Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed his roadmap to exiting lockdown on Monday – the big plan to finally guide England out of restrictions and back towards something like ordinary life.
Speculation in the days prior to the speech on 22 February had been rife, with the PM confirming he wanted this to be the final time the country required a lockdown.
Unveiling his roadmap, Johnson revealed there would be four steps involved – with different sectors opening at various stages from now until June.
Johnson acknowledged that whilst the UK would “not eradicate this disease” permanently, the rapid rollout of the vaccine means that the nation is “travelling on a one-way road to freedom”.
The PM’s regular COVID press conference flankers Professor Christ Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance were also cautiously optimistic when reflecting on the roadmap, but admitted it did involve a degree of risk.
Under the current plan, masks, social distancing measures and all COVID legislature could be completely lifted by June 21 – but Vallance did warn these measures may need to come back in winter if cases rise again.
Nonetheless, if the strategy succeeds, England will be free of restrictions within 17 weeks.
Here’s what that full roadmap looks like.
Step 1 – March 8 / March 29
The first changes to COVID rules will commence from March 8.
From this date, all children and students will return to face-to-face education in schools and college.
March 8 will also offer more social freedoms – with people permitted to visit one other person for socialising, not just exercise.
Care home residents in England will also be allowed one regular visitor from March 8.
Restrictions on meeting others will be relaxed further in time for the Easter break.
From March 29, six people or two separate households/families will be allowed to meet in private gardens or outdoors.
Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, may also reopen from March 29.
The official Stay at Home Order will end on this date – although many lockdown restrictions will remain in force.
People will still be encouraged to work from home where possible, with the vast majority of overseas travel banned.
Step 2 – April 12
The second step is a big one for many businesses.
April 12 is the date where a wide variety of sectors will be allowed to reopen their doors, including shops, hairdressers, barbers, gyms, animal centres, and accommodation centres.
Pubs will also be permitted to serve people in outdoor settings.
The list of places able to reopen from April 12 (at the earliest) include:
Non-essential retail, such as shops.
Personal care premises, such as hairdressers and nail salons.
Public buildings, such as libraries and community centres.
Most outdoor attractions and settings, including zoos, and theme parks.
Drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances.
Indoor leisure facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools.
Hospitality venues can serve customers outdoors only for table service. Regulations around substantial meals and curfews have been abolished.
Self-contained accommodation, such as holiday lets.
Funerals can continue with up to 30 people.
Weddings, receptions and wake attendance limits will rise to 15 (from 6)..
Step 3 – May 17
Step three is the point at which most social contact rules will be lifted in outdoor settings.
Gatherings with more than 30 people, however, will remain illegal.
This is also the date when indoor pubs can reopen, with spectators returning to live events.
International travel – including holidays – may also be allowed from this point, subject to review.
The full list of places reopening on this date is as follows:
Cinemas, soft play areas, and the rest of the accommodation sector including hotels and B&Bs.
Indoor adult group sports and exercise classes classes can resume.
Larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower) will also be allowed.
Performances will be permitted in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower).
In the largest outdoor seated venues where crowds can spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower).
Weddings, receptions, wakes, funerals attendance limits will be 30 people.
Step 4 – June 21
This is the date that “all legal limits on social contact can be removed.”
On this date, all remaining venues will reopen.
This includes nightclubs – which will have been shut for 15 months by the time they are allowed to welcome back customers again.
All restrictions on performances and events will also be removed on June 21.
Social distancing measures may be removed from this date.
This hidden Manchester pasta and dumplings restaurant has just made the Michelin Guide
Michelin has just added some new additions to its guide, and one of our favourite Manchester restaurants has finally made the cut.
Loved by locals for its continental pasta and dumplings, gorgeous European wine list and sake collection, The Sparrows in the Green Quarter is something of a hidden gem – tucked in a disused railway arch on Red Bank.
It received rave reviews from local and national critics alike when it first opened in 2019 in a tiny space with room for just 12 covers. Since then, it’s relocated to a bigger home and its following has grown significantly.
