Inicio Noticias Covid lockdown UK: Hundreds queue before 6AM at Heathrow and Gatwick

Covid lockdown UK: Hundreds queue before 6AM at Heathrow and Gatwick

Hundreds of passengers queued before 6am at Heathrow and Gatwick this morning as airports expect their busiest day of the year, with the easing of global travel restrictions predicted to trigger a stampede as the Government’s traffic light system comes into force today. 

Holidaymakers were scrambling to grab flights to the Algarve in Portugal for the first time since the end of last year as the traffic light system – which rates countries as green, amber, or red based on the risk of importing coronavirus – springs into action amid a further easing of lockdown.

Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester and Luton – Britain’s five busiest airports – are reportedly expecting to operate 124 flights to amber list countries, including 23 to Spain. Manchester told the Times it alone was expecting to handle 91 flights over the course of the day, up by two thirds on last week. 

So far, just 12 countries including Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel have been listed as green destinations, meaning they are free to travel without quarantining on their return to Britain. Those travelling to one of 43 red list countries including India, where the new, more infectious variant taking hold in Bolton and Blackburn was first traced, must isolate in a hotel for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 upon arriving back to the UK. 

Queues starting at Terminal 5 early this morning, with check-in taking longer as airline staff checked documentation that all passengers were covid-free while BA staff stood at the entrance handing out chocolates to passengers as they said: ‘Welcome back to flying. We’ve missed you.’  

Stephen Bough, a 51-year-old company director travelling to Faro with his wife Lucy, 51, and daughter Hannah, 20, said: ‘It’s a fantastic feeling, it’s like being free again. And it’s another step on the road to getting back to normal life. I can’t wait to get back in the sun and just relax because it’s been a very difficult year for us all.’

Hannah said: ‘The first thing I’m going to do when I get to our house is have a cocktail and get in the pool.’ 

But Matt Hancock caused chaos last night after telling people not to go on holiday to whole swathes of Europe despite most of the continent being on the amber list, as scientists claimed much of the landmass was unvaccinated and therefore more vulnerable to covid variants.

The remarks were slammed by travel bosses who accused the Government of needlessly ‘instilling fear’ by discouraging overseas holidays. One industry executive suggested No10’s real concern was a shortage of border staff to police arrivals following scenes of chaos at passport arrivals at Heathrow earlier in the year. 

Labour called for a ‘slow down’ in the lifting of the global travel ban and accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of ignoring science after he allegedly delayed putting India on the red list so he could strike a trade deal with New Delhi – despite a variant bringing that country’s health system to the brink of collapse.    

As the coronavirus lockdown was further eased today, it emerged:

  • The PM urged families to adopt ‘caution’ with the ban on indoor socialising and hugs finally ending;
  • The number of Britons given their second coronavirus vaccine reached 20million yesterday;
  • An update to the NHS app allowed for proof of jab status as pubs and restaurants allow customers indoors;
  • Mr Hancock said ministers were confident existing vaccines would work against the new Indian strain;   
  • Just four virus-related deaths were recorded yesterday, but cases rose by eight per cent in a week to 2,000;  
  • Long queues formed outside vaccination centres in Bolton, where the Indian covid variant has surged.
Hundreds of people seen queueing at check-in at Terminal 5 in Heathrow Airport today as global travel curbs ease

Hundreds of people seen queueing at check-in at Terminal 5 in Heathrow Airport today as global travel curbs ease

Passengers wearing face masks push trolleys with suitcases through Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 this morning

Passengers wearing face masks push trolleys with suitcases through Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 this morning 

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today 

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today

Some people, including 21-year-old Michelle Clark, admitted she was 'quite nervous' about getting through security, which has been beefed up with temperature scanners to meet covid safety requirements

Some people, including 21-year-old Michelle Clark, admitted she was ‘quite nervous’ about getting through security, which has been beefed up with temperature scanners to meet covid safety requirements

Care home worker Theresa Depino, who is travelling with a friend to Faro, revealed that her holiday to Portugal is her first holiday since September. 'It has been a really long winter for me with the lockdown and trying to keep the care home going all through the last year so it will be so nice,' she told MailOnline

