Parents across the country are this morning basking in the long-missed sound of not very much after packing their kids off to school for the first time in weeks.
Monday March 8 marks the first step stage in Boris Johnson’s “road map to freedom”, a plan which could see all Covid measures lifted by June 21.
Here’s what’s allowed from today:
All children will be able to return to class from Monday under the first step to ease restrictions, but secondary schools can stagger the return of students over the week to allow for mass testing.
Secondary school pupils are being asked to take three voluntary Covid-19 tests on site and one at home over the first fortnight. They will then be sent home-testing kits to do twice-weekly.
The Department for Education (DfE) is also advising secondary school students to wear face coverings wherever social distancing cannot be maintained, including in the classroom.
But primary school children are not being asked to carry out Covid-19 tests or wear face masks on their return.
While the “stay at home” message will remain in place, you can now leave home to meet one other person for a coffee or picnic.
Previously, people were only allowed to meet one other person or their support bubble outside for exercise, while all other trips needed to be for essential reasons such as shopping or medical treatment.
The rules state: “You can spend time in outdoor public spaces for recreation on your own, with your household or support bubble, or with one other person. This means you can sit down for a drink or picnic.
“You must continue to maintain social distance from those outside your household. This is in addition to outdoor exercise, which is already permitted.”
Hundreds of thousands of care home residents in England will be able to receive indoor visits from a nominated friend or relative from today.
Every resident will be able to nominate a person to visit them indoors, while residents with the highest care needs can receive more frequent visits from a loved one who will provide essential care and support.
Visitors will be tested prior to visits, wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and be asked to keep physical contact to a minimum.
Handholding is permitted but hugs and kissing are not, to help reduce the chance of spreading the virus, the government has said in its latest visiting guidance.
Visiting is not conditional on the resident or visitor having been vaccinated, but this is “strongly recommended”, it says.
Outdoor visits, window visits and those in pods should continue so residents can see other loved ones, it adds.
It is around a year since some care homes first closed their doors, several weeks ahead of the first lockdown on March 23.
The bigger picture
Johnson, in comments made to the Daily Telegraph, said that even though it was “only a small relaxation of the rules”, this week’s changes would bring “joy and relief” to families after months of “tough restrictions”.
Asked on Sunday about the risks involved with reopening more than 20,000 schools, the PM echoed the warnings of education experts that more damage was being done to pupils by keeping them at home than having them return to in-person lessons.
“I think the risk is actually in not going back to school tomorrow given all the suffering, all the loss of learning we have seen,” he said on a visit to a north London vaccination centre.
Here’s how and when the rest of the restrictions could be eased:
The rule of six on social gathering will return. It will allow six people from up to two households to meet outside or in private gardens.
The ‘stay at home’ advice will be replaced by new guidance to ‘stay local’ where possible. People will still be asked to work at home wherever possible, however, and overseas travel ban in place.
People will be allowed to travel to meet someone but not stay overnight.
Outdoor facilities such as tennis courts, golf courses and basketball courts will reopen.
From April 12
Non-essential retail and personal care businesses, such as hairdressers and nail salons, are expected to reopen.
Pubs and restaurants could reopen but only for outdoor hospitality. There will be no curfew but table service will be compulsory. The rule of having a substantial meal will not return.
Public buildings, including libraries, are expected to reopen from this date.
People can also begin to exercise indoors with the reopening of gyms and swimming pools. Members of the public can only use facilities alone or with people from their household, however.
Driving lessons can resume. Weddings and funerals can resume with guests of up to 30 and wakes can include 15 people.
People can stay in self-contained holiday lets or camp sites where facilities are not shared, but only with members of your own household.
Watch: How England will leave lockdown
From May 17
Pubs and restaurants can begin hosting people indoors.
Gatherings outdoors will be allowed for up to 30 people.
The rule of six/group comprised of two households will also be extended to include indoor settings.
Overnight stays will be permitted. Hotels and museums can reopen.
There will also be new rules on entertainment venues, such as cinemas and theatre, and indoor sports venues.
Indoors venues can host 1,000 people or be half full, whichever number is lower. Outdoors, there will be a maximum capacity of 4,000, or half full whichever is lower.
For larger football stadiums, such as Wembley, the crowd can be as large as 10,000 or the venue be a quarter full.
Exercising indoors in larger groups will be allowed, so, for example, exercise classes can resume.
Restrictions on international travel will also be reviewed, raising hopes that foreign holidays will be possible from May 17.
The government is aiming to remove legal limits on social contact, including all limits on weddings and life events.
Unlike last summer, nightclubs will be expected to reopen.
A review examining social distancing requirements – including hugs with friends and relatives – the use of face masks and requirements to work from home, will also be published by June 21.
Johnson has also announced a review into whether people should be able to show if they have had a Covid-19 vaccine or a negative test.
Ministers will also consider whether a domestic ‘vaccine passport’ or ‘Covid status certification’ could help reopen the economy sooner.
All of the measures will be put to a Commons vote before the House rises for Easter in late March.How will the government decide what to unlock and when?
Ministers will review the data over the course of four weeks and use four tests to decide if lifting restrictions is safe.The tests are that the vaccine programme “continues successfully”, that there is evidence jabs are “sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths”, that Infection rates “do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS”, and that the government has no fears over no variants.
Watch: Do coronavirus vaccines affect fertility?
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.