Outdoor sports where people enjoy space like golf, tennis and angling could be allowed to resume from the end of May, given that they are much easier to take part in while maintaining social distancing. 

On the golf course, players will be told to maintain a distance of 6ft from others and clubhouses will remain shut. Guidelines will say golfers must use their own clubs and they may be limited to playing against one other person.

Tennis players could be asked to wear gloves on court to stop the virus being spread as they pick up the ball. They might also be restricted to playing with members of their household.

Open-air swimming could also be allowed if changing facilities stay shut. Outdoor exercise classes, such as pilates and yoga, may be permitted too if participants can spread out in a large open space.

The Czech Republic, which last month became the first European country to relax restrictions, has allowed some outdoor activities to resume. Tennis courts and golf courses there can reopen for a maximum of two players.

Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff will take part in a charity event to raise money for charities on May 17. The two-team skins challenge over 18 holes will take place at Seminole in Tallahassee, Florida.

A dog walker passes the Swilcan Bridge on the iconic St Andrews course in Scotland on April 14, where no golf is being played

STEP THREE – END OF JUNE: Premier League returns and cafes reopen

Possible return of Premier League football behind closed doors

The Premier League is aiming for a return date of June 12 under ‘Project Restart’ which will see the league’s 98 remaining games played with no fans at a series of neutral grounds in an unprecedented situation.

The move to get football back on is seen as important to boosting the mood of the nation during a summer which has already lost the European Championships which were due to be held around the continent.

Premier League clubs are hoping to get back to training on May 16 in preparation for the restart, with the season having been suspended indefinitely since March 13, shortly before mass gatherings were banned.

But officials have insisted that they will be led by government advice on what to do next, with concerns over the level of coronavirus testing required for players and club officials to get matches on.

Aston Villa have joined Brighton and West Ham in publicly opposing the idea of completing the campaign at neutral venues, amid fears over the financial damage from relegation if home advantage in some games is lost.

However League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan warned the season could be cancelled if clubs did not agree to playing at neutral venues.

There are also concerns over the threat of death, liability, testing and insurance, transmission of the virus via sweat and goalkeeper gloves and the ability of emergency services to attend training ground incidents.

While talks continue in the Premier League, the Bundesliga looks set to be the first of Europe’s ‘Big Five’ leagues to resume after the German federal government gave the go-ahead yesterday.

Arsenal’s players have returned to individual training at their London Colney base in Hertfordshire earlier this week

A man walks his dog today past a Sky Sports Premier League advert on a billboard in Stockport, Greater Manchester

Secondary schools will reopen before the summer holidays

Secondary schools are expected to reopen by the end of June before the planned summer holidays, which would be the last stage of the phased return of pupils across the country.

Secondaries are expected to start later than primaries because younger children may be less likely to spread the virus than teenagers – but schools face having to implement social distancing and staggered classes.

But teachers across the UK have warned they ‘must not be used an experiment’. Teaching unions said that say a badly thought-out scheme could lead to a ‘catastrophic’ increase in coronavirus infections.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said schools in England are set to reopen in a ‘phased manner’ after the lockdown but he has yet to set a date – something which could be revealed by Boris Johnson this Sunday.

Official figures from the Department for Education show that the number of teachers and pupils attending schools across England has been gradually rising over the past fortnight.

There were a total of 100,000 teaching staff in educational settings on May 1, compared with the week before when there were 96,000 teachers in attendance.

But many teachers are expressing anxiety which is ‘bordering on fear’ about returning to schools which are not prepared for more pupils, according to the NASUWT general secretary. 

School children are pictured in a full classroom last November – a sight which may take some months to return to Britain

Outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people

Outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people may be allowed by the end of June, with scientific evidence showing that people are less likely to catch the virus outdoors – although social distancing measures may still be in place.

Some more outdoor sports will return such as five-a-side football, although there are likely to be a series of guidelines for each activitity to suggest how it can be done safely and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.

Last month Nicola Sturgeon suggested people in Scotland could soon be allowed to meet a small ‘bubble’ of friends or family outside of their households under plans to ease the lockdown.

The Scottish First Minister said other countries are beginning to look at expanding the definition of ‘households’ to allow small gatherings of people and that Scotland could do the same.

