May 17: What can open when COVID-19 lockdown rules ease

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus. - Credit: PA

A further easing of COVID-19 lockdown rules is planned for Monday, May 17 in England.

Step 3 of the government's roadmap out of lockdown will allow indoor hospitality again at pubs and restaurants.

Hotel and other holiday accommodation can open again, and theatres, cinemas and indoor attractions will be able to welcome back customers and visitors.

The government will announce one week in advance of the May 17th date whether restrictions will be relaxed as planned, so confirmation of the changes is expected on Monday, May 10.

New travel rules will also come into effect from May 17, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps explaining new travel rules during a COVID-19 media briefing in Downing Street.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps explaining new travel rules during a coronavirus media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Friday, May 7, 2021. - Credit: PA

What is Step 3 of the roadmap?

Step 3 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of coronavirus lockdown is scheduled for Monday, May 17th.

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From that date, pubs and hospitality will be able to serve customers inside, cinemas and theatres will be allowed to reopen along with other indoor attractions, and hotels and holiday accommodation can open their doors again.

At this step, up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, and commemorative events including wakes.

The limit on mourners at funerals is set to be removed.

The four steps set out in the national roadmap are designed to apply to all regions of England at the same time, thus avoiding lockdown tiers.

Following the move to Step 3, further settings will be permitted to open.

Unless a specific exemption exists, these must only be attended/used in line with the current wider social contact limits – in a group of six people or two households indoors, or in a group of no more than 30 people outdoors.

What are the new overseas travel rules?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced the 12 countries – including Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel – that have been put on the UK's green list for overseas travel.

The Welwyn Hatfield MP held a press conference this evening (Friday, May 7) to reveal the latest rules around international travel to and from the UK.

He said the removal of international travel restrictions on May 17 was “necessarily cautious”, adding: “We must make sure the countries we reconnect with are safe.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during a coronavirus media briefing in Downing Street, London.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19) on Friday, May 7, 2021. - Credit: PA

Countries on the green list can be visited from May 17 and travellers will not have to self-isolate on their return.

Mr Shapps said the travel list was not created based on where people “want to lie on beaches”.

He added the list would be reviewed every three weeks.  

Friends drinking

Will you head down to the pub to enjoy a drink with friends? - Credit: Pixabay

When can pubs serve people indoors?

Indoor areas of hospitality venues such as pubs, cafés and restaurants will reopen from Step 3.

Hospitality businesses in St Albans and Harpenden, Hertfordshire, will be able to open up indoors from Step 3, May 17th at the earliest, albeit with some restrictions still in place.

After eating and drinking al fresco outside pubs and restaurants since Step 2 of lockdown easing on April 12, there will be no need to check the weather when you're going out for a meal from May 17.

Pubs can welcome back customers for a pint inside, rather than outdoor service only, while indoor dining will resume across the hospitality sector.

As outdoors, table service will be required for venues that serve alcohol, even if no alcohol is ordered. Book your table in advance with the restaurant.

As in Step 2, pubs will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks, nor will there be a curfew.

What indoor attractions can open at Step 3?

Indoor entertainment and visitor attractions will be allowed to reopen from Step 3. This includes theatres and cinemas. 

However, not all attractions will open straight away, so check with the respective venues first.

According to Cabinet Office guidance on, the list of places allowed to reopen includes:

  • cinemas (outdoor cinemas will also be permitted to open)
  • theatres (outdoor theatres will also be permitted to open)
  • concert halls
  • amusement arcades and adult gaming centres
  • bingo halls
  • casinos
  • bowling alleys
  • snooker and pool halls.

Indoor as well as outdoor attractions will also reopen at the following:

  • museums and galleries
  • adventure playgrounds and activities
  • skating rinks
  • games and recreation venues, including laser quest, escape rooms, paintballing and recreational driving facilities
  • play areas, including soft play centres and inflatable parks
  • model villages
  • trampolining parks
  • water and aqua parks
  • theme parks and film studios
  • zoos, safari parks, aquariums and other animal attractions
  • botanical gardens, greenhouses and biomes
  • sculpture parks
  • landmarks including observation wheels or viewing platforms
  • stately or historic homes, castles, or other heritage sites.

What else can open from May 17 when lockdown eases?

Conference centres and exhibition halls will be able to open, and private dining and banqueting events, subject to the capacity limits set out by the government.

Remaining holiday accommodation including hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen, as can saunas and steam rooms, which are currently closed.

Indoor adult team sports and group exercise classes at gyms will resume.

How many people can attend live events?

Indoor events and remaining outdoor events, such as elite sports, business events, cinemas and live performance events, will be permitted from Step 3.

Attendances will be restricted though. Events recommencing at Step 3 will be subject to the following capacity caps:

  • 1,000 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, for indoor events.
  • 4,000 people or 50 per cent of a site or venue’s capacity, whichever is lower for outdoor events.

For outdoor events taking place in venues with seated capacity of over 16,000, event organisers may apply a 25 per cent capacity cap, up to a maximum of 10,000 seated people.

What children’s activities can open from May 17

Indoor children's activities, such as soft play areas, will be allowed to open again from May 17, much to the delight of parents.

Places that can open include play areas, including soft play centres and inflatable parks.

How many people can attend my wedding from May 17?

As part of the Step 3 rules, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are permitted for up to 30 people in COVID-19 secure venues that are allowed to open. The current limit is 15 people. 

The 30 limit will also apply to other types of significant life events.

Government guidance says receptions can go-ahead with up to 30 people in a COVID-19 secure indoor venue, or outdoors. This includes private gardens.

Further details on receptions at this step will be updated by the government. 

At Step 4, the government hopes to remove all limits on weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and receptions. This will be subject to the results of the Scientific Events Research programme.

How many can attend a funeral from May 17?

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said on Monday, May 3 that the legal limit of 30 mourners will be removed as part of the next stage of lockdown easing.

Instead, the capacity will be determined by how many people venues, such as places of worship or funeral homes, can safely accommodate while maintaining social distancing.

This includes both indoor and outdoor venues and all organisers must continue to be COVID-secure and follow social distancing rules.

While venue capacities will vary, many will allow "significantly" more than 30 people to attend, the MHCLG said.

When is Step 4 of the roadmap?

Step 4 of the government's roadmap is scheduled for no earlier than Monday, June 21 – five weeks after Step 3.

In Step 4, the government hopes to reopen remaining venues, such as nightclubs, which have been shut for more than a year.

It also hopes to lift restrictions on social contact and large events that apply in Step 3, enabling gigs, festivals and theatre performances to attract crowds above the Step 3 capacity restrictions.

This is subject to the outcome of the Events Research Programme, and a review of social distancing measures.