Groups given green light to socialise in parks and gardens as PM eases lockdown
Boris Johnson announces relaxation of lockdown rules in England from Monday (Credit: PA)
Groups of up to six people will be able to socialise together in parks and gardens from Monday, after Boris Johnson announced a relaxation of lockdown rules in England.
The PM also gave the green light for some school pupils to return as planned from June 1, after he confirmed the government's five key tests for easing protection measures had been met.
He said closing schools "has deprived children of their education and as so often it is the most disadvantaged pupils who risk being hardest hit" and that ministers wanted to begin to "put this right in a safe way".
Outdoor markets and car showrooms will also be able to reopen from Monday, with other non-essential retail expected to be given the go-ahead on June 15, if the number of coronavirus cases continues to fall.
The Prime Minister told Thursday's coronavirus briefing: "I know the toll the lockdown has taken on families and friends who’ve been unable to see each other.
"So from Monday we will allow up to six people to meet outside, provided those from different households continue strictly to observe social distancing rules by staying two metres apart
"At the moment as you know people can meet in parks - but not in private gardens. And this was a cautious first step. But we know that there is no difference in the health risk.
"So we will now allow people to meet in gardens and other private outdoor spaces."
But Mr Johnson said people should refrain from meeting too many people and to avoid entering the homes of friends and family.
He added: “This package has been carefully designed so that we can ease the burdens of the lockdown while expecting to keep that R [rate of infection] below 1.
"I cannot and will not throw away all the gains we have made together and so the changes we are making are limited and cautious.
"It’s thanks to the caution we’ve shown so far that all five tests are being met. And that’s not my achievement or the government’s achievement. It is your achievement and it is only possible thanks to your resolve and dedication to our national purpose to overcome this virus."
Mr Johnson said in order to continue to control the virus "everyone needs to stay alert, act responsibly, strictly observe social distancing rules and stay two metres apart from those you do not live with".
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, told the briefing the R number, or rate of infection, is currently between 0.7 and 0.9 - slightly down on last Friday's 0.7 and 1.0 estimate.
It was also confirmed that vulnerable people who had been advised to shield themselves should continue to do so.
"I want to say those extremely clinicially vulnerable people who are now being shielded that I do undertand how difficult this has been for you especially," the PM said.
"And I want to thank you for all the efforts you have gone to, because your acitons have helped the NHS to cope."
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed earlier on Thursday that Scots will be allowed to meet in groups of up to eight from Friday, provided they remain outdoors and follow social distancing guidelines.
The SNP leader said teachers would be asked to prepare for pupils to return to the classroom on 11 August, with a mix of school and home teaching.
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