Care home worker Theresa Depino, who is travelling with a friend to Faro, revealed that her holiday to Portugal is her first holiday since September. ‘It has been a really long winter for me with the lockdown and trying to keep the care home going all through the last year so it will be so nice,’ she told MailOnline

Holidaymakers at Gatwick Airport as the global travel ban is lifted and British people can go overseas for holidays

Holidaymakers at Gatwick Airport as the global travel ban is lifted and British people can go overseas for holidays

Passengers line up to check-in for early morning flights at Gatwick Airport as global travel restrictions ease today

Passengers line up to check-in for early morning flights at Gatwick Airport as global travel restrictions ease today

A passenger in a hazmat suit is seen in Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 this morning as covid restrictions ease today

A passenger in a hazmat suit is seen in Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 this morning as covid restrictions ease today 

People seen queueing at check-in at Terminal 5 in Heathrow Airport today as global travel curbs ease

People seen queueing at check-in at Terminal 5 in Heathrow Airport today as global travel curbs ease

Passengers with suitcases seen queueing at check-in at London Heathrow as global travel restrictions are eased

Passengers with suitcases seen queueing at check-in at London Heathrow as global travel restrictions are eased 

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today 

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today

The traffic light system rates countries as green, amber or red based on the risk of importing coronavirus into Britain, with those going to green list countries such as Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel free to travel without quarantining on return

The traffic light system rates countries as green, amber or red based on the risk of importing coronavirus into Britain, with those going to green list countries such as Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel free to travel without quarantining on return

Downing Street released the full list of countries on green, amber and red lists ahead of a loosening of restrictions tomorrow

Downing Street released the full list of countries on green, amber and red lists ahead of a loosening of restrictions tomorrow

Ryanair suffers record £700MILLION loss due to grounding of 80% of flights – but ‘optimistic’ boss Michael O’Leary says bookings ‘tripled’ in last six weeks and predicts Italy and Greece will be on ‘Green List’ by end of month 

Ryanair has reported a full year loss of £702 million as traffic fell 81 per cent from 149 million passengers to 27.5 million due to the pandemic.

But the Ireland-based low-cost airline said in a statement it expects to benefit from a ‘strong rebound of pent up travel demand’ through the second half of 2021.

It is looking to returning to pre-Covid growth in summer 2022 with the help of the delivery of Boeing 737 ‘Gamechanger’ aircraft and new bases in Billund, Riga, Stockholm, Zadar and Zagreb.

It described the financial year as ‘the most challenging’ in the firm’s 35-year history due to the pandemic.

‘There was a partial recovery during summer 2020, as initial lockdowns eased, however a second Covid-19 wave in Europe followed quickly in the autumn with a third wave in spring,’ Ryanair said in a statement.

‘This created enormous disruptions and uncertainty for both our customers and our people, as they suffered constantly changing Government guidelines, travel bans and restrictions.

‘Ryanair responded promptly, and effectively, to this crisis, by working hard to assist millions of customers with flight changes, refunds and changed travel plans.

‘We minimised job losses through agreed pay cuts and participation in Government job support schemes, while at the same time keeping our pilots, cabin crew and aircraft current and ready to resume service once normality returns.’

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said the airline was ‘very optimistic for the next couple of months’ after bookings trebled during the past six weeks.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘The UK vaccine programme has been extraordinarily successful. We’re up to 60 per cent of the adult population having received their first dose.

‘European countries recognise that. They’re beginning to lift restrictions on inbound UK visitors.

‘Portugal this morning. We’re very hopeful that Italy and Greece will be added to that green list before the end of May, and Spain will come shortly thereafter.’

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary told BBC Breakfast that fares will remain low this summer but could soar in 2022 as the number of seats will be 25 per cent lower than before the pandemic due to airlines collapsing or reducing their operations.

He said: ‘There’s no doubt in my mind that prices will rise, particularly during the peaks of the bank holiday weekends, the school holiday travel period, but that won’t affect bookings for summer 2021.

‘In 2021 prices will never be cheaper because all the airlines are running with much lower advanced bookings than we have ever had before because of the travel restrictions.

