Coronavirus: Boris Johnson says 'zero-COVID world' is impossible, outlines plans end to lockdown

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out a four-stage easing of England's latest lockdown on Monday, saying "cautious" steps out of restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 would mean no return of a nationwide shutdown.

"There is therefore no credible route to a zero-COVID Britain or a zero-COVID world. And we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental well-being, and the life chances of our children," Johnson told parliament.

"And that is why it is so crucial that this roadmap is cautious but also irreversible. We're setting out on, what I hope and believe, is a one-way road to freedom."

With almost 130,000 fatalities, Britain has suffered the world's fifth-highest official death toll from the pandemic and its economy has seen its biggest crash in over 300 years.

Following is the government's so-called roadmap out of lockdown for England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have slightly different approaches to their COVID-19 measures).

Between each of the four steps there will be a minimum of five weeks between each step: four weeks to assess the impact of the changes to restrictions and a further week to give notice to the public and businesses to prepare for the next step.

All the measures will be relaxed across England rather than region-by-region. This will only change if there is an outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus which may mean localised measures to try to stamp it out.

Each step will be subject to four tests: the speed of the vaccine deployment programme, the impact vaccines have on reducing hospitalisations and deaths, general infection rates and the arrival of any new variants of concern.

Step one from March 8

All children and students return to schools and colleges, and wraparound childcare, including after school clubs.

One person can meet another person to socialise outdoors for a coffee or a picnic in a park.

Care home residents are allowed one regular named visitor.

The stay at home order will remain in place.

From March 29

Outdoor gatherings of either six people or a larger group of up to two households are allowed to meet outside, including private gardens.

Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis courts, can open and people can take part in organised sports outside.

The stay at home order will end but people will be encouraged to stay local whenever they can.

People will be asked to work from home where possible

No overseas travel apart from small number of specified reasons.

Boris Johnson.
Boris Johnson. Photo credit: Getty

Step two to start no earlier than April 12

Non-essential retail, personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons, public buildings such as libraries and museums, most outdoor attractions will open.

Wider social contact rules will apply in all of these settings, i.e. only visit with members of your own household.

Indoor leisure facilities, swimming pools and gyms open for people on their own or from their household.

Hospitality venues will reopen for outdoor purposes only. Restaurants and pubs can serve people sat at outside tables in line with the rules of social contact the "rule of six" people or two households. There will be no requirement to have a substantial meal.

Self contained accommodation campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities which are not shared will also be allowed to open.

Funerals can go ahead with up to 30 people. Weddings and commemorative events rise from six people to 15.

Step three - no earlier than May 17

Most social contact rules will be lifted outside.

Indoors any mixing will be allowed according to the rule of six or larger groups from up to two households.

Pubs and restaurants can open indoor areas; entertainment venues such as cinemas and hotels, indoor adult sports and exercise classes can reopen

Performances/sporting events larger performances and sporting events indoors can have a capacity audience of 1000 people or half full whichever is lower and a capacity outdoors of 4000 people or half full whichever is lower.

Very large outdoor venues such as bigger football stadiums can have up to 10,000 people attending or a quarter full whichever is lower

Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes as well as funerals and other life events.

Step four - no earlier than June 21

All legal limits on social contact can be removed and the government hopes to reopen those final closed sectors of the economy, in particular nightclubs.

The government hopes to lift restrictions on large events and performances.

The government hopes to make a decision to remove all limits on weddings and other life events.

Other decisions will be made after separate reviews

REVIEW ONE on whether COVID status certification could help to reopen the economy. The conclusions will be made before getting to step four.

REVIEW TWO will look at testing on allowing events to take place.

REVIEW THREE - transport department will look at foreign travel.

REVIEW FOUR into social distancing measures, including on working from home. This will conclude before step four.