Boris Johnson today warned Britons ‘don’t risk the progress we’ve made’ as he said it was ‘vital’ to continue abiding by social distancing rules as millions began to gather in parks, pools and sports venues to mark the first major easing of restrictions this year.
England has stepped out of lockdown straight into a three-day spring heatwave, with temperatures hitting 66.2F (24C) this afternoon and a predicted 76F tomorrow and Wednesday – just shy of the all-time record of 78F.
As of today – six people, or two full households – are allowed to meet outside, including in back gardens, for the first time in four months, while the Government’s ‘stay at home’ rule has been replaced with ‘stay local’.
People have also been quick to take advantage of the reintroduction of outdoor sports, with golfers, tennis players and outdoor swimmers already out in force.
The Government confirmed that families can head to the beach or other beauty spots to bask in the late-March sunshine with no limit on the distance they can travel, although Matt Hancock urged people to try to stay local.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston suggested that police would still hand out fines for large gatherings but will take a more relaxed stance for private gardens, as officials launched a new slogan, ‘Hands, face, space… and fresh air’.
In a video this morning, the PM stressed that ‘we must remain cautious, with cases rising across Europe and new variants threatening our vaccine rollout’ as the latest step on his road map out of lockdown was reached.
‘Despite today’s easements, everyone must continue to stick to the rules, remember hands, face, space, and come forward for a vaccine when called… don’t risk the process we’ve made.’
But critics have said lockdown should now be eased even faster than planned with half the population now having their first jab and Covid cases at the lowest levels since last summer and number of deaths in London hitting zero for the first time in six months.
In Wales, the ‘stay local’ order ended on Saturday and people are now allowed to stay in self-contained holiday accommodation. The stay home order in Scotland is to end on Friday, while in Northern Ireland up to six people, or two households, can meet outdoors from Thursday.
Mr Johnson will make an address to the nation at 5pm.