‘So I think this summer there are going to be great travel bargains. Get on the Ryanair website and book them now.

‘But summer 2022, we will be urging people to book very early because I think there’s less seats and pricing will be higher.’

Travellers at London Heathrow are rushing to catch the first flights to green list Portugal and Gibraltar, as airport staff were seen giving excited passengers bound for Europe gift bags as they arrived at check-in. 

Some people, including 21-year-old Michelle Clark, admitted she was ‘quite nervous’ about getting through security, which has been beefed up with temperature scanners to meet covid safety requirements. 

Care home worker Theresa Depino, who is travelling with a friend to Faro, revealed that her holiday to Portugal is her first holiday since September. 

‘It has been a really long winter for me with the lockdown and trying to keep the care home going all through the last year so it will be so nice,’ she told MailOnline.  ‘I am just going to sleep and get in the sun and relax for a week, I have earned it.’

Mike, Sharon, Isabella and Evan, who declined to give their surnames, said: ‘We are so excited to get away, this is our first holiday for almost two years. 

‘We are heading to Portugal for a couple of weeks and staying in an Airbnb. We just want to get some sun really and to escape the rain. We have been stuck in the country for literally two years now so it is just so nice for us to get away. So far we haven’t really got any plans for when we get there. 

‘We are just going to see what it is like when we are over there but we just want to see the sun!’ 

Businessman James Fitzgerald, 42, revealed that he booked his flight just minutes after the Government placed Portugal on the green list of countries.

He beamed: ‘I feel like a free man again and I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, as have a lot of other people in the country, so I don’t mind going through a few extra checks.

‘I’m a very keen golfer and am just looking forward to playing a few rounds, enjoying the sun, the beach and having a few drinks. It’s been a very tough year and being able to go on holiday will give all of us a lift.’

Michael Cohen, 56, who owns a holiday home in the Algarve, said: ‘I feel like a prisoner whose just been released. It’s been a long time coming. I just want to lie in the sun and enjoy the beach.

‘I must admit that I’m a bit nervous about flying and there’s a lot more paperwork to organise if you want to get on a plane. But it’s really worth it because I could do with a really nice holiday.’

Jessie Redhead, 32, smiled and said: ‘Freedom and it’s wonderful. The first thing I’m doing after I get to my hotel is to get in my bikini and hit the beach. I’m desperate for a bit of sun.’

All passengers flying to the country had to provide a negative PCR test and complete a Portuguese Government passenger locator form. Even airline staff admitted that they were excited about the return of passengers.

BA ground staff member Jurian, who was standing at the entrance to Terminal 5 handing out chocolates, said: ‘At times over the past year the airport has been like a ghost town. So, we’re just happy to see people back and hope that things return to normal very soon.

‘It’s a great day not just for the travellers but also for us.’

Grandfather Robert Hatfield is travelling to Bahrain to be reunited with his grandchildren: ‘This will be the first time in a long time, it is getting on for two years since I have seen them,’ he said.

‘The internet has helped but it doesn’t make up for it physically. I would not have been so quick off the mark if my very cute three-year-old granddaughter hadn’t kept asking when she was next going to see me.

‘I had a very strong bond with my grandparents when I was a child, a week seemed a long time when I was three so a year or 18 months is an eternity. I was just concerned she would forget who I was.’

The 67-year-old, who is travelling for two weeks, added: ‘I am really lucky to have had both vaccinations, so I am really happy to be travelling and Bahrain has had really good uptake.

‘I have made some really good friends over there so I am looking forward to seeing them and getting into the sun. But, most of all, I can’t wait to see my daughter and my grandchildren.’

Holidaymaker Bruce Smith said: ‘We are off for a holiday and a bit of work in Portugal, we just want to rest and relax as safely as possible. I am a director of an engineering company and it has been tough.

‘It has been our busiest year ever, people have not been able to go away so they have put all their money into landscaping and tree surgery instead, at least some good has come out of it. The last year has been manic so I will be doing as little as possible. We are going for a week and I just want to forget about work.’

