Q&A: How are lockdown restrictions changing from Monday?
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
From Monday, March 29, the government's "stay at home" mantra will be replaced with a new message of "stay local".
And as lockdown restrictions in England begin to ease, this should see the start of the next stage towards normality.
From Saturday, March 27, Wales began lifting some of its restrictions, while Scotland and Northern Ireland have also started relaxing their rules.
But how will the new rules affect people across Norfolk and Waveney?
Here are your questions, answered:
Can I meet with family and friends?
From Monday, you can meet outdoors with family and friends in groups of six or as two households.
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Groups of six can all be from different households, while meetings of two households can have more than six people.
Each household can include those in existing support bubbles.
In addition to public places, meetings can take place in private gardens - making get-togethers over the Easter period far simpler.
Those from different households must, however, continue to observe social distancing rules and meeting indoors is still prohibited.
What about parent and child groups?
Formally organised parent and child groups will be able to meet outdoors, so long as there are no more than 15 people in attendance.
Children under the age of five will not be not counted in this total.
Childcare and supervised activities will also be allowed outdoors for all children.
Can I play my favourite sport again?
For the most part, yes.
Outdoor sports facilities such as football pitches, golf courses and tennis and basketball courts are set to be made available for public use from March 29.
In most cases, these will have to be booked in advance in order to maintain social distancing and avoid several people turning up at once.
In south Norfolk, for example, bookings are now being accepted for the use of the 3G football pitches and tennis courts at Kett's Park, in Wymondham, and Long Stratton Leisure Centre.
Outside swimming pools can also reopen next week, including Beccles Lido, which will stay Covid-compliant with an online booking system.
The popular attraction has already filled 2,500 swimming slots for the Easter period, but will only operate at around 25pc of its usual capacity.
In general, the 'rule of six' will apply to outdoor sports, but activities which have been formally organised - by a qualified coach or club, for example - are exempt.
You will not be able to play sport indoors until April 12, when gyms will also reopen. Group exercise classes are unlikely to resume indoors until mid-May.
Can I drive to the beach?
Thousands of us who do not live within a short distance of the coast will be looking forward to a stroll on Norfolk and Waveney's glorious beaches.
Unfortunately, though, guidance on whether this will be feasible from March 29 is unclear.
Until now, national lockdown guidelines have stated exercise "should be local wherever possible", although there has been acceptance that people may need to travel a short distance to access an open space.
But the term "local" has not been legally defined in this context and is set to become even more pertinent as the core message switches to 'stay local'.
In its roadmap plan published last month, the government advised the public to "minimise travel wherever possible", but failed to provide specifics on what that means in practice.
MPs Peter Aldous, for Waveney, and Duncan Baker, for North Norfolk, have called for further clarity, with the latter tabling a parliamentary question in a bid to clear up lingering doubts.
What about heading into Norwich?
When it comes to the prospect of heading into the city, the situation is largely the same as above.
Mr Aldous made the point that the definition of 'local' varies greatly depending on which part of the country you live in.
He said: "Norfolk and Suffolk are large places, and you could say going into the county town is 'local' for most, even if it is 25 or 30 miles away."
The issue around travelling into Norwich is likely to reignite ahead of non-essential retailers reopening their doors on April 12, with shoppers keen to get back to their favourite shops and hairdressers.
And, although rules will evidently not be as strict, Norfolk and Suffolk police will still be tasked with ensuring people remain law-abiding.
Julie Wvendth, temporary assistant chief constable at the Norfolk force, has urged the public to take a "responsible" approach when it comes to travel.
"Many other restrictions will remain in place and we would ask people be sensible and responsible in their approach to these changes," she said.
“People should continue to minimise the number of overall journeys they make, avoiding busy travel times and routes wherever possible."
T/ACC Wvendth added that drivers would be able to "travel a little further" from next week.
Can I hire out a boat on the Broads?
The government clarified earlier on during lockdown that businesses offering day boat hire could operate on a click-and-collect basis for single households and their support bubbles.
However, the Broads Authority, which has statutory responsibility for the national park, said the policy was "not consistent with a safe handover procedure".
It therefore recommended that firms delay day boat hire until April 12, although this has since been brought forward to March 29.
However, several companies, including Hippersons Boatyard in Beccles, have said they will not begin hiring out boats until restrictions have been further relaxed.
Can I take my kids to the zoo?
Not just yet, unfortunately.
Zoos and safari parks are currently scheduled to welcome back customers from April 12, alongside other outdoor attractions.
Both Banham Zoo and Africa Alive, in Kessingland, shut their doors on January 1, just a few days before the third national lockdown was confirmed.
They are awaiting official word from the government before offering up tickets for April. Until then, tickets are available from May 1 onwards.
Do I need to carry on working from home?
Yes, and this advice is likely to continue for several more weeks.
Existing guidelines say you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home.
This includes, but is not limited to, people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing.
In short, anything that requires in-person attendance.
Are the pubs finally opening?
You'll have to wait a little bit longer for that pub grub and crisp, cold pint.
Restaurants and pubs won't be reopening until April 12, and even then it will be outside seating only.
They will be permitted to serve food and drinks to customers sitting outdoors, including alcohol.
In keeping with the social contact rules being introduced on March 29, punters can only meet in groups of six from different households, or in groups of any size if there are just two households.
Will my vulnerable family members still have to shield?
They will, but only for a couple more days.
Coronavirus shielding for 63,000 extremely vulnerable people in Norfolk will come to an end on Wednesday, March 31.
Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, has said they should continue to take extra precautions, such as continuing to observe social distancing and working from home.
Anyone who has been shielding but has not yet had a Covid vaccine has been advised by the county council to contact their GP.
When will more restrictions be eased?
From April 12 at the earliest, shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will be allowed to reopen.
Most outdoor attractions such as zoos and theme parks can reopen, although wider social distancing rules will still apply to prevent indoor mixing between different households.
Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and swimming pools will also be opened but for use by people on their own or in household groups.
Funerals can continue with up to 30 people, and the numbers able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise from six to 15.
What happens next in England?
From no earlier than May 17 most social contact rules outside will be lifted although gatherings of more than 30 will remain illegal.
Indoors, the rule of six or two households will apply - although the government has said it will keep under review whether it is safe to increase this.
Indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will also reopen.
Limited crowds will also be allowed at sporting events.
All remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted from June 21, allowing for larger events to go ahead and nightclubs to reopen.
How is the government deciding when to lift restrictions?
There will a minimum of five weeks between each step of easing restrictions in England to allow for coronavirus-related data to be assessed against four tests:
The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing the number admitted to hospital and deaths in those vaccinated.
Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions, which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.