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UK’s Johnson urges caution as some lockdown measures ease

A swimmer in Uxbridge

Groups of up to six, or two households, can socialise in parks and gardens once more, while outdoor sports facilities can reopen after the stay-at-home order ended on Monday.

After months of being told to stay at home, she said people were "desperate to get back to their local sites after what has been a very long winter for many and get that lift that they need from visiting some spectacular locations".

Friends and families can be reunited and team sports may resume in a major easing of England's coronavirus lockdown to allow far greater freedom outdoors.

"But we must remain cautious, with cases rising across Europe and new variants threatening our vaccine rollout", he added, urging the public to adhere to guidance on social distancing and hygiene.

Johnson announced a third national lockdown in England on January 4, but has said he plans to proceed with a "cautious and irreversible" route out of restrictions, underpinned by a quick rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

Outdoor sports facilities are now open, including outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts and golf courses.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed an upcoming "Great British summer of sport", applauding the fact that people would be able to "resume the activities they love".

"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 four-stage reopening was to be contingent on continued vaccinations, no surge in hospitalisations, and new virus variants not emerging.

Runners in Rothwell
People taking part in a Boot Camp exercise class in Springhead Park Rothwell Leeds

A new slogan was also unveiled to stress the importance of ventilation in reducing the spread of the virus: "Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air".

The PM's official spokesman said: "We obviously keep all of our measures at the border under constant review and as we have done throughout the pandemic, we will not hesitate to introduce tougher restrictions if necessary".

Red list countries would remain under the proposed system and ministers are set to discuss if more countries should be added after Oliver Dowden hinted that the "very worrying" third Covid wave in Europe could prevent holidays overseas this summer.

This comes as the latest government figures show 3,862 new coronavirus cases and 19 deaths were reported on Sunday - down from 5,312 and 33 a week ago.

The next step in the roadmap to easing England's lockdown is April 12, which is earmarked for non-essential shops to reopen and for outdoor hospitality, including pubs and restaurants.

In line with the government's vaccination drive, 423,852 United Kingdom adults received a first dose of the jab on 27 March, taking the overall number to 30,151,287 - with 233,964 having their second dose, bringing that total to 3,527,481.

The rule of six does include children and people in bubbles with another household.

From April 5, click-and-collect retail services, along with garden centres, auto dealerships, homeware stores and barbers and hairdressers, will also be able to reopen. In Wales, thousands of people poured onto beaches and mountain spots on Saturday, after the authorities lifted travel restrictions that have been in place since December.