Today (Monday 22nd February), the Prime Minister announced the Government’s “cautious but irreversible” roadmap out of the current lockdown. This has been made possible by the incredible, nationwide roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines which, as the Prime Minister said, has dramatically changed “the odds in our favour”.
We are now at a point where the end is in sight, but we have to take care to not undermine the sacrifices we have all made in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19 over the last year. Now that cases, hospitalisations and deaths are all falling consistently, it is the appropriate time to lay out the clear plan for how we will remove restrictions and bring about a return to normality this year.
The announcement today was made up of three sections: the four steps/phases in easing the current restrictions, the four tests to ensure these steps can be taken, and four reviews into how we can further look into easing restrictions by assessing other factors.
The Four Steps for Easing Restrictions
The phases for easing these restrictions will be as follows:
o March 8th
- Schools will open to all children, with outdoor after-school sports/activities allowed to resume.
o March 8th
- Recreation in outdoor public spaces between two people will be allowed, ie sitting down for a coffee or a picnic.
o March 29th
- Outdoor gatherings of six people, or two households, will be allowed. This includes in private gardens. Organised sport, including grassroots football, can also resume, while outdoor sports facilities (ie tennis courts) will reopen.
o April 12th:
- Non-essential retail will open, including hairdressers and public buildings, including libraries and museums
- Outdoor settings, like alcohol takeaways, beer gardens, zoos and theme parks can reopen
- Reopening of Indoor leisure like swimming pools and gyms
- Self-contained holiday accommodation, such as self-catering lets and camp sites can open once again
o May 17th:
- End of “rule of six” for outdoor gatherings, replaced with a limit of 30 people
- People from two households can mix indoors, with rule of 6 applying in hospitality settings like restaurants and pubs.
- Hotels, cinemas, performances and sporting events will reopen, with social distancing and reduced capacity initially in place.
- As many as 10,000 spectators can attend the largest outdoor, seated venues – crowds will otherwise be allowed to be up to a quarter of the venue’s capacity
- Up to 30 people can attend weddings, receptions and funerals.
o June 21st:
- Potential for all legal limits on social contact to be removed.
- Remaining closed sectors (including nightclubs) will be able to reopen if the data supports this measure
- Potential for restrictions on weddings and funerals to be wholly abolished
There are 5 weeks between each step, as the UK’s Chief Medical Officers have made it clear this is the necessary period of time needed to enable us to definitively assess how each step affects the infection rate, the number of hospitalisations and deaths.
The Four Tests
There will be four conditions which must be met to ensure the next phase of easing the lockdown can be carried out, which are:
- The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to be carried out as planned and on schedule
- Evidence continues to show vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of hospitalisations and deaths as a result of Covid-19
- Infection rates do not cause a significant rise in hospital admissions
- New variants of Covid-19 having an impact on the risk of lifting restrictions
The Four Reviews
The Government will be launching a series of reviews to evaluate further possibilities of easing limits, these are as follows:
- The first review will look at whether having a vaccine or a negative test result can reduce restrictions on social contact.
- The second review will pilot the impact of testing and reduced social distancing on events.
- The third will look at travel. International travel will not resume before 17 May, but a report on 12 April will look at how to facilitate more inbound and outbound travel.
- The fourth will review social distancing measures, such as the one-metre-plus rule, rules on face coverings and working from home. This will conclude ahead of 21 June.
This roadmap has been formulated through working with our world-leading medical and scientific departments and experts, delivering a clear, but necessarily cautious, path out of lockdown over the next few months. I really hope this gives everyone across Mid Sussex a real boost in these still gloomy winter months, with the promise that the Spring will bring about the regaining of the freedoms we have all had to sacrifice over the last year.
The Prime Minister’s Statement
In his statement to the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister said the following:
“The threat remains substantial, with the numbers in hospital only now beginning to fall below the peak of the first wave in April. But we are able to take these steps because of the resolve of the British public and the extraordinary success of our NHS in vaccinating more than 17.5 million people across the UK.
“There is... no credible route to a Zero Covid Britain or indeed a Zero Covid World and we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental well-being, and the life-chances of our children. And that is why it is so crucial that this roadmap should be cautious but also irreversible. We are setting out on what I hope and believe is a one way road to freedom.
“In England, everyone in the top four priority groups was successfully offered a vaccine by the middle of February. We now aim to offer a first dose to all those in groups 5 to 9 by 15 April, and I am setting another stretching target: to offer a first dose to every adult by the end of July. As more of us are inoculated, so the protection afforded by the vaccines will gradually replace the restrictions and today’s roadmap sets out the principles of that transition.”
The full statement can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-to-the-house-of-commons-on-roadmap-for-easing-lockdown-restrictions-in-england-22-february-2021