All the Covid rules changing in Leeds on Monday March 8 including schools, care homes and meeting outside as lockdown end begins
Pupils will return to schools and loved ones will be able to visit care home residents in person as part of the first phase of lockdown easing in England.
Boris Johnson said he hoped Monday’s tentative softening of restrictions marked a “big step” on his “road map to freedom” – a plan which could see all Covid measures lifted by June 21.
As well as pupils returning to classrooms for the first time in at least two months, the rules around meeting with a person from another household outdoors will be loosened to permit recreation and not just exercise.
While the “stay at home” message will remain in place, it means people can leave home to meet one other person for a coffee or picnic.
What is changing on Monday, March 8 in Leeds?
One Plus rule for meeting outdoors
From March 8 a one-plus-one rule applies. That means people in Leeds (and across the UK) can now meet one person from another household for a coffee or picnic outside. Not just for exercise.
Care home visitor rules are changing
But visitors are required to take a lateral flow test before entry, and wear PPE.
The scheme will allow a single visitor to hold hands with their relative/friend in the care home and make repeat visits.
Visitors will be tested prior to visits, wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and be asked to keep physical contact to a minimum.
Handholding is permitted but hugs and kissing are not, to help reduce the chance of spreading the virus, the Government has said in its latest visiting guidance.
Schools are back
Millions of pupils and their families are being asked to take asymptomatic Covid-19 tests as schools reopen their doors to the majority of pupils.
It is estimated that about one in three people who have Covid-19 have no symptoms. To help stop the spread of the virus the Government has introduced asymptomatic testing for certain people.
Secondary school pupils, who are likely to have their return staggered over the week to allow for mass testing, are being asked to take three voluntary Covid-19 tests on site and one at home over the first fortnight. They will then be sent home-testing kits to do twice-weekly.
The Department for Education (DfE) is also advising secondary school students to wear face coverings wherever social distancing cannot be maintained, including in the classroom.
But primary school children are not being asked to carry out Covid-19 tests or wear face masks on their return.
Some children will also return to classrooms in Northern Ireland for the first time since December.
P1 to P3 pupils will return to class but are set to go back to remote learning after two weeks.
Reaction to March 8 Covid rule changes
The Prime Minister, in comments made to the Daily Telegraph, said that even though it was “only a small relaxation of the rules”, this week’s changes would bring “joy and relief” to families after months of “tough restrictions”.
Mr Johnson, asked on Sunday about the risks involved with reopening more than 20,000 schools, echoed the warnings of education experts that more damage was being done to pupils by keeping them at home than having them return to in-person lessons.
“I think the risk is actually in not going back to school tomorrow given all the suffering, all the loss of learning we have seen,” he said on a visit to a north London vaccination centre.
It comes after Amanda Spielman, England’s chief schools inspector, expressed concern about eating disorders and self-harming among children after she said pupils endured “boredom, loneliness, misery and anxiety” during England’s third lockdown.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was looking at proposals that included a five-term academic year, a shorter summer holiday and longer school days to help pupils catch up on lost learning during the pandemic in “transformative” measures not seen since the Second World War.
But Ofsted chief Ms Spielman, asked on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday for her opinion, said such ideas had fallen by the wayside in the past and that any proposals should have the support of parents.
“I think a number of schools have experimented over the last couple of decades with things like five-term years and I don’t think many of those have persisted,” she said.
Labour is calling for catch-up breakfast clubs before the school day starts, with leader Sir Keir Starmer and his shadow education secretary Kate Green due to argue during a visit to a school in east London on Monday that the concept would allow for both extra socialising and learning.
The party said its analysis of Government data suggested children have each lost an average of 109 face-to-face school days since the first lockdown in March 2020.