Explained - when you can see friends and relatives under lockdown easing

People can take more exercise from Wednesday. Picture : SARAH LUCY BROWN

People will be allowed to gradually increase the amount of they can see others under the government's lockdown roadmap - Credit: Archant

The third national coronavirus lockdown means many people have not seen their closest friends and relatives for months - so when can you meet each other again?

The government this week released a 68-page roadmap to bring the country out of the current rules, with a four-stage plan towards period where there are no social restrictions.

Prime minister Boris Johnson described the plan as cautious and says the restrictions will be lifted slowly, so as not to risk another surge of infections.

And while he is optimistic the timetable will be met, he stressed all stages are subject to case rates remaining low. Any further spike could see them pushed back.

So what are the plans at the moment?

What are the current rules on meeting others?

The strict current "stay at home" lockdown rules mean that people cannot socialise with anyone outside of their own household, indoors or outdoors. This is to prevent the spread of the virus.

However, there are some very limited exceptions.

People can meet one person outside for exercise, provided they stay socially distanced at all times and stay local.

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This means two friends who live nearby can go for a walk. It also means people can meet a personal trainer.

To help protect the mental health of people living on their own during the pandemic, some people can also form a support bubble with one other household.

People can stay overnight with their support bubbles and treat themselves as effectively part of the same household.

However, to be allowed to form a support bubble, people have to meet a series of very strict criteria. 

It only applies to people who live on their own, although single parents with children under the age of 18 can also form support bubbles.

Parents with children aged under one or with disabled children requiring continuous care who are aged under five can be in a bubble as well.

Outdoors only at first

The "stay at home" requirement will still be in place as rules begin to be lifted from Monday, March 8.

However, for the first time in months, people will be able to go to parks for recreation, as oppose to only for exercise.

There, they can meet one person from another household.

This should allow two people to meet in a park for a coffee.

However from March 29, the "rule of six" will be reintroduced - meaning two households or gatherings of six people will be allowed outdoors, including in private gardens.

For many, this will be the first time people have seen more than one relative at once.

Outdoor sports facilities will also be allowed to open from March 29, meaning that people can play tennis and basketball with friends outside.

From April 12, most outdoor attractions will be able to open - but the government says that "wider social contact rules will apply in these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households".

While indoor leisure facilities will also be allowed to reopen, people can only use them alone or with members of their own household.

First indoor socialising

Most social contact rules outdoors will be lifted by May 17, subject to Covid-19 infections remaining low.

Gatherings of more than 30 people will still be illegal then.

Also on May 17, the "rule of six" will apply indoors for the first time.

When will social contact rules end?

The government says it hopes that all limits on social contact can be removed by June 21.

It also hopes nightclubs can reopen on that date.