After spending years wowing foodies in the know, the restaurant has made it onto the radar of Michelin’s inspectors at last – and we have to say, the accolade is well deserved indeed.
Front of house is headed up by Polish-born Kasia Hitchcock with her chef partner Franco Concli at the helm in the kitchen. Plates celebrate Franco’s Tyrolean heritage, with their signature dish spätzle, a rustic fresh egg pasta from which the restaurant takes its name, sitting front and centre.
Traditionally made by scraping dough from the wooden board straight into a pot of boiling water, these irregular-shaped delights translate from Swabian-German to mean “little sparrows.”
Served in multiples ways, they can be enjoyed either savoury or sweet – mixed with braised onions into a creamy gruyere and Emmental cheese sauce, as is traditional, or transformed into a pudding with a touch of cinnamon, brown sugar and butter.
Joining the now seventeen Manchester restaurants to be featured in the prestigious guide, its description reads as follows: “Nestled under the railway arches in Manchester’s Green Quarter is a restaurant whose name is (almost) the English translation of the word ‘spätzle’ – which gives some clue as to the style of food on offer here.
“The dumplings and assorted pasta dishes are all made in-house and include excellent pierogi. The focus on Eastern Europe carries through to the wine list, which has a leaning towards Polish wines.”
A welcome new addition, if you haven’t yet visited then we recommend you book in swiftly. No doubt the news of its conclusion in the Michelin Guide will send reservations filling up pretty sharpish.
Feature image – Google Maps
New DNA evidence could clear ‘innocent’ man who spent 17 years in prison for Salford rape
A man who spent 17 years in prison for a rape he has continued to claim he did not commit has now been granted a fresh appeal after DNA was linked to an alternative suspect.
57-year-old Andrew Malkinson from Grimsby was convicted by a jury verdict of 10-2 of strangling and raping a woman in Little Hulton in Salford back in 2003, and was jailed for life following a trial at Manchester Crown Court in February 2004.
The victim – who had been walking home alone in the early hours of 19 July 2003 – was sexually assaulted after being throttled until the point of unconsciousness, and also suffered a broken neck and a fractured cheekbone during the attack.
There was no DNA or other forensic evidence linking Mr Malkinson to the crime at the time, and the prosecution case relied mainly on identification evidence from eyewitnesses.
This is why he has always maintained his innocence and insisted it was a case of mistaken identity.
Mr Malkinson had twice been refused an appeal in the past after applying for his case to be reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) – which is the body responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice – but after being released on license from prison back in 2020, scientific techniques have advanced, and this has potentially lead to some new evidence.
The legal team at the charity APPEAL was able to commission new DNA testing that revealed the presence of unknown male DNA in samples taken from the victim and her clothing, and this “breakthrough” has therefore cast doubt on Mr Malkinson’s conviction.
APPEAL Director Emily Bolton said “the battle for justice is not yet over”, adding that the CCRC “will now form its own view of the fresh evidence and we hope they will agree that Andy’s conviction cannot now be regarded as safe.”
Mr Malkinson says he “finally has the chance to prove his innocence”.
“I am innocent,” Mr Malkinson questioned in a statement provided by his legal representatives.
“Finally, I have the chance to prove it thanks to the perseverance of my legal team at APPEAL. I only have one life and so far 20 years of it has been stolen from me. Yesterday I turned 57 years old. How much longer will it take?”
As well as the case having being referred back to the CCRC this week, in light of new information, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) confirmed last month that it had arrested a 48-year-old man from Exeter on suspicion of rape, but he has since been released under investigation.
Addressing Mr Malkinson’s case, CCRC chairwoman Helen Pitcher said: “The new results raise concerns about the safety of these serious convictions.
“It is now for the Court of Appeal to decide whether they should be quashed.
“New evidence can come to light years after a conviction, and in the ever-changing world of forensic science, it is crucial an independent body can undertake these enquiries and send cases of concern back to court.
“Following Mr Malkinson’s application, we used our special powers and expertise to re-examine this case, instructing experts to undertake state-of-the-art DNA testing.”