Brits can meet up with a friend for a coffee outside and have a picnic TODAY as Covid lockdown is eased

BRITS will be able to meet up with a friend to have a coffee on a park bench and even enjoy a picnic today as Covid lockdown is eased.

Kids will return to schools and loved ones will be able to visit relatives in care homes as part of the first phase of lockdown easing in England.

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Boris Johnson said he hoped Monday's softening of restrictions marked a "big step" on his "road map to freedom" – a plan which could see all Covid measures lifted by June 21.

While the "stay at home" message will remain in place, it means people can leave home to meet one other person for a coffee or picnic.

Pupils will also return to classrooms today for the first time in at least two months.

The Prime Minister told the Daily Telegraph that even though it was "only a small relaxation of the rules", this week's changes would bring "joy and relief" to families after months of "tough restrictions".

Mr Johnson said more damage was being done to pupils by keeping them at home than having them return to class.

"I think the risk is actually in not going back to school given all the suffering, all the loss of learning we have seen," he said.

Mr Johnson has insisted the country is now "ready" for the return of schools with cases, hospitalisations, and deaths having all plunged in recent weeks.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was looking at proposals that included a five-term academic year, a shorter summer holiday and longer school days to help pupils catch up on lost learning.

Secondary school pupils will be asked to take three tests at school over the next two weeks, and after that will be provided with two tests a week to carry out at home.

MASK OFF

They will also be strongly encouraged to wear masks in the classroom until at least the Easter holidays.

Primary school kids won't have to don face coverings, but extra guidance has been introduced saying visitors and staff should use them in areas where social distancing between adults isn't possible such as corridors.

Children's minister Vicky Ford said she expects most students to voluntarily use masks but insisted they shouldn't be forced to.

She said: "It's a hugely exciting day and a huge relief to so many children, families, schools, staff all across the country.

"There will be some who will be nervous about going back, but we've put in these extra measures so we can make sure we keep Covid out of the classroom.

"That is a whole extra layer of keeping Covid out of the classroom, but we need to also set this aside against a very different backdrop to in January.

"We've had the fantastic vaccination programme. That does give us that extra level of protection against the virus as we bring children back into school."

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of care home residents in England will be able to receive indoor visits from a nominated friend or relative as of this week.

Visitors will be tested prior to visits, wear PPE and be asked to keep physical contact to a minimum.

Handholding is permitted but hugs and kissing are not, to help reduce the chance of spreading the virus, the Government has said in its latest visiting guidance.



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