GROUPS of up to six people will be allowed to meet outside provided they stay two metres apart as Boris Johnson announced a "cautious" easing of lockdown rules.

The Prime Minister confirmed that all five tests required for the next phase to begin have been met, meaning more pupils can return to school and outdoor retail and car showrooms can open from Monday in England.

Mr Johnson has confirmed that all five tests required for the next phase of lockdown easing to begin have been met, adding: "The result is we can moved forward with adjusting the lockdown on Monday."

He has confirmed, from Monday: 

  • groups of six people can meet up outdoors, as long as people not from the same household observe social distancing 
  • barbecues in private gardens will be allowed 

Mr Johnson set out that people would be able to see "both parents at once, or both grandparents at once" in what he said would be a "long-awaited and joyful moment" for many.

He added: "I cannot and will not throw away all the gains we've made together and so the changes we're making are limited and cautious.

"It's thanks to the caution you've shown so far that all five met are being met."

He said that from Monday groups of up to six people can meet in private gardens "provided those from different households continue to stick to social distancing rules" by staying two metres apart.

Mr Johnson said the "heroic efforts" of NHS workers and the public mean that the first test of protecting the NHS's ability to cope has been met, with 475 admissions in Covid-19 in England on May 26.

A "sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate" has been witnessed, meaning the second test has been met, he said.

The Government is satisfied the third test has been met because the rate of infection is "decreasing to manageable levels across the board" with an average of 2,312 new cases being confirmed in the last seven days, he said.

Test four has been met by signing new contracts for protective equipment and boosting testing capacity to 161,214 a day, he said.

On the final test, the PM said that the adjustments have been crafted to not risk a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS.

"This package has been carefully designed so we can ease the burdens of the lockdown while expecting to keep that R below one," he said.

Mr Johnson said: "Closing schools has deprived children of their education, and, as so often, it is the most disadvantaged pupils who risk being hardest hit.

"On Monday we will start to put this right in a safe way by reopening nurseries and other early-years settings and reception year one and year six in primary schools."

Government chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said that things need to be done cautiously.

He said: "The number of new infections is estimated to be roughly one in a thousand per week, it means that 54,000 new cases are occurring every week, so somewhere around eight or so thousand per day.

"That is not a low number, so it's worth remembering that we still have a significant burden of infection, we are still seeing new infections every day at quite a significant rate and the R is close to one.

"That means there is not a lot of room to do things and things need to be done cautiously, step-by-step and monitored and the Test and Trace system needs to be effective in order to manage that."

Basildon Standard:

  • Chief scientific adviser - Sir Patrick Vallance

Boris Johnson said people should "try to avoid seeing too many households in quick succession so we can avoid the risk of quick transmission from lots of different families and continue to control the virus".

He added at the Downing Street briefing: "It remains the case that people should not be inside the homes of their friends and families, unless it is to access the garden.

"I should add that, at this stage, I am afraid that those who have been asked to shield themselves should continue to do so."

Mr Johnson said the Government is "looking carefully at how we can make your life easier", adding: "We want to say more on that soon."

The PM said guidance on the changes will be published, adding: "Inevitably there may be some anomalies, or apparent inconsistencies, in these rules - and clearly what we're proposing is still just a fraction of the social interaction each of us would normally enjoy.

"I know many of you will find this frustrating and I am sorry about that. But I'm afraid it is unavoidable, given the nature of the invisible enemy we are fighting."

The PM said, from June 15, secondary schools will begin to provide "some face to face contact time" for years 10 and 12.

"We will also start to reopen shops as we start to reopen our economy," he said.

Mr Johnson said: "We will also start to reopen shops as we restart our economy. We will begin on Monday with outdoor retail and car showrooms where social distancing is generally easier.

"And, a fortnight later, on the 15th of June, we intend to reopen other non-essential retail."

The PM set out the details just hours after Durham Constabulary said they would have taken action if police officers had stopped Mr Cummings on his 50-mile round trip to Barnard Castle.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson regarded the issue as "closed" after the police said they did not intend to take "retrospective action", though the force found that the aide may have committed "a minor breach" of lockdown rules in driving to the town.