The 47-year-old from Devon is confident he can avoid any travel hiccups: ‘I am not worried about getting back here, I am a little bit concerned about getting there but the Portuguese don’t seem worried.

‘Our tests here came back really fast so I think we will be fine.’

Speaking to MailOnline, business traveller Yaseen Akhtarwas, 28, worried about the impact holidaymakers might have on the airport. ‘I have been travelling for work all through lockdown,’ he said. 

‘We had to move our office to Amsterdam because of Brexit so I have been back and forth.

‘It is busier than it has been. Travelling through lockdown has been a nuisance, coming back last month it was a mess. I waited here for three hours to get back and having to book the two tests is expensive.

‘It is going to be packed unless they sort it out, it was already packed last month with only business travellers so they need to get more staff on the desks here. I am really looking forward to getting away for a holiday, I think it will be quite a while till I get one though.’

Travel bosses are urging the Government to add ‘most of Europe’ to the green list as soon as possible after Mr Hancock caused chaos during a media round yesterday by telling people not to fly out to amber list countries – most of Europe – for holidays. 

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren, speaking on Gatwick Airport’s runway today, said: ‘I am optimistic about (summer holidays later this year) because the latest data that is available means that most of Europe could actually go on to that green list of destinations, and I urge the Government to look at and exercise that data.

‘That is what I’m expecting to happen, because that is what’s happening as we speak right now in the rest of Europe. Otherwise the Germans are going to beat the Brits to the sun loungers and for no good reason at all.’

When asked how it felt to be welcoming the first holidaymakers on to planes for several months, he said: ‘I’m so excited, as is everyone who works in easyJet as well, and also the passengers that are now onboard as well.

‘Today is an important day because now people can actually start to travel, and now we’re just looking for that green list of countries to be expanded, which we believe it is safe to do so because that is what the latest data suggests that scientifically that can be done.’

Mr Lundgren said the ‘success of the vaccination programme’ in the UK and Europe has been ‘key’ to allowing foreign travel, on the first day that people have been allowed to fly from England and Wales to green list countries. 

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today

Passengers wearing face masks at Gate A13 boarding their flight to Lisbon, Portugal from London Heathrow today

Passengers with suitcases seen queueing at check-in at London Heathrow as global travel restrictions are eased

Passengers with suitcases seen queueing at check-in at London Heathrow as global travel restrictions are eased

Passengers with suitcases seen queueing at check-in at London Heathrow as global travel restrictions are eased

Passengers with suitcases seen queueing at check-in at London Heathrow as global travel restrictions are eased

A passenger in a hazmat suit is seen in Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 this morning as covid restrictions are eased

A passenger in a hazmat suit is seen in Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 this morning as covid restrictions are eased 

The first passengers at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 departures taking advantage of the easing of travel restrictions today

The first passengers at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 departures taking advantage of the easing of travel restrictions today 

Small queues of holidaymakers who will be jetting off overseas for a break as travel restrictions are eased from today

Small queues of holidaymakers who will be jetting off overseas for a break as travel restrictions are eased from today 

The departures board at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 this morning as global travel restrictions are eased today

The departures board at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 this morning as global travel restrictions are eased today 

The UK's daily death toll has doubled on last week, from two on May 9 to four yesterday - bringing the UK total to 127,679. Daily covid cases across the country rose by eight per cent in a week, according to official figures

The UK’s daily death toll has doubled on last week, from two on May 9 to four yesterday – bringing the UK total to 127,679. Daily covid cases across the country rose by eight per cent in a week, according to official figures 

Fury at holiday ‘scare’ tactics: Tourism chiefs warn Matt Hancock to stop ‘frightening families’ as he urges public to limit travel to amber list countries as lockdown ends 

Travel bosses have accused the Government of needlessly ‘instilling fear’ by warning against holidays abroad.

Ahead of the ban on international travel finally being lifted today, ministers yesterday caused confusion by saying most trips should be avoided.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said families should ‘certainly not’ go on holiday to anywhere not on the official green list.

The order infuriated the travel industry, which said that people are ‘voting with their feet’ and going ahead with long-awaited trips to see relatives abroad. One industry executive suggested the Government’s real concern was the shortage of border staff.

