Shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality will reopen on 12 April in England if strict conditions are met, under plans being set out by the PM.
Up to six people from separate households could be able to meet in beer gardens from that date.
The new four-step plan to ease lockdown could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June.
It requires four tests on vaccines, infection rates and new coronavirus variants to be met at each stage.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs the plan aimed to be “cautious but irreversible” and at every stage decisions would be led by “data not dates”.
But he warned there was “no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain nor indeed a zero-Covid world”.
As part of the first step of the plan for easing lockdown in England:
- From 8 March – All schools will open with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed. Recreation in an outdoor public spaces – such as a park – will be allowed between two people, meaning they would be allowed to sit down for a coffee, drink or picnic
- From 29 March – Outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. It is understood this will include gatherings in private gardens. Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts will reopen and organised adult and children’s sport, such as grassroots football, will also return
Secondary school pupils can access tests and will be required to wear face coverings in classrooms and shared spaces like corridors.
The second step from 12 April would see major parts of the economy permitted to reopen:
- Non-essential retail opens, hairdressers and some public buildings like libraries
- Outdoor settings like alcohol takeaways, beer gardens, zoos and theme parks
- Indoor leisure like swimming pools and gyms
- Self-contained holiday accommodation, such as self-catering lets and camp sites
But wider social contact rules will continue to apply in all settings – meaning no indoor mixing between different households will be allowed.
Mr Johnson confirmed the end of hospitality curfews – and requirements to eat a substantial meal alongside alcohol.
He said a review of international leisure travel restrictions would be announced by 12 April at the earliest.
Funerals continue with up to 30 people, and weddings with up to 15 guests.
The third step will come from 17 May – if the data allows – and will see the “rule of six” abolished for outdoor gatherings, replaced with a limit of 30 people:
- Two households can mix indoors – with the rule of six applied in hospitality settings like pubs
- Cinemas, museums, hotels, performances and sporting events reopen – though social distancing remains
- Up to 10,000 spectators can attend the very largest outdoor seated venues like football stadiums
Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, funerals and wakes.
Mr Johnson said this step would also “consider the potential role of Covid status certification” – which could refer to so-called “vaccine passports” – in helping indoor venues to reopen safely.
The fourth step from 21 June will potentially see all legal limits on social contact removed, with the final closed sectors of the economy reopened – such as nightclubs.
The government hopes that – from this date – restrictions on weddings and funerals will also be abolished.
Mr Johnson will hold a Downing Street news conference at 19:00 GMT with UK government chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the plan but said certainty was needed over the future of the government furlough scheme for both businesses and workers.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May urged Mr Johnson to bring forward the international leisure travel review “so people can plan for the summer”, saying the aviation industry required at least three month’s notice.
Ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Mr Johnson’s “caution is absolutely right in the face of these new variants when we’re potentially so close to the finishing line”.
Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said he thought the roadmap struck the “right balance” – but warned reopening schools risks increasing the number of cases reported each day.
“I think it is the right balance of giving people hope that we are not in this situation forever and yet being relatively cautious about the pace of relaxing measures,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.
Why the caution?
The vaccines are working well and infections levels have fallen five-fold since the start of the year.
So why, many may ask, is there such caution?
It is still a very delicate situation. Nearly half of hospital admissions for Covid have been seen in the under 70s, so there are still many vulnerable people who are not protected.
Schools are not seen a significant driver of infection, but modelling still suggests opening them to all pupils could push infection levels up.
And high rates of infection when vaccines are being rolled out is the perfect breeding ground for mutations. While these are, to some extent inevitable in the long-run, experts believe it would be foolish to do anything that encourages them at the moment.
But instead of things getting worse, it is quite possible they could get better. The seasons may reduce the spread of the virus and coupled with the vaccine effect, the UK could find itself with very low rates quite quickly.
In this scenario, calls to move more quickly would soon grow.
The devolved nations have the power to set their own restrictions but have largely moved in the same direction, though at different speeds, during the pandemic.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland would return to a tiered system of restrictions when lockdown measures are eased.
It means different parts of the country could be under different rules. Ms Sturgeon added that she would set out the likely phases for a gradual lifting of restrictions on Tuesday.
In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said he hopes the “stay-at-home” requirement could end within three weeks, with some non-essential shops and hairdressers possibly reopening at the same time.
Northern Ireland‘s health minister has played down the prospect of restrictions being eased in time for Easter. A review of current measures will take place on 18 March.
It came as a further 10,641 coronavirus cases were reported on Monday, alongside another 178 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
More than 17.7 million people across the UK have now received at least one vaccine dose, according to latest government figures.