England will reopen pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas as part of a major easing out of lockdown on July 4, Boris Johnson has announced.
The UK Prime Minister detailed the planned reopening in the House of Commons on Tuesday citing a lower circulation of the coronavirus.
But senior health leaders have warned there is a "real risk" of a second wave of infections, while some scientists have repeated views that lockdown measures are being lifted too soon.
Just one in 1,700 people have the virus down from one in 400 people just one month ago. The spread of coronavirus has slowed significantly with a daily average of around 121 deaths due to COVID-19 per day, Boris Johnson said.
The prime minister added that a "long national hibernation" was coming to an end.
The easing of restrictions will include hairdressers, outdoor gyms and playgrounds, hotels, cinemas, museums, art galleries, arcades, libraries, and community centres.
The country will also change its guidance on distancing, reducing the two metres recommended distance from other people to at least one metre.
You can keep one metre distance with "mitigation strategies" such as hand washing and wearing a mask, the UK's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said.
From July 4, members from two households of any size will be allowed to meet and groups of six people from six different households will be able to meet outdoors all while maintaining social distancing.
"This obviously requires everyone to act responsibly," Johnson added at a press conference later in the day.
Several businesses will not be able to reopen including indoor gyms, nightclubs, casinos, bowling alleys and swimming pools.
"We cannot lift all the restrictions at once, so we have to make difficult judgments, and every step is scrupulously weighed against the evidence," Johnson said.
New workplace guidelines issued
Businesses that are reopening will have to do so with rules in place to curb the coronavirus. The government has issued updated guidelines for safe workplace practices in several sectors of the economy.
Hairdressers will need to wear visors and pubs and restaurants can only open for table service. For many businesses, capacity will be restricted.
Places of worship will be allowed to reopen for services and weddings with a maximum capacity of 30 people.
The latest R number is below one throughout the UK, meaning the virus is not spreading exponentially, public health officials said.
But "no decision is risk free," said chief medical officer Chris Whitty. He said anyone who feels sick must self-isolate and the rest of the household must also isolate.
He said if people do not take precautions seriously, the country will go back to rising case numbers.
The easing of restrictions only apply to England. Both Scotland and Wales will continue to apply the 2-metre distancing rule.
Both nations will review whether or not it's possible to reopen pubs and restaurants in July whereas Northern Ireland is set to open pubs and restaurants from July 3.
Health leaders warn over 'real risk' of second wave
Health leaders in the UK have written an open letter to political party leaders calling for a rapid review of how ready the country is to deal with a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
In the letter published in the British Medical Journal, the heads of several leading health bodies say local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave "a real risk".
The senior health figures writing in the BMJ repeat a call for the review to establish a "non-partisan, four nations approach" to produce recommendations for action.
Meanwhile there have been renewed warnings from scientists, after several alerted a few weeks ago that restrictions were being eased too early in England.
"I think it is early. The parameters for lifting it clearly indicate to us that we have got viral activity in the community, we have new cases in the community, and on top of that our testing and contact tracing systems are not fully operational," Dr Bharat Pankhania from the University of Exeter's College of Medicine and Health told Euronews Tonight.
A leading member of the government's advisory group SAGE also issued a warning.
“Relaxing the 2-metre rule at the same time as opening bars and restaurants does run the risk of allowing the epidemic to start to regain a foothold. These changes will have to be very carefully monitored and the NHS track-and-trace system will have to be working properly to help keep us safe,” epidemiologist Professor John Edmonds from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medecine was quoted by the Guardian as saying.