Boris Johnson has unveiled a "five alert" plan to ease the coronavirus lockdown - as the nation braces for tight restrictions for months to come.

Addressing the nation from Downing Street, the Prime Minister provided the "first sketch of a road map for reopening society".

People in England will be allowed to exercise more than once a day, sit and sunbathe in parks and on beaches, and go for a drive from Wednesday.

But the vast majority of rules imposed on March 23 remain in place - as Mr Johnson warned "this is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week."

And schools and all non-essential shops will remain shut until at least June, with pubs expected to be closed beyond July. Meanwhile secondary school lessons will not resume properly until September.

The Government is treading a difficult path between tackling the virus and saving the UK economy as concerns grow about a recession.

Mr Johnson explained: "We must stay alert. We must continue to control the virus and save lives.

"And yet we must also recognise that this campaign against the virus has come at colossal cost to our way of life."

The Prime Minister warned any changes would depend on the entire country following social distancing rules and would be monitored at local, regional and national level.

In a widely anticipated?televised address to the nation, he set out plans for a new Covid Alert System run by a new Joint Biosecurity Centre.

He said that the level will depend on the 'R' rate - the number of people each Covid-19 carrier infects - and the number of coronavirus cases.

He explained: "In turn that Covid Alert Level will tell us how tough we have to be in our social distancing measures – the lower the level the fewer the measures. The higher the level, the tougher and stricter we will have to be."

Under the new system there will be five levels - similar to the way the government flags a terrorist threat.

Level One means the disease is no longer present in the UK and Level Five is the most critical.

Level Four needs a lockdown, Level Three means there can be some easements to lockdown, and Level Two means coronavirus is present but the number of transmissions is low.

Mr Johnson described Level Five as "the kind of situation we could have had if the NHS had been overwhelmed".

He explained: "Over the period of the lockdown we have been in Level Four, and it is thanks to your sacrifice we are now in a position to begin to move in steps to Level Three."

The PM also announced:

  • Bigger fines of £100 for a first offence, up to £3,200 for repeat offenders, for breaching the lockdown rules;
  • Golf courses, tennis courts and fishing lakes to reopen from Wednesday in England - but you must stick to people in your household
  • Schools to reopen from June 1 at the earliest - but only for Years R, 1 and 6 at first. Secondary lessons are not set to fully resume until September
  • People who cannot work from home encouraged to return to work
  • In the whole of the UK Brits can exercise as much as they want from Wednesday
  • In England people can sit in parks - even with a friend or family member they don't live with if they stay 2 metres apart

The PM said step two of easing the lockdown, from June 1 at the earliest, would see schools reopen in a phased way.

And in step three - at the earliest by July, if scientific advice allows - England would "re-open at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places, provided they are safe and enforce social distancing."

However, it's not thought this will include pubs - even beer gardens.

Instead it's likely to be a limited reopening of some outdoor cafes or restaurants that have an outdoor dining area where groups can be kept 2m apart.

It's understood cinemas and places of worship may be among other sites that can reopen in around July - again, if they can keep people 2 metres apart.

The PM spoke to the public directly

The Prime Minister thanked the public for their "sacrifice" saying it was "thanks to you we have protected our NHS and saved many thousands of lives".

But he warned that releasing the lockdown too soon would risk a second peak.

He said: "I know - you know - that it would be madness now to throw away that achievement by allowing a second spike."

In his speech he urged the British public to return to work if they are unable to work at home.

“We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.”?

He asked people to avoid public transport if possible encouraging cycling and walking.?

The guidance on exercise is changing

He added that the government has “been working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure.”?

But the unions are worried that the safety of employees is not being prioritised.?

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the PM "appears to be effectively telling millions of people to go back to work tomorrow" without the necessary guidance.

"But we haven't got the guidelines, and we don't know how it's going to work with public transport so there's a huge number of questions arising out of this," the Labour leader said in an interview.

John Phillips, acting GMB General Secretary, said: “I’m not sure the Prime Minister understands that many don’t have the luxury of choosing not to use public transport.

“Employers who now see a green light to operate will expect their employees to come in - what happens if they can’t do so without public transport?

“Given workplace standards haven’t been published yet, how are employers supposed to know what to do to make workplaces safe?

“What action will be government take if they don’t do so?

“We all want to get back to normal but we have to think of this in terms of the real lives and challenge of the people who will be asked to go to work.”

The modest changes announced by the PM came after he gave the impression last week that the lockdown would start to be lifted more fully from Monday.

No 10 insiders suggested last week that the lockdown would start to be lifted - only to U-turn 24 hours later after a series of newspaper front pages suggesting major changes.

Boris Johnson thanked the public for obeying the rules thus far

Amid the confusion the public visited parks and beaches, as well as holding busy street parties to celebrate VE Day on Friday. Figures suggested the overall death toll for the UK has now passed 36,500.

Mr Johnson downgraded?the "stay at home" slogan to "stay alert".

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all said they would be sticking to the same "stay at home" advice for the public.

Scots First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned it could be “catastrophic” to change the guidance and that the current messaging was “clear”.

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On Monday the Government will today publish a 50-page document outlining the full plan to cautiously re-start the economy.

The UK is still seeing hundreds of death from the virus every day

Nearly seven weeks after the UK entered lockdown, Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick told the BBC: "The message ... of staying at home now does need to be updated, we need to have a broader message because we want to slowly and cautiously restart the economy and the country."

But scientific advisers to the Government had warned that the UK could still suffer more than 100,000 deaths by the end of the year if measures are hastily relaxed. An unnamed government adviser added: "There is very limited room for manoeuvre."

One Government source told the Sunday Times: “The view is that the public will forgive us for mistakes made when going into the lockdown but they won’t forgive us for mistakes made coming out of it”.

It comes as the Government failed to meet its own 100,000 tests per day target for the seventh day in a row.