Ministers have urged people to travel only to the 12 territories on its green list of safe destinations.

Portugal and Gibraltar are the only popular holiday hotspots on the list, while others are remote or have blanket bans on entry from the UK.

Holidaymakers are allowed to go to places on the ‘amber list’, which includes most European countries, as long as they quarantine on return to the UK.

But as popular destinations such as Greece urged Britons to return, Mr Hancock said travel there should only be for essential reasons such as work or a family emergency.

He said: ‘We have a green list where it’s okay to go and that’s why we’ve brought the green list in.

‘But what I would say is that people should not travel to amber or red list countries unless it’s absolutely necessary.

‘And certainly not for holiday purposes.’

When asked if there were blue skies ahead for the travel industry, he said: ‘I believe so, and the key to that is clearly the success of the vaccination programme that is now being rolled out, not only in the UK but we also see that taking place across many other European markets.

‘That is the key to restarting travel in a safe way.’ He added: ‘The latest data suggests that most of Europe could actually already from right now go on to that green list of categories.

‘And we know there is huge pent-up demand for people to not only go on holidays but to visit friends and family that they haven’t been able to see because of the pandemic and the fact that it has been illegal to travel so it’s a big day today for us.’ 

He added: ‘I believe that the green list is cautious, but it’s a first step because the travel ban is removed.’

British Airways boss Sean Doyle told BBC Breakfast that the pandemic ‘has been tough for our people’ as he proclaimed: ‘It’s great to see all of our staff back today. They can’t wait to meet our customers and they’re very excited to be part of rebuilding aviation.’

Asked if travellers will face increased prices, Mr Doyle responded: ‘What we’re seeing are very competitive prices out there but also great flexibility. So I think in terms of creating options to book, it’s kind of the best of both worlds today for travellers. There’s a lot of airlines out there competing for business, and we will always be competitive.’

Mr Doyle added that he expects travel restrictions to be eased for countries which are ‘vaccinating at pace’. He said: ‘The US has vaccinated 59 per cent of all adults, and infections are falling, so we’d be very optimistic about the United States.

‘And if we look at places like Germany and you look at France, again they’re making great progress, as is Europe. So we think Europe and the US certainly should be in scope for inclusion in the green list as we see the trends on vaccination and prevalence.’

Mr Doyle said the airline has received ‘an awful lot of interest’ from people planning trips ‘to reunite with their loved ones’. Speaking from Heathrow Airport, he told BBC Breakfast: ‘There’s a human cost to this, in that a lot of people have been separated from friends and family for over 12 months now.

‘That’s a segment that we see grow, and a lot of people who are here today are taking part in the opportunity to reunite after a long period of separation.’ 

Paul Charles, chief executive and founder of the respected travel firm The PC Agency, accused the Government of ‘trying to play down travel’ because of concerns about border staff shortages. 

He said: ‘The Government has to change its message. It is not illegal to travel, you can travel safely and responsibly to any country if they will let you in. 

‘And many British travellers will want to see their families who they haven’t seen in over a year. Now is the time to travel safely. But they are still trying to instil fear into people at a time when the most vulnerable have been jabbed and mortalities are at a record low.’

The travel expert said that ticket sales data showed that people were ignoring the amber list advice and booking trips to coincide with the end of the official travel ban.

Booking website Skyscanner found bookings to Italy increased by 63 per cent week on week once the relaxation of travel restrictions was announced. Bookings to France rose by 41 per cent and Spain bookings went up by 39 per cent. In comparison, bookings to Portugal rose by 616 per cent.

Mr Charles added: ‘The traffic light system is in danger of being out of date before the bulk of it comes into practice because people will vote with their feet.’

Tim Alderslade, of industry body Airlines UK, said: ‘The whole point of the tiers system is that restrictions are built in to mitigate the risk. We strongly believe that the green list can be extended at the next review point to include the most popular European destinations and the United States.’ 

Almost the whole of Europe, North America and large parts of the Middle East and East Asia are on the Government’s amber list, with people returning from these countries required to quarantine. However, they can leave isolation if they have a negative PCR test taken on day five. 

