As I am sure you will no doubt be aware, the Prime Minister made a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, explaining the next steps with regard to the restrictions that have been in place, and the reopening of some sectors of the economy.
It is good news that we have seen the numbers of those unfortunately dying from coronavirus, as well as the number of cases, fall significantly in recent weeks. This has shown that the measures have been working. It is thanks to the hard work of the public adhering to the lockdown restrictions that the Government is able to make these announcements today. As the Prime Minister said, it is down to the common sense and perseverance of the public.
To give some context to this fall in the prevalence of the virus:
- In the first half of May, nearly 69,000 people tested positive for Covid-19 across the UK, while in the first half of June, this fell by nearly 70% to just under 22,000. The number of new infections is now declining by between 2 and 4 percent every day.
- Four weeks ago, average of 1 in 400 people in the community in England had COVID-19, while in the first half of June this figure was 1 in 1,700.
- Measured by a seven-day rolling average, the number of daily deaths peaked at 943 on 14th April, on 11th May it was 476, and yesterday this rolling average stood at 130.
I wanted to share these changes that have been announced. More details will come out over the coming days including specific guidance.
In the meantime, the announcements that have been made are:
- The Government do not believe there is currently a risk of second wave of infections that may overwhelm NHS. We continue to meet five tests, and COVID alert level was last week reduced from 4 to 3.
- Safely ease the lockdown in England. At every stage, caution “will remain our watchword, each step will be conditional and reversible.”
- The 2m social distancing rule will change from 4th July. Where it is possible to keep 2m apart, people should. However, where it is not possible, the Government will advise people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’. This means people should remain one metre apart, while taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission. New guidance will be issued for businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers.
- These mitigations include, for instance reducing number of people in enclosed spaces,
improving ventilation, using protecting screens and face coverings, closing non-essential social spaces and providing hand sanitiser. While experts can not give a precise assessment of how much the risk will be reduced, they judge these mitigation's would make ‘1 metre plus’ broadly equivalent to the risk at 2 metres if fully implemented.
- We cannot lift all restrictions at once, however, the principle is to trust the British public to use their common sense. The more we open up, the more vigilant we will need to be. From now on, the Government will ask people to follow guidance rather than legislation on social contact.
- From 4th July, two households of any size should be able to meet in any setting inside or out. That does not mean they must be the same two households. For example, it will be possible to meet one set of grandparents one weekend, and the others the following weekend.
- We are not recommending meeting of multiple households indoors because of the greater risk of creating chains of transmission. Outside, the guidance remains that people from several households can meet in groups of up to six, and two households can can also meet, regardless of size.
- From 4th July, we will reopen restaurants and pubs. All hospitality indoors, will be limited to table service, and guidance will encourage limited customer and staff contact. Contact details from customers will be taken to help with NHS Test and Trace respond to any local outbreaks.
- Hairdressers can open with appropriate precautions such as the use of visors from 4th July.
- From 4th July, provided that no more than two households stay together, people can stay overnight in hotels and bed and breakfasts, as well as campsite as long as shared facilities are kept clean.
- Most leisure facilities and tourist attractions will reopen if they can do so safely, including outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs and community centres.
- “Close proximity” venues such as nightclubs, soft play, indoor gyms, swimming pools and spas, as well as bowling alleys and water parks will need to stay closed for now. The Business and Culture Secretary’s will establish taskforces with sectors and public health experts to help them become COVID Secure so they can look to reopen as soon as possible.
- The Government will also work with the arts industry on specific guidance to enable choirs, orchestras and theatres to resume live performances as soon as possible.
- Recreation and sport will be allowed, but indoor facilities, including changing rooms and courts will remain closed. People may only play close contact team sports with members of their households.
- Places of Worship can reopen for prayer and services, including weddings with a maximum of 30 people, subject to social distancing.
- Our courts, probation services, police stations and other public services will increasingly resume face to face proceedings.
- Care for school age children will restart over the summer.
- Primary and secondary will restart in September with full attendance, and those children who can already go to school should do so – because it is safe.
- The Government will publish COVID Secure guidelines for every sector that is reopening.
To quote the Prime Minister, “After the toughest restrictions in peacetime history, we are now able to make life easier for people to see more of their friends and families, and to help businesses get back on their feet and get people back into work.”
The virus not gone away. The Government will continue to monitor data and act according. There will be flare ups, where local measures will be needed. It will not hesitate to apply the brakes and reintroduce restrictions at either a local or national level – if required.
We should all continue to wash our hands, avoid public transport where possible and wearing a mask when not, getting tested immediately if we have symptoms, and self-isolating if instructed by NHS Test and Trace.
As we return to what is a greater sense of normality, we must remain vigilant.