AHEAD of the next step in the easing of national Covid-19 restrictions, residents of Hartlepool are being urged to help ensure the Government’s “Roadmap” out of lockdown stays on track.

From Monday (March 29), the rules preventing small gatherings of people outdoors will be relaxed. The rule of six will return, meaning up to six people or two households will be allowed to meet outside, including in private gardens. There should, however, still be no mixing of households indoors.

The requirement for people to stay at home will also end, although people will be encouraged to stay local where possible.

Denise McGuckin, Managing Director of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “It has been a long, hard winter and I’d like to thank residents of the town for their support – and the many sacrifices they have made - in helping to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

“I hope people enjoy the new freedom to meet up outdoors with family and friends from Monday - but only within the limits set out.

“There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel, but it is vital that we continue to follow the rules to prevent a resurgence of the virus and, potentially, delays in the further easing of restrictions.”

After Monday, the next steps in the easing of lockdown restrictions are currently scheduled to be no earlier than April 12, May 17 and June 21.

The Government has said that these dates are subject to four tests – the vaccine deployment programme is continuing successfully, evidence shows that vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisation and death in those vaccinated, infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS and the situation is not fundamentally changed by the emergence of new variants of Covid-19.

Craig Blundred, the Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “All of the evidence shows that vaccination rollout is having an impact and I would urge people when contacted to book an appointment.

“However, it is important that we all continue to take the basic precautions that can do so much to reduce the risk of transmission.

“Please remember hands, face and space – and we should always do these as a collective measure, not one or the other.”