What can I do from today now that lockdown restrictions have eased?
- Credit: Alan Davies
COVID-19 restrictions have been eased today – Monday, March 29 – as England progresses to the next stage of the government's roadmap out of lockdown.
The government's "stay at home" mantra has been replaced with a new message of "stay local".
And, for many, the coronavirus Step 1, March 29 milestone will be greeted with much excitement as restrictions on social contact with loved ones are finally relaxed.
But how specifically will the new rules affect people across St Albans and Harpenden?
Here's everything you need to know about the latest stage of the coronavirus lockdown easing, and what it means for you. Step 2 on the roadmap will take place from Monday, April 12.
Can I meet with family and friends?
Yes! From today – Monday, March 29 – you can meet outdoors with family and friends in groups of six – the 'Rule of 6' – or as two households.
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This means you can finally see friends for a walk around Verulamium Park during the Easter school holiday.
Groups of six can be from different households, while outdoor gatherings of two households can have more than six people. Each household can include those in existing support bubbles.
In addition to public places, outdoor gatherings can take place in private gardens – making get-togethers over the Easter break far simpler. Those from different households must, however, still observe social distancing rules.
Meeting indoors in groups is still prohibited.
A group made up of two households can include more than six people, but only where all members of the group are from the same two households (or support/childcare bubbles, where eligible).
Social distancing must be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.
What about parent and child groups?
Formally organised parent and child groups will be able to meet outdoors, so long as there are no more than 15 people in attendance.
Children under the age of five will not be not counted in this total.
Childcare and supervised activities will also be allowed outdoors for all children.
Can I play my favourite sport again?
Outdoor sports and leisure facilities will be allowed to reopen for public use from March 29.
Outdoor sport facilities include open-air swimming pools, sports courts (such as tennis and basketball courts), golf courses, including mini golf, water sports venues, climbing walls, driving and shooting ranges, riding arenas at riding centres, and archery venues.
In most cases, these will have to be booked in advance in order to maintain social distancing and avoid several people turning up at once. Check with the relevant facility.
Spectators are not permitted in any indoor or outdoor sport facility.
This does not apply to carers for people with disabilities, or adults needed to supervise under-18s in a safeguarding role.
Outdoor formally organised grassroots sport for adults and children can also return from March 29, 2021.
Where sport is not formally organised, it can only take place within the rules on social contact – in groups of up to six people, or two households. So no impromptu football matches down the park.
Personal training is permitted outdoors, in outdoor sport facilities, and in private gardens, where it is formally organised and follows COVID-secure guidance.
You will not be able to play sport indoors until April 12 at the earliest, when gyms will also reopen.
For the full government guidance on grassroots sports, visit www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-grassroots-sports-guidance-for-the-public-and-sport-providers#history
Can I take my kids to the zoo this Easter?
Not just yet, unfortunately.
Zoos and safari parks are currently scheduled to welcome back customers from April 12, alongside other outdoor attractions which can reopen after the Easter break.
So you will have to wait just a little bit longer to visit Whipsnade Zoo.
Can I go to the pub for a pint?
You'll have to wait a little bit longer for that cold pint down the pub, too.
Pubs and restaurants won't be reopening until April 12, and even then it will be outside seating only.
They will be permitted to serve food and drinks to customers sitting outdoors, including alcohol.
Indoor hospitality will be allowed again from no earlier than May 17.
Where can I travel?
The "stay at home" rule will end on March 29 but many restrictions will remain in place and you must "stay local".
People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible. This includes avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes.
Travel abroad will continue to be illegal, other than for a small number of permitted exemptions.
Holidays abroad are still not allowed and the government has launched a new taskforce to review global travel, which will report back in April.
What's 'stay local'?
Until now, national lockdown guidelines have stated exercise "should be local wherever possible", although there has been acceptance that people may need to travel a short distance to access an open space.
But the term "local" has not been legally defined in this context, and is set to become even more pertinent as the core message switches to "stay local".
In its roadmap plan published in February, the government advised the public to "minimise travel wherever possible", but failed to provide specifics on what that means in practice.