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Here’s How Boris Johnson’s New U.K. Lockdown Rules Will Work
After seven weeks and more than 30,000 deaths, it is not yet time to lift the U.K.’s coronavirus lockdown, according to Boris Johnson.
But while urging the public to “stay alert,” the prime minister has set out his tentative plan for easing the restrictions on daily life.
Go to Work
Ministers never told people not to work at all, but to work at home if they could. Now Johnson is changing that emphasis, telling people to go out to work if they can’t work from home. The idea is to get the economy moving again, especially in sectors such as construction and manufacturing.
Johnson wants people to cycle or walk or drive their own cars to work, rather than take trains and buses, because social distancing will reduce the space available on public transport.
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On Monday, the government will outline guidance for businesses on how to make themselves “Covid secure.”
Picnics in the Park
From May 13, people will be able to leave their homes to take exercise as many times as they like. The current restriction on one outing per day will end and people can visit parks to sit or have picnics in their household units -- or even to meet another person, as long as they remain 2 meters (6.6 feet) apart.
No longer will police order people to return home simply because they’re sitting on a park bench in the sun. Sports such as golf, tennis, angling, and other leisure activities which don’t require close contact can also take place.
Hit the Beach
Also from Wednesday, family or household units will be able to drive to beaches or parks to take walks or spend time outdoors. This only applies to England, as different rules may be applied in Wales and Scotland. Social distancing -- staying 2 meters away from others -- will still apply.
Anyone flouting rules on social distancing will face fines starting at 100 pounds ($124), an increase from 60 pounds. They will rise to a maximum of 3,200 pounds for repeat offenders.
All passengers arriving in the U.K. by air -- except from France -- will soon be asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days. That step is designed to stop the virus re-entering the country from overseas.
Shops and Stores
From June 1, Johnson wants to see the “phased reopening” of shops. Detailed guidelines will follow. This week, garden centers are due to reopen in Wales.
Primary schools will begin to reopen from June 1 for children in the youngest age groups -- Reception and Year 1 classes -- and those in their final stages of primary education: 10-year-olds and 11-year-olds in Year 6. Other children will be asked to say at home for now.
At some point before schools are due to break up for the long summer vacation in July, some secondary school and high school students who are due to take exams will be allowed back. These are pupils in Year 10 and Year 12. Other secondary school students won’t be back in class before September.
From July, some parts of the hospitality industry may be allowed to open. In reality, this will be limited to cafes in parks, or with outdoor spaces which can accommodate social distancing. Pubs with beer gardens are not expected to be included.
August is now the earliest that the rest of the hospitality industry can hope to be able to resume business, though it’s far from clear that pubs and bars will be able to open even then. As ever, it will depend on the infection rates.
A new five-stage “Covid Alert Level” system will be in place to communicate a clear sense of how bad the virus outbreak is. Level 1 will mean there is no outbreak, and life goes on as normal.
Level 5 is reserved for the sort of “catastrophe” Johnson said the country has so far avoided: a critical peak that overwhelms the National Health Service. The current level is deemed to be 4, and moving down toward 3, officials said.