Just as the end was in sight, the prime minister has announced that the final proposed unlocking date – 21 June – will be delayed by another month in England.
Boris Johnson revealed the move at a press conference on Monday, following a surge in new infections across the UK caused by the more transmissible Delta coronavirus variant.
The push back means the reopening of nightclubs will be postponed, along with being able to meet up with more than six people indoors, although an exemption will be made for wedding ceremonies.
But what does the delay mean for travel? Here’s what we know so far.
What are the domestic travel rules at the moment?
In the current stage of the lockdown roadmap, domestic travel is permitted across the UK. Hotels, B&Bs, campsites and tourist attractions are largely open for business.
However, the rule of six still applies indoors in England, meaning that you can only stay overnight – for example, in a self-catering holiday home – with five other people or two households (whichever is greater).
The rules are slightly different in the other devolved nations. In Scotland, six people from no more than three households can stay overnight together; in Wales, people can stay overnight only with their extended household, which is formed of up to three households; and in Northern Ireland, you can socialise indoors in a group of up to six people from no more than two households, including for overnight stays.
What was supposed to change on 21 June?
Step 4, the final step on the unlocking roadmap, was slated to take place from 21 June, seeing an end to all legal limits on social contact in England.
This would have enabled much bigger groups of friends or extended families to go on holiday within the UK and all stay together overnight, for example in a cottage, apartment or holiday let.
This final step is now likely to be delayed until 19 July. However, it could change before then if infection rates fall – the situation is due to be reviewed in two weeks’ time..
How does the delay impact international travel?
Although the delay doesn’t have a direct impact on the “traffic light” system put in place for international travel, indirectly it looks set to push back further the date from which most of Europe will join the quarantine-free “green list” of “safe” holiday destinations.
The red, amber and green lists, which determine what restrictions will be in place for inbound arrivals to the UK, are due to be reshuffled every three weeks.
But the previous review saw no new countries go green, despite several candidates meeting the government’s previous criteria, while Portugal, the only mainstream holiday destination on the green list, was moved to amber.
The implication was that the reopening of international travel would have to be sacrificed while the UK battled with the new virus variant domestically.
The travel industry fears that Boris Johnson’s government will keep quarantine rules in place for major holiday destinations through at least two more “traffic light” reviews – indicating no substantial easing of rules until 5 August.
In the meantime, leisure travel to amber countries remains perfectly legal, although the government advises against it – and a 10-day quarantine plus two PCR tests await returning travellers.