Boris Johnson has announced that groups of up to six friends and family will be able to meet outdoors in public or in private gardens as the U.K. prime minister eases lockdown restrictions in England.
The new measures, which will be in place from Monday, mean people in England will be able to enjoy garden parties and barbecues, and came as Johnson announced that the government had satisfied its five tests for controlling the virus.
The government’s scientific advisers said people should be cautious at friends’ houses when using the bathroom. “If someone was to go into the loo … [it is] absolutely critical that they wipe everything down, wash their hands all the way through,” said chief medical officer Chris Whitty.
For people having barbecues, Whitty urged caution in passing utensils from person to person while Johnson urged people to be “incredibly scrupulous.”
While citizens will be allowed to meet up in parks and gardens, pubs and hair salons have been left hanging, and could remain closed until July.
In the U.S., all 50 U.S. states have now taken steps to ease reopening measures.
At Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing Johnson said: “These changes mean that friends and family can start to meet their loved ones perhaps seeing both parents at once or both grandparents at once.”
Johnson urged caution, however, saying people should “avoid seeing people from too many households in quick succession.”
The government also promoted its new test-and-trace program, which launched on Thursday without the planned app component, meaning anyone who comes into contact with a coronavirus case will be urged to self-isolate.
Some schools will also open Monday, alongside outdoor markets and car showrooms, while later in June, more nonessential retail outlets will be able to reopen.
The U.K. entered lockdown on March 23, with people ordered to stay at home, allowed out for only one hour of exercise each day or essential shopping. While key workers, including supermarket staff and doctors and nurses, were allowed to work, others were either furloughed or told to work from home.
On May 7, lockdown measures eased, allowing unlimited exercise and socially distanced meet-ups with a person from a different household. Employees in some sectors including construction and manufacturing were allowed to return to work, but anyone able to work from home was still told to do so.
It was also confirmed on Thursday that top-flight soccer would return in England and Wales in mid-June. Manchester City will face Arsenal, while Sheffield United play against Aston Villa on Wednesday June 17, followed by a packed calendar of weekend Premier League matches.