How does England’s roadmap for easing Covid restrictions affect climbers and walkers?

Posted by Rob Dyer on 23/02/2021
Langdale - one of the Lake District's most popular valleys for climbing and hill walking (credit: Shutterstock)

The government has published its plan on how England will exit lockdown and the restrictions that have limited our activities over the past year. The plan provides a comprehensive roadmap for how life could get back to normal, but what are the key milestones for climbers and walkers?

The general principle is a four-step process, with a minimum of five weeks between each step. The roadmap requires a minimum of four weeks data (showing no adverse effects on the R number or hospitalisation rates) after which there will be an announcement that the country will move to the next step, and a week’s notice given to allow preparation for any changes. If any step is delayed, that will push back any future steps.

Before taking each step, the Government will review the latest data on the impact of the previous step against four tests. The tests are:

  1. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
  2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
  4. Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.

STEP 1: 8 and 29 March

No changes to the current restrictions will take place until 8 March, when a small change will allow both recreation and exercise outdoors with your household, support bubble or one person from another household, providing social distancing is followed. In practise this means very little change for climbers and walkers who have already been able to climb or walk as exercise locally.

From 29 March:

  • The ‘rule of six’ applies outdoors, allowing up to  six people from any number of households or two households (even when the total number then exceeds six) to meet outside (including private gardens).
  • People will no longer be legally required to stay at home but travel should be minimised wherever possible.
  • Overnight stays away from home are not allowed.
  • No overnight stays will by default limit travel to destinations that can be reached in a day trip from home, but there is currently a lack of clarity on any further limits to how far you can travel during this step.
  • No indoor mixing of households is allowed, other than specific and limited exceptions and many businesses will remain closed.

 

STEP 2: no earlier than 12 April (minimum 5 weeks after the start of Step 1)

  • Social contact rules will remain the same – the rule of six applies outdoors and no indoor mixing is allowed unless otherwise exempt.
  • Indoor leisure facilities (including climbing walls) and non-essential retail (including physical outdoor shops) are able to re-open.
  • Overnight stays in England within your own household will be allowed in self-contained accommodation.
  • Domestic travel should be minimised and international holidays will still be prohibited. There is currently a lack of detail on any limits to how far you can travel domestically during this step.

 

STEP 3: no earlier than 17 May (minimum 5 weeks after the start of Step 2)

  • Remaining accommodation, such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs will re-open.
  • Further easing of limits on social contact, enabling the public to make informed personal decisions considering the risk to themselves and others they meet.
  • Most legal restrictions on numbers meeting outdoors will be lifted, but gatherings will remain limited to a maximum of 30 people.
  • The rule of six will apply indoors, allowing six people from two households to meet inside. Depending on the data at the time, this may be eased further.
  • Depending on the findings of the Global Travel Taskforce report on 12 April, some international travel may be able to resume no earlier than 17 May.
  • Some large events will be allowed to re-start with appropriate measures in place.

 

STEP 4: no earlier than 21 June (minimum 5 weeks after the start of Step 3)

  • All legal limits on social contact removed with accompanying guidance on how best to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Some measures to protect vulnerable people may be required even after all adults have been offered a vaccine, because neither coverage nor effectiveness of the vaccine will be 100%.
  • Restrictions may still apply to international travel depending on global and domestic rates of infection, the prevalence and location of any Variants of Concern, the progress of vaccine rollouts in the UK and abroad, and ongoing learning about efficacy of vaccines on variants, and the impact on transmission, hospitalisation and deaths.

New variants of concern and intervening locally

Where a dangerous Variant of Concern is identified and is likely to pose a real risk to the vaccination programme or public health, the Government will take a highly precautionary approach, acting fast to address outbreaks.

The Government cannot rule out re-imposing economic and social restrictions at a local or regional level if evidence suggests they are necessary to contain or suppress a variant which escapes the vaccine.

Where an area sees virus growth which could put the local NHS under unsustainable pressure, the Government will also act swiftly.

What is happening in Wales and Scotland?

Currently cross border travel between England, Wales and Scotland is not allowed (apart from of a number of limited exceptions as has been the case for some time), but this may change as each of the home countries ease restrictions. At the time of writing, we don’t know when this will be, but any updates will be posted in a future update article for Wales and on the Mountaineering Scotland website.

We have updated our article on Covid in Wales to reflect the review that took place on 12th March to the Welsh regulations. Full details on Covid restrictions in Wales can be found on: www.gov.wales/coronavirus

For information on Covid and how it affects climbers and walkers in Scotland, refer to Mountaineering Scotland’s coronavirus web page. Full details on Covid restrictions in Scotland can be found on: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/


Listen now 🎧

Wild Horizons is our new BMC hillwalking podcast, hosted by Niall Grimes. With a new guests each week, we discuss the honey pots and the secret spots of Britain's wild places and uplands.

 

Episode 1: Cwm Idwal - Where the Devil cooks up

The black cauldron of Cwm Idwal hangs high above the Ogwen Valley. A wild place of Snowdon lilies and, some say, steam rising from the Devil’s kitchen. At its base sits a lake where, others say, no bird dare fly over. What is this place of heavy magic? Rachael Crewesmith takes Niall Grimes on a journey to Cwm Idwal in the first episode of Wild Horizons podcast.

Episode 2: The South Downs Way - a friendly walk through time

The hundred miles of National Trail, from Winchester to Eastbourne, crosses many thousands of years of history, sometimes just a few inches below your feet. BMC hillwalking rep, Faber Scaglione, looks down, looks sideways and looks far ahead as he takes us along on some of its most special sections.

Episode 3: Helvellyn - Hail, Rain or Shine

It’s the third highest peak in the Lake District, but it has a special appeal that makes it England’s most-loved mountain. But it is a place of big weather. Every day in the winter months, the Lake District National Park sends its fell top assessment team to the summit to compile weather data to improve the safety and enjoyment of park visitors. Niall Grimes sits down with one of this team, Zac Poulton, and asks him, What’s it like today?

Episode 4: Snowdon - For the First Time

For many mountaineers and non-mountaineers alike, the lofty pyramid of Snowdon exerts a strong romantic attraction. The highest peak in Wales and England. Every year many thousands of visitors make their way to the summit. For some it could be their first 3,000 foot mountain.

Snowdonia based guide Kate Worthington gives us the benefit of her great experience and talks to host, Niall Grimes, about the many ways up the mountain, what to look out for and much more knowledge along the way. If you are thinking about a visit, this podcast is essential listening.

Episode 5: Calderdale - Moors, the past and the future

Moorland magic. Bog lover Chris Dean shares his love of the wild wide open above the Calderdale Valley. He turns his gaze upwards to the skies and down to under your feet. He looks back to prehistory and forward to our planetary future.

Listen and subscribe on your favourite podcast apps:

 
    

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