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A complete guide to the government’s new Covid-19 lockdown advice: Face masks, schools, work, travel, sport and more

Face-coverings will be advised on all public transport, the government has announced as it sets out its roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions in the UK.

Titled Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy, it provides the detail to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement on Sunday evening (May 10), setting out in three distinct phases how England will be ‘reopened’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (31739273)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (31739273)

The key dates - as set out below - are May 13, June 1 and July 4, with each set of guidelines dependent on containing the Covid-19 virus and minimising the threat of a second wave of infections.

With no regions in England showing the epidemic increasing, the number of patients in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 under 13,500 as of May 4 - 35 per cent below the peak on April 12 - and 27 per cent of NHS critical care beds in the country occupied by a Covid-19 patient, compared to 51 per cent on April 10, measures are being introduced to ease the lockdown.

The Cambridge Independent has digested the 50 pages of guidance and summarised it:

STEP ONE - from Wednesday May 13

Face masks may help reduce transmission of Covid-19 (34550102)
Face masks may help reduce transmission of Covid-19 (34550102)


For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal, physical workplace, wherever possible. All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open.

Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example this includes food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories.

The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and non-essential retail which during this first step the Government is requiring to remain closed.

People who are able to work at home make it possible for people who have to attend workplaces in person to do so while minimising the risk of overcrowding on transport and in public places.

As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines, as set out in the previous chapter, which will be published this week.


Approximately two per cent of children are attending school in person, those children of key workers and vulnerable children, and local authorities and schools are being urged that more children who fall into those groups would benefit from attending in person.

The Government is also amending its guidance to clarify that paid childcare, for example nannies and childminders, can take place subject to being able to meet the public health principles because these are roles where working from home is not possible.


When travelling everybody (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible.

If they can, people should instead choose to cycle, walk or drive, to minimise the number of people with whom they come into close contact.

Social distancing guidance on public transport must be followed rigorously.

Face coverings

The government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops.

Homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances. They are not intended to help the wearer but protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease.

The face covering is not the same as a facemask such as surgical masks or respirators which are vital personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare and other workers.

Face-covering should not be used by children under the age of two or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly.

Public spaces

People may exercise outside as many times each day as they wish, for example angling and tennis.

You can only exercise with up to one person from outside your household, so team sports are not allowed unless it is with members of the same household.

People can now spend time outdoors, but must not meet up with more than one person from outside their household, and continued appliance with social distancing guidelines to remain 2m apart will still apply.

People may drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance.

International travel

The government will require all international arrivals to supply their contact and accommodation information.

Arrivals will be strongly advised to download and use the NHS contact tracing app.

All international arrivals not on a shortlist of exemptions will have to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days on arrival in the UK.

Where they are unable to demonstrate where they would self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the government.

Small exemptions to these measures will be in place to provide for continued security of supply into the UK and so as not to impede work supporting national security or critical infrastructure and to meet the UK’s international obligations.

All journeys within the Common Travel Area will also be exempt from these measures.

These international travel measures will not come into force on 13 May but will be introduced as soon as possible.


The government is examining more stringent enforcement measures for non-compliance, as it has seen in many other countries.

It means higher fines will be imposed for those breaking the rules as people return to work and school. The government will seek to make clearer to the public what is and is not allowed.

STEP TWO - no earlier than June 1

A phased return of schools is planned from June (34547301)
A phased return of schools is planned from June (34547301)

This phase will include as many of the following measures as possible from June:


A phased return for early years settings, and schools will begin. The government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in primary schools, in smaller sizes. This aims to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers.

Secondary schools and further education colleges prepare to begin face-to-face contact with Year 10 and Year 12 pupils in support of continued remote, home learning.

It is the government’s aim for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month, if feasible, but it will be kept under review.

The Department of Education will engage closely with schools and early years providers to develop further detail and guidance on how to facilitate these plans.

Non-essential retail

Subject to following new Covid-19 Secure guidelines (outlined below), retailers will open when and where it is safe to do.

Further guidance to be issued shortly on approach taken to phasing, including which businesses will be covered by each phase and timeframes involved.

Hospitality and personal care sectors are not able to open.

Cultural and sporting events

To begin to return for broadcast behind closed doors, while avoiding risk of large-scale social contact.

Public transport

More reopening in urban areas, subject to strict measures.

Social and family contact

The government has asked SAGE to examine whether, when and how it can safely change the regulations to allow people to expand their household group to include one other household in the same exclusive group.

The aim is to allow some more social contact while continuing to limit the risk of chains of transmission.

The plan could be based on New Zealand model of household bubbles where a single bubble is the people you live with.

The government is also examining how to enable people to gather in slightly larger groups to better facilitate small weddings.

STEP THREE - no earlier than July 4

A barber cuts hair while wearing a mask (34547477)
A barber cuts hair while wearing a mask (34547477)

Reopening of more businesses and facilities

There is the ambition to open at least some of the remaining businesses and facilities, including:

  • Personal care (such as hairdressers, beauty salons)
  • Hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs, accommodation)
  • Public places (such as places of worship)
  • Leisure facilities (such as cinemas).

Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part.

Nevertheless the government will wish to open as many businesses and public places as the data and information at the time allows.

The government will facilitate the fastest possible reopening of these types of higher-risk business and public places and pilot reopenings to test their ability to adopt the new Covid-19 Secure guidelines.

It will establish a series of taskforces to work closely with stakeholders in these sectors to develop ways in which they can make the businesses and public spaces secure.

Fourteen supporting programmes

To deliver the phased plan, the government has set out 14 programmes of work ranging in scope, scale and timeframes.

The 14 areas are very broad, but the overarching theme for each is:

  • NHS and care capacity and operating model
  • Protecting care homes
  • Smarter shielding of the most vulnerable
  • More effective, risk-based targeting of protection measures
  • Accurate disease monitoring and reactive measures
  • Testing and tracing
  • Increased scientific understanding

Covid-19 Secure guidelines

These cover:

  • Better distancing measures
  • Economic and social support to maintain livelihoods and restore the economy
  • Treatments and vaccines
  • International action and awareness
  • Public communication, understanding and enforcement
  • Sustainable government structures

Read more

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