The prime minister has today outlined his roadmap out of lockdown, revealing the plan to MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon.
Boris Johnson confirmed that the easing of restrictions would happen in four stages.
This will begin, as has already been widely reported, with all schools in England reopening on March 8th.
From the same date, people will also be able to meet outdoors and socialise with one person for ‘recreation’ – for coffee or a picnic, for example.
Then from March 29th up to a maximum of six people – or two households – will be able to meet outside, with the ‘rule of six’ being reintroduced.
As well as that, from the 29th outdoor sports facilities will be able to reopen, allowing sports like football, tennis and golf to be played.
From this date, people will no longer be required to ‘stay at home’, although some restrictions will remain in place.
The next stage is expected to begin on April 12th as the lockdown easing continues in five-week intervals, with the whole process potentially stretching into June.
Hairdressers, beauty salons, and non-essential shops will reopen in stage two, which will happen on April 12th at the earliest.
Pubs, restaurants and bars will also open in this stage, but for outdoor service only, meaning you can be in a group of up to six people from two different households in an outdoor area like a beer garden.
Mr Johnson also confirmed the unpopular rules on ‘substantial meals’ with pints and the 10pm curfew will be scrapped, but you will have to be sat to consume your food or drink.
Gyms, libraries, zoos, museums and theme parks will also reopen in this stage, but you can only go to any indoor setting with members of your own household.
As for holidays, hotels, hostels, Airbnbs and self-catering holiday accommodation will also reopen but for household groups only.
Up to 30 people will be able to attend funerals, with the maximum number of people at a wake rising from six to 15.
Stage three will happen no earlier than May 17th, with gatherings of up to 30 people outside allowed, the ‘rule of six’ introduced inside, as well as large-scale sports events and performances returning.
This stage will see up to 30 people being able to meet outdoors, including in outside areas at pubs and restaurants, with indoor social mixing allowed again – but only up to six people or two households.
Indoor exercise classes will be able to resume from this stage, as well as large-scale sporting events or performances – with up to 1,000 people allowed indoors and up to 4,000 (or the venue being half full) allowed outside.
The bigger football stadiums will be able to allow up to 10,000 fans (or a quarter of capacity), while 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings, receptions, funerals, wakes and christenings.
Stage four will happen no earlier than June 21st, and will see all number limits on socialising removed, with the government hopeful nightclubs can reopen, and international travel could resume.
This will be the final step, with the prime minister saying he hopes this will be ‘irreversible’, and it will see the limit on the numbers of people that can mix indoors or outdoors removed.
All the dates are dependent on four tests being met, which are vaccination targets, the vaccine reducing hospitalisation and deaths, the pressure on the NHS, and new covid variants.
Any dates given are subject to these four tests being met.
People on working tax credits will get a £500 one-off payment, Rishi Sunak confirms
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Brits on tax credits get a one-off benefits payment of £500, Rishi Sunak reveals in budget.
Outlined in the budget, Sunak explained that a £20 weekly increase in universal credit will extend for a further six months.
The chancellor explains that by the way Working Tax Credits system works people will not be able to receive the extra £20 weekly.
Instead, people will benefit from a £500 one-off payment.
Mr Sunak said: “To support low-income households, the Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown
“We’ll provide Working Tax Credit claimants with equivalent support for the next six months.
“Because of the way that system works operationally, we’ll need to do so with a one-off payment of £500.”
The £500 tax credit boost will run in the same way that the Universal Credit is paid – automatically.
Lots of people have switched from the old ‘Tax Credit’ to the new ‘Universal Credit’ system. Anyone who hasn’t yet been transferred across will now be eligible for this new one-off payment.
The number of people claiming universal credit in the UK has doubled since the start of the pandemic, reaching 6 million people at the start of this year.
The extra benefit support is welcomed but many are raising concerns that six months is not long enough.
Sunak also revealed in today’s budget that furlough will be extended until September but employers will have to pay 10% of the employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September.
You can see a round-up of all the key points from the budget here.
What Rishi Sunak’s new budget means for people in Greater Manchester
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Rishi Sunak has said he wants to be honest about the government’s plans for fixing the public finances.
The chancellor says there has been ‘acute damage’ to the economy, with more than 700,000 people losing jobs and the economy shrinking by 10% – the largest fall in 300 years.
Borrowing has also been as high as during wartime.
He said: “It’s going to take this country, and the whole world, a long time to recover from this extraordinary situation.”
Here are the key points from his 2021 budget announcement….
- Sunak explains that 1.8 million fewer people are expected to be out of work than previously thought, with the peak at 6.5% down from the forecasted peak of 11.9%.
- Furlough is set to be extended until the end of September this year, however, firms will be asked to contribute 10% of employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September as the scheme is gradually phased out.
- A fourth grant worth 80% of average trading profits up to £7,500 covering February to April that will help self-employed people.
- The £20 increase in universal credit will extend for six months
- Total cash support to businesses has reached £25bn. A further £5bn restart grant has now been confirmed to help companies get going after lockdown.
- Hospitality and leisure businesses will pay no business rates for three months, then discounted for the remaining nine months of the year by two-thirds.
- The 5% VAT cut will be extended to the end of September and gradually increased at 12.5% for six months before returning to the normal rate in April 2022.
- The stamp duty holiday will be extended on properties up to £500,000 to the end of June. It will return to normal levels from October 1st.
- Mortgage guarantees were also confirmed to help first-time buyers access 95% mortgages, with just 5% deposits.
- The government will take a ‘fair’ approach to ‘fixing the public finances’ the chancellor confirms.
- There will be no increase in national insurance, income tax or VAT.
- The personal allowance will remain at £12,750 until 2026 and the higher rate will increase to £50,270 next year.
- Inheritance tax threshold, pensions lifetime allowance, annual exempt allowance from capital gains tax and VAT exemption thresholds will all be frozen.
- New minimum wage rates come into force in England on April 1st. Basic rate workers will see a 2.2% increase, with the National Living Wage rising to £8.91 an hour.
- The budget deficit will reach £355billion this year (17% of GDP) – the highest level in peacetime.
- Sunak said: “It’s going to be the work of many governments over many decades to pay it back, just as it would be irresponsible to withdraw support too soon, it would also be irresponsible to allow our future borrowing and debt to rise unchecked.”
- The chancellor explains that the economy will recover more quickly than previously thought.
- GDP will grow by 4% this year and 7.3% next year according to official forecasts.
Contactless payment limit set to increase to £100
It’s hoped this will provide a much-needed boost to the retail sector
Rishi Sunak is set to announce in the budget today an increase in contactless payment limit up to £100.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the contactless limit was increased from £30 to £45 and it is hoped this second increase will provide a much-needed boost to the retail sector.
Some industry sources have expressed alarm at the new threshold, warning of the potential increase in fraud, according to Sky News.
The increase in the limit was made possible due to Brexit. The European Commission set the limit to €50.
Sunak is expected to highlight the important of ‘pinging’ payments as shoppers continue to rely less on cash.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, he said: “London’s retail sector is famous across the world, with Oxford Street, Covent Garden and Westfield seen as global destinations for shopping.
“As we begin to open the UK economy and people return to the high street, the contactless limit increase will make it easier than ever before for people to pay for their shopping, providing a welcome boost to retail that will protect jobs and drive growth across the capital.”
The chancellor is set to unveil the budget at 12:30pm today. He is expected to offer more information on the mortgage scheme that will offer 5% deposit as well as extending the stamp duty holiday and increase corporation tax from 19% to 23%.
Sunak is also set to announce the extension of furlough until September and information on a £5bn scheme to help firms such as shops, clubs and gyms.