Prime minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons
Prime minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons delivering his Covid-19 Response Spring 2021 statement on February 22. Image credit:

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Prime minister Boris Johnson detailed key dates when the government hoped to ease some of the current coronavirus restrictions in England.

In March schools will reopen and some outdoor social contact will be permitted in England. In April non-essential retail - a category that during all lockdowns in England thus far has included art and antiques dealers, centres, auction houses and non-essential markets - will be able to reopen its premises to the public, as will public libraries.

This ‘step two’ phase begins from Monday April 12. A document released by the government also stated that in step two: "The majority of outdoor settings and attractions can also reopen, including outdoor hospitality, zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances events."

Step three will come at least five weeks later, on May 17 at the earliest, with most outdoor social contact rules lifted, as well as limited mixing indoors. Controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted in step three - this would presumably include indoor art and antiques fairs - as will outdoor events with a capacity of either 50% or 4,000 people, whichever is lower.

By June the prime minister hopes that step four will be introduced with the end of restrictions on social contact from June 21.

Until the changes come into effect in England, auction house premises, shops, centres and galleries remain closed to the public and trade is to be conducted online and via click and collect and delivery.

Updates can be found on the UK government website.

A PDF document containing further details is also available, entitled ‘Covid-19 Response – Spring 2021’. 

In Wales, first minister Mark Drakeford said he hoped the "stay-at-home" requirement could end within three weeks, with some non-essential shops reopening at the same time (from March 15).

For non-essential retail – including the art and antiques sector - click and collect continues to be allowed. The next review will be March 12.

View the latest retail rules on the Welsh government website.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said from the last week of April the government expects a phased re-opening of non-essential retail and hospitality.

She announced an updated Strategic Framework which sets out the six tools the Scottish government will use to "restore, on a phased basis, greater normality to everyday lives". View the latest information on the Scottish government website.

Currently click and collect for non-essential retail is not permitted in Scotland (only click and deliver is allowed) apart from some exceptions such as book shops.

A review of restrictions in Northern Ireland will take place on March 18. The Northern Ireland executive has confirmed that current coronavirus restrictions will be in place until April 1. Currently click and collect for the art and antiques sector is not permitted (only online sales via delivery).

See updates on the Northern Ireland government services website.

In the Republic of Ireland the Level 5 lockdown remains in place until at least March 5 and click and collect is not permitted (only click and deliver).

Details on the current restrictions can be found on the Irish government website.