Which sports are allowed from 29 March? Latest changes to Covid lockdown rules in England – and how the rest of the UK compares
Sport facilities and businesses reopen to the public in latest relaxing of coronavirus restrictions under roadmap
Many sports facilities can reopen and activities resume as some lockdown restrictions ease across England amid the Covid pandemic.
The third national lockdown brought a halt to grassroots sports in January as a new coronavirus variant threatened to overwhelm hospitals across the country.
Since then, however, Covid infection rates and hospital admissions have dropped largely due to lockdown rules and the speed of the vaccine rollout programme.
And, as a result, some restrictions have been eased from 29 March - allowing the resumption of outdoor sports activities and reopening of outside facilities.
Here’s all you need to know as England takes another great stride out of lockdown.
Which sports are now allowed?
Under prime minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap to freedom, four key dates were established over the coming weeks and months for a gradual relaxing of lockdown rules.
Step one saw schools reopen on 8 March and the second part of that initial easing of rules allows groups of six or two households to meet in outdoor settings from 29 March.
On the same date, organised outdoor sports, including football and cricket, can resume for adults and children - and some sports facilities and businesses can reopen to the public.
The sports permitted include tennis, golf, basketball, open-air swimming, archery, sailing and horse riding, as well as outdoor exercise classes, and walking, cycling and running groups.
Each sport has certain Covid secure protocols to follow, such as social distancing where possible, while spectators are not allowed to attend apart from under-18 activities.
Why is outside activity allowed?
Under the government’s explanation, it points to the physical and mental benefits of being active and outside - particularly after 12 weeks of lockdown restrictions.
In its guidance, the government also explains why outside sport is allowed when people wanting to take part in indoor sport will have to wait a little longer in the roadmap.
It says: “The evidence is clear that this is safest to do in the open air, at a safe distance, while minimising the frequency of social gatherings and the numbers present wherever possible.
“It will remain critical - with most people still unprotected by vaccines - that people continue to follow the guidance, use common sense and socially distance from other households.”
When will inside sports resume?
Though some outside sports are permitted from 29 March, indoor sports won’t be allowed to resume for some time under the government’s roadmap.
Children can resume some indoor sports from 12 April but adults will have to wait until 17 May at the earliest before they can participate in group activities inside.
It is at the same time that indoor hospitality and entertainment facilities can reopen under step three of the roadmap, which sees the Rule of Six applied inside.
When do gyms reopen?
Gyms can reopen at step two on the government’s roadmap, no earlier than 12 April, but only for use by people on their own or within the same household.
It is at this point that indoor swimming pools can reopen.
The reopening comes at the same time that non-essential retail, hairdressers, libraries and outdoor attractions like zoos can open once more.
It is hoped all legal limits will be lifted on 21 June.
What is the roadmap dependent on?
Mr Johnson said he will be guided by “data not dates” meaning plans might change if there is a change in the Covid situation and what is hoped will happen over the coming weeks.
A gradual easing of restrictions, with a five-week gap in between phases, will give the government ample time to assess the situation after each relaxation of rules, said Mr Johnson.
The timetable is based on four factors:
- the continued success of the vaccine rollout and flow of supplies;
- vaccines continues to have a positive impact in reducing the number of people dying and admitted to hospital with Covid;
- infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations, which would put pressure on the NHS;
- any variants of concern highlighted do not fundamentally change government's assessment of the risks.
How does it compare to the rest of the UK?
People living in Scotland have been able to take part in outdoor non-contact sports since 12 March, including organised exercise groups up to 15 participants.
Contact sports for under 18s from 5 April, adult outdoor contact sports and indoor group exercises can start up from 17 May and indoor non-contact sport can take place from 1 June.
In Wales, golf courses and outdoor sports courts have been allowed since 13 March. Team sports, including football and rugby, and outdoor activities for under 18s from 27 March.
In Northern Ireland, outdoor sports facilities are allowed to reopen on 1 April.