Tour operators including Tui, easyJet Holidays and British Airways Holidays are planning to run trips to countries including Malta, Antigua and the Canary Islands – with Tui yesterday offering up to 51 per cent off holidays to the Canaries as early as next week. 

The Government has said it will review the green list every three weeks, starting early next month. 

Critics have warned that tougher action should have been taken sooner against India, which was only added to the ‘red list’ on April 23, two weeks after neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh – despite reports that the virus was bringing the country’s health system to the brink of collapse. 

Yesterday Mr Hancock defended the timing of travel restrictions on India but dodged questions on whether the decision was linked to Downing Street’s planned trade mission.

The Health Secretary argued in a round of interviews that testing rates were lower in Pakistan at the time, and that the proportion of arrivals testing positive for covid was three times higher than from India.

But data from Public Health England shows that 4.8 per cent of the 3,345 people landing in Britain from India between March 25 and April 7 tested positive, compared to just 0.1 per cent of people in England.

Official figures also show Bolton and Blackburn are the most infectious parts of the country, with a doubling in cases in the past week largely as a result of the more transmissible Indian variant.

It is the latest statistic to be brandished at Mr Johnson, with pressure growing over his decision to delay banning travel from the Asian nation until late April amid allegations that he refrained from doing so for fear of offending Narendra Modi and torpedoing the chance to strike a major trade deal.

Labour chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Yvette Cooper called for a ‘slow down’ in the easing of travel restrictions alongside her colleague Steve Reed, the Shadow Communities Secretary, who accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of ‘not always following the science in the way he ought to be doing’.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran alleged Mr Johnson ‘put the pursuit of a post-Brexit trade deal with India ahead of public health’, adding that a public inquiry must examine whether the decision was political or scientific.

Though SAGE scientist Professor John Edmunds urged the country not to panic over the new variant, which is not thought to be vaccine resistant, he admitted that the spread of the variant could have been delayed had the border to India been closed more quickly. This could prove to be critical as No10 accelerates its vaccine roll-out so that a million jabs are given out per day in a race against the variant.

On the way to freedom! You can drink inside a pub, go the movies, hug or take a foreign holiday from TODAY as Covid lockdown rules are eased further despite concern at Indian variant

Life will take a step closer to normality from tomorrow as more restrictions are removed giving the green light for people to go to sport, drink in a pub and hug people – sensibly.

As of Monday groups of six or two households will be allowed to meet indoors for the first time in months and overnight visits will also be allowed.

The changes come amid concerns about the rising numbers of the Indian variant of Covid-19, with the Government insisting it is ‘taking nothing off the table’ in the fight against it. 

Outdoors the limit will rise to 30 in the most significant loosening yet while people will also be able to fly abroad to countries on the green list.

Some revellers were so excited for the new rules to come into place they went to their favourite pubs and bars at the stroke of midnight to celebrate their new freedom. 

Some of the first through the doors were (from left) Rebecca Mitchell, Rosie Delaney and Isobel Logan at the Showtime Bar in Huddersfield

Some of the first through the doors were (from left) Rebecca Mitchell, Rosie Delaney and Isobel Logan at the Showtime Bar in Huddersfield

The delighted trio toasted to their newly allowed freedom as they downed their first drinks at a few minutes past midnight

The delighted trio toasted to their newly allowed freedom as they downed their first drinks at a few minutes past midnight 

There will be relief for the entertainment sector as cinemas and theatres can reopen if people wear masks and hotels and B&Bs which do not have self-catering facilities are permitted to open.

Preston Benson, one of the UK’s leading independent cinema experts, and Founder of Really Local Group, heralded their return, saying: ‘After 15 months of disruption, cinema fans will be spoilt for choice as the studios begin releasing an exciting mix of independent films, such as the Oscar winning Nomadland and many delayed Blockbuster films such as A Quiet Place II, Disney’s Cruella, Black Widow and Fast & Furious 9. The studios rightly held back these films until cinemas were allowed to re-open in the knowledge that the traditional distribution model is best for business and we look forward to welcoming customers back in the coming weeks.’ 

