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Six people can meet together outside from Monday, including in private gardens, Boris Johnson has announced.
The prime minister unveiled further easing of the coronavirus lockdown as he said the government’s five tests on progress against the epidemic were being met.
He said groups of up to six people can meet outside from June 1 “provided those from different households continue to stick to social distancing rules” and remain two metres apart.
“These changes mean that friends and family can start to meet their loved ones,” the PM told the Downing Street daily briefing.
Johnson, however, urged people to avoid seeing others from “too many households in quick succession” to avoid quick transmission between lots of different families.
“And it remains the case that people should not be inside the homes of their friends and family, unless it is to access the garden,” he added.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty also stressed it is “essential” that people stay two metres apart if they are from different households.
“That is really important, this risk has not gone away,” he said.
Whitty also stressed that people who maintain two metres’ distance from others will not be asked to self isolate by NHS test and trace even if they have been in contact with an infected person.
Vulnerable people who have been asked to “shield” should “continue to do so”, Johnson said.
Downing Street will hope the announcement will shift focus from the damaging row over Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings apparent breach of lockdown rules.
The announcement, covering people in England, came after the government’s three-week review of the lockdown, at which ministers were told that the reproduction (R) of the virus had dropped to between 0.7 and 0.9, meaning the number of infections was likely to decline slightly more rapidly.
The PM has already announced that schools, outdoor markets and car showrooms will begin to reopen in England from Monday.
It came after the first easing of restrictions three weeks ago, at which point people were allowed to meet one other person outdoors, and encouraged to go back to work if they could not do their jobs at home.
Johnson also outlined how the government’s five tests for easing the lockdown had been met.
He praised the “heroic efforts” of NHS workers and the public, which mean that the first test of protecting the NHS’s ability to cope has been met, with 475 admissions in Covid-19 in England on May 26.
A “sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate” has been witnessed, meaning the second test has been met, he said.
The government is satisfied the third test has been met because the rate of infection is “decreasing to manageable levels across the board” with an average of 2,312 new cases being confirmed in the last seven days, he said.
Test four has been met by signing new contracts for protective equipment and boosting testing capacity to 161,214 a day, he said.
On the final test, the PM said that the adjustments have been crafted to avoid risking a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS.
“This package has been carefully designed so we can ease the burdens of the lockdown while expecting to keep that R below one,” he said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.