The four UK countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continue to ease Covid lockdown restrictions. This means there is more freedom to hike, run and go camping together, as well as being able to enjoy UK travel again.
Many people have now received their first vaccine and the Covid vaccination programme is being further rolled out to include more age groups, as well as to give people a second dose.
The number of cases and deaths in the UK as a whole is in decline, and hospitals are receiving fewer cases of Covid-related illnesses.
The UK Government will continue to monitor the easing of restrictions and each new stage will be a minimum of five weeks apart. Four conditions must be met at each point before proceeding to the next one:
- The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions
- Vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying or requiring hospital treatment
- New coronavirus variants do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions
April saw further relaxation of restrictions around outdoor activity, travel and overnight stays away from home. Spurred on by the glorious weather, many of us took back to the hills with our tents for a wild camp, while overnight stays in self-catering accommodation were also back on the cards.
In this article, we are focusing on the guidance for outdoor and indoor exercise and socialising, as well as tourism and hospitality, in each of the four UK countries.
Covid roadmap for England for outdoors exercise and travel
The government's roadmap out of lockdown continues to go as planned in England. For full details see: UK Government Covid restrictions.
On April 12 we saw the latest easing of restrictions. Pubs, cafes and restaurants are now allowed to serve people outdoors, travel restrictions have been eased and overnight stays in self-catering facilities are permitted. In terms of outdoor adventure, here is the current picture in England:
- As has been the case since 8th March, all forms of outdoor sport and physical activity are allowed
- Groups of up to six individuals from six different households, or an unlimited number of people from one or two households, can meet outdoors
- No social mixing between households is allowed indoors, barring a few specific exceptions
- While there is no legal limit on travel distance, government advice is to 'minimise the amount you travel wherever possible'
- Rules related to indoor mixing also apply to transport
- Overnight stays are now allowed in self-contained accommodation (including campsites), but only with members of your household or support bubble
- Self-contained holiday accommodation can reopen as long as communal facilities aren't shared with other households
Stage three will be no earlier than May 17, but there is a lot to look forward to, such as people meeting in groups of up to 30 outdoors. Meanwhile, adult indoor group sports and exercise classes can restart.
Up to six people or two households will be able to meet indoors and pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues will also be able to seat customers indoors.
This is the stage when hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen. Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas, can open again and it will be possible to visit indoor entertainment venues such as museums, theatres, cinemas and children's play areas.
Performances and large events can restart, but with limits on audience numbers.
International leisure travel may be allowed to resume.
Stage four will be no earlier than June 21 but this is an important date for your diary if you live in England because all legal limits on social contact will be removed.
If you are hoping to get away for hiking, running or camping then now could be your opportunity.
Covid roadmap for Scotland for outdoors exercise and travel
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has outlined the country's stages for easing of Covid pandemic restrictions. They are similar to England's, but some key information differs.
With recent easing of restrictions on April 26, cafés, pubs, non-essential shops and museums are now open for the first time in months. However, a maximum of six people from two households can meet indoors in hospitality venues, with a strict 8pm curfew, and alcohol will not be served indoors. If you don't mind sitting outside, however, you can have an alcoholic beverage.
In terms of outdoor adventure, this is the current situation in Scotland:
- Up to six people from up to six households can meet outdoors
- You can travel anywhere in Scotland and stay in holiday accommodation (but you should not stay in someone else's house)
- Up to six people from two households can socialise indoors in a public place, such as a café, pub or restaurant
- Hospitality sector businesses can serve non-alcoholic drinks indoors (until 8pm) and alcoholic drinks outdoors (until 10pm)
- Gyms and swimming pools can open for individual exercise
The next key date for the easing of Covid restrictions in Scotland for exercise and travel is May 17 when all areas in level 3 move to level 2.
In level 2, up to four people from two households can socialise indoors in a private home. Outdoor adult contact sport and indoor group exercise can restart and small-scale outdoor and indoor events will be allowed with limits on capacity.
The First Minister also indicated that in early June it is hoped that Scotland could move to Level 1 and, by end of June, to level 0.
Covid roadmap for Wales for outdoors exercise and travel
The Welsh government is ahead of schedule in its easing of the lockdown in Wales. This is due to the ever-improving coronavirus situation in the country, which has led to some restrictions being lifted early:
- Outdoor group activity for up to 30 adults can resume from April 26
- Indoor sporting facilities, including gyms and climbing walls, will be able to reopen from May 3 for individual activity
- People from Wales, England and Scotland can now travel anywhere in Wales for the purpose of exercise, recreation or to holiday
- Fully self-contained holiday accommodation has reopened for single households and some campsites are now open
- Travelling in shared private transport is not permitted unless it's with people from the same household
Easing of restrictions in Northern Ireland gathers pace
Northern Ireland has detailed a Pathway to Recovery out of the Covid pandemic. There will be many changes through May and June.
The latest easing of restrictions took place on April 30 with retail reopening and outdoor hospitality back on the cards. Similar to England, there are relaxations in holiday accommodation, as long as it is self-contained.
Here's what it means for outdoor adventures:
- Up to 15 people from three households can meet outdoors
- Self-contained holiday accommodation - such as static caravans and holiday homes - can reopen for Northern Ireland residents
- Indoor mixing of households is still not permitted
- Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants can operate outdoors, with a maximum of six people from two households at each table
The next key date in Northern Ireland's easing of restrictions is 24 May, at the earliest. It is hoped that from then on indoor hospitality can reopen, as well as some indoor mixing of households in private accommodation. B&Bs and hotels should also reopen on this date.
Restrictions on travel between countries
While keeping on top of restrictions in each country can be a little confusing, there's also the added complication of restrictions in terms of travel between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Here is the current situation:
- Travel into or out of England from other UK countries is unrestricted
- Travel into or out of Wales from other UK countries is unrestricted
- Travel into or out of Scotland from other UK countries is unrestricted
- Travel into Northern Ireland from other UK countries currently requires a 10-day isolation period
- International travel for holidays is not currently allowed. The earliest non-essential international travel could recommence in any form is May 17
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