The much-criticised cap on the number of mourners at funerals will be lifted, while up to 30 people will be allowed at weddings and other life events.

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked the public for their commitment as he said infections were now at the ‘lowest level since last July’.

He said: ‘The data now support moving to step three in England from next Monday 17th May.’

People will be able to enjoy a drink inside a pub from tomorrow, to the relief of those who have shivered outside with friends

People will be able to enjoy a drink inside a pub from tomorrow, to the relief of those who have shivered outside with friends

Saunas and steam rooms will now be allowed to reopen, following on from swimming pools and gyms on April 12

Saunas and steam rooms will now be allowed to reopen, following on from swimming pools and gyms on April 12

Up to six people from multiple households or an unlimited number of people from two households will be allowed to visit

Up to six people from multiple households or an unlimited number of people from two households will be allowed to visit

Sports fans will be able to watch their favourite teams live from tomorrow, with Premier League games set to go ahead this week with fans in stadiums

Sports fans will be able to watch their favourite teams live from tomorrow, with Premier League games set to go ahead this week with fans in stadiums

Nightclubs must remain shut until at least June 21

Nightclubs must remain shut until at least June 21

Up to 30 people will be allowed at weddings

Up to 30 people will be allowed at weddings

What can people in England do from May 17? 

Can people come over to my house again?

Yes. Up to six people from multiple households or an unlimited number of people from two households will be allowed to visit you inside your house again.

Can people stay over at my house again?

Yes. People from outside your household will be allowed to stay overnight, as long as you stick to within the rule of six or two households.

Can I still meet people outside?

Yes. You will now be able to meet in groups of up to 30 people outside. Bigger groups will be illegal. Until May 17, you can still only meet outside in groups of six.

A member of bar staff wearing a face masks serves drink in a pub in East London in July 2020

A member of bar staff wearing a face masks serves drink in a pub in East London in July 2020

Can I hug my friends and family again?

Yes. The Government has said you can hug ‘close friends and family’ from outside your own household – for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020.

However, people are being urged to be ‘exercise their own personal judgement in line with the risks.’ There is no legal definition on who ‘close friends and family’ are.  

The Government also said wider social distancing rules will remain in place in adult social care, medical, retail, hospitality and business settings.

Can you sit inside a pub again?

Yes, indoor hospitality will resume – so you can sit inside a pub or restaurant with people from other households, as long as the rule of six (or two households) is met.

Will there be a substantial meal or curfew requirement for pubs?

No. As with step two on April 12, venues will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks; nor will there be a curfew.

An audience sit at the Pavilion theatre in Weymouth for a pantomime in December last year

An audience sit at the Pavilion theatre in Weymouth for a pantomime in December last year

Will you be able to stand at the bar?

No. Customers will still have to order, eat and drink while seated at a hospitality venue – even though they will now be allowed inside.

Will indoor entertainment venues now be allowed to reopen?

Yes. Cinemas, theatres, museums and indoor children’s play areas will all be allowed to reopen, but must follow guidelines on social distancing and face masks.

Concert halls, conference centres and sports stadia will also be allowed to reopen, with larger events in all venues able to resume with capacity limits (see below). 

Will venues face capacity limits?

Yes. Larger performances and sporting events will be capped in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full, whichever is a lower number. For outdoor venues the cap will be 4,000 people or half-full – again, whichever is lower.

In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend – or a quarter-full, whichever is lower.

Football fans at Wembley Stadium at a pilot event for the FA Cup semi-final last month

Football fans at Wembley Stadium at a pilot event for the FA Cup semi-final last month 

Will social distancing and face masks rules remain for now?

Yes. The one-metre (3ft) rule remains in place in public settings such as pubs, shops and restaurants. You should wear a face mask when walking around these places.

What about children wearing masks in schools?

Secondary school children will no longer have to wear face masks in classrooms and corridors from May 17. However, those aged 11 and above will still be required to wear the masks in public settings such as shops, unless they have a medical exemption.

Ministers said infection rates among students and staff continue to decrease in line with wider community transmission, but twice weekly home testing will remain. 

Will students be able to attend university lectures in person again?

