DISCLAIMER: Rules, regulations, and science about the UK pandemic may have changed since this article was written in May 2020, for updated news visit the World Health Organisation or the NHS website.

The End of Quarantine?

In the face of an unprecedented pandemic, the UK went into lockdown mode on the 23rd March earlier this year. Since then, the country has radically transformed. Schools and businesses have closed, streets are deserted, and queues form outside of supermarkets. We can no longer visit friends or family if they live separately and can only go outside for permitted reasons such as shopping for necessities, medical needs or socially distanced exercise. 

But in the last couple days, the government has announced changes to the lockdown rules as a response to the lowered death rate and rate of transmission of the virus. So, are we back to normal? No, not yet – but some restrictions have been lifted.

Has Lockdown Been Lifted In The UK?

Firstly, lockdown hasn’t been lifted. Many restrictions still remain for everybody, and fines could await those who break the rules. However, our permissions have changed.

Secondly, lockdown rules now differ throughout the UK. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are lifting or amending lockdown rules separately. As the majority of changes occurring to lockdown have been announced within England, this article will focus primarily on these new permissions. However, it’s important to look at how the countries of the UK differ in this regard, and see what has changed for you depending on where you live.

Person on laptop sat on window seat, lockdown updates, e-Surgery

Scotland

  • People in Scotland can now exercise outdoors locally as often as they like and for as long as they like, but they must observe social distancing rules and exercise can only be done alone or with household members. It must be active exercise such as walking, running or cycling – sunbathing is not permitted. 
  • Garden centers may be reopened.
  • All other lockdown rules remain.

Wales

  • The Welsh government has renewed lockdown for a further 3 weeks. However, you can now exercise outside for more than once a day, provided it is local.
  • Garden centers may be reopened.
  • Plans to safely open libraries and recycling centers are being made.
  • All other lockdown rules remain.

Northern Ireland

  • There is a staged plan in place for reducing lockdown, but no dates have been given. It’s likely that people will be able to exercise outside as often as they like.
  • All other lockdown rules remain.

Now let’s take a look at the lockdown changes in England and how they affect us.

Who Is Going Back To Work?

During lockdown, only essential workers were encouraged to leave home for their job. These included healthcare and social workers such as nurses, paramedics and carers, food production and retail workers, teachers and nursery staff, utility workers and those in key public services, and many others. For these people, work simply continues as it had throughout lockdown.

Still, the majority of us had to work from home or receive a portion of their salary from home. Now that could all be changing. 

If you can work from home, you should continue to work from home. However, if you cannot and your workplace is open, you can now go into work provided your employer has provided a safe working environment e.g. implemented social distancing. 

People that are being encouraged to return to work include construction and factory workers as these jobs can’t be done remotely.

Can I Commute To Work?

If you cannot work from home, you can go back to work and this means that you can commute to your workplace. However, extra precautions should be taken.

If possible you should avoid using public transport to commute to work. This means that driving to work, walking or cycling are the best options currently. This could be an opportunity to see the Real Gains From A Healthy Commute!

Not everybody can rely on a solitary commute however. For many people, public transport is the only way they can reasonably get to work. If you are using a bus or a train to commute, make sure to always observe social distancing rules. The government is now encouraging the use of a face mask when commuting in order to lower the transmission of the virus. You should be using 3-Ply Surgical Face Masks and Disposable Gloves in order to maximize your safety when commuting using public transport.

How Can I Exercise During Lockdown?

Previously, outdoor exercise was generally limited to a once-a-day local activity and was restricted to exercises such as walking, running or cycling. Now some of these restrictions have been lifted.

You can now exercise outside as many times a day as you want, and for as long as you want. It doesn’t have to be local, as you can now drive to a location to exercise – as long as you do not cross borders into Scotland or Wales. Furthermore, you are no longer restricted to active exercises which means you can use local parks to sunbathe. Activities such as golfing or tennis are now permitted but can only be done with one other person, and social distancing rules must apply – no team sports.

You are now able to meet one other person from outside your household in outdoor areas such as parks, but you must practice social distancing at all times. This still means that gatherings of people you don’t live with are prohibited. 

Basically, make use of open outdoor spaces as much as you’d like, but follow common sense safety advice such as always following social distancing, not meeting with more than one person from outside your household, and using personal protective equipment.

Not everybody can make use of these new freedoms. For those who are vulnerable or practicing self isolation, it may still be best to exercise at home. Check out these 9 Ways To Stay Active At Home During Lockdown and these 6 Ways To Improve Your Well Being in self isolation.

Trainers and fitness equipment, gyms opening after lockdown, e-Surgery

When Are Schools Opening Again?

There is no exact date for when schools are expected to fully reopen, as it’s contingent on the scale of the pandemic. However, it has been announced that nurseries and primary schools may partially reopen on June 1st at the earliest.

Partial reopening will likely mean that only the youngest and oldest classes will return to school, for example Reception, Year 1 and Year 6. Class sizes may be restricted.

The government hopes for other classes to return to school prior to the summer holidays, including secondary school classes that need to prepare for exams.

When Are Shops Opening Again?

During the lockdown, only shops deemed as essential remained open, such as supermarkets. Now, people are looking optimistically to the high street opening back up. Is this realistic?

From June 1st at the earliest, some shops deemed as non-essential may be back in business. It’s likely these will be places such as DIY and clothing stores, and will be reliant on the business being able to effectively enforce social distancing. Still, it’s entirely dependent on the course of the pandemic.

It may take a while longer for places such as cafes, restaurants, pubs and hairdressers to open again, with the earliest estimation being the 4th July – which is again dependent on the levels of the virus in the general population.

Staying Safe

So, schools and shops reopening could be on the horizon. People who can’t work from home are now going into work, and we can now exercise outdoors with much more freedom. We can even meet with someone outside our household in a park, providing we take the proper precautions. It’s a positive outlook!

While things are improving, it’s important to stay alert and make sure to protect ourselves and others from the spread of the virus. The lockdown being opened up is based on the course of pandemic in the UK, so it’s vital we follow the government safety advice if we want to get back to life as normal anytime soon.

You should still only be going outside for essential trips. These include:

  • Outdoor exercise alone or with others, following social distancing rules
  • Shopping for necessities
  • For medical reasons
  • Commuting to work if you can’t work from home

You can help cut down on trips outside by ordering medication online – check out Ordering Meds Online: Safer Than Your Local Pharmacy? You should also continue to follow basic hygiene practices such as wearing face masks and washing your hands thoroughly after going outside – check out our 5 Steps To Hand Washing.

Hand sanitiser, gloves and masks on blue table, e-Surgery

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