Millions across the UK can now socialise indoors in limited numbers, hug loved ones and visit pubs and restaurants inside.
As lockdown rules ease in England, Wales and most of Scotland, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is urging people to continue to play their part in stopping the coronavirus.
Museums, cinemas, children’s play areas, theatres, concert halls and sports stadiums can all reopen, as can hotels. Social distancing guidance is changing and contact with other households like hugs is a matter of personal choice.
The ban on foreign travel has also been lifted and replaced with new rules.
Johnson said: “We have reached another milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution.”
“I urge everyone to be cautious and take responsibility when enjoying new freedoms today in order to keep the virus at bay,” he said.
The rule changes come as the variant first identified in India continues to spread in the UK, with mass testing rolled out to hotspots including Bolton in Greater Manchester and parts of London and Sefton.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the government’s independent scientific advisory group Sage, said the lifting of the rules was the “most difficult policy decision of the last 15 months or so. It is very, very finely balanced”.
Meanwhile British vacationers have started arriving in Portugal after the UK and Portuguese governments eased their Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
A flight from Manchester, England, arrived early Monday in Faro, the main city in Portugal’s southern Algarve tourist region. More than 5,000 British visitors were expected to arrive in Portugal on 17 flights during the day.
That has brightened the outlook for Portugal’s crucial tourism sector, which relies heavily on the U.K. market and which shut down for most of the past year.
Both Portugal and the United Kingdom have reduced their seven-day rolling average of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people to between 3 and 4.
The UK government has put Portugal and 11 other countries on a so-called Green List of low-risk territories. British people returning home from those areas do no need to go into quarantine.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told the Today programme he was “very confident” the government would be able to lift England’s remaining restrictions on 21 June “but can’t guarantee that”.
He said: “There is flexibility here because we have another five weeks till the reopening and we will be revisiting the data.
“There will be different data – the variant will spread, perhaps, in different ways, we will have more information about the efficacy of the vaccine rollout, and then… a week before the 21st, we will take the decision.”