Yes. All university students in England can return to campus next week for in-person teaching. They will be expected to get tested for Covid-19 twice a week.

Most students, apart from those on critical courses, were told not to travel back to term-time accommodation as part of the third national lockdown in January.

Students on practical courses, who require specialist equipment and facilities, began returning to face-to-face teaching on March 8. But it is estimated that about half of university students have not been eligible to return to in-person lessons.

Cinema-goers in their seats for a film at the Odeon Leicester Square in London last August

Cinema-goers in their seats for a film at the Odeon Leicester Square in London last August

Can I go on holiday abroad again?

Yes, but with many restrictions. Last Friday, the UK Government cleared just 12 destinations for quarantine-free tourist trips for Britons from May 17.

However, many of the destinations are remote islands or have very strict entry measures or blanket bans on UK tourists, further reducing the list of options.

Portugal and Gibraltar are the only countries on the ‘green list‘ that most Britons will realistically be able to visit for a warm weather holiday this month.

You can technically also go on holiday to ‘amber list’ and ‘red list’ countries again too, but you will need to complete a period of quarantine as follows:

For amber list, you must quarantine at home for ten days on your return and take a PCR test on days two and eight – as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight.

Or there is an alternative option that you could pay for an additional ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early. There is also a chance the country turns red.

Those returning from a red list country must stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel for 11 nights upon their return at a cost of £1,750.

Will there be a new limit on wedding numbers?

Yes. Up to 30 people will now be able to attend weddings. This limit will also apply to other types of significant life events including bar mitzvahs and christenings.

Will funerals also now be limited to 30 people?

No. There will now be no limit of the number of mourners at funerals, although the venue must operate in a socially distanced way and within capacity guidelines.

Travellers arrive at London Heathrow Airport on May 3. Non-essential travel is set to reopen

Travellers arrive at London Heathrow Airport on May 3. Non-essential travel is set to reopen

Can you stay overnight somewhere with people from another family?

Yes. The rest of the accommodation sector will now reopen, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs – and people from different households can share the same room.

Up until May 17, if you want to stay at a hotel or self-catering accommodation, you must only do so with members of your own household or support bubble.

Can I go to indoor sport classes now?

Yes. All indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will be allowed again, five weeks after gyms were allowed to reopen under step two on April 12.

Will closed parts of leisure centres now be allowed to reopen?

Yes. Saunas and steam rooms will now be allowed to reopen, following on from swimming pools and gyms on April 12.

There will be no more limits on mourners at funerals. Above: File picture of a funeral last July

There will be no more limits on mourners at funerals. Above: File picture of a funeral last July

Will there be limits on numbers in support groups?

Yes. The Government has said 30 people will now be able to attend a support group or parent and child group. The limit does not include children aged under five.

Will restrictions on care home visiting be changed?

Yes. Care home visiting will be eased further, with residents able to have up to five named visitors and more freedom to make ‘low risk visits’ out of the home.

Will the guidance on working from home change?

No. People are still being advised to ‘continue to work from home where they can’.

Hugs with family and friends will be allowed again from May 17 (file picture posed by models)

Hugs with family and friends will be allowed again from May 17 (file picture posed by models)

What is the exact time that the rules change on May 17?

Unconfirmed. This is not yet clear, but the April 12 rule change towards step two came in at midnight, so it is likely this will be the same for May 18.

Are there businesses that still cannot reopen?

Yes. Nightclubs are the only businesses that must remain shut until at least June 21.

Is there a confirmed date for when all Covid rules will cease?

Not yet. The Government hopes that on June 21 it will be able to drop all legal limits on social contact, but this will be confirmed nearer the time.

Before this date, the Government will complete a review of social distancing and other long-term measures such as face masks and guidance on working from home.

All university students in England can return to campus next week for in-person teaching (file)

All university students in England can return to campus next week for in-person teaching (file)

Why can we now move into Step 3 on May 17?

The Government has set four tests to further ease restrictions, which have now been met. These are that:

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully;
  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated;
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS;
  • Assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

It also comes after the UK Chief Medical Officers confirmed this morning that the UK Covid-19 alert level should move from level four to level three.

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