Family ‘bubbles’ could be extended to one other household and non-essential shops are set to reopen from next week as lockdown measures will be lifted.
Speaking at the daily No 10 press briefing on Sunday evening, Boris Johnson announced that the country is ‘now in a position’ to move to phase two of Covid-19 restrictions. According to the government’s 50-page coronavirus exit strategy, phase two will kick in from June 1.
The PM said that schools will reopen from next Monday in a ‘phased’ manner. Reception, Year One and Year Six will be the first to return, while secondary schools will provide ‘some contact’ for Year 10 and 12 students from June 15.
Non-essential shops like clothing stores should be allowed to reopen, while cultural and sporting events are set to take place behind closed doors, according to the government documents. Families may also be able to extend their ‘social bubble’ and mix with one other household but it is yet to be confirmed whether this will be allowed from next week.
It comes after Whitehall sources revealed that Mr Johnson is also planning to ease restrictions on outdoor activities.
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Garden parties, market stalls and car dealerships could reopen next month, as the PM is said to be focusing his attention on salvaging the summer months to restart the economy.
National Trust parks are also set to reopen services, as long as indoor attractions remain shut, as the government is keen on welcoming back open-air events as the transmission rate is much lower outside.
According to Government sources, Mr Johnson will reveal the full plans to ease restrictions when the Cabinet meets today.
From next Monday a lot of parents will stop homeschooling their children as many schools will be ‘cautiously’ reopened.
However, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson acknowledged today that schools face a ‘long journey’ before they will be able to return to normal.
Mr Williamson admitted there will be an ‘initial nervousness’ about sending children back to school.
He added that the decision not to fine parents if they decide not to send their children to school was the ‘right step to take’.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We do realise there will be an initial nervousness about the return of schools.
‘But what we’ve been doing, in terms of working with all schools right across the country and all schools organisations and unions, is working about how we create a safe space in schools.
‘Making sure we create a protective bubble so your child is going from their home into a much smaller class group than they’d usually be in – no more than 15 children – making sure that they’re not interacting with other children in year groups, so reducing the chances of transmission and making sure there’s really good discipline’.
He insisted pupils must go back to the classroom from June 1 for the sake of their mental health, adding that they were missing ‘social interaction’ with friends.
‘I’m sure we have seen it with our own children, they have spent so much time away from children of their own age, having those elements of social interaction,’ he said.
‘I have seen it in my own children, how much they are missing out,’ he added. ‘We can’t be in a situation where we just go months and months where children are just going to be missing out on education.
‘Coronavirus could be with us a year or more. If we don’t get them back, how much they fall behind will be tragic and we have got to take these first cautious, tentative steps.’
Mr Williamson said the reopening of schools was ‘one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve probably ever had to take’.
He said: ‘I know that there’s such an importance in terms of children being able to get their education.’
Although the UK will be moving to phase two, the prime minister stressed last night that measures will only be lifted if the R rate continues to drop.
‘We will set out what moving to Step 2 means for other areas, such as non-essential retail and more social contacts over the course of the next week,’ he told the press briefing on Sunday.
‘We are making good progress, but that progress is conditional, provisional.
‘We must keep reducing the incidence of this disease, we must keep that R down below 1 and that means we must all remember the basics: wash our hands, keep social distance, isolate if you have symptoms, get a test.
‘We are beating this thing, but we will beat it all the faster if we stay alert, control the virus and save lives.’
However, many of the PM’s statements were overshadowed by the Dominic Cummings scandal, after he announced his most senior adviser had acted ‘legally, responsibly and with integrity’ after driving to his parents’ home in Durham.
He has faced criticism for not firing the chief aide after he was accused of breaking lockdown rules several times, while Durham police have been asked to formally investigate Mr Cummings.
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