INDOOR leisure facilities like gyms and swimming pools are to reopen in England from April 12, but spectators will not be able to return to sporting venues until May 17 at the earliest, the government has said.

This news came as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's 'roadmap' for the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, which he announced in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

The first step of the plan sees schools reopen from Monday, March 8, with outdoor after-school sports and activities permitted, while outdoor sports facilities - such as basketball and tennis courts, golf courses and open air swimming pools - will reopen on Monday, March 29, when organised adult and children's sport, such as grassroots football, will also be allowed to return.

The second step, from Monday, April 12, allows indoor leisure venues such as gyms and swimming pools to reopen, but no indoor mixing between different households will be allowed at that point.

Providing that Covid-19 conditions are met, the third step will follow on Monday, May 17, when the 'rule of six' is to be abolished for outdoor gatherings, and replaced with a limit of 30 people.

Sporting events can welcome fans back (albeit with social distancing still in place) from that date, with the largest outdoor seated stadiums - where crowds can be safely distributed - able to admit up to 10,000 people or 25 per cent of total seated capacity, whichever is lower.

With the exception of any approved pilot events (to examine how sporting fixtures can take place without the need for social distancing, using other mitigations such as testing), the May 17 date rules out the possibility of fans attending any further regular-season matches in the English Football League in the 2020/21 campaign, and all but the final round of Premier League games.

But it does leave open the possibility of spectators returning to events over the summer, such as Euro 2020, Wimbledon and cricket internationals, provided that the conditions for easing restrictions have been met by May 17.

Somerset County Cricket Club's 2021 season begins on April 8, and they will play six County Championship matches before spectators are permitted to return.

May 20-23 sees them visit Gloucestershire in the Championship, with that fixture followed by a tourist match between Somerset and New Zealand in Taunton (May 25-28).

As for football in the county, Somerset FA tweeted: "We're delighted to hear that ‘Organised Outdoor Sport’ can resume from March 29.

"We await the guidelines from the FA [Football Association] to see exactly what effect this may have on our leagues, clubs, players, parents and spectators.

"As soon as we know, we'll share it via all channels."

Indoor events will be capped at 50 per cent capacity or 1,000, whichever is lower, and for outdoor events this will be 50 per cent capacity or 4,000, whichever is lower.

The fourth step, from Monday, June 21, will potentially see all legal limits on social contact removed, meaning no restrictions on large sporting events, as well as weddings and other social events.