England resumes outdoor gatherings as Covid lockdown eases

The City of London financial district can be seen as people walk along the south side of the River Thames amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in London Britain 19 March 2021

People across the country are now allowed to meet in groups of six or as two households and outdoor team sports can resume as restrictions are loosened.

Many aspects of England's lockdown remain in place with the British government stressing that it's taking a cautious approach to lifting the restrictions, not least because of rising cases in continental Europe.

While greater outdoor freedoms are now permitted, the Government is still advising people to work from home where possible and minimise the number of journeys they take.

What restrictions are being eased in England?

Numbers have been limited for safety reasons but it has meant small groups of children have been able to enjoy organised sport and training.

"Despite today's easements, everyone must continue to stick to the rules, remember hands, face, space, and come forward for a vaccine when called", the Mr Johnson added.

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts will also reopen, with organised adult and children's sport - including grassroots football - able to return.

Mr Johnson said he hopes the easing will "kick-start a Great British summer of sport" as sports stars teamed up with the United Kingdom government to encourage a return to physical activity.

Glenn Earlam, chief executive of gym chain David Lloyd, which reopened outdoor facilities at 79 of its clubs in England, said people were "just desperate to get out of their houses and go and do something different".

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Organisers say although they have run online sessions the outdoor exercise is important for people's mental health as well as their physical fitness.

Boris Johnson's warning followed earlier ones made by the Prime Minister, who had emphasised that Britons should be "under no illusions" that they might dodge Europe's third coronavirus wave.

Britons have also been reminded by the Metropolitan Police that large gatherings remain unlawful and officers would "continue to respond quickly to house parties or risky raves, taking enforcement action by handing out fines". On Sunday, the United Kingdom recorded 3,862 new cases, the lowest daily figure in six months.

But on Sunday it passed the milestone of inoculating more than 30 million adults with a first dose of coronavirus vaccine, and the government intends to lift the lockdown fully in June.

The current changes are the first major milestone laid out in a "roadmap out of lockdown" that was announced by Downing Street in late February. Self-catering lets and camp sites will be allowed to provide self-contained holiday accommodation.

From April 5, click-and-collect retail services, along with garden centres, vehicle dealerships, homeware stores and barbers and hairdressers, will also be able to reopen.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said the easing of measures amounted to "cautious baby steps" out of lockdown and warned the police would intervene if people breached the rules.

After schools reopened on March 8, England's stay-at-home order will be relaxed to enable outdoor gatherings of up to six people, or two households, in what newspapers are dubbing "Happy Monday".

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