Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Covid: Outdoor meetings and sports resumes in England

TWO households or groups of up to six people are now able to meet outside in England again as the stay-at-home Covid restrictions order comes to an end reports the BBC.

Outdoor sport facilities including tennis courts and golf courses are also reopening, and organised outdoor sports can resume in the latest easing.

And weddings will also be on again, attended by up to six people.

But Boris Johnson has urged caution, saying cases are up in Europe and variants threaten the vaccine rollout.

“Despite today’s easements, everyone must continue to stick to the rules, remember hands, face, space, and come forward for a vaccine when called,” the prime minister said.

A new slogan – Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air – was also being unveiled by the government to emphasise the importance of ventilation in reducing the spread of the virus.

Prof Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer, said: “The evidence is very clear that outdoor spaces are safer than indoors. It is important to remember this as we move into the next phase.”

England’s next moment of unlocking, including that much anticipated haircut, is a fortnight away at the earliest.

Monday marks the second easing of the lockdown imposed across England in early January, after schools reopened to all pupils on 8 March. People were also permitted to exercise with their household, or with one person from outside their household.

People can now meet outside – including in private gardens – in groups of up to six, or as two households, with social distancing.

But as many friends and families prepare to be reunited for the first time together in several months, ministers are still advising people to work from home where possible and minimise the number of journeys they take.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston urged those travelling to visit family and friends to plan journeys ahead – filling up with petrol or going to shops locally before travelling.

People should stay outside once there, he told BBC Breakfast, as the change of rules “is not an excuse to stay overnight”.

Mr Huddleston also advised people who see others bending the rules to “call them out in a respectful way” and refrain from hugging.

“I know it’s a little bit awkward, but actually in these circumstances it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

The next stage in the relaxation of the rules will take place no earlier than 12 April with non-essential retail reopening, and restaurants and pubs allowed to serve outdoors.


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