The government has published its plan on how England will exit lockdown and the restrictions that have limited our activities over the past year. The plan provides a comprehensive roadmap for how life could get back to normal, but what are the key milestones for climbers and walkers?
The general principle is a four-step process, with a minimum of five weeks between each step. The roadmap requires a minimum of four weeks data (showing no adverse effects on the R number or hospitalisation rates) after which there will be an announcement that the country will move to the next step, and a week’s notice given to allow preparation for any changes. If any step is delayed, that will push back any future steps.
Before taking each step, the Government will review the latest data on the impact of the previous step against four tests. The tests are:
The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
STEP 1: 8 and 29 March
No changes to the current restrictions will take place until 8 March, when a small change will allow both recreation and exercise outdoors with your household, support bubble or one person from another household, providing social distancing is followed. In practise this means very little change for climbers and walkers who have already been able to climb or walk as exercise locally.
From 29 March
The ‘rule of six’ applies outdoors, allowing up to six people from any number of households or two households (even when the total number then exceeds six) to meet outside (including private gardens).
People will no longer be legally required to stay at home but travel should be minimised wherever possible.
Overnight stays away from home are not allowed.
No overnight stays will by default limit travel to destinations that can be reached in a day trip from home, but there is currently a lack of clarity on any further limits to how far you can travel during this step.
No indoor mixing of households is allowed, other than specific and limited exceptions and many businesses will remain closed.
STEP 2: no earlier than 12 April (minimum 5 weeks after the start of Step 1)
Social contact rules will remain the same – the rule of six applies outdoors and no indoor mixing is allowed unless otherwise exempt.
Indoor leisure facilities (including climbing walls) and non-essential retail (including physical outdoor shops) are able to re-open.
Overnight stays in England within your own household will be allowed in self-contained accommodation.
Domestic travel should be minimised and international holidays will still be prohibited. There is currently a lack of detail on any limits to how far you can travel domestically during this step.
STEP 3: no earlier than 17 May (minimum 5 weeks after the start of Step 2)
Remaining accommodation, such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs will re-open.
Further easing of limits on social contact, enabling the public to make informed personal decisions considering the risk to themselves and others they meet.
Most legal restrictions on numbers meeting outdoors will be lifted, but gatherings will remain limited to a maximum of 30 people.
The rule of six will apply indoors, allowing six people from two households to meet inside. Depending on the data at the time, this may be eased further.
Depending on the findings of the Global Travel Taskforce report on 12 April, some international travel may be able to resume no earlier than 17 May.
Some large events will be allowed to re-start with appropriate measures in place.
STEP 4: no earlier than 21 June (minimum 5 weeks after the start of Step 3)
All legal limits on social contact removed with accompanying guidance on how best to reduce the risk of transmission.
Some measures to protect vulnerable people may be required even after all adults have been offered a vaccine, because neither coverage nor effectiveness of the vaccine will be 100%.
Restrictions may still apply to international travel depending on global and domestic rates of infection, the prevalence and location of any Variants of Concern, the progress of vaccine rollouts in the UK and abroad, and ongoing learning about efficacy of vaccines on variants, and the impact on transmission, hospitalisation and deaths.
New variants of concern and intervening locally
Where a dangerous Variant of Concern is identified and is likely to pose a real risk to the vaccination programme or public health, the Government will take a highly precautionary approach, acting fast to address outbreaks.
The Government cannot rule out re-imposing economic and social restrictions at a local or regional level if evidence suggests they are necessary to contain or suppress a variant which escapes the vaccine.
Where an area sees virus growth which could put the local NHS under unsustainable pressure, the Government will also act swiftly.
What is happening in Wales and Scotland?
Currently cross border travel between England, Wales and Scotland is not allowed (apart from of a number of limited exceptions as has been the case for some time), but this may change as each of the home countries ease restrictions. At the time of writing, we don’t know when this will be, but any updates will be posted in a future update article for Wales and on the Mountaineering Scotland website.
We have updated our article on Covid in Wales to reflect the recent minor changes to the Welsh regulations. We are expecting substantial updates to the situation in Wales following the next Welsh review on 12 March. Full details on Covid restrictions in Wales can be found on: www.gov.wales/coronavirus
For information on Covid and how it affects climbers and walkers in Scotland, refer to Mountaineering Scotland’s coronavirus web page. Full details on Covid restrictions in Scotland can be found on: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
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