A series of new changes will now come into force, building on the late March and April easing of lockdown restrictions.
Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, said: “With so many changes having taken place this spring, it would be understandable if people had a good knowledge of how the bulk of national rules stand, but not necessarily all of them. I would urge people to take a few moments to brush up on exactly how things stand from 17 May.
“The good news is that cases in Oxfordshire remain at low levels as the vaccination programme is rolled out. At the same time, the virus has not completely disappeared and there are still large parts of the population who have not yet been vaccinated.
“The national roadmap was drawn up with a gradual and cautious easing of restrictions in mind. When combined with the vaccination programme and twice-weekly symptom-free rapid testing, it was seen as a careful way of reducing COVID-19’s habit of being the comeback kid – as we saw in September and October 2020 and in January 2021.
“There are good reasons for welcoming these step three changes while at the same time reminding everyone that 17 May is not finale day. COVID still presents a real risk, particularly with the emergence of new variants, so we need to do everything we can to control the virus.
“We would therefore ask people to please continue to wear face coverings, keep a distance and wash your hands – the simple things that help so much. These measures apply to everyone regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated. Regular testing also remains crucial to stop the spread of the virus.
“We would also urge people to abide by the new national rules, which come into effect on 17 May, while enjoying the gradual return of the individual freedoms that we all know and love. The various stages of the roadmap were carefully thought through at the outset and they have won us the progress we have seen during 2021. Abiding by the rules means we can win even more territory in the battle with the formidable opponent that COVID undoubtedly is, consolidating our position and building a very solid platform looking to the second half of the year.”
What are the new rules from 17 May?
- Indoor hospitality can reopen and indoor entertainment can resume, including cinemas, museums, and children’s play areas.
- Up to six people or two households will be able to meet indoors and up to 30 people outdoors.
- All remaining outdoor entertainment can reopen, such as outdoor cinemas and performances. Some larger events will be able to take place, including conferences, theatre and concert performances, and sports events. Restrictions on the number of attendees will remain as set out in the roadmap.
- Guidance on meeting family and friends will be updated. The public can make informed, personal decisions on close contact, such as hugging, with their friends and family. Close contact continues to carry a risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, and people must consider the risk to themselves and to others. COVID-secure rules remain for the workplace and businesses, such as in shops and hospitality.
- International travel can begin to safely reopen from 17 May, allowing people to go on foreign holidays to ‘green’ list countries. Strict border control measures will remain in place, including pre-departure tests and a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival back in the UK.
- Face coverings will no longer be needed in classrooms or for students in communal areas in secondary schools and colleges.
- Twice weekly home testing will remain to control infection rates.
- All remaining university students will be eligible to return to in-person teaching and learning from 17 May, and should get tested twice a week upon return.
- Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, and commemorative events including wakes, as well as standalone life-cycle events. These can take place outdoors or at any indoor COVID secure venue that is permitted to open. The number of people able to attend a funeral will be determined by the number that can be safely accommodated in the venue with social distancing in place.
- Organised adult sport and exercise classes can resume indoors and saunas and steam rooms may reopen.
- Care homes residents will be able to have up to five named visitors, with two visitors able to attend at once provided they are tested and follow infection control measures. Residents will also have greater freedoms to leave their home without having to isolate on their return.
- You should continue to work from home if you can.
Information on testing
What are the current case rates in Oxfordshire?
The current rate per 100,000 people in Oxfordshire is 17.1. In each district the rates are:
South Oxfordshire: 12.7
Vale of White Horse: 16.9
West Oxfordshire: 9.0