It has also significantly changed how we exercise, with gyms remaining closed for months at a time.
All four UK nations are currently under lockdown restrictions which means people must stay at home, and only leave for essential reasons.
When could gyms reopen?
Gyms, swimming pools and other indoor exercise venues will reopen in the second stage of the easing of lockdown, which begins on April 12 at the earliest.
However, outdoor facilities, such as tennis courts and golf courses, will be allowed to open from 29 March, in the second part of stage one.
The plans are part of the long-awaited Government’s lockdown exit strategy, which was unveiled by Boris Johnson on Monday as the Prime Minister made clear that the hard weeks of winter lockdown and the country’s vaccines programme have started to pay off with reduced infections, hospitalisations and deaths.
Lockdown will be lifted in four steps, with the first step split into two major milestone dates, on 8 and 29 March, and will be England-wide, meaning there will be no return to the regional tiered system.
As well as reopening schools on schedule, outdoor after school sports and activities will also restart from Monday 8 March.
Two people from different households will also be allowed to socialise in a park or other public outdoor space by having a coffee or picnic – activities not currently permitted under the outside exercise rule.
The second half of step one will come on 29 March, in time for the start of the Easter school holidays, with a major easing of the limits on social contact, underlining that the risk of transmission outside is significantly lower than indoors.
Gatherings in outdoor public places of either six people or two households will be permitted from that date, allowing more flexibility for larger families to meet outside, while outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts will reopen.
The timetable is dependent on four tests being met.
- the vaccine deployment programme is continuing successfully – including the flow of supplies;
- evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated;
- infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS;
- the government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new “variants of concern”.
Step-by-step lockdown roadmap
- From 8 March: All schools will open with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed. Socialising in an outdoor public spaces – such as a park – will be allowed between two people
- From 29 March: Return of the “Rule of Six”: Groups of larger than six from a maximum of two households will also be allowed to meet. Outdoor sport and leisure facilities, such as golf courses and tennis courts, will be allowed to reopen, and organised outdoor sport can resume for children and adults
Step 2 – From 12 April
- All non-essential retail can reopen
- Pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen, with outdoor seating only
- Gyms and other indoor leisure can reopen (limited to household groups)
- Hairdressers and other personal care businesses can open again
- Domestic holidays can resume (limited to household groups)
- Outdoor attractions like zoos and theme parks can reopen
- Weddings and wakes can have up to 15 people
- Libraries and community centres can reopen
- All children’s activities can resume, including indoor parent and children groups with up to 15 parents
- Tests will be conducted for larger events
Step 3 – From 17 May
- Rules of Six will come into effect indoors (subject to review)
- Indoor seating can resume in pubs and restaurants
- Indoor entertainment venues like cinemas and theatres can reopen
- Domestic overnight stays can resume
- Organised indoor adult sport can start again
- Weddings and other “significant life events” can include up to 30 people
- Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as performances, can resume
- Remaining accommodation can reopen
Step 4 – From 21 June
- Larger events can resume
- Night clubs can reopen
- No legal limits on social contact