'Rule of six' expected to return as part of Boris Johnson's 'roadmap' out of lockdown

21 February 2021, 22:30 | Updated: 22 February 2021, 08:26

Boris Johnson is set to announce his "roadmap" out of lockdown on Monday
Boris Johnson is set to announce his "roadmap" out of lockdown on Monday. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The "rule of six" will return from 29 March, Boris Johnson is expected to announce, as he unveils his highly-anticipated "roadmap" out of lockdown.

The Prime Minister will be announcing his latest plans to the House of Commons on Monday, detailing his "cautious" approach for easing coronavirus restrictions across England.

Pupils returning to school is understood to be top of the agenda for the PM, and all schools are expected to be allowed to open from 8 March.

Plans are also expected to allow care home residents to hold hands with a regular indoor visitor from the same date.

Families and loved ones across the country have been kept apart for almost seven weeks after the PM was forced to bring in a third national lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19 - which has so far killed over 120,000 people across the UK.

People have only been able to see one other person outside their household for exercise, but Mr Johnson is expected that from 8 March people will also be able to sit in an outdoor public space on a one-plus-one basis to socialise.

The next date purported to be one to mark in the calendar is 29 March - when the PM is anticipated to bring in the return of the rule-of-six outdoors - allowing groups up to six people from two different households to meet outdoors.

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Outdoor sports facilities will also be able to reopen, it is understood, along with organised adult and children’s sport.

Easing the measures will be conditional based on four tests, with the Government set to examine the data at each stage before unlocking further.

Ministers will assess the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, new variants and infection rates before proceeding to the next step.

Mr Johnson has opted to ditch the regional approach he favoured in towards the end of last year.

Instead restrictions will be eased step-by-step across the whole of England at the same time, Downing Street said, due to the current uniform spread of the virus.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the road map was about the "gradual reopening of the whole of England" rather than a regional lifting of restrictions.

Asked if the tier system would return, he told LBC: "I think because the way this new variant actually took hold, which has become the dominant variant, the Kent variant, in the United Kingdom, infection rates around the country pretty much rose to similar, very high, unsustainable levels.

"So the view is very much that this is about a gradual reopening of the whole of England, not regional."

Mr Johnson said: "Today I'll be setting out a road map to bring us out of lockdown cautiously.

Read more: All UK adults to be offered Covid vaccine by July 31, Boris Johnson pledges

"Our priority has always been getting children back into school which we know is crucial for their education as well as their mental and physical wellbeing, and we will also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.

"Our decisions will be made on the latest data at every step, and we will be cautious about this approach so that we do not undo the progress we have achieved so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to keep yourself and others safe.

"We have therefore set four key tests which must be met before we can move through each step of the plan."

Schools will be opening from 8 March, it is understood
Schools will be opening from 8 March, it is understood. Picture: PA

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that there will be "weeks between the steps" so ministers can "watch carefully" the impact of each relaxation of the restrictions.

Number 10 said the blueprint would seek to balance the health needs with the social and economic impacts of lockdown.

For example, outdoor activities are set to be opened earlier than indoor ones, due to the reduced risk of spreading coronavirus outside.

MPs will be given the chance to vote on the regulations enabling the road map in the coming weeks, Number 10 said.

Mr Johnson will chair a virtual meeting of the Cabinet on Monday morning to discuss the plan, and then unveil the details to Parliament in the afternoon.

He is expected to host a Downing Street press conference later on Monday evening alongside key advisers.