The Prime Minister has now set out the plan to exit from the current lockdown. While I welcome the announcement, and a road map to recovery -it is far too slow. Suddenly the goal posts have moved. The vaccination was hailed as the game changer, and it is, but our huge success in vaccinating the vulnerable and many more isn’t being recognised. Full opening up must wait until everyone has had the chance of a first vaccine dose, expected now in June given the incredible rollout rate.
Instead of adjusting opening up dependent on hospital admissions and deaths, we are now looking at infection rates. In Devon infection rates, never mind hospital admissions and deaths have fallen like a stone. We still have no impact statement on the adverse effects of lockdown itself. We know the impact on mental health is growing exponentially, and we know many businesses without an Easter season will close - forever. Is this delay proportionate to the Covid risk?
Step 1 – 8th March & 29th March
Pupils and students in all schools and Further Education settings will return to face-to-face education from 8 March. Wraparound childcare (including childminders) and other children’s activities can restart from 8 March for all children where it is needed to enable parents or carers to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group. Vulnerable children can attend these settings regardless of circumstance.
Every care home resident in England will be able to nominate a single named visitor who can come in for a regular visit. The visitor will have to take a rapid lateral flow test every time they visit, wear PPE and keep physical contact to a minimum.
From 29th March, people will be able to meet outside in groups up to a maximum of 6 people (the Rule of 6) or with one other household, though people from different households will still need to socially distance from each other. This will apply in all outdoor settings, including private gardens. Outdoor sport will also be able to take place.
Step 2 – 12th April
The following will be able to open: non-essential retail; personal care premises such as hairdressers, salons and close contact services; and indoor leisure facilities such as gyms. Overnight stays away from home in this country will be permitted and self-contained accommodation - those that do not require shared use of bathing, entry/exit, catering or sleeping facilities - can also reopen, though must only be used by members of the same household. The Government will open public buildings such as libraries and community centres.
Hospitality venues will be able to open for outdoor service, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew. The requirement to order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’) will remain.
Step 3 – 17th May
From 17th May, groups of up to 30 people will be allowed to meet outdoors and indoor hospitality, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew will return. Also, at this point, remaining accommodation, such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs, as will indoor group sports and exercise classes. International travel might resume from this point on, dependant on the data.
Step 4 – 21st June
From 21st June, subject to review, all remaining legal limits on social contact will be removed as will all limits on weddings.
These proposals leave no room for decisions to be bought forward, even if data is better than expected. They do not recognise that here in Devon the cost to health and livelihoods from lockdown may well outweigh the risks from Covid. Next week’s budget must provide some relief.
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