The prime minister has urged people to stick to the new Outdoor rules amid the threat of coronavirus variants and rising cases in Europe.
People are now permitted to be meeting in groups of up to six people, or as two households, and outdoor team sports are also allowed to restart in a major easing of the lockdown restrictions in England.
As the “stay at home” order had ended at midnight, the Prime Minister stressed that “we must remain cautious”, saying that cases of COVID-19 had been rising across Europe and that new variants were threatening the coronavirus vaccine rollout.
From today in England:
• Groups of up to six people, or people from two different households, can socialise within parks and gardens
• Football, cricket pitches, tennis and basketball courts, outdoor swimming pools can start to reopen
• Golf courses and sailing clubs in England can begin to reopen
• Organised outdoor team sports can resume
• People should still be working from home if possible and minimise their journeys
• The ‘stay at home’ order is being replace with a ‘stay local’ instruction
This comes after the University of Oxford has said that the existing COVID-19 vaccines may protect against the Brazilian variant of the coronavirus as the P1 strain could potentially be less resistant to antibodies than was first thought.
The prime minister said he hopes the return of outdoor activities will “kickstart a Great British summer of sport” and that “many will welcome the increased social contact”.
Mr Johnson called for the public to participate in a fitness drive, with children recommended to aim for an hour of physical activity a day, and adults for at least 150 minutes.
He also announced a new Office for Health Promotion to tackle obesity and poor mental health, as the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Johnson said: “I know how much people have missed the camaraderie and competition of organised sport, and how difficult it has been to restrict physical activities – especially for children.
“So as teams return to outdoor pitches, courts, parks and fields, I hope today will kickstart a Great British summer of sport – with people of all ages reunited with teammates, and able to resume the activities they love.
“I know many will welcome the increased social contact, with groups of six or two households now also able to meet outdoors.”
This comes after The European Commission and Italy have blocked a shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that was destined for use in Australia, to prevent a shipment of doses being sent off before they are given to the bloc.
Tourism and sport minister Nigel Huddleston told Sky News that the next step in easing lockdown is “a really big day for millions of people across the UK just dying to get back to the things that they love”.
He expressed confidence that outdoor sports would be able to operate safely, adding: “I think we can trust in the common sense of the British public to a very great degree. The vast majority of people absolutely stick to the rules.”
At Morley Hayes Golf Club, near Derby, a group of golfers greeted the easing of restrictions by hitting the fairways at just after midnight.
Seven teams used glow-in-the-dark balls and floodlit greens, with their opening drives coming at 12.01am.