What can and can't open when COVID-19 lockdown restrictions ease on May 17?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the Indian variant of coronavirus may make the roadmap 'difficult' ahead of Step 4 on June 21.

Indoors will become the new outdoors on Monday, May 17 when lockdown restrictions are further eased.

Indoor hospitality at pubs and restaurants will be allowed again when the country moves to Step 3 of the government's roadmap out of lockdown on May 17th.

Despite the increasing spread of the Indian coronavirus variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed Monday's easing of COVID-19 lockdown curbs will still go-ahead as planned.

Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference on Friday that he believed there was no need to delay the roadmap reopening set for Monday, which will see people able to socialise indoors.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a coronavirus briefing in Downing Street, London, on Friday, May 14, 2021.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a coronavirus briefing in Downing Street, London, on Friday, May 14, 2021. - Credit: PA

"I do not believe that we need, on the present evidence, to delay our roadmap and we will proceed with our plan to move to step three in England from Monday," he said.

That means cinemas such as the Broadway in Letchworth, museums and theatres will be allowed to reopen, and hotels and holiday accommodation can also open their doors again.

But what business can't open next week when the rest of the country moves a step closer to normality?

And what COVID-19 lockdown rules will still be in place after May 17th?

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Step 3 lockdown easing at a glance

Here's a list of the Step 3 changes, which will be from Monday, May 17.

  • Indoor entertainment and indoor attractions can open.
  • 30 person limit outdoors. Rule of 6 or two households indoors.
  • Domestic overnight stays allowed.
  • Organised indoor adult sport back.
  • Most significant life events, 30 people  can attend.
  • Cap on number of funeral mourners lifted.
  • Remaining outdoor entertainment (including performances) allowed.
  • Remaining accommodation can open.
  • Some large events (expect for pilots) – capacity limits apply.
    • Indoor events: 1,000 or 50%.
    • Outdoor other events: 4,000 or 50%.
    • Outdoor seated events: 10,000 or 25%.
  • International travel, although only a dozen countries are on the government's green list.

An event cannot take place if it is unlikely that social distancing between groups of attendees cannot be maintained, or if COVID-secure requirements cannot be met.

What venues can't open after May 17th?

In Step 3, all but the most high-risk sectors will be able to reopen.

While indoor entertainment and visitor attractions can welcome back customers, some businesses will have to remain closed until June 21st at the earliest under the roadmap restrictions.

These include nightclubs, which have been closed for more than a year, and adult entertainment venues such as lap dance clubs.


Boris Johnson (right) and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty during a COVID-19 media briefing in Downing Street.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty during a COVID-19 media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Friday, May 14, 2021. - Credit: PA

COVID-19 lockdown rules from May 17

Following the move to Step 3, further venues will be permitted to open in England.

Unless a specific exemption exists, these must only be attended/used in line with the wider social contact limits at this stage – in a group of six people, the 'Rule of 6', or two households indoors.

The government is poised to lift most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors, although gatherings of more than 30 people outdoors will remain illegal for now. 

Face coverings will no longer be needed in classrooms or for students in communal areas in secondary schools and colleges. Twice weekly home testing will remain to control infection rates.

Indoor areas of hospitality venues will be allowed to reopen when the third stage of the government's roadmap comes into effect next week. 

As outdoors, table service will be required for venues that serve alcohol, even if no alcohol is ordered. This means customers must order, be served and eat/drink while seated.

Venues will be prohibited from providing smoking equipment such as shisha pipes, for use on the premises.

While theatres and cinemas are set to reopen from May 17, there are capacity limits on numbers and audiences will be socially distanced until Step 4.

The Odeon cinema chain, for example, will introduce strict social distancing measures and screens will be unable to be at full capacity.

Screenings will be limited, including empty seats between groups of guests, and staggered start times to reduce queues in foyers.

Cinema-goers will also have to wear a face covering, although they will be allowed to remove them to eat or drink snacks, and masks will not be needed when sat in Odeon's Costa outlets.

Attendances at live events will be restricted to 1,000 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, for indoor events, and 50 per cent of capacity up to 4,000 people for outdoor events.

For outdoor events taking place in venues with seated capacity of over 16,000, event organisers will have a 25 per cent capacity cap, up to a maximum of 10,000 seated people. These events should be ticketed.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a COVID-19 media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Friday, May 14, 2021.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a COVID-19 media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Friday, May 14, 2021. - Credit: PA

What happens at Step 4 on June 21st?

Step 4 of the roadmap is set for June 21st at the earliest. However, the emergence of the Indian variant threatens to detail the roadmap.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned England will face “hard choices" if the Indian variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tweeted today (Saturday, May 15): "The crucial road map date for theatres, music venues and sports has always been Step 4, so I understand this is an anxious time as we assess the situation over the next couple of weeks.

"We continue to make good progress with the vaccine rollout and with testing the safe return of audiences through the Events Research Programme, but must accept we enter a period of heightened vigilance with the new fast-moving variant.

"We will keep engaging with, and updating, organisations to allow everyone to plan their full reopening."

At Step 4, the government hopes to reopen remaining settings, such as nightclubs. This will happen at least five weeks after Step 3.

Plans are in place to lift restrictions on social contact and large events that apply in Step 3, such as capacity restrictions, including for theatre performances.

This is subject to the outcome of the Events Research Programme pilots, and a review of social distancing measures, and could be delayed by the spread of the Indian variant.

The government will also look to relax COVID-secure requirements on businesses, subject to the outcome of the reviews.

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