The SNP leader said any such scheme would only work if people stuck to meeting the same group each time as she said she understood the ‘anguish’ of not being able to see loved ones. 

Children of key workers comply with social distancing rules at a hub school for Edinburgh city centre pupils on April 28

Cafes could be allowed to reopen

Cafes are expected to be allowed to reopen in full by the end of June, although there are also hopes that they could take the shutters down earlier than that if they can provide outdoor seating for customers.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there would be announcement shortly after he was asked yesterday by a café owner about how he could reopen as it was too small to enforce the two-metre social distancing rule.

Mr Hancock said that some cafes could open over the summer if they could serve people outdoors, where the virus is proven by scientists to not spread as well as indoors.

He told a Sky News Q&A: ‘The business secretary is working on the rules for safe working so that, when we get the rate of new infections down we can work on how people can get people back to work as safely as possible.

‘We’re going to say more about that very shortly. The two-metre rule is based on the best scientific advice and the problem is the more you reduce it the more easily the virus spreads, and it isn’t linear.

‘So if you halve it, you don’t just double the likelihood of the virus spreading you increase it exponentially. So we’re very careful to follow the clinical advice on the two-metre rule.

‘But there’s also very strong evidence that outdoors the spread is much, much lower so there may be workarounds that some businesses, for instance cafes especially over the summer, might be able to put into place.’

A cafe in Bristol appeals for crowdfunding help on March 31 as the UK entered the second week of coronavirus lockdown

A closed Costa Coffee at the Strensham Services in Worcestershire on March 27 as the UK continues to stay in lockdown


Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen 

The devastated pub and restaurant industry could have to wait until the end of August to reopen – but with strict social distancing rules and reduced diner numbers in place to lower the chances of spreading the virus.

A third of pub and restaurant bosses are already expecting to permanently close sites as a result of Covid-19, with the businesses having been forced to shut their doors to the public since March.

If customers must stay 6ft apart, restaurants will have to accept fewer bookings – and the survey from data firm CGA and technology specialist Fourth, reveals bosses in the sector remain ‘deeply pessimistic’ about its future.

Business leaders have warned social distancing presents ‘unprecedented challenges’, and Karl Chessell of CGA said: ‘The size and shape of the eating and drinking out market is projected to look very different post-lockdown.’

Restaurants had also faced being landed with artificially high rates bills for the next five years because their premises would have been taxed based on pre-crisis rents, but ministers yesterday postponed the rates change.

Pub customers in Britain could only be allowed back in beer gardens at first post-lockdown, with the Greene King chain saying punters will have to order drinks outside via a phone app with social distancing measures in place. 

Bosses at the Suffolk-based firm, which owns 2,700 pubs in the UK, are also looking at introducing safety measures such as face masks for staff, plastic screens and tables being spread further apart.  

A man wearing a face mask walks past a boarded up pub in Manchester on May 1 as they all remain closed across Britain


All remaining areas of the economy will reopen

The earliest estimate for Britain being expected to get back to normal is October, when all remaining areas of the economy will reopen – although this could still be with social distancing measures in place. 

It is at this point that gyms are likely to reopen, although businesses in various industries are concerned that even when the lockdown ends, customers will continue to stay away as fears remain over picking up the virus.

Many business owners are worried about the future of their companies, and the Bank of England has warned that the virus could see the economy plunge 14 per cent this year in the worst annual fall for more than 300 years. 

An empty gym in Leicester is pictured on March 21 after the Prime Minister ordered all leisure centres to close across Britain

Sports fans could return to watch live matches

Most football fans have not be able to attend live matches since the Premier League and Football League were cancelled on March 13, although a final round of non-league fixtures did take place the following day.

Other sporting events were also cancelled around the same time, although the Cheltenham Festival did go ahead between March 10 and 13 – shortly before all mass gatherings were banned by the Government. 

However it is expected that fans of all sports will not be able to attend live events until at least October, when it is thought that mass gatherings could be allowed to return if the scientific evidence supports it.

But fans might not be able to watch Football League matches until January 2021, according to a leaked recording of Bristol Rovers footballer Alex Rodman talking to team-mates after a call with clubs and league officials. 

Leicester City take on Aston Villa on March 9 in what was the final Premier League match before the season was halted

Thousands of people attended the Cheltenham Festival in Gloucestershire, pictured above on March 13

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