• UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Sunday confirm which coronavirus lockdown measures will be lifted first.
  • There is unlikely to be any dramatic loosening of current restrictions after the UK officially became the worst hit country in Europe.
  • However, people will be given greater freedom to exercise and relax outdoors.
  • Some businesses will also be encouraged to re-open.
  • Schools are likely to remain closed for weeks more, with other restrictions remaining in place indefinitely.
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Sunday announce his plans to loosen the UK's coronavirus lockdown after the country passed its peak of infections and deaths.

Any changes to the current lockdown restrictions are likely to be marginal, with ministers fearful of a resurgence in the pandemic, after the UK officially became the worst affected country in Europe for the virus.

The plans have yet to be confirmed and Johnson's scientific advisers will on Thursday deliver their verdict to the government on which measures should be implemented when.

However, several newspapers have been briefed overnight with the steps most likely to be taken from next week.

Here's what we know about which lockdown restrictions will be lifted first.

From 'stay at home' to 'stay safe' outdoors


Johnson is unlikely to announce any dramatic lifting of current restrictions, which forced the closure of schools and most business premises back in March.

However, there will be a shift in emphasis away from the government's effective "stay home, save lives" message to a new "stay safe, save lives" message.

The shift will be accompanied by a tweak to existing guidance on outdoor exercise, according to multiple reports.

Whereas current guidance advises people to only exercise once a day close to home, the new guidance will reportedly allow multiple exercises sessions, including trips further afield, such as country rambles and bike rides.

People will also be allowed to relax outdoors, with sunbathing in parks no longer forbidden.

However, while more outdoors activities will be allowed, playgrounds and outdoor gyms are likely to remain closed for the time being.

Face masks


Unlike many other countries, the UK government has resisted calls for citizens to be advised to wear face masks, insisting that they only have a limited effect on reducing the spread of infection. The real reason for the reluctance to encourage their use is likely to do with fears about supply shortages, rather than doubts about the science.

This reluctance has begun to drop away in recent weeks with Johnson signalling that new advice on face-coverings will form a big part of his plans to ease the lockdown. The calculation made in Downing Street is that while masks in themselves may not have a dramatic impact on reducing infection spread, they could have a significant impact on increasing public confidence about returning to work, particularly on public transport.

However, ministers are unlikely to use the term "face mask," and will instead insist upon "cloth coverings," in order to discourage the panic-buying of clinical face masks.

People will be told to cycle or walk to work


One factor likely to delay the widespread lifting of restrictions will be the difficulty in maintaining social-distancing while on public transport.

Transport for London has already indicated that they will be forced to reduce their capacity to as little as 15% of what it was before the lockdown began. Mass transit systems in other metropolitan areas will likely be under similar pressure.

That is likely to severely restrict the ability of employees to return to workplaces, meaning many businesses will be forced to maintain current remote-working arrangements, even once the lockdown is over.

In order to counter this limitation, both TfL and the UK government are pledging to introduce new measures to help cyclists and pedestrians, including road closures and temporary cycle lanes.

Schools may start to re-open in June


Schools are likely to stay closed for all but the children of essential workers this month. However, some reports suggest that these restrictions will begin to be lifted from the start of June, with phased re-openings of primary and secondary schools beginning before the summer break. However, any re-openings are likely to be staggered with pupils potentially being asked to attend on alternate days.

Reuniting families


One of the most difficult restrictions imposed during this lockdown has been those forbidding people from visiting family and friends. These have taken a heavy toll on some families and individuals who have been cut off from their support networks.

None of today's papers suggest these rules are likely to be lifted on Sunday. However, some reports suggest new guidance may allow contact between a limited number of family members and friends in a so-called "bubble" arrangement. Such guidance would likely prove confusing and difficult to enforce however, and some papers suggest plans for such arrangements will likely not emerge this week.

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