Last night the Government laid out a four-step roadmap for how the country will slowly ease out of lockdown restrictions over coming months.

The first step of the Government’s plan, from 8 March is as follows:

  • All schools and colleges will reopen
  • Wraparound childcare and other supervised children’s activities can resume where they enable parents to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group
  • Care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor provided they are tested and wear PPE
  • The Stay at Home requirement will remain, but people can leave home for recreation outdoors such as a coffee or picnic with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household
  • Some university students on practical courses will be able to return to face-to-face learning

From 29 March:

  • Outdoor gatherings of either 6 people or 2 households will be allowed, providing greater flexibility for families to see each other. This includes in private gardens
  • Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to reopen, and people can take part in formally organised outdoor sports

Councillor Bob Johnson, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “Over the past year, people in Sheffield have sacrificed so much and the news of lockdown beginning to gradually ease is something we have all been desperate to hear.

“The announcement last night brings with it a lot of hope, showing steady steps on a path back to normality, and it gives us all something to focus on and work towards – light at the end of the tunnel.

“With the news of schools reopening from Monday 8 March, we will be doing all we can to work with them, making sure staff and pupils feel safe to return. Throughout this pandemic, teachers, pupils, parents, carers, and communities have stepped up, adapting to the unknown and providing home-schooling at a moment’s notice – we want this to be the last time that happens.

“While I know this is an extremely difficult time for those who were looking for better news, we are heading in the right direction and I’m confident that if we follow the guidelines, we will start to see further easing of restrictions and our much-loved city getting back on its feet.

“Sheffield does not want to see another lockdown. We want to see our communities and businesses thriving, our theatres reopening their doors, events planned, and our streets and parks filled with people meeting up with their friends and family once again. But we are not there yet. We must make sure we are cautious and follow the guidance in place to make sure we beat this virus once and for all. I for one cannot wait for that to happen.”

Greg Fell, Director of Public Health Sheffield, said: “This is a much more cautious plan than we’ve seen before, and one I think is good for Sheffield residents.

“We hit a point in Sheffield where our hospitals were increasingly overcrowded, our infection rate was high, and we had to act. Throughout lockdown, our admissions rate has started to decrease as well as transmission levels, however, we must do all we can to keep this up, making sure we don’t take one step forward and two steps back.

“We are all desperate to come out of lockdown and gradually get back to normality, but we must remember to be cautious to prevent figures climbing in our region. While vaccination coverage is high and there are signs this is beginning to reduce hospitalisation in the elderly, there are still many younger adults who are harmed by Covid-19.

“What we’ve seen over the past three to six months are different variants, and that is what we must keep under control to allow us to ease lockdown restrictions further and get us on the road to recovery.

“A big thank you from me to everyone for what they have done throughout the countries third lockdown, this has not been easy, but the intention of this lockdown was to reduce admissions and the rate of infection and while this has happened, we mustn’t take our foot off the gas now.

“There is one clear message that remains the same; please continue to wash your hands, wear a mask and keep your distance from people outside of your household. Please get a test if you have symptoms. We must continue with our efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.”