Hugs with loved ones as PM confirms England's biggest step back to normal
People in England will be allowed to hug loved ones and enjoy indoor hospitality from next Monday, the PM has said - whilst urging people to "exercise caution and common sense".
Boris Johnson said this was the "single biggest step" to unlocking society but that people should remain vigilant.
Indoor mixing and overnight stays in groups of up to six people or two households will also resume.
Leisure venues such as cinemas, museums and children's play areas will reopen.
Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Mr Johnson said the further relaxation of England's lockdown would go ahead on 17 May as the government had met its four tests for easing restrictions.
These tests relied on the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence that the jabs were reducing serious illness and death, infection rates remaining under control and the risks from new Covid variants not changing.
What is changing in England on 17 May?
- People can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors
- Six people or two households can meet indoors
- Overnight stays will be allowed in groups of up to six people or two households
- Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues can reopen indoors
- Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes can restart
- Indoor entertainment such as museums, theatres, cinemas, bingo halls, sports stadia and children's play areas can reopen
- Performances and large events can restart, with limits on audience numbers
- Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas can open
- Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen
- Holidays abroad to green list countries will be allowed
- Up to 30 people can attend weddings (although dancing will still not be allowed) and more than 30 can attend funerals
The prime minister said the latest data showed deaths and hospitalisations had dropped to their lowest level since last July.
Zero coronavirus deaths were announced in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland on Monday, while Wales recorded four deaths.
More than two-thirds of adults across the UK have now received a coronavirus vaccine, with almost 18 million people having had their second dose.
The UK's four chief medical officers said earlier that the UK's Covid alert level should be lowered from level four to three.
It means that although coronavirus is in general circulation, transmission is no longer high or rising exponentially, so restrictions can be gradually reduced.
Mr Johnson said that all the data supported the latest easing of restrictions, which he said amounted to "a considerable step on the road back to normality".
"And today we're taking a step toward that moment when we learn to live responsibly with Covid, when we cease eventually to rely on detailed government edicts and make our own decisions based on the best scientific advice about how best to protect our families and those around us."
He added that, as part of the latest lockdown easing, the government would update its guidance on close contact between close family and friends shortly.
The advice would explain the risks involved so people could make informed choices, he said.
"This doesn't mean that we can suddenly throw caution to the winds. We all know that close contacts such as hugging is a direct way of transmitting this disease," he said.
"So I urge you to think about the vulnerability of your loved ones."
Mr Johnson said social distancing should still be followed when people are not with their friends and family in workplaces, shops, pubs, restaurants and other settings.
He also confirmed that the wearing of face masks in secondary school classrooms in England will not be required after 17 May.
Care home residents will be able to have up to five named visitors, he said, and greater freedoms to enjoy low- risk visits outside their home without having to isolate on their return.