England on Monday started to normalize from its tight COVID-19 restrictions that had been in place since before Christmas.
Under the new rules, people will be allowed to gather in groups of six to socialize in parks and private gardens, with sports pitches, courts and outdoor swimming pools to be reopened and organized team sports to resume starting on Monday.
The government’s message to “stay at home” was replaced with “stay local” as people seek to enjoy a slight respite from the restrictions which lasted around more than three months.
“I know how much people have missed the camaraderie and competition of organized sport, and how difficult it has been to restrict physical activities — especially for children,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
“I know many will welcome the increased social contact, with groups of six or two households now also able to meet outdoors.”
However, Johnson also warned to remain cautious as people should still work from home if possible and minimize their journeys according to new advice.
“We must remain cautious with cases rising across Europe and new variants threatening our vaccine rollout,” he said.
“Despite today’s easements, everyone must continue to stick to the rules, remember hands, face, space, and come forward for a vaccine when called,” he added.
In London, where a series of recent protests saw thousands of people unlawfully gathered, Metropolitan Police reminded people that large gatherings remain unlawful.
The force said that officers would “continue to respond quickly to house parties or dangerous raves, taking enforcement action by handing out fines.”
Authorities started relaxing measures as more than 30 million people — nearly half the population — across the UK had received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
People are still banned from going on vacation abroad, with a £5,000 ($6,900) fine in place against violations, as the country is cautious about the new variants of the virus.
The next step in normalization is expected to come on April 12, with pubs and restaurants to be allowed to resume services in outdoor areas and non-essential shops allowed to reopen.
The UK has suffered the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe with 126,592 so far, according to official figures.