PEOPLE in Basingstoke can enjoy a coffee or a picnic with one friend or family member outside their household bubble.

The stay at home message remains in force but from today, Downing Street says you can leave your home for recreation outdoors.

It comes as schools reopened to all pupils from today and care homes allow one regular visitor to each resident.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his roadmap to the easing of lockdown restrictions, which could see social distancing end in England on June 21.

He announced a number of stages were restrictions would gradually be relaxed, calling it "cautious and irreversible".

Today marks the first of those stages, with changes in the law to what you are allowed to do with regard to education, social care and recreational activity.


The biggest of these changes is in education, which sees all pupils go back to school today.

After the third lockdown was announced in January, schools closed to everyone but the children of key workers, as well as the most vulnerable.

But now all pupils will be able to return for the first time in two months.

Those in secondary school will be tested, and wear face masks in classrooms.

Schools and colleges have discretion on how to stagger the return of their students over the next week to facilitate testing and their safe return to the classroom.

After three initial tests on-site, students will be provided with two rapid tests to use each week at home.

The government has confirmed twice-weekly testing using lateral flow tests will be given for free to all adults in households with primary, secondary school and college-aged children and young people, including childcare and support bubbles, to help find more Covid-19 cases and break chains of transmission.

Some university students on practical courses will be able to return to face to face learning, as well.

Picnics and coffees on benches

From today, you are now legally allowed to have a picnic outdoors, or drink a coffee on a park bench with a friend.

The stay at home message is still in force, though.

But whereas last week you could only leave your house for exercise, and only with one person outside your household or support bubble, from today you can go out and meet a friend for recreation, Number 10 has said.

This includes getting a coffee or having a picnic, should the weather hold out.

Care homes

Care homes are now allowing residents to nominate one friend or family member that can enter the home and hold their hand.

Visiting care homes was banned last spring after the start of the Covid outbreak, and reintroduced in the summer.

However, there was protective measures in place, such as a screen or being two metres apart outdoors.

Therefore, this week will, for most, be the first time in a year that they've held the hand of a loved one in a care home.

It is subject to a rapid Covid test being negative, and the relevant PPE.

What next?

The next stage of the road map takes place on March 29, where outdoor gatherings following the rule of six (a maximum of two households) will be allowed.

This will also include private gardens, as well as public outdoor spaces.

Additionally, outdoor sports facilities can reopen, and formally organised outdoor sport will resume too.

The stay at home order will end, although many restrictions associated will continued, such as working from home where possible.

Overseas travel will also remain banned, except for a small number of reasons.