March 8, 2021 9.48 am This story is over 31 months old

Back to school and care home visits: What changed today and what’s next

The first stage of the lockdown exit strategy

England’s lockdown easing started on Monday, March 8, with children returning to school, care home residents being allowed to hold hands with a visitor, and two people from different households able to meet outdoors.

All schools and colleges will reopen, and university students can return for practical courses.

Secondary schools can organise a phased return for their pupils to allow for COVID-19 testing, in which students will be tested from home twice a week.

Parents and staff in primary schools, plus all at secondary schools, are being asked to wear face coverings in class or on school premises.

Wraparound childcare can return for vulnerable kids, plus wherever it is necessary for parents and carers to go to work or get medical care.

Another restriction being lifted on March 8 is allowing visitors at care homes, though for now it can only be one person per resident, and they must wear PPE and have a negative lateral flow (rapid) test result to go.

Anyone visiting a loved one at a care home will be able to hold their hand, but will not be able to hug them yet.

Two people from different households can also meet outside in a public place, including going for a coffee or drink with someone.

What’s next on the roadmap?

The next step out of lockdown will come on March 29, when outdoor gatherings of six people or two households will be permitted.

Also on March 29, travel outside of local areas will be allowed, as well as the reopening of outdoor sports areas and ending of a legal requirement to stay at home — but working from home when possible.

Following that, non-essential retail, hairdressers and public buildings can reopen on April 12, and beer gardens will be open too.

Zoos, theme parks and gyms will also be given the green light to return on April 12, and weddings will be allowed up to 15 people.

Stage three, which comes into force on May 17, will allow for group meetings outdoors of up to 30 people, while six people or two households can meet indoors.

Hospitality venues will be able to have customers indoors from May 17, as hotels and B&Bs also reopen their doors and reduced capacity will be brought in for performances and large events, such as sports and music concerts.

This all leads to June 21, the date in which all coronavirus restrictions are hoped to be lifted, allowing for nightclubs to return and all legal limits on social contact, including keeping a two metre distance, to be scrapped.

The roadmap dates will only be met if the government deems it safe enough to do so, considering the vaccine rollout continues to pick up momentum and infection rates do not spike.