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Easing Lockdown Restrictions in England: Which rules are changing on 29 March?

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

March 29 marks the next major milestone in the UK government’s staged approach to easing lockdown restrictions in England. March 8 was the first key date in this process as people were given permission to meet up outdoors with one other person outside their household to socialise and students returned to schools and colleges as educational institutions re-opened their doors. 

Further restrictions will be relaxed next week to round off the first step of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown which has been split into two parts. From 29 March, people will be able to meet up outdoors (including private gardens), in either groups of up to six people, known as ‘the rule of six’ or with one other household. With it evident that the virus transmits easier indoors, the government is rightly prioritising the lifting of restrictions in outdoor settings first with outdoor sports facilities such as golf courses and tennis courts also permitted to re-open from this date.

Whilst the government’s stay at home requirement will end on the 29 March, people should still continue to work from home if they can and are encouraged to stay local as much as possible when travelling.

The lifting of restrictions on March 29 completes the first step of the process as the government takes a gradual approach to relaxing restrictions across the country. The three remaining steps are set to take place on the 12 April, 17 May and the 21 June, providing the government deems it safe to do so.   

Further details on the government’s four-stage roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England can be found here

Will there be set conditions that need to be met before these restrictions are lifted?

The changes set to be implemented from next week represents the culmination of the first step in re-opening the UK economy.

The government has said that it will be guided by the data as opposed to arbitrary dates and that the remaining steps set to take place in April, May and June will be subject to four tests before the government gives the green light to proceed. The dates mentioned (above) for steps 2, 3 and 4 are the earliest dates by which these changes will be introduced and therefore may be pushed back if the government deems it necessary to do so.

The government has allowed a minimum of five weeks between each step of the roadmap to provide sufficient time for them to assess the impact of the changes and businesses will receive a week’s notice as to whether they will proceed in lifting the restrictions. 

What is the deadline for businesses to sign-up for workplace testing?

Workplace testing is going to play a crucial role in preventing future outbreaks within workplaces and giving employees the confidence to return to the office as the national restrictions in place are eased and workplaces begin to re-open.

The government has launched a free workplace testing programme in which businesses can sign-up to receive free lateral flow tests to test their employees. These tests are used to detect the virus in individuals who are not displaying symptoms and can deliver a result within 30 minutes. It is recommended that businesses test staff twice weekly. This will involve businesses setting up testing sites on their premises and training up staff to carry out the testing.

The scheme was previously only open to businesses with more than fifty employees, but since the 6 March, it has been made available to all businesses. However, the deadline to apply is fast approaching and businesses must register for the scheme no later than the 31 March. The government has said that the scheme will remain free until the end of June.

Birmingham City Council have also set up a number of community testing sites across the city in which people can get tested if their employer is unable to offer workplace testing – further details can be found here

Click here to sign up for the government’s workplace testing programme.  

Covid secure measures are going to be key in avoiding a surge in the infection rate

Whilst the vaccine roll-out continues to progress, it is still integral that businesses carry on adhering to government guidelines and ensure their premises are COVID secure for the safety of both their employees and customers. This includes undertaking risk assessments to manage the risk of transmission, maintaining social distancing, keeping the workplace clean and improving ventilation. The government have provided guidance for businesses on the actions that they need to take to make their workplaces secure (access here) and you can also find further resources on the Health & Safety Executive website here.

If a member of staff is displaying symptoms, it is vital that employees leave the workplace immediately to get tested right away and self-isolate as required. If businesses start to experience a cluster of cases in the workplace, it is essential that they act early and contact the public health team at Birmingham City Council who will be able to advise and support them.

You can find further digital resources and guidance on government support schemes, coronavirus restrictions and Covid secure guidance on our website here.