Coronavirus: Picnics, park trips and days out considered as Johnson mulls easing lockdown

Boris Johnson is preparing important changes to the coronavirus lockdown rules, including amending the “stay at home” slogan and relaxing the one-exercise-a day limit.

On the day the second three-week period of restrictions comes to an end, the prime minister will chair a crucial meeting of his cabinet and talk to the leaders of opposition parties.

He announced to MPs in the Commons that he plans to outline changes to the lockdown rules in a TV address on Sunday, with the first of the new guidelines coming into force on Monday.

With summer approaching, as well as relaxing the “stay at home” rule and allowing unlimited exercise, the PM may give the go-ahead to picnics, trips to the park and outings in the countryside.

And he gave a hint of his proposed change to the government’s coronavirus slogan from “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” when he tweeted: “We have come so far. Let’s keep going.”

But primary schools are unlikely to re-open until the end of May, secondary schools not before the end of June and it could be the end of August before pubs and restaurants open their doors again.

The lockdown was announced by the prime minister is a sombre TV broadcast on 23 March, only a few days before Mr Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 and began self-isolating.

“I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home,” he declared. “If you don’t follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.”

But he added: “I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review. We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to.”

But three weeks later Mr Johnson was recovering at Chequers after spending a week in hospital, including three nights in intensive care, battling to overcome coronavirus.

In his absence, his stand-in, Dominic Raab, announced that based on scientific advice the Government had determined that the measures had to remain in place for at least another three weeks.

Now those three weeks are up, although there will still be no major changes, senior ministers have signalled that there will be adjustments to the rules on outdoor activities and moves to help people return to work.

Speaking to Kay Burley on Sky News, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “There is strong evidence that outdoors the spread is much, much lower, so there may be workarounds that some businesses, for instance cafes, especially over the summer, may be able to put into place.”

And the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced at the latest daily Downing Street coronavirus news conference that moves were underway to get the economy moving again.

Mr Jenrick said his department was drawing up plans on how workplaces could be adapted to make them safer and how parks, high streets, markets and transport could be managed with social distancing.

“Our mission is to ensure that everything we can do is done to help people get back to work safely and to reintroduce the things that make life worth living, in a safe way when it is safe to do so,” he said.

But with the Government struggling to meet its targets on coronavirus testing, minsters faces a tough task persuading a sceptical and fearful British public that it is safe to return to work.

In Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson declared that his ambition was to reach 200,000 tests a day by the end of this month “and then to go even higher”.

But later, at the news conference, Mr Jenrick was forced to admit that the latest daily testing number was under 70,000 and Mr Hancock’s 100,000-a-day target by the end of April had been missed for the fourth day running.

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