April 12 marks a pretty big day in England’s diary, with lockdown restrictions easing once more and a whole raft of new freedoms allowed.
Many have had haircuts and pub outings booked for weeks, as well as that first non-essential shopping trip of 2021 in the planner. But there’s far more fun where those came from.
Here’s a full rundown of all the things you can do once again, including the rule changes you might just have missed.
Let’s go shopping
If you’ve been longing to peruse the aisles of your favourite clothes and homeware stores or have a good browse at your local bookshop, you’re in luck. Non-essential shops are now open again.
No longer will you have to order a thousand sizes to your home, then hopelessly navigate the process of online returns. You can now size up that dress or jacket on the hanger, not to mention have a (brief) chinwag at the till with your favourite shop assistant.
Masks will still be mandatory (unless you are medically exempt) so if you want to set foot in store, don’t forget your face covering. It’s also worth noting that we’re still urged to minimise the distances we travel where possible.
Time for the chop
Whether you’ve gone au naturel in lockdown and now resemble Cousin It or you braved a DIY chop from your partner or housemate that needs rectifying ASAP, the good news is that hairdressers and barbers are back doing their thing from April 12. The only caveat is that many are booked up already, with backlogs running until June.
For those whose feet look more like Monster Munch, there is also respite on the horizon. You can book in for that much-need mani/pedi as nail salons – and other personal care services – also reopen for business.
See you in the pub
With the longest winter now (kind of) behind us, it’s understandable that people are clamouring to get back to Britain’s best-loved institution: the pub.
Thankfully, beer gardens and restaurants with outdoor seating can now open – just make sure you wrap up warm! Venues will be running table service only so there’ll be no long waits at the bar.
Back to pumping iron
After a long hiatus, fitness fans will be delighted to hear that gyms and other indoor leisure and sports facilities – including indoor pools – can now reopen for individual exercise, or exercise with your household or bubble.
The rules don’t allow for classes quite yet (unless you’re a child), but if you’re a solo gym-goer, now’s your time to shine. Of course, outdoor sports facilities such as golf courses, tennis and basketball courts, plus open-air swimming pools, have been open since March 29 – so long as you stick to the rule of six. Meanwhile organised sports can take place with larger numbers.
Minibreak time (in England)
While international holidays are still off the cards, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a much-needed change of scenery. From April 12, self-contained accommodation – we’re talking caravans, Airbnbs, self-catering cottages, shepherd’s huts etc – can open for overnight stays in England. Finally, you can get away for a few nights with your household or support bubble.
Dust off your library card
One reopening that has received less fanfare but is equally worthy of a shout out is the reopening of public buildings such as libraries and community centres. Welcome news to those who’ve been stuck re-reading the same old books throughout the winter. And time to take back those returns, too.
Outdoor attractions are back
Parents who’ve spent the past six months trying to keep their kids entertained at home can breathe a collective sigh of relief as outdoor attractions including zoos, theme parks and drive-ins (including outdoor cinemas and open-air concert venues) are back in action. Some smaller outdoor events such as fetes and fairgrounds also have the green light to resume.
Get behind the steering wheel
After a long hiatus over winter, those clamouring to get behind the wheel will be relieved to learn driving lessons have restarted, with driving tests resuming on April 22. Lorry and minibus lessons, driving theory tests, driving tests for motorcycles, lorries and cars with trailers can also take place, the BBC reports.
Return of indoor childcare
Another silver lining for parents: childcare and supervised activities will be allowed indoors – as well as outdoors – for all children. This means parent and child groups catering for up to 15 people can take place (with children under the age of five not even counted in this number).
Weddings get a little bigger
Until now, weddings have been limited to six attendees, however from April 12, wedding and civil partnership ceremonies and other commemorative events (including wakes) can also take place for up to 15 people (and anyone working the event is not part of that limit). Events of this nature can also take place in indoor venues that are allowed to be open or where an exemption applies.
You can also hold a wedding reception with up to 15 people present, but they must take place at an outdoor venue – and this can’t be a private garden.
Visits to care homes
Those longing to see their loved ones in care homes more often can now do so, with care home residents able to nominate two named individuals for regular indoor visits – following a rapid lateral flow test.