You may have heard that come Monday May 17th 2021, the UK will enter into step 3 of easing lockdown restrictions in the roadmap to recovery. This is an important stride forward for the nation returning to somewhat normality, with a highly successful vaccination program to thank for this.
The lockdown roadmap, when announced on 22nd February 2021, provided a generous sense of optimism as well as a sceptical caution as to whether the easing was to be looked back upon as premature. All of the scheduled changes and steps to the easing have been met by the government and local councils, with COVID cases, deaths and hospitalisations dropping drastically since the roadmap was outlined.
The UK’s Coronavirus alert level has been lowered from 4 to 3. This means although the virus is still transmissible and in general circulation, it is no longer high or rising exponentially. Previously, the UK moved to the highest COVID alert level of five back in January, as cases and deaths were drastically increasing, providing a real risk of the NHS becoming overwhelmed. The alert was lowered to 4 in late February.
Through analysing scientific advice and data, the government have decided that the scheduled date of 17th May is a sensible and appropriate time to further ease restrictions and enter the third step. Here are key changes to the next step out of lockdown:
Easing Of Hospitality & Leisure Restrictions
Perhaps the most exciting, and well documented, changes to restrictions relates to the hospitality and leisure industry. From Monday 17th May:
- All pubs and restaurants will be able to welcome customers indoors as long as the rule of six (or two households) still applies.
- Indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas and theatres can reopen.
- Indoor adult sport can resume.
- Outdoor entertainment, such as performances, will resume.
- Hotels will be allowed to reopen.
- Overnight stays between two households will commence.
- Weddings and other significant life events, such as funerals, can include up to 30 people.
- Remaining tourist accommodation can reopen.
As well as these measures, PM Boris Johnson announced that hugging will be allowed, however this must be met with ‘caution’ and ‘common sense’ and is of course discretionary. He stated, “This unlocking amounts to a very considerable step on the road back to normality and I am confident we will be able to go further. This doesn’t mean that we can suddenly throw caution to the wind. I urge you to think about the vulnerability of your loved ones whether they have had a vaccine, one or two doses, and whether there has been time for that vaccine to take effect.”
Social distancing restrictions will still remain in place for the foreseeable future, despite the PM dropping a hint that it could be scrapped once the fourth and final step of the roadmap happens on the 21st June 2021. In all sectors, COVID-secure guidance will remain in place and businesses may not cater for groups bigger than the legal limits.
Easing Of Travel Restrictions
As aforementioned, the rule of two households being able to go on a domestic holiday together will be legal come 17th May. When it comes to holidays abroad, the government are still hesitant due to the growing cases of COVID in certain countries, such as India where cases and deaths are staggeringly high.
Because of this, the government have introduced a traffic light system for nations, due to the virus still remaining in widespread circulation in many parts of the world. The government also advise that people should not be travelling to amber or red countries. This means that from May 17th UK travel will effectively reopen, despite the permitted nations on the green list being relatively low in quantity. The hope is that the list will soon grow over the coming weeks and months, once the global vaccination program takes effect and the collective world will have overcome the virus in some capacity.
Countries on the green list pose the lowest risk, therefore passengers who have only visited or transited through a green list country will not be required to quarantine on arrival in England. They will be required to fill in the passenger locator form, provide a valid notification of a negative test result prior to travel and take a sequencing test on day 2 after arrival.
Passengers who have visited or transited through an amber country will be required to fill in the passenger locator form, provide a valid notification of a negative test result prior to travel, quarantine at home for 10 days, and take a test on day 2 and day 8 after arrival. Passengers will also have the option to opt into Test to Release at day 5.
International visitors who have visited or transited through any red list country in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England. Only British and Irish citizens, or those with residence rights in the UK, will be allowed to enter and they must stay in a government approved quarantine facility for 10 days.
The traffic light list will be closely examined and reviewed every three weeks, with changes appropriately made where necessary. It’s also recommended that when booking a holiday, abroad or domestically, to check the COVID-19 policy of your travel and accommodation to see you are covered for a refund if the situation changes. If not, then it is highly advised to not book or depart with any form of down payment. A full and updated list of nations and what ‘traffic light’ they fall under can be found here.
These measures offer a cautious sense of optimism for the aviation and tourism industry, as well as holiday goers desperate to experience international travel again. In similar vein to the reopening of the hospitality and leisure sectors, this easing provides a much-needed boost in business at a time where many small companies and firms are struggling to survive.
We hope this has outlined the main changes to lockdown restrictions ahead of entering the third step of easing. If you require any more information on any government COVID-19 loans, grants and schemes, or anything accounting related for that matter, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us at Nordens where one of our trusted advisors would be happy talking you through your query.