UK Outlines Plans To Ease Lockdown, Resume Travel


Despite the risk of new coronavirus strains, overall there’s a lot of optimism out there. For example, here in the US coronavirus cases are way down, and deaths are also starting to decrease significantly (though with a lag of several weeks, as you’d expect).

On top of that, those most vulnerable are largely being vaccinated, which gives many of us hope that there will be some semblance of normalcy within the next few months.

The UK has been in lockdown since early January

While the US hasn’t had any sort of a national lockdown, other countries have. The UK has been in lockdown since early January of this year, in the process banning any sort of non-essential travel (though these restrictions haven’t been very well enforced).

Well, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today outlined plans to reopen. The current easing of restrictions is specific to England, though I imagine Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, may align policies over time.

On the plus side, I appreciate the general concept of a timeline by which things might reopen. Unfortunately the timeline is pretty grim, and this all represents the “best case scenario.”

The UK’s roadmap to reopening

The UK government’s plan includes four steps. With each step certain activities will once again be possible.

Step 1 will take place as of March 8 and March 29, 2021, and will include the following once again being allowed:

  • Schools and colleges
  • Recreation or exercise outdoors with one other person
  • Childcare
  • Funerals (up to 30 people), wakes (up to six people), and weddings (up to six people)

After that the timeline becomes a bit iffier. Step 2 will take place at least five weeks after Step 1, and no earlier than April 12, 2021. With Step 2, the following will once again be allowed:

  • Indoor leisure (including gyms)
  • Two households can meet outdoors
  • Outdoor attractions
  • Libraries and community centers
  • Personal care premises
  • All retail
  • Outdoor hospitality
  • All children’s activities
  • Domestic overnight stays at households
  • Self-contained accommodation

Step 3 will take place at least five weeks after Step 2, and no earlier than May 17, 2021. With Step 3, the following will once again be allowed:

  • Indoor entertainment and attractions
  • 30 person limits outdoors
  • Domestic overnight stays
  • Organized indoor adult sport
  • Most significant life events (up to 30 people)
  • Remaining outdoor entertainment, including performances
  • Remaining accommodations
  • Some large events with 25-50% capacity limits
  • International travel, subject to review

Step 4 will take place at least five weeks after Step 3, and no earlier than June 21, 2021. With Step 4, virtually all restrictions would be lifted, including the following:

  • No legal limits on social contact
  • Nightclubs
  • Large events
  • No legal limit on all life events

As you can see, those in the UK will be allowed to travel internationally again no earlier than May 17. And to be clear, that’s the absolute best case scenario, and that also doesn’t necessarily mean that the UK’s quarantine for foreign visitors would be eased at all.

It’s expected that on April 12, 2021, the UK’s Global Travel Taskforce will provide an update on plans for international travel resuming — both Brits being able to travel abroad, and those from abroad being able to travel to the UK.

Bottom line

The UK has outlined how it plans to ease restrictions, following the country going into lockdown in early January. The UK will significantly ease travel restrictions around May 17 at the absolute earliest, though it may end up being much later than that.

There has been a huge drop in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the UK, and on top of that the country is doing quite a good job with vaccinations, only trailing Israel and the UAE in terms of per-capita vaccination.

I know many are growing impatient with the UK’s current lockdown. At times lockdowns almost feel like airline fuel surcharges — they’re added when the situation is extreme, but then are rarely removed when circumstances change. Obviously maintaining the lockdown will help keep cases low, though at what cost? At least that’s the argument…

What do you make of the UK’s reopening plans?

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