Millions of people can be reunited with loved ones from today as the next stage of the Government’s roadmap to resuming normal life is reached.
After months apart, families and friends in England will be allowed to meet with six people or two households outdoors.
The “stay at home” order ends, meaning they can travel for longer distances to meet up outside – as long as they don’t stay overnight.
Outdoor sports and organised team sports will also resume.
Ministers are warning people to remain cautious amid fears the public could relax too much.
Boris Johnson warned a spike in cases could happen, as parts of Europe are struck by a third wave of infections, but he hopes the vaccines rollout will suppress hospital stays and deaths.
The Prime Minister said: “I know many will welcome the increased social contact… But we must remain cautious, with cases rising across Europe and new variants threatening our vaccine rollout.
“Everyone must continue to stick to the rules.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden cautioned: “While we want to enable people to visit granny or participate in outdoor sports, people should think carefully about whether it is worth the cost in terms of having unnecessary social interactions.”
Ministers are launching a major publicity drive in England to help boost compliance. A new slogan will be used to stress the importance of ventilation: “Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air.”
Government sources warned if the data goes “in the wrong direction” it could affect the speed of lifting restrictions, which are due to end on June 21. A further 19 people died yesterday, bringing the toll to 126,592, with another 3,862 cases.
Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, urged people not to “squander gains” made so far. He said: “This virus still has the capacity to wreak more havoc on a significant scale.”
Prof Mark Woolhouse, of the SPI-M committee, told the BBC: “I’m a little bit nervous about a full relaxation in June. The idea we can suddenly emerge in one great bound is a little over-optimistic.”
Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said it is “really important” that vaccinated people do not think they are “invincible”.
The UK is expecting to receive its first shipment of the US-made Moderna vaccine next month.
Ministers have insisted they will meet the target of giving a jab to all adults by July, despite supplies being hit by issues in India and the row with the EU over exports.
Mr Dowden added that the Government remains “confident” everyone will get a second dose within 12 weeks of their first.
The Irish government has played down reports of any imminent delivery of excess Covid vaccines from the UK, as ministers said the NHS does not “have a surplus”.
Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster claimed the proposal was “a runner”.
In Wales, the “stay local” order ended on Saturday and people were allowed to stay in self-contained holiday accommodation. Beer gardens are expected to reopen at the end of April.
The stay-at-home order in Scotland ends on Friday, while in Northern Ireland up to six people, or two households, can meet outside from Thursday.
In England, non-essential shops and outdoor hospitality are due to reopen on April 12.
Along with warning that foreign holidays may not automatically be allowed after May 17, Mr Dowden said that the final step out of lockdown could also be delayed beyond June 21.
And he could not guarantee that there would be no